Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Snowball Cookies

SnowBall Cookies
Dorcas Annette Walker

I always love it when there is snow on the ground for Christmas. Snow flurries floating down from the sky turns an ordinary day into magic while a dusting of snow produces a winter wonderland of enchantment. Holidays are great for trying out new recipes. My Snowball Cookies are brand new that evolved from experimenting with two different recipes. This Christmas I decided to ensure that I would have some snow. You can too by making up a batch of my Snowball Cookies.

Cookies are small sweet finger foods that are generally flour based. There are six basic kinds of chookies: bar, drop, brownies, cut outs, molded, sliced, and no bake. Cookies can be soft, chewy, or crisp. They can be big or small, plain or fancy. They can be simple or complex, but they started out long ago, not as a treat, but as an oven regulator. A small amount of cake batter was dropped onto baking pans to test the temperature of the oven before the cake was baked. Rather than ruin an entire cake, a "little cake", or cookie, was tested first. At the time, not one thought these "test cakes" would become a treat with charms of its own.

The earlist cookie-style cakes are thought to date back to Persia in the 7th century where bakers made luxurious cakes for the wealthy. The developing spice trade, cooking techniques, and ingredients of Arabia soon spread to Northern Euorpe. By the end of the 14th century, one could buy filled wafers on the streets of Paris. English and Dutch immigrants brought the cookie to America in the 1600's. During the 17th, 18th, and 19th century, most cookies were baked at home as speical treates because of the amount of labor and high cost of sugar. An explosion of cookie recipes took place in the early 1900's, parallelling the introduction of modern ovens with thermostats.

Cookie facts: Biscotti are really just "twice baked" cookies. Americans consume over 2 billion cookies a year or 300 cookies for each person annually. Chocolate chip cookies are the msot popular kind of cookie in the United States; Massachusetts and Pennsylvania consider the chocolate chip cookie their official state cookie.

Cookie Tips:
- Flouring a greased cookie sheet will yield thicker cookies.
- Do not mix cookies too much as it will make them tough.
- Dough that is too dry will cause cookies to crack when baked.
- Too much flour and re-rolling results in tough, dry cookies.
- If your cookie dough is dry and crumbly, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of milk.
- Cookies may spread if the dough is too soft. Chill the dough or stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons of flour and be sure to cool and clean cookie sheets between batches.
- Parchment paper for cooking can replace greasing.
- A dark colored cookie sheet may result in over-baked cookies; always use a shinny aluminum cookie sheet.
- Most cookie dough freezes well up to three months.

Snowball Cookies

1 c sugar
1 c shortening
2 eggs
1/2 c milk
1 tsp vanilla and almond extract
3 c self-rising flour
1 c chopped pecans
blue sugar crystals
powdered sugar

Cream sugar, shortening, and eggs. Add milk and extracts. Stir in flour and chopped pecans. Take a teaspoon of dough and roll in blue sugar crystals. Bake for 10 minutes at 350º on a greased cookie sheet. While warm roll cookie in powdered sugar and let cool. This recipe makes 3 dozen Snowball Cookies.

Weekly Tip: Store crisp, thin cookies in a container or tin with a loose-fitting cover. Store unfrosted or frosted soft cookies in an airtight container to preserve moistness!

Dorcas Annette Walker is a published author, columnist, speaker, freelance magazine writer, and photographer from Jamestown, Tennessee. Contact her at: dorcaswalker@twlakes.net For more recipes check out her Creative Tennessee Mountain Cookin blog at: www.dorcasannettewalker.com

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Grandma's Soft Sugar Cookies

Grandma's Soft Sugar Cookies
Dorcas Annette Walker

I can remember when there wasn't any play dough except the kind your mother cooked up and colored with food coloring. In the summer a mixture of dirt and water made a lovely mud batter, different sized tin cans were bowls, and sticks made a perfect spoon. My sister and I would spend an entire afternoon in our bakery whipping up all kinds of cookies- small rocks were used for chocolate chips- carefully spreading rows of cookies on a long board to bake in the sun. No matter how hard we tried or how pretty we decorated our cookies with wild flowers, we never could convince our brother to sample one of our treats. I'll never forget the Christmas I received a store-bought set of play dough in colorful cans with matching plastic lids. My imagination went into overdrive with the lovely soft dough of bright colors. I would carefully put the play dough back into the cans after each use in order to keep it nice and soft. That set of play dough gave my sister and me years of pleasure.

When my daughter was still a toddler, I bought her play dough and set about to initiate her into the joys of pretend baking with play dough. Her set of play dough didn't get much use and before long completely dried out as every time I was in the kitchen baking, which was at least once a week, my daughter would perch her sturdy little body on a chair and beg to have a chance to stir. It seems like yesterday watching my young daughter carefully and with great concentration place Christmas cookies on a tray to bake and then sprinkle them with colored sugar. Invariably there were some unusual shaped stars and camels with only three legs, which make great sampling and wonderful memories. Today my daughter is grown and has a daughter of her own that loves to help in the kitchen.

This week instead of the rolled-out shaped Christmas sugar cookies that you sprinkle with colored sugar, I'm giving you an old recipe of soft sugar cookies where the batter is dropped by spoon, is easier, and faster to make. My Grandma's Soft Sugar Cookies are usually sprinkled with round candy sprinkles, but colored sugar can be substituted. Preparation time for my Grandma's Soft Sugar Cookies is only fifteen minutes- not counting baking time. For smaller cookies use a teaspoon. This recipe makes large hand-size four-and-one-half dozen Grandma's Soft Sugar Cookies.

Grandma's Soft Sugar Cookies

2 c sugar
3/4 c shortening
2 eggs
1 c milk
1 tsp vanilla
4 1/2 c self-rising flour

Cream sugar, shortening, and eggs together. Add milk and vanilla. Stir in flour until completely mixed. Drop batter by tablespoon on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350º for ten minutes until lightly browned. Cool and then store in an air-tight container!

Weekly tip: Place a slice of bread with your stored baked cookies to help keep your cookies soft and fresh tasting!

Dorcas Annette Walker is a published author, columnist, speaker, freelance magazine writer, and photographer from Jamestown, Tennessee. Contact her at: dorcaswalker@twlakes.net For more recipes check out her Creative Tennessee Mountain Cookin blog at: www.dorcasannetttewalker.com

Christmas Potatoes

Christmas Potatoes
Dorcas Annette Walker

Each year stores put out zillions of Christmas items to dazzle customers with new colors, garlands, lights, and tree-toppers. Store aisles are taken over with holiday decorations until it leaves a person floundering to find basic items that have been moved to make way for all the holiday merchandise. Now I enjoy decorating for Christmas and giving gifts, but unfortunately too many times the Christmas season becomes more a hassle than a celebration. Hopefully with the economic crisis folks will one again realize that it doesn't take a lot of fancy decorations and expensive presents to have a meaningful Christmas. Meanwhile my Christmas Potatoes are simple and easy to fix when you get feeling stressed out.

Our best family Christmas had nothing to do with lights or presents. It started when Dwight at eight months old got a mouth bleed that lingered despite numerous trips to the hemophilia clinic to get his factor level raised. The week before Christmas when I checked on Dwight during an afternoon nap, I found my son lying in a pool of blood struggling to breathe as we raced him to the emergency room. He was admitted, given blood, and factor, but the bleeding continued as nursing staff and doctors monitored our lifeless toddler. The head hematologist finally told us that they had contacted the drug administration to see how much factor Dwight's system could handle. He shook his head and said that there was nothing else they could do to stop the bleeding. People everywhere began praying while I sat by my tiny son watching him struggling to breathe as the hours passed. God spared our son's life and two days before Christmas we took Dwight home. Totally exhausted, I spent Christmas day in bed while my active little boy crawled all over me. My husband heated up a can of soup for dinner, but it was the best Christmas ever. I had my son.

My colorful Christmas Potatoes taste like summer with the blend of fresh herbs and seasonings. You can add vegetables, meat, or mix-match herbs to individualize this recipe for your family. These Christmas Potatoes can be prepared on a grill or cooked in a Crockpot and will fit with any holiday menu. This recipe takes ten minutes to prepare and serves six.

Christmas Potatoes

6 large red potatoes
3 tb vegetable oil
1 tb chopped dried or fresh rosemary
1 tsp dried or fresh parsley
1 tb dried or fresh minced onion
1 tb parmesan cheese
garlic & regular salt and pepper

Wash potatoes and cut into wedges. Drizzle the oil over the potatoes and then sprinkle on rosemary, parsley, onion, parmesan cheese, salts, and pepper. Cover and bake at 350º for thirty minutes then uncover and bake for another thirty minutes until the potatoes are lightly browned.

Weekly tip: When baking meats and potatoes line the baking dish first with tinfoil before baking to save on cleanup!

Dorcas Annette Walker is a publisher author, columnist, speaker, freelance magazine writer, and photographer from Jamestown, Tennessee. Contact her at: dorcaswalker@twlakes.net For more recipes check out her Creative Tennessee Mountain Cookin blog at: www.dorcasannettewalker.com

Friday, December 11, 2009

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake
Dorcas Annette Walker

This week I'm giving you my Triple Chocolate Cheesecake recipe and telling about the cat that came back so if you don't like chocolate or can't stand cats please bear with me. For those of you who love chocolate in any form this column is for you; now about my cat, Eloise Mae.

Eloise came into my life as a wild kitten rescued by my sister from her woods. If ever a cat lived a pampered lifestyle it was Eloise Mae. You would have thought that she would have purred the rest of her life away. Instead Eloise Mae lived a hide-a-way existence under different beds in our house showing her face to complain with loud meows every time she heard my voice. Even though Eloise grew into a beautiful large long-flowing-tailed cat with distinguished features of double paws, I was the only one she would tolerate. When she started howling at the foot of our bed each night, I reluctantly decided that Eloise would only be happy outdoors.

The next sunny day, I let Eloise out into my enclosed garden. When I went to check on her, she had disappeared. That night I went to bed with visions of Eloise hunting happily in our woods only to be awakened around midnight with a terrible racket. My German shepherds had treed Eloise up a porch post. When I went to rescue her, Eloise streaked back off into the darkness. I put out cat food, but never saw hide nor hair of Eloise. After a couple of months, I faced the fact that Eloise had left me for good.

The week of Thanksgiving a starved bedraggled cat showed up. I hardly recognized Eloise as half of her long beautiful tail had been cut off. Once indoors, for the first time in her existence, Eloise began to purr. She attacked the cat food and has spent her days since eating and sleeping by the food dish. Interestingly enough Eloise's whinny complaining personality hasn't changed one bit. But that's okay because you see Eloise Mae is part of our family and she is back home again.

I couldn't help but think how holiday gatherings don't always turn out picture perfect. Holidays have a way of bringing out the best and worst in people and invariably there is always someone who is never satisfied who will complain no matter what and continues to hold a grudge. Whether it is a family member, someone at work, or your next door neighbor personalities often clash. But I have decided to let the tidings of "peace on earth good will towards man" be my creed this holiday season.

My Triple Chocolate Cheesecake is a scrumptious holiday dessert to any chocolate lover with its smooth creamy filling over a crunchy chocolate crust topped by a drizzle of chocolate syrup. The Triple Chocolate Cheesecake takes only fifteen minutes to prepare and this recipe serves eighteen to twenty.

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake

12 fudge graham or chocolate cookies
1/2 stick margarine melted
4 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese
1 (16 oz) sour cream
4 eggs
1 1/2 c sugar
1/2 c cocoa
2 tb self-rising flour
1 tb vanilla
chocolate syrup

Crush chocolate cookies, add margarine, and press into the bottom of a 10-inch springboard pan. Bake for ten minutes at 350º. In a large bowl beat until smooth cream cheese, sour cream, eggs, sugar, cocoa, flour, and vanilla. Pour batter on top of the chocolate crust and bake for 45 minutes to one hour. Cool and chill. Garnish by drizzling chocolate syrup over the cheesecake before serving!

Weekly tip: For a perfect cheesecake do no over beat the batter, bake your cheesecake in the middle of a hot oven, take the cheesecake out of the oven before the center is totally set (it will wiggle when gently shaken), and cool the cheesecake completely before refrigerating!

Dorcas Annette Walker is a published author, columnist, speaker, freelance magazine writer, and photographer from Jamestown, Tennessee. Contact her at: dorcaswalker@twlakes.net For more recipes check out her Creative Tennessee Mountain Cookin blog at: www.dorcasannettewalker.com