Friday, December 26, 2008

Roasted Red Pepper Risotto

Watching Hell's Kitchen has inspired me to want to try risotto. I was hopeful that Gordon Ramsey wouldn't show up in my kitchen screaming, "YOU'RE SWEATING IN THE RISOTTO! IT'S SAAAWLTY!" Luckily, all went well for my first risotto, it was much easier than I expected. I did make the mistake of using regular chicken broth instead of low sodium, so the finished product turned out a little more salty than I would have liked. But I assure you, it had nothing to do with sweat and everything to do with salty broth. However, it did result in me doing some giggling and a Ramsey IT'S SAAAAAWLTY! impression during Christmas dinner.

Roasted Red Pepper Risotto



  • about 3 cups of chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth (I heated about 4 cups and used most of it)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup diced onions
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 roasted red pepper


  • Heat the stock in a saucepan and keep hot over low heat.
  • Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a separate medium-sized pot. Add the onion and cook until it turns translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.
  • Add the rice to the onion mixture, stir and turn the heat to low. Add about 1 cup of the hot stock to the rice mixture, and stir slowly until the stock is absorbed.
  • Continue to add the stock 1 cup at a time, stirring slowly, letting the rice absorb the stock before adding more.
  • The risotto is cooked when it is creamy on the outside and slightly firm (al dente) in the center, about 20 to 25 minutes in all. Stir in half of the Parmesan cheese and half of the red pepper strips. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If the risotto is too thick, add a little more stock until it becomes creamy.
  • Divide the risotto into serving dishes and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and red pepper strips.

Jalapeno Popper Dip

PLEASE don't judge this dip based soley on it's looks! This boring, blah looking little dip packs some serious flavor. I was looking for a last minute appetizer for Christmas, and this one was listed on as one of the top 20 appetizers. It had 663 reviews and a 5 star rating. My husband loves anything jalapeno, so it was an easy choice. I knew my husband would like it, but I was surprised how much I loved it. I'm pretty sure I ate most of it myself. Apparently I want to see how much weight I can possibly gain over the holidays. Anyway, forget about the calories for a day and enjoy!

Jalapeno Popper Dip


  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies, drained
  • 2 ounces canned diced jalapeno peppers, drained (I used most of the 6 ounce can and did not think the dip was too spicy)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese


  • Stir together cream cheese and mayonnaise in a large bowl until smooth. Stir in green chiles and jalapeno peppers. Pour mixture into a microwave safe serving dish, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
  • Microwave on High until hot, about 3 minutes. (you can also bake it in the oven to brown the cheese - bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes).

Christmas cut out cookies!

Decorating sugar cookies is definitely my new favorite hobby. For recipes and instructions, see my cookie bouquet post. I'm going to plan on getting an earlier start next year so I have time to make more designs. Here are my Christmas trees - my first few were kind of ugly until I got a little better at the swirls:

And my snowflakes! I'm really proud of these. I outlined them and flooded with blue icing then let them dry. The next morning I piped the design on in white, and dipped the cooking into sanding sugar while the icing was still wet. Perfectly sparkley!

Cherry Shortbread Cookies

Another one of my favorite Christmas cookies! This is another recipe that was passed down to me from my wonderful aunt. Although I only made red ones this year, you can also use green maraschino cherries and green food coloring, and dip them into milk chocolate.

Cherry Shortbread Cookies


  • ½ cup chopped, drained maraschino cherries (put on paper towels to drain after chopping)
  • 1 ¼ cup flour
  • ½ cup butter
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ tablespoon mlk
  • ½ tablespoon almond extract
  • food coloring
  • 1 bag of white chocolate chips


  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  • Stir together flour and sugar
  • Cut in butter using a stand mixer or pastry blender until dough resembles fine crumbs
  • Stir in cherries, milk, food coloring, and almond extract
  • Form dough into a ball, knead until smooth
  • Roll dough into 1" balls, use the bottom of a glass to flatten them (I put a small piece of parchment paper on top of the dough first, so the dough does not stick to the glass)
  • Bake for 20 minutes until the cookies are firm and light brown on the bottom
  • Let cookies cool competely
  • Melt white chocolate chips in microwave
  • Dip half of each cookie into white chocolate, place on parchment paper to dry

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Pinwheel cookies

Every year when I make these cookies, I swear that I'm never going to make them again. Then I think about how pretty they are and how nice they look on a cookie tray, and I cave. These are very labor intense - it involves rolling out 9 pieces of dough almost paper thin, but I think it's worth it! The dough is a shortbread dough, so it's not overly sweet, and the cookies taste great with coffee or hot cocoa.

Pinwheel Cookies
Original Source: Unknown, my aunt gave me the recipe

Ingredients: (you will need to make 3 separate batches, so when you are gathering ingredients, keep in mind that you will need 3 times the amounts listed below):

  • 1 ¼ cup flour
  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ tablespoon almond extract
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ tablespoon milk
  • food coloring (red and green)
  • pearl sugar


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • Stir together flour and sugar
  • Cut in butter using either a stand mixer or pastry blender
  • Stir in milk, almond extract and food coloring
  • Form dough into a ball and knead until smooth (the dough is dry, it will take some work to incorporate all the ingredients into a smooth dough)
  • Make 3 batches - red, green and white
  • Chill dough 1 hour
  • Separate each color of dough into 3rds for a total of 9 balls of dough
  • Roll each ball of dough into an 8x10 sheet on wax paper
  • Chill sheets of dough until firm
  • Layer one sheet of each color, brushing lightly with milk in between layers
  • Roll jellyroll style from the 10" end, rolling as tightly as possible
  • Chill logs until firm (I put them in the freezer for about 30 minutes)
  • Brush logs with beaten egg white, then roll in pearl sugar
  • Slice the logs into ¼" slices
  • Bake on parchment paper for 10 minutes

Oreo bark

A coworker of mine gave me a little tin of this stuff last Christmas, and I was hooked. It is SO good, and I'll warn you, pretty addictive. An added bonus is that it is a cinch to make, but looks pretty impressive.

Oreo Bark

  • 12 oz. milk chocolate (I use Ghirardelli chips)
  • 6 oz. white chocolate
  • 15 Oreos


  • Put the oreos into a large ziploc bag and crush them until they are in small, bite-sized pieces.
  • Melt the milk chocolate in a double boiler.
  • When chocolate is melted and smooth, carefully stir in Oreo pieces.
  • Spread the mixture onto a foil covered cookie sheet, trying to keep the cookies in an even layer.
  • Melt white chocolate in microwave and drizzle it on top. Use a knife to swirl.
  • Let cool & harden (I put the tray in the refrigerator to speed things up). Break into bite sized pieces.