Friday, December 18, 2009

Vanilla/Chocolate Refrigerator Cookies

Christmas is almost here and you really wanted to bake a variety of cookies.  Where did the time go?  Maybe you can get one batch off, but were is the variety? We’ve got that covered with our Vanilla/Chocolate Refrigerator Cookies - one batch of dough makes six different cookies.  Here’s the recipe and the game plan.

Vanilla/Chocolate Refrigerator Cookies

1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 - 1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp grated orange peel
1 1/2 cups sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoon cocoa powder

1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
one chocolate bar

Cream butter and sugar thoroughly.  Add egg,  vanilla and orange peel and mix well. Mix flour, salt and baking soda together and stir into butter mixture.

Divide dough in half and roll one half into a log 1 1/2 inches in diameter, wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper and refrigerate until chilled through.

Add 2 tablespoons  cocoa powder to the other half and mix well.  Roll into a 1 1/2 inch log, wrap and refrigerate. 

When the logs are well chilled, preheat oven to 350° and slice one half of each log into thin slices (1/8 - 1/4 inch) and place on ungreased baking sheet and bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes.

Take the other half rolls and roll them slightly. Cut them in half.  Take one vanilla half and one chocolate half and roll them in the chopped walnuts, pressing firmly so that the nuts are really imbedded in the logs.  Cut each log into thin slices, place on ungreased baking sheet and bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes.

Take the last two logs, cut them in half and roll them so they are less than half inch in diameter.  Take one of each color and flatten and place one on top of the other.  Cut in half and stack and then cut in thin slices so that you have striped cookies. Place on ungreased baking sheet and baked 10 - 12 minutes at 350°.  These might take longer as they are a little thicker.

The last variation is pure kindergarten!  Take each remaining log and twist together. Fold it over itself and roll it into  log.  Fold it over itself and roll again and do that one more time and you will have a marbled log.  Slice the log into thin slices and you know what to do next.

After the cookies cool, melt half of the chocolate bar in a small microwavable bowl.  All microwave ovens are different, so I go by 30 second increments until the chocolate is soft.  It will be hot!  Don’t stick a finger in to test it; stick a cookie in to cover a third with chocolate.  Dip half of each variety of cookie in chocolate and you will have almost a dozen different cookies! All from one recipe!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Every so often I find a common kitchen staple that serves me well in many ways.  One such common ingredient that is mostly known as a “spread on bread” is cream cheese.  I use the reduced fat or “neufchatel” which sits next to its more calorie rich cousin in the dairy section, as the difference in flavor and texture is minimal and I’m happy to eliminate calories where I can!

One of the themes of Acts of Living is adding nutritious foods to our diet and sometimes, especially in the case of vegetables, it means dressing them up a little. There are many sauces and dips in Acts of Living that do just that with very little effort.  My newest discovery is a simple substitute for the ever popular white sauce (the base so many wonderful dishes) that can be used with vegetables or pasta and takes minutes to prepare.  I call it Simplicity Sauce and it goes like this:  Pour about 1/4 cup of milk into a small saucepan over a low heat.  While it is heating drop in two tablespoons of neufchatel cheese, cut into 1/2 inch (more or less) cubes and stir until smooth.  Add 1/4 cup  of grated cheese - parmesan, cheddar  or swiss work equally well.  When it begins to bubble, turn off the heat and pour over cooked vegetables.  That’s it!

It can be used in many ways and different herbs and vegetables can be added according to taste.  Sun dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, green tail onions can be added for color and flavor. I add a little onion powder to the sauce and then stir in two to four cups of frozen chopped spinach, cook for three minutes or until the spinach is heated through and  have a quick creamed spinach  that pleases everyone.

For an even quicker sauce, and one that requires no clean-up, put the milk and the cream cheese in a microwave ceramic bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds.  Stir or whisk the cheese into the milk and cream cheese and microwave for 30 seconds.  If it is not hot, microwave for another 30 seconds.  At this point you can serve it over vegetables or add spinach to it with a little onion powder and microwave for another minute.  Stir, microwave for another minute and stir again.  If it is not hot, continue to cook it a minute at a time until it is heated through.  When its hot, its ready to serve, right from the microwave to the table.  It doesn't get easier than that!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Welcome to my new blog.

Those of you who are familiar with Little Apple Press and Acts of Living: A Cooking Journal for the Culinarily Challenged  know that I am passionate about good food and about spreading the word about eating well in your own kitchen.  Home cooked meals are making a huge come back and with a little knowledge, very few tools and a willing heart, anyone can turn a few whole ingredients into a tasty meal.  Acts of Living will coach you through the basics  and open the world of cooking pleasures to anyone who picks it up and turns a few pages.

One of the joys of cooking is realizing how easily recipes can be adapted to suit personal tastes, preferences, health needs or just what happens to be in the pantry on a given day.  Acts of Living encourages that sort of experimentation  which can lead to more creative outcomes both in the kitchen and in other areas of one’s life.  Check back here regularly to see what new ideas are being posted about adaptations of recipes in the cookbook or new shortcuts to make cooking even more rewarding.

Let’s start a dialogue about good times and good food from the kitchen.

 Bon Appetit!