Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Jam Thumprint Cookies

Christmas is almost here! Of course that means we are all looking for some yummy cookies to swap at a party, leave out for St. Nicholas, or just share with friends and family. I'm a fan of fruity desserts, so jam thumbprints are one of my favorites. You can fill them with whatever flavor jam you want, heck you could even go crazy and use a fruit curd, or even chocolate or caramel! - but these ones happen to feature a holiday flavor that is very special to my family. I filled mine with homemade kumquat marmalade.

For more about our family's kumquat traditions and some more recipes check out Kumquat Christmas Drink, and Kumquat Refrigerator Pie.

Jam Thumbprint Cookies

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup softened butter
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups sifted flour
1/2 tsp salt

Beat together sugar, butter, salt, and vanilla until fluffy. Add flour and mix well.

Chill the dough for at least an hour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Shape chilled dough in to small balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Make a small dent in the center of each dough ball with your thumb. Bake for 7 - 9 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool. Once the cookies are cool, fill the middle with your favorite jam or other filling.  Enjoy!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Feast of St. Juan Diego Enchiladas

We made one of my favorite things for Wednesday's feast of St. Juan Diego, enchiladas! The recipe comes from my great-grandma Martinez, where most of our family's authentic Mexican recipes come from. If you love Mexican food, don't forget to check out her recipe for arroz con pollo.

   Sometimes when life gets busy and crazy, I don't always get the chance to do the feast day celebrations that I would like to. But one that we get in every single year is St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe. It helps that not only are they tied together , (You can't tell the story of one without the other!),  but their feast days are a just a few days apart, giving me the flexibility to cook Mexican on either St. Juan Diego's feast day, Our Lady's or some day in between the two. And of course these are especially special feast days for our family not only because St. Juan Diego is my son's favorite, but because it helps us to celebrate my family's Mexican heritage.

   Now, most people in these here United States would think of an enchilada as a filled and rolled tortilla smothered in sauce. These enchiladas are not like that, and in fact, the first time I saw an enchilada made that way, it baffled me. In my world, that just not how it's done! For these enchiladas, the tortilla is dredged in a chili powder slurry before being dipped in hot oil and then filled and baked. Now, I've never been to Mexico or eaten an enchilada in Mexican town, (tacos yes, enchiladas no), so I can't say that everyone else is doing it wrong, but this is the way my Mexican mama taught me to make them, and her's before that. If my little brother is coming over, make sure you make a big tray, because these are his favorite.

Enchiladas (this is one of those recipes where I don't measure too much!)

Ground beef, 1-2 pounds
Potatoes, about the same volume as the beef
Onions and garlic, diced and minced (optional)
Chili powder (get a big one, you're going to need a lot!)
Salt and pepper
Flour toritillas
Vegetable oil or shortening
Cheddar cheese, shredded

For the Filling:
Peel, dice, and boil the potatoes until tender. While the potatoes are boiling, brown the ground beef with the onions and garlic. Season with salt, pepper, and a whole bunch of chili powder. Drain the potatoes, add them to the meat, and mix then together.

Now it's time to get ready to put things together. You will be dealing with hot oil and a messy red chili powder slurry, so call the big kids and adults together to form an assembly line, and make sure you have everything set up and ready to go before you start. You will need:

 - A pie tin or baking dish filled with a mixture of chili powder and water. The word I've been using is slurry, It should be somewhere between a liquid and a paste.
- a skillet with with hot oil or melted shortening
- a plate for receiving hot tortillas
- a plate for rolling and filling
- a 9 x 13 baking dish or two for completed enchiladas

1. Dip the entire tortilla in the chili powder mixture, completely coating it.

2. Use tongs to dip the coated tortilla in the hot oil. Do not let the tortilla get crispy! You only need to dip it for a few seconds. Put the tortilla on the receiving plate.

3. Put a heaping spoonful of filling into the tortilla, roll it up, and place seam side down in the baking dish. Yes, I do this with tortillas that have just come out of hot oil. It usually involves  a bit of saying. "Hot, hot, hot!" while I shake my hands and jump up down a little. Be careful out there folks!

 Once you have filled your pan, and you can squeeze a lot in there - if you think it's full, just squish them together a bit and you can fit in more - cover the top with the shredded cheese  and bake in the oven at 350 degrees until the cheese is melted and everything is heated through.

Eat and enjoy! We like to serve them with some Spanish rice or refried beans on the side. If you feel the need to top them with things like salsa and sour cream just don't tell me about it.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Heavenly Angel Food Cake

    As much as like to decorate cakes, I'm not really a big cake eater when it comes to traditional American style cakes covered in frosting. Sure, when I was little I enjoyed licking the frosting off, but as an adult even the frosting can be a little much sometimes. To tell the truth, I'd much rather have a birthday pie than a birthday cake. Perhaps cherry, or one of my favorite fruit combinations - blueberry and rhubarb, also known in our house as bluebarb.

   So no yellow cake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles for me. But if I'm making a cake that I'd really enjoy eating myself, it's got to be angel food cake; a light and fluffy pillow of delicate sweetness, and the perfect thing to pair with fresh fruit and whipped cream, yum!

  Angel food cake has actually become a Thanksgiving tradition in our family because it is my grandfather's favorite dessert. When I became old enough to bring my own contributions to our annual celebration of Thanksgiving in the barn, I started bringing homemade angel food cake as a special treat for him. When grandpa was not able to come out to the barn anymore, I started making two angel food cakes, one for everyone else, and one just for him. He is a World War II hero who raised nine children, I'd say he deserves it. This does mean we go through a lot of eggs in November! Now I try to bring an angel food cake with me every time we visit, not just for Thanksgiving, so it's kind of my specialty. And trust me, once you've had homemade angel food cake made from scratch, a store bought one just can't compare!

Heavenly Angel Food Cake

12 eggs
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar (optional - I actually leave this out quite frequently!)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
14/ teaspoon salt
1 cup white sugar

1. Seperate the eggs. Put the whites in a large mixing bowl, and set the yolks aside for some other use like fruit curd or pasta. I like to seperate the eggs over a small bowl, and transfer the the egg white into the big bowl after I seperate each egg, so that way if I mess up and break the yolk, I don't mess up the whole thing.

2. Add the cream of tartar, extracts, and salt to the egg whites. As you gradually add the white sugar, beat on high until stiff peaks form. Set aside

3. Sift the powdered sugar and flour together three times. Gently fold this into the egg white mixture. Transfer the cake batter into an ungreased tube pan. (Ungreased is very important! Angel food cakes are cooled upside down. One time my mom wasn't thinking and greased the pan and the whole thing slid out onto the counter making a big mess!)

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 - 45 minutes. Turn upside down to cool completely before removing from the pan. Traditionally you would rest the pan on top of a glass pop bottle or something, but nowadays most angel food cake pans have little "feet" to rest on when you flip them over.

Serve plain or with toppings of your choice, and enjoy!

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