Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Last Wednesday Community Meal Of 2015

Our last Wednesday Community Meal of 2015 turned out to be pretty great thanks to our wonderful team of dedicated volunteers and some generous food donations.

Three of the entrees that we served today — roast beef, salmon and spiral sliced ham — were donated by two Trinity Episcopal Cathedral parishioners. The premium treats helped make today's meal extra special for our guests. 
Salmon with noodle salad and roasted vegetables.
In addition to the roast beef, salmon and ham, we served meatloaf and teriyaki chicken skewers. There was also soup, salad, dessert and drinks.

One of our volunteers passed on a sweet compliment about the meatloaf from one of our guests. "He said it was delicious and just like his mother's," she told me.  

That made me so happy to hear because our aim is not only feed our guests, it's to please our guests. That extra care is important and what makes the meal at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral thrive. 

We served 331 meals during out two-hour service today which brings the total number of meals served in 2015 to 16,230.  Such a large number proves that we are indeed fulfilling a need in our community and encourages us to keep working in 2016. 

Here are some of our super volunteers who worked hard to make today's meal special for our guests. We truly couldn't do it without them.
John and Linda with the cutest little photobomber, Isla Blue. 

Zane, Nicholas, Sam and Ian.

Dan who served the coffee and hot chocolate in the dining room. We also celebrated his 79th birthday by singing to him.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Double Chocolate Crackle Cookies

It's Christmas Eve, still plenty of time to still make cookies for family and friends and these snowy white Double Chocolate Crackle Cookies are a perfect choice.

The dough is easily mixed by hand and the resulting cookie is crunchy, chewy and very chocolaty.

What makes them double chocolate is that there is dark cocoa powder and melted dark chocolate in them and also some sea salt and instant coffee which makes chocolate goodness really pop. My husband has changed the name of these to "Addictive".

Here's the recipe:

Double Chocolate Crackle Cookies
(makes 4 dozen)
1 cup flour
1/2 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon instant coffee
4 ounces dark chocolate chips
1/2 stick (4oz) unsalted butter
About 2/3 cup each of granulated sugar and powdered sugar for coating the cookies before baking

Preheat oven to 325-degrees and line four baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium-sized bowl mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt and set aside.

In a large bowl whisk together the brown sugar, eggs, vanilla and instant coffee and set aside.

In a small microwavable bowl combine the dark chocolate chips and butter. Microwave for 30 second intervals, stirring well in between until the chips are melted.

Whisk the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and then stir in the dry ingredients, mixing just until well combined. The result will be a fairly loose batter. Let the mixture set at room temperature for about 15 minutes and it becomes firmer and more scoopable.

Put some granulated sugar and powdered sugar in separate small bowls. With a 1-inch scoop or two teaspoons, form an inch-sized ball of dough and drop it into the granulated sugar and coat it well. Then transfer it into the powdered sugar and using your hands, gently roll the dough into a nicely shaped ball. Place the ball on a parchment lined cookie sheet and repeat until all the dough is used and the sheets are filled, spacing the cookies about 1.5 inches apart.

Coat the cookies with granulated sugar and then powdered sugar before rolling into a ball with your hands and placing them on your baking sheets. I like to drop two or three cookies at a time into the granulated sugar and then work from there.
Bake one sheetpan at a time in the center rack for 8 minutes or until the cookie is cracked and the edges have just set. The centers should still be soft since they will set during cooling. Let the cookies cool completely on the baking sheets before removing and enjoying them.
Let the cookies cool completely on the sheetpans before removing them.

These cookies look so pretty piled on a platter.

They also make a great gift. I like to stack three or four in a cupcake paper and then seal them in small cellophane bag.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Holiday Treats

Besides being served a well-rounded hot lunch,  today's Wednesday Community Meal guests also got to enjoy live holiday music and were given gift bags filled with toiletries, socks, gloves and scarves.

The music was courtesy of Sandy Norcross, our wonderful and dedicated volunteer piano player, and the gift bags were put together by Trinity Episcopal Cathedral fifth graders who collected donations. Both of these special holiday treats were greatly appreciated by our guests.

Like the the rest of the week, it rained heavily today which kept many of our regular guests who have housing, away from the meal. Those who joined us were primarily the homeless, and they trekked through awful wet weather to attend.

When one of our regular volunteers came in early this morning to help she told me there were three men already in line and that they looked cold and down and suggested that it would be nice to bring them each a hot drink. It was a great idea and when we handed them cups of steaming hot chocolate, they were very pleased. Sometimes small treats can make a big difference.

We served 289 meals.

We were lucky to have extra help in the dining room today from many young volunteers who were on break from school.

Craig and Dan (a.k.a Santa) were our coffee and hot chocolate baristas in the dining room today.

Scarlett helped pass out peppermint candies to guests.

Today's lunch of homemade chili, potatoes and roasted tomatoes.

After eating, guests bus their own dishes. Look at those clean plates!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Gingerbread Wreath Cookies

I have to credit my #65 Wilton leaf tip for these cute and realistic looking gingerbread wreath cookies. Making them isn't hard at all, it just takes some time. The real trick is just piping the leaves in random directions, making their placement look as natural as possible.

These make great Christmas tree ornaments and can be enjoyed year after year if you carefully box them up after the holidays. Keep them wrapped in tissue paper and nice and dry.

Here's how to make them:
Bake some round gingerbread cookies and be sure to make a hole in the dough before baking if you want to turn them into ornaments.

Outline a wreath shape with white icing.

Immediately fill it in and use a skewer or scribe tool to help evenly distribute the icing.

Give the cookie a gentle shake to help the icing settle and set it aside to dry completely before moving onto the next step.

When the cookie is dry mix up some stiff green icing and place it in a pastry bag fitted with a small leaf tip. I used a Wilton #65. Start piping leaves, working your way around and trying to make their placement as natural as possible.

One done, more to go!

Once the leaves have dried for at least 15 minutes, you can pipe on some small red berries using medium consistency red icing and a #1 tip. Let the cookie dry completely before threading twine or a small ribbon through the hole.
Once I got going with my leaf piping,  I found it hard to stop!

Cookie closeup.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Orange Cranberry Shortbread

When I make shortbread, I usually prefer to use the method of rolling the dough into logs, chilling them, and then slicing off the cookies. It's a quick and easy way to get uniform rounds.

These flavorful Orange Cranberry Shortbread cookies though called for a different method. You see, I knew the addition of lots of delicious and chewy cranberries would make the dough tough to slice through neatly. So for these, I used a 1-inch scoop and rolled the dough into balls that I gently flattened and chilled for a full hour before baking.

The size of them turned out to be a perfect fit for my macaron boxes. I was able to get six standard sized cupcake papers, each filled with three cookies, tightly packed into a single box. These are so good and the addition of orange zest makes them extra special. These are great to share with friends this holiday season.

Macaron boxes are just the right size for packaging these cookies.

Add a ribbon and tag and you've got a sweet holiday gift.

Here is the recipe:

Orange Scented Shortbread
(makes about 5 dozen)
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 1/2 teaspoons dehydrated orange peel (Note: If you can't find this, you can use 5 teaspoons of finely grated orange zest.)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
1/3 cup sugar, for coating the tops of the cookies before baking

In a small container, combine the orange peel with the vanilla and let this set for about 10 minutes.

Cream together the butter, vanilla/orange mixture, sea salt and sugar until smooth and creamy.  Add the flour and mix just until it starts to combine and the mixture looks crumbly. Add the dried cranberries and continue mixing until the dough comes together.

With a 1-inch scoop, scoop a portion of the dough and then roll it in your hands to form a ball. Use your hands to gently flatten the ball and place it on a parchment or plastic lined baking pan that will fit into your fridge. Repeat until all the dough is used and place the cookies in the fridge to cool for at least 1 hour.
These are ready to go into the fridge to chill.

When you are ready to bake them, preheat your oven to 350-degrees, dip the top of each cookie in the 1/3 cup of granulated sugar and place them on baking sheets, spaced about 2-inches apart.

Bake for about 12 minutes or until the cookies just begin to brown around the edges. The cookies will firm up quite a bit as they cool. Transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Spongebob Character Cookies

I have a soft spot for Spongebob because I have lots of fond memories of watching the cartoon with my girls when they were little and hearing them laugh and laugh.

So when the opportunity came up to create Spongebob character cookies for a very sweet soon to be 5-year-old, I couldn't resist.

These cookies were all made with ordinary cutters you probably already own, a square, a star and a circle. The decorating does take some time because it's done in layers that need drying time in between.

Allow yourself two full days to make them — One day for baking and base coating and one day for the detailed decorating.

Oh I hope Avaieya has a wonderful 5th birthday party and enjoys sharing these cookies with her friends.

Here's how I made them:

Day One
These are the cutters I used.

Make and bake your cookies.

Outline a Spongebob cookie with yellow icing.

Immediately fill it in with more yellow icing.

Use a skewer or scribe tool to evenly distribute the icing and give the cookie a gentle shake to help the icing settle.

Immediately drop on random dots of a very pale green icing. I mixed the color by adding just a drop of moss green to some of the yellow icing.

The dots will settle nicely into the base coat.

Do this for all of the Spongebob cookies and set them aside to dry.

Now it's time to tackle Patrick. Outline the star cookie with pink icing.

Immediately fill in the cookie with more pink icing.

Use your scribe or skewer to evenly distribute the icing and give the cookie a gentle shake.

Also set these aside to dry.

Now for Squidward, outline the round cookie with ivory or white icing.

Fill it in and set it aside to dry.
Day Two

Pipe two rounds on the Spongebob cookie using medium consistency white icing. Repeat on all of the cookies.

By the time you've added the rounds to all of the cookies, they should be dry enough to then outline them in more white icing to connect them in the center. Also add a bit of yellow for Spongebob's nose. Repeat on all of the cookies.

Add two drops of yellow for his cheeks.

Draw on his mouth using an edible ink marker.

Add two small drops of white for his teeth. Repeat on all of the cookies.

Set these aside to dry and move onto Patrick.
Pipe two little white eyes and let them dry completely. Then when the white icing is dry, add pupils, a mouth and eyebrows with a black edible ink marker.

Also mark the top and bottom of his pants and add a little belly button.

Fill in Patrick's pants with green icing and set him aside to dry.

By now Spongebob's eyes should be dry enough to add his pupils. Draw on circles with your edible ink marker.

Fill in the circles with blue royal icing. Set him aside to dry.
For Squidward, I used the edible marker to sketch his face shape onto the cookies. You could also do this by making a template that you could trace.

Start filling in his face but leave the lower nose portion open.

Add two drops of white icing for his eyes. You may need to use a skewer or scribe tool to help manipulate the icing into the correct oval shape. Set the cookies aside to dry.

Now it's time for some Spongebob final details. Use your black edible ink marker to outline the eyes, nose, teeth and add eyelashes. Also draw a black pupil in the center of each eye. Use a red edible ink marker to make a few dots on his cheeks and add a squiggly line on his chin.
To finish off Patrick,  pipe some purple blobs on his pants. I also added a little dot with the black marker in the center of his belly button.

Patrick and Spongebob are done!

Now it's time to pipe Squidward's nose. Piping it on after the rest of the face icing has dried adds some nice dimension to the cookie.

Add Squidward's pupils using dark maroon tinted icing.

Work up to this point on all of the cookies.

Mix up some teal icing and using your scribe tool, drop random little dots on Squidward's forehead.

Do this to all of the cookies and let them dry.

Now for the final details — Use your edible ink marker to outline Squidward's face, his nose and his eyes. Also add a mouth and a few lines on his forehead.

Now Squidward is done too!