Athena Magazine

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Get Ready for Valentine’s Day with Pretty Easy Cookies! February 11, 2009

tray-of-valentines-cookiesBy Julia Pantoga

Someday, the domestic goddess will have a staff and her days of making roll-out cookies for holidays will end. Until then, the dg will don her Valentine’s Day tiara, open a bottle of beer, take out her rolling pin and make cookies at her kitchen table the same way that she tells you to do it.

essential-valentines-day-cookie-making-suppliesI went through all the details of these cookies with you before the winter holidays, so I’ll refer you to my previous columns: Holiday Prep: The Easiest Holiday Cookies Ever, Parts 1, 2 and 3 and tell you what to do differently for Valentine’s Day. The first difference is that you will use heart-shaped cookie cutters. Wilton has a great set of six different sizes of the exact same heart . Having the same shape in different sizes will give you more creative opportunities when you get to decorating.

Make the same frosting, but this time you need only three colors: light pink, white and dark red. White, you will have; light pink is made by putting a small amount of red dye in white frosting, and dark red is made with several drops of red dye and one drop of blue dye (be careful with the blue, or your frosting will turn out black).

more-valentines-day-cookie-making-suppliesThe technique for decorating heart cookies is the same one I used for my Christmas trees in December. Frost each heart with light pink frosting. Paint a few strokes of dark red on each heart. Paint a few of the small hearts plain white or dark red. While the frosting is still wet, decorate the large heart cookies with the small ones.

Remember, on Sunday or Monday, go to your local craft sale and stock up on 75% off Valentines Day merchandise for next year. Keep in mind that anything you find in a solid color (red, white, silver, gold) can be used for other holidays.

 

Start Your V-Day Cookie Dough Now February 8, 2009

heart1Domestic Goddess Reminder: Next Saturday is Valentines Day. I’ll have a cookie-making post on Tuesday. If you are going to make heart-shaped cutout sugar cookies (as I am in this column), use the recipe from my column, “The Easiest Holiday Cookies Ever! Part One,” to make your dough and freeze it this weekend.

 

Holiday Prep: Easiest Holiday Cookies Ever, Part 3 December 19, 2008

holiday-cookies1

By Julia Pantoga, resident domestic goddess

Finally! We are in the last phase of our holiday cookie project: Decorating the Cookies (For reference, the first two steps were making the dough and rolling and baking cookies).

Don’t call the kids in yet. There’s still some set up you’ll want to do before you have young ones underfoot.

The first step to decorating cookies is to make frosting:  a lot of it. I make 4 cups of it for 4 dozen cookies,
(which is my yield from the recipe I gave you back in October in Easiest Holiday Cookies Ever – Part 1)  Cookie frosting has only two ingredients:  confectioner’s sugar and milk. The ratio is 1 ½ teaspoons of milk for every cup of confectioners sugar.  Be careful working with the confectioner’s sugar—it can really be a mess. Wear your apron and whenever you pour it from one container to another, try not to spill (good luck with that, I’ve been handling the stuff for decades and I still make a mess with it).

Divide your frosting into several small bowls and color each using the deluxe food coloring that I recommended that you buy in Easiest Holiday Cookies – Part 1. Don’t forget to set at least a cup of your frosting aside to use whenever you need white frosting. You can see from the photo below that I forgot to do that and had to go back later to make more frosting.

several-colors-of-frosting

Once you have your frosting made and the confectioner’s sugar is put away, call the kids! Remember, the thickest cookies and the ones with the fewest appendages will be the easiest to handle. To the extent that you can control which cookies little ones select to work on, direct them towards the thickest cookies.

Another thing you should have picked up at the decorating store back in October was a small, angled and tapered spatula and paintbrushes for icing your cookies. As you may recall, I’m not crazy about decorating cookies—so instead of painstakingly applying detail to each one, I try to get the entire job done as quickly as possible. Here’s what I do (I’m using my Christmas tree cookies for this example):

1.     Pour about one teaspoon of base color frosting to each cookie. You may need to thin the frosting a little bit for this step—use milk, added ¼ teaspoon at a time. For my Christmas tree project, the base color was medium green.
2.    Use your spatula to spread the frosting over the entire cookie.
3.    While the frosting is still wet, decorate the edges with small candies.
4.    Choose a darker color and apply light brush strokes to the top of each cookie. For my Christmas trees, I used dark blue-green.
lots-of-christmas-trees(You’ll see this whole process again when I post my Valentine’s Day column, except the cookies will be shaped like hearts and the frosting colors will be pink and dark red.)

I decorate all of my cookies either painting solid colors or using this “gesso” painting process.  The only other technique I use is to sometimes put a smaller cookie of the same shape on a larger cookie.  If you insist on using other decorating materials on your cookies, make sure that everything dries eventually.  Gel decorating products are beautiful, but the if the gel doesn’t dry, you end up with ridiculously fragile smeared cookies.

The cookies at the top of this essay were decorated by a professional artist friend of mine and the cookies below were decorated entirely by yours truly.

finished-cookies

 

Holiday Prep: The Easiest Holiday Cookies Ever! Part Two December 17, 2008

holiday-cookies
By Julia Pantoga

Do you remember that I recommended that you break your holiday cutout cookie baking into three steps?

1.    Making the dough
2.    Rolling and baking
3.    Decorating

This is Step Two: Rolling and Baking. I assume you have three packages of cookie dough in your freezer, as I advised you back in October in The Easiest Holiday Cookies Ever! Part One.

I’m a flour-flying-all-over-the-kitchen kind of baker, so this very neat, no-flour-mess method of rolling out cookie dough was counter-intuitive to me. But it works—really well.  And it’s really neat. I did it wearing dress clothes and no apron.

Before I give you the step-by-step, there’s two important notes:
•    Many recipes for rolled dough assume that flour will be added to the dough during the rolling process, so this method won’t necessarily for sugar cookie dough recipes other than the one I gave you.
•    The proper height for a rolling surface is slightly below your hips. That means that if you are on the short side a table, not a counter, will work best for you. You need the leverage of being able to bend over your project easily.

dough-rolling-setupHere’s the step-by-step for my no-mess method of rolling cookie dough (The parchment paper and tape industries ought to be sending me kickbacks for this!):

1.    Put a cookie sheet in the refrigerator.
2.    Tape a piece of parchment paper to the rolling surface.
3.    Put a small disk of dough on the parchment paper (about ½ of one of the bags you made in October, or, if you didn’t do that, about 1/6 of the recipe I gave you, or, if you’re using a different recipe, about 1/3 pound).
4.    Tape a larger piece of parchment paper over the top of the dough.
5.    Roll the dough slowly to 1/8” thick.  Eliminate any creases in the parchment paper as you go along, as creases in your final dough will cause your cookies to crack and break. I don’t recommend rolling any thinner that 1/8”, because thinner cookies break easily when you decorate them.
6.    Carefully lift off the top layer of parchment paper, leaving it taped to the rolling surface for the next rolling.
7.    Remove the bottom layer of parchment paper with the rolled dough on it and place it on the cookie sheet in the refrigerator for at least ½ hour.
8.    Repeat steps 2-7 until all the dough is rolled.  When you have finished, put the top piece of parchment paper on top of all the layers.

rolled-dough-in-the-refrigerator Well, I sure wish I had learned that trick of refrigerating the rolled dough years ago!

While your rolled dough is chilling, set up for cutting and baking your cookies. Put the cookie cutters and cookie sheets that you want to use right next to where you will be working with the dough. Your cold dough will make it infinitely easier to move raw cookies around, but you still want to minimize how far you move them.  The best tool for picking up and moving cookie dough (even cold dough) is and angled (not tapered) spatula used for frosting cakes.

After baking, you want to handle and move the cookies as little as possible before you decorate them (minimize opportunities for breaking cookies), so you may want to set up the area where you will have your cookies cool as well.

cutting-setupTake your rolled dough out of the refrigerator, one piece at a time and work quickly, as cold dough is much, much easier to work with than room temperature dough! Leave the cold cookie sheet in the refrigerator, as you will have enough dough scraps to make a second (maybe even a third, but no more—by then your dough will be terribly worn out) batch of cookies.

After cutting, bake your cookies for 5 minutes at 400°. While they are baking, gather and roll the scraps of dough, using the parchment paper and tape routine I described above. It is at this point that I begin to become irritated with the entire holiday cookie project and mutter to myself, “How on earth could anyone think this is a fun project?” Thrifty as I am, I use the parchment paper over that I used before and tape only the bottom piece down.

OK, in a few days, I’ll show you how to decorate these bad boys.

Why so many Christmas trees?  Tune in in a few days and find out!

Why so many Christmas trees? Tune in in a few days and find out!

 

Holiday Prep: Two Recipes for Great Baking Gifts November 25, 2008

wrapped-gift-cakesBy Julia Pantoga

In my column, Giving Away Baked Goods, I promised to give you the recipes for some of my favorite baking gifts. Here, you’ll find two recipes and instructions for making them. See the Domestic Goddess column Giving Away Baked Goods for information about wrapping and ordering.

In my mind, here’s what makes a food fit for giving away:
•    It packs/wraps easily.
•    It can go without refrigeration for several hours.
•    It can be made and wrapped in advance and be stored in the freezer.
•    There is at least one thing “special” about the recipe that makes it unlikely that your recipients would make it on their own—which makes it a treat.

Recipe #1: Ginger Bread with Lemon Icing
This recipe makes enough for six gift loaf pans. Paper pans with wax coating do not need to be prepared.

lemon-brandy

Lemon Brandy
Zest from 2 Lemons
4 ounces Brandy

Steep the lemon zest in brandy for at least one day. You can replenish the brandy twice using the same lemon zest.

Ginger Bread
1 pound butter (2 sticks, I use salted)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup molasses
4 eggs
2 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 GENEROUS tablespoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground allspice
4 teaspoons lemon brandy (substitute vanilla at your own risk, do not use lemon extract as a substitute)
1 cup buttermilk

1.     Bring the eggs to room temperature (you can do this quickly, by putting them in a bowl of hot tap water).
2.    Preheat the oven to 350°.
3.    Cream butter and brown sugar.
4.    Add molasses and beat again.
5.    Beat in eggs.
6.    Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, allspice).
7.    Add dry ingredients to mixture.
8.    Add lemon brandy and buttermilk and mix thoroughly.
9.    Arrange six gift loaf pans on baking sheet.
10.    Pour batter evenly into the six pans and bake for 25 minutes, or until a straw inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean.
11.    Cool thoroughly before icing.

Lemon Icing
1 stick butter
Zest of one lemon
Two teaspoons lemon brandy
Two tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups powdered sugar
1.    Cream butter.
2.    Add lemon zest, lemon brandy and lemon juice and beat until fluffy.

Pre-icing the cakes.

Pre-icing the cakes.

3.    Add powdered sugar ½ cup at a time (Watch out. Powdered sugar tends to fly and make a big mess!)
4.    Pre-ice the cakes with 1 tablespoon of icing each. This will eliminate the possibility of crumbs in your lovely final cakes.
5.    After the pre-icing has hardened, ice the cakes with the remaining icing.
6.    Allow icing to harden before wrapping cakes.

wrapped-walnuts

Recipe #2: Fried Walnuts
This recipe falls into the category of recipes that will fool you by having few ingredients. First of all, any time you fry something, it is a mess. Before you start making these:
•    Put on an apron or old shirt on which you don’t mind spattering grease.
•    Clear a large surface for laying the walnuts out (I use my kitchen table)
The reason I make these every year is because they are GREAT. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t love them. They also pack really well and one batch makes seven gift bags.

Fry walnuts

Fry walnuts

Ingredients
8 cups water
4 cups walnuts
½ cup sugar
Cooking oil
Sea salt

Drain walnuts.

Drain walnuts.

1.    Bring water to a boil.
2.    Add walnuts to the water and boil for 1 minute.
3.    Drain boiled walnuts and rinse with hot water.
4.    While the walnuts are hot, return them to the pot you used for boiling and mix well with sugar.
5.    Heat 1 inch of cooking oil to 160°.
6.    Fry the walnuts in two single layer batches for 4 minutes (Put lid or spatter guard on the pan to prevent more of a mess).
7.    While the walnuts are frying, lay wax paper on your clear surface.
8.    Scoop walnuts out of the oil with slotted spoon and drain well in a sieve (one year I didn’t drain the walnuts very well and they were so greasy that they were nasty.) [draining walnuts photo here]

Salt walnuts.

Salt walnuts.

9.    Spread fried walnuts in one layer on wax paper.
10.    Sprinkle warm walnuts with salt (don’t over salt). [salting walnuts photo here]
11.    Allow walnuts to cool thoroughly before wrapping.

Stay tuned for more recipes, tips on holiday decorating and parts two and three of my essays about making holiday cookies. See previous Domestic Goddess columns for more holiday tips.

 

The most important ingredient November 20, 2008

Filed under: Domestic Goddess — rebmas03 @ 3:03 am
Tags: , , , ,

heartThe Domestic Goddess wishes to remind you that the most important ingredient you add to all of your cooking and baking is LOVE.

 

Baked chicken with homemade stuffing: Yum! November 13, 2008

Written by: Heather of Lone Star Vintage Clothing

A few nights ago, I had planned on making baked chicken with veggies. How bland is that? As I turned on the oven, an idea popped into my head: stuffing! I tend to buy things to keep in the pantry to use at a later date and boxed stuffing just so happens to be one of those things. I looked in my pantry and low and behold, I found a box of stuffing! I then started to look in my refrigerator to see what I could add to the stuffing. I found cilantro, mushrooms and onions. I then went back to my pantry and found some walnuts. I also had some apples sitting in my fruit bowl on the cabinet. Horray! I had all of my ingredients to complete my stuffing.

Here’s my recipe for chicken breasts stuffed with my homemade stuffing:

Ingredients:

  • Two chicken breasts
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 apple
  • Cilantro
  • Walnuts
  • Stuffing
  • Yellow onion
  • Garlic (if you choose)
  • Mushrooms
  • Poultry seasoning

First, you will need to find a pan to cook the chicken in. I typically use a glass pan. Lightly coat the pan in olive oil. Turn your oven on bake at 400 degrees F. Let the oven preheat for 10-15 minutes.

Take your onion, mushrooms, apple and cilantro. Dice/cube all of those items into to very small pieces. Take another pan out and turn the stovetop on high heat (I have a gas stove and can control the heat very easily). Add a bit of olive oil in your pan. Once the oil is heated, add your onions, mushrooms and apples first. Cook those items until the onions begin to caramelize (turn golden brown).

picture-0401

Next, you will add in your cilantro (and garlic if you choose). Add your walnuts. My walnuts were larger and I had to crush them up a bit.

picture-0411

During the time you are cooking your veggies, you will get another pan and fill it will approximately 3/4 cup of water (I never read the directions on the back of the box). You need enough water to cook your stuffing in. Add a tiny bit of olive oil to your water. Bring the water to a rapid boil. Turn off the heat and add your stuffing mixture. Cover for several minutes. Remove the lid and lightly fluff with a fork. You are now ready to add your cooked veggies, apples and walnuts to the stuffing. Your mixture should look a little like this:

picture-042

During the time you have been tending to your stuffing mixture and your oven is preheating, prepare your chicken breasts. Take each breast and cut down the center (slice an opening in the center). When you finish, they will look something like this:

picture-0431

Place the chicken breasts in the pan. Lightly coat the chicken with olive oil (just a tiny bit on both sides will be fine). Take your stuffing mixture and place in the center of each chicken breast:

picture-044

Once you’ve added the stuffing mixture in the center of the chicken breasts, you will then flip one side of each breast over. Add salt, pepper and poultry seasoning:

picture-045

Bake your chicken for approximately 30 minutes at 400 degrees F. Once your chicken is finished cooking, it should look like this:

picture-048

This is one of my own creations! Enjoy!