{In case you're wondering, that means "Everyone to the table to eat!" in Italian}

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Crackles & Orange Ricotta Cookies

"Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver, and the other gold."

This is the Christmas cookie I remember making every year with my mom, without fail. The recipe was handed down from my grandma, Mimi. These are so good, and I can't believe I haven't posted them here before! It's just not Christmas without a plate of Crackles! They are also fun to make with the kids- they love to roll them and then coat them in the powdered sugar. Make sure to plan ahead- the dough needs to be refrigerated overnight.

Chocolate Crackles
4 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted
½ c. vegetable oil
2 c. sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. sifted flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ c. chopped walnuts (optional, I don’t like nuts in cookies, so I never use them)
powdered sugar, for rolling
Cream oil and sugar, mix in melted chocolate. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add vanilla. Mix in flour, baking powder and salt. Add nuts if desired. Cover bowl and chill in fridge overnight (or at least 4 hours). Shape dough into small balls (about 1"), and roll in powdered sugar. Bake on greased cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Makes about 4 dozen.

I love the chocolate-orange flavor combo, so when I saw this recipe on Two Peas & Their Pod, I knew I had to try it. I was a bit skeptical of the whole ricotta cheese in cookies idea, but I went with it and I was not disappointed! I used milk chocolate instead of dark, because that's what I had and I prefer it anyway, but I'm sure either would be great!

Orange Ricotta Cookies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 orange, zested (1 tsp zest)
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons orange juice
To drizzle:
1 cup chopped dark or milk chocolate, melted
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk until ingredients are combined. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter and the sugar. Beat the until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, orange juice, and orange zest. Beat to combine.
4. Stir in the dry ingredients. Spoon the dough (about 1 tablespoon for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.
5. To glaze the cookies: combine the powdered sugar and orange juice in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let glaze harden for about five minutes. Drizzle cookies with dark chocolate and let the cookies set up.
Makes about 4 dozen cookies

Creamy Potato Leek Soup

This soup is so delicious, it might be my new favorite! And that's saying a lot, because I'm really not a huge potato-soup fan. I got the recipe from the Sister's Cafe blog. The only changes I made were to blend the soup at the end of cooking (because I don't like chunks of potatoes, plus then my kids don't know about the leeks & onions), and then afterwards I added the bacon to the soup instead of putting it on top, so we'd all get an equal amount. Oh, I also cooked it on the stove this time because I forgot it was a crock-pot dish until dinner-time. I simmered it, covered, for about 45 minutes, instead of cooking it all day in the crock-pot. Then I just stirred in the evaporated milk right before blending it. It worked great!

Creamy Potato Leek Soup
6 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
2 leeks, washed, sliced, including white and light green parts
1 cup chopped onion
1 carrot, sliced
1 stalk of celery, sliced
4 cups chicken broth
1 Tb dried parsley flakes
1 tsp garlic salt
2 Tb butter
12 oz. can evaporated milk
12 oz. bacon, cooked and crumbled
sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
chives, chopped - optional

Combine everything except last 4 ingredients in crockpot. Cook on low 7-9 hours or on high 3-4 hours. Stir in the can of evaporated milk the last 45 minutes. Serve hot topped with bacon, cheddar, and chives. (If you have a family that loves bacon, like mine, then you might want to stir in the bacon at the end too... otherwise you might run out fast!)