Pumpkin, Sweet Potato Soup

On the Mainland it is turning decidedly towards winter, and even here in the tropics the days are cooler and wetter. Thoughts are turning to winter flavors, to pies, cookies, and soups.

Last weekend I attended a pumpkin carving party. I was heartened to see that most everybody was saving their seeds to roast at home later (myself included). However, everybody was just discarding the cut out pieces of pale orange pumpkin flesh. I saved these odd-shaped castoffs and brought them home. I roasted them very simply with olive oil, garlic cloves and salt as a side to accompany a roast pork loin, and after dinner I had about 2 cups left over. These tasty garlic flavored soft pumpkin pieces sat in my fridge for a few days until I felt the urge to make soup.

I had some purple sweet potatoes that were languishing on the counter, and lots of frozen homemade chicken stock. Some onion, a touch of dairy, a generous pinch of salt and an immersion blender and I was on my way to a delicious soup. Top this with goat cheese and freshly ground black pepper and you have something far out of the ordinary.

Because my sweet potatoes were of the purple variety, my soup came out a decidedly purple/pink/brown color. If you want a more attractive looking soup, I would use the orange sweet potatoes. The soup should still taste delicious, but it’ll look better!

Pumpkin, Sweet Potato Soup

serves ~8

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 regular onion, diced
  • 1/2 sweet onion, diced
  • 5-6 roasted garlic cloves
  • 2 cups cooked pumpkin
  • 2 cups sweet potatoes, cut and cooked
  • 4 cups stock or broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • goat cheese for serving

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until they turn translucent. Add the garlic, pumpkin and potato. Cook for another 5 minutes or until the kitchen smells fragrant. Add the stock and turn the heat up to high. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and let simmer for 20-30 mins. Taste and adjust seasoning. You’ll probably need more salt . . .

Puree the soup using an immersion blender until smooth. Add half and half (you could use cream, but I have half and half on hand because that’s what I drink with my coffee) and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Serve in bowls topped with a sprinkle of soft goat cheese and a few more grinds of  pepper.

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Orange Cake

A friend of mine has a tree in his yard that I always suspected was some sort of citrus tree. But for two years, it didn’t produce any fruit whatsoever. This year, however some changes occurred: the house was tented and the tree cut way back, then we had a very wet spring. The result of these happy coincidences is that the tree is now loaded with fruit. And we determined that it is an orange tree. Local oranges in Hawaii are about the same size as a standard naval orange, but they are greener in color when ripe and the ones from this tree don’t seem to have hardly any seeds. Excellent!

Laden with a bag full of freshly picked oranges and a desire to make a simple cake, I went searching for a recipe. I found one that looked promising, converted it to US measurements and made it. It was very good. It was both light and rich and nicely orange flavored. But I was looking for something with a stronger orange flavor. Something that shouted “Orange!” instead of just whispering “orange.” Over dessert, my mom, aunt, and I analyzed the cake and decided upon some adjustments. More zest, more concentrated orange juice . . . And due to my complete lack of measurements when it came to the icing, I ended up with a glaze instead. Poking holes in the cake insured the glaze wouldn’t all run off the edges and I ended up with something I like better than a super sweet icing.

This second orange cake was lovely too. Still not as orange as I’d hoped for, but I think that has to do with the delicate nature of the oranges I used. I’ll be that if you use your run-of-the-mill oranges that you’ll end up with a more strongly orange cake.

For cake the second I ended up with an even runnier glaze (you might want to up the sugar or decrease the OJ if you want something that stays on top of the cake) which served to make the cake even more moist. This is not a bad thing! But, because it was somewhat lacking in presentation panache, I dusted the top with powdered sugar. A nice thought about the glaze? Add some Grand Marnier or rum instead of just OJ. Mmmm . . .

Orange Cake

serves 8 – 12, depending on how you slice it

For the Cake:

  • 2 sticks lightly salted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp finely grated orange zest (use organic oranges if you can)
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 oz. freshly squeezed orange juice

For the glaze:

  • 2 1/2 oz. powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice

Zest your orange(s) and set aside the zest. Juice the oranges into a small saucepan, and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, to just under 3 oz. Let cool.

Preheat the oven to 325F. Butter a 9 inch spring-form pan and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Butter the parchment.

In a medium bowl, combine flour with baking powder and salt. In your KitchenAid, or using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy and pale in color. Add the eggs one at a time to the butter and sugar mixture, beating well after each addition. Add the orange zest and beat to mix. Add all of the flour mixture at once and mix on low speed to combine. With the mixer running, slowly pour in the reduced orange juice. The batter will be a little thick.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and spread to level the top. Bake in the center rack for 50-60 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the pan for 30 minutes before removing the sides and bottom of the spring-form pan. Gently turn the cake out onto a cooling rack to cool completely before placing on a serving plate. Using a skewer, perforate the cake liberally with holes.

Combine the sifted powdered sugar and orange juice in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. It will be runny. Slowly spoon the glaze over the cake, trying to let the cake absorb as much of the glaze as possible before it inevitably pours over the sides.


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Ginger Cucumber Salad with Scallops

While I’m waiting for the orange cake to come out of the oven, let me tell you about the wonderfully light and tasty cucumber salad I made. Taken straight from Mark Bittman at the New York Times, this salad is perfect for a light lunch or quick dinner before going out to hit the town (you want something in your stomach, but not too much ’cause you’ll probably end up eating more later). This has a distinctly asian flavor about it, and reminds me of those yummy little pickled cucumbers that you get as a palate cleanser between courses at (I think) Japanese restaurants. So, if you like those, you’ll love this salad!

It comes together quickly (with a bit of time to sit), and requires minimum time in front of a stove so it’s perfect for summertime. Speaking of coming together quickly, I finally broke down and bought a mandoline. Mine is an OXO one and kind of spiffy with lots of different blades and an adjustable dial to change the thickness of whatever it is you’re cutting. I used it for both the cucumbers and the onions. (Sure, I could have easily sliced the onions by hand and I can get slices that thin with cucumbers too, but that many of them? That would have taken a while and, unless I went even more slowly, at least some of the slices would have been much too thick or too thin.) Now, I just need to use the mandoline more – and certainly enough to justify it’s existence in my kitchen cabinets.

But, back to the salad. It has seared scallops! How could it not be good, right? (You could easily use shrimp instead.) When I made this for myself I only cooked up half the scallops, thinking I’d quickly sear off another round when I ate the other half. However, I have to tell you that the leftovers, cold from the fridge and without the tasty seafood, was delish! I might have liked it better than the original. Part of that could be that I added some cyan pepper to the leftovers because I thought the salad needed a bit of heat. I’ve adjusted the recipe accordingly, don’t you worry!

Ginger Cucumber Salad with Scallops

adapted from Mark Bittman
serves 2 (doubles easily)

  • 1 large asian cucumber (about 3/4 pound)
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp freshly grated ginger (but I won’t tell if you use the stuff out of a jar!)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 small Thai (or other) hot chile, finely diced
  • oil for searing the scallops (see note below)
  • 1/2 pound sea scallops
  • salt and pepper
  • dash of tumeric
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/4 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds

Using your spiffy new mandoline, slice the cumberer into 1/8 slices. Remember not to slice your fingers off when you get to the end. Combine the vinegar, ginger, sugar, salt and chili and pour over the cucumbers. Set the bowl aside for the acids to go to work on the cucumbers and the flavors to combine for at least half an hour, but longer if you like. Or, stick it in the fridge and come back to it later; it’ll be fine.

Lightly coat the bottom of a non-stick skillet with the oil. (Note: Bittman says to use “grapeseed or other neutral oil” which I didn’t have so I just used vegetable. I would steer clear of olive oil though, with its distinctive flavor. While I love olive oil, that’s not the flavor we’re going for in this dish.) Heat to medium-high, and sear the scallops for about 2 minutes on each side. Set them aside.

Add another tablespoon of oil, turn the heat down to medium, and saute the onions with the tumeric until they soften and turn transluscent. A little bit of browning is okay, but remember the tumeric will color the onions so don’t just rely on color to determine if your onions are cooked.

While you’ve got the onions working in your large skillet, heat the sesame seeds in a small one until they just start to smell good. Keep an eye on them ’cause, like most seeds and nuts, they’ll go from perfect to burnt in a matter of seconds.

Once everything is cooked and off the heat, get your cucumbers. Drain most of the vinegar marinade from the them, and add the onions to the bowl. Stir gently to combine. Plate half the cucumbers and onions and top with half the scallops. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve immediately.

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Salad with Pomegranate Seeds & Raspberry Vinaigrette

Pomegranates are sexy. They are red, juicy and luscious, and kind of messy. Pomegranates are mythical. When Hades abducted Persephone to the underworld, the only food or drink that she consumed was pomegranate seeds (the number varies depending on the telling). For this action she is obliged to return to the underworld for a period of each year, thus placing her mother, Demeter the goddess of the harvest, in mourning and giving us seasons.

Pomegranates grow in Hawaii, and I picked two of them during my walk this morning. One fell on the ground and cracked when I picked them, so I seeded that one when I got home. The other I have whole, awaiting inspiration.

But, in the meantime, I decided that I’d utilize some of the jewel-like seeds. So I made a salad for lunch. It was beautiful, fresh and light, and tasted like summer. I ate enough pomegranate seeds in the salad that I would have had to stay in Hades all year round, but there are advantages to not being a goddess with whom gods of the underworld fall in love. I’ll take my mortality and eat all the pomegranate seeds I want!

Salad with Pomegranate Seeds and Raspberry Vinaigrette

For the Salad
serves one

  • 1 large handful of lettuces, washed and torn if needed
  • 1 small handful of arugula, likewise prepped
  • cucumber slices
  • pecorino romano cheese, shaved into strips
  • 2 tbsp. walnuts, toasted
  • 1-2 tbsp. pomegranate seeds
For the Dressing
serves two

  • 1 tbsp. raspberry vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. (or so) orange juice
  • freshly ground black pepper
Over the lettuce and arugula, arrange the cucumber, walnuts, and pomegranate seeds. Shave the cheese directly onto the composed salad. 

To make the dressing, combine all ingredients and whisk together in a small bowl. (Or, make a larger batch in a small jar and shake vigorously to combine.)

Dress the salad, and enjoy with your favorite homemade bread.

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Indian-Inspired Yogurt Marinade

I’ve always loved Indian food. I think I truly fell in love with it while living in London. It seemed that in every neighborhood, on nearly every corner there was an Indian restaurant. Some of them were informal and had just okay lunch buffets, some of them a notch up the scale and offered great take-out, still others offered an elegant sit-down dinner experience. I loved them all, depending on my time and budget constraints!

Recently I’ve started cooking some Indian food. I requested (and got) a Madhur Jaffrey cookbook for Christmas, and I’ve been looking at her recipes and spice combinations. I was pleased to discover that I had most of the spices in my cabinet already, but rarely combined them in an “Indian” way. Once you begin to get familiar with the flavor combinations and how to achieve them a lot of the mystery goes out of cooking a particular style of cuisine, and I’ve begun to experiment with Indian style non-recipe dinners.

Here is a marinade that I created using spice combinations inspired by the sub-continent.

Indian-Inspired Yogurt Marinade

makes about 1 cup

  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1 green chili pepper
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. coriander seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. ground tumeric
  • 1/4 tsp. garam masala

In a small spice grinder (coffee grinders work wonderfully – I have one just for spices) combine cumin, pepper, and coriander seeds until they are roughly ground. Finely chop the garlic and chili. Add all ingredients to a medium bowl and stir to combine. Marinate the meat of your choice for 1 hour to overnight.

This time I used some lamb chops that were on sale at the supermarket. I slathered the marinade on them, wrapped them in plastic, and stuck them in the fridge until I was ready to eat (probably around 3 hours). A quick trip under the broiler and they were tasty little meat lollypops. Here, I served them with a simple mushroom rice pilaf and glazed carrots.

I’ll probably use the extra marinade for some chicken breasts later in the week. Maybe I’ll chop up some pepper and onions and turn them into kabobs and serve them with pita or naan, and tzatziki sauce or raita.

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French Onion Soup

I realize that I’ve been terribly lax in updating here. Haole Girl Gourmet has been pushed to the periphery of my priorities for the last six months as I’ve taken on new roles at work, and continued to keep up with my regularly busy spring schedule of shows. I assure you that I’ve been eating; I just haven’t been remembering to take pictures of the process or product, note down ingredients, or had any time to actually write about it. I’ve been missing the process of writing and the idea of an audience reading what I’ve written. I’m optimistic that I can begin posting more regularly for a while again.

A week or so ago (when I had a few consecutive days off) I did remember to bring a camera into the kitchen and note down ingredients and quantities. I roasted, simmered, sliced, caramelized, and stirred my way to one of the best things I’ve made in a while – French Onion Soup.

It was heavenly. The onions almost melting into the rich broth, flavors of garlic and thyme not overpowering but enhancing the oniony goodness, sourdough croutons floating on top of the rich liquid and clinging to a top layer of warm and bubbly gruyere . . . It was like taking a bite of pure ambrosia.

But onion soup, however heavenly it tastes, must have been, at its beginnings, peasant food. Onions are cheap and long lasting; they’ll sit all winter in the cellar or pantry. Broth or stock can be made from the bones and off-cuts of richer meals. Stale bread is an excellent way to thicken soup and to eek another meal out of an otherwise unappetizing bit of leftovers. With the exception of the cheese (a new addition for richer tastes and thicker wallets?) French Onion Soup has very down-to-earth beginnings.

Once you consider these origins, it gives you freedom to play with the recipe. (Peasants would use what they had, right?) Starting from Julia Child’s recipe for the soup in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I did a few things differently. I added garlic and thyme to the caramelizing onions and, perhaps most notably, I used chicken stock instead of beef. I’d made the stock a couple days prior starting with chicken legs and vegetables roasting in a low oven, simmering everything for hours on the stovetop. I was confident that I wouldn’t miss the beef stock. (If you wanted to use a rich vegetable broth you could easily make this soup vegetarian. And, if you omit the cheese at the end, vegan.) The chicken broth may upset purists, but I can assure you that the soup was wonderful and rich despite the substitution of a somewhat less rich meat product to begin with. And besides, I don’t cook red meat, so why should I use beef stock in my cooking either?

French Onion Soup

serves 6-8
adapted from Julia Child

  • 2 1/2 large onions, sliced
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • lemon juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 quarts stock or broth of your choosing (see above)
  • 1/4 cup grated raw onion
  • 1/2 cup finely grated pecorino cheese
  • french bread, cut into 1″ cubes, stale and toasted in the oven
  • 1/4 cup grated gruyere cheese per serving

In a large pot, heat the butter and oil over medium heat. Sweat the onions for about 15 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat so the onions don’t start to brown.

Add the garlic, thyme, salt and sugar. Increase the heat to med/high and caramelize the onions until they turn a lovely shade of golden brown. This should take another 15 minutes or so. Stir in the flour and cook another 2-3 minutes.

Deglaze the pot with the wine and lemon juice, being sure to scrape up any bits that are stuck to the bottom. Once the wine and lemon juice have been absorbed add the stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer, partially covered, for 30-40 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed. (If it’s not needed, by all means, don’t feel obliged to add any!)

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325 degrees and get out some serving bowls that can go in the oven. Toast your croutons and grate the gruyere. Grate some raw onion and pecorino cheese.

Once the soup is finished simmering (I suppose you could leave it on too long, but you’ll be hungry long before that happens so I wouldn’t worry about it!) turn off the heat and stir in the grated onion and pecorino.

Portion the soup into your oven-safe bowls, leaving some room on top. Fill the top of each bowl with a layer of croutons and sprinkle the gruyere over it all. Bake your bread and cheese topped soup in the oven for 10 mins or until you can’t stand it. Then, turn on the broiler and briefly broil the soup until the cheese is bubbling and starting to brown.

Soup's Up!Take them out of the oven and serve (on cooler plates) immediately.

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Prudential Japan

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Or, why the post about French Onion Soup is delayed.
On the other hand, I finally finished reading Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. It was wonderful but poses more questions than strictly answers, and is what its title implies: a dilemma.

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Cranberry Pie

First off, let me apologize for being remiss in my upkeep here. I’ve been alternately too busy and too lazy to post recipes. I’ve been baking up a storm since Thanksgiving and having flakey pastry for breakfasts like this:

But, seeing as how Boxing Day is a day to share our gifts with people outside of our family, I’ll share a special recipe. And a story.

Once upon a time, there was a young couple who were very much in love. Every year at the holidays, they would travel to his family’s house and there the young man would tell the young lady about the wonderful cranberry pie that his mother and aunts made. They would be well, and eat, and make merry, and enjoy the cranberry pie that was the young man’s favorite dessert. Each time, the young lady would request the cranberry pie recipe so that she could make it for the young man and make him happy. Each time, the mother and the aunts would say, yes, of course, we’ll get you a copy of the recipe. Each time, it never came. This went on for years, the young man only having the cranberry pie, that was his favorite, when he visited his mother’s house. And then the young couple were married, and they were newly-weds, and they received wedding presents from friends and family near and far. And then, in the mail, arrived a hand-written recipe card. Across the top, the card read, “Cranberry Pie.”

And so, dear readers, this is the cranberry pie recipe. It is deceptively simple. Over the years, it has been tweaked in minor ways, but always at heart it is the same recipe. I think it has been improved. And that young couple? No longer young, and with children of their own, they declared this Thanksgiving, that I had perfected the cranberry pie. And I have their permission to share it.

This is a pure cranberry pie. There are no filler fruits. No nuts. Nothing to detract from the very cranberry-ness of it. I’ve tweaked it so that it has the perfect balance between tart and sweet, and the perfect amount of sticky runny syrup inside. Pair it with a wonderful flakey crust and some whipped cream or small scoop of vanilla ice cream and you’ll win over anyone. Serve it left-over with coffee for breakfast and it brightens the whole day.

I talked about my crust recipe and method earlier, so I’ll spare you that again. But, it is here if you need it. Since this is a holiday pie, and therefor special, I often make with a lattice crust. The recipe is the same, just cut the top crust into strips about 1″ wide, and weave them over the top of the filling.

Cranberry Pie

makes one 9″ Pie

  • Crust for a two-crust pie
  • 4 cups cut cranberries (see below)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. butter
  • 3/4 cup water

Preheat the oven to 350ºF, position the upper rack in the middle of the oven, and put some tin-foil on the bottom rack to catch any drips.

Cut each cranberry in half. Yes, every single one of them. No, you cannot use a food processor for this step as it will chop them too small and inconsistently. You can use fresh or frozen (but not thawed) berries for this to equally good results. But, be warned that cutting frozen cranberries in half gets pretty cold on the fingers.

A note on quantity: 4 cups (or, up to 4 1/2 cups) is good for a 9″ pie. If you are making a 10″ pie, you’ll probably want closer to six cups of cut cranberries, but I don’t usually measure them, and just use the empty pie plate as a guide. Also of note, if you are making a larger pie, increase the sugar to 1 1/3 cups, and the water to just shy of 1 cup.

Rinse the cut cranberries well to get the seeds out of them. A colander works well, or you can float the cranberries in a bowl of water and the seeds will sink to the bottom. Set the cranberries aside to drain while you roll out the crust.

Make your pie crust, and line the bottom of a pie plate with the bottom crust. Sprinkle the flour over the bottom crust. Pour the cranberries in, then top with sugar, vanilla, butter and finally, the water (when I make a lattice crust, I wait on the water and carefully pour in in thru the lattice so that the bottom crust doesn’t get soggy while I’m working on the lattice). Cover with the top crust, crimp the edges, cut a few air slots (if the design of your top crust doesn’t already have holes), and put in the oven.

Bake until the inside is bubbling and the crust is golden, about one hour.

Cool on a rack for at least an hour before serving.

Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

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Coming Soon . . .

. . . from an oven near you! Just in time for the Thanksgiving table!

Cranberry Pie

Pumpkin Pie (at least one! perhaps two different kinds!)

Rolls!

Stay tuned. Hopefully I’ll have time and remember to take pictures. That is, if my hands aren’t covered in flour and butter and pumpkin custard.

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Pumpkin Post #3 – Iced Pumpkin Cookies

Yes, Gentle Readers, another Pumpkin Post! This will be the last one in a while, I promise, and we’ll then explore other flavors. Unless I make a pumpkin dessert for Thanksgiving. But for Thanksgiving and a food blog, all bets are off. But, you see, I had a cup and a quarter of pumpkin puree left and I needed to find a recipe in which to use it. What I found is a wonderful little cookie recipe that will win you over.

Full of spice, and iced with a simple cream cheese frosting, these moist and light cookies are like little cakes that you can pick up and eat without the fuss of a fork and plate. And, guess what?, they make your kitchen smell wonderful while they are baking!

Iced Pumpkin Cookies

makes about 40 cookies, depending on their size

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tbsp. molasses
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup craisins (optional)
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped (optional)
  • vanilla sugar
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or, a bit of each: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ground ginger)

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In the work bowl of your stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add the pumpkin, egg, vanilla, and molasses and mix until well combined.

In another large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. In two additions, incorporate flour mixture into the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined. Add craisins and nuts, if desired.

Drop dough by heaping tablespoons onto prepared cookie sheets. Keep at least 1 1/2″ between each cookie. Take a glass, butter the bottom of it, and set it in a small plate of vanilla sugar. With the sugared glass, press down each cookie until flattened slightly, re-sugaring the glass between each cookie.

Bake cookies for 13 – 15 minutes until puffed and slighted browned (the bottoms should be slightly darker). Remove and cool on wire racks.

While the cookies are cooling, beat together cream cheese, powdered sugar and spices. Ice the cookies as you choose, and serve!

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