Basic Spritz Cookies Recipe, Infinite Fun

Basic Spritz Cookies Recipe, Infinite Fun

Spritz Discs Heart, Tree, Flower, Bar

Spritz are one of those timeless recipes that you can be assured someone in the neighborhood makes every Christmas. Light, buttery, just a hint of almond with a soft crunch, these are both my husband and dad’s favorites.

Of course, there is one barrier to entry, you have to own a cookie press.

Spritz Discs: Star, Pumpkin, Wreath, Flower, Ornament

There’s really no way around it. Without a cookie press, spritz cookies are boring lumps. There was a year when our press broke and my mom tried to use cookie stamps, but it really wasn’t the same.

So, is it worth the investment? Another kitchen tool that is single purpose? I think so, if you meet three qualifications:

  1. You or someone you love LOVES spritz cookies
  2. You’re willing to get creative
  3. You have room

Okay, if you qualify for 1 & 2, you’ll probably make room.

The best part about spritz cookies is the all the discs that come with it. I like to add food coloring to the dough, and even mix colors for a textured effect. Also, one batch of dough can make ~6 dozen cookies. SIX DOZEN! Which is a great way to make bulk treats.

The Spritz Cookie recipe is pretty basic, and hasn’t varied much over the years. In poorer times we substituted margarine for butter, and even omitted the almond extract when we didn’t have any. Obviously butter is better, but austere times… Some people don’t even like the almond extract (can you imagine?!?!), so it’s optional but everyone here loves it!

Also, do not chill the dough. I repeat, DO NOT CHILL THE DOUGH. If you do decide to save the dough for another day, cover in plastic and keep in the refrigerator for up to one week. Allow to come to room temperature before using. If you don’t, you WILL break your cookie press.

Spritz Discs: Bits & Bops

Basic Spritz Cookies Recipe

Makes 72 cookies

ingredients

  • 1½ cups Butter, softened
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • ¼ tsp Almond Extract (optional)
  • 3 ½ cups Flour
  • Food coloring, sprinkles & toppings (optional)

instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter on high speed for 30 seconds.
  3. Add the sugar and baking powder, and beat until combined, scraping the sides if necessary.
  4. Add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract (if desired), beating until combined.
  5. Beat in as much of the flour as you can. Stir in any remaining flour.
    **** This is where you can divide the dough and add color, if desired ****
  6. Force unchilled dough through a cookie press onto an ungreased cookie sheet, ideally lined with a silpat.
  7. Bake for 8 – 10 min or until lightly golden at the edges.

 

Valentine's Day Spritz Cookies

Very Hungry Caterpillar Spritz Cookies

Fall Leaf Spritz Cookies

Pumpkin Spritz Cookies

Christmas Spritz Cookies

Pão de Queijo: Brazilian Cheese Bread

Pão de Queijo: Brazilian Cheese Bread

Pão de Queijo: Brazilian Cheese Bread

Pão de Queijo, or Brazilian Cheese Bread for you North Americans, is AMAZING, and with the Olympics in Rio, what better time to enjoy the chewy, cheesy goodness?

The first time I had these I was at a brunch among friends. One person brought them upon request because it was another friend’s favorite food. I embarrassingly ate at least 4 of them, they are so yummy.

I have tried a couple of recipes. Some call for blending/food precessing the ingredients (SimplyRecipes) instead of using a stove top. Others call for cheddar (Food52), feta or any kind of cheese. Some encourage using muffin tins for baking (gawd I hate washing those). This one seems to be the most authentic, but what would I know? I have only ever had them at brunch. Either way, feel free to mix it up a bit.

Pão de Queijo

Makes 10 – 12 biscuits. Based on the recipe from Wikipedia

ingredients

  • ½ cup Oil (your choice; olive, vegetable, butter)
  • ⅓ cup Water
  • ⅓ cup Milk
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 2 cups Tapioca Flour
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • ⅔ cup Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated (it seems you could do cheddar or feta instead, either way it should be fresh)
  • 2 Eggs, beaten

 

instructions

  1. Combine oil, water, milk and salt in a large saucepan and place over medium heat.
  2. As soon as the mixture comes to a boil, remove from heat and immediately stir in tapioca flour and garlic. You may have to be aggressive with your stirring, the tapioca can be a bit stiff.
    Add tapioca and garlic
  3. Set mixture aside to rest for 10 – 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 375°
  4. After the mixture has cooled, add the Parmesan and eggs. Stir until well combined, though it will still be a bit chunky.
    Add cheese and egg
  5. Using well-greased hands or a greased measuring cup, drop rounded ¼ cup balls onto an ungreased baking sheet. I like to use a silpat. The smoother the balls, the smoother the buns, but either are fine.
    Scoop dough onto baking sheet
  6. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, until lightly browned.
    Baked cheese bread

Best served warm.

Brazilian Cheese Bread #Olympics #Recipes #Rio2016 🇧🇷

A photo posted by Belén Torres-Gil (@lemontinely) on Aug 5, 2016 at 2:35pm PDT

Well Dressed Apple Dumplings

Well Dressed Apple Dumplings

Well Dresses Apple Dumpling

When I was teaching English in Japan, I could occasionally be found teaching western cooking classes in the evenings. Ok, not occasionally. Often. Really often.

loved teaching cooking. I would spend hours reading cookbooks, refining recipes and trying to recreate foods I’d tried. Then, I would do the best I could to share that knowledge with others. Most of the time it was two dozen or so Japanese adults, myself and a translator, and we would come together in a community center or high school home ec room. I would share recipes that I grew up with, hodgepodging ingredients together from makeshift variations you could acquire in Japan. The students spoke varying levels of English, some nearing fluency, while others were just beginning. But more important than learning language was the cultural exchange and community building.

The basic principles of the recipe are quite straightforward: take a peeled, cored apple; fill with deliciousness; wrap in dough; bake. That’s it. A recipe is almost unnecessary.

Teaching Apple Dumplings to those students in Japan is one of my fondest memories.

When you are learning a language, you often have to leverage the words you know to communicate meaning in unusual ways. I find that some of the most exceptional poetry and writings come from language resourcefulness rather than verbosity. Once I wanted to buy a whole cake, and I didn’t know the word ‘whole’ or ‘slice’ so I said a, “I’d like an uncut cake.” It took the baker a minute to understand me, but in the end, we worked it out.

In my apple dumping class, one student had the outer crust fall off the apple while it was baking. She was comically distressed, struggling to find the words to tell what had happened, and so she cried across the classroom, “Apple…apple…apple is UNDRESSED!”

Immediately she started blushing and we all enjoyed a good belly laugh. It’s the little things…

One of the things I love about this recipe is how customizable it is . You can add raisins (my hubby likes this), or walnuts (for me). You can cut the sugar (for kids), make the crust thinner (my sister) or thicker (my mom). Use more or less butter (said no one ever). Serve with cream, or ice cream, or just with a fork. It’s easy enough for a weeknight dessert, or special enough for a weekend brunch. I hope you enjoy it.

Apple Dumplings

Makes 4 servings. Recipe inspired by the tiny cookbook Recipes from the Pennsylvania Dutch Country (no link)

pie crust ingredients 

  • 2 cups Flour
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • ⅔ cup Shortening, or Butter, or a combination
  • 6 tbsp Ice-Cold Water, plus more as needed

dumpling ingredients 

  • 4 small, tart Apples (such as Granny Smith), peeled and cored
  • ¾ cup Brown Sugar
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Nutmeg
  • ½ cup Raisins (optional), preferably golden
  • ½ cup Walnuts (optional), chopped
  • 4 tbsp Butter, divided into 1 tbsp slices

instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°
  2. Prepare the pie crust.
    • Mix the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.
    • Cut in the shortening or butter with your fingers, two knives, or a pastry cutter until the pieces are the size of small peas. Do not over mix.
      Cut the Butter In
    • Sprinkle 6 tablespoons of water over the mixture, and gently mix until all of the flour is moistened and can combine into a single ball. Do not over mix.
      Dough
    • Divide the dough into four balls. Refrigerate 15 minutes.
  3. Roll each ball into a large square, about ¼” thick.
  4. In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg. Gently roll each peeled, cored apple in the spice mixture, and save the remaining mixture.
    Roll apple in spice mixture
  5. Place one apple into the center of each square.
  6. If you are using nuts or raisins, add them to the mixture now.
  7. Fill each apple core with a portion of the mixture.
  8. Place one tablespoon on top of each apple.
    Add a dollop of butter
  9. Bring the corners of the dough to the top of the apple and seal by pricking with a fork 3-4 times. This is the part where, if you don’t seal well, your apple will undress in the oven. I like to mark what is on the inside with a couple of pieces on the outside. For example, I hate raisins, and there is nothing worse than a raisin surprise. So, I put a couple raisins on the top of the dough so that I know which apples have raisins in them.
    Mark your dough
  10. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes.
  11. Serve warm with cream. Or milk. Or ice cream.

Apple Dumplings

 

Baby Bear Zucchini Bread

Baby Bear Zucchini Bread

Sliced Zucchini Bread

I am constantly trying to find healthy, delicious foods to feed my toddler. He’s not a picky eater. Sure, he loves a good purée pack as much as the next kid, but he’d really rather have whatever I am eating; paella, BBQ chicken, arroz con pollo. You name it, he is interested in my food.

So I often find myself making a large meal on Sundays for him to consume all week; roast chicken, fideo, meatloaf and mashed potatoes. I try to keep the salt, sugar and fat to a minimum, but don’t hesitate with spices. I try to stuff veggies into everything because he loves meat and bread and I worry he’s not getting enough vitamins.

As such, I spent some time trying to find bread recipes that aren’t too loaded with sugar or oil, taste good, are easy to make, and have some nutrition.

Enter Zucchini Bread.

This recipe is adapted from Simply Recipes, includes tons of zucchini, but I’ve cut back on the oils and sugars. Even with these compromises it is still delicious. I’ve tried various combinations of cuts, and this is the best balance of moist sweetness and fluffiness.

This post contains photos from two different bakes, one with a large grate, and one small. You can use either, I prefer a large grate.

 

Baby Bear Zucchini Bread

Makes two loaves. Recipe inspired by Simply Recipes

ingredients

  • 2 tsps Butter, for greasing the pans
  • 1 tbsp ground Cinnamon, for flouring the pans
  • 3-4 cups Zucchini, grated
  • 1 ½ cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 ½ cups All Purpose Flour
  • 2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 2 tsp ground Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground Ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground Nutmeg, freshly grated if you can
  • ¾ cup Sugar
  • 2 Eggs, beaten
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • ¾ cup Applesauce

instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter two 9″ x 5″ loaf pans. Add the entire tbsp of cinnamon to one pan, shake around to coat, then pour excess into second pan and shake to coat.
  2. Place the grated zucchini in a sieve or colander over a bowl to drain excess moisture. Or place between several paper towels and gently squeeze.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, two tsp cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.
    Whisk Dry Ingredients
  4. In another large bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt. Stir in the drained zucchini and applesauce.
    Wet Ingredients
  5. Add the flour mixture to the zucchini mixture in batches, stirring after each addition.
    Combined Ingredients Large Grate
  6. Divide the batter equally into the two loaf pans. Bake for 50 minutes until a test comes out clean. Cool in pans for at least 10 minutes.
    Zucchini Bread Loaf

Serve sliced bread warm with room temperature butter to adults.

Serve bread cubes to toddlers a couple at a time. If your kids are like mine, they will shove all the cubes in their mouth at once.

Slice Zucchini Bread Large Grate

Brian’s Banana Bread Recipe

Brian’s Banana Bread Recipe

Slice Banana Bread

When Brian was growing up his mom would make this bread for him about every month because he loved it so much. He now regularly makes it for his office and I hope he makes it for our kids some day because it is the best I have ever had. Every time he makes Banana Bread he gets requests for the recipe, and he is happy to share. The real magic is coating the pans with cinnamon.

Brian’s Famous Banana Bread

Makes two loaves. Recipe care of Brian & Pat.

wet ingredients

  • ¾ cup Vegetable Oil
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 ½ cups Milk
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1 cup mashed Bananas (2 – 3 overripe bananas)

dry ingredients 

  • 3 cups Flour
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • ½ tsp Baking Soda
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 1 ½ tsp Baking Powder
  • 2 tsp Cinnamon plus extra for pans
  • 1 3oz box Jello® *Instant* Vanilla Pudding
  • Optional: 1 cup Walnuts, chopped

You’ll also need two Loaf Pans, and something to grease them, I recommend butter!

instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Mix all wet ingredients in the mixing bowl of your electric mixer bowl.
  3. Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  4. With your electric mixer on ‘mix,’ or, ‘stir,’ slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients bowl a little at a time.  When it’s all mixed, you should get a thick banana bread soup that sticks to the beaters a little.  If you’re not squimish about raw egg, this is a perfect time to taste test  😉
    If you’ve elected to add nuts, now is the time!
  5. Grease the inside of the loaf pans, then generously sprinkle some cinnamon in the loaf pans and shake to coat.  When baked, this will harden to make a flavorful crust.
  6. Pour the mixture into the loaf pans evenly.
  7. Put them in the oven and bake at 325 degrees for about 55 -75 minutes (depending on the oven). You can test to see if it’s done using a toothpick or cake tester (nothing too thick or you’ll let the air out of the loaf).  If the tester goes to the bottom and comes out fairly clean, it’s done!  If it comes out really gooey, put it back in the oven.
  8. When it’s done, remove from the oven and let cool for a while.  Once cool or cold, remove from the pans by flipping them upside down and gently rocking the bread out so it doesn’t stick or tear.

You can eat the bread cold, but it’s best warm with a little butter… mmm…

Buttered Banana Bread

 

 

Arroz Con Pollo Recipe

Arroz Con Pollo Recipe

Arroz con Pollo: Chicken with Spanish Rice Soup

After 41 weeks of depravity; no sushi, deli meats, coffee, alcohol, or a laundry list of other things, I was surprised that after the delivery of my son that the only thing I wanted in the entire world was my mom’s Arroz con Pollo. So it was that late at night, upon being checked out of the hospital, I sent my mom, a newly minted grandmother, to the store to make it so.

And it was soooo worth it.

I didn’t even feel guilty because it was everything I’ve ever needed. Rich and full of vitamins, flavorful and warm, I had forgotten what it was like to need my mommy, and my mommy delivered.

A couple of weeks later when I was back on my feet I realized that every version I have made has been a poor comparison to my mother’s version. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong, but I knew that I had to learn how to make arroz con pollo like her because someday it would nurse my family back to health. It would cure booboos, mend broken hearts, and say, ‘I love you,’ without saying a word.

So, naturally, I asked my mom for her recipe. I got this fantastic text in response:

Arroz con Pollo text recipe

 

Great. Generations of perfecting the best arroz con pollo in the world, and it all boils down to a couple lines of text. Sigh… It’s partly my fault, I should haven’t asked via text, but still…

But then an amazing thing happened, I did exactly what the text said, and it WORKED!

Sometimes we over think things. We over complicate. We use fancy tools. We add excess. When really, sometimes the simplest answer is best.

The simplicity is why this dish works, and I recommend you share this with your family.

Arroz con Pollo

 

Arroz Con Pollo

ingredients 

  • 1 whole Chicken, uncooked
  • 3 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 3 cloves minced Garlic, or to taste
  • 1 Yellow Onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp Oregano, or to taste
  • 1 tbsp Parsley, or to taste
  • Water
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Spanish Rice (recipe here)

instructions

  1. Skin the chicken. Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat.
  2. Sauté the chicken in the pot with the garlic and onions until the chicken is browned on top and bottom.
  3. Generously season the chicken with salt, pepper, oregano and parsley. Add enough water to cover the chicken and bring to a boil. Partially cover with a lid and reduce heat to maintain a low boil. Cook until the chicken falls off the bone, flipping once, about 30 – 45 minutes total.
  4. Meanwhile, make the spanish rice.
  5. Once both are finished, add a large spoonful of rice to a bowl. Add a piece of the chicken (leg, thigh, breast, etc) to the bowl and cover generously with broth. Serve hot, with tortillas if desired.

Notes:

  • You could use Italian Seasoning in addition to or instead of Oregano or Parsley
  • You could use chicken stock instead of water
  • You could add chicken bouillon to the water for extra flavor
  • You could add chopped carrots at the same time as the onions for a more American flavor
  • You could remove the chicken from the pot once it is finished and debone it, then add it back to the pot. This is what I typically do.
  • Store the soup and rice separately.

 

Arroz con Pollo soup