Best Sugar Cookies

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Sugar Cookies

Remember when I was “devastated” over a lost sugar cookie recipe? I really did look everywhere, which to me meant I looked in binder after binder and I decided one thing – I’m bloody terrible at keeping up with recipes. Once I pull them out of the binder everything pretty much goes to hell. I finally found this recipe on the back side of another cookie recipe that I had been planning to make for a few weeks – duh, turn things over. This is not the first time this has happened. Sad.

That said, I’ve been making this sugar cookie recipe for about ever – over ten years now. Originally, I made this for Christmas – Christmas Eve in particular, but with so much other stuff going on, I kind of pushed these into the new year and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. A few years back I started making these for Mardi Gras. I had the colored sugars for it, but that was about it.

The cookie cutters I used for a few year are those of my mom. She had a set of card suits cookie cutters – spade, heart, diamond, club – which is kind of strange to be honest, but she was a great card player, especially with her sister. I never could get the hang of gin rummy. But I am happy to have these cookie cutters – along with a couple of others. They have been around as long as I can remember.

I do like to order weird colors of sanding sugars (those are usually the ones on sale), so one year I got a dark purple and a pale green – both from William-Sonoma. When you mix the pale green with a Christmas green, it works. Kind of like when you mix orange and yellow together you get the gold that you’re looking for  – the Mardi Gras colors.

Truth be told, I have ordered Mardi Gras cookie cutters for our pot luck at work. This makes me happy. I guess it’s just the simple things – or maybe I’m just a bit simple.

So here’s the recipe from the Food Network Kitchens – at least I think that’s where it is from. Again – me a keeping up with recipes – ugh.

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Over a piece of waxed paper, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer,  cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time and then the vanilla. Sift flour into butter mixture, 1 cup at a time until just combined. Dump out onto plastic wrap and shape into a disk. Cover with plastic and chill 3 to 4 hours.*

Roll out dough until 1/4 inch and cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Brush and sprinkle with colored sugars. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 8 – 10 minutes until edges are slightly golden. Remove cookies to a rack to cool completely.

December 2002 – best sugar cookies ever
January 2003 – bake on parchment, spilled sugar comes off easier than a Silpat – for cast boy – granulated sugar is pretty too.
24 December 2003 – 8 minutes, to D&S for Christmas Eve
24 December 2004 – vvg as always
24 December 2006
December 2007
December 2008
February 2012 – Mardi Gras
28 January 2014
19 January 2016 – Mardi Gras practice

*Or overnight. This dough keeps pretty damn well for a few days as long as it is properly wrapped.

Cranberry Horseradish Relish

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Cranberry Horseradish Relish

Totally wrong time of the year, but you can’t help what you want when you want it. This is excellent!

Cranberry Horseradish Relish

  • 2 pkgs (6 cups) fresh cranberries
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh orange juice
  • 1/3 cup prepared horseradish
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves

Combine sugar and orange juice in sauce pan. Boil until sugar dissolves. Add cranberries and return to boil. Simmer until cranberries begin to burst. Let cool completely; mix in horseradish and cloves. Refrigerate.

Bench Notes: Easy peasy. I’ve been making this since (gasp) the late 1990’s. If I remember correctly, this was a Southern Living recipe and I used to make it for my small family but share half with a great friend and her family. Now I make for my larger family and another great friend, and her family enjoys it too.

I bring it to all Thanksgiving gathering whether anyone wants it there or not, because I like it – not any protest as far as I’ve heard. It will last in the fridge for months and is excellent on leftover turkey sandwiches esp. with bleu cheese dressing. And really good with any roasted meat. I make sure to set some aside for the best Mother-in-Law a wife could ever have.  But, by definition, it is Thanksgiving to me. My Thanksgiving because I made it when it was just me and The Boy.  Funny, because we always had the Ocean Spray canned stuff with the marked lines for cutting – which I also loved – growing up.* Guess we all grow up at some point.

Oh, and fresh cranberries can be stored in the freezer for later use – for about ever.  Nice since my grocery store sells them for Buy one – Get one for the week before Thanksgiving.

It’s now July and I am craving this. I think I know why. Our freezer puked back in the spring and I lost my cranberries and everything else except for the nuts and chocolate chips. Just couldn’t take the chance with the cranberries. But I am so ready for this Oct / Nov. Will not be w/out this again.

* We also had a pickle and olive tray at our Thanksgiving table. Olives – ugh, but sweet Gerkins were my favorites – other than bread & butter, the only pickle I like except for the ones I make. I think I may ask my Dad for that tray. Don’t expect anyone else will – at least I hope not.

Sausage Balls (Cook’s Country)

Makes 3 dozen

  • 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) all purpose flour

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    Sausage Balls

  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 8 ounces bulk breakfast sausage
  • 4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (1 cup)
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

Adjust oven rack to  middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Pulse flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne in food processor until combined, about 3 pulses. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 12 pulses. Add sausage and cheddar and pulse until combined, about 8 pulses. Transfer mixture to bowl and stir in buttermilk until combined.

Working with wet hands, roll 1 Tbs dough at a time into 1 1/4 inch balls and place, evenly spaced, on baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, 20  to 22 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack and let ball cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm.

**Notes: My mom made sausage balls every year for Christmas (as long as I can remember, and well, that’s a pretty long time now), so I do the same thing, but I use this recipe. No need to have bisquick for the one time of year I need it – these are things that are on hand always. The use of buttermilk is perfect but it does make a very wet dough, so you do need to wet your hands to work with this.

I like to serve with spicy mustard (my dad likes) and grape jelly (that’s for me), but I also read this year that some people serve them with hot pepper jelly – sounds like a plan to me because as soon as it’s cooler (not so humid) I will open the windows and make some jelly with the peppers I’ve stored in the freezer since this summer.

I do use “hot” breakfast sausage and I tend to add a little more cayenne pepper than called for, but I do that on everything. I make an entire batch, bake them, and freeze what I don’t use and reheat them in the oven as I need them throughout the entire blah that is January.

Right now it’s humid and miserable, but looks like it should be cold and frosty. May have to change into shorts. Hello January on the NWFL Gulf Coast (sigh).  I think it’s a conspiracy  – can’t make candy with this much humidity. ugh.

Pecan Tassies (w/walnuts included, on occasion)

I have no real idea where I found this recipe.  I’m guessing (totally) Southern Living or something like that. I’ve been making these long before the Boy was born. When I lived in a “southern” city that was not very Southern at all – Jacksonville, FL. What a strange place.  So many people from somewhere else, so it wasn’t southern at all, but my family was. Both my parents were from small towns in the Sandhills of North Carolina.  Just simple people who worked hard and raised families and worked in textile mills, and on the railroad, and on farms and  had extra kids for, well, just in case you needed them. Not the pretty parts of North Carolina that I’ve been to (Asheville, Ski Beech, Flat Rock (where the Man of the House and I were married) or Chapel Hill where we lived for a couple of years – just lovely), but the scrabbly parts – where people were getting by, but knew how to make great food. I was about to go into a whole Eastern Carolina BBQ thing, but I’ll save that for another time. This just got away from me (yep – Dr. Who).

Pecan/Walnut Tassies

This was not a recipe of my family’s, but it became a very requested thing. A not-sweet dough, but a sweet, pecan pie-like filling, that balances out very nicely.

Pecan Tassies

[1st – not sure where the word “tassies” comes from. Guess I need to figure that out.]

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups all purpose flour
2 large eggs
2 cups dark brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1  1/2 cups pecans, chopped (I mix both pecans and walnuts)
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Beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Add the flour and pat into disk and chill.

Lightly beat eggs and add sugar and vanilla and stir in pecans (or whatever combination of nuts).

Press dough into greased mini muffin pans and fill with nut mixture with in 1/4 inch of the top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 – 28 minutes turning pans half way through.

Holiday Cheese Balls (Cook’s Country)

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Holiday Cheddar Cheese Ball

Going to take a look back at some of my older editions of Cook’s Country magazine and America’s Test Kitchen magazine to see what will come up in a seasonal kind of way.  So, first up – Cook’s Country Jan 2011, as in the title of this post.

Okay – I made this original recipe for Christmas and divided it in half for a friend who admits to liking cheese balls and to get input. This went very well – all participants in the experiment were pleased with the cheese ball.

Cheese Ball (AKA: Holiday Cheddar Cheese Ball)

  • 2 cups extra sharp cheddar, grated
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 Tbs mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 sliced almonds, toasted

Process all ingredients (except nuts) in food processor until smooth, scraping down sides (a given) about 1 minute. (my notes: whirl up garlic first to mince it – so much easier) Transfer to center of large piece of cling film.

Holding corners of the cling film in one hand, twist the cheese with the other hand to seal the film and shape the cheese into a rough ball. Refrigerate until firm, about one hour (can be refridgerated  for two days). Once the cheese ball is firm, reshape as necessary  into smooth sphere.  Unwrap and roll in nuts. (I used pecans since they are local). Let sit 15 minutes before serving.

13 Dec 2014 (or 12/13/14) divided in two for my friend Traci. Reports were good

Served 21 Dec 2014 – family really liked. Am pleased.

Now that I’ve seen the original in Cook’s Country magazine there is another variation that I would like to try and I’ll likely share with my friend Traci and her family again. I mean you have to be cool to say that you like a cheese ball. It’s a little dorky, but … come on, for New Year’s – who is going to be a critic then. If they are, they are not your friend.

Beer Cheese Ball

Cheddar cheese ball without mayonnaise, Worcestershire and cayenne. Add 3 Tbs beer and 1 tsp yellow mustard in food processor.  Replace nuts with 1/2 cup crushed pretzels.

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Beer Cheese Ball

7 January 2015

Made a full recipe to divide between me and my friend Traci and her family. Shaped it and chilled overnight yesterday. Coated with pretzel crisps – not quite real pretzels, but I like them (and had them on hand) and mixed with a few pecan pieces.  I used a bit more mustard than was called for, but it seemed like it needed it (to me) and used the now rare, at least in our area, Sweet Hot Mister Mustard. A true delicacy.