Holiday

Dec 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all my cooking friends.

ada85ad506a9204d5840b640d8cab712What a beautiful creation! I did not make this gingerbread house but I would like to live there.

I hope all your holiday creations turned out.

Dec 8, 2014

How To Freeze Pecan Balls

Guess what? There is no difference between frozen and freshly made pecan balls. I tested them myself and asked two other people to do a blind taste test and no one could tell the difference. This is good news because anything you can make ahead for the holidays is helpful. I’m sure there is more than one way to freeze these delicate Christmas snowball cookies but here is how I did mine:

  1. Once they were completely cool and after the second roll in powdered sugar I gently placed them in a freezer bag so they were not touching.
  2. I removed as much air as possible from the bag and placed them gently in the freezer.
  3. To thaw I let them thaw overnight in the refrigerator and then brought them to room temperature.
  4. Then I gently rolled them in powdered sugar again to freshen them up.

So there it is. This is how you can freeze your homemade pecan balls and have extra time for…. making more! To make these super easy Christmas cookies, click here for the recipe.  – Jenny Jones

Nov 9, 2014

The Difference Between Yams and Sweet Potatoes

Are you making candied yams this Thanksgiving? Guess what? Candied yams are not yams. They are sweet potatoes! Check this out:

1) This is a sweet potato…

Sweet-Potato-or-Yam

2) And this is a sweet potato…

Sweet-Potato-or-Yam-1

3) THIS  is a Yam…

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1) The yellow sweet potato, the one commonly called sweet potato, has a thicker skin and firm yellow flesh that’s a bit drier and starchier than the orange one.

2) The orange sweet potato, also called “red garnet” and “jewel,” has a softer skin and a deep orange flesh that when cooked, becomes very soft, almost like mashed potatoes. Plus they are sweeter than the yellow ones. These deeper colored sweet potatoes have more vitamin A than carrots.

3) Yams, which have a black bark-like skin, are native to Africa and Asia and I doubt if you could even find one here in the U.S.

There’s so much confusion about the difference between a yam and a sweet potato. That’s because the USDA labeled the orange ones “yams” to differentiate the two main varieties of sweet potatoes but the truth is, sweet potatoes and real yams are not even related. Most of us have never even eaten a yam.

So the bottom line is… unless the Supreme Court intervenes, we will continue to call the yellow ones sweet potatoes and the orange ones yams. It’s just simpler. The good news is they are interchangeable in most recipes, even candied yams. Besides vitamin A, these vegetables have lots of fiber, calcium, iron, and vitamin E so try to cook with them all year. I use the yellow ones for sweet potato fries and with my roasted vegetables and the orange ones for baking my sweet potato chocolate cake.

Well, this is good information but it doesn’t really change anything, does it? Happy Thanksgiving!

Nov 7, 2014

Pumpkin Pie – Healthier & Easier

Best Recipe Pumpkin Pie from ScratchI am already planning my Thanksgiving dinner including a homemade pumpkin pie from scratch. But then I do everything from scratch. I even bake the bread that I dry to make my own stuffing mix, but that’s another recipe. This pumpkin pie is low fat and light because it’s made without butter or cream, or even whole milk. I love it! It’s all low fat and healthier, even the crust. Ever since I discovered how easy it is to make an oil pie crust not to mention how much healthier it is, especially made with extra light olive oil, it’s the only pie crust I ever use.

If you’ve ever made a shortening or butter crust with the ice water you know how hard it is to patch cracks. That’s why I love an oil crust. It’s easy to put together and you can just pat it into your pie pan. Or do what I do and roll it between wax paper to get an even thickness of crust. And any cracks or open spaces can easily be patched with pieces of dough.

Cooking a big Thanksgiving dinner for your family is a challenge. Even for an experienced cook, it’s a lot to put together and my rule is to make absolutely everything I can in advance. And that’s easy for pumpkin pie. In fact, it has to be made in advance because it takes hours to cool and then needs to be refrigerated. I even make the whipped cream in advance. What? You don’t make your own whipped cream? Has anyone told you how easy it is? It’s ONE ingredient… plus a little sugar.  It takes about two minutes to make and whipping cream has no carbs.

If you’re tempted to try using fresh pumpkin I have two things to say. One, you have to cut and cook it first and it’s easier to build a guest room over the garage.  Second, canned pumpkin has more vitamin A than fresh. I believe in cooking from scratch but not this time. I always use canned pumpkin. But make sure it’s only pure pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling.

My healthier pumpkin pie is made with 1% milk, 2% reduced fat condensed milk, eggs, sugar, and spices. Of course cinnamon is the most important spice but all cinnamons are not the same. The one most stores carry is Ceylon cinnamon but I recently discovered Saigon cinnamon and wow! It’s more potent, more fragrant, and it’s the only one I use. My brand is Spice Islands. If you use Saigon cinnamon, you don’t need as much as you’ll see in the printable recipe. (There’s a how-to video coming next week!)

spice-island-cinnamon

Homemade pumpkin pie will always trump a store bought pie so I hope you’ll try my recipe. Why not make one this week… just to test it out of course. Click here for the recipe. – Jenny Jones

Dec 25, 2013

Merry Christmas, everyone.

GingerbreadHouse_MerryChristmas copy2

Dec 22, 2013

The best homemade gift

Best Homemade Gifts from your Kitchen“Homemade caramel corn?! For me?? I love you!” Caramel corn has to be the best Christmas gift you can make. I’ve baked cookies and breads and they make great gifts but people start asking about my caramel corn in September! “Are you making caramel corn again this year?” Everyone goes crazy over it, probably because there is no place you can buy anything that even comes close. I try to bring it in person when it’s just out of the oven and by the time I get home, I get a phone call saying it’s all gone and asking when I’m going to make more.

If you’re looking for something to bake for Christmas gifts, consider making homemade caramel corn. It’s easier to make than cookies because it uses less ingredients. And it’s pretty quick the way I do it. I pop the corn in a paper lunch bag in the microwave, which takes less than two minutes (see my video). The syrup cooks on the stove in five minutes and the rest is waiting time while the popcorn and nuts get covered with a sweet, delicious caramel coating.

Watch my how-to video (click here) and for the printable recipe (click here). – Jenny Jones

Dec 18, 2013

Polish Faworki – Chrusciki

Best Recipe Chrusciki Christmas in Poland isn’t official until someone makes chrusciki. These powdered sugar crullers are actually pretty easy to make but if you don’t have a rolling pin it’s not going to happen because the key is to roll the dough paper thin. Chrusciki are the only things I deep fry because there is no other way to make this light-as-a-cloud cookie – I guess that’s why they also call them angel wings. So I’m sharing my recipe for these Polish Christmas cookies but it turns out they are not just Polish. Here is what they’re called in other countries:

Belarus – хрушчы (chruščy) or фаворкі (favorki)
Croatia – krostole
Denmark – klejner
France – bugnes
Germany – raderkuchen
Hungary – csöröge
Italy – bugie, cenci, chiacchiere, crostoli, frappe, galani, sfrappole
Lithuania – žagarėliai
Malta – xkunvat
Romania – minciunele, regionally: cirighele, scovergi
Russia – хворост (khvorost)
Sweden  – klenäter
Ukraine – вергуни (verhuny)

Merry Christmas to all you cooks out there and thank you for all your comments and notes. I do appreciate the feedback. I hope you’ll try this show-stopping, delicious holiday cookie. Click here for the recipe. – Jenny Jones

Dec 15, 2013

Olive Oil Christmas Cookies

Healthier Sugar Cookies

My less-butter, less-sugar Christmas cookies just got even healthier. I decided to try making them with extra-light olive oil and they turned out great. This time I rolled the dough and cut out the holiday shapes but I will say that a cookie press is a great invention! But when you cut them out, it’s a lot more fun decorating. I like my candy canes the best. This recipe is exactly the same as the one already posted but I used extra-light olive oil instead of canola oil.

There’s no reason to use all butter in these holiday cookies. I bake all my cookies with either half the butter or with some recipes, no butter at all. With these healthier sugar cookies, there’s plenty of butter taste and half the saturated fat. I like to bake them until the edges brown just a little. Click here for the recipe. – Jenny Jones

Dec 4, 2013

Polish Poppy Seed Roll

 Polish Makowiec Recipe

There are no words to describe the fabulous flavor of this traditional Polish holiday bread we call Makowiec. The filling is a distinctive combination of ground poppy seeds, orange and lemon peel, and ground toasted almonds. I love this bread! I grew up with it! It’s perfect for afternoon tea or as a light dessert.

My recipe is pretty easy to make but you will need to grind the poppy seeds and I found an easy way to do that. I bought a spice & nut grinder (Cuisinart) and it grinds the poppy seeds and the almonds. Until I discovered the grinder, the only way to grind the seeds was to use an old fashioned meat grinder that you clamp to the counter and crank with your hand. I tried a food processor and a blender but neither one did the job. But it’s really easy with the spice grinder.

The bread is sweet and the filling is to die for! After baking, you can drizzle the loaf with a glaze or another option is to brush it before baking with either melted butter or with an eggwash and sprinkle with poppy seeds.  My recipe requires only one rise and if your filling seeps out a little when it’s done, that happens a lot so don’t fret over it. It will still taste great. My how-to video for this awesome bread will be up next week.  Click here for the recipe. – Jenny Jones

Nov 24, 2013

Make Ahead Gravy (and it’s low fat!)

gravy

Who wants to make gravy at the last minute? Not me! I love to cook a traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner with mashed potatoes but I’m starting my gravy today. It’s one less thing to deal with on Thursday. Here’s how I do it: I picked up a package of turkey wings this morning and roasted them in the oven. I just rubbed them with oil, salt & pepper and put them on a baking sheet, roasting for an hour at 375 degrees. Now I’m using them to make stock. I put the wings and every bit of their drippings into a big pot of water along with some onion, carrot, celery, parsnip, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper, and bay leaves. I will cook it down for 2-3 hours, let it cool, and refrigerate. (The meat from the wings makes a terrific sandwich).

Once the stock cools overnight, I skim off and discard the fat off the top and now I have a delicious roasted turkey stock, ready and waiting in the fridge, to use in my stuffing and to make gravy the day before. Any leftover stock… either becomes soup or I freeze it in ice cube trays for other cooking.

Use this with your own gravy recipe or try mine…

2 Tbsp. butter

1/4 cup flour

2 cups turkey stock

1. Melt the butter in a pan and add the flour. Cook and stir for 1-2 minutes.

2. Slowly whisk in the stock, stirring constantly until it’s smooth. Cook for 10-15 minutes.

3. Let it cool and refrigerate.

4. DAY OF: Just heat up your gravy and once your turkey is done, pour the drippings into a glass measuring cup and let them stand until they separate (I use a separating cup). Pour off and discard the fat and add the dark particles left on the bottom to your gravy. Taste for salt.

This makes a delicious, low fat gravy with no last minute stress. And for a lighter dessert, try my Lightened Pumpkin Cheesecake. Happy Thanksgiving!