Showing posts with label Christmas Cookie Contest. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christmas Cookie Contest. Show all posts

Monday, December 3, 2012

Pepper Spice Cookies

Years ago, when I donned pantyhose every day and worked in an office, my favorite trick for baking lots of Christmas cookies was to make several batches of dough in one night and pop them in the refrigerator. After all, many cookie doughs need to be refrigerated before they can be rolled out anyway. That way, I was ahead of the game. When I had the time, I rolled out the dough, cut out the cookies, and baked them.

I discovered these Spice Cookies in GOURMET'S SWEETS a few years ago. They're not specifically Christmas cookies, but all the wonderful spices in them make them perfect for Christmas.

Don't be afraid of the pepper. It's there, but surprisingly subtle. The original recipe calls for coarsely ground pepper but I prefer to use finely ground pepper. It also calls for a pinch of cayenne, but I go back and forth on that ingredient, so consider it optional. Sort of like gingersnaps, they're not meant to be iced or decorated, but if you want, you can pipe a little icing around the edges.

They hold up nicely, too. Two weeks in an airtight container at room temperature, longer in the refrigerator.

Gourmet calls them Spice Cookies, but I like the name Pepper Spice Cookies because Spice Cookies conjures up something entirely different in my mind. Their recipe involves a complicated and time-consuming method of rolling the dough out between two sheets of wax paper, refrigerating, then cutting them out, refrigerating again, and then baking. Who has time for all that?

The dough will be sticky when you

make it. I divide it in half, wrap in wax paper and pop in the fridge for a couple of hours. When you roll it out, you'll see that it's a very soft dough. Just flour a sheet of wax paper and your rolling pin and add flour as necessary to roll it out. It works just
Almost no cleanup!
fine that way.

This is a great time to remind you that I'm still looking for Christmas Cookie recipes. The winners will have their names and recipes published in the 2014 Domestic Diva Mystery! Preference will be given to family recipes that have been handed down. An impartial group of my family and friends will be choosing the winners.

Please send your recipes to Krista at KristaDavis dot com. If there's a story behind the recipe, I'd love to hear it. If the recipe is from a cookbook, please tell me the title and author. If the recipe is from a website, please include a link.

Good luck, everyone!

Spice Cookies
(from Gourmet's Sweets)
(makes 32 - 42 cookies depending on the size of the cookie cutter)

1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ginger
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
pinch of cayenne (optional)

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg

Mix the flour with the baking powder and spices in a bowl. Set aside.

Cream the butter with the sugar. Beat in the egg. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat.

Divide the dough roughly in half. Wrap both pieces in wax paper, flattening them a bit. Store in refrigerator for a couple of hours or overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350. Dust a sheet of wax paper and the rolling pin lightly with flour. Roll out, adding flour as necessary to make the dough manageable. Cut into shapes. Bake on parchment paper for 10 - 12 minutes. Wait for Santa to arrive.

Monday, November 26, 2012

It's Christmas Cookie Time Again!

Can you believe that it's time to bake Christmas Cookies again?

The 2014 Domestic Diva Mystery takes place at Christmas and it involves a cookie swap. So I'm looking for your favorite Christmas cookies to include in the book! No kidding. If you've always wanted to see your name in a book, this is your chance.

Preference will be given to favorite cookie recipes handed down in your family. If there's a story that goes along with the cookies, I'd love to hear it!

All you have to do to enter is send your Christmas cookie recipe to me at Krista at KristaDavis dot com. If it came from a cookbook, please include the title and the author. If it came from the Internet, please provide a link.

I'll be doing the baking. An impartial panel of my family and friends will be doing the tasting! Good luck, everyone!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday. At my house, there were two new and different, for us anyway, dishes on the table. Avery Aames asked for a sweet potato recipe yesterday, so I'm happy to oblige with this recipe that was very popular with my guests.

It all started when I heard that Southern Living was making stripes on their sweet potatoes by alternating rows of crushed gingersnaps with marshmallows. That sounded fabulous to me. I couldn't find their recipe on-line, though, so I cobbled this together using one of their other recipes.

I used a baking dish that matches my china, hence the oddball size. I think an 8x8 baking dish would work fine. If you need more, double the recipe.

I also made this a day ahead of time, and baked it on Thanksgiving Day, a feature that I think is so important when there are a lot of dishes to be made.

Sweet Potatoes with Gingersnaps and Marshmallows

1 10x7 baking dish

2 medium sweet potatoes
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/8 cup milk
1 egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
dash of salt

5-6 gingersnap cookies (I used Mi-Del)
mini marshmallows

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into like size chunks (1 1/2 inches or so). Add water to cover, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down so they simmer and cook until you can easily cut them with a fork.

Place in mixing bowl and cool. Add sugar, butter, and milk and beat. Add egg, vanilla, and salt and beat well to combine.

Pour into the baking dish. At this point you can bake, or refrigerate to bake the next day.

Preheat oven to 350. Sprinkle gingersnap crumbs in lines, leaving space for the mini marshmallows.

Bake 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes.

Place the mini marshmallows in between the lines of gingersnap crumbs. Bake 10 more minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes and serve.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Contest Finalist: Snowfall Sugar Cookies

Another cookie contest finalist!!

Like Krista said, it's been difficult to pick the finalists for our cookie contest ... so many tasty options!  But this one (from loyal blog-follower Terry) is a no-brainer:  a perfect sugar cookie that can be baked to a tender chewiness or a delicate crisp.  You may be thinking, "Meh, who needs another sugar cookie recipe?"  YOU do.  This one.  Honestly.

Even though we only received the recipe a couple of weeks ago, I've already made them twice. The first batch, Mr. Wendy and I gobbled up an embarrassing number, and then I took the rest to work.  I sent them to a staff meeting with a co-worker and sat back and waited.  Within five minutes of the meeting ending, I had three e-mails (all from women who have serious baking chops) praising these wonderful darlings.  The subject line of the first says it all:  O. M. G.

The second batch went with me to a department Christmas party last night.  My dear friend Lisa (who is a far better cook and baker than I could ever hope to be) gave these two thumbs up.  She even offered them the ultimate compliment:  they're as good as her mother's!  Dang.

Now, here's the tricky thing.  I don't have the gift for food photography that many of my colleagues have.  And these cookies?  Well, they're basically round and beige.  So I'm afraid that their wonderfulness will not translate in the photos.  I tried rolling some of the first batch in colored sanding sugar, but the sugar was too coarse and they ended up looking horrible.  I thought about adding some food coloring to the dough, but that would have destroyed the "snowfall" effect.  So you're just going to have to trust me that extraordinary things come in humble-looking packages.

Here's what Terry said in her submission:  "Here's a recipe for cookies you all may like. Hope so, because everyone who has eaten them loves them. This particular recipe came from the Just Cross-Stitch magazine in 1999. It was given by a Cross-Stitch designer - Stephanie Pearson.  Have been making them since then."

Snowfall Sugar Cookies

I love my KitchenAid!  Only bowl I used for this recipe.
1 c. margarine
1 c. powdered sugar
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. oil
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
4 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
 1 tsp. cream of tartar

extra granulated sugar for rolling cookies

Cream margarine, sugars, oil, and eggs.  Add vanilla.  Sift dry ingredients together and then add to creamed mixture.  Refrigerate dough for an hour.  Roll dough into 1" balls and then roll in granulated sugar.  Place on a greased cookie sheet 2" apart and flatten using the bottom of a glass.  Bake for 8-10 minutes in a 350* oven.  Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Voila:  In ball form, flattened with the glass, and then right out of the oven.

Wendy's Notes:

  • When I first made these, I thought I'd done something wrong because the dough was so soft.  Don't be alarmed, it's really o.k.
  • Terry said this makes more than 2 dozen, and she was right.  I made pretty big cookies and still got closer to 3 dozen.
  • Definitely roll in granulated sugar instead of coarser sanding sugar.
  • I used a silicone baking mat instead of a greased cookie sheet, and it worked well.
  • I found that dipping the bottom of the glass in sugar kept the glass from sticking to the cookies.
  • These cookies spread a lot, so really space them well.
  • If you only flatten the cookies to about 3/8 of an inch and bake on the short side, the cookies stay soft when they cool.  Flatter and the full 10 minutes gives you a perfectly crisp (but not hard) cookie.
Psst ... Terry!  E-mail me through Facebook with your snail mail address so I can send you the cute-as-a-button cookie cutters I have for you!!  And thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe.


Wendy is the author of the Mysteries a la Mode. Visit her on the web or on Facebook. She also writes the Pet Boutique Mysteries under the name Annie Knox; you can follow Annie on Facebook, too!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Chocolate Grasshopper Brownie Cookies

These cookies were submitted by Lynn in Texas and my husband was in heaven the day I baked them. Soft, chocolate mint with an almond crunch? These are sure to be a new favorite in this household and in yours too for years to come. My only challenge was that I couldn't find the bag of Andes mints and I went to 2 stores. Never fear though. You can buy (2) 4.7 ounce boxes of Andes mint candies, unwrap them, put them in the freezer , and then pound them into chips just before you mix them into the dough.

Chocolate Grasshopper Brownie Cookies

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour (10 oz)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch not recommended)
2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
10 oz bag Andes mint chips
1/2 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted and cooled

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Add cocoa to dry mixture.

In mixing bowl, cream the butter with both sugars. Beat in the egg and vanilla. By hand or using low speed of mixer, stir in the flour mixture. Fold in the chips and nuts.

Drop mixture by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes. Cool 2 minutes on cookie sheet then transfer to rack to finish cooling.

Makes 3 Dozen

*Lynn, please email me at to claim your cookie cutters! Thanks for the yummy, yummy recipe!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

It's Cookie Time!

We're kicking off our Cookie Contest here at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen. Submit a recipe and you could win some adorable cookie cutters. We're closing submissions on December 7th, so hurry if you have a great recipe!

This recipe had me at the first line. Smooth, sweet peanut butter cookie with a kiss of peanut butter and chocolate. These cookies are so good that I barely let them cool before I started eating them. They're easy to make, but not so easy to share!

Congrats to Candance Early for submitting this recipe! Please email me at so I can send you some adorable cookie cutters!

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour (any brand)
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup granulated white sugar
½ cup smooth peanut butter
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons whole milk
40 miniature chocolate covered peanut butter cups, unwrapped and frozen
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside. Cream together the butter, sugar, peanut butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg, vanilla and milk. Add the flour mixture and mix well. Shape into 40 same size balls and place each into an ungreased mini muffin pan.

Bake at 375 degrees for eight minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately press a mini frozen peanut butter cup into each ball. Cool before removing from pan. Store cookies for up to a week in an airtight container.
Submitted by Candace Bowen Early

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Kicking Off PENZEYS Week: Christmas Scones

A small part of my collection (note the Spanish anise,
top row of small jars, fourth from left)
Welcome to Mystery Lovers' Kitchen's special PENZEYS week!

So many holiday and winter-time recipes lean heavily on herbs and spices. The scents and flavors of piquant herbs, lush spices, and luscious extracts can conjure up loving memories with a single whiff, a single nibble. And good cooks know that our dishes are only as good as the ingredients that go into them. The Mystery Lovers' Kitchen bloggers are friends as well as blog-mates, and our food chats extend behind the scenes. We've discovered we love Penzeys spices almost as much as we love getting lost in a delicious mystery. We each have our favorites, of course, so we thought we would dedicate a special week to our favorite spice store. For those of you who haven't heard of them, Penzeys has stores all over the country, as well as a lovely catalog and an online ordering site.

Christmas Scones with a cup of Constant Comment
I'm kicking off the week with these Christmas scones, enriched with a flavor that is the very definition of the holidays to me: anise.

My Grandma Mary Ellen had a handful of recipes she pulled out every Christmas: her amazing lemon cookies, spritz cookies, jelly cake (which is basically layers of flaky pastry separated by thin layers of currant jelly), and panettone.

Panettone is a slightly sweet Italian bread studded with candied citrus and raisins. My grandma's panettone was perfumed with ground anise and had a healthy drizzle of powdered sugar icing.

In theory, it should have been delicious. In reality, it was kind of horrible. The bread is a complex concoction of scalded milk and eggs, and it tended to come out a little dry. Instead of candied citrus, Grandma used that weird citron stuff that is completely fake-looking. And fake-tasting.

Still, for me, that panettone is the flavor of Christmas morning. While we opened our presents, we'd nibble on slices of the bread and sip black tea--strong and sweet--from chipped Blue Willow tea cups.

My challenge was to create a dish that captured the flavors of panettone (the intriguing licorice of the anise, the tart burst of winter fruit, bright notes of citrus, and a subtle homey sweetness) without being, well, my grandma's panettone. I wanted to avoid the pitfalls of her dish and create something both simple and delicious.

These scones offer the flavors of the classic Italian dish in a simple-to-make form that is sure to brighten your Christmas morning. The Penzeys ground anise provides a solid punch of flavor, but be sure to use the full tablespoon to give the scones that "special occasion" zing.

Wishing you all a happy holiday and many delicious memories of your own!

Christmas Scones
Cooling, pre-glazing

2 c. flour
¼ c. sugar
1 Tbs. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 Tbs. orange zest, chopped very small
1 c. chopped dried fruit (apricots, golden raisins, and cranberries)*
1 ¼ c. whipping cream
¾ c. powdered sugar
strained juice of one orange

Preheat oven to 425

Sift together dry ingredients (down to orange zest). Mix in dried fruit. Add cream and fold in gently until dough forms. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead ever-so-gently until the dough holds together. Form dough into a 1/2 inch thick square. Quarter the square, and then slice each square diagonally, to make a total of 8 triangles.

Dough patted out for cutting - see the glimpses of fruit!

Place triangles on baking sheet (lined with parchment paper or sil-pat, if you have it). Bake 15 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool. Meanwhile, mix enough juice to the powdered sugar to make a thin icing. Drizzle over the cooled scones and serve!

* I found a pre-mixed assortment in the dried fruit aisle: cranberries, golden raisins, apricots, peaches, and apples, already diced into tiny bits just perfect for baking.

What about you? What herb or spice says "holidays" to you?


Wendy is the author of the Mysteries a la Mode. Visit her on the web or on Facebook. She also writes the Pet Boutique Mysteries under the name Annie Knox; you can follow Annie on Facebook, too!


Christmas Cookie Contest!

Have you heard about our fantastic Christmas Cookie Contest? Here's how it works:

To enter, send your favorite recipe to Krista (KristaDavis at KristaDavis dot com).
We'll choose 10 finalists, recipes that we'll bake and post here on the blog.
Then you, our readers, will choose the overall winner!

What does that winner win? A fabulous collection of cookie decorating supplies, that's what!

Pastel Sanding Sugar
Primary Sanding Sugar

Powdered Food Colors
Cute Flower Cookie Stencils

Friday, November 25, 2011

Risi Pisi

by Sheila Connolly

Thanksgiving makes us think about our families and our past.  I have little family and none nearby, so we usually look for "orphans" to invite to the holiday dinner.  This year we hosted a vegetarian couple, friends of our daughter.  Anybody have a good recipe for gravy that doesn't involve turkey stock?  I'll save it for future vegetarian guests.

But in honor of family, this day after Thanksgiving, I've resurrected a side dish that my mother made regularly when I was young.  For me it's comfort food, and it's also easy.

Here's her original recipe card.  Can you tell it dates from the 1950's?  When I read it again, I had to laugh:  three cups of cooked rice, and one TEASPOON of minced onion?  You might as well just wave the onion over it.  And I cracked up at the "half cup of butter" added at the end.

Times have changed—but the can of Le Sueur peas hasn't.  I'm a committed locavore and I prefer fresh vegetables (as did my mother, with only a few exceptions), but nothing else tastes like Le Sueur Very Young Small Sweet Peas (you probably don't want to know that in French, le sueur means "sweat").  The dish would not be the same made with fresh peas or even frozen ones.  So here's my modernized version.

My Mother's Risi Pisi

2 cups rice, cooked in chicken or beef stock

(Footnote:  when my mother made it, Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup came with a little brick of stock and spices inside the envelope, and that's what she used.  Maybe it was brand loyalty, because her mother worked for Lipton.  You can use whatever kind of stock you prefer.  As for the rice, anything but instant or minute rice will do—just cook it as you normally would. I cook mine in the microwave, which is pretty foolproof.)

One-half a medium onion, chopped fine
Butter and oil—you can choose the combination, but the butter does add to the flavor
One can Le Sueur peas (15 oz.)
Salt to taste

While your rice is cooking, melt the butter and oil in a deep saucepan and sauté the chopped onion until it is translucent (do not brown).  Add the cooked rice and the canned peas and mix gently (you don't want to mash the peas).  Add salt and more butter to taste.

Et voila! A quick and easy side dish, that for me evokes good memories.

P.S.  Another of my mother's go-to side dishes was an informal version of succotash:  corn and lima beans with butter and cream.  Recently I was looking for a quick side dish and realized I had frozen corn and cream, but no lima beans (no surprise, because no one in my family really likes them).  What I did have was a bag of frozen edamame (soy beans).  I quickly steamed the corn and edamame together in the microwave, added butter, salt and cream, and discovered that I liked the results a whole lot better than my mother's version.  I think it's a keeper.

Do you have any comfort food recipes?

Christmas Cookie Contest!

Have you heard about our fantastic Christmas Cookie Contest? Here's how it works:

To enter, send your favorite recipe to Krista (KristaDavis at KristaDavis dot com). You can even send more than one.

We'll choose 10 finalists, then we'll bake those recipes and post the results here on the blog.

Then you, our readers, will vote to choose the overall winner! (Plus you'll collect a great batch of new recipes along the way.)

What's the Grand Prize? A fabulous collection of cookie decorating supplies, that's what!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

You might have noticed something new here at Mystery Lover's Kitchen this morning.  It's our little Halloween treat for you!  We have finally added a recipe index!  Look for this recipe index icon in the sidebar and click on it to go to our index.

Hopefully, it will now be easier for all of us to find our favorite recipes.  We have divided them into categories that we hope will be easy to scan when you're looking for a dish to make.  Some recipes fall into two or more categories, so be sure to cross check.  For instance, vegetarian and pasta dishes are also terrific main courses.  Blogger only allows a certain number of pages, so we have grouped a number of different categories on the pages.  If you select Cookies, for instance, you'll go to the Desserts page where pies, cookies, and cakes are listed as well as other desserts.  Just scroll down to the section you want.

The index is still a work in progress.  We're trying to figure out why the names of the recipes appear in different colors.  That pink is hard to read and we're working on it.  (Update: they're pink in Firefox, but not in Safari.) Whew!  We've posted over 900 recipes on this blog!  We'll be adding more of them as time allows.  If you can't find a recipe, let us know.  We appreciate your feedback, too.  If there's something that would make the index easier to use, please let us know about it.  We do have some limitations, of course, but you might think of something clever that we overlooked.

There's a lot more news.  It's going to be lively around here with the holidays approaching.  We have some amazing weeks planned.

Christmas Cookie Contest

Our second annual Christmas Cookie competition is on starting today!  Here's how it will work.

You send your favorite Christmas cookie recipe to KristaDavis at KristaDavis dot com.  Recipes submitted last year which were not among the winners may be submitted again this year.  We're also interested in gluten-free Christmas cookie recipes this year.

Sheila, Wendy, Avery, Jenn, and Krista will each select two finalists.  We will be testing and posting your recipes. 

Those ten finalists will be listed on a ballot here and our readers will pick the overall winner! 

We're still discussing the prize for the winner, so if you have suggestions, we're listening!  Start sending your recipes today!

Easy Holiday Dinner

November 12th through 19th, we'll be featuring an entire menu for an easy holiday dinner.  One of our readers suggested this last year, and we think it's a great idea.  If someone in your family doesn't eat meat, don't miss Wendy's vegetarian recipe!

Penzey's Week

Since this is the season for baking and cooking with all sorts of wonderful spices, in December we're bringing you recipes made with spices from Penzey's, one of our favorite on-line and retail store sources of seasonings.

Now you didn't think I would let Halloween pass without a little trick, did you?  Rumor has it the photo of my Chicken Scary-aki Monster Fingers had grown men running from the room!  If you're squeamish, if you prefer the sweeter side of Halloween, or if your name is Christi, you might want to miss this little trick.

Once again, it's Monster Fingers!  But these take about four minutes to make and only require three ingredients.  They're great for breakfast or an after school snack.

Monster Fingers

almond halves or slices
any red jam or jelly

Cut the banana in half.  Slice lengthwise.  Press an almond slice on each pointy end as a fingernail.  Dribble a little jam on the finger as blood.

Are you still reading Christi?  Cover your eyes!

Since it's Halloween, I thought I'd alsoshare this interesting little story.  Last year I visited a haunted mental hospital.  No kidding.  Some of the paranormal investigators claim it's the most active site they've seen.  They claim ghosts have touched them, and that they've heard footsteps.  People report all sorts of strange things and the place has even been featured on TV shows that investigate haunted buildings.

No ghosts in the bowling alley!

The building is over 100 years old.  A lovely staircase and huge moldings leave no doubt that it was once a grand dame.  Today it is in a sad state of disrepair.  My friend Amy was a good sport to go with me, but we didn't experience anything spooky.  We didn't hear voices or see anything ghostly.

But maybe we weren't alone after all . . .

This is a photograph that I took in the radiology department.  Pretty boring, right?  Look closer.  Just above the middle and to the left.

This is that spot enlarged.  So what do you think it is?