Archive for December, 2011

Holiday Cutout Cookies and Royal Icing

Here’s an easy cookie recipe to get everyone in the holiday spirit.  Whether you are making them in the shape of Christmas trees, Hanukkah dreidels, Solstice stars, Kwanzaa candles, or all of the above, time with family or friends making and decorating festive cookies is a great holiday project that is fun for people of all ages!

I had a request to come up with an alternative cut out cookie and so these were my project last night.  I was surprised at how workable the dough was and how sturdy the cookies.  It’s easy to roll out and cut, then once you’ve cut out the shapes, you can put it in the fridge for 5-10 minutes to firm up a bit and you should have no problem transferring the cut cookies onto a baking sheet.

Of course, as soon as my kids saw cutout cookies, they tasted them, declared them yummy, then asked for icing to go on top.  Since coconut butter is my go-to for easy frosting, I just spooned out a bit of that and sweetened it very lightly with the powdered coconut sugar left in the blender from the cookies.  It came out with a beautiful sheen, nice and spreadable when warm, then firm and shiny when cool, just like royal icing.  It’s really best for spreading on the cookies, but we did pipe some onto some stars and gingerbread men and that worked for simple designs (sorry, no frosting roses:).  It stays firm at about 70 degrees and below, which most houses and offices are.  Be sure not to store the frosted cookies too near a heat source!  Other options are to decorate with a dusting of cinnamon-coconut sugar, dried fruit pieces, chocolate chips, or if you really want to get crazy, the colored decorating sugar from Whole Foods.

For the Cookies:

  • 2/3 cups coconut oil, softened
  • 2/3 cups coconut sugar, powdered
  • 2 Tablespoon of ground flax
  • 6 Tablespoons water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 ½-2 cups flour (I used sprouted buckwheat, but a combo of amaranth and quinoa would be great, or any gf mix you love!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  1. Measure the coconut oil, then soften it by placing the measuring cup in a bowl of warm water.
  2. Measure the coconut sugar and process in a blender to powder it.  Set aside.
  3.  In a small bowl, combine 1 ½ cups of the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In a larger mixing bowl, cream together the softened coconut oil and powdered coconut sugar.
  5. Mix in the flax, water, and vanilla.
  6. Add the flour mixture about a third at a time and mix until incorporated.  Add additional flour if needed until you have a smooth dough that you can knead lightly with your hands without sticking.
  7. Divide the dough in 2 and roll each half out between 2 sheets of wax or parchment paper or on a silicone mat to about ¼ inch thick.
  8. Place into the refrigerator for about 10 minutes or so.
  9. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  10. Lightly oil 3-4 cookie sheets.
  11.  When the rolled dough has firmed up a bit, cut with cookie cutters into desired shapes and place on prepared trays.
  12. Bake for 6-9 minutes, or until just lightly browned on the edges.
  13. Allow to firm up for a few minutes on the pan before removing them to a cooling rack.
  14.  Decorate as you wish and enjoy!

For the icing:

  • 1 cup coconut butter
  • 1/4 cup powdered coconut sugar, or more to taste
  1. Measure the coconut butter into a glass measuring cup.
  2. Place measuring cup in a pot of warm water and stir until it’s creamy and spreadable.
  3. Stir in coconut sugar and remove from heat.
  4. Spread or pipe as desired.
  5. Enjoy!
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Za’atar Seasoning

I only recently discovered Za’atar, but it’s one of those tastes that will stay in my culinary repertoire for the duration.  From what I can gather, the name refers either to a specific herb native to North Africa or a spice blend common in that same region.  I have never come across the herb called za’atar, so I am referring to the blend of spices I call Za’atar seasoning.  Like many native spice mixtures, it varies from region to region and even from household to household.  It can include a variety of spices such as oregano, marjaram, thyme, fennel, caraway, and savory, as well as sumac and sesame seeds. It can be sprinkled in olive oil and used as a dipping sauce for breads or filling for breads, or as a rub for meats or tofu, or poured generously on hummus.  For a while, I was buying the spice blend from a local spice shop, but then I discovered that it was even more heavenly made with fresh thyme from my garden, so I started making it myself.  As is the case with most spices, Za’atar seasoning is high in antioxidants and it also microbial, so a good addition to your holiday diet!

You can add and replace spices as needed, but here is my favorite simple Za’atar seasoning…you may not find sumac at your grocery store, but you should be able to find it at most specialty spice shops.

  • 1 Tablespoon sumac
  • 1 Tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1-2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Place all of the ingredients in a mortar and pestle or a small blender.  You want to break open the sesame seeds so that they are digestible.  If you don’t have either of those tools, you could try crushing them on a cutting board using a flat-bottomed glass or something similar, along with a little elbow grease.  Optimally, you’ll open up the sesame seeds a bit to break up the hull; your body will have a hard time digesting them if they are intact.  Sprinkle the crushed mixture on hummus and other dips, or use it as a seasoned salt on tofu, beans, roasted vegetables, etc.  If you want to use it as a rub, stir it into about 1/4 cup olive oil.  This is also a yummy sandwich spread!  It’s a great way to bring flavor to dishes without adding excessive salt.  It’s such a simple thing, but adds incredible flavor.  I hope you’ll try it and enjoy!

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Roasted Parsnip and Carrot Chips

I have always liked parsnips, but I don’t think I’ve ever gone out of my way for them until now.  Maybe it’s their earthy sweetness, or the fact that they are still feeding my local produce appetite, but I am in love with them right now.  And, like most things I love, they require only the simplest preparation to be perfectly delicious.

They are a nice addition to any roasted vegetable platter, as a side with a sandwich or dip, or of course they are a great snack.

  • 5-6 medium parsnips
  • 5-6 medium carrots
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • a handful of parsley

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Wash and dry the parsnips and carrots.  Slice both the parsnips and carrots about 1/4 inch thick on a diagonal; do this by lying them on the cutting board and holding them firmly (with fingertips rolled back toward you, of course), then angling your knife at a 45-60 degree angle so you are cutting oblong slices.  This provides a greater surface area to brown.  Drizzle the cut vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of salt, then spread them in one layer on a rimmed baking sheet (the rim will keep any excess olive oil from dripping off).  Place the sheet in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.  They will be browned and slightly caramelized when they are done.  Sprinkle them with parsley and a little more salt, if you wish.  Enjoy!

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