Red Velvet Cookies

Red Velvet Cake’s popularity extends far beyond its namesake it seems. Dessert enthusiasts have adapted the original recipe to craft their own, custom made versions of cupcakes, lattes, sundaes, waffles, cookies, pancakes, ice cream etc.

The precise origins of Red Velvet Cake remain elusive, as several times and places have claimed partial credit for producing it, with the different elements coming together as separate puzzle pieces.

One common legend is that it was first created in the kitchens of New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel. Another story surrounding the cake is that the Canadian department store Eaton’s was responsible for its creation, as it was a popular choice in the retail chain’s bakeries and restaurants in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Although the company promoted the cake by saying the recipe was a closely guarded secret, the cake’s deepest roots appear to be traced more accurately back to the culinary traditions of the USA’s southern states.

The term ‘velvet’ was used in Victorian England to describe cakes with a fine crumb and a soft texture, distinct from other confections such as pound or sponge cakes. In the late 1800’s, what we know as brown sugar was commonly known as ‘red sugar’. So, at that time any cake made with red sugar and fine cake flour could be referred to as a red velvet cake.

Attempts to explain the red cake’s inception include use of boiled beets by bakers affected by rationing during WWII to enhance the color of their cakes. Another possibility is that because natural pigment of cocoa takes on a reddish hue when mixed with acidic substances such as vinegar or buttermilk, both of which may well have been included in early chocolate velvet cakes. Unlike today’s more common Dutch process cocoa, the PH of natural cocoa does cause a chemical reaction with acid causing a very slight reddish hue.

The notoriety of red velvet cake was given a huge boost in the 1930’s when the Adams Extract Company of Gonzales, Texas began marketing its food coloring and flavorings with recipes and photos of red velvet cake. Using food coloring was quicker and better, thus becoming a regular part of the red velvet recipe.

Now it seems when it comes to the white icing, the traditional kind used was a French style roux icing, which is also known as ‘ermine’ icing. These days, however, cream cheese frosting and buttercream frosting are much more popular and synonymous with the red velvet cake.

I’m not a food historian but as you’ve probably noticed, I do love delving into food history. Today’s blog recipe is for some red velvet cookies that are perfect for the Christmas season. Some time ago I saw this idea on the internet. I tucked it away in my ‘must-try’ file …. so today’s the day I’m trying my adapted version.

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Red Velvet Cookies
Votes: 2
Rating: 5
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
COOKIES
Ingredients
Cream Cheese Filling
Icing
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
COOKIES
Ingredients
Cream Cheese Filling
Icing
Votes: 2
Rating: 5
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Rate this recipe!
Instructions
Cream Cheese Filling
  1. FILLING SHOULD BE MADE AT LEAST 2 HOURS IN ADVANCE OR THE DAY BEFORE.. In a medium bowl and using hand-held mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed until creamy and light, 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. On low speed, gradually add in the powdered sugar, flour, vanilla & salt. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the filling is light and fluffy.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a tablespoon-size scoop, scoop out 15 rounded tablespoons of cream cheese frosting onto the prepared baking sheet. Freeze until solid, at least 2 hours and up to overnight. You may have a few scoops left over.
Cookies
  1. Line another baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder and salt to combine; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or whisk, beat the softened butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar on medium speed until well combined.
  4. Add in the egg, vanilla & red food coloring; mix on medium speed until mixture is smooth and emulsified with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let the mixture rest for 3 minutes, then mix for another 30 seconds.
  5. Repeat the process of resting and mixing 2 more times (a total of 3 rests and 4 mixes) until mixture is thick, smooth, and slightly lightened in color. This step helps dissolve the sugar better, resulting in a thicker, chewier cookie.
  6. Stir in the vinegar. The mixture will separate slightly.
  7. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Do not overmix.
  8. If the dough feels too soft or warm to scoop & shape into firm balls, cover and refrigerate for about ½ an hour or until firmer. Using the same scoop you used for the cream cheese balls, scoop out 2 scoops of dough per cookie onto the lined baking sheet, forming 15 equal dough balls.
  9. Using the back of a wooden spoon handle or your thumb, make a deep indentation into each dough ball.
  10. Take the cream cheese filling scoops out of the freezer and working quickly, peel the filling scoops from the baking sheet and place one inside each indentation of every dough ball. If you're working in a warm kitchen, you might want to keep the frosting scoops in the freezer, taking only one by one as you work, to prevent them from softening.
  11. Gather the dough up over the filling scoops to completely cover them. Roll the dough into smooth balls, making sure the frosting is completely wrapped inside and nothing is peaking out.
  12. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, then either bake immediately or transfer to a large zipper lock bag and freeze for up to 1 month.
  13. Preheat oven to 350 F. Adjust oven rack to middle position.
  14. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide cookie balls between the 2 sheets, spacing them at least 2 inches apart.
  15. Bake until the cookies flatten with a slight dome, and the outer edges start to set yet centers are soft and puffy, 10 to 11 minutes. The centers will feel undone, but they shouldn't be shiny or sticky. DO NOT OVERBAKE or you'll get hard cookies. The cookies will continue to bake after they come out of the oven from the residual heat of the baking sheet.
  16. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for at least 15 minutes before serving. They taste best at room temperature when the cream cheese filling is no longer warm. If you'd like to decorate them with the cream cheese icing, make sure that they've cooled down completely before doing so.
Decorate
  1. In a small bowl, beat together icing ingredients until smooth. Place in a small zip-lock bag & cut a tiny tip off one corner. Drizzle over cookies to create a pattern. Allow icing to set.
Recipe Notes
  • Brion & I found these cookies were best eaten straight out of the FREEZER! I know it seems strange but they are an extremely soft cookie & never really freeze hard. Cold but soft .... Yum!

Saskatoon Berry Tarts

Saskatoon berries are very high on my list of nostalgic memories from my childhood. How these little berries can evoke such a flood of treasured thoughts is amazing. Our family farm was located in Southern Alberta, (Canada). If you were to stand on our farmhouse, west veranda, the sight of the ‘foothills’ came into view (foothills are an upland area that flank the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains).

How wonderful it was to be able to pack a picnic lunch on a Sunday afternoon and be able to drive there. It was like a whole different world. A landscape of long ridges and rolling hills covered in native lodgepole pine, aspens and spruce trees. The small streams wound their way through meadows of dwarf birch, willow and prairie grasses. You could easily come across some of the beautiful wildlife such as elk, moose or deer that lived there.

This is where our family would go to pick saskatoon berries. Very often we were accompanied by family friends or relatives. It was such a great time, everyone picking berries together, eating Mom’s fabulous fried chicken and potato salad (etc. etc.) for our picnic lunch. I was looking at some pictures from those times. We must have had some hot dogs on one occasion and I burnt my mouth it seems. What priceless memories!

With ‘saskatoon season’ in full swing, Brion and I thought it would be great to pick our own this year. It certainly can’t get any fresher than that. We chose the U-Pick farm called GROVE BERRY PATCH. This is a family owned and operated farm with 20 acres of saskatoon berries and 1 acre of raspberries, black currants, highbush cranberries and vegetables. They are located 1.5 km south off Highway 16A on Spruce Valley Road, Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada.

It was such a nice little adventure. The morning was beautiful and the atmosphere of the berry farm and its family owners was very enjoyable. We picked a pail full of gorgeous saskatoons in a short space of time. I had originally started out with thinking I would post one recipe but of course, its turns out to be three. They consist of some Saskatoon Rhubarb Tarts, Saskatoon Butter Tarts and some Saskatoon Cream Cheese Tarts. Yum!

We are adding a few pics, not only of the tarts but some from the berry farm as well as a couple from my childhood days. Hope you enjoy the blog.

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Saskatoon Berry Tarts
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Course dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Pastry
Filling for SASKATOON RHUBARB TARTS
Filling for SASKATOON BUTTER TARTS
Filling for CREAM CHEESE SASKATOON TARTS
Course dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Pastry
Filling for SASKATOON RHUBARB TARTS
Filling for SASKATOON BUTTER TARTS
Filling for CREAM CHEESE SASKATOON TARTS
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Pastry
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder & salt until completely combined. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or fork.
  2. Measure the vinegar into a liquid measuring cup, then add enough ice cold water to make 1/2 cup. Pour over flour mixture, gently stir with a fork ONLY until combined. Wrap dough in plastic wrap & place in refrigerator for a minimum of an hour so it can chill well. When ready to use, Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface. Using a 3 1/2" cookie cutter, cut out tart shells & place them in tart pans.
Saskatoon Rhubarb Filling & Streusel
  1. In a small saucepan, combine saskatoons, diced rhubarb, sugar & cardamom. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine water, lemon juice & cornstarch. Whisk together to make a slurry. Add to to saucepan & cook on medium heat, stirring until mixture becomes thickened. Remove from heat; add vanilla & allow to cool before using.
  2. FOR STREUSAL: Place all streusal ingredients in a small dish & combine with finger tips until crumbly. Spoon berry filling into tart shells & top with streusal. Bake at 375 F. until pastry is golden.
Saskatoon Butter Tart Filling
  1. FOR BERRY TOPPING: In a small saucepan, mix together berries & water; simmer for 10 minutes over low-medium heat. In a separate bowl, mix together sugar & cornstarch then add to the berries & combine. Stir in lemon juice; simmer until mixture slightly thickens. Set aside to cool.
  2. FOR BUTTER TART LAYER: First beat together eggs. In a saucepan, melt the butter then add sugar, vanilla, cream, raisins & beaten eggs. Bring to a boil over medium heat & boil for 3 minutes. Set aside to cool. TO ASSEMBLE: Place a heaping Tbsp of butter tart mixture into each shell, then fill remainder of the tart shell with the berry topping mixture. DO NOT MIX. Bake at 375 F. for 15-18 minutes or until pastry is golden. Cool before removing from tart pans.
Cream Cheese Saskatoon Tart Filling
  1. FOR BERRY TOPPING: Crush 1 cup of saskatoon berries & place in a small saucepan with 1 cup of water. Simmer about 2 minutes. Strain & return berry juice only to saucepan. Combine sugar & cornstarch; add to sauce. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until mixture is thick & clear. Remove from heat & stir in remaining 2 cups of saskatoons to glaze & stir gently. Pre-bake tart shells.
  2. FOR CREAM CHEESE LAYER: In a small bowl, blend together cream cheese, lemon zest, sugar & heavy cream. Divide cream cheese mixture between baked tart shells. Top with generous portions of berry topping & serve.
Recipe Notes
  • The pastry recipe will yield about 48 mini tarts. I had doubled the pastry recipe because I wanted to make all 3 kinds. It's so nice to have some in the freezer for future use.
  • If you make the pastry in 2 separate batches it seems to be nicer for some reason.
  • If you happen to have any filling left over, it freezes well for another time.

 

Chicken Parmigiana with Basil Sauce

From what I understand, the global dish called chicken parmigiana is a variation on the Italian entree known as eggplant parmigiana. Simply put, you deep fry eggplant, add cheese and tomato sauce and bake it. At some point in time, various regions in the world with large Italian immigrant populations, realized chicken would be an excellent alternative to the eggplant and chicken parmigiana evolved.

In America, the dish became popular around 1958. Often the name has been simplified to just ‘chicken parm‘. Usually composed of fried or breaded chicken fillets, smothered in mozzarella (or provolone), parmesan and tomato sauce all of which is then baked. Another version is using veal instead of chicken. Parmigiana is traditionally served over hot pasta as the main entree but it has also become a sandwich filling favored in subs, hoagies, etc.

In today’s recipe, I’m using parmesan cheese but omitting the mozzarella-tomato sauce. I wanted to accent the flavor with fresh basil in the sauce instead. We quite enjoyed it.

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Chicken Parmigiana with Basil Sauce
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings
Ingredients
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Chicken
  1. In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, cheese & parsley. Chop bacon finely & fry until crisp; drain. Add bacon to breadcrumb mixture.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a saucepan, melt butter, add minced garlic, Worcestershire sauce & dry mustard. Mix well. Dip chicken fillets in butter mixture & place in a shallow ovenproof dish. Press crumb mixture on top of each fillet.
  3. Bake, uncovered for 20 - 25 minutes.
Basil Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, combine oil, vinegar, minced garlic, finely chopped basil leaves & cream; stir until heated through. Add egg yolk & stir until sauce thickens. Do not boil. Season with salt & pepper. Serve over chicken parmigiana.

Pita Pockets

From what archaeologists can determine, pita bread originated with peoples west of the Mediterranean. Pitas have been both a bread and a utensil throughout the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean.It is a rather  simple bread that could be made with limited technology. Pitas are cooked quickly at a relatively high temperature. The flat dough expands dramatically to form an interior pocket from steam. 

Pitas’ popularity is partially attributed to using the pocket like a sandwich bread. Many traditional cultures use the pita more like a soft taco or the pita is pulled apart into pieces and dipped in a variety of sauces.

The possibilities of being able to pack, dip or wrap whatever you choose in the pita bread is limitless. Their taste can only be appreciated when eating your pita with different foods that will compliment them.

Although pitas are enjoyed all through the year, they seem like an easy summer meal to enjoy.


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Pita Pockets

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Servings

Servings

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Instructions
Filling
  1. In a large skillet, cook beef, onion & green pepper over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Add the Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, garlic powder, cumin & Italian seasoning; mix well. Simmer, uncovered, for 5-10 minutes.

Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, bring all the sauce ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 5-10 minutes. Spoon meat mixture into pita halves; top with sauce, tomatoes & lettuce.

Barbecue Salads x Five

No barbecue is complete without adding a few salads. More than just greens topped with a dressing, there are many versions of coleslaw and pasta salads as well as vegetable and gelatin salads. Without a doubt, you can make them as simple or fancy as you like or have the time for.

Every family seems to develop its own salad favorites. For our family, it was my mother’s ‘German’ version of potato salad. This was not the ‘Hot German Potato Salad’ which you most often see in recipe books. Her’s was a very basic potato salad, not a lot of ingredients, but the dressing was what made it special to us. Like so many German recipes it had that sweet-sour taste.

Over the years, either in the commercial food industry or at company barbecues, etc. I have used and shared her recipe many times. It has never failed to draw great reviews but strangely enough I think my husband is the only person I’ve known who didn’t care for potato salad in any fashion.

There are endless ideas for barbecue salads. In today’s blog I thought it would be nice to post a medley of five different kinds. I think you will find they are reasonably quick and easy to prepare as well as good accompaniments to most any meat being barbecued.

        Potato Salad   –   Chick Pea Pasta Salad   –   Candied Nut & Gorgonzola Salad                          Barley, Corn & Pepper Salad – Fresh Spinach & Vegetable Salad 

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Barbecue Salads x Five
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Servings
servings
Ingredients
Potato Salad
Candied Nut & Gorgonzola Salad
Barley, Corn & Pepper Salad
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Potato Salad
Candied Nut & Gorgonzola Salad
Barley, Corn & Pepper Salad
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Potato Salad
  1. Cook potatoes in salted water. Cool, peel & cube. Combine potatoes, eggs, & onion. Blend together dressing ingredients & pour over potato mixture; mix well. Cover & refrigerate for several hours. Just before serving time, add sliced radishes & more salt if necessary. Mix well.
Chick Pea Pasta Salad
  1. Cook pasta according to pkg. directions. Drain & rinse under cold running water until cold. Combine pasta with next 8 ingredients in a medium bowl. Pour dressing over salad; toss to coat evenly. Cover & refrigerate for several hours. Arrange greens on serving plate & top with chick pea mixture or mix greens into salad, your choice.
Candied Nut & Gorgonzola Salad
  1. In a skillet over medium heat, melt sugar stirring constantly. Add nuts, stir until nuts are coated. Remove nuts from skillet; spreading them out on a sheet of aluminium foil to cool. In a large bowl, combine greens, dried fruit & Gorgonzola cheese; refrigerate. At serving time, combine salad with dressing, toss gently; add candied nuts & toss again.
Barley, Corn & Pepper Salad
  1. Cook barley to desired tenderness. Drain; rinse with cold water. In a large bowl, combine all salad ingredients; toss well. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine all dressing ingredients; shake well. Pour dressing over salad; toss to combine. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
Fresh Spinach & Vegetable Salad
  1. Combine first 8 ingredients in a large bowl. At serving time, drizzle with dressing choice & top with toasted seeds.
Recipe Notes
  • If you like raw cauliflower, try adding a cup of it sliced along with some crisp, crumbled bacon bits to your potato salad. It adds a whole new dimension to an old favorite.