Posts made in November, 2012

friday freebie: kuhn rikon cookie press (closed)

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Posted on Nov 30, 2012 in Food

—This giveaway is now CLOSED. Thanks to everyone for participating! Check back on Fridays for a new awesome giveaway!—

Yesterday I mentioned how much fun I had with the Kuhn Rikon cookie press that my good friends at BigKitchen.com sent me. If you’ve never worked with a cookie press before, it’s amazing! It’s basically a gun…for cookie dough. This press comes with 14 different shape discs and each of them create little perfect cookies each and every time.

Because I’m so into this press, I asked BigKitchen.com to pretty, pretty please let one of these guys go to one lucky BTHR reader, and being the awesome people they are, they agreed. Ready to win your own?

  • PRIZE: One Kuhn Rikon Cookie Press from BigKitchen.com
  • TO ENTER: Comment on this post and tell me what your favorite holiday cookie is!
  • GIVEAWAY CLOSES: Tuesday, December 4th, 2012 at Noon (12pm) EST
  • NUMBER OF WINNERS: One
  • ELIGIBLE FOLKS: Sorry, international readers, this one is for U.S. Residents, aged 18 and over only. I try to snag as many international giveaways as a can. Maybe next time!
  • WINNER ANNOUNCED: Wednesday, December 5th, 2012 on this here post!
  • LEGALESE: To enter you must be 18 or older. Winner will be chosen by random drawing from the pool of comments on this post. To be considered for the prize, you must provide a valid email address. One entry per email address. Once a winner is notified and verified, BigKitchen.com will be provided with the contact information of the winner and they will be responsible for  prize fulfillment. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. To enter, leave a comment on this post. No purchase necessary to win. Entries will close on Tuesday, December 4, 2012 at noon (EST). The winner will be contacted by email on or before Wednesday, December 5, 2012. If the winner does not claim the prize within seven days, the original winner forfeits the prize and a second random entry will be chosen from the pool. This contest is sponsored by BigKitchen.com of Florida and is void where prohibited by law.
  • DISCLOSURE: In exchange for this blog post, as well as posting this giveaway, I was compensated with a cookie press. My review of the product was not biased or influenced in any way by this compensation.

Our winner is Jaclyn: who said that her favorite holiday cookies are Italian rainbow cookies! Which look awesome! Congrats, Jaclyn!

wellness calendar: december 2012 (free printable)

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Posted on Nov 30, 2012 in Fitness

Wowzers! Almost 200 of you downloaded last month’s wellness calendar. That is totally awesome! I am so happy so many people are joining in the charge to commit to daily health. It makes me all warm and fuzzy to know that folks have this calendar hanging in their offices and their homes. Woohoo!

Because the response was so great, I whipped us up another calendar for the month of December!

Just like last month, each day has a little tip, trick or suggestion of a fun way to make a new healthy action that day. Some focus on fitness, some focus on food and some are just plain fun. Download the calendar, print it out, hang it up and check in everyday for a new way to stay healthy and focused.

vanilla cardamom spritz cookies

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Posted on Nov 29, 2012 in Food

Vanilla & Cardamom Spritz Cookies

Is your holiday baking in full swing yet? Mine is. It may seem a little early to some folks, but my family long ago decided to celebrate our “family Christmas” ahead of the actual holiday. We’re a totally blended group—I have three half siblings—so celebrating a week early frees up Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for everyone to visit the other sides of their family (including in-laws since we’re all married, too). It works out quite nice. It allows Craig and I to celebrate with my family the weekend before Christmas and still head up to Canada and hang out with his family on Christmas Day (which we did for the past two years, but couldn’t quite swing this year).

But anyway, the baking has started. And a new addition to my Christmas cookie repertoire this year—Spritz cookies.

Spritz cookies are nothing new for a lot of folks— especially around the holidays—but they were never something we made in my family. So when my awesome friends at BigKitchen.com offered to hook me up with a cookie press from Kuhn Rikon, I jumped at the chance to start a new holiday baking tradition.

I’ve never used a cookie press before—and was admittedly a little intimidated—but it was insanely easy and incredibly fun. It’s like a gun…that shoots out cookies. Perfect, adorable little bite-sized cookies. I think the world be a much better place if all the guns in the world shot out tiny cookies.

The standard Spritz cookie recipe is just your basic sugary, buttery, vanilla cookie, which is deliciously simple, but can be a little lackluster—especially when it’s put up next to all the other delicious treats on the dessert table at holiday gatherings. But by adding a bit of ground cardamom, the cookies go from ho-hum to out-of-this world. The cardamom isn’t overwhelming, but gives just enough of a flavorful kick to be interesting and addictive.

Spritz cookie dough comes together super speedy with only a few ingredients, but the consistency is key. Too tough and it wont come out of the press, too runny and it’ll come out in globs. To make sure I got it just right, I followed the recipe from Kuhn Rikon to a “T” and it was spot on. Those folks know what they’re talking about! The biggest key? Egg size. Make sure you use only a large egg in this. Bigger and the dough is too soupy and smaller are it’s tough as a brick.

Vanilla Cardamom Spritz Cookies

by Kuhn Rikon

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Makes: 4 dozen cookies, 1 cookie per serving

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • Sprinkles and colored sugar for decorating

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Combine butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Cream at medium-high speed until light colored and fluffy.
  3. Reduce mixer speed to low and beat in egg, vanilla, cardamom and salt. Then add flour until well-mixed.
  4. Grab a handful of the dough and roll it into a thick snake shape, pack into the barrel of the cookie press and fit press with desired disk design. Press trigger until dough is packed in and no air pockets exist in barrel.
  5. To make cookies, hold cookie press perpendicular to an ungreased cookie sheet with the end of the press touching the cookie sheet. Press the trigger once, remove press and repeat for each cookie—spacing them about 1″ apart. Decorate with sprinkles and then bake in preheated oven for 7-10 minutes or until edges of cookies just barely begin to brown. Let cool for 1-2 minutes on cookie sheet, then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.
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Want to win your very own Kuhn Rikon cookie press just like the one I have? Come back tomorrow afternoon a checkout my Friday Freebie post!

 

bthr book club: december book announcement

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Posted on Nov 29, 2012 in Lifestyle

Alright, we have a winner for our inaugural BTHR book club selection. After a few weeks of voting, you guys picked The Book Thief by Markus Zusak!

You can buy the book through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Half.com. Also, make sure to check out your local library! That’s where I’m getting mine from. It’s a quite popular book, so many libraries will have multiple copies (mine has 12!).

Now go secure your copy and get to reading! On December 27th, feel free to post your own review of the book to your blog, and then come back here and we’ll all get together for a discussion and link up party. I’ll bring the virtual wine.

Happy reading!

P.S. I did hear that some folks had issue with the polling plugin, so I’ll definitely make sure to work on that for next month’s poll. I’m also working on a new robust comments plug-in that will give you guys more options when it comes to subscribing to follow-up comments. Which will hopefully make our upcoming book discussion more user-friendly. To come!

all-natural beet juice red food coloring

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Posted on Nov 28, 2012 in Food

There are so many things I love about the holidays, but one of my most favorite parts is that we’re pretty much given carte blanche to color and bedazzle and glitterize all of our food. Cookies are frosted with a thick layer of red and green swirls. Cupcakes are topped with sprinkles. Heck, I’ve even been known to put colorful sugars on my hot chocolate and food coloring in my snow.

This love of all things colorful is in direct competition of a new charge in my life—to strip away as many chemicals as possible. I cleaned up my diet for the most part a few years back but never really got around to stripping away everything yucky (in my diet and other areas of my life). Yup. I’m the girl who spends a small fortune on organic produce, but washes her dishes using Cascade. Something tells me that’s kinda like stopping smoking cigarettes, but still smoking cigars…

So I’m trying to change that (and have an awesome recipe for dishwasher soap coming at you soon).

Anywho, today’s post is a teeny tiny part of that bigger charge to strip away chemicals from my world. I rarely use food colorings, but around the holidays, they are definitely part of my baking supply stash. And the grand-daddy of bad-for-you food colorings? Red. The red food color you get in that little bottle is usually made up of Red 40 and Red 3. Independent research studies have shown that Red 40 (and its nasty counterpart Yellow 5) might cause ADHD, migraines, hives, and asthma in folks with reactions. And Red 3? It’s been recognized as a known carcinogen by the FDA (but is still allowed if levels are under a certain amount). I don’t know about you, but I don’t want any amount of a carcinogen in my holiday treats—especially if I can easily avoid it.

So I started doing some research on natural food colorings. I’ve touched on it a bit before here (with dying Easter eggs), but I really wanted to find some things that are highly concentrated and true color like the chemically ones in the bottle. It turns out, beet juice is the answer. By boiling down beets and concentrating the liquid, the result is a very strong, very bright red-violet color.

You say, “But I didn’t want red-violet! I wanted Christmas red, yo!” and I’m definitely catching what you’re throwing. What I realized (thanks to my color theory classes in college) is that to get a true red, you just have to work with a base that is tinged slightly yellow. Sugar cookie dough works (actually, most cookie dough) as does most butter-based frostings. Using a cream cheese frosting? Try tinting it with a touch of pure vanilla extract or maple syrup first.

Directions:

Take three large red beets, remove the green and root end and slice into bite-sized chunks. Place in a small saucepan and cover beets water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce heat and simmer until beets are tender and there is only a couple of tablespoons of water remaining. Reserve the water (this is your food coloring) and then peel and eat the beets for lunch.

I actually used my beet food coloring in a terribly failed attempt to make marshmallows (nothing to do with the food coloring–I didn’t boil the sugar in the ‘mallows long enough) and the food coloring made a beautiful, strong, flavorless swirl of deep, dark red with only a few drops. The base of the marshmallow was (obviously) white, so the end result was more pinkish than I would have gotten if I tinted the marshmallow base beforehand.

I cannot wait to make another batch and use it for all of my holiday baking!

Do you use natural food colorings? What’s your favorite that you use?