Comfort Food

FYI: This took a month to write…sorry for infrequent posting.

Often times we think of comfort food as a food we fondly remember eating as a child or a special dish we religiously make for a holiday. Grandpa’s ‘German’ potato salad at amBBQ…drool.

Sometimes it’s a dish a loved one makes you when you’re sick with a cold.

Or maybe a hot meal you share with your love on a snowy night.

But what role should food play when you’re going through something sad? I’m not going to lie, it’s been a really rough time for me lately. And one of the few things that has given me a ‘little’ bit of happiness in a very dark place has been food.

I have managed to continue to eat healthy much through the holidays and into the winter. But in a sad time, sometimes you just need ‘a glass of coca cola.’ Or some mac and cheese. Or some chocolate.

So yes, I’ve taken ‘comfort’ in some foods that aren’t the best for me. And yes, the scale has reflected that. But it was needed. And appreciated. And calming. And distracting. But this week I’m ‘back in the saddle again.’ And surprisingly it has been pretty easy, and ‘comforting,’ to eat the healthy way again.

Regardless, we all deal with pain differently. However, it isn’t safe to continue that pattern. I’m glad my brain has been rewired to acknowledge the difference.

Bigger and better places… 🙂

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Christmas Cookie Countdown- Day 6: Red Velvet Shortbread

I’m on a shortbread kick the past few Christmases. I guess it’s because I’m just learning now all the things you can do with it. Last year it was fun putting the rosemary in it- loved it! This year, I saw some really cool new ways to do short bread. So I’m sharing. One thing I’ve definitely learned though about shortbread: hand cut the butter in! This recipe directs you to use a food processor. I did, and the dough never really came together like it would it I did it by hand. I also think they would have been ‘redder’ if I hand cut it. So I’m altering this recipe to suit those needs.

Red Velvet Shortbread Cookies

1 3/4 C flour

1/2 C sugar

2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 C butter, cut up (always cold butter!)

1 tbsp. red food coloring

3 oz. white baking chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 1/2 tsp. shortening

1. Preheat the oven to 325F. In a large bowl, add all the dry ingredients together.

2. Add butter and red food coloring. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter and food coloring until the mixture resembles fine crumbs and starts to stick together. Form mixture into and ball and knead until smooth.

3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough 1/2 inch thick. Cut with a smaller cookie cutter- about 3″ max. Place cookie cutouts on an un-greased cookie sheet.

4. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until centers are set. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

5. In a small saucepan, melt the chocolate and shortening until smooth. Drizzle chocolate over cooled cookies and let the chocolate set before storing.

****Healthy Tip:

It’s good to workout in the cold weather. It get your blood pumping and helps burn fat. Make sure you dress warm and wear a hat and gloves, but it’s perfectly fine to take a jog in the cold! DO IT! Especially if you ate one of these cookies!!!!!

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Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 14- Cherry Surprise Crinkle Cookies

I’ll start by saying I will never make these again. Wasn’t super crazy about them, and the I almost feel they are set up for failure. They’re not terrible- just too much work for not that much flavor.

Cherry Surprise Crinkles

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 egg

1 tsp almond extract

2 cups flour

1/2 cup chopped maraschino cherries, well drained and patted dry

36 Kisses with cherry cordial

1. Preheat oven to 350F. In a medium mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking powder and soda, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl. Beat in the egg and almond extract. Beat in flour. When it’s all combined, add cherries.

2. Divide dough into 36 equal portions. Shape each portion into a ball around a kiss. Place balls 2″ apart on an un-greased cookie sheet.

3. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until bottoms are lightly golden brown. Transfer cookie to cooling rack.

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Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 11- Chocolate Cherry Macaroons

I’m not a super huge fan of macaroons. These have chocolate and cherry (or cherry flavored craisins!), so now I’m a fan! Fairly easy recipe, but you need two days in order to enjoy them. I also would double the recipe if you plan to give these out to people as gifts because they only make 20. This recipe comes from Fine Cooking Cookie Magazine 2012.

Chocolate Cherry Coconut Macaroons

1 3/4 cups sweetened shredded coconut

2/3 cup cream of coconut, such as Coco Lopez (not coconut milk!)

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 large egg whites

1 tsp. vanilla extract

pinch of salt

3 oz. (1/2 cup) dried cherries, coarsely chopped (I used cherry flavored craisins)

1. Heat oven to 325F. Spread coconut on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring around frequently until some of the shreds turn golden brown, appr. 8-10 minutes. You’re not toasting the coconut as more as you’re drying it out. Let cool and turn off oven.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk the cream of coconut, cocoa, egg whites, vanilla and salt until well combined. Stir in the cherries and then the coconut. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly firm, a minimum of 2 hours up to overnight.

3. About 20 minutes before you plan to bake the macaroons, position the oven rack to the center and preheat the oven to 325F. Line a heavy cookie sheet with parchment. With damp hands, shape heaping tablespoons of the batter into balls. Place on the parchment about 2 inches apart. Top each macaroon with some of the left over coconut. Bake until the sides are no longer sticky and the top still feels soft, about 20 minutes.

4. Let the macaroons cool on the sheet for about 3 minutes before transferring them to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.


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Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 10- Mexican Chocolate Snicker Doodles


I love the combination of chocolate and cayenne. I think it’s a brilliant marriage, and have always wanted to incorporate into my Christmas Baking. This recipe allows me to do that. It’s not you conventional christmas cookie, but because it’s a snicker doodle, it’s allowed! Once again this comes from 2012’s Better Homes and Garden’s Special Christmas Cookie Edition magazine.

1/2 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 tsp. cream of tarter

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (they say it’s optional, but that’s what makes it ‘mexican!!!!!’)

2 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tsp. cinnamon

1. In a mixer, beat the butter for 30 seconds on medium until creamy. Beat in the sugar and brown sugar, cream of tarter, baking soda, salt, and cayenne until combined. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Beat in cocoa powder, scraping the sides occasionally. Add in as much of the flour you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour. Cover and chill dough for 1 hour.

2. Preheat oven to 350F. In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon together. Shape dough into 1 1/4 inch balls and roll in sugar mixture. Place dough 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

3. Bake 10-12 minutes or until edges are set and tops are cracked. Transfer to cooling rack and let cool. Makes 30 cookies or so.

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Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 8 and 9- Biscotti Anyone?

So I’m MAJORLY playing catch up on the blog this weekend. I have been baking everyday, I swear!!! But with school coming to a close for vacation, and the need to get shopping out of the way for my work friends, I haven’t had time sit, much less blog about what I’ve been baking. I FINALLY ave the time to sit and tell you all about what I’ve been up to in the kitchen!!!

I never really was a fan of biscotti, especially before I started drinking coffee. Maybe it was because I didn’t grow up around it, or the types I tried weren’t all that good. A few years ago, my mother gave my sister and I a book called Christmas Cookies: 50 Recipes to Treasure for the Holiday Season by Lisa Zwirn. There are some classic favorites, and some interesting new gems. I made quite a few of the cookies in this book and they have always tasted yummy. However one cookie has stood the test of time- The Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti. It is heaven in a cookie…and it screams winter and the holidays. I’ve modified it a bit though, using cherry flavored craisins instead of the cranberry because well, I just really like the flavor of cherry! The recipe is as follows:

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

3 cups flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. salt

8 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 tbsp. finely grated orange zest (from 1 orange)

1 1/4 cup shelled pistachios (do not chop)

1 cup dried cranberries

1. preheat the oven to 350F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper

2. In a medium bowl whisk the flour, cinnamon, salt and baking powder together.

3. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter in a large bowl until creamy. Add the sugar and brown sugar and beat until fully blended. Beat in eggs, the vanilla and orange zest. On low speed, mix the flour mixture just until the dough starts to clump together. Mix in the pistachios and cranberries. Using your hands or rubber spatula, gather the dough into a ball and divide in half.

4. With lightly floured hands, form each half of dough in to a log that is 13″ by 2.5.” Make sure each log is 3 inches apart.

5. Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating the sheet from front to back (I never do this! :P) halfway through baking, or until the loaves are golden and the top feels firm when gently pressed. Transfer the sheet to a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Reduce the temp of the oven to 325F.

6. Peel the loaves off the parchment and slice them diagonally on a cutting board. Be sure to use a SHARP serrated knife, as the loaves are crumbly. Slice the cookies 3/4 inch thick. Place them back on the cookie sheet, cut sides up. Put back into oven for 10 minutes. Flip cookies to other side and bake for another 10 minutes.

7. Take out and transfer to wire cooling rack. Cool for about 20 minutes. They keep for 2 weeks. If they get a little soft, you can perk them up in a 350F toaster oven for 5 minutes.

Since this recipe has me hooked on good biscotti, I found another recipe this year in a magazine called Fine Cooking: Cookies. It’s a gingerbread biscotti, and I was eager to try it. It’s pretty awesome too! I didn’t have dried apricots, but instead used crystalized ginger and I think I like it better, since I’m not fond of apricots to begin with. After making both biscotti, I noticed that there are some repeated elements in both recipes. So to save time, I will go back to some steps from the first recipe.

Gingerbread Biscotti

10 oz. flour (2 1/4 cups)

1 1/4 cups packed dk brown sugar

2 tsp. ground ginger

1 1/4 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp. baking soda

4 oz. (1 cup) pecans, coarsely chopped

4 oz. (1/2 cup) dried apricots, coarsely chopped ( I used crystallized ginger)

1/4 cup molasses

2 large eggs

2 tsp. finely grated orange zest

1. In a mixer, combine the flour, sugar, ginger, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and baking soda in a large bowl on low speed. Add the pecans and apricots and briefly mix on low.  In a measuring cup, whisk the molasses, eggs and zest together. Pour the mixture into the bowl and mix on low speed until the dough is well blended and comes together in large, moist clumps.

2. Dump the dough onto an un-floured work surface and divide dough in half. Using floured hands, shape each half into a log that is 10 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Put on a parchment lined cookie sheet. This dough really grows, so make sure to keep the logs at least 4 inches apart.

3. Follow steps 5-7 from the first recipe.

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The Christmas Cookie Countdown!!!!!

Christmas is a holiday that’s backbone is built on tradition for someone like me. I’m extremely sentimental, and when I put hard work into something…it’s for good reason. I put most of my energy every year into Christmas. Especially baking.

People think I’m cuckoo, and I probably am, for baking 15-20 different cookies every Christmas. However, I can rationalize my overly nutty, wacko, get a life behavior. It’s a given that every Christmas must have 3-4 staples- my grandmother’s ginger bread, a sugar cookie cut out sprinkled with colored sugar BEFORE baking, white chocolate covered pretzels and something chocolaty! But that gets boring year after year…and I like to try new things. So I’m screwed!!!! For the last three years, I try something, love it along with everyone else, and thus it becomes added to the holiday ‘must have’ list with Christmas Eve dinner.

So, in honor of the 15 days left before Christmas starting today, I will post the recipe of every cookie I make for this holiday. Each day will be something different. Some are family recipes, some are just fun recipes I found in a holiday issue of a magazine over the years. Feel free to play/bake along. I may even throw in some bonus recipes, just because I get extra neurotic toward the final days and decide what I’ve already baked simply isn’t diverse enough in flavors.

So here’s my first. It’s my mom’s recipe, but it reminds me so much of her mother. My mom starting making these cookies for everyone special occasion our family has had over the last 15 years. Anniversaries, showers, weddings, birthdays… it’s a special cookie to my family.

Ginger Bread Boys

In a seperate bowl mix

7 cups flour

1 tsp. ground ginger

1 tsp. ground cloves

1 tsp. all spice

1tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. salt

Mix in a kitchen mixer:

1 Jar of Grandma’s Molasses

1 cup of packed dark brown sugar

1/3 cup crisco

Add:

1/2 ice water

Add half the flour mixture. Then add

2tsp. baking soda mixed in 3 tbsp. cold water

Add the rest of the flour mixture.

Divide dough into four sections and wrap in saran wrap. Chill dough for a minimum of 4 hours or even over night. When ready, roll out 1/3″ to 1/2″ thick and make cut outs with. Bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes. Cool and decorate!!!!

The icing I use to decorate these cookies with is just milk and confectioners sugar. I can’t really tell you exact amounts of each. I add back and forth until the icing is thick and can still be spread with a fluid feel to it.

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