Friday’s Flavors: Best Ever Sugar Cookies With Butter Frosting

Hey, Foodies! Happy Friday, and for those of you who celebrate, Merry Christmas!

I don’t think it’s a secret that I do a lot of cooking. But I used to do a lot of baking, too. I always had fresh chocolate chip cookies on hand, and never hesitated to whip up a batch of brownies, cupcakes, or a delectable cake whenever the whim arose.

Why the change? Well, you can’t eat like a kid forever. But more than that (because I’d probably still try), I stopped being able to handle sugar well. And when something feels bad, it makes sense to stop doing it, right?

But, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

I know I can no longer handle more than two bites of rich chocolate cake. More than a handful of M&Ms. More than just a dab of maple syrup on my waffles or pancakes. But I can still handle the absolute best cookie recipe I’ve ever met, in moderation of course. And the frosting? Enough can’t be said about it! Odes and sonnets, love poems of every kind have been written about this Butter Frosting! (I know – I’ve written them!)

I’m not exaggerating when I say that these are best described as addictive! Back when I was a choco-holic, I’d make an exception for these!

Growing up, my family would make these every Christmas, but they’re not just for the holidays! While I have Halloween and Easter themed cookie cutters, I also have many types of animal, sea creature, flower shapes and more!

I’m not going to lie – these take a lot of work. But they are SO worth the effort, every. Single. Time. What’s more? They get better with age!

Ingredients:

CHRISTMAS COOKIES

2 ½ cups flour                                                 1 ½ cups sugar

1 tsp. baking powder                                    2 eggs, well beaten

½ tsp. salt                                                        3 tsp. vanilla

1 cup shortening

Preparation:

Sift flour, measure; add baking powder and salt. Sift again. (Don’t try to short cut this step. I know it’s a pain, but sift the flour before you measure, then sift again!)

Cream shortening, add sugar gradually, beating until light. Add well beaten eggs one at a time and blend thoroughly. Add vanilla. (It’s very important that you add the eggs one at a time, blending well between them. I don’t know why but the cookies don’t come out the same if you add them both at once.)

Combine dry ingredients with the creamed mixture, mix thoroughly and chill for at least an hour.

PREHEAT oven to 400.

Roll as thin as possible on a lightly floured board and cut with cookie cutter. (Tip: I keep a small bowl of flour handy so I don’t contaminate the bag. Also, keep your rolling pin well floured.)

BAKE 6-10 minutes.

Allow to cool for a minute or two before carefully transferring to a cooling rack.

Ingredients:

BUTTER FROSTING

½ cup butter, set out to room temperature

1 lb. (3 ½ cups) Confectioner’s sugar

Pinch of salt

4 – 5 tbsp. liquid (hot water or milk)

1 tbsp. vanilla

food coloring

sprinkles and decorations as desired

Preparation:

Cream room temperature butter; add sugar gradually, stirring until well blended. (Eventually it’s going to look like straight sugar, just a little lumpier.)

Add salt. Stir in liquid a little at a time, adding just enough to give a good spreading consistency. Beat until fluffy; add vanilla or other flavoring.

Makes enough frosting for tops and sides of 2 9” layers, 3 8” layers, 2 dozen cup cakes, and the entirety of the above cookie recipe.

I put these in tins and give them to friends and family!

I cover a table with wax paper to make for easy cleanup. Portion frosting into containers (coffee cups work great) and mix desired colors using food coloring. Apply with dull butter knifes or utensil of choice. Add sprinkles, nonpareils, and whatever other decorations you want! Allow to dry thoroughly before storing.

I didn’t get too fancy decorating this year, but they still tasted fantastic!

If you try it, let me know how you like it! (And don’t say I didn’t warn you about your new addiction!)

Check back next Friday for another Foodie Flavor!

Friday’s Flavors: Jalapeno Stuffed Poppers

Hey, Foodies! Happy Friday!

Now, I am not a fan of anything spicy. Hot peppers and I are mortal enemies. But, if you look in my garden, you’ll see that I grow 7 different types of peppers, from Jalapenos all the way to Carolina Reapers. Sigh. The things we do for love.

As you might of guessed, my husband is a fan of the spicy. In a family of people who love the hot stuff, his nickname is Leather Tongue. I’ve yet to find something too spicy for him to eat, and even though I do most of the cooking, and I can’t handle the hot stuff, I still make a lot of it. So, for those of you who are like me, here’s a simple solution for poppers: stuff baby bell peppers. I’m not a huge fan of those, either, but my stuffing is too tasty to miss out on!

(I’m giving you the measurements necessary to make 36 poppers, but the amounts are easily reduced and if you have any stuffing left over, it’s great on bagels, sandwiches, celery, or just by the spoonful!)

Ingredients:

Jalapenos

Mini Bell Peppers

one 7.5 oz. container of Cream Cheese (whipped is easier to work with, I like the chive flavor for this recipe)

one and a half 8 oz. blocks of Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese

lots of fresh crushed garlic

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Empty the cream cheese into a bowl. Crush plenty of garlic on top, and mix well. Grate your cheddar and mix into the cream cheese a little at a time, until you absolutely can’t get any more in.

Wash and dry the peppers. (I take my contacts out AND wear gloves anytime I’m handling peppers.) Remove tops and core. They make a nifty little tool for this, but if you don’t have one, carefully cut around the inside with a knife. If you can’t get the seeds and pith out, push them to the bottom.

Stuff the Peppers.

Spray a baking cheese and your popper holder with spray oil. Place poppers in holder or in a baking dish as you stuff them. Cook for 30 minutes. Keep in mind that the insides are going to be piping hot, so do your best to wait a few minutes before you enjoy them!

If you try it, please let me know how you like it!

Check back next Friday for another Flavor!

Friday’s Flavors: Oven Roasted Duck

Hey, Foodies! Happy Friday!

There’s no denying that this past year’s been a rough one. We’ve all had to make sacrifices and changes. And unfortunately, like the rest of 2020, the holidays are taking a hit. It kind of makes it hard to celebrate, or even want to. Even those who rallied for Thanksgiving and still cooked a turkey despite the fact they were feeding far fewer people were then faced with what to do with all the extra leftovers.

But cooking a nice holiday meal on a smaller scale doesn’t have to pose a problem. And I know some people cooked chickens instead this year, but that doesn’t really feel special, does it? So why not give duck a try?

People tend to be reluctant to cook duck, but here’s the thing – they’re less hands on than a turkey. You don’t have to baste it. And while duck skin is fatty, if you prepare it right, not only will the fat render from your bird, the meat will be fork tender – no knives required! Also, for presentation, you can easily remove the entire breast with one cut!

Duck is a great option for special occasions, date nights, and even just for a change of pace!

A 6-7 pound duck will feed 3-4 people.

Ingredients:

1 duck

olive oil

spices (I use garlic powder, onion powder, garlic salt and Old Bay)

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray your baking pan and wire rack with oil for easier cleanup.

Rinse your defrosted duck, making sure to remove all loose parts from the inside cavity, and dry well.

Using a very sharp knife – if you have a sharpener, give your knife a fresh blade – carefully score the duck skin diagonally, being careful not to cut through the skin into the meat. The bottom side will require much shallower cuts than the breast side, where the skin is more fatty.

Rub the inside with olive oil and spices. Using a lighter hand with the olive oil, do the same to the outside. A duck’s skin is fatty enough that you don’t actually have to use oil, and you certainly don’t have to baste the skin, but a light coat of oil helps the spices stick and keeps the meat moist and tender.

Even if your baking pan has a lid, cover the pan tightly with tinfoil. Your duck won’t take up as much room as a turkey, and cutting down on the cooking space helps it cook a little quicker, plus you can get a much tighter seal using tinfoil, which will help the meat practically steam off the bones.

Most ducks will have cooking instructions on the package. I’ve found the sweet spot is to bake them for about 22 minutes per pound.

When 1/2 hour of cooking time remains, carefully remove the tinfoil and let the duck roast uncovered.

And that’s it! Remove the duck from the pan, let it set for a few minutes, carve and serve!

When I cook this I’m just feeding two, so instead of carving the breast meat like a chicken or a turkey, I simply remove the entire breast in one stroke (possible because you just cooked a fork tender bird!) and serve it that way.

If you try it, please let me know if you liked it!

Check back next Friday for another Foodie Flavor!

Friday’s Flavors: Lamb Meatballs With Fontina Fondue

Hey, Foodies! Happy Friday!

For a long time my experience with lamb was a bad one. Memories of inedible hunks of undercooked, gamey meat served to me overseas left me traumatized. Seriously. I never thought I’d make my peace with that particular protein.

My husband had no such qualms, however, and after a tense round of rock paper scissors during an anniversary dinner years ago, he won the right to pick the appetizer. Imagine how I felt when he chose lamb. >.<

But I tried it – and I liked it. A lot.

Had it not been for those meatballs, not at all gamey, served with a savory cheese sauce and just a hint of sweetness from a balsamic glaze drizzle, I’d probably still hate lamb. And once the door was cracked, I kicked it wide open. I’ve since expanded my horizons with multiple cuts and preparation styles, but nothing compares to the good old lamb meatball, and if you’ve been looking for a way to (gently) expand your diet to include lamb, this recipe’s for you!

This works well as an appetizer, an entrée, or as part of Fondue night!

Ingredients:

1 pound ground lamb

1 large shallot

6 large garlic cloves

yellow curry powder

tumeric powder

ground cumin

garlic powder

garlic salt

1 tablespoon butter

spray oil

balsamic glaze

Cheese Fondue Kit

OR

1.5 cups shredded Fontina cheese

1/4 cup dry white wine

2 cloves garlic

corn starch

Preparation:

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with spray oil.

Chop shallots. Melt butter in pan, add shallots and sauté until translucent. Add 4 cloves garlic, crushed, mix until fragrant, and put in a mixing bowl.

Add lamb.

Spices are subjective to taste, but I use about 1.5 tbsp yellow curry, 3/4 tbsp tumeric, 2 tsp ground cumin, 2 tsp garlic powder, and a touch of garlic salt.

Add the remaining 2 garlic cloves, crushed, and mix well. (I use gloves for this part.)

Shape into meatballs. If I’m serving them with the Fontina sauce and balsamic drizzle, I make large meatballs, 8-10. However, if I’m using a cheese fondue kit, I make smaller, bite sized meatballs, 24, and serve with an array of veggies for a fun, interactive meal.

Bake 20-25 minutes for larger meatballs, 15 minutes for smaller.

Some Fondue Fruits & Veggies

To make the Fontina sauce, grate the cheese and dust with just enough cornstarch to coat. Heat wine to a simmer, add garlic, then slowly mix in cheese, constantly stirring. You can get creative and add some spices, or keep it simple.

Then, either plate the meatballs, spoon some cheese sauce over them and drizzle with the balsamic glaze, or gather your fondue dippers and have at it!

If you try it, please let me know if you like it!

Check back next Friday for another Foodie Flavor!


Friday’s Flavors: Fork Tender Veal Marsala

Hey, Foodies! Happy Friday!

When talking about restaurants, there are 3 little words I have to say to get it on my husband’s list – “They have veal.” But, invariably, if we try the restaurant, and my husband orders the veal, he complains on the ride home about how tough it was.

It isn’t hard to keep a veal cutlet juicy and fork tender – all it takes is a tiny bit of effort – but that tiny bit of effort is well rewarded and this recipe will even it out because, unlike other veal marsala recipes, you don’t have to cook the meat, remove it, set it aside, keep it warm, cook the mushrooms and sauce, reduce, add the veal back . . . you get the idea. I promise you this method is worth it!

Ingredients:

veal cutlets, 1-2 pounds

fresh, whole Portobello mushrooms

2 large shallots

5 cloves garlic

olive oil

Marsala wine or Cream Sherry

flour seasoned with garlic powder, onion powder, garlic salt, pepper, dried basil and dried tarragon

*** A frying or braising pan with a tight fitting lid. ***

Preparation:

Don’t wash your mushrooms! Clean with a dry brush or with a paper towel, removing all dirt and loose matter. Slice. Chop your shallots and peel your garlic.

Season your flour, mixing well. You want to be able to see the seasonings.

Using the business end of a meat mallet, beat the cutlet, flip, beat again, flip, and beat again for a total of 3 times, working from one end to the other.

Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of your pan, then add a splash more.

Add shallots to the pan, mix with the oil, then push them to the edges of the pan.

Dredge your beaten veal cutlets in the flour, coating both sides (no egg wash necessary), then add to the pan. Don’t worry about overcrowding the veal, it shrinks and there will be plenty of time for it to cook thoroughly.

Top with your sliced mushrooms, crushed garlic, a bit of tarragon and enough wine to come halfway up the veal cutlets. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

Remove cover, flip, making sure your mushrooms are now in the wine, stir your shallots, and replace cover. Simmer for another 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of your cutlets. Usually, by this time, the wine has reduced to a nice, thick sauce absorbed by the mushrooms and meat, but if necessary, remove the lid and cook down.

And that’s it! Plate your veal and top with your mushrooms, shallots, and sauce!

If you try it, please let me know if you like it!

Check back next Friday for another Foodie Flavor!

Friday’s Flavors: Stuffed Green Lipped Mussels

Hey, Foodies! Happy Friday!

I love seafood, and New Zealand Green Lipped Mussels are no exception – the only thing is that they’re quite big, and they usually come frozen, so:

1) They need to have good flavor so you don’t wind up with an entire mouth full of ick (and let’s face it, fishy ick is the worst kind).

and

2) You can’t just cook them any old way you’d cook a fresh mussel.

Luckily, stuffing and baking is a flavorful option that checks both the above items off the list! This recipe works great as either an appetizer or an entrée.

(This night I was going for a healthy, light meal so I left the bacon out, but I’m first to admit that everything’s better with bacon!)

Takes: 10 minutes prep, 15-20 minutes cooking time

Ingredients:

2 lbs. (about 2 dozen) New Zealand Green Lipped Mussels (usually sold frozen and on the half shell)

1 cup chopped fresh spinach

1 large shallot

3 – 5 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese

(and if you wanted to add some bacon . . . bacon)

Preparation:

Place mussels in the refrigerator overnight to defrost. (Pro tip – make sure they’re in a bag in case they leak AND check to make sure they’re fully defrosted before you begin cooking.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove stems from spinach and chop. Cut shallots and peel garlic. In a small pan melt 2 tablespoons butter. (If you’re using bacon, you can substitute a little bacon fat for one of the tablespoons of butter). Add shallots. Sautee until translucent, add pressed garlic, stir until fragrant, and remove from heat.

Add chopped spinach and stir until cooked but not wilted. Add 1/4 cup of cheese (and bacon if your using it) and mix.

Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and lay your mussels out. (Give each one a press to remove any excess liquid.)

Place about 1/2 spoonful of your cooked mixture onto each mussel. You don’t want to overstuff them because when you go to eat them, the toppings will fall off instead of sticking to the mussel.

Using the rest of the cheese, add a pinch to the top of each mussel.

Place in oven and bake 15-20 minutes (depending on size) until the mussels are cooked thoroughly and the cheese on top is melted.

It’s that easy!

If you try it, please let me know if you like it!

Check back next Friday for another foodie flavor!

Friday’s Flavors: Baked Coconut Shrimp (Keto And Paleo Friendly)

Hey, Foodies! Happy Friday!

Coconut Shrimp are one of those tropical treats that are hard to resist. But they’re breaded. And deep fried. And restaurants usually use sweetened coconut, so they’re sugary.

Then those dipping sauces! Orange Marmalade, Mango Sauce, Pina Colada Sauce, Sweet Chili Sauce . . . you get the picture. All are delicious, but quickly turn a treat into a dietary disaster.

But I’m all about finding healthy ways to still have the foods I want, so I created this recipe for Baked Coconut Shrimp using unsweetened coconut flakes and almond flour instead of bread crumbs. I’ll be honest – it’s not as good as deep fried, sugar coated shrimp, but it is tasty, and best of all, it’s guilt free and kind to your body. So, here it is.

Ingredients:

1-2 pounds shrimp, shells removed (you can leave tails on if you want)

eggs (I’ve found you need 1 egg for every 10 shrimp)

almond flour

unsweetened coconut flakes (you’ll use most of an 8 ounce bag)

garlic powder

onion powder

Old Bay Seasoning

Preparation:

In order of use.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray both sides of an oven safe rack and the cooking side of a baking sheet with oil.

I work in batches because when you use an egg wash, things tend to get clumpy fast, so I use one egg at a time and mix the seasoned flour twice. You can add more coconut as you go along.

In one bowl, beat an egg.

In a second bowl, mix your almond flour with the garlic powder, onion powder, and Old Bay to taste.

In a third, fill with coconut flakes.

Dip your shrimp in the almond flour mix, then the egg wash, letting excess drip off, then cover in coconut. Place on the rack on top of the baking sheet so the shrimp can bake from both sides.

When all your shrimp are coated, place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes for large shrimp (16-20 per pound), adjusting time accordingly for smaller or larger shrimp. If you want the shrimp equally crisp on both sides, you can flip them halfway through, but I’ve found you lose most of your coconut this way. They cook just fine (and it’s less work) if you don’t flip them.

Serve with your favorite dipping sauce. (I enjoy mine with a mustard based sauce.)

And there you have it! Coconut Shrimp with a fraction of the calories and fat, no fry oils, no sugar, no gluten, and no yeast.

If you try it, please let me know if you like it!

Check back next Friday for another Flavor!

Friday’s Flavors: Onion Crusted Grouper

Hey, Foodies! Happy Friday!

Onion Crusted Grouper (Pictured With Sautéed Spinach and Leeks)

My husband had Onion Crusted Grouper at a restaurant last year and thought ‘we’ could do better ‘ourselves’. I knew he wasn’t going to help, but challenge accepted. I did a little research, learned some new things – sour cream on seafood? Yeah. Turns out it’s a secret ingredient in plenty of seafood dips and dishes. Who knew? – and created this recipe which I was reluctant to taste at first but found surprisingly delicious. I’ve made it a half dozen times now and it’s quickly become a favorite!

A tasty meal for two in under 30 minutes!

Ingredients:

Baked, not fried, no MSG.

1 Grouper fillet, about 1 pound

1/3 cup cream cheese (I like chive flavored)

1 tbsp sour cream

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp garlic powder

1 package crispy onions

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with spray oil. Rinse and dry Grouper fillet.

In a measuring cup or bowl, mix cream cheese, sour cream, lemon juice, onion powder and garlic powder together until well blended.

Spread a thin coat of the mixture on one side of the fillet, flip, then spread the remaining mixture on the second side. You want a nice layer of the mixture, but if you apply it too thickly it will melt your onion crust off while baking.

Crush the crispy onions and coat the top side of the Grouper in a thick layer.

Place baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, adjusting time for a thicker/larger or smaller piece of fish.

And that’s it! If you try it, please let me know if you like it!

Check back next Friday for another Foodie Flavor!

Friday’s Flavors: Easy Mediterranean Eggplant (Paleo, Keto, Celiac, Anti-Candida Diet Friendly)

Hey, Foodies! Happy Friday!

Today I have a riddle for you: What do eggplant, basil and garlic have in common?

Answer: This delicious (and nutritious) dish!

All corniness aside, this is another recipe where I have to give credit to my mom., so you know it’s gotta be good! When she first tried it, she sliced the eggplant lengthwise and had my dad grill it, which is great if you have the time and patience to man the grill and if you seek a smoky flavor, like you’d find in baba ghanoush.

Jump forward a few decades and I’ve mastered how to create this dish in either the oven or on the stovetop! The oven preparation is more hands off, but for those times when your oven is already in use, the stovetop method works well too!

Bonus: This recipe is keto, paleo, celiac, and anti-candida diet friendly!

Ingredients:

1 eggplant

2 large cloves garlic

1 handful fresh basil

2 tablespoons capers

olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Oven Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice eggplant widthwise into 1/4 – 1/2 slices. Using a bowl, dip slices in olive oil until well coated. Place slices on a baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes, flip, and bake another 10-15 minutes. (The thicker your slices, the more time they’ll need.)

Mix 2/3 cup olive oil, 2 large crushed garlic cloves, a handful of basil chopped finely into ribbons, 2 tablespoons capers, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well.

Remove cooked eggplant from baking sheet, put a serving on a plate, and spoon mixture on top.

Stovetop Preparation:

Cube eggplant into 1 inch chunks.

Heat 1/2 cup olive oil over medium heat. Add eggplant. Cook until soft, stirring frequently and adding additional olive oil as needed, about 10-15 minutes.

Add crushed garlic, capers, basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until garlic is fragrant, and serve.

Any leftovers (if you have them) taste great the next day!

I’m always looking for new flavors to try! What’s your favorite way to cook eggplant?

If you try it, please let me know if you like it! Check back next Friday for another Foodie Flavor!

Fridays Flavors: Easy Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Hey, Foodies! Happy Friday!

What comes to mind when you think about Brussel Sprouts?

A childhood fear of being forced to eat them?

That they’ve been hailed as a ‘superfood’?

Or that they’re trendy in a deep fried or fattened up with bacon kind of way? (Which, as much as I love bacon, kind of defeats the purpose of a vegetable.)

The truth is, Brussel Sprouts are incredibly good for you, but it seems like there’s a bit of confusion about what to do with them. And honestly, prepared the wrong way, that childhood fear just might be realized.

But with just a tiny bit of effort, you can make Brussel Sprouts that are both delicious and nutritious!

(This same roasting method also works for broccoli, cauliflower and fennel!)

Ingredients:

Brussel Sprouts

Olive Oil

Pepper to Taste

Garlic Salt to Taste

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350.

Cut off the butt end of the sprouts, then slice up the middle. Remove any loose or damaged leaves.

Dip Brussel Sprout halves into a bowl of olive oil, and place on a baking sheet cut edge down. Be generous with the olive oil – it’ll take more than you think – because you want the sprouts to roast until they caramelize, but if they’re too dry, they’ll get crusty and dry instead.

Sprinkle oiled sprouts with Garlic Salt and Pepper to taste.

Roast in oven for 30 minutes (adjusting for smaller or larger than normal sized sprouts). The top side should turn color a darker green and begin to brown. The bottoms should caramelize and look like heated sugar (think the top of Crème Brule). And that’s it. Tender, flavorful, and healthy!

How do you cook your Brussel Sprouts?

If you try it please let me know if you like it, and don’t forget to check back next week for more Friday Flavors!

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