Vanilla Butter Cookies

This tasty rolled and cut cookie is just the perfect thing to frost and decorate.  What makes this my go-to recipe for cut-out cookies is that this dough tastes great and is easy to work with.

pink frosted Vanilla Butter Cookie hearts

pink frosted Vanilla Butter Cookie hearts

The secret?  There isn’t much sugar in this dough, yielding a very easy to roll dough that cuts cleanly and holds its shape in the oven.  This cookie is buttery, mildly sweet, and boasts a tender crunchy texture that isn’t overwhelmed with a slather of beautiful frosting.   Enjoy!

Vanilla Butter Cookies

2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (3.5 oz) white sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 400

Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder.  Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar until smooth and fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla, and mix until smooth and creamy.  Scape down bowl, and add flour, salt, and baking powder.  Mix on low until dough comes together.

Roll on lightly floured parchment paper until an even 1/4 inch thickness.  Cut out with cookie cutter.  Transfer to baking sheet, allowing 1 inch between cookies.  Bake at 400 for about 13 minutes, or until edges are just beginning to turn golden brown.  Cool.  Enjoy plain, or frost with your favorite buttercream and add decorations as you like.

Sausage and Red Pepper Pasta

When it’s snowy-cold outside and you need a comforting meal, Sausage and Red Pepper Pasta hits the spot.

Sausage and Red Pepper Pasta

Sausage and Red Pepper Pasta

This is an easy, brilliant red and richly flavored pasta sauce that is made from ingredients straight out of the pantry/freezer.  The zip of red pepper flakes adds warmth to the savory flavor of pork sausage and roasted red peppers.

roasted bell peppers, tomatoes, and red pepper flakes

roasted bell peppers, tomatoes, and red pepper flakes

I love to pair this hearty sauce with homemade pappardelle — but any large scale pasta such as rigatoni will do nicely.  This perfectly red sauce is a great choice for a cozy meal on Valentine’s Day.  Enjoy!

Sausage and Red Pepper Pasta

1.5 LB bulk Italian sausage
28 oz can whole tomatoes
16 oz jar roasted red bell peppers, drained and chopped
1 small can tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup red or white wine (optional)
sea salt
water
12 oz dry or 1 LB fresh pasta

Heat a medium covered sauce pan over high, then add the sausage.   Saute sausage for about 8 minutes, breaking up sausage as you stir.  Add the tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, tomato paste, garlic, and wine.  Stir to incorporate all ingredients.  Add a bit of water if the sauce seems too thick.  Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low for about an hour.  Stir and check for moisture occasionally during the simmering time.

Prepare the pasta.  When the pasta is al dente, reserve a cup of the pasta water before draining.  Drain pasta, then return it to the hot empty pot used to cook pasta.  Add the sauce and stir to blend with the cooked pasta.  Allow the pasta and sauce to marry for 5 minutes or so.  (It’s good to let the happy couple have a little honeymoon in the pot before you dig in – the dish becomes one beautiful whole).

Serve with a drizzle of your best olive oil and perhaps some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Wholegrain Cornbread

I’m a west coast granola-girl and have come up with my own California twist on cornbread, a quintessential American side dish.

Cornbread in cast iron skillet

Wholegrain Cornbread in cast iron skillet

There are two main types of cornbread:  Southern and Northern.  Southern cornbread is savory and made with all or nearly all cornmeal.  Northern cornbread is lightly fluffy and sweet, and often made with a substantial portion of wheat flour.  My complaint with either version is the use of refined grains.

Wholegrain Cornbread Slices

Wholegrain Cornbread Slices

My version is a hybrid, with a nutrition boost from the use of all whole grain flours.  I keep it especially moist by combining the cornmeal with boiling water before mixing with the other ingredients.  This moist cornbread has a tasty brown crust from the hot buttered skillet, and is equally at home when paired with honey or a savory pot of chili.

Wholegrain Cornbread crust

Wholegrain Cornbread crust

For a fabulous breakfast, microwave some pieces of leftover cornbread with milk in a bowl and top with a drizzle of maple syrup and walnuts for a breakfast that will power you through til lunch.  Enjoy!

Wholegrain Cornbread

1 cup (6 oz) wholegrain cornmeal
5 oz boiling water
1 cup (5 oz) wholewheat pastry flour*
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. fine sea salt
3 TB sugar
1 large egg
1 cup and 2 TB (9 oz) buttermilk
5 TB melted butter, divided

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  While you are preparing the batter, heat an 8 inch cast iron skillet** until just beginning to smoke.  Pan should be hot when the batter is ready.  If you don’t own a cast iron skillet, you may substitute a 8 inch square baking pan.

Put cornmeal in a small mixing bowl.  Pour the boiling water onto the cornmeal and mix until it forms a very thick mixture.  It’s OK if there are a few dry cornmeal grains left after mixing.  Set aside.

Mix wholewheat pastry flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a medium mixing bowl.  Add egg, buttermilk, 3 TB of melted butter, and the cornmeal/water mixture.  Mix with a spoon until just blended.

Pour 2 TB melted butter into the hot cast iron skillet and then immediately put in the thick batter.  Pop it into the oven and bake for about 18 minutes, or until the cornbread is no longer jiggly in the middle.  Allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a plate, cut, and enjoy.

* Wholewheat pastry flour is made from a softer wheat, which makes it ideal for wholegrain quick breads.  You may substitute regular wholewheat flour, which may yield a bit sturdier cornbread.

** A well seasoned cast iron skillet will turn out a perfect golden crust and release the cornbread as easily as a non-stick pan would.  If your pan isn’t very well seasoned, or if it’s new, you may have to coax the cornbread out with a spatula.