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by Caitlin Saniga | photo by Joel Hawksley

Chili-spiced pecans with orange and cranberry

My only ingredient tweak to this recipe was adding a bit of cayenne to turn up the heat on these salty-sweet pecans. I loved how orange-y these tasted.

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by Sarah Steimer and Caitlin Saniga

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Sarah’s package of cookies to Caitlin included cranberry-pecan shortbreads, apple slice cookies (below the shortbreads, wrapped up), gingerbread anise biscotti (recipe here) and peppermint-chocolate swirl cookies. Sarah also included a few chocolate-covered pretzels (another recipe we posted in the past).

We love making cookies for the holidays and sharing photos and recipes of them on the blog (most notable was our 2010 Holiday Dozen guide). We often email or text each other to rave about how good the other’s photos look, or to say how good our own cookies tasted. On a few very rare occasions, we’ve been able to try each other’s creations. This year, we decided to send cookies directly to one another so we didn’t have to be too jealous when the pictures and recipes hit the Web! 

Below are the recipes for the cookies Sarah sent to Caitlin this year:

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Cranberry-pecan shortbreads

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Sarah: These cookies freeze incredibly well — and they’re the first ones I made this season, so how well they stored was very important.
Caitlin: I enjoyed the toasty, earthy flavors of these cookies. I can picture using raisins and walnuts instead of cranberries and pecans as alternative.

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk (I used skim)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the milk and vanilla, mixing until just combined.

Gradually add the flour, salt, cranberries and pecans. Continue to mix until everything is well combined.

Divide the dough into two equal pieces on a clean workspace. Roll each piece into an 8-inch log, and wrap each log in wax paper. Refrigerate the dough until firm, about two hours.

When ready, use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 1/4-inch slices. Place the disks on a parchment-lined baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart.

Bake at 375 degrees until the edges are golden, about 14-16 minutes, rotating the pans about halfway through.

Let the cookies cool completely on a wire rack.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

Recipe adapted from: Martha Stewart

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Apple slice cookies

  • 7 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon light cream (as a substitute, I used 1 tablespoon skim milk and added about a 1/2 tablespoon extra butter)
  • 1/3 cup thick applesauce
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Sarah: The cookbook I found this recipe in said it “won an award in 1945,” but gave no details as to why or how. If you’re looking for a mysterious, World War II-era fan favorite, look no further.
Caitlin: I loved these because they remind me of something my Baboo would have made. They’re slightly sweet and not too rich. Delicious!

Cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Add the flour and cream (or substitute), mixing well.

Divide the dough into two pieces. Roll each out to 12-inch logs and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Use your finger to make a deep indentation (although all the way to the sheet pan) down the center of each log length. Fill the indentation with the applesauce – you may not use all the applesauce.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes, or until the cookie itself begins to turn golden. The cookies will still feel relatively soft when you remove them from the oven and have flattened out a bit.

While still warm, cut the cookies into 3/4-inch-wide diagonal slices. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Store in the refrigerator.

Makes about 30 cookies.

Recipe adapted from: Swedish Cakes and Cookies

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Peppermint-chocolate swirl cookies

  • 3 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg yolk

    Sarah: I love the little flecks of candy in these cookies — but there's a heck of a lot of steps involved in making these.Caitlin:

    Sarah: I love the little flecks of candy in these cookies — but there are a heck of a lot of steps involved in making these.
    Caitlin: I opened the box, and my jaw dropped at the sight of these pinwheels. How pretty! They look and taste perfect.

  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1/2 cup crushed candy canes (use Caitlin’s advice and grab the little candy canes, they’re way easier to crush)

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

Use an electric mixer to cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and milk. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Divide the dough in half and refrigerate, wrapped in plastic wrap or wax paper, for about two hours.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature to soften a bit.

Place one half of the dough in a bowl and add the chocolate and vanilla extract. Using your hands, combine the mixture well until the chocolate has been fully incorporated into the dough.

In a separate bowl, combine the second dough half with the egg yolk, peppermint extract and the crushed candy canes. Combine with your hands once again until the candy is well distributed throughout the dough.

Chill both of the doughs in the refrigerator for five minutes. Roll each half out on a clean surface over a sheet of wax paper. Each half should be rolled out to about a 1/4-inch thickness and about the same shape.

Place the sheet of peppermint dough on top of the chocolate dough, removing the peppermint’s wax paper. Press the edges of the dough together. Using the wax paper underneath, roll the dough into a log (working length-wise).

Wrap the log in wax paper and refrigerate for another two hours. Cut the cookies into slices a little thinner than a half inch-thick. Arrange about 1-inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake at 375 degrees for 12-13 minutes, rotating the pans about halfway through. Remove from the oven and let sit on the pan for about 2 minutes before letting fully cool on a wire rack.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Recipe adapted from: Alton Brown via the Food Network

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Caitlin: I was so impressed with Sarah’s cookies! Each variety looked and tasted perfect even after a trip in the mail. And cookies weren’t the only thing I found in my package of goodies. She snuck a few Christmas presents into the box as well, including this Scrabble letters tray with a customized nod to the blog. She also sent a pretty blue and white bowl and a gorgeous bird-themed tea towel — both of which you’re likely to see in blog photos sometime soon.

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by Sarah Steimer

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Although you can use dried cranberries in this recipe, I highly recommend using fresh or frozen cranberries. There’s a really great balance that occurs between the not-too-sweet chocolate, the slightly sour cranberries and a strong cup of coffee.

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

    The size of the log doesn't have to be too precise. Just try to maintain the same thickness so the biscotti bakes evenly.

    The size of the log doesn’t have to be too precise. Just try to maintain the same thickness so the biscotti bakes evenly.

  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup cranberries (I used fresh, you can use frozen or dried)

In a large or medium bowl whisk together the flours, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda and salt.

Add the eggs and vanilla extract, mixing until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips and cranberries (you may need to use your hands — and yes, it’s very sticky).

On a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, pat the batter into a long log, about 4 inches wide and 3/4 inch thick.

Bake the biscotti at 300 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes.

The second round in the oven just firms up the center of the biscotti.

The second round in the oven just firms up the center of the biscotti.

Slide the biscotti and parchment paper off the pan and onto a counter. Slice the biscotti into 3/4-inch slices and lay the slices on their side back on the parchment paper and onto the pan. Return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes.

Let the biscotti cool completely. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator or a cool pantry.

Recipe adapted from: A Full Measure of Happiness

*During the month of December, we’re offering some simple biscotti recipes that can be quickly snatched for breakfast with coffee or enjoyed with tea after a long day of holiday preparation. All of our Crunch Time recipes can be found here.

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by Sarah Steimer

One batch of biscotti will take care of breakfast for about two or three weeks - provided you only eat about two each day.

  •  2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup flaxseed
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips (or whatever chocolate you have lying around – chop it up)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

    I tried to make these at least a bit healthy with the flax and cranberries, but you can gussy them up just about any way you would like. Just follow the basic recipe up to the last three ingredients.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Add the flaxseed, chocolate and cranberries, mixing just enough to incorporate.

Divide the dough in half. Transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet – I was able to fit both on one, you may need to use two sheets. Form the two pieces of dough into logs that are about 3 to 4 inches wide and about 3/4-inch thick.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes (rotating halfway through), or until the dough is firm but gives slightly when pressed. Remove from the oven and let cool until you can touch the dough comfortably.

Using a sharp knife, cut logs into 1/2-inch or 3/4-inch slices. Lay these pieces flat (cut-side down) back on the lined cookie sheet(s). Bake for another 15 minutes, or until the biscotti is crisp and golden. The dough may still be a little soft to the touch, but they firm up completely when cooled.

Store in an airtight container – they should stay for up to 3 months if frozen.

Recipe adapted from: Everyday Food

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by Sarah Steimer

Not only do you get to use leftovers for this smoothie - but it's also a healthy change of pace to the nonstop parade of stuffing, potatoes, turkey and so on.

  • 1/4 cup cranberry sauce
  • 1/2 cup yogurt – I used French vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 cup nonfat or low-fat milk
  • 1/2 banana
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3 ice cubes

Combine all ingredients in a blender and serve. Makes two glasses.

In case you’re wondering, cranberries have lots of antioxidants and other phytonutrients that may help protect against heart disease, cancer and other diseases. They’re also known to help with urinary tract infections, gum disease and stomach ulcers. For more information, check out the Cranberry Institute’s website.

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by Sarah Steimer

The best part of oatmeal cookies is that you can pretend they're good for you.

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • sprinkle of ground cloves
  • 2 cups of rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (or more!) chocolate chips

Beat butter at medium speed to high for 30 seconds. Add about half the flour, all of brown sugar, sugar, egg, baking powder, vanilla and baking soda. Stir in cinnamon and cloves,  beat until thoroughly combined and then add rest of flour.

Stir in oats, walnuts, cranberries/raisins and chocolate chips.  Drop  by rounded teaspoon two inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet.   Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are golden brown.

Recipe adapted from: Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book

Photo: Sarah Steimer

Baking tips:

-Cookies can trip a lot of people up. Shoot for taking your cookies out at the suggested time, even if they still seem a bit soft. Many cookies continue baking while they’re out of the oven and cooling.

-Oatmeal makes an awesome baking staple. Think: oatmeal cookies, fruit crisps, granola.

-This goes for anything you bake: Try to use unbleached flour versus bleached. Just think about it, why would you want something you’re ingesting to be bleached?

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by Sarah Steimer

These are cupcakes, not muffins, even though they don't have icing.

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until well blended. Stir in the milk. Add the flour and baking powder. Gently fold in the cranberries and chocolate chips.

Spoon the batter evenly in lined cupcake tins and bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack.

Makes 12.

Recipe from: The Pastry Affair

Photo: Sarah Steimer

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