December 24, 2012

Pressed for Time

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Margaret's Morsels  | Cinnamon Cookies

For the first time in almost 20 years, I won't be making German Christmas Cookies this year.  My mother made these delectable, melt in your mouth cookies flavored with nutmeg and frosted in icing tinted red, green and yellow every year at Christmas.  They were a holiday tradition just like her cheeseball and Kool-Aid Punch.  Although they epitomize Christmas to me, they have to be rolled, cut out and frosted, something I don't have time to do this year.  I'll still make cookies -- they'll even be shaped like trees and wreaths -- but the designs will come not from a cookie cutter but from a cookie press.

I remember the first time I ever saw a cookie press.  I was a teenager visiting my next door neighbor.  She was using a cookie press to make spritz cookies.  I remember thinking how much faster it was to use a cookie press to shape cookies rather than rolling them out and cutting them with cookie cutters.  It made an indelible impression on me and, when I was living on my own in my first apartment, I bought my very own cookie press. Although a cookie press makes things faster, you don't have to use one to make the recipe I'm sharing today.

Cookie presses come in two sizes:  regular and bite size.  I have one of each, but prefer the bite size cookie press.  I like serving miniature desserts, especially at the holidays when there's a wide variety of food -- including desserts -- available.

A cookie press consists of two parts:  a hollow tube and templates with various designs.


Margaret's Morsels  | Cinnamon Cookies

The tube is filled with cookie dough


Margaret's Morsels  | Cinnamon Cookies

and the template is screwed on the bottom of the tube.



Margaret's Morsels  | Cinnamon Cookies


The cookie dough is pressed through the template by pressing a trigger mechanism on the cookie press.  As the trigger is pressed, a plunger pushes the dough through the template.  Changing the template is as easy as unscrewing the template and screwing on a different one.  I don't recommend using a cookie press with nonstick cookie sheets.  Nonstick pans keep things from sticking which also includes the cookie dough from the cookie press!

The cinnamon cookie recipe is fairly straightforward.  The butter -- I use unsalted -- and sugar are creamed until light and fluffy.



Margaret's Morsels  | Cinnamon Cookies

Add the egg yolks and vanilla


Margaret's Morsels  | Cinnamon Cookies

and beat well.


Margaret's Morsels  | Cinnamon Cookies

Stir the dry ingredients together and add to the creamed mixture in three additions.


Margaret's Morsels  | Cinnamon Cookies

Fill the cookie press with dough and make the desired shapes directly on the cookie sheet.  You'll need to press the mechanism a couple of times before the dough starts coming out of the template.



Margaret's Morsels  | Cinnamon Cookies

Brush the cookies with the reserved egg whites; this helps the cinnamon sugar mixture adhere to the cookies.


Margaret's Morsels  | Cinnamon Cookies

Sprinkle the tops with the cinnamon sugar mixture.


Margaret's Morsels  | Cinnamon Cookies

Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes and immediately remove them to a cooling rack.


Margaret's Morsels  | Cinnamon Cookies

You'll need to wash the cookie sheet between batches to remove the egg white residue and leftover cinnamon sugar.

If you don't have a cookie press, make the cookies as directed, but refrigerate the dough until it's firm enough to roll into balls.  Omit the egg whites and roll the cookies in the cinnamon sugar mixture like you would for Snickerdoodles.  Proceed as directed.  You may need to increase the baking time for regular size cookies.

These cookies will never replace the Christmas cookies from my childhood, but they're a nice alternative this year since I'm pressed for time.


Cinnamon Cookies
150 Bite Size

1 cup butter (no substitutes), softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
2 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add egg yolks and vanilla; beat well.  Stir the flour, 2 teaspoons cinnamon and salt together; add to creamed mixture in three additions.  Place cookie dough in cookie press; make desired shapes on ungreased cookie sheet.  Brush cookies with the reserved egg whites.  Combine 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon; sprinkle over cookies.  Bake at 400° for 8 to 10 minutes.

© Margaret's Morsels

December 20, 2012

Beating the Holiday Hustle

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Margaret's Morsels | Goulash

Life gets busier in December.  In addition to everyday activities -- working, taking care of families, driving carpools, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, paying bills, attending sporting events, meetings, school functions and church activities -- tis also the season for cookie swaps,


Margaret's Morsels | Goulash

decorating,


Margaret's Morsels | Goulash

sending Christmas cards,

Margaret's Morsels | Goulash

wrapping packages, 

Margaret's Morsels | Goulash


Margaret's Morsels | Chocolate Covered Ritz Cracker Cookies

When busy days get even busier, you don't have to eat out or rely on frozen food or take out for a fast meal.  The recipe I'm sharing today is ready in less than an hour.

A few years ago, a friend gave me a recipe for goulash.  When I heard the name, I immediately thought of the traditional Hungarian dish which is a kind of soup or stew.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this goulash, unlike its namesake, is actually a casserole.  Although the preparation is different, both recipes share some similarities.

  • Meat:  Both versions use beef, but the casserole uses ground beef instead of stew meat. 


Margaret's Morsels | Goulash

  • Vegetables:  The soup or stew usually has potatoes, onions and tomatoes, although some versions use a larger variety of vegetables.  The casserole uses onion, canned pork and beans and, in place of tomatoes, a can of tomato soup.  Make sure you use pork and beans and not baked beans which are flavored with additional spices.


Margaret's Morsels | Goulash

  • Pasta:  Some versions call for traditional goulash to be cooked with pasta while other versions serve the dish over cooked pasta.  The casserole uses macaroni which is combined with the other ingredients before baking.


Margaret's Morsels | Goulash

  • Spices:  The soup or stew is seasoned with paprika -- a bright orange-red spice made from ground up sweet peppers -- which can range from mild to hot.  The casserole gets some heat from a couple of tablespoons of chili powder.


Margaret's Morsels | Goulash

Although there are similarities between the dishes, there's also one noticeable difference:  cheese.  The top of the casserole is covered with shredded Cheddar cheese before it's baked.

Margaret's Morsels | Goulash

The casserole is baked in the oven for 30 minutes.  I add a salad and garlic bread for an easy meal on a busy day.  Not only is this quick to prepare during the holiday hustle, it's also a warming meal on a cold winter night.

Margaret's Morsels | Goulash



Goulash
6 to 8 Servings

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. chili powder, divided
1 cup elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
1 (15.75 oz.) can pork and beans
1 (10 3/4 oz.) can tomato soup (undiluted)
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

Brown the ground beef, onion and 1 tablespoon chili powder; drain. Combine the ground beef mixture with the macaroni, pork and beans, soup and remaining 1 tablespoon chili powder.  Put in a lightly greased 13 x 9-inch pan.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

© Margaret's Morsels

December 11, 2012

Candy Cane Reminder

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Margaret's Morsels | Candy Cane Lollipops


Just a friendly reminder that if you want to make these white chocolate and peppermint lollipops in February, be sure to stock up on mini candy canes while they're available.



Margaret's Morsels | Candy Cane Lollipops



© Margaret's Morsels