Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Homemade Enchiladas And An Early Halloween Celebration

Mary and Cheryl helped me make the enchilada filling today using canned goods donated to us by Shepard Chiropractic Clinic. I opened the cans, Mary emptied the cans and Cheryl stirred. It was teamwork at its best.

We celebrated Halloween a day early at the Wednesday Community Meal by dressing up and serving homemade enchiladas.

Being the last and fifth Wednesday of the month, we were expecting to be busy today and boy were we right. We served 490 meals during our two hour service.
Today's meal - enchiladas topped with sour cream, roasted potatoes and roasted veggies.

The enchiladas were made lasagna-style which is the fastest way I know how to put them together. We first made a filling using black beans, kidney beans, refried beans, ground beef and onions. And then made a quick enchilada sauce by using canned tomato sauce and seasoning it with cumin, chili powder and garlic.

We then assembled them by filling large hotel pans with multiple layers of flour tortillas, filling and cheese. The enchilada sauce topped a final and top layer of tortillas and then it was into the oven to bake uncovered for 20 minutes.

After the bit of baking, we added sliced black olives and more cheese, covered them with aluminum foil and baked for another 20 minutes until they were bubbly and the cheese was melted.

All of the canned items we used today, and we used a lot, were donated to us by Shepard Chiropractic Clinic which recently held a canned food drive just for us. We are so appreciative of their support and generosity. Besides the tortillas, cheese, onions and beef, the enchiladas were put together using ingredients solely from them. Thank you Shepard Chiropractic Clinic! You helped us feed hundreds!

Today was also fun because it was an early Halloween celebration and many of the volunteers dressed for the occasion. We even served a special Halloween dessert made by Cheryl - slices of glazed chocolate and vanilla marble cake topped with orange sugar sprinkles.

Halloween Cake


Pat and Amanda



Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Packaged Halloween Cookies

My Halloween cookies are all packaged and ready to share thanks to some spooky homemade tags and self-sealing clear cellophane bags. I order the cellophane bags in bulk from an online company called Paper Mart and including the shipping, they end up costing less than 3-cents each.

Here's how:

I buy 1000 cellophane bags at a time and they come in a small easy to store box.

Four mini Halloween cookies look cute in one bag.

A two cookie package looks good too. After inserting the cookies into the bag and peeling the protective strip off of the adhesive, fold the bag a few times around the cookies and seal in the back.

The bags come in multiple sizes. I used a larger 6-inch bag for the skeleton cookie.

I love my scalloped paper punch for making tags. One sheet of purple paper got me a dozen tags. The punch costs about $14 but it's a one time purchase and will pay for itself since tags are not cheap to buy. Here's a tip: Use one of those easy to find 40-percent off coupons from Michael's Arts & Crafts to purchase one. I get one of the coupons every Sunday in my Oregonian newspaper. Or, download the Michael's Mobile App onto your cellphone.

Shaky writing adds a nice touch.

My tip is to drink a few cups of coffee and let your hand shake away as you write. In no time you will have lots of spooky tags.  So much fun.

I punched a hole in both the tag and cellophane bag and attached it with a ribbon.

A tiny piece of orange ribbon looks cute too. I look for sales on ribbon at the craft store and buy it ahead of time.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Adding Dimension To Cookies

These mini pumpkin cookies would be pretty blah if they were flatly decorated with orange royal icing. Adding dimension by dividing the pumpkin into segments makes them look so much better because it adds realism and interest.

And, adding dimension to cookies really is simple. For the pumpkins, all I did was divide the pumpkin into three segments by piping a border. I then waited for about 5 minutes for the border to set and then filled in the segments.

Once you learn the technique, you'll want to use it in other cookie designs because it just looks so good.

For more tips on how to add dimension to your sugar cookies watch my Easter decorating video here.

And, here's how to decorate the mini pumpkins:

Color and thin some royal icing. You want to make sure your icing is the correct consistency. For this, you need 10-second icing which means that if you draw a line through your icing with a spoon, it will take 10 seconds for it to settle back together.

Use a #1 pastry tip to divide the pumpkins into three segments and let them set for 5 to 10 minutes before proceeding to the next step.

With the same icing and same #1 tip, fill in the segments.

These pumpkins are transformed in no time.

Add some color to the stem of the pumpkin and that's it - so cute and so simple.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Skeleton Cookies

I'm not going to lie, even with the aid of a design that can be pressed into the cookie and traced, these Skeleton Cookies are not something I'd want to make a lot of - each cookie took nearly 20 minutes to decorate.

Still, they turned out great and there is no denying these creepy skeletons are cool and sure to please.

The secret to making them is royal icing that is the consistency of yogurt. The icing needs to be thin enough to spread yet thick enough to hold an edge and not run.

Practice piping on a plate to make sure you have the correct consistency before you begin.

 Here's how to make them:

A friend gave my daughter this cool "Gingerdead Men" cutter as a gift. Thank you Una for letting me borrow it.

It's a cookie cutter and a "skeleton press" all in one.

After cutting the cookies, place the skeleton design on top and gently and evenly press.

One down, a few more to go.

Now the tedious part - put on some music and try to stay positive. Outline and fill the dead space around the skeleton deign with black royal icing. Use a #1 pastry tip because there are some pretty small areas to tackle. And, use a skewer to help move the icing and fill in any gaps.

Keep working.

Once the black royal icing is in, the next part is much easier. Fill in the indented skeleton design with white royal icing. I also used a #1 pastry tip for this and a skewer to help move the icing. Let the cookie dry completely before packaging.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Candy Corn Cookies

For Halloween I prefer to make mini decorated cookies because I can get more than 60 with just one batch of dough and let's face it, it's better to share smaller-sized sweets this super sugary time of year.

One of the easiest mini Halloween cookies to make are these candy corn cookies. I used a 4-inch round cutter to make them by simple slicing the round into eighths.

Only three colors of icing are needed and the cookies can be decorated all at once.

Here's how:
Cut a 4-inch round of cookie dough.

Cut the round into fourths.

Cut the fourths in half and bake.

Ice the bottom third of the cookies with yellow royal icing.

Immediately add a layer of orange icing.

Finally add white icing at the top and that's it. These cookies come together amazingly fast.

Chocolate Espresso Sandwich Cookies

For the treat table at last night's performance of my friend Sharon Whitney's play, "Eleanor Roosevelt-Across a Barrier of Fear," I made these Chocolate Espresso Sandwich Cookies just because they are so delicious and I knew they would be a hit.

The recipe is from Julie Richardson of Baker & Spice Bakery and is so chocolatey and decadent that my sister took one taste of them and dubbed them "Grownup Oreo's."

I think it's the espresso powder in both the cookie and the Swiss meringue buttercream filling that makes them extra special.

Every cookie at the treat table had a link to Eleanor Roosevelt except for the Chocolate Espresso Sandwich Cookies. I made them just because they are delicious. I suspect Eleanor would have approved.

The recipe makes about four dozen cookies and there always seems to be extra buttercream when I am done filling them. Not to worry though, the buttercream freezes beautifully and can used later to frost cakes and cupcakes.

Chocolate Espresso Sandwich Cookies
(makes about 4 dozen 2-inch sandwiches)

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups Dutch process Cocoa, sifted
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 5 minutes or until light, scraping down the bowl occasionally as needed.

Add the vanilla and the eggs, one at a time, blending lightly between additions.

Add the cocoa on low speed until combined.

Blend the flour, salt and espresso powder together and add to the butter mixture until just combined.
The rich chocolatey dough.

Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and let it chill for at least 1 hour.

Wrap the dough and let it chill for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

After chilling, the dough might need to warm at room temperature for a bit so that it can be easily rolled.

Roll the dough on a lightly floured work area to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut the dough into desired shapes and place on parchment lined cookie sheets.
I used a 2-inch square cutter. The cookies are decadent and will be sandwiched together so I like to keep the size fairly small.

The cookies before baking.

Bake for about 6 minutes or until the cookies are no longer shiny but still soft in the middle.

Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely before filling them with the buttercream.
Let the cookies cool completely before filling.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

6 large egg whites
1 1/4  cups granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon of fine sea salt
1 tablespoon espresso powder, dissolved in 2 teaspoons hot water.

Place the whites in a clean mixing bowl. Whisk in sugar and cream of tartar.

Place bowl over a double boiler on medium heat, stir frequently until the mixture is very hot (120 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit).

Move to mixer and whip whites on high for 2 to 3 minutes; turn down to medium low until cool (use the bowl as your guide).

In a separate bowl with a wooden spoon, stir butter to soften.

With mixer on medium/high speed, add the butter one tablespoon at a time, adding the next tablespoon just as the previous one is blended in. Once all the butter incorporated, add in vanilla, salt and coffee and whip on high speed until fluffy.

To Assemble:
Pair up the cookies and flip one of the cookies upside down.

On the upside down cookie, pipe on a dollop of buttercream and top with the other cookie.

Pair the cookies up and flip one upside down. Add a dollop of buttercream to the upside down cookie. Using a pastry bag makes this task easy.

Top with the other cookie and they are ready to eat.
Store the cookies in a sealed container in the refrigerator and bring to room temp before serving.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Shades Of Blue Cookies

Tonight is the first performance of my friend Sharon Whitney's play, "Eleanor Roosevelt-Across a Barrier of Fear," and I have the honor of making treats for the event including these pretty shades of blue sugar cookies.

If you would like to attend the play, here are the details:

Trinitarian Sharon Whitney's acclaimed play, "Eleanor Roosevelt-Across a Barrier of Fear," starring Jane Van Boskirk, is scheduled for two performances, Friday, October 25 at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday, October 26 at 1:00 p.m. in Kempton Hall. To reserve a seat, visit Seating is limited. A $10 donation at the door is suggested. This is an offering from the Cathedral Arts Committee.  

Eleanor Roosevelt's favorite color was blue so I think these scalloped edged cookies are just the thing to serve. And, Eleanor was a no-nonsense woman and I have a hunch she would appreciate the simple design and the ease of making them.

It really was easy. All I did was bake small rectangle cookies, tint some royal icing four shades of blue and then outline and fill.

Once again, these cookies show that a no-frills design is often the best.

Here's how to make them:
Bake a batch of cookies.

Make a batch of royal icing and divide it evenly among four bowls.

Get a bottle of blue food coloring. I used royal blue #102 AmeriColor gel paste.

Add the coloring to the royal icing by putting one squirt in the first bowl, two in the second bowl, three in the third and four in the fourth. This is the easiest way to get nice graduations of color.

Four shades of blue.

Outline the cookies with each of the four blues using a #1 pastry tip and icing that has been thinned to piping consistency (think toothpaste). I followed the shape of the cookies and made scalloped outlines.

Fill the cookies with a different shade of blue using a #1 tip and flood consistency royal icing. Use a skewer or toothpick to ease the icing to the border. If icing #1 is the lightest and icing #4 is the darkest, pair #1 with #3 and #2 with #4.

Let the cookies dry completely before serving or packaging.