December 21, 2011

Peppermint Twist Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies are the quintessential cookie everyone bakes during the holidays. They tend to be a favorite since you can pull out those festive cookie cutters and decorate them in so many different ways. While I knew I wanted to add a typical sugar cookie to my cookie box, I was sure I didn't want to spend my entire weekend decorating cookies either.

Enter: Peppermint Crunch, crushed candy cane pieces that I found while shopping at Crate and Barrel. If you can't find the pre-crushed kind, you can easily buy some candy canes and crush them yourselves.

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
4-6 oz semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup crushed candy canes

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until it is smooth. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until it is fluffy.

Gradually add the flour mixture until fully incorporated and the dough is stiff. Shape into a disk and cover well with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide into 2 or 4 equal parts. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/4" thick. Cut into desired shape and transfer to a wax or parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes, making sure to rotate the sheet 1/2 way through. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

As your first batch of cookies is baking you can melt the chocolate over a double boiler, and set aside until all cookies are baked and cooled. To decorate, simply dip half the cookie into the chocolate. Remove excess chocolate, then sprinkle with the crushed candy canes. Place the decorated cookies over parchment lined sheet and refrigerate until the chocolate has set.

December 20, 2011


Polvorones are one of my favorite treats I almost always get when I go to Puerto Rico, particularly during the holidays. The best way to describe them are as crumbly almond cookies, similar to a shortbread cookie but with a sharper nut flavor brought in by the use of almond meal mixed with the butter, flour, powdered sugar and other spices. Almond meal is also gives this cookies their wonderful "crumby" texture.

For those who are unsure as to what almond meal is: its' essentially finely ground almonds. Not to be confused with Almond Flour (which you can get if you sift the meal), nor by grinding the almonds to the point of extracting too many oils from them and creating Almond butter. 

Some of my favorite Polvorones are from Sweet Ann Cakes, a local bakery that sells to many supermarkets and even have small kiosks in the malls. Since I was making holiday cookies in lieu of gifts for my co-workers, I instantly knew I had to include these delectable treats. In all honesty, they were my first time baking them, and will definitely not be my last!

16 tbsp butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1 orange
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup almond meal

In an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter for around 1 minute. Slowly add the confectioners sugar until it is light and fluffy, this will take about 3-5 minutes, depending on the speed of your mixer. Add the vanilla and orange zest.

Sift the flour, and remaining spices and then blend with the almond meal. Add this dry mixture all at once to the butter mixture and gently stir until is fully incorporated into the butter mixture, but be sure not to over mix.

Form a large disc of the dough, and wrap well in plastic to refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Scoop the dough into tablespoons and roll into a ball and place on the cookie sheet, approximately 2 inches apart. Lightly press down on the dough with a spoon dipped in flour to form a 1/2" disk. Bake until the edges are lightly golden about 15 minutes.

As soon as you remove them from the oven and they are still warm, sprinkle generously with sifted confectioners sugar.  

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

One of my all time favorite cookies are Peanut Butter cookies. I always loved making the very traditional crispy yet chewy kinds that have you make the checkered pattern with a fork. I always loved going to parties where they made the classic cookie but topped with a Hershey Kiss. So this year, when I came across Candy Cane flavored Hershey Kisses, that I instantly thought of making these treats, but with a minty twist.

Before I actually got to baking them I decided I must test out the Kisses to make sure they weren't too minty. Actually the taste was a perfect blend of white chocolate with miniature pieces of candy cane inside. The mint taste was subtle enough that I knew they would work as a perfect topping for a classic peanut butter cookie.

1 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 package Hersey Kisses (flavor optional)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Get you baking sheet ready by lining it with wax paper. In  a medium bowl mix together the flour, baking soda and salt. Mix together and set aside.

In a large bowl mix the room temperature butter with both sugars until fully mixed. Add the milk and vanilla and mix until just incorporated. Add the flour mixture in small batches until all fully blended. Add peanut butter and mix. I used the crunchy kinda which I loved the added texture, but feel free to use smooth.

Roll dough into 1" balls and set about 2" apart. (You can coat with extra sugar but I opted not to). Bake for about 10-12 minutes. Top with a Hershey Kiss about 1 minute after its been out of the oven. Careful, since the chocolates tend to melt! I've had to replace the chocolates many times as I eagerly put the Kiss way too early!

December 8, 2011

DIY Taco Seasoning

When it comes to quick and easy meals, particularly when I'm in no mood to make too much of  a fuss in the kitchen i usually settle for tacos. I absolutely love tacos. Beef tacos, fish tacos, hard or soft- I don't really discriminate.

They are such an easy go-to meal which is probably why we have tacos for dinner at least once every 2 weeks. I always have tacos in my pantry, and I usually keep corn tortillas in the freezer. The only thing I never use is those taco seasoning packets that come in the taco or tortilla boxes. To be honest, I'm sure most people would have the majority of these seasonings in their cupboard, not like Monosodium Glutamate, as listed on some of those packages. The great thing about making your own seasoning mix, is you can easily adjust the flavors to work with your palate.

1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Chili Powder
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper (optional)

Mix all condiments in a bowl, and set aside until you're ready to make your tacos. Feel free to use whatever meat you have on hand. I happened to make Tacos this week with ground beef. As a good rule of thumb, figure the blend above to be enough for 1 lb. of meat.