Tag Archives: holiday

Chocolate Peppermint Sandwich Cookies

In which a genuine attempt is made to invoke the holiday spirit via baked goods.

I have made my particular opinion on holiday-themed treats known, but I will reiterate: In general, with a few exceptions, I am not a fan of holiday baked goods, my reasons having been best laid out here. Too much fuss, too much gunk, not enough good, simple flavor to make all the effort seem worth it.

But I’m no Scrooge. I am susceptible to Christmas cheer as much as the next hot-blooded American consumer. And on Monday morning, I was struck with the urge to make merry, watch sappy Christmas movies, share some wine with friends, and bake bake bake holiday treats.

Epicurious has a nice collection of holiday cookie recipes, many of which aren’t super ornate. I had one of the visiting friends pick a recipe from their selections, and she chose the Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies. Now these are more elaborate than I tend to make, as I’m not a huge fan of icing sandwich cookies (it has to be just right in flavor, texture, and ratio of icing to cookie), but they looked fun, Christmas-y, and a once over of the recipe proved that they could easily be veganized. So-ho-ho why not?

Vegan Chocolate Peppermint Sandwich Cookies

Cookie Ingredients
– 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
– 1/2 cup Dutch process unsweetened cocoa powder
– 1/4 tsp salt
– 1 cup sugar
– 3/4 vegan margarine (I used Smart Balance Light)
– 1/4 cup silken tofu

Filling Ingredients
– 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
– 3/4 cup vegan margarine (for heavier filling, use 1 cup)
– 3/4 tsp peppermint extract
– Red and green food coloring

1/2 cup crushed red-and-white peppermint striped candies.

– Mix flour, cocoa, and salt in bowl. Cream together sugar and margarine in mixer, then beat in tofu. Add dry ingredients, beating until blended. Store the dough in the fridge for at least an hour.

– Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheets. Once the dough is hardened, scoop out with a tablespoon and roll into little balls, placing them about 2 inches a part on the sheet. This is where I flubbed a bit, leaving the balls to bake as is, instead of following the directions and flattening them. Whether or not you do that, the cookies will bake properly. It’s all about how you like your cookie sandwich.

– Bake cookies for about 11 minutes, until a fingertip pressed on the top leaves an indentation. Remove and let cool on cookie rack.

– For filling: Beat sugar and margarine together. Add peppermint extract. As for food coloring, if you just want one color, add a few drops to the main bowl. Otherwise, portion some into another bowl and add the red to one, green to the other.

– Peppermint candies – We put the candies in a bag and hammered them. Lay a dish towel down, put the candies in a large Ziploc bag, then using a mallet or hammer, gently shatter and crush the candies until they are reduced to merry little peppermint shrapnel.

– Assembling the cookie sandwich – Match cookies to like sizes. Add a teaspoon of filling to the flat side of one cookie. Place second cookie on top, squeezing together so the filling just peeks out from the sides. Then take the cookie and roll the edges in the peppermint candy pieces. If this process proves to be ineffective, add the peppermint candy pieces to the filling on the cookie before sandwiching.

Overall, the recipe was good, but not great. The cookie sandwiches weren’t quite sweet enough (the cookie or the filling), and the filling reminded me too much of less than substantial cupcake topping. They were definitely pretty to look at, but their method of adding the peppermint candy to the sides was better in theory than in practice.

With minor tweaking, however, I’d say this is a recipe worth giving a try, especially if you’re in need of something to go with a big mug of hot chocolate. I ate mine while listening to my favorite Christmas song, “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses:

(Recipe adapted from Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies on Epicurious)

Gimme Gimme Gimme a Gift Card for Christmas!

I try to be budget conscious. My love of dining out, however, has a way of breaking me down. It’s not always that I don’t have anything to eat at home – sometimes I’ll be ready and game for going out despite a fridge full of produce slowly rotting away. Sometimes I’m just feeling too lazy to bother, and the only thing that stands between me and possibly eating a bag of chips for dinner is the promise of a take out veggie sandwich or seitan wings and sweet potato fries. (When are you going to open a South Hills location, Spak Bros.? We NEED you here.)

Mostly, though, I love to dine out. I love exploring new restaurants, checking names off the “to try” list. I love wandering around a neighborhood until hungry, then choosing a place at random to eat. I love taking recommendations from friends and actually being able to report back my opinion to them. As much as I love to cook, I tend to fall into a loop of making the same dozen things, in variations, and dining out is a great way of shaking me out of an eating rut.

Is it healthy? No. Not for my body, not for my bank account. But dammit, it could be worse! It’s not like I’m hooked on smack or something.

This Christmas, I’m not looking to get anything really big. Last year, I received a mighty Kitchen Aid food processor, and that was the last bit of kitchen machinery that I really needed. Instead of expensive goods, I thought I might request gift cards and certificates to different restaurants, cafes, etc., in hopes that I can spread these cards out over a few weeks, and maybe adhere to my budget just a little better in the new year.

Five Restaurants on My Christmas List:

From Foodburgh.com

Salt of the Earth  Yes, I keep up on local foodie news as much as any local food blogger should, and I’ve heard raves and raves about this recent addition to the culinary blossom of Penn Avenue/East Liberty area. And admittedly, the menu isn’t all that expensive – I could probably eat there for a similar amount that I would gladly spend at Thai Cuisine – but when trying out the new hot place to eat, it’s go big or go home. I don’t want to stick to my expensive restaurant budget saving order – usually soup and whatever appetizer is the least pricey – I want to go all out, especially if it means ordering a dessert cheese plate (“Midnight moon goat, Maytag bleu, quince, maple, bacon” – $8) and a Rye cocktail (“Sazerac, cinnamon, Averna” – $10) to finish.
Do they offer gift cards/certificates? – It’s not readily apparent on their website, but they are the big buzz restaurant right now, especially after taking “Best New Restaurant” in the Pittsburgh City Paper’s “Best of 2010” poll. If they didn’t offer anything yet, they probably will soon.

Mekong – The best kept Asian secret in town. I have been to Mekong. I have been there many, many times. The way some people have a neighborhood bar they frequent, that’s how I view Mekong. And because I live within short walking distance, I am both a frequent in-restaurant guest and delivery order customer. Because I already spend a large share of my money there, and because I always like to see more business go their way (especially if that business leads to more Mekong food in my tummy), get me a gift certificate. Maybe I can save you some of my Spicy Vegetable Noodle with Tofu. Maybe.
Do they offer gift cards/certificates? – They certainly do.

Le Pommier – I’m not a huge fan of super fancy restaurants, but I’ll admit, all the time I was working in the South Side, broke as shit, and had to walk past Le Pommier on the way to my hourly wage slave job, my mouth watered a little at the thought of sitting down to a table covered in fine linen, set with sterling silver, a fine glass of red wine in front of me, candlelight softly illuminating the lovely face of my dining companion. Perhaps the Chou-Fleur to start (“roasted cauliflower with puff pastry and brown butter” – $8), then on to the main course, maybe the Cassoulet (“southern france white bean stew with a crispy duck leg and sausage” – $25) or maybe the Porc (“pan seared Duroc pork loin chop with apple bacon lentils topped with local cider gastrique” – $24). Then onto coffee and conversation over the season Trio de crème brûlée ($8). I haven’t worked in the South Side for some time, and yes, I’m considerably better off financially now than during those glassy-eyed days of yore, but I still haven’t gotten that fantasy trip to Le Pommier. It’s about time I did.
Do they offer gift cards/certificates? – At last check, they had gift certificates, but that was pre-renovation.

From exploriate.com

Round Corner Cantina – Okay, yes, I’m being a little cheapskate here, cause this place isn’t exactly expensive. But I was thinking: if I got a gift card/certificate for like, thirty bucks, I could take myself and a few others out for dinner. Anyway, it would make a good excuse to finally get over to this restaurant. While living over in Bloomfield/Lawrenceville area, I had enjoyed a drink or two in the weird little setting of the Round Corner Hotel bar, so I wasn’t surprised when new owners took it over and turned it into a swinging hotspot Mexican restaurant. Get me some credit dollars there, and I’ll buy the first round!
Do they offer gift cards/certificates? – Probably not.

Wild Rosemary – Nicole from Yum Yum writes highly of this restaurant in Upper St. Clair, and I’m always eager to take a recommendation from someone whose tastes I can trust. It’s the priciest of the bunch here, so that’ll have to be a pretty big gift card to cover the Chilean Sea Bass ($37) and the Fudgie Mocha Tart with Espresso-Custard ($8), along with enough to include the nominal corkage fee and gratuity. But don’t worry, I’ll treat you when we go to the Round Corner Cantina!
Do they offer gift cards/certificates? – No mention of it on the website. Seeing as how they’re fairly high-end, they probably do offer something. Nicole?

Good Morning, Cookie Cookie!

[Say the above in your best Cookie Monster impression]

I have not made a single cookie in the month of December, which nearly criminal considering how much I:
1) Love cookies
2) Love to bake
and
3) December is INTERNATIONAL Bake a Shit Ton of Cookies Month

What is wrong with me?!?!?!? I straighten up, fly right, and get back in the kitchen for a serious Cookie Baking Fest. I certainly have a great deal of awesome cookie recipes to pick from. Here’s a few I’ve come across in just the past few days:

Mint-Chocolate Ravioli Cookies from <i>So Hungry I Could Blog</i>

– I do so love the ladies over at So Hungry I Could Blog, but they’re really out doing themselves with their “Holiday Dozen” series, featuring twelve holiday cookie recipes. The Mint Chocolate ravioli cookies are my new obsession. I can’t deny the power of the pastry pocket!

Veganthropology gets a little Pennsylvania Dutch/Lancaster Amish action and shares an awesome recipe for vegan Whoopie Pies. She even adds a little peppermint to give them that ho-ho-holiday touch.

Gingerbread Drag Queen from Food for the Thoughtless

– Okay, I’m a little bit in love with Food for the Thoughtless’s Gingerbread Drag Queen. Uh, or, er… rather, I’m in love with the hilarious mind that came up with this rather novel Christmas swap cookie. (If you haven’t yet, check out Michael’s blog. It’s one of the funniest, most charming food blogs online.)

– Oh, Katie @ Sweettater – You had me at cornmeal. My cornmeal renaissance continues with this delicious-looking share of Martha Stewart’s intriguing cookie recipe for Lemon Cornmeal Cookies.

– Hey, Two Cheap Vegans, if cookies are really a “sometimes” food then why do they taste delicious ALL OF THE TIME? Huh? Answer that! And while you’re mulling over that question, make me some of your Ginger Molasses Cookies. Quick, it’s been like three hours since I had a cookie!

Okay, take it away, Cookie Monster!

5 Halloween Recipes That Seem Delicious Despite Their Holiday Affiliation

I’m not crazy about spending a ton of kitchen time whipping up a recipe that is overtly holiday themed. While each season brings its particular focus into the items I make, I tend to shy away from recipes that are clearly meant for themed parties.

Part of this is due to the fact that many of these recipes are decorating-heavy: a sugar cookie shaped and colored to look like a pumpkin is still a sugar cookie. A cupcake designed to look like a ghost is just a cupcake with a shit ton of frosting on it. And so on. Although I love sweets, I prefer my baked goods simple. Elaborate confections of icing, sprinkles, and carefully placed accessory morsels usually add little to the taste or experience of the baked good, aside from the mess that they inevitably cause.

From babble.com

And… yes, I’m admittedly terrible at decorating baked goods, at least to the extent that they look like little black cats or witches on broomsticks. I can frost a cupcake, sprinkle powdered sugar daintily on a bundt cake, and uniformly sprinkle thumbprint cookies, but when it comes to matching a baked good with a well-crafted, well-staged picture (see accompanying photograph for an example) I suck.

But, with the sheer abundance of Halloween recipes, there were bound to be at least a few that were good enough to try despite their garish decoration. Here are five recipes that I’ve spotted that seem like they might be worth the trial for the decorating-challenged such as myself: Continue reading