Monday, March 28, 2011

Butter Pecan Shortbread Cookies

     True confession: I'm a thrift store junkie- one thrift store in particular actually. Our community has a wonderful opportunity shop that is sponsored by a local church. All of the merchandise is donated and all of the workers are volunteers. Everything is very reasonably priced, and all of the profits go to charities. It's a winning situation for everyone! I volunteer twice a week to sort and shelve book donations. It feeds my passion for helping to making sure that everyone who needs a book is able to have one (or a dozen.) It does my heart good to see a child poring over a book while his or her parents shop. 

     As I was dropping an old copy of  Everyday Food into the "free magazine" box on Saturday, I saw these cookies on the cover. That magazine came home with me and I had those cookies in the oven within the hour! Verdict? They were delightful! These buttery shortbread cookies would be perfect for the little sweet that you need with your tea or coffee, crunchy with pecans and melt-in-your-mouth tender. They'd also be the perfect choice to make for drop in guests, as the recipe is quick, easy, and only makes a dozen nice sized cookies. (Not so many hanging around for late night kitchen raids.) Me? I had one with a nice cup of Earl Gray tea while I curled up with a good book and watched what was hopefully the last snowfall of the season!

Butter Pecan Shortbread Cookies
From Martha Stewart's Everyday Food, May 2004
1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar plus more for coating
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
3/4 cup pecan halves
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Spread pecans out onto a cookie sheet. Toast until fragrant, about 6 minutes. Cool, then finely chop. (When I make this again I'll chop mine a little finer- the size of the pecans made them hard to mold into shape.)
  • Cream butter and 1/3 cup sugar until light with electric mixer. (about 1 minute)
  • Beat in vanilla, salt and flour just until dough comes together.
  • Gently fold in pecans.
  • Separate dough into 12 pieces and shape into balls. Roll in granulated sugar.
  • Place sugar coated balls of dough 3 inches apart on a parchment covered baking sheet.
  • Gently flatten with the bottom of a glass. Reshape sides if necessary. Sprinkle with sugar.
  • Bake for about 15 minutes or just until cookies start to slightly brown. (Don't over-bake!) Rotate cookie sheet halfway through baking time for even baking.
  • After cookies come out of the oven sprinkle with more granulated sugar and cool on wire rack.
This post is linked to Sweets for a Saturday!

    Thursday, March 24, 2011

    Upland Cress- When You Just Need Something Green

       This weekend my mom mentioned to me that the lemons  in my previous post were very pretty, but she was a little tired of looking at them. I guess it has been a while since I last posted. Hopefully I'm over my late-winter slump and along with the promise of spring and warmer weather will come bounds of energy and inspiration. One inspiring thing that I did find this weekend were these gorgeous cresses.

         If you're from the south, you're probably no stranger to upland or field cress, sometimes known as "creasy greens."  A harbinger of spring, cress is usually one of the first things to appear in the garden. With rosettes of tender green leaves and a peppery flavor, I've always considered them a spring tonic. They are what first comes to mind when I'm craving something fresh and green this time of year! They're chock full of phytonutrients, have three times the vitamin C of oranges and twice as much vitamin A as broccoli!

        I cooked this "mess of greens" the good old southern way, which means I boiled them until tender with a ham hock in enough water to cover them, added a bit of salt and pepper, and served them with cornbread.  Since I had nearly a bushel of them, I also cooked some in an omelet, sauteed some with a little garlic and olive oil, and tossed some with some homemade pasta with a creamy ricotta sauce. The raw peppery leaves are also a great flavorful addition to a salad, as long as your cress is fresh and tender.

        I remember when I was young my dad would pick cresses in corn fields where they grew wild. With the advent of weed killers being used in corn fields though, wild cress has almost disappeared. Thankfully the seed is available and easily grown. I raided my brother's field for this beautiful basketful, but if you're not lucky enough to have a brother with a field of cress they will most likely be found in your early spring CSA box or at a local farmer's market. I hope you find some!

         This post is being shared with Full Plate Thursday at Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

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