After being inspired by watching the Food Network at the gym this morning, (Ina Garten was baking some cookies. Is it just me, or does her voice always have a condescending tone to it?) I set out with the intention of making a Chopped-worthy meal for my lunch, using only the hodge-podge of ingredients found in my home. Unlike my apartment, my house does not have a plethora of produce or whole grains…it does, however, have lots of cheese. And frozen foods. And pasta. I wanted to use the leftover shrimp from the other night, so my first plan was to make a sort of Mexican-flavors inspired bowl with black beans, rice, shrimp, corn, and salsa.
Except there were no black beans in the pantry. So, I went back to the drawing board.
I didn’t really feel like making pasta, but I found some awesome looking tomatoes in the fridge, so I decided to just do some rice with corn, shrimp, seasoning, and fresh chopped tomato. So, I made the rice (Trader Joe’s frozen brown rice, which I should mention is ridiculously easy and convenient, and worth keeping in your freezer. Thanks, mom) and I sauteed some shrimp with the corn. I added the cooked rice to the pan, along with some spices and a bit of habanero-lime salsa.
And then I went to cut the tomato. It was this awesome looking, big and juice heirloom tomato.
…Or so I thought. Until I sliced into it and it was very clearly not a tomato; a quick Google search informed me that it was, in fact, a persimmon.
Now, this was probably a prime moment for me to put my Chopped skills to the test, but I’m only somewhat ashamed to admit that I failed the test. I didn’t find some ingenious way to add the persimmon to my meal; I just ate it by itself, and I ate my shrimp bowl concoction by itself, sans persimmon/heirloom tomato. For the record, it was still good, albeit boring and nowhere near Food Network worthy.
On a sweeter note, my mom asked me if I wanted to make cookies for her to bring to a cookie exchange party she’s going to tomorrow, and of course I said yes because a) I have nothing better to do and b) I have a not-so-minor baking addiction. After scouring Pinterest, my favorite baking blogs, and the vast array of cookie books my mom has, I decided to do some peppermint swirl cookies. Well technically, I wanted to make these awesome sounding pistachio white chocolate cranberry cookies, but my mom wanted me to make something that “looked prettier” (whatever, I thought they looked pretty snazzy). There are about a hundred peppermint cookie recipes online, and most include pieces of crushed peppermint. But this recipe on Sinful Southern Sweets looked really pretty, and it sounded simple enough to make. After a bit of research, I saw that Sinful Southern Sweets’s recipe was essentially the same as a Betty Crocker one (found here). I ended up following the recipes *almost* exactly, except for a few small changes to the batter and preparation. I added a bit of egg to help with the texture of the dough; without the egg, I found it to be a bit too crumbly and “chalky” for my liking. Because I was making these for a large amount of people, I made two batches of this recipe, and just made one batch the plain white/vanilla, and the other batch the red/peppermint.
The end result? Buttery, sweet cookies with a hint of peppermint. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure I would make this recipe again, but they did taste good and will serve their purpose. The cookies didn’t expand very much, so I was able to fit a lot on the sheet at once. I rolled them in large sugar granules as well to give them a sort of sparkly-ness. I realized as I started slicing the dough logs that I didn’t fold enough; as a result, the peppermint “swirl” in my cookies was more of a “c” shape…oh well 😛
Peppermint Swirl Christmas Cookies (makes approx. 2 dozen cookies)
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 1/4 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 egg* (because I made two batches, I whisked one egg in a small bowl and split it between the two dough batches. If you are just making one batch, whisk the egg and pour in half)
1 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
about 1/4 tsp red food coloring
2 tbsp granulated sugar for rolling (optional)
1. In a large bowl, beat the butter with the powdered sugar and vanilla extract on medium speed. Add granulated sugar and egg, mix until combined. Stir in the flour in small batches; it helps to mix with a spoon or your hands at this point, as the dough gets too thick for most hand mixers to handle.
2. Divide dough in half. Add peppermint extract and food coloring to one of the halves. Mix until extract and coloring are incorporated, then chill both doughs for about 30 minutes. (Note: I made my dough the day before I baked it, and I somewhat stupidly let it chill overnight instead of 30 minutes. You can do this, but you’ll have to let it soften, which will take HOURS. If you want to let it sit overnight, finish rolling out the dough logs in the next step first.)
3. Once you’ve let the dough chill, divide both sets of dough in half. On a floured surface, roll out half of the white dough in a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. Do the same with half of the red dough. Place the red on top of the white and fold the dough in half, then half again. Flatten dough and roll into a tight log. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.
4. Preheat oven to 350F. Cut dough into 1/4″ slices and place about 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Line edges of each cookie with granulated sugar, or sprinkle sugar on tops of cookies.
5. Bake for 8-11 minutes. Remove from the sheet immediately and let cool on a wire rack.
If you don’t feel like doing all that folding and rolling, you can also just do what the Betty Crocker recipe did and essentially just make long ropes / twist them together.