Cookies, Here We Come

Well, it’s that time of year when some of us are getting ready for the Christmas cookie exchanges. Now, this post may seem backward, but I’ll be talking about weeks-ahead preparation for baking your dozens of cookies. Next time, I’ll include some recipes for favorite Christmas (and any time of year) cookies.

Today Foodie has some tips on freezing cookie dough for baking in the future and freezing baked cookies so they’re handy any time. You may want to do a little research on which cookies/doughs aren’t good bets for freezing, but here’s some tips for those that freeze well.

What to have on hand

  • Plenty of gallon-sized zipper type freezer bags
  • Wax paper or parchment paper
  • Cookie sheets
  • Containers with covers (for bar-type cookies)

Place baked cookies on a silicone baking sheet or parchment-lined cookie sheet. (They can be placed close together since they’re already baked.) Freeze them for an hour (or until solid), then transfer to a freezer zip-top bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible before you put them in the freezer to prevent freezer burn.

For slice-and-bake cookies, shape the dough into one or two logs, use a layer of plastic wrap first to prevent freezer burn and odor absorption from your freezer. Then put into a zipper seal bag and freeze.

How Long To Freeze Them

With proper storage, most cookies can be kept in the freezer for up to three months. The best way to store cookies depends on the type of cookie you’re baking. For example, chewy bars should be stored in a single layer in a covered airtight container.

Thawing Tips

If you thaw baked cookies in the containers you stored them in while in the freezer, the condensation that forms while they thaw could linger on the cookies. Then they become soggy. Remove them from the freezer bag or airtight container when you defrost them so that condensation won’t form. It’s best to put baked cookies on a paper towel-lined plate to thaw them. Always thaw them at room temperature.

Baking Frozen Cookies

Balls of drop cookie dough can be baked directly from the freezer, while slice-and-bake and cut-out cookie dough needs to thaw out shortly on the counter so that they can be sliced or rolled out. Regardless, the doughs will be colder than they would be if they were baked fresh, so you should plan on adding a minute or two to the suggested baking time to make sure they get cooked through.

Have fun baking all those batches of cookies, sharing them with friends, and, most of all, eating them.

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Foodie is Stewing

I promised this recipe to friend who was curious. I made it earlier this week because I was in the mood for something substantial, but heart healthy. This turns out to be more of a stew than a soup because lentils soak up so much liquid and because the large veggies aren’t reminiscent of a thinner dish. I usually use brown lentils, but if you aren’t sure what kind you should use in a particular recipe, this might help.

I’m a cook who uses what’s on hand if it works.  I also make substitutions all the time to go along with my own taste and health needs. This stew can easily translate if you want it to. This is the basic recipe; you’ll find some alternative additions/substitutions at the end of the post.

Use your imagination. It’s your kitchen!

Tugboat Lentil Stew

  • 1 lb. dried lentils
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 c. chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 c. sliced carrots
  • 1 c. sliced celery
  • 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 14 oz. can vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 lb. sliced chicken sausage (or 1/2 c. shredded chicken)
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 t. sea salt
  • 1/2 t. hot sauce (if desired)
  • Lemon slices for garnish
  • Red wine vinegar

Rinse and pick over lentils for stones. In a Dutch oven, heat oil till hot. Toss in onion, garlic, carrots and celery. Sauté for 10 minutes or till onion is translucent and vegetables are tender crisp. Add tomato sauce, water, vegetable broth, bay leaves and lentils. Bring mixture to a boil. Cover; reduce heat and let simmer for about 25 minutes or till vegetables are slightly soft. Add chicken sausage and pepper. Cover and let cook another 10 minutes or until chicken is heated through. Add salt. Ladle into bowls and garnish with lemon slices and a dash of red wine vinegar. Serves 8-10.

Meat: I have never used chicken sausage because I can’t find it. I have used ground turkey because I like cooking with it and it’s less fatty. When I use ground turkey in this recipe, I cook it until done in a frying pan with the olive oil first and add some ground fennel. Fennel will give a sausage-like flavor. Experiment with it for your own taste.

Veggies: I’m not a fan of celery so I’ve never used it in Tugboat Lentil Stew. Sometimes, if I have them, I’ll throw in 2 cups of frozen mixed vegetable instead. Or one cup each of frozen carrots and green beans (or peas). I always use onion because what’s a stew without it?

Liquid: I like the flavor we get using tomatoes. But if I don’t have tomato sauce, I almost always have a can of petite diced tomatoes around. A large can is okay because I’ve found that those lentils really soak up the liquid. In fact, I use more broth too. I add it as needed as the stew cooks. Unsalted chicken broth is my favorite because there’s so much sodium in the other types.

Spices/Herbs and Garnish: Bay leaves are a must. It’s a stew, after all. If you don’t like garlic, leave it out. No sea salt? Use whatever kind you have. Remember that with sea salt, you don’t need as much for flavor. I don’t garnish mine. I usually want my stew right away and I’m not so fancy I need that. Although the vinegar sounds good for a little kick. Speaking of “kick,” I’m all for just a pinch of red pepper too. You can add that to the pan when you pour in the liquids.

Enjoy your stew. Would love to hear your comments and if you’re one of those “by guess and by golly” cooks like me.