25 December 2014

Christmas Wreath Sugar Cookies

When I shared a picture of my Christmas cookies on Twitter, several people asked me to share the instructions for making the Christmas wreath slice-and-bake sugar cookies. The process is actually fairly simple, and though it takes longer to prepare the cookies for baking, they actually save time, because you don't have to decorate them once they're baked!

First, start with a batch of sugar cookie dough, like my Vegan Sugar Cookies or the cookie portion from this recipe, which I've also included at the bottom of this post. (You can even try using my Gluten Free Sugar Cookie recipe.)
 Divide the dough into thirds, and then divide one third into two portions (one of these portions should be significantly larger than the other)

 Knead in food coloring to tint one large portion of dough green and the smallest portion red. Form the portion of dough that you pulled the small bit from into a long log.

 Roll out the green dough on a piece of waxed paper to a rectangle as long as the log of untinted dough and wide enough to wrap around the circumference.

 Wrap the green dough around the untinted dough, and wrap tightly in the plastic wrap to squeeze the dough together.

 Roll the red-tinted dough into three long, skinny ropes, as long as the dough log. (I always end up tinting more dough red than I actually need. If you do that too, you can set the excess red dough aside to bake later.) Put the red dough ropes onto the outside of the green dough and press slightly to adhere it. (Don't worry about squishing it in too much at this point. You don't want to flatten it.)

 Roll the remaining untinted dough into a large rectangle, and wrap around the green and red dough.

 Your dough log will likely be too thick at this point. (Mine had a diameter twice as big as I wanted.) You'll want to roll the dough a bit to reduce the size, but I found that it was a little awkward to handle the whole thing at once. I cut it into 4 sections and rolled each one separately to make it half as thick and twice as long.

 If you want, you can roll the log in colored sugar for an extra bit of fun. Then, slice into rounds with a sharp knife and bake as directed.

My Mom's Sugar Cookies
1 c. butter
2 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. almond extract
4 c. flour

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Add eggs, salt and flavoring. Beat until creamy.

Stir in flour.

Wrap dough with plastic wrap (I prefer to form the dough into a flat disc, rather than a ball, to make it easier to roll out after chilling) and chill in refrigerator for 5-6 hours, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Roll out dough and cut into circles. Bake on greased or parchment-lined cookie sheets for 8-10 minutes, just until lightly browned on the bottom, but still creamy white on top. (Don't over bake, or the cookies won't be soft!)

03 December 2014

Recipe: Creamy Chicken Tortellini Soup

This soup is addictive! I made a big pot of it for my family, and it was gone within minutes, with everyone wishing they had more. Even though our bellies were full, we were all disappointed when the soup was gone. I actually made a second batch and put it in the fridge. (Everyone had soup for breakfast the next morning!) Now, every time I start chopping up carrots, my kids come running to ask "Are you making that delicious soup again??"

Creamy Chicken Tortellini Soup
For 12 large bowls full, you will need:
1/2 lb. carrots, chopped
1/2 c. dried, diced onions
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 Tbsp. chicken bouillon
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1-2 tsp. oregano
1 1/2 c. cooked, diced chicken
2 (10.5oz) cans cream of mushroom (or cream of celery) soup
1 lb. fresh cheese tortellini (I used the tri-color variety)

Put chopped carrots and onions in a 5-quart pot, and add just enough water to cover the vegetables. Add chicken bouillon, garlic, oregano, and cayenne pepper. Cook on high 5-10 minutes, just until carrots are slightly tender. (Don't overcook! You don't want mushy carrots by the end of the process.)

Add cream soups, diced chicken, and enough water to fill the pot 2/3 full. Let simmer 10-15 minutes, to allow the flavors to develop.

Stir in pasta, and let cook 5-7 more minutes, until pasta has reached desired tenderness. Serve.