Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Special dinner: Pasta with Shrimp, Clams and Artichokes



I learned this recipe at the 3rd Annual Feast of the Seven Fishes Festival in Fairmont. The co-founder's father taught it. His tasted way better than what I made last night. Buttery. I'm not sure if he added butter because people were so loud and rude that I missed a lot of his presentation unfortunately. Even if I missed something, what I made still tasted pretty good. I used a whole pound of pasta and we have a couple of lunches' worth of leftovers. It was easy to make, too, and just expensive enough to feel like a splurge.

PASTA WITH SHRIMP, CLAMS AND ARTICHOKES
From Larry Colaianni
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 8-ounce package angel hair pasta
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 can of clams
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup chopped parsley
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Pepper flakes


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta in boiling water according to directions or until al dente. Add a small amount of oil to cooking water to prevent pasta from sticking. Drain and set aside.

Heat remaining olive oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Cook garlic, stirring constantly, until the garlic is soft but do not let the garlic burn. Add shrimp and cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until pink. Remove shrimp from the skillet, and set aside.

Add the wine, parsley, artichokes, basil and pepper flakes into the skillet. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced by half, 8 to 12 minutes. Add shrimp and clams and continue cooking until heated through, about 2 to 3 minutes. Serve the shrimp and clam mixture over the pasta. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and chopped herbs.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Good eats from a bawdy book:
New Year's Eve hors d'oeuvres

Of all the memorable parts of dirty Judy Blume books, there is one that makes my mouth water in a wholesome way. Might've known it'd be food writing.

"Justine was the ultimate caterer, the finest, the classiest, the most gourmet. Sandy knew the menu by heart. So did all the other guests. There would be no palatable surprises. But no one would go hungry. Crab fingers, marinated mushrooms, miniature pizzas, cheese and spinach quiche, tiny shells filled with chicken a la king, giant shrimp to hold by the tail, and later, at midnight, Justine herself would emerge from the kitchen, offering whole fillets of beef, slice before your very eyes and placed on squares of hot garlic brea, eliminating the hostess's need for renting china or silverware. And later still the buffet table would be laden with delectable French pastries and freshly brewed coffee."
-- "Wifey" by Judy Blume (Pocket Books, 1978)

I learned a lot of things from Judy Blume, not least of which was about heavy hors d'oeuvres. That bit about the slab of beef on the hot garlic bread -- and I have always added in my imagination, melty, gooey cheese -- has stuck with me.

This passage, like most all of Blume's works for young people and those who are more mature, is loaded with information. Party guests want the familiar but they appreciate a gourmet or elegant twist. Hostesses want to satisfy people without creating a lot of mess and work for themselves, such as silverware to wash or in this case, rent. Things you can make ahead and hold over a day or two are good, too, such as marinated mushrooms. You certainly don't want to be stuck in the kitchen at any party, particularly a New Year's Eve bash.

When I was growing up, my mom's New Year's Eve staple for watching the ball drop was a can of deviled ham mixed with a package of softened cream cheese and served on Ritz crackers. Familiar ingredients (except maybe the canned, processed meat which wasn't an everyday food) presented in a different way.

For the last potluck I attended at my former office, I took two dishes that were easy to make, pretty on the plate and, I hoped, palate-pleasing. I thought the marinated mushrooms would be impressive, but most people raved over the simplest, most heart-stopping (in a cholesterol-laden way) item: thin slices of salami spread with whipped cream cheese and wrapped around scallions (green onions.) The familiar ingredients won out. I learned that recipe at a family reunion on the in-laws' side and it's usually a big hit with men, so I send it with my husband to men's meetings at church. Really there is not much more to the recipe than there is to the deviled ham spread but I'll list my technique here.

Thin sliced salami
A container of whipped cream cheese spread
Scallions (green onions)

Clean and count your onions. Lay out as many pieces of salami as you have scallions. Evenly divide the cream cheese among the slices of meat, spreading evenly. Place the white part of the scallion on the slice of meat and roll up.

MARINATED MUSHROOMS
(adapted from a recipe I found on About.com)

6 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 jarred roasted red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
4 to 6 green onions, thinly sliced
16 ounces whole mushrooms, blanched

Whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, pepper, salt and garlic. Stir in chopped bell pepper and basil. Add sliced green onions and drained mushrooms. Let mushrooms marinate in refrigerator for at least 6 hours before serving.

My sister-in-law Gloria served these potato and bacon mini pizzas at her Christmas Eve party. They are yummy, filling, mess-free to eat and easy to assemble. They also have familiar ingredients but make an attractive presentation. Their leftovers are good too. My husband brought home a plate that he finished two days later for lunch.



POTATO AND BACON MINI PIZZAS
From Pillsbury

20 1/4-inch-thick slices of red boiling potatoes (about 3 medium)
8 ounces thick-sliced smoky bacon
1 medium onion, sliced
1 12-ounce can refirgerated flaky biscuits
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat oven to 400. In medium saucepan, cook potato slices in boiling salted water over medium-high heat for 5 minutes and drain.

Fry bacon in large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Crumble bacon and set aside.

In same skillet with bacon drippings, cook onion 5-7 minutes until softened and separated into rings, stirring frequently.

Separate dough into 10 biscuits. Separate each biscuit into two layers. Place biscuit rounds onto ungreased cookie sheets. Flatten each slightly. Spread each lightly with mustard. Top each dough round with potato slice and onion.

Bake for 9-15 minutes or until crusts are crisp and golden brown. Top each mini pizza with sour cream and crumbled bacon. Sprinkle with parsley.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Polar Bear

I got myself a copy of "The Comfort Table" by Mrs. Billy Joel, Katie Lee, as she was known growing up in West Virginia. I plan to review it here later.

The first recipe I tried after a quick flip-through is the Polar Bear, which she describes as a grown-up coffee milkshake that will warm you up in the winter and cool you down in summer. Well... it's kind of a glorified White Russian. Or maybe a watered-down cousin of a White Russian. It was OK. And my husband, who doesn't drink alcohol at all, said "I've had better shakes." Hey, it got us to take the 2-year-old hand blender that I *had to have* on its maiden voyage.

Polar Bear
From "The Comfort Table" by Katie Lee Joel (2008, Simon Spotlight Entertainment)

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon confectioners sugar
1 pint vanilla ice cream
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup coffee-flavored liqueur
Cocoa powder

Put four dessert glasses in the freezer.

Whip the cream with the sugar until soft peaks form.

Combine ice cream, milk and coffee liqueur in a blender. Blend until smooth. Serve in the dessert glasses, topped with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cocoa.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas morning brunch rolls



On Christmas morning at my house, I want some easy but special nibbles to enjoy while we open presents. This is probably the most relaxed I'll be all day. As soon as we clean up wrapping paper, we change out of our PJs and start packing the car to go to my mom's house across the county for lunch. Not only do I take presents, I find myself taking more and more of the meal -- either dishes I've made ahead or the ingredients, recipes and kitchen equipment to prepare them. This year I'll be doing everything at her house. But that's another post.

I make these easy rolls to treat myself and others throughout the year. They are just different fillings for crescent roll dough.

CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT BRUNCH ROLLS
3 tubes of crescent rolls dough
(If it's the traditional triangle cut, you'll have to push the perforations together. For this recipe, try to get the new variation where the dough is in strips or one big sheet.)
Jar of Nutella chocolate-hazelnut spread (look for it near the peanut butter and jams)
chopped toasted hazelnuts or walnuts if you wish

Preheat oven to 375. Spray muffin tins with cooking spray.
Place one tube of the crescent roll dough out flat. Spread evenly with Nutella. Sprinkle with nuts. Cover with the other whole piece of crescent roll dough from the second can. Cut it into eight long strips. Pick up one and gently twist it a few times before twirling it into a roll. Place one roll in each muffin tin.
Place the dough from the third can flat on the work surface. Spread one half (lengthwise) with Nutella and sprinkle with nuts. Fold the other half over. Cut into four pieces and repeat the twisting and twirling procedure from above. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes or
Makes 12.



APPLE VARIATION
Spread the crescent roll dough from one tube. Sprinkle with brown or granulated sugar as you prefer. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Lay thin slices of Granny Smith apple end to end to cover the whole dough. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts. Starting at a short end roll up lengthwise, taking care to bend/stretch/break slices to accommodate the apples. Slice into six equal pieces. Place in greased muffin cups. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes. While still hot, drizzle with icing you make from mixing a bit of milk into powdered sugar.



CHEESE VARIATION
Probably the simplest of all. Place a piece of Havarti cheese (you determine its size but don't get too carried away or it'll ooze all over your baking sheet -- tastes fine but not so pretty) on a crescent roll dough triangle. Fold the dough around it to enclose the cheese. Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes. Serve warm with seedless red raspberry or red plum jam.

St. Nick of time nibbles

If you need something to fill in your Christmas Eve dinner party buffet or if you were asked ot attend a holiday potluck at the last minute, try these elegant and supremely easy little wonders.

Buy some whole pitted dates, some goat cheese and some walnuts. I'm assuming you have powdered sugar and orange juice on hand.

Split one side of the whole date. Grab a little piece of goat cheese and stuff it in the date. Plop a walnut half or piece (depending on the size of the date) on top. Drizzle the whole batch with some icing you whip up by mixing a little orange juice into some powdered sugar.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I cheat at cookies

Well, I don't cheat at all cookies, but close readers will see my Chocolate Peppermint Sandwich cookies from an early post start with a boxed cake mix. And this Christmas cookie, rugelach, which I have never attempted to make from scratch, starts with a storebought pie crust. I saw it on the Rachael Ray TV show and had to try it. If I ever make it again, I'll try different jams for the filling or use Nutella chocolate-hazelnut spread instead of fooling with the melted butter and cocoa. This isn't bad tasting but it's not spectacular either. But it's a good way to get a little visual variety on your cookie tray, which is what I was going for.



For Rachael Ray's recipe and a video demonstration, click here.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Special touches for Christmas Dinner

I almost added the word "easy" to the headline on this post. The recipe for Christmas Spice Butter is easy. Admittedly, the other technique -- for making dinner rolls shaped like doves -- requires some time and an eye for detail.

If you like the sweet, spicy butter at Texas Roadhouse, this is a good knock-off. It is great on rolls and sweet potatoes.

CHRISTMAS SPICE BUTTER
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon sugar

Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until fluffy and well-combined. Transfer to a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until needed. Makes 1 cup.

Shaping the doves is the hardest part of making the rolls because you're using thawed frozen rolls. It's no harder than rolling the bread dough into a rope and tying a knot. You'll need clean kitchen shears to snip the tail into feathers. Whole cloves are the eyes and slivered almonds are the beaks. These will get you lots of compliments and "you shouldn't haves." They are slightly more work than just putting a pan of thawed rolls in the oven but it is a really special addition to Christmas dinner. Just warn your guests to remove the whole cloves before eating. My brother-in-law ate them when I made this the first time. Get the complete instructions at the Rhodes Web site.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Make your spirits bright: Wassail

On Friday I interviewed an artist, Morgantown metalsmith Amy Johns, at her shop in the historic Seneca Center. She shares The Little Studio with business partner and fellow crafter Carolyn Schuessler and the glass factory's original freight elevator that dates to 1902.

Amy and Carolyn had set up Christmas cookies, punch and hot wassail for a holiday open house. At their urging, I grabbed a cup while they helped a customer. Then, without much urging, Carolyn shared her recipe.

I made it for the church youth group Christmas party at my house tonight. A few of the teens tried it with no complaints and the oldest youth adviser, probably in his 70s, went back for more than one glass.

I just had a little myself with a nip of brandy in it ... but only after all the guests have gone home.

Wassail
1 gallon apple cider
1 large can frozen orange juice concentrate
1 large can pineapple juice
8 short cinnamon sticks or 4 long ones
27 whole cloves

Mix all ingredients in a large stockpot. Simmer on stovetop for 2 hours or until cinnamon sticks swell. Strain sticks and cloves and discard. Serve hot.
Optional: Add a shot of Maker's Mark brandy to individual servings.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas cookie exchange



Held the first Christmas cookie exchange with the church ladies' group Wednesday night. Only three people showed besides me. Heavy fog and prior commitments kept people away. I hope it will catch on in subsequent years. Here are three recipes (one woman didn't bring hers to copy.)

REESE BALLS
1 1/2 cups graham crackers
1 1/3 cups crunchy peanut butter
1 box confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted
12-ounce bag semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 block food-grade paraffin (Gulf Wax brand) Note: Paraffin is no longer receommended for consumption. You can add a small amount of Crisco to the chocolate to make it shiny

Crush graham crackers until fine. Add peanut butter, sugar and melted butter. Roll mixture into balls. Melt paraffin wax with chocolate chips. Dip balls with toothpick into melted chocolate. Place on wax paper until dry. Should make approximately 5 dozen depending on the size of the balls.




HARVEST COOKIES
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon water
1 1/2 cups rolled oats.
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup finely chopped apples
1/2 cup each raisins and nuts

To roll cookies in: 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.

Sift flour with baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmed in bowl. Add shortening, 1 cup brown sugar, egg and water; beat until mixed thoroughly. Stir in apples, rolled oats, raisins and nuts. Mixture will be stiff. Mix together brown sugar and cinnamon. Make 1 tevel tablespoon of cookie dough into balls. Roll in sugar mixture; bake on greased cookie sheet in 375 degree oven for 12-15 minutes or until done.




I have it on good authority from my friend Katie that the ones I made are "AWESOME."
The recipe is from the current (Dec./Jan. 09) issue of Taste of Home Magazine. The person who submitted it said it was brought to America from Germany in 1846 and handed down through six generations.

SPICED CHRISTMAS COOKIES
2 cups molasses
1 cup butter, melted
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
8 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 teaspoons EACH ground cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups chopped walnuts
1 2/3 cups raisins
1/4 cup chopped candied lemon peel
1/4 cup chopped candied orange peel

FROSTING:
4 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice

GARNISH
2 cups red and/or green candied cherries, cut as desired

In a large bowl, beat molasses, butter, sour cream and lemon juice until well blended. Combine flour, brown sugar, spices, baking soda, lemon peel and salt. Gradually add to butter mixture; mix well. Stir in walnuts, raisins and candied peels. Cover; refrigerate for 30 minutes or until easy to handle.

Divide dough into four portions. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each portion to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut with a floured 2 1/4-inch round cookie cutter. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Beat frosting ingredients until smooth. Frost cookies; decorate with cherries. Store in an airtight container.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I'm Italian!

I guess I just gave it away. Let me explain ... .

I had a wish come true this holiday season, two actually, sort of. I grew up occasionally wondering where my family came from but I could never get a satisfactory answer, or really much of an answer at all, about our origins, our heritage. My maiden name is Molisee. I thought maybe we were German but I settled on us being regular ol' American mutt. And I was sad. Though not sad or curious enough to dig into genealogy. My Aunt Mary was spurred by her desire to join the Daughters of the American Revolution to unearth the roots of our family tree. She ascertained that the Molisees are from the Molise region of Italy, beneath Abruzzo (kinda the Achilles heel of the boot) on the Adriatic Sea.

So my first wish -- to know my heritage -- came true. And my second wish, which I am almost too shy to publish, was to be Italian. I was romanced mainly by the food, by travel stories and movies to a lesser degree, and by the rich traditions -- of which few are as magnificent as the Christmas Eve celebration from Southern Italy: La Vigilia di Natale or the Feast of the Seven Fishes. You don't have to be Catholic to observe the midnight watch for the birth of the Christ child with much food, although the seven seafood dishes are said to represent the sacraments of the Church. You don't even have to stay up till midnight. Nor do you have to be Italian, as the founders of an annual local festival celebrating The Feast are fond of saying. And if you go to the festival, held a couple of weeks before Christmas, I guess you don't have to wait till Christmas Eve to start celebrating.

Now my work really begins but it won't feel like so much work. It is my responsibility to read and learn all I can about the region, very much geographically and culturally like Appalachia, from where my forebears struck out. Then I must share it with my family and, as it pertains to food, with you, dear readers. Don't worry everyone, I'll break you in slowly with familiar foods like oysters and anchovies. You're gonna love it! Eventually I'll have to go to Molise, you know.

My education starts today, right now in fact, at the third annual Feast of the Seven Fishes Festival in Fairmont from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. today. Consider it my coming-out party, where I will mingle with my kinspeople and literally taste my heritage, authentically, from street vendors and at the cooking school, where I intend to soak in every detail of preparation. As a food reporter, I have written about The Feast and the festival before and now I am rightfully part of that glorious heritage. I am so excited! Buon Natale!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Waffle weekend

I was in a better humor on the first snow day of the school year, Oct. 28, when I started this post. I had nothing planned that day, unlike today when I am supposed to be working like a regular person in a city with adults and lunching with a dear friend. But enough about my troubles. The day I was in a good mood I made my daughter and her cousin waffles from-scratch because I had the time and inclination and patience... with the children and circumstances ... not the waffle-making process. Actually homemade waffles are not all that hard to make. Consider treating your family or just yourself this cold, snowy weekend.

And if there is just one of you, freeze the extras and pop them in the toaster on the "defrost" setting on weekday mornings. This is where a vacuum sealer comes in handy. I own a Reynolds Handi-Vac and I will review it at the end of this blog and give you the recipe I use for "regular" waffles that you can add blueberries or other mix-ins to or just serve them as-is.

The third part of my post will be a different kind of waffle that I tried by slightly modifying a quick bread recipe.

Back on Oct. 28, because it was just a few days before Halloween and I wanted to treat the kids, I tried to make a jack-o'-lantern face on the waffle with chocolate chips.



Cute in theory but it was hard to make out the face on the baked waffle.



PUMPKIN WAFFLES
1 1/2 sticks butter (not margarine)
3 cups flour
5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of each of the following: baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger
1/8 teaspoon each salt and fresh ground pepper
3 eggs
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree from a 16-ounce can
2 1/2 cups milk

Melt butter and allow to cool.

In a large bowl, put flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices. Blend well with wire whip. Set aside.

In another bowl, beat eggs with brown sugar. Add the pumpkin and milk and blend well. Add cooled butter and blend well.

Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture and stir just until ingredients are moist. Do not overbeat. Bake in waffle iron, about 7 minutes each. Keep warm until serving in a 200-degree oven. Place directly on oven racks. Leave door ajar. Makes about 7 8-inch waffles. Mix chocolate chips into the batter or serve plain waffles with apple butter or orange walnut butter (recipe follows) and maple syrup.

ORANGE WALNUT BUTTER
From Taste of Home Simple & Delicious magazine
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon grated orange peel

In a small bowl, combine the butter, walnuts and orange peel until blended. Serve on waffles.

I actually served it not on pumpkin waffles but on a little experiment of mine: Zucchini Waffles, made from my mom's recipe for the quick bread. I think I added more flour to the recipe to make it more like waffle batter. I assumed there was enough oil in the recipe to keep it from sticking. I was wrong. It really gummed up my waffle iron, even though I oiled it in between every waffle, which is unusual. Maybe melted butter is the way to go. Definitely I think I should cut the sugar.



This is the usual recipe I use for "plain" waffles.

CRISP & GOLDEN WAFFLES
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups milk
3 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Optional mix-ins: blueberries or granola or chocolate chips
In medium bowl, beat egg until frothy. Add remaining ingredients; mix until smooth. Add 2/3 cup batter to pre-heated waffle maker and spread evenly with rubber spatula. Close waffle maker and bake until light goes out. Carefully remove waffle (lightly re-oil if sticking occurs.) Repeat with remaining batter.

I made a lot of blueberry waffles this summer from the berries in the yard and froze them with the help of the Reynolds Handi-Vac vacuum sealer. I bought it as sort of a vacuum sealer training wheels, instead of committing to the larger expensive machine.

You place food below a line marked on the special zipper-top bags and lightly press the battery-powered sealer to the bag's air valve. Press the button on the sealer and it sucks out the air. You have to do it gingerly because you don't want to mash the air valve shut and air-lock the process. It takes a short time to suck out the air. I have sealed pancakes, waffles and a piece of meat or two. In the case of waffles, you have to stop sealing when the bag lightly conforms to the food...suck too much air out and you'll compress the airy waffles and they will come out misshapen. I like this product just fine. I don't feel compelled to buy a full-size vacuum sealer just yet because I don't do much of my own freezing and I have a small house and kitchen.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Chocolate cookies sandwiched with peppermint buttercream



"Gobs" is such an ugly word. But the cookie called by any other name is just as sweet. And if you get the commercially made ones...you know, spelled Gobz and sold at Sheetz convenience stores...they taste like nothing but sweet. These, ahem, chocolate-peppermint sandwich cookies I started making last year have distinct flavors besides just sweet. And the texture of the cookie is distinctly chewy and crackly compared to the soft creaminess of the buttercream filling. Divine.

I recommend using more schnapps than milk when thinning the frosting for optimum punchiness. I prefer King Leo peppermint sticks for the same reason, plus they crunch up better, but I couldn't find them this year and had to settle for some generic bulk candies that are just OK. It's OK if the frosting is a little stiffer than you'd use on a cake because you are not spreading it, it's a filling and you want it to be able to hold up the weight of the top cookie.

DEVIL'S FOOD COOKIES
1 18.25-ounce package devil's food cake mix
1/2 cup butter, softened plus 2 Tablespoons oil OR 1/2 cup oil (which is what I used and I haven't tried it the other way yet)
2 eggs

Mix the cake mix, oil and eggs. Batter will be thick.
Scoop the batter in small amounts onto a cookie sheet and slightly press the tops to help them spread as they bake. Aim to get the cookies all the same size.
Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 8-10 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before moving to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Try to make sure you have an even number of chocolate cookies. If you have an odd cookie, you'll just have to use it to scrape the frosting bowl when you're finished filling the other cookies. And eat it. Poor you.

PEPPERMINT BUTTERCREAM FROSTING
From "The Cake Mix Doctor" (Workman Publishing Co., 1999)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup finely crushed peppermint candy (about 7 peppermint sticks) -- note these are powdery sticks that crumble not brittle candy canes that shatter into shards
3 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
2-3 tablespoons milk
1-2 tablespoons peppermint schnapps or 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until fluffy, 30 seconds. Stop the machine and add the peppermint candy, confectioners' sugar, 2 tablespoons milk and 1 tablespoon peppermint schnapps. Blend with the mixer on low speed until the sugar is well incorporated, 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat until the frosting lightens and is fluffy, 1 minute more. Blend in up to 1 tablespoon milk or peppermint schnapps if the frosting seems too stiff.

TO ASSEMBLE:

Turn half the cooled cookies over on the wire rack. Start dividing the peppermint buttercream evenly among the flipped cookies. I can't remember if I made half a recipe of frosting the first time I made these...seems to me I did...but this time I made the whole batch and a little was left in the bowl when I had maxed out the cookies. The husband didn't mind a bit.
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