Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas Cookie Exchange 2013

Another Christmas season means another cookie exchange hosted by yours truly!  It's honestly so exciting each year as I prepare the guest list and have new friends to invite and include in this fun holiday tradition. 

This year I invited nearly 25 ladies, from all areas of my life, and I had 15 be able to carve out some time in their busy schedules to join me.  We had some DELICIOUS soups, and even yummier cookies--and maybe most importantly to me, just some wonderful time to fellowship together and have some fun. 

As always happens, I failed to take very many photos...mainly because I was too busy hosting and having a fun time with my friends & family.  However, here's the annual group picture and the recipes I chose this year.  Sorry I failed at taking food pictures, but trust me...they are definitely ALL keepers! 
Minus 1 1/2 since Megan had to take Baby Elliot home!  Love this group of ladies!

Lasagna Soup (via Pinterest):
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1/2 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 carton (32oz) chicken broth
  • 1 can (14.5oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (15oz) tomato sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 8 whole wheat lasagna noodles, broken into bite sized pieces
  • 3/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  1. In a large soup pot, brown ground pork with onion, green pepper and garlic. Add chicken broth, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and seasonings. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Boil 2 minutes, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, covered. (I actually cooked this quite a bit longer so I could soften up the veggies some more.  Stir occasionally.  I then turned off the burner until it was almost time to eat...
  2. Add bite sized lasagna noodles to soup and cook until tender (about 15 minutes).
  3. When ready to serve, mix in the grated parmesan cheese. Ladle into individual bowls and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese. We served our soup with crunchy sourdough bread crisps! ENJOY
  4. I actually put the leftover soup in a small casserole pan for another day.  On Saturday I covered it with foil and warmed it in the oven for a bit--once warm I removed the foil, topped with mozzarella cheese and cooked until melted.  It made some AMAZING lasagna! 
Broccoli-Cheddar Soup (via Pinterest):
1 bunch of fresh broccoli [enough for a few cups of chopped tops]
2 cups vegetable [or chicken] stock
1/2 cup of sharp cheddar cheese, plus plenty extra for topping [freshly grated]
1 heaping cup of regular gouda cheese [freshly grated, rind removed]
1 cup of shredded carrots
1 small white onion [about 2/3 cup or 1 cup, chopped]
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup half and half [or heavy cream]
3 TBSP all purpose flour
3 TBSP butter
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp dried basil
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp salt
a few cranks of freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Dice the onions super small, mince the garlic, an shred the carrots if you didn't buy pre-shredded. For the broccoli, chop 2/3 of it into tiny florets [just cut off as much stem as you can and it'll fall apart in the pot] and then take the remaining 1/3 and give it a rough chop so you have a few large pieces to add to the soup. Totally optional!

Add your veggie stock to a pot on medium-high heat, add your 2/3 of your broccoli [about 2 cups of florets] as well as your onion, garlic, carrots, and bay leaf. Simmer on medium, covered, for about 15-20 minutes or until the veggies are tender.

Once the broth is done, start your roux. In a large pot, melt 3 tablespoons of butter on medium heat, whisking constantly. Once melted, slowly add 3 tablespoons of flour as you continue to whisk. For a thicker soup, use an extra tablespoon of each. I skipped it. Remove from heat and slowly pour in the broth from your veggie mixture [its okay if some of the veggies jump in along side it!] and stir to incorporate. Next pour in the veggies and slowly stir in 1 cup of half and half. Return to the burner on very low heat, uncovered. Spoon out the bay leaf and season with the above herbs and spices, adding a little extra of whichever you like to taste. Depending on the saltiness of your broth, you might skip the salt entirely or prefer to add a bit more -- taste and tweak as needed after adding your cheese. Oh yes -- the cheese! Once the soup has warmed back up, stir in the grated cheeses and remove from heat immediately.
2-½ cups All-purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
2 teaspoons Cream Of Tartar
½ teaspoons Cinnamon
¼ teaspoons Salt
2 sticks Unsalted Butter
1-¼ cup Dark Brown Sugar
½ cups Granulated Sugar
1 Egg
1 Egg Yolk
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
1 Tablespoon Plain Greek Yogurt

¼ cups Granulated Sugar
2 teaspoons Cinnamon
Bottom of FormPreparation Instructions:
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl and set aside. NOTE: Make sure your baking soda and cream of tartar are fresh!
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. The butter will begin to foam. Make sure you whisk consistently during this process. After a couple of minutes, the butter will begin to brown on the bottom of the saucepan; continue to whisk and remove from heat as soon as the butter begins to brown and give off a nutty aroma. Immediately transfer the butter to a bowl to prevent burning. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
With an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, vanilla, and yogurt until combined. Add the dry ingredients slowly and beat on low speed just until combined.
Chill your dough in the refrigerator (important!) until the dough is cold about 30-60 minutes, or place in freezer for about 20 minutes if you are super eager, although I cannot promise the same results if you do this. Fridge is always best! If you desire a puffier cookie, keep the dough in the fridge overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Once dough is chilled, measure about 2 tablespoons of dough and roll into balls. Meanwhile, mix the rolling mixture ingredients in a bowl. Roll balls in the cinnamon-sugar rolling mixture. Place dough balls on cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. If you desire a thinner cookie, flatten the tops of the cookies a tiny bit (very tiny) with your hand.
Bake the cookies 8-11 minutes or until the edges of the cookies begin to turn golden brown. They will look a bit underdone in the middle but will continue to cook once out of the oven. Bake longer if you like crispier cookies. Cool the cookies on the sheets at least 2 minutes. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets after a few minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


Lindsey said...

Mmmm I must make that broccoli cheese soup!!!

Susannah said...

This sounds like so much fun! You've got me wanting to host a Christmas Cookie exchange now!