December 16, 2014

Sugar & Spice Fruitcake Cookies

This cookie says Christmas all the way.  It's packed full of candied fruits and nuts, chewy yet soft on the inside. It contains four spices and fills the kitchen with a wonderful aroma. The top of the cookies are rolled in cinnamon sugar before baking and then rolled again in powdered sugar after baking which really makes the cookie.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside. 

2 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
3/4 cup butter, softened
4 oz. cream cheese
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups small chopped candied fruitcake mix
1/2 cup pecans (chopped finely, optional, but oh so good)

1/2 cup granulated sugar (for rolling before baking)
1 teaspoon cinnamon (for rolling before baking)

powdered sugar (for rolling cookies in after baking)

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.

Using stand mixer or electric hand mixer, beat butter, cream cheese, sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla, and mix well.

Reduce mixer to low and add candied fruit and nuts and mix until combined.  Add flour mixture and mix until combined. 

I use a small two tablespoon cookie scoop and then roll the tops of each cookie in the cinnamon sugar mixture and place cookies 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet.

Bake 12 to 14 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned.

Cool on rack for 5 minutes and then roll tops in powder sugar. Cool completely

Makes about 33 cookies.

November 13, 2014

Finnish Pulla (Braided Cardamom Bread)

I have been wanting to tackle yeasted Christmas breads for a while so here is my first attempt. I would also like to make a Stollen with candied fruit and a traditional Challah bread. It is a little time consuming so we'll see how it goes. For this bread I would give yourself 3 1/2 hours and that includes the baking and cooling time.

Finnish Pulla is very similar to Challah, only fragrant with the spice cardamom. This recipe is adapted from Saveur Magazine. It's spiced with cardamom and sprinkled with sugar & almonds. I added raisins to the dough but that is optional. In Finland it's traditionally eaten with coffee or tea; hot chocolate would be good also and I'm thinking french toast would be fabulous.


1 13/ cups whole milk, heated to 115 degrees
2/3 cup sugar
4 teaspoons ground cardamom (set 1 tsp. aside for glaze)
2 - 1/4 oz. packages active dry yeast
3 eggs, lightly beaten
6 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt (I didn't have this so I used regular salt)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 in. cubes, at room temperature
1 cup raisins (optional)

1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon cardamom (was reserved)
sliced almonds

Parchment paper

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, combine milk, sugar, 3 teaspoons cardamom, and yeast; stir together and let sit until foamy, 10 minutes. Add eggs; mix to combine. Add flour and salt; mix until a dough forms. Replace paddle with hook attachment; knead dough on medium speed for 2 minutes. While kneading, slowly add butter in batches, mixing until incorporated before adding next batch, should take a couple of minutes. Continue kneading for 2 minutes after butter is all incorporated if your machine allows and it's not to stiff. Add raisins and knead, if you are using them. Transfer dough to a greased with butter bowl and cover with plastic wrap; let sit until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Punch down dough; cover again with plastic wrap and let sit until fully risen, 30 minutes.

2. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Transfer dough to a clean work surface and divide into 2 equal pieces. Set 1 piece aside and divide other piece into 3 equal portions. Roll each portion between your palms and work surface to create a 16" rope. Set ropes on baking pan lined with parchment paper. Braid ropes together to form a loaf. Repeat with second dough piece. Cover loaves with plastic wrap and let sit until slightly puffed up, about 20 minutes.

3. Whisk together remaining 1 teaspoon cardamom, cream, and egg yolk in a bowl; brush over loaves. Sprinkle with almonds and then sugar ; bake, one loaf at a time, until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a rack; let cool at least 10 minutes before slicing.

November 3, 2014

Six Vegetable Minestrone Soup

Well, all I needed was for the temperature to dip down and I was ready to make this soup. It doesn't matter if you are braving a cold or braving the cold weather this healthy soup will make you feel better and warm your tummy. 

olive oil
1/2 onion, sliced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons dried italian seasoning
2 large zucchini - chopped
3 large carrots - chopped
25-30 fresh green beans - chopped
2 - 14 oz. cans stewed tomatoes
6 cups chicken broth
1 cup uncooked tiny pasta shells
1 - 15 oz. can great northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 - 15 oz. can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
6 oz. bag baby spinach
fresh shredded parmesan cheese - to garnish

Slice onion.  Mince garlic. Chop zucchini, peel and chop carrots, and chop green beans.

Heat oil in a large soup pot or dutch oven over medium heat.

Add the onion to pan; sauté 3 minutes, until softened, stirring frequently.

Add the garlic and italian seasoning and sauté 1 minute, stirring frequently.

Stir in zucchini, carrots and green beans and sauté 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the tomatoes and chicken broth .

Bring to a boil and then turn to a simmer for 25-30 minutes or until veggies are almost tender.

Add pasta and beans to pot and cook 10 minutes longer until pasta and veggies are tender, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and stir in spinach. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with a parmesan cheese garnish, as much as you like.