Monday, December 15, 2014

Walnut Reindeer Cookies, AKA Walnut Acorn Cookies

     These cute little reindeer were originally supposed to be elegant little acorn shaped cookies.  Buttery walnut shortbread cookies dipped in chocolate and more walnuts to make them look like acorns. But somewhere along the way they ended up looking like mischievous reindeer. These little cuties would be a perfect addition to a Christmas cookie tray or to leave out for the jolly man in the red suit.

     If you're looking for something a little more traditional, or are inclined to make these at any other time of year where reindeer are not as appropriate, I assure you that they're just as delectable without the antlers and noses!

     This recipe was featured in the Gourmet Cookie Book as the best cookie recipe from the year 2000. It was originally submitted to Gourmet magazine by a college friend of mine, who says that it has long been her family's favorite.

Walnut Acorn Cookies
recipe from Suzanne and Gourmet

Ingredients for cookies
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup finely chopped walnuts (4 oz.)

Ingredients for decorating
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
If you're making reindeer, you'll also need candy eyes, red candy for noses, and pretzels for antlers.

Directions for making cookies
  • Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
  • Beat together butter, brown sugar and vanilla with electric mixer until pale and fluffy.
  • Add flour mixture, and blend together at low speed.
  • Stir in walnuts with wooden spoon.
  • The original recipe does not call for chilling the dough, but I found that my cookies did not spread as much if I chilled the dough for a couple of hours. You may want to try some both ways to see what works best for you!
  • Preheat oven to 375F.
  • Form 2 teaspoons dough (I used a small cookie scoop full) into egg shape. I pressed the dough ball into the bowl of a spoon to get uniform shapes.
  • Arrange "acorns" 1 inch apart on parchment covered baking sheets. Bake on middle rack of oven for 10 minutes, or until bottoms are light brown.
  • Remove cookies to rack to cool.
Dip half of each cookie into melted chocolate, and then into chopped nuts. Place on waxed paper or silicone lined baking sheet to set. (about 15 min.- it depends on the temperature of your kitchen!)
If you're making reindeer, dip half of your cookie into melted chocolate, but only coat the front with walnuts. Press two pretzels onto the back of the cookie into the chocolate. Use melted chocolate to affix the eyes and nose.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Raspberry Almond Shortbread Thumbprints

     This cookie needs few words. Buttery tender almond shortbread that practically melts in your mouth. Bright sweet-tart raspberry jam filling the center, contributing a bit of contrast in taste and texture. These are first to disappear from the cookie tray. Most requested at my house. Needs few ingredients and easy to prepare. Make some for a friend. Make some for yourself. You'll both be happy. Need I say more?

Raspberry Almond Shortbread Thumbprints
Recipe from Land O Lakes

Cookie Ingredients
1 cup butter (2 sticks) softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam (or your favorite flavor)

Glaze Ingredients
1 cup confectioners sugar
2-3 tsp. water (more if needed to get desired consistency)
1 1/2 tsp. almond extract

  • Combine butter, sugar and 1/2 tsp. almond extract in mixer bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy.
  • Add flour, scraping bowl often, until well mixed.
  • Cover, and refrigerate until firm- at least one hour. (Cookies will spread more if dough is not chilled.)
  • Preheat oven to 350F
  • Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on parchment covered baking sheets.
  • Make indentation in the center of each cookie with your thumb. (I used the handle of a wooden spoon.)
  • Fill each indentation with 1/4 tsp. of jam.
  • Bake 14-18 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. Let stand 1 minute on cookie sheet and then transfer to racks to cool completely.
  • Whisk together glaze ingredients until smooth. Drizzle over cooled cookies.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Lemon Glazed Persimmon Date Bars


 The persimmons I remember from my childhood were small fruits that grew wild in the woods. If you dared to eat one before it was mushy ripe (and that usually didn't happen until after a hard frost) you'd better have been prepared to have your mouth turned inside out. 

I remember my dad singing:
"Possum up the 'simmon tree,
raccoon on the ground,
Raccoon says to the possum,
won't you throw me some 'simmons down."

The persimmons I used in these bars, however, are not the persimmons of my childhood. A sweet friend gifted me with a bag of these lovely Japanese Fuyu persimmons that she grew herself.

Confession: I was afraid to eat these the first week I had them. I was waiting for them to get soft and mushy like the wild ones. I was soon set straight- these can be enjoyed while still firm, like an apple! They were so sweet and delicious that we ate most of them just as they were. The last three though, I made into these lovely bars to add to Thanksgiving dinner. 

You could just call these "Fall in a Cookie," but they'd feel at home on a tray of Christmas cookies as well. They're spicy, chewy, and the lemon glaze on top is the perfect complement to the delicate sweetness of the bars. They're keepers, for sure... now I just need more persimmons!

Lemon Glazed Persimmon Date Bars
Recipe from Saveur

Bar Ingredients
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 cup pureed persimmon pulp
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup sugar
1 cup finely chopped dates (I used a food processor to chop these. I chopped them with a tablespoon of the flour included in the recipe to keep them from sticking together.)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
Glaze ingredients:
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 Tblsp. lemon juice

  • Heat oven to 350F. Grease and flour 10x15x1 inch jelly roll pan.
  • Whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and cloves. Set aside.
  • Whisk together persimmon pulp, 1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice and baking soda. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, mix together sugar, dates, oil and egg. Add dry ingredients and persimmon mixture. (Don't be alarmed if the persimmon mixture appears to gel.) Stir until just combined. Spread with spatula into prepared pan. 
  • Bake until lightly browned, about 25 minutes.
  • Remove from oven, let cool 5 minutes and then spread with glaze.
  • Glaze: Stir together 1 cup confectioners sugar and 2 Tblsp. Lemon juice.
  • Cool to harden glaze, then cut into finger size bars.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Best Carrot Cake

     Carrots are good for you, right? And pineapple, coconut and walnuts? The stuff dreams are made of. This cake is full of 'em. Topped right out of the oven with a dreamy hot buttermilk glaze (that's really more of a butterscotch caramel glaze) and then with a layer of cream cheese frosting, this is a cake I look forward to making again.

     I made this for Easter dinner at my Mom's house. It was good the first day, and even better the next. I recommend making this when there are people to help you eat it. Trust me, no one will complain.  Next time I'll make layers- I needed this one to travel so I opted for a sheet cake. More layers = more frosting per bite. That can't be a bad thing, can it? I followed the recipe as written, and wouldn't change a thing. You can find the recipe- from Southern Living here.
Happy Earth Day!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Manhattan Clam Chowder

     A snowy day deserves some soup, don't you think? Even though this snow was considerably less than what was originally expected it tacked an extra day onto my three day weekend, giving me some extra time to get some things done that I've been meaning to do for ages. (Like catch up on paperwork and update this poor neglected space.) The 4WD truck is broken too so I may be here a while.

     This bowl is full of colorful vegetables that are so good for you. It's loaded with clams, and has just a tiny bit of bacon in it that you could leave out if you want to, but please don't. The depth of flavor it adds is phenomenal. A big bonus? It comes together quickly and doesn't take hours to cook. That gives you plenty of time to go out and build that snowman, just in case you're so inclined. 

Manhattan Clam Chowder
adapted from this Better Homes and Gardens recipe
3 cans (6.5 oz) minced clams
8 oz. bottled clam juice (1 cup chicken broth will do in a pinch)
2 slices of bacon -I used 4 slices of pre-cooked bacon (the kind you can buy already cooked) and some avocado oil- see note*
1 cup diced celery
1 medium carrot, diced (about 1/4 cup)
1 med. onion, diced
1 sweet red pepper, diced
2 cups cubed potatoes (I used Yukon Gold)
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/8 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper (I just gave it a couple of healthy grinds)
1 dried hot red pepper (optional)
1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 oz) undrained

  • Drain canned clams, reserving juice; set clams aside. Add enough water to reserved clam juice to equal 2 cups. Set juice aside.
  • Dice bacon. Saute over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon pieces and drain. Reserve 2 Tablespoons drippings in pan. *Note: I diced 4 slices of pre-cooked bacon and then gently sauteed it in a couple of Tablespoons of avocado oil (olive would be good too). I may be disillusioned, but I think it might be just a little bit better for me than straight bacon grease.
  • In the reserved bacon grease or oil, saute celery, carrot, onion and red pepper until tender.
  • Add the reserved 2 cups of clam juice and the 8 oz. clam juice or broth. Stir in potatoes, thyme, cayenne and black pepper. Add the whole dried pepper if desired. (It gives a little zing.)
  • Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for about ten minutes until vegetables are tender. 
  • Stir in reserved clams, bacon and undrained tomatoes. Return to a boil, reduce heat and cook 2 to 3 minutes more until heated through. Remove the hot pepper before serving. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Gingered Carrot Soup

     Pumpkins, carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash- it's hard to even see them without thinking of crisp chilly nights, crunchy leaves, flaming bonfires and steaming apple cider. Orange food just seems right for fall, doesn't it?
     A big bag of carrots in my vegetable bin inspired this colorful bowl of comfort for supper the other night. Carrots, sweet nuggets of goodness packed with beta-carotene and vitamin A, make this soup a fabulous choice for those chilly fall nights. (And it's not so shabby for lunch either!)

Carrot Ginger Soup
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
2 lbs. carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped (the smaller you chop them, the quicker they cook)
1 large sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon curry powder
a few sprigs of thyme
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt (or to taste)
2 tablespoons minced or grated ginger (If you freeze your ginger root, then it's really easy to grate with a microplane grater.)
1 quart chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Gently saute onion and garlic in the butter and oil. Add carrots, thyme, ginger, curry powder, salt and chicken broth.
Simmer (covered) until carrots are tender. The length of time this takes varies, depending on your carrots and how large your carrot chunks are.
Remove sprigs of thyme and blend with an immersion or regular blender. (My immersion blender leaves the soup with a little more texture, and the regular blender makes it silky smooth. Be very careful with hot soup in a regular blender. Leave the vent lid open!)
Season to taste with freshly ground pepper.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Pudding Cookies with Pecans and Chocolate Chips

     Happy Fall! The days are getting shorter and it's about time I dusted off my computer and got back into the kitchen. It was a lovely summer though, with visits from all of my children (and an especially long one with my grandson.) A lightning strike left me without internet for a month, and after about a week of withdrawal I actually enjoyed being unplugged! School has been taking up most of my time this past month, but we're settling into routines now and I'm feeling a little bit less frazzled at the end of each day. 

     I'm trying to stay away from sweets enjoy sweets in moderation, but when I saw these cookies from Sweet Treats and More, I had to put Jello Pumpkin Spice pudding on my grocery list. It's only available for a short time (I got it at WalMart) and gives these cookies a nice "pumpkiny" flavor without being too overpowering. In addition to the warm and spicy pumpkin flavor it adds, the pudding keeps the cookies soft and chewy- perfect for satisfying those after-school hunger pangs. :)

Pumpkin Spice Pudding Cookies with Pecans and Chocolate Chips
adapted from Sweet Treats and More

1 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 small box (3.4 oz) Pumpkin Spice Pudding (Jello)- I found this with the seasonal baking products at WalMart
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F.
In small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. 
In mixer bowl, cream together butter and sugars until light. 
Beat in dry pudding mix. Add eggs and vanilla, beating well.
Gradually incorporate flour into mixture. Stir in pecans and chocolate chips.
Use a large cookie scoop to drop cookie dough onto parchment covered baking sheets. (My large scoop is about 3 Tablespoons.)
Bake 8-10 minutes and cool on cookie sheet until cookies are sturdy enough to remove to a cooling rack. Once cooled, store in an airtight container.
Yield: 2 dozen large cookies. (Using a smaller scoop will yield more, and will probably require a shorter baking time.)

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