Categories
Dessert

New recipe experiment keeps Georgia on my mind

Gozinaki
Gozinaki is a traditional Christmas and New Year’s treat from the country of Georgia. It is made with only walnuts, honey and sugar, resulting in a unique, nutty flavor.

During its 2020 election coverage, ABC News accidentally used images of voters from the country of Georgia, misidentifying them as people from Atlanta.

This caused a lot of posts online, with some people mocking the news outlet and a few posting that they didn’t even know there was a Georgia outside of the U.S.

In our family, we actually discuss Georgia the country way more often than the state, mostly because my sister-in-law’s husband is a Georgian—as in the eastern European kind.

My brother-in-law is really just a full Texan with a bit of a different accent now, but he does like to wax poetic about the food and culture of his home country.

So, as I was preparing to make treats for our family Christmas this year, it occurred to me that Georgia must have some special Christmas treats. As I researched, I discovered quite a few traditional dishes that looked way too difficult for me to accomplish, but then I stumbled on something that looked do-able: a walnut candy called gozinaki (pronounced go-zin-AH-key).

The recipe is deceptively simple with just three ingredients. The process of actually making it turned out to be pretty difficult, but the end result was a salty, only slightly sweet goodie for our Christmas table.

I tried the a recipe from the website “Georgian Recipes.” You can find the original post at https://georgianrecipes.net/2014/01/04/gozinaki-with-walnuts/. I didn’t change the ingredients, but I did convert items to U.S. Standard measurements and added a bit to the instructions to try to help you avoid some of the problems I had.

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Gozinaki

Gozinaki is a traditional Christmas and New Year's treat from the country of Georgia. It is made with only walnuts, honey and sugar, resulting in a unique, nutty flavor.
Course Dessert
Cuisine Georgian
Keyword brown sugar, Christmas, honey, New Year’s, walnuts

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds shelled walnuts
  • 12 heaping tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Instructions

  • In a large, dry skillet, roast the walnuts over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until they’re warm and fragrant.
  • Remove the walnuts from the pan and chop them roughly.
  • Add the honey to your skillet and heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add the sugar and keep stirring until the mixture thickens (this took quite awhile for me—maybe 15 more minutes).
  • Pour in the walnuts, and stir until they are coated evenly.
  • Set up an area of your counter with a large piece of waxed paper.
  • Wet a wooden cutting board with water (wipe off any excess), and transfer about one cup of the walnut mixture to the board. With your hands (wet them first) or a metal spoon, press the mixture together firmly while shaping it into a rectangle shape.
  • Once the mixture is well compacted and shaped, take a sharp knife and cut the mixture into pieces (I did mine about two-inches long). Traditionally, it’s cut into diamond shapes, but cut it however you want for serving. (It will very likely fall apart a bit. Don’t let it frustrate you.)
  • Carefully transfer the cut pieces with a spatula to your waxed paper so they can set up.
  • Toss any pieces that came apart back into the pan and repeat until you have all of the gozinaki formed and cut.
  • Leave the gozinaki on your countertop until it’s fully set, and you can pick it up without it falling apart. (I left mine over night.) Store in an airtight container.

At our Christmas get-together, I put my plate of gozinaki on the treat table in the basement. I was upstairs when my sister- and brother-in-law arrived and went down to put presents under the tree. Not two minutes later, my brother-in-law bounded up the stairs, mouth full, and gave me a huge hug.

So if you’re wondering, this is a pretty good recipe, and I did manage to nail the flavor of traditional gozinaki.

Roasting the walnuts releases some of their oils and makes them have a deep, nutty flavor, and the use of honey and only a little sugar means that this is not overly sweet. The texture remains chewy, too. It was unlike any kind of Christmas treat I’ve ever had, but it is definitely worth trying.

Georgians also eat gozinaki around New Year’s, too, so you might want to mix up a batch as 2022 comes around the corner. It’ll be a treat and a geography lesson, all in one.

This piece first appeared in print on Dec. 30, 2021.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Dessert

Don’t let supply chain issues make you snap

This cranberry orange tart is made with fresh fruit and is surrounded by a spicy gingersnap crust. The flavors are perfect for the holidays.

In 1973, late-night host Johnny Carson made a joke about a supposed toilet paper shortage during his opening monologue.

That joke, along with some press releases from a member of Congress, led to an actual toilet paper shortage as people cleaned stores out and the empty shelves reinforced the rumor.

Right now, it seems supply chain problems are causing some of those same issues. I can’t possibly be the only person this year who spent good money on some name-brand pureed pumpkin when the generic brand was out just in case there wasn’t some on the shelves before Thanksgiving.

And another victim of current shortages is one I wouldn’t have been able to predict: gingersnaps.

Now, I have no official data to back up my claim that there’s a shortage of gingersnaps out there, but I can tell you I ended up at four different local stores before I finally found some for this week’s recipe. They’re out there. You just have to do a little sleuthing to find them.

But I will tell you that this week’s recipe is not only a dessert tailor-made for the holidays, but it’s worth driving all around town to find the ingredients.

The recipe I tried comes from the blog “All Purpose Flour Child” by Taylor Harbin. You can find her original post at http://www.allpurposeflourchild.com/blog/cranberry-orange-curd-gingersnap-tart. I added extra cinnamon in my version.

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Cranberry Orange Gingersnap Tart

This cranberry orange tart is made with fresh fruit and is surrounded by a spicy gingersnap crust. The flavors are perfect for the holidays.
Course Dessert
Keyword Christmas, cinnamon, cranberry, fresh fruit, gingersnaps, orange, tart, Thanksgiving

Ingredients

Crust Ingredients

  • 12 ounces gingersnap cookies
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon molasses

Filling Ingredients

  • 12 ounces whole fresh cranberries
  • 1/4 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • zest of 1 large orange
  • 4 tablespoons butter

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Place the gingersnaps in a food processor and process until they are in fine crumbs. Pulse in the cinnamon and salt. In a small, microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter in the microwave. Stir in the molasses until it’s smooth, and then add the mixture to the food processor. Pulse until everything is well combined.
  • Dump the crust mixture into a 12-inch tart pan (you can substitute a deep pie pan or a springform pan). Press the mixture with the bottom of a glass or measuring cup to spread it evenly, making sure to press it up the sides of the pan.
  • Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the crust is golden. Set it aside.
  • For the filling, combine the cranberries with 1/4 cup water and the orange juice in a saucepan. Cover the mixture and let it cook for about 15 minutes or until the cranberries are soft.
  • Position a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and drain the cranberries into it, pressing to get the puree into the bowl and leaving the berry skins in the strainer. Once you’re finished, return the puree to the saucepan.
  • In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture is a pale yellow.
  • Add a little of the hot cranberry puree into the egg mixture and stir to temper the eggs, and then dump all of it into the saucepan over medium heat.
  • Whisk constantly until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter and orange zest. Continue stirring until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth.
  • Pour the filling into the prepared crust and smooth it out. Chill it in the refrigerator until it’s set (30 minutes to an hour), and serve.

This is a gorgeous dessert, and the orange and cranberry are a perfect combination with the warm spices in the crust. The filling has a bit of a tartness to it, which is an especially nice flavor profile when there are tons of sweets around.

And if you’re in a bind, you can totally substitute in some vanilla wafers or graham crackers for this crust—as long as they don’t fall victim to shortages, too.

But at least it’s just cookies we’re having trouble getting ahold of. The last thing we need right before having people over for the holidays is a toilet paper shortage.

This piece first appeared in print on Nov. 18, 2021.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Cookies Dessert

There’s ‘snow’ time like the present to try these cookies

Snowball cookies, with their coating of powdered sugar, live up to their name (at least in looks) and are filled with lots of yummy pecans.

It’s probably not surprising that I have cornered the market on bringing desserts to family get togethers.

I absolutely love to bake, and my family has been gracious enough to endure my recipe experiments on a regular basis.

For Christmas this year, we’re keeping our group small with immediate family, so I sent a text to my folks and sister, asking if they had requests for the pile of goodies I’m planning on bringing for dessert.

My sister texted back that my brother-in-law wanted baklava—but then clarified that he was only requesting it because he knew finding phyllo dough in this area is pretty much impossible. (He’s truly become my annoying, lovable little brother over the years.)

I asked for a mulligan, and he supplied a real answer: snowball cookies. Now there’s a recipe I can get behind.

Snowball cookies are known by quite a few different names, from butterballs to Mexican wedding cookies, but the gist is that they’re pecan-filled, sugary goodness. The recipe I used comes from the blog “The Country Cook.” You can find the original post at https://www.thecountrycook.net/southern-pecan-butterballs/. I substituted margarine for shortening in this recipe.

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Snowball Cookies

Snowball cookies, with their coating of powdered sugar, live up to their name (at least in looks) and are filled with lots of yummy pecans.
Course Dessert
Keyword Christmas, cookies, pecans, powdered sugar, shortbread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup margarine or butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar plus more to coat cookies
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups pecans chopped

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a mixing bowl, beat the margarine, powdered sugar and vanilla until the mixture is smooth.
  • Beat in the flour, baking soda and salt until well combined, and then mix in the chopped pecans.
  • Roll the dough into about one-inch balls and space them one inch apart on your baking sheet.
  • Bake for 15 minutes or until the cookies are set up and just beginning to brown on the edges.
  • Add some powdered sugar to a bowl. Let the cookies cool for five minutes and then thoroughly coat them in the powdered sugar. Set them aside, and coat them again once they are cool.
  • Store the cookies in an airtight container.

I rolled my dough into a bit bigger balls than I should have, so my snowball cookies are fairly large. I don’t think anyone will complain, though.

If you like shortbread and pecans, these will be right up your alley. Just be ready to have a light dusting of powdered sugar covering your countertop by the time you’re done.

They’re also the perfect winter-time cookie, since they truly look like little balls of snow.

Just don’t get yourself in trouble and throw one at your brother-in-law—even if he is trying to egg you on. 

This piece first appeared in print on Dec. 24, 2020.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Side Dish

You’ll be sweet on these roasted potatoes

Roasted sweet potatoes have just the right amount of sweetness to be a nice addition to dinner.

Despite it being the week before Christmas, I have yet to make my normal pile of sweets.

I generally bake at least a double batch of peppernuts, and there’s often something that requires melting almond bark in my double boiler and spreading waxed paper on every open counter space.

I actually have a variety of baking chips and some nuts already sitting out, ready to be mixed into some delicious treats, but I just haven’t gotten into my Christmas baking spirit yet.

But I did have some nice sweet potatoes sitting on my counter that I decided needed to be part of dinner this past week, which I suppose loosely counts as holiday cooking.

I wanted to make them as a side dish, and while I was a little nervous that the brown sugar in the recipe I chose would produce something more dessert-like, I was pleasantly surprised. It had just enough sweetness to highlight the flavor of the potatoes but not enough to make you feel like adding some whipped cream on top.

I found this recipe on the blog “Wine and Glue.” It’s by Lisa Longley. You can find it at https://www.wineandglue.com/brown-sugar-roasted-sweet-potatoes. This was such a simple, straight-forward recipe that I didn’t change it from her original. Also, don’t let the cayenne pepper make you nervous, it just enhances the flavors rather than making the overall dish spicy.

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Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Roasted sweet potatoes have just the right amount of sweetness to be a nice addition to dinner.
Course Side Dish
Keyword brown sugar, cayenne, cinnamon, roasted, sweet potatoes

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine melted
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 2 large sweet potatoes peeled and cut in half-inch cubes

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 450 and line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy cleanup.
  • Dump the cubed potatoes and all the ingredients onto the pan and mix together with a spoon or your hands until the potatoes are evenly coated.
  • Spread the potatoes out evenly and bake about 20 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the potatoes are fork tender.

The caramelization on these sweet potatoes was really pretty, and while I rarely peel any kind of potatoes for recipes, I think that was a good step in this case.

We ate these alongside some perfectly cooked steaks, and it was a fantastic dinner. There were also leftovers that reheated well out of the fridge for a later meal.

I’m sure I’ll find myself mixing up plenty of sugar-filled treats sometime in the next few days, filling my plastic containers with all kinds of goodies to share.

The smell of anise, cloves and cinnamon filling the house is one of my favorite parts of the holidays. I wish you luck with your own holiday baking (and eating) and a very, merry Christmas.

This piece first appeared in print on Dec. 19, 2019.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Dessert Salad Side Dish

Recipe traditions can provide a ‘berry’ Christmas

This simple combination of ingredients is a beautiful addition to the family table for the holidays.

This is the first year of major holidays our family will celebrate without my maternal grandparents. Thanksgiving was a tough transition to the new normal, and I know Christmas will be even more difficult.

When my paternal grandmother passed away several years ago, I began taking solace in using her pie pans every holiday season. Bringing them out of my cupboard always makes me feel close to her.

I employed the same strategy this Thanksgiving, baking pies in her pans, and then pulling out the handwritten recipe for cranberry sauce I asked my maternal grandma for only a year before.

In typical Grandma fashion, there were no measurements—although, to her credit, she wrote it down for me from memory while we sat chatting after dinner—but as I tentatively walked the aisles of my grocery store, wondering if I’d be able to decipher what she meant by a “tuna-sized” can of crushed pineapple, I discovered that her instructions were perfect.

She had given me just what I needed to recreate the cranberry sauce that graced her Thanksgiving and Christmas tables alike throughout my childhood.

So I wanted to share it with you this week. I added the measurements for the ingredients now that I have them figured out.

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Lola’s Cranberry Sauce

This simple combination of ingredients is a beautiful addition to the family table for the holidays.
Course Dessert, Salad, Side Dish
Keyword Christmas, cranberry, pineapple, Thanksgiving

Ingredients

  • 6- ounce package cherry gelatin
  • 8 ounces crushed pineapple
  • 14 ounces jellied cranberry
  • 1 cup diced celery

Instructions

  • Prepare the cherry gelatin according to package instructions. Once it is set up, proceed with the next step.
  • Drain the crushed pineapple well.
  • In a serving bowl, stir together all the ingredients. (It’s kind of fun to mess up a whole batch of perfectly set gelatin.)
  • Once everything is well-combined, serve or refrigerate covered overnight.

This has always been one of my favorite side dishes at our family get togethers. It’s certainly nothing fancy, and I don’t think it would win any culinary awards, unlike many of my grandma’s other recipes, but it tastes like the holidays to me.

My favorite way to eat it growing up (and I confess I may still employ this strategy), was to put a spoonful into the middle of a dinner roll and enjoy it like jelly.

I will warn you that the gelatin and jellied cranberry break down pretty quickly if you leave this sitting in the refrigerator for a few days, so it’s best to either stir it up the same day you plan to enjoy it or the night before.

I chopped my celery and mixed up the gelatin the night before so it was simple to throw together right before our meal.

And if you get some especially green celery, you’ll get perfect Christmas colors to add to the holiday table.

I’m still working on perfecting recipes from both of my grandmothers without the benefit of their help these days. It always makes me feel connected to them, even if I’m not always the best at recreating each dish.

Celebrating the holidays without loved ones is tough, but just like my grandma’s handwritten notes for cranberry sauce, the people we’ve lost often give us just what we need to keep going—whether we realize it or not.

This piece first appeared in print on Dec. 12, 2019.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Dessert

For weight-loss resolvers, approach these bars gingerly

While gingerbread bars sound like a holiday treat, they are a perfect quick dessert for any time of the year.

If you’re weak-willed and trying to avoid sweets now that 2019 is in full swing, I highly recommend that you skip over my column this week.

Of course, if you know you’re going to be tasked with making or taking treats for any event this year, I also highly recommend saving this for later on.

For a recent family get together, I decided to whip these up, since I already had all the ingredients in my pantry and had enough shopping trips during the holidays to last me quite awhile.

They were snapped up pretty quickly, and even my one-year-old niece gave them her stamp of approval.

I found this recipe on the blog “Upstate Ramblings.” You can find it at https://www.upstateramblings.com/holiday-gingerbread-bars-popcorn/. I doubled the vanilla and spices in my version and used chocolate chips instead of M&Ms.

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Gingerbread Bars

While gingerbread bars sound like a holiday treat, they are a perfect quick dessert for any time of the year.
Course Dessert
Keyword bars, chocolate, Christmas, gingerbread, molasses

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter melted
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Spray a 9-by-13-inch pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  • Beat the butter, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, molasses and egg together.
  • Add in the flour, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, baking soda and salt and beat until the mixture is combined.
  • Fold in the chocolate chips by hand.
  • Spread the mixture into the prepared pan. It will be very thick. Sprinkle a few extra chocolate chips on top if you want them to really show up in the final product.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Let the bars cool before cutting them and store in an airtight container.

I honestly think these were even better after sitting overnight. They were soft and chewy, and the chocolate was a perfect pairing for the spices.

This is a recipe that will make its way into my recipe box for future use when I need to make something quick and delicious to share.

Or I won’t share them. Maybe I’ll start my resolutions in February.

This piece first appeared in print on Jan. 10, 2019.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.