As the Christmas holiday fast approaches, the hectic whirlwind pace that you have set up for yourself and your family will begin to take on a life of its own. Cooking, for most of us during this time, becomes a series of “Have to” moments. The intent of the holiday meal is to connect us back to food memories of the past. Grandma’s cookies that have been made every Christmas that you can remember, orange-glazed ham that always appears on the table and the green and red Jell-o mold that gets invited back every year no matter how bad it is. At this time, try to connect back and make peace with your kitchen. Plan time to spend there, enjoying the process of the cooking, rather than just trying to get it done. Like no other time, the foods that we eat are meant as much to nurture us as they are to nourish. It may be the healthiest thing that you ever do for your mind and your body.
CLASSIC BUTTER COOKIES
You may find you are making these often as they don’t last very long, especially if you cut them into fun shapes.
Makes 48 cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten with a fork
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
2[1/2] cups all-purpose flour
[1/2] teaspoon baking powder
1. Preheat the oven to 375[dg]F.
2. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and milk. Beat in the vanilla.
3. In a smaller bowl combine the flour and baking powder. Stir into the butter mixture and gather the dough together into a ball. Divide the dough into 4 parts and shape each into a round flat cake. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
4. On a silicone baking pad, such as Silpat, roll one portion of the dough into a [1/8] to [1/4]-inch thick round. Cut with a 2 or 3-inch cookie or biscuit cutter. Using your fingers and the tip of a knife, remove the excess dough from around the cookies, and set it aside.
5. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until golden brown around the edges. Cool completely on a rack.
6. Repeat with remaining 3 dough rounds. Gather the excess dough into another round and refrigerate, covered, to bake at another time.
PECAN NUT TASSIES
These little bite-sized morsels are probably one of my most favorite cookies to make during the holidays. They will remind you of a pecan pie, only in little packages. Fill them with other nuts or bake them by themselves, whatever you choose, these will please your holiday crowd every time!
Makes 2 dozen
[1/4] cup cream cheese, at room temperature (2 ounces)
[1/2] cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (1 stick)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg, at room temperature
[3/4] cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
[1/8] teaspoon salt
[2/3] cup pecan pieces, toasted (about 2-[1/2] ounces)
1. To make the pastry, combine the cream cheese and the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer set at high speed until they are fluffy. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour. Mix until just incorporated.
2. Form the dough into two 6-inch logs and wrap them in plastic wrap. Refrigerate them until firm, at least 1[1/2] hrs.
3. Preheat the oven to 325[dg]F. Unwrap the dough and cut each log into 12 pieces [1/2] inch thick. Press each piece into the muffin tin so that the dough covers the bottom and sides. Press the edges up just beyond the rim.
4. In a medium bowl, combine the egg, brown sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt. Mix in one half of the pecans. Spoon the mixture into the lined muffin tins. Fill the tins almost to the top. Use the remaining pecans to top the cookies.
5. Bake until the filling sets and the crust begins to turn golden, about 25 minutes.
6. Remove from the oven and cool the cookies completely in the tins on a wire cooling rack. Carefully remove the cookies from the tins, loosening gently with a sharp paring knife if they tend to stick. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Jennifer Bushman has successfully combined her role as entrepreneur and chef to become a national expert in teaching home cooks simple solutions to solutions to cooking great meals. Jennifer is the National Volunteer Culinary Spokesperson for the American Heart Association. She is the author of The Kitchen Coach Cookbook series and is the spokesperson for Scolari’s Food and Drug Company.