Christmas Cookie Round-up 2012

Haul out the holly! It’s time for a holly, jolly holiday!

(10 points to anyone who can guess which Broadway musical I am referencing)

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Yesterday, I invited a few friends over for a Christmas party. Being the over-achiever that I am, and not wanting to put anyone out with my dietary restrictions, I decided to make all the cookies myself. I heated up my little apartment with the stove going all day as I rolled and mixed and sprinkled powdered sugar & cinnamon. It was like Christmas exploded in my kitchen!32401_10101635107712882_1324212968_n

Confession: I have an almost compulsive need to completely clean the kitchen between baking each kind of cookie. I put all of the ingredients away, wash and dry the bowls and spoons and return them to their respective cupboards, and wipe down the counters. Then, I recenter myself, pull out the needed ingredients, and start on the next cookie. Some might call it obsessive. I prefer to think of it as organized.

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Anywho… I went through my cookie recipe archives and pulled out a few of my favorites. The star of the evening? Definitely the Vegan Mexican Wedding Cookies, which we discovered have about 5 other names, depending on which country you hail from. (ie Russian Tea Cookies, German Pfeffernussen…. the list goes on) Whatever you chose to call them, they are delicious!

I also found a recipe for homemade Cinnamon Ornaments. With only three ingredients, cinnamon, applesauce, and cloves, they are incredibly easy and make fun gifts for party attendees!

Now, strap on that apron, put on your Santa hat, and get baking!

(Hint: Click on the cookie name to see the recipe.)

Vegan Mexican Wedding Cookies

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Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

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Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bake Cookies

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Mint Chocolate Fudgie Babies

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Cinnamon Ornaments

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Cacao Nib Meringues

Colorado is a notoriously difficult state for bakers.

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Recipes must be tweaked to include more liquid (or less flour, whichever you prefer), extra leavening agents, and increased oven temperatures. Baking in the high altitude and dry climate is enough to intimidate even the most seasoned of bakers, not to mention a gluten-free one, at that!

Before moving here from Florida, I did quite a bit of research on the changes that would need to be made to my recipes, and, thankfully, the transition hasn’t been nearly as difficult as I had imagined. In fact, Colorado has allowed me to bake something Florida would never have allowed, Meringues!!!!

Meringues are fluffy, pillows of whipped egg whites and sugar that require a rather dry climate in order to be baked. The inherent Florida humidity that wreaked havoc on my naturally curly hair would have also wreaked havoc on the meringues’ texture. Too much moisture in the air ruins any possibility of accomplishing the hollow, crumbly interior of a true meringue. Colorado, however, is practically Saharan in comparison, and the perfect climate for baking meringues.

My first attempt turned out to be a winner! I used the below recipe, courtesy of the incomparable Joy the Baker, substituting an ingredient or two here and there. Since I do not keep white sugar in the house, I used turbinado sugar, which gave my cookies a darker color than traditional meringues. The taste? Perfection!

Now separate those egg whites and “whip it! Whip it good!”

Cacao Nib Meringues

(Gluten Free, Dairy Free)

adapted from Joy the Baker – Vanilla Bean and Cacao Nib Meringues

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Ingredients:

  • 3 large Egg Whites, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup Turbinado Sugar
  • 1 tsp Bourbon Vanilla Extract
  • pinch of Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar
  • 3 Tblsp Cacao Nibs

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a small bowl, combine turbinado sugar and vanilla extract. Set aside.
  4. Using a stand mixer, whip egg whites on medium speed until frothy.
  5. Add salt and cream of tartar and increase speed to medium-high. Beat until egg whites are at the soft peak stage. Egg whites will be very frothy with small bubbles.
  6. Slowly add the sugar/vanilla mixture to the egg whites, increase the mixer speed to high, and whip until stiff, glossy peaks form. Egg whites will be “spoonable”.
  7. Remove bowl from the stand mixer and gently fold in the cacao nibs.
  8. Spoon 2 heaping Tblsp of egg white mixture per cookie onto parchment lined baking sheet. Should equal about 12 cookies.
  9. Bake in preheated oven for 60-70 minutes until lightly browned and hollow sending when lightly flicked with a finger.
  10. Cool completely before removing from the parchment paper.

Easter Eggs in a Basket

Happy Easter!

What a glorious resurrection day! This is my first Easter away from all members of my family. No Easter egg hunts with the grandparents, no brunch with my husband…. To be honest, it made me a little sad. BUT…. I can’t stay sad on Easter! I have too much to be thankful for!

Instead of moping, I planned an Easter picnic in the park with a dear friend. (after church, of course) Last night, I roasted a chicken for sandwiches and washed fresh, organic strawberries. We will have a feast!

That is this afternoon. This morning, I made myself an Easter breakfast feast of Eggs in a Basket. It seemed appropriate beings that it is Easter, and all.

This was my first time having this breakfast treat. Shocking, I know…. For many of you, Eggs in a Basket was probably a childhood favorite. It was for GF Guy. Do you want to know my favorite part of the meal? It was when I got to the center of the egg and it broke to reveal a golden yolk bursting with savory, rich flavor. It enveloped the bread and lent a richness that elevated this humble dish to an entirely new level. LOVED IT!

Happy Easter, everyone!

Eggs in a Basket

(Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Heat a skillet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray over medium heat.
  2. Meanwhile, using the mouth of a glass, cut a circle in the center of your slice of bread. Discard the circle of bread or toast to eat along with your meal.
  3. Place the slice of bread with a hole cut in the middle in the skillet and toast until golden on each side.
  4. Once bread is lightly toasted, crack the egg into the center of the hole. Cook about 4 minutes until almost set.
  5. Carefully flip the egg and toast and cook 30-60 seconds more.
  6. Season with salt and pepper if desired.
  7. Serve with baby spinach and tomato slices.

What are your plans for today? Do you have any special Easter traditions you look forward too?

Chocolate Red Wine Cake

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, my mind has been turning to its naturally romantic sensibilities. Ruby red roses, rich dark chocolate, candle light, and wine…. Yes, they may be cliched, but, admit it, you like cliches as much as I do!
To indulge my penchant for the romantic, I turned my sights on the kitchen. Food is my love language. I feed those I love. I give recipes to those I love. I even sneak vegetables into desserts as a way of making those I love healthier! (Now my little sister will never touch a dessert I make ever again….) 
Today’s recipe is a grown-up dessert that is the perfect finale to a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner. Serve with a glass of red wine and maybe a dollop of homemade whipped cream (make extra for later *wink*) and you will have all the makings of Valentine’s Day to remember.
Chocolate Red Wine Cake
(Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)

Ingredients:
  • 1/3 cup Oil
  • 1/3 cup Organic Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Agave Nectar
  •  2 Tbsp Maple Syrup
  • 5 drops Vanilla Creme Liquid Stevia
  • 3/4 cup Red Wine
  • 1/4 cup Vegan Sour Cream
  • 1 large Egg
  • 1/8 tsp Ground Cloves
  • 1/8 tsp Ground Nutmeg
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 cup Gluten-Free Oat Flour
  • 1/2 cup White Rice Flour
  • 1/4 cup Cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Xanthum Gum
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 3/4 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 2 Tbsp Unsweetened Plain Almond Milk, if needed
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (350 degrees F for high altitude), and spray an 8×8 baking pan with Non-Stick Cooking Spray.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together oil, sugar, agave, syrup, & stevia until smooth. Add egg, wine, vegan sour cream, vanilla, cloves, & nutmeg, and beat until smooth.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together, oat flour, rice flour, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder, xanthum gum, salt, & cocoa powder.
  4. Slowly beat the dry mix into the liquid until just combined.
  5. If batter is too thick, add almond milk, 1 Tbsp at a time. (I added 2 Tbsp, but am cooking at a high altitude, requiring more liquid)
  6. Pour batter into prepared baking pan and smooth with a spatula.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 
  8. Cool before serving.
This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays at Simply Sugar & Gluten Free, Gluten Free Wenesdays at the Gluten Free Homemaker, Allergy Free Wednesdays at Tessa the Domestic Diva, AND February Blog Hop at Recipe Lion.

Homemade Mocha Marshmallows….

Give your friends & neighbors a gift to keep them warm throughout the chilly winter season, Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate Mix & Homemade Mocha Marshmallows!

Everyone gives out cookies and bottles of wine. Don’t get me wrong, I love cookies AND wine. However, man cannot live by cookies and wine alone. Hot Chocolate has to fit in there somewhere! Mason jars filled with our homemade dairy-free hot chocolate mix are a fantastic hostess gift from the kitchen! To make this treat even more special, include homemade mocha marshmallows!
Don’t be scared! It’s not as difficult as it sounds. Plus, the look of joy on the faces of those on the receiving end of these gourmet goodies makes all the time & effort worth it!
Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate Mix
(Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, Vegan)
Ingredients:
Directions:
  1. Combine all ingredients and store in an air tight container.
  2. To make 1 cup of Hot Chocolate, combine 1 cup boiling water with 4 Tbsp mix.
Vanilla Sugar
Ingredients:
  • 2 cups unbleached Cane Sugar
  • 1 whole Vanilla Bean, cut into small pieces
Directions:
  1. Place sugar and vanilla bean in a food processor and process until vanilla bean is finely minced.
  2. Store in an air tight container in a cool, dry place.
Homemade Mocha Marshmallows
(Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Nut-Free)
Ingredients:
·         4 Tblsp Unflavored Powdered Gelatin
·         1 cup Cold Water
·         3 cups unbleached Cane Sugar
·         1 1/4 cups Light Agave Nectar
·         ½ cup Water
·         ¼ tsp Salt
·         1 tsp Coffee Extract
·         1 tsp Vanilla Extract
·         ¼ cup Cocoa Powder
·         3/4 cup Confectioners Sugar
Directions:
1.      Spray a glass 9×13 pan with non-stick cooking spray and dust with confectioners sugar.
2.      In the bowl of a stand mixer, place gelatin and cold water and allow to gel. This should take about 10 minutes.
3.      Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cane sugar, agave nectar, & remaining water to a boil. Cook until it reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer.
4.      Slowly beat the hot syrup mixture into the gelatin. Turn the mixer speed up and add the coffee & vanilla extracts.
5.      Beat on high until mixture volume has nearly tripled in size, 6-10 minutes.
6.      Pour the mixture into your prepared glass pan and smooth with a lightly oiled spatula. Allow to sit uncovered, at room temperature, for 8-12 hours, or overnight.
7.      The next day, in a small bowl, whisk together cocoa powder & confectioners sugar.
8.      Lightly dust a cutting board with the sugar & cocoa mixture.
9.      Turn the marshmallows out of the pan onto the dusted cutting board. It should come out in one piece.
10.  Using a pizza cutter, cut marshmallows to desired size.
11.  Thoroughly coat each marshmallow in the sugar & cocoa mixture to prevent it from sticking.
12.  Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to one week.

New Year’s Crab Soup….

Happy New Year!
2011 has been a year of changes. I started a new job (twice), moved across the country, and learned how to ride a bike! Looking back, I have a lot to be thankful for. So, instead of focusing on the aspects of myself that I want to change in 2012 (lose weight, exercise more, etc…), I am looking back and relishing my accomplishments from this past year. 
So now I ask you: In 2011, I am most proud of __________.
For me, I am most proud of my new ability to just relax and let go. Things are not up to me. God is in control. In 2011, I finally learned to accept that, and it has made my life that much richer.
This weekend has been amazing. GF Guy and Dickens have finally joined me in Denver, for good. We have been enjoying each other and the city, and just relaxing. Here are some pictures I took of our dog park adventure. It was 21 degrees outside, and Dickens isn’t sure if he is okay with the cold! 
Yesterday, I made my dad’s New Year’s Crab Soup. It’s not really a “recipe”, per say, which made it kind of a challenge. The original recipe calls for only 4 ingredients, but I ended up “gidgetizing” it. I had leftovers for lunch today and the flavors tasted even better after sitting overnight. 
New Year’s Crab Soup
(Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz Crab Claw Meat
  • 1 carton Fig Food Co. Condensed Split Pea Soup
  • 1 carton Fig Food Co. Condensed Tomato Soup
  • 1 Fig Food Co. carton full of Water
  • 1 Fig Food Co. carton full of Coconut Milk
  • 1 Tblsp Tomato Paste
  • 1 tsp Curry Powder
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1/4 cup Dry Sherry
  • Black Pepper & Sea Salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients in a pot over medium-high heat. 
  2. Cook stirring occasionally until heated through. Enjoy!

No-Bake Crack Cookies….

TODAY IS THE LAST DAY TO HELP ME

WIN A TRIP TO ITALY!!!!!!!!! 
This contest, sponsored by Jovial Foods is for the trip of a lifetime! PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE take a second to click on this link and vote for me (Katrina, #9)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

These cookies are ridiculously addictive! Upon sampling one, I immediately dubbed them “crack cookies”. Super simple to make with relatively healthy ingredients, I think Santa will love these. Not to mention, he could use some more whole grains in his life. (Just sayin’…) 

A pinch of Cayenne gives these cookies a grown-up twist and a delightful little kick, almost like a Mexican Hot Chocolate. Feel free to omit it, but I recommend trying it at least once. You may be surprised!

In other news, Dickens is super excited for Christmas! 😉

Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies
(Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Vegan)

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup pure Maple Syrup
  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Substitute
  • 5 Tbsp Cocoa Powder
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 cup certified Gluten-Free, Old-Fashioned Oats
  • 1/2 cup Peanut Butter
  • 1 tsp pure Vanilla Extract

Directions:

  1. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, melt together the syrup and Earth Balance. Add the cocoa powder, cinnamon, & cayenne and bring to a low boil.
  2. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients. Stir until evenly coated.
  4. Drop by spoonful onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper.
  5. Refrigerate until firm.

A Bea-UDI-ful Holiday!….

Hello all! A little side project of mine….. click on the recipe below to check out my post on the Udi’s Gluten-Free Foods Blog! 
(PS- Let me know if you want my tricks to make the Dairy-Free!)

Also, I AM A FINALIST TO WIN A TRIP TO ITALY!!!!!!!!! 
This contest, sponsored by Jovial Foods is for the trip of a lifetime! PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE take a second to click on this link and vote for me (Katrina, #9)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Grandma Would Be Proud -or- The Christmas Cookie Revenge….

Happy 2011!
I’ve been super busy with work and GF Guy coming home that, no offense, blogging hasn’t exactly been at the top of my list.
I have a stack of product reviews waiting to be written (okay, it’s only 2, but they are staring at me!!!), new recipes to share with you, and lots more going on in this curly little head of mine.
I spent New Year’s with GF Guy in Ft. Lauderdale where we danced and laughed the night away with the cast of Rock of Ages. 
Erika, writes a blog about life on the road called It’s Just the Road. Check it out for some great life lessons and musings from an awesome and talented chica!
Good times had by all! I’m going back this coming weekend and to Orlando the next weekend… I’m practically a ROA Groupie!
I finally got the Christmas tree down and the decorations put away. Now, I’m going to try to pump out a new blog post for the next few nights before heading out of town again. 
I am particularly proud of this next cookie recipe. Last year, I tried, and failed miserably, to recreate my Grandmother’s famous Sand Tart cookies. Not one to simply accept defeat, I made another attempt this year.
BOO-YA!!! I DID IT!!!!
My dad even approved, which was a big deal. 
Warning: these little buggers are a bit time intensive. Consider yourself warned! 🙂
Gammy’s Sand Tarts
(Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Nut-Free)

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Using an electric mixer or Kitchenaid, cream together the shortening and sugar until fluffy. Add the 2 of the eggs and beat until incorporated. Add the flours and baking poser and beat until combined. 
  2. Divide into 4 equal pieces, wrap in saran wrap, and place in the refrigerator overnight.
  3. The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  4. Place remaining egg and a bit of water in a small bowl and beat lightly to form an Egg Wash.
  5. Dust a large surface with Tapioca Starch and remove one dough ball from the refrigerator.
  6. Place unwrapped, chilled dough on tapioca dusted surface and dust dough and a rolling pin with Tapioca Starch.
  7. Roll dough veeeeerrrrry thin, as thin as possible and cut into shapes with metal cookie cutters. Using a thin metal spatula, place on prepared baking sheet.
  8. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush cookies with Egg Wash and decorate with sprinkles.
  9. Bake in preheated oven 9-11 minutes until crispy and lightly golden on the edges. Be careful! They burn easily!
  10. Allow to cool a few minutes on baking sheet before moving to a wire cooling rack.
Do you have a special holiday recipe you are trying to convert? Let me know if I can help!