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Here are the tastingspoons players. I’m in the middle (Carolyn). Daughter Sara on the right, and daughter-in-law Karen on the left. I started the blog in 2007, as a way to share recipes with my family. Now in 2022, I’m still doing 99% of the blogging and holding out hope that these two lovely and excellent cooks will participate. They both lead very busy lives, so we’ll see.

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BOOK READING (from Carolyn):

Have only begun Geraldine Brooks’ brand new book, Horse. Oh my, is it a page turner. Loving it so far. It’s a fictional creation but based on a real racehorse owned by a black man, back in the 1850s. Technically, the story is about a painting of the horse but there are many twists and turns. If you’ve ever enjoyed Brooks’ books in the past, this one won’t disappoint.

The Book of Lost Names, by Kristin Harmel (no, not Hannah). Certainly a little-known chunk of history about a woman who becomes a master forger during WWII to help get Jewish children out of France. Not easy to read, meaning the difficulty of anyone finding the means and place to DO the forgery and right under the noses of the Nazis. Really good read.

Liane Moriarty’s first novel, Three Wishes, follows the travails of adult triplets, so different, yet similar in many ways. Two are identical, the third is not. So alike, and so not. It takes you through a series of heart-wrenching events, seemingly unrelated, but ones that could bring a family to its breaking point and test the bonds of love and strength.

Recently I’ve read both of Erin French’s books, her cookbook, The Lost Kitchen, and since then her memoir, Finding Freedom. About her life growing up (difficult) about her coming of age mostly working in the family diner, flipper burgers and fries (and learning how much she liked to cook). Now she’s a very successful restaurant entrepreneur (The Lost Kitchen is also the name of her restaurant) in the miniscule town of Freedom, Maine. She’s not a classically trained chef, but she’s terrifically creative. See her TV series on Discover+ if you subscribe.

Migrations, by Charlotte McConaghy. To say that this book stretched my comfort zone is the least of it . . .think about a time in the not very distant future, when global warming has done it’s worst and nearly all animals are extinct. No bird song in the air or fish in the sea. There’s this woman, Franny, who is on a quest to follow the very small, but last migration of arctic terns, who fly from pole to pole each year. She somehow sees this migration as a paean to her own life (of many travails). Is this book a foretelling of what our world will be like?  There’s a lot of angst going on here in this book, with her marriage, with her career, with her perpetual need for travel . . . always needing to go somewhere else other than staying at home and finding peace and happiness there. Then this final, gritty, illegal at-sea voyage trying to find the terns. Very much worth reading if you can stomach the sadness in it. Soul-searching is a common denominator here, but then aren’t a lot of books?

Jo Jo Moyes has a bunch of books to her credit. And she writes well, with riveting stories. Everything I’ve read of hers has been good. This book, The Girl You Left Behind, is so different, so intriguing, so controversial and a fascinating historical story. There are two timelines here, one during WWI, in France, when a relatively unknown painter (in the style of Matisse) paints a picture of his wife. The war intervenes for both the husband and the wife. A German Kommandant enters the picture in this tiny berg in France. Knowing her husband is in a camp, most likely a death camp, she compromises her morals to save the picture and possibly save her husband’s life. Jump to somewhat current day and the painting, which has survived all these years, and is in the hands of a young widow who has an extraordinary connection with the painting. A lawsuit ensues having to do with art stolen by the Nazis and a convoluted trail of how the painting traveled in the intervening years. Even though this was WWI, not WWII, but the law encompasses the past. It’s a heart-wrenching story. There’s a love interest too. Well worth reading. Would make a good book club read.

Memoirs are such fun, especially if you really enjoy/love the author. This was the case as I read Rachael Ray 50, an ode to  her age. So I read online, Rachael discloses more about her personal life in this book than she has done in her many other cookbooks. I really enjoyed reading the book, as she told stories about her growing up, including some of her mother’s recipes and from other family members. She and her family eat tons of pasta, so lots of the recipes I probably won’t prepare, but okay, I still enjoyed reading all the stories.

Eli Shafak’s Island of Missing Trees. This book was just a page turner. If you’ve never read anything about the conflict in Cyprus (the island) between the Turks and the Greeks, you’re in for a big history lesson here. But, the entire story centers around a fig tree. You get into the head/brain/feelings of this big fig tree which plays a very central part of the story. You’ll learn a lot about animals, insects (ants, mosquitos, butterflies) and other flora and fauna of Cyprus. I’m not a gardener at all, but I found the story just fascinating. It chronicles the love story between a young couple, human ones, not trees, one a Greek, one a Turk and their relationship (verboten back in the 70s). It goes back and forth between the 70s (when the real conflict was going on) and current day (2010ish). Loved this book from page one to the last.

If you’re a fan of Kazuo Ishiguro, you’ll find his newest book a league apart. Klara and the Sun. It takes place in the near future when we humans can go to a store and buy an AF (artificial friend). These robotic humanoid “things” have knowledge and personalities. The book follows along as a family buys Klara, an AF with perhaps a better personality than some. She has feelings, but not very many needs. The reader never really “sees” Klara except for a few descriptions of her human-type shape. You get into Klara’s brain (her PC chip) and know how she feels about her family. Her main job is to be a friend to the daughter, Josie, who has some kind of unnamed illness. The AF must spend a part of every day in the sunshine (some kind of hidden solar unit must be within Klara). There are any number of other characters in the story (mostly human, not AFs) which add dimension. I was quite mesmerized by the story and am in awe at the creativity of this author. Loved the book. May not be for everyone. I’m not a science fiction fan at all, but this was believable. And you’ll fall in love with Klara who wants so much to be wanted and loved.

Also read Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty. Ohhh my, such a good book. I couldn’t put it down. Whatever you do, do not read the ending before you start the book. I’ve never understood people who do this. The book chronicles the day a mom just ups and disappears. The grown children come back home, in panic. The dad isn’t much help, and he becomes the prime suspect of foul play. There is no body, however. The husband and wife own a tennis school (this takes place in Australia) and the children grow up surrounded by tennis everything. The children don’t necessarily get along. The parents haven’t always gotten along, either, although through many years the parents were quite besotted with each other, to the detriment of the parenting. Much travail from all the family members. But oh what a story. It had me riveted and wondering, until the last 5 pages of so when the resolution occurs. Big surprise.

Amor Towles’ new book, The Lincoln Highway: A Novel. Literally it’s a page turner. I think it’s still on the best seller list. A young man, Emmett, is released from a youth work camp (back in the day) and is returned home (by the camp warden) following the death of his father, to find that the home they’d lived in was in foreclosure. His mother abandoned them years before. His intent is to pick up his 8-year old brother and they will head off for Texas, but then he discovers two of his work-camp-mates had hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car. Oh my goodness, such a tangled web. Fascinating, and Amor Towles has such a way with words. His sentences are like blooming flower vines, with metaphors in nearly every sentence. Such a gifted writer.

If you’d like a mystery read, try Dete Meserve’s The Space Between. It’s just the kind of page-turner I enjoy – a wife returns to her home after being away on business for a few days, to find her husband missing and what he’s left for her is an unexplained bank deposit of a million dollars, a loaded Glock in the nightstand, and a video security system that’s been wiped clean. Oh there are plenty of twists and turns. Couldn’t put it down.

Read Alyson Richman’s historical novel called The Velvet Hours. Most of the book takes place in Paris, with a young woman and her grandmother, a very wealthy (but aging) woman who led a life of a semi-courtesan. Or at least a kept woman. But this grandmother was very astute and found ways to invest her money, to grow her money, and to buy very expensive goods. Then WWII intervenes, and the granddaughter has to close up her grandmother’s apartment, leaving it much the way it had been throughout her grandmother’s life, to escape the Nazis. Years go by, and finally answers are sought and found. An intriguing book, based on the author’s experience with an apartment that had been locked up similarly for decades, also in Paris.

Susan Meissner is one of my favorite authors. This book, The Nature of Fragile Things tells a very unusual story. About a young Irish immigrant, desperate to find a way out of poverty, answers an ad for a mail order bride. She moves to San Francisco and becomes the bride, and mother to the man’s young child. But all is not right with the world. Sophie senses an undercurrent about her husband’s life. He’s elusive, leaves her alone for days on end, doesn’t share her bed, and she begins to feel the only reason he wanted a wife was to care for the child. Then the world turns upside down with the 1906 earthquake. And then there’s more. . . and more. . . very gripping read.

Also read Rachel Hauck’s The Writing Desk. You could call this a romance. A young professional, a writer of one successful book, has writer’s block. Then she’s asked to go to Florida to help her mother (from whom she’s mostly estranged) through chemo. She goes, hoping she can find new inspiration. Oh the various twists this book can give you. There’s a guy she meets, but she’s keeping her boyfriend at home on the string, sort of. Then there’s the desk itself, that has history. Oh my, does it have history. Really interesting story, light reading.

One of my book clubs has us reading Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library: A Novel. What a premise for a book. About a library you can whiz to in the middle of the night and discover other lives you could have lived. And experience them. To find out the answers to those questions we ask ourselves sometimes, “I wonder what would have happened if I’d . . . .” taken that other job, gone out with that guy, taken that trip. That kind of thing. You’ll find out what happened to one particular woman who thought she had nothing left to live for. Good read. Very different. A bit space-agey. Sort of time travel, but not really. But yes, maybe.

James Shipman has written an intriguing book, It Is Well: A Novel, about a man who has lost his wife. And about a woman who has lost her husband. But their relationship stalls, big time, because the guy made a promise to his wife, and he feels duty-bound to honor it. There is much angst about it all. Much wringing of hands, some tears on her part. Nice book; good read.

I wrote up a post about this book: Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World: The Twin Towers, Windows on the World, and the Rebirth of New York by Tom Roston. Go read the full write-up if you’re interested. The book is a complete history of the famous restaurant on the 107th floor of one of the Twin Towers.

Also recently finished The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. The book goes backwards and forwards in time, from the 1600s in London with the day-to-day lives of a group of Jews (who had to be very careful about how they worshiped) to current day as an old house is discovered to hold a treasure-trove of historical papers. The story is mostly about a young woman, educated, a Jew, who is the scribe (in secret) to an aging religious leader (in a time when women would have been verboten to hold such a position). And about her own curiosity about her religion and how she eventually begins writing letters (using a male pseudonym) to various Jewish leaders abroad, questioning their religious beliefs. The book is extraordinarily long – not that that kept me from turning a single page! – and complex with the cast of characters from the 1600s and the cast in today’s world of highly competitive experts analyzing the ancient papers. Altogether riveting book. Loved it from beginning to end.

I’m forever reading historical novels. The Lost Jewels: A Novel by Kirsty Manning is a mystery of sorts, going back in time in London in the time of aristocrats and their jewels (pearls, diamonds, gems of all kinds) sometimes made it into the hands of the digger or a maid. Then to current time as a young woman tries to ferret her family history and particularly about some old-old jewelry that they can’t quite figure out – how the grandmother came to have them. Fascinating tale.

Not for the faint of heart, Boat of Stone: A Novel by Maureen Earl tells the true tale of some misplaced Jews at the tale-end of WWII who ended up on Mauritius.

Colleen Hoover has written quite a book, It Ends with Us: A Novel, with a love story being the central theme, but again, this book is not for everyone – it can be an awakening for any reader not acquainted with domestic violence and how such injury can emerge as innocent (sort of) but then becomes something else. There is graphic detail here.

Erin Bartels wrote quite a complex story in The Words between Us: A Novel. We go alongside a young girl as she goes to high school, trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to be anonymous (because her mother and father are both in prison), taking on a fake name. She meets a guy and they share a bond of reading and some romance. Years go by and she’s now owner of a failing independent bookstore (and married, or separated) and suddenly begins receiving a used book (that she recognizes) every day from a different place in the country. A message for sure, but where will it lead? Yes, it’s a romance. Lots of introspection going on. Enjoyed it.

Nicolas Barreau’s novel Love Letters from Montmartre: A Novel  is very poignant, very sweet book. Seems like I’ve read several books lately about grieving; this one has a charming ending, but as anyone who has gone through a grave loss of someone dear knows, you can’t predict day to day, week to week. “Snap out of it,” people say, thinking they’re helping.

Another very quirky book, that happens to contain a lot of historical truth is The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World: A Novel by Harry N. Abrams. Set in Japan just after the tsunami 10 years ago when 18,000 people died. At a private park miles away, some very special people installed a phone booth, with a phone (that didn’t work) at the edge of the park, and the survivors of the tsunami began wending their way there to “talk” to their deceased loved ones. Very poignant story.

No question, the most quirky book I’ve read of late, a recommendation from my friend Karen, West with Giraffes: A Novel by Lynda Rutledge. Back in the 1930s a small group of giraffes were brought across the Atlantic from Africa to New York, destined for the then-growing San Diego Zoo. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission.

Riveting story of post-WWII- Japan in Ana Johns novel, The Woman in the White Kimono: A Novel. About a young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American serviceman.

Also read Rishi Reddi’s novel, Passage West: A Novel with a very different take on the migration of Indians (East India) to the California agricultural lands east of San Diego during the 1920s and 30s.

Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but the Mary Morris book, A Very Private Diary: A Nurse in Wartime tells the true day to day life of a young Irish girl who becomes a nurse, in England, France and Belgium in the midst of WWII and immediately after the war.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. Tells the harrowing story of a young boy, Odie, (and his brother Albert) who became orphans back in the 30s. At first there is a boarding school, part of an Indian (Native American) agreement, though they are not Indian. They escape, and they are “on the run.”

Just finished Kristin Hannah’s latest book, The Four Winds: A Novel. What a story. One I’ve never read about, although I certainly have heard about the “dust bowl” years when there was a steady migration of down-and-out farmers from the Midwest, to California, for what they hoped to be the American Dream. It tells the story of one particular family, the Martinellis, the grandparents, their son, his wife, and their two children.

Brit Bennett has written quite a book, The Vanishing Half: A Novel. It’s a novel, yet I’m sure there are such real-life situations. Twin girls are born to a young black woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress.  Very much worth reading.

Also read The Secret of the Chateau: Gripping and heartbreaking historical fiction with a mystery at its heart by Kathleen McGurl. There are two stories here. The historical part is just prior to and up to the French Revolution, and the second in current day as a group of friends purchase a crumbling chateau. Very interesting. I love historical novels like this, and this one in particular does have quite a mystery involved, too.

Also finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s recent book, The Book of Longings: A Novel. It is a book that might challenge some Christian readers, as it tells the tale of Jesus marrying a woman named Mary. I loved the book from the first word to the last one. The book is believable to me, even though the Bible never says one way or the other that Jesus ever married. It’s been presumed he never did. But maybe he did?

Jeanine Cummins has written an eye-opener, American Dirt. A must read. Oh my goodness. I will never, ever, ever look at Mexican (and further southern) migrants, particularly those who are victims of the vicious cartels, without sympathy. It tells the story of a woman and her young son, who were lucky enough to hide when the cartel murdered every member of her family – her husband, her mother, and many others. It’s about her journey and escape to America.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice joins the Horseback Librarians in the rural south.

Frances Liardet has written a blockbuster tale, We Must Be Brave. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although the scene is WWII England, this book is not really about the war. It’s about the people at home, waiting it out, struggling with enough food, clothing and enough heat.

William Kent Krueger wrote Ordinary Grace. From amazon: a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. It’s a coming of age story.

Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, who becomes a shepherd. Not just any-old shepherd – actually a well educated one. He knows how to weave a story.


Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Cookies, on September 6th, 2022.

A winner of a good cookie.

A post from Carolyn. In my recipe program, MasterCook, I have 344 cookie recipes. I’ve probably made half of them; maybe more. And, of course, I keep adding to the list. Last week I was preparing some food to ship off to my granddaughter who is in medical school in South Carolina. She’s been there for about 6 weeks now – loving it as far as I know. I’ve texted with her a few times. She studies a lot. Obviously! And although she likes to cook, she’s learning that she just doesn’t have much time to cook because of the amount of studying she must do. Fortunately, there’s a Trader Joe’s in her neighborhood. But food from home is always welcomed. I hope the cookies survive the flight across country in a box that may get thrown and tossed.

I made a batch of granola bars (with dried cranberries and walnuts). Not sure they will ever make the rotation again (they were all for her), but we’ll see what she says. They were very sticky and not as firm as I’d hoped. They were altogether too sweet for me, but then she’s young and needs nutrition in any form she can get it.

Then I made these cookies. I had started out with a recipe from Half Baked Harvest, but I altered it some. I’m not such a fan of cookies made with all brown sugar, so I used about 2/3 brown, and 1/3 regular white sugar. I’d debated about adding walnuts, but ended up not; I also reduced the quantity of chocolate chips. Otherwise, the recipe is mostly the same. Butter gets gently browned in a skillet. Be sure to use a light colored pan so you can SEE how brown the butter is getting. It goes from looking like golden melted butter to dark in a matter of about a minute. It needs to cool awhile before being added to the cookie batter.

I kept the dough in mounds (I thought they would ship better), but you can also flatten the dough on the pan too. In mounds, the cookies took about 13 minutes to bake (until golden brown). If flattened, they’d probably bake in 2-3 fewer minutes.

What’s GOOD: loved the crispy texture and taste. Good and nutritious. The chocolate doesn’t overwhelm the cookie but you know the chips are there. The browned butter adds a rich flavor. Yes, I’d make these again.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of . . . they’re really delicious.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Oatmeal Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe By: Adapted from Half Baked Harvest
Servings: 60

4 sticks unsalted butter
1  1/4 cups brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 cups oatmeal — old fashioned
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/2 cups chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Add the butter to a skillet set over medium heat. Cook until the butter begins to brown, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a heatproof bowl. Let cool about 10 minutes.
3. In bowl of stand mixer, combine brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla, mixing until smooth. Add browned butter, then add flour, oats, baking soda, and salt. Gently fold in the chocolate. As the batch sits, it will get more firm (as the oatmeal absorbs liquid).
4. Using a scoop, make rounded tablespoon size balls and place 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake 8 minutes. Rotate sheets and continue to bake for about 5 more minutes until are golden brown and show some dark brown around the edges.
5. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet. They will continue to cook slightly as they sit on the baking sheet. Let cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
Per Serving: 175 Calories; 9g Fat (45.9% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 30mg Cholesterol; 112mg Sodium; 11g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 24mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 66mg Potassium; 54mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on August 2nd, 2022.

Bars that are kinda cookie, kinda dessert, a happy match of the two.

A post from Carolyn. It’s been years ago that I downloaded this recipe from a now-defunct food blog called Alpineberry. It’s been long ago enough that I don’t remember the writer’s name, just that I remember her blog’s name, and I’d made a note of it in my recipe, and I have a few other recipes from that blog too. This recipe is a keeper, for sure.

It does require the making of three layers (a crust, an apple layer and a cream cheese filling). None is hard to do – the most tedious is probably the peeling, coring and slicing (thinly) the apples. The crust contains the usual things plus some cream cheese AND both almond and vanilla extracts. Some of it is set aside to make the topping. The filling is a cream cheese, egg, sugar and lemon juice combination. You can barely see it on top of the apples in the picture above. It’s not a thick filling – just enough to provide some nice creamy texture to the finished bars.

The crust is baked, cooled some, then the apples are added (you use Granny Smith so the apple filling doesn’t turn into applesauce) and gently smoothed out. Then the cream cheese filling is poured on top and gently spread out. Then the topping (the remainder of the crust plus some almonds, flour and more sugar. Sliced almonds are added on the top. That’s it. Baked for about 50 minutes.

What’s GOOD: loved the apple flavor, the texture, the little creamy layer and the crunch of the almonds. Altogether delicious bar or dessert. My granddaughter Taylor loved these. They’re especially nice served with some vanilla ice cream, or whipped cream. But they don’t need embellishment – served as is would be fine too, even out of hand.

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Almond Apple Bars

Recipe By: From Alpineberry blog (no longer exists)
Servings: 12

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt — (or 1/4 tsp table salt)
3 ounces cream cheese — softened
4 tablespoons unsalted butter — softened
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup granulated sugar — may use half artificial sweetener
1/4 cup light brown sugar — may use half artificial sweetener
1/3 cup almonds — finely chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar — may use half artificial sweetener
2 tablespoons light brown sugar — may use half artificial sweetener
1/4 cup almonds — coarsely chopped
5 ounces cream cheese — softened at room temp.
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 pinch salt
1 pound Granny Smith apples — peeled, cored & cut into thin slices (about 3 apples)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9×9 inch square baking pan with parchment. Butter the parchment.
2. CRUST: Sift flour and salt. Set aside dry ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Add the almond and vanilla extracts and beat on medium until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the granulated and brown sugars and beat on medium speed until blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice. On low speed, mix in the flour-salt mixture and the 1/3 cup of finely chopped almonds just until the dough comes together. It should be crumbly.
3. Reserve about 2/3 cup of the crust mixture for the topping. Press the remaining dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. You may use an offset spatula, your fingertips, or the bottom of a glass to smooth out the dough. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Bake until light golden, about 16-18 minutes. Remove crust from the oven.
4. TOPPING: While the crust bakes, make the topping by adding the flour, granulated and brown sugars to the reserved crust dough. Mix until well combined. It should be crumbly. Set aside topping and 1/4 cup coarsely chopped almonds while you make the filling.
5. FILLING: In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg, lemon juice and salt until well mixed.
6. ASSEMBLY: Arrange the apple slices over the baked crust. Pour cream cheese filling over the apples and gently spread (using an offset spatula) the filling to cover. Crumble the topping over the filling. Sprinkle with the almonds. Bake until light golden brown, about 45-50 minutes. Let the bars cool in the pan for about 30 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on a cooling rack before cutting.
Per Serving: 279 Calories; 14g Fat (45.7% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 34g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 45mg Cholesterol; 176mg Sodium; 20g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 49mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 151mg Potassium; 83mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on June 9th, 2022.

Have you learned to trust Ina Garten’s recipes?

A post from Carolyn. If you haven’t, you should trust Ina’s recipes. I’ve not ever thought of making a grand statement about Ina’s recipes, but here goes: I’ve never made an Ina Garten recipe that hasn’t been spot-on. She’s a genius in the kitchen. And almost never are her recipes difficult or laborious. Some are expensive since she uses nothing but the best ingredients like pounds of fresh crab right off the boat, or beef tenderloin, or imported cheeses. But many of her recipes are simple. Easy. And many use ordinary ingredients.

So speaking of lemon bars here . . . have you ever eaten some that were not quite up to snuff? I sure have. And I’ve made them too, and not been happy with the results. I mean – they were okay, but not exceptional. These – this recipe – goes into the exceptional category. Just the right amount of sweet to tart, and just the right amount of lemon filling to the sugary topping. And the right amount of crust too.

One time, years ago, I was making a recipe for an appetizer. Don’t even remember what it was, but it was a loosey-goosey kind of recipe – a little this and a little of that. Oh, I remember, it’s on my blog already, they’re called Ginger Picks. It required a little square of ham, a fresh piece of pear and a little nub of crystallized ginger. In making them, I needed to taste it to see if the flavors worked. They did, but I figured out that you needed a piece of ham in a just-so size, a piece of pear in a just-so size, and a piece of crystallized ginger in a just-right size. In order to be perfect, each needed to be a very particular size, otherwise it didn’t work. Hence the same with these lemon bars. They need to have each part – crust – filling – topping be just right.

What’s GOOD: that they’re perfect. Just the right amount of tart to sweet, filling to crust, all in one bite. Make these.

What’s NOT: really, nothing at all. Ina Garten is a wizard.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Lemon Bars

Recipe By: Ina Garten
Serving Size: 40

1/2 pound unsalted butter — at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
6 extra large eggs — at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest — grated, 4-6 lemons
1 cup lemon juice — freshly squeezed
1 cup flour Confectioners’ sugar — for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.
3. Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
4. For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature. Cut into triangles and dust with confectioners’ sugar.
Per Serving: 156 Calories; 6g Fat (31.2% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 43mg Cholesterol; 20mg Sodium; 18g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 8mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 30mg Potassium; 29mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on May 27th, 2022.

A post from Sara: I’ve always been a huge fan of chocolate and peanut butter. And when you use chewy brownies and melted peanut butter? Well, simply fantastic. I made these little jewels to ship to my kids in school in the South. It packages and ships well enough. I do put each in its own cupcake paper so they don’t stick. Then I boxed them up in aluminum 8×8 throw away containers with lids before packaging in a shipping box.

I used my go-to recipe for chewy, dense brownies. They’ve been posted here on the blog before. After pouring the batter into 9×13 pan, melt 1/2 cup peanut butter. I use a glass measuring cup and heat it gently in the microwave so it’s easy to pour onto the brownie batter. Then use a knife and swirl peanut butter into brownie batter for a marble effect. (See photo at left)

Bake according to directions. Once cooled, frost with a basic peanut butter frosting recipe.

I use a Betty Crocker recipe, and once frosted you need to place the pan in the freezer for a few hours. Then I cut out the shape I wanted using a cookie cutter. Since it was Easter, I chose egg shapes. You freeze again for at least 30 mins. Then use a chocolate glaze made with dark chocolate chips and a smidge of margarine. Using your hands, each one is dipped into the chocolate and set on a rack to dry, then sprinkled with decoration before the chocolate sets.

What’s GOOD: I was really surprised at how easy and professional they looked. They were a huge hit as every bit of leftovers pieces (photo above right) were consumed at Easter. I guess everyone loves peanut butter and brownies as much as I do! The number of servings is based on cookie cutter size. In this case the batch made about 32. Would make a great gift in an Easter Basket.

What’s NOT: it takes a bit of time to make the various layers, but altogether they’re very easy to make. Allow for freezing time in between.

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownie Eggs

Recipe By: A combination created by Sara
Serving Size: 32

1 cup butter — PLUS 2 tablespoons
2 1/4 cups sugar
5 large eggs
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour — PLUS 1 tablespoon
3/4 cup cocoa powder — PLUS 1 tablespoon
1/4 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped nuts — (optional)
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter — for swirling in batter
1 cup butter — softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 tablespoon margarine — yes, margarine, not butter
decorative sprinkles for the top

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Line 9×13 pan with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray.
3. Melt butter and sugar in a heavy saucepan on very low heat. Let the mixture cool slightly and transfer to a large bowl. Add eggs gradually, mixing well. Add vanilla extract.
4. Sift dry ingredients together and add to egg mixture, stirring gently and minimally. Add chocolate chips and nuts (if using). Pour into prepared pan and spread to edges if needed.
5. Melt the 1/2 cup peanut butter in a glass measuring cup in microwave on low power (spout is important here) until pourable. Pour on top of the brownie batter in the pan. Using a knife, swirl the peanut butter throughout.
6. Bake approximately 35 minutes – do NOT overbake or you’ll lose the fudgy, gooey texture! Cool completely.
7. FROSTING: Beat butter in medium bowl on medium speed until fluffy. Beat in peanut butter, 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar, the milk and vanilla. Gradually beat in remaining 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, beating after each addition until smooth. Spread frosting all over the brownies, then place pan in freezer for 1-2 hours.
8. Using a cookie cutter (in this case an egg shape) cut brownies into preferred shape. Freeze again for about 30 minutes.
9. GLAZE: Melt chocolate chips and margarine in small saucepan over low heat until completely smooth. (Once cooled the margarine helps the chocolate to set up more firmly.)
10. Using your hands, dip each cookie/egg into chocolate to cover the top and sides. Set on a rack to cool, then sprinkle decorations on top before the chocolate cools and sets. Cool completely. To package for shipping, place each egg in a cupcake paper to keep them from sticking together. Pack in a disposable aluminum pan with a lid.
Per Serving: 378 Calories; 23g Fat (52.1% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 42g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 60mg Cholesterol; 207mg Sodium; 35g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 24mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 128mg Potassium; 50mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, on March 14th, 2022.

Ah, yes, yet another chocolate chip cookie recipe. Hope you’re not tired of them.

A post from Carolyn. Until recently I’d never heard of Zoë Francois. That is until I began watching Magnolia Network where she has her own show call Zoë Bakes. She’s a baker of high esteem and her shows are filmed (I’m assuming) in her home kitchen in Vermont (so quaint). 90% of her recipes are sweets. Some of them are quite fussy (well, they are to me, who doesn’t really like fussy cooking or baking). But hey, I’m always on the lookout for a new or different chocolate chip cookie recipe.

So what’s different about this one? (1) she uses some shortening in it – mostly butter as the fat quotient, and just a little shortening (which supposedly helps the cookies not spread); and (2) she has you chill the cookie balls, on the sheet, before baking. If you are at all interested in reading the ins and outs of chocolate chip cookies and the ingredients that go into them and how they make a cookie react, you should read the long intro to the recipe. It’s quite detailed and unless you’re a professional baker, I’d guess you’d learn something from it. I certainly did.

My granddaughter Taylor loves chocolate chip cookies. And if you’ve followed this blog for any length of time you’ve learned that I do too. As I write this up, Taylor’s been home in Northern California for 2 weeks on a spring break and will hit the grindstone tomorrow with new nursing classes and two different hospitals where she’ll be learning clinical skills. I wanted her to be able to take a few cookies to school or to snack on when she’s studying here at home.

Who doesn’t like a good chocolate chip cookie? Maybe some of those rare people (I know one person – yes Kerry, that’s you) who don’t really care for sweets. I dug out my stand mixer and started in on these. I actually 1 1/2 times the recipe, but the recipe below is the original, which makes 36 cookies regular sized, or 18 if you like the giant ones. I did measure the ingredients carefully, even using my scale for the chips and flour.

For quite awhile I’ve not been doing any baking (trying NOT to), and when I dug out my brown sugar I discovered every speck of brown sugar I had was hard as a rock. Oh dear. I wasn’t about to make a trip to the grocery store. So I googled “how to rehydrate brown sugar,” and there are plenty of recommendations. The one that worked for me was to measure out about 1 cup of the hard brown sugar (first I had to break it up with a mallet) and it went into a sealing type plastic bag, then I added exactly 3/4 tsp of water. You just throw it in the bag and zip it up. It went in the microwave for 15 seconds, then you mush it around by hand, in the bag, breaking apart any of the hard chunks. Then back into the microwave for 10 second increments (it took just one more 10 second round) to make this brown sugar as soft and pliable as a fresh one from the store. At first there was a wet streak (that’s normal) in the middle of the sugar, but as it warms up, it absorbs into the whole lot. Just keep massaging it around. Who knew?

As it turned out, I was lazy and didn’t do the chill-in-the-frig part. I just scooped them and baked them. The recipe indicated 375°F for 8-9 minutes (using the chilled ones), but after making several trays straight from the bowl, I settled on 355°F for 12 minutes exactly. My oven runs a little on the hot side, I’ve learned. I made some of them without walnuts and some with them (the baker didn’t add them, but I prefer with walnuts). I added a measurement of walnuts in the recipe below, so you can choose to or not. I also didn’t add the flaky sea salt to the top. When I tasted the dough I thought they were plenty salty, so didn’t want to add more.

What’s GOOD: really good choc chip cookies. Are they better than others? I liked that they held their shape. They were a little on the brownish side underneath – that’s why I reduced the oven temp a little bit. Try a test batch when you make them. My favorite chocolate chip cookies still remain the ones from the Silver Moon Bakery. Click the link to read my post about them.

What’s NOT: nothing at all. These were delicious. Over the top? Maybe not. Certainly good, however.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies from Zoe Francois

Recipe By: Zoe Francois, Magnolia Network
Serving Size: 36

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour — (320g) unbleached
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter — at room temperature
4 tablespoons shortening — (57g)
1 cup granulated sugar — (200g)
1 cup brown sugar — (230g) packed
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs — at room temperature
12 ounces chocolate — use 72% cocoa, chopped in largish chunks (about 1/4-inch wide)
Flaky Sea Salt
ADDITION: 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped (not in the original recipe)

NOTE: Reserve one small chunk of chopped chocolate to place on the top of each raw cookie. If you are using the flake sea salt on top of the cookies you might want to scant the salt measurement in the batter.
1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl.
2. In a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, then add the shortening until evenly mixed in. Add sugars and beat for 3 minutes on medium speed. Mix in vanilla. Add eggs one at a time and mix on medium-low speed just until incorporated. Add flour and mix just until incorporated. Mix in chocolate, leaving at least one chunk of chocolate that you place on top of each cookie. [If adding walnuts, add them at this time.]
3. Scoop cookie dough using a portion scoop. You can make the cookies larger or smaller, but it will effect the baking time.
4. Refrigerate the raw cookies (on the baking sheets) for at least 30 minutes if you are in a hurry, but they improve if you let them sit for 24-36 hours. Resting will make them taste better, be more uniform in shape and color nicely when they bake. After they are chilled you can bake them or freeze the dough balls for later baking.
5. To bake: Heat oven to 375°F. Bake 6 chilled cookie balls (the large ones), evenly spaced on a sheet pan in the middle of the oven for about 12-15 minutes. If you’re making smaller cookies, you can fit 9-12 on a sheet and they will bake in about 8-9 minutes. Watch carefully that they don’t burn. When the cookies are about 3/4 baked, remove pan and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Continue baking. [For my oven, without chilling the dough, the cookies were best baked at 355°F for 12 minutes.]
6. Allow the cookies to cool slightly on the pan and then remove to a cooling rack.
Per Serving: 180 Calories; 11g Fat (52.4% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 19g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 21mg Cholesterol; 148mg Sodium; 10g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 17mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 98mg Potassium; 54mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, on January 15th, 2022.

Are you a fan of thumbprint cookies? I didn’t think I was, but these made me become one.

A post from Carolyn. These cookies, this recipe, comes from my friend, Linda T. My blog contains a number of her recipes over the  years. I visited her (she lives about an hour or so south of me, toward San Diego) a couple of weeks ago and she always makes me a lovely cup of coffee (she became a Nespresso fan too), and she always has some little sweet waiting for me when I get there. What a treat these were. Truly, I would never have reached for thumbprint cookies if there was a spread of cookies being served. They always seemed over-the-top sweet with the jam on top. Well, this recipe has turned me around completely. Maybe it’s just that this recipe comes from Ina Garten. Her recipes are always foolproof, just like the title of some of her cookbooks. Her recipes are reliable. And always good. This recipe comes from her 2002 Family Style cookbook.

What’s different about these is that instead of rolling the dough in chopped nuts, Ina has you do it in sweetened coconut. The making of these isn’t much different that most cookie doughs, although you do need to make time to chill the dough for awhile. It helps to have a kitchen scale, as she wants these to be 1 ounce each. The balls are placed on an ungreased cookie sheet, then you press a little thumb indentation in the top (not actually flattening the entire cookie). Ideally these are filled with raspberry or apricot jam, a mere 1/4 teaspoon. How do you even measure 1/4 teaspoon of jam, I ask? In other words, very little jam.

Speaking about Nespresso, as I was up above, I had to phone the customer service people there to have them walk me through why one of my machines wasn’t working quite right. They figured it out easily enough and we got it back in working order. While we were waiting for hot water to pump through to clean out the head, I casually mentioned to the nice guy, Ricardo, that I’m just a huge fan of Nespresso, period. That I now own three of them, and that I joke with my family (I do) that I need to be buried with my Nespresso machine, because it has to go with me to heaven. Ricardo just burst into laughter, telling me that was the funniest thing he’d heard all week, and could he share my story with his co-workers at their next staff meeting. I said yes, of course!

What’s GOOD: these cookies are just scrumptious. Just sweet enough. Not too sweet. Lovely with the coconut on the outside edges, with them lightly browned. Thank you, Linda, for making these. This recipe is a keeper, and perfect anytime, but particularly as Christmastime.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of.

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Thumbprint Cookies with Coconut

Recipe By: Ina Garten
Serving Size: 32

3/4 pound unsalted butter — at room temperature (3 cubes)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg — beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
7 ounces shredded coconut meat — sweetened type
Raspberry and/or apricot jam

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until they are just combined and then add the vanilla. Separately, sift together the flour and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Mix until the dough starts to come together. Dump on a floured board and roll together into a flat disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
3. Roll the dough into 1-1/4 inch balls. (If you have a scale, they should each weigh 1 ounce.) Dip each ball into the egg wash and then roll it in coconut. Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet and press a light indentation into the top of each with your finger. Drop 1/4 teaspoon of jam into each indentation. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the coconut is a golden brown. Cool and serve.
Per Serving: 175 Calories; 11g Fat (55.8% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 29mg Cholesterol; 23mg Sodium; 7g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 6mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 42mg Potassium; 27mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, on December 13th, 2021.

Have you ever tried potato chip cookies? I sure had not, but now I’m a fan.

A post from Carolyn. This recipe has been in my files for awhile. It came from Food52, and it just sounded so non-sensical. Potato chips in a cookie? Yet several commenters said they were wonderful, so I just had to try them. I never buy potato chips – they’re just something that I can walk right on by and never be tempted. Not that I don’t like them – I do. But I never crave them – maybe just a little bit with a ham sandwich. If I ever order a tuna sandwich (out) and potato chips are served with it, I’ll put some of the chips inside my sandwich. Not sure where that came from, though I know some people do that on lots of sandwiches.

Just so you know, an 8-ounce bag of Lay’s classic potato chips (that brand is called for here), when crushed (food processor) yielded about 3 1/4 cups. I have to laugh at myself – the original recipe called for 1-1/2 cups, but when I poured out the bag I ended up with over 3 cups and didn’t remember that I needed only 1-1/2 cups. So I put in the entire bag – 8 ounces – of potato chips. So the recipe has been changed below to indicate 3 cups of crushed potato chips.

The recipe starts with a pound of butter (whew!). But you won’t eat that many cookies at a sitting, and (of course) with all that butter, these just about melt in your mouth. The butter needs to be at room temp. My four cubes weren’t, so I put two cubes at a time into the microwave and zapped them for 10 seconds, then turned the cubes over and did another 10 seconds. All four cubes were perfectly softened. Into the stand mixer they went (it would be ideal if you have a stand mixer here because this next step takes awhile) and they got whipped for 10 full minutes. No guessing here – set the timer so you know.

At right you can see how light and fluffy the butter gets. There is nothing in there except butter at this point. Then you add in sugar, mix a bit, then add vanilla, then the potato chips and finely whizzed-up pecans. You mix that just until combined. Note, there is no leavening here – none whatsoever. No eggs. No baking powder.

The baking sheets need to be lined with parchment paper, then you use a small (tiny) scoop, or use two teaspoons to drop small rounded teaspoon-sized blobs onto the parchment. The first cookies I flattened with a glass, but the next trays I just let them drop as they were. Those cookies were a little more craggy on the top – more or less flattened – but not quite as flat-flat as the first trays. I’m fine with the more craggy ones – you can actually see the little tiny pieces of potato chips in those.  The picture at top shows the craggy ones. The original recipe didn’t call for pecans, but one of the commenters mentioned adding them, so I did too.

Scooping the cookies is a bit tedious – because the cookies are really small. I can’t say that I was all that diligent about getting each and every cookie uniformly sized. But they didn’t bake-up irregularly, so I think you’ll be fine whatever size you make them. I ended up with over 90 cookies, far more than I would have thought.

So the recipe indicates, the cookie improves on day two or three, but mine will go into the freezer, since that’s what I do with almost all cookies. I doubled the recipe that I’d found on Food52 because it indicated it made just 24 cookies. Nowhere near enough for what I needed. But doubling (and using more potato chips as I did) yielded over 90 cookies.

As I write this, my good friend Cherrie and I are going to get together to bake Christmas cookies. We always do cranberry noels, and she’s making a lemon icebox cookie (if they’re good I’ll post it after Christmas, probably). I’ve made these potato chip cookies already, and am not sure what other cookies I’ll do. At least one other. And I’ll be baking one batch of Golden Bishop’s Bread which is a must-have at my home over the holidays. My cousin Gary is driving south next week to be with me through the holidays. My granddaughter Taylor (the one living with me who’s in nursing school) is finishing up her second (of four) semesters and gets to have four weeks off before she returns after Christmas to start again. She’s leaving to go home to Placerville in a couple of days and SO happy to have a month off. This concentrated nursing school is grueling – on the days she has off  from school or clinical work at a local hospital, she’s closeted in her room studying and/or watching nursing school videos, and doing practice quizzes. Going for a 14-month BSN is not for sissies! I just love having this granddaughter of mine living with me. She’s a real joy to have around.

What’s GOOD: everything about them is good – the flavor, texture, the melt-in-your-mouth quality to them, the little bit of crunch from the potato chips and the pecans. They look pretty, and surprisingly they are more sturdy than I’d have thought, what with using mostly whipped butter as a batter. The recipe is a keeper. You might expect these to be extra salty, but they’re not at all. Surprisingly!

What’s NOT: only that you need to have potato chips on hand. And a pound of butter!!

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Potato Chip Cookies with Pecans

Recipe By: Adapted from Food 52
Serving Size: 90

2 cups unsalted butter — softened
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup pecans — chopped fine in food processor (optional)
3 cups potato chips — classic Lay’s potato chips, chopped finely in food processor (you can use less – – I accidentally doubled the amount)
3 tablespoons powdered sugar — to sprinkle on top

NOTE: The original cookie didn’t have pecans, but someone added them and said they were good, with more texture in the finished cookies. You can delete the pecans if you prefer.
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Use a food processor to finely mince the potato chips and pecans (not together) and set aside. Do not over-process as you want the chips to still have some form.
3. Using an electric mixer (preferably a stand mixer), beat the butter until light and fluffy – at least 10 minutes. Do not skimp on the mixing time. Then add sugar and beat well. Add vanilla, then gradually add in the flour. Add the pecans and crushed potato chips last and mix until just combined.
4. Drop by the teaspoon onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. If you don’t mind the tops being a little bit craggy, just mound the batter and they’ll flatten out in their own way.
5. Bake until slightly brown on the edges and still relatively white/creamy in the center of each cookie, about 10-11 minutes. Remove from oven and using a fine sieve, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar while still warm. Keep in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days, or freeze for longer storage.
Per Serving: 107 Calories; 7g Fat (59.5% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 11mg Cholesterol; 42mg Sodium; 3g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 4mg Calcium; trace Iron; 102mg Potassium; 19mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on November 29th, 2021.

Pure bliss. Chocolate and nuts make my day. These are wonderful any time of year, but particularly so around the holidays.

This is a post from Carolyn, but actually Taylor made these. I merely helped a little and took photos. It’s such a joy to have this granddaughter of mine living with me. She wanted to make some cookies, asked me for some ideas and this one popped to the forefront. It’s a recipe from Food & Wine. Since she made them a month ago, I’ve made them as well and served them at a luncheon, topped with sweetened whipped cream. As I write this there are still 8-10 squares (I served larger squares as a dessert rather than a triangle or bar) in the frig. I wish they weren’t so darned delicious because I know that box beckons me nearly every day.

These aren’t hard to make at all, although they do have two steps – the shortbread crust, then the chocolate topping. You can combine the shortbread ingredients in a stand mixer or a food processor, which makes a dough. I’d separate the dough into about 6 pieces, then place them strategically on the sheet pan – which makes it easier to push the shortbread into the corners. There is just barely enough dough to fill a sheet pan.

You can see all the fingerprints in the dough (at left). It might have been nicer if we had used a flat glass to flatten it out, but it truly makes no difference in the finished product.

That gets baked (watch it so it doesn’t burn). Then you make the filling which is butter, dark brown sugar, a little bit of corn syrup, bittersweet chocolate, and cream. Once it cools slightly you add in the beaten eggs, and pour it out over the shortbread crust. That is baked awhile, then cooled slightly before you add the sea salt flakes on top. Cool completely, and they’re done. Oh so good.

At right you can see the baked bars, with all the pecans pebbling the surface. Once cooled you can cut them, or you can wait until they’re chilled. Be careful as you cut so the knife or sharp spatula doesn’t crack the shortbread. I cut them when they were room temp. After cutting, I put them into a refrigerator storage box with waxed paper separating the layers. Don’t put the cookies right on top of one another or it’ll ruin the chocolate top.

What’s GOOD: oh my goodness, so much chocolate and nut goodness. Loved these bars as a cookie or as a square piece as a dessert with the whipped cream on top. Altogether fabulous recipe. The chocolate part is a bit sticky, so when you handle them, do have them refrigerated first. And store them in the refrigerator. They make a bunch – they’re an easy dessert or cookie/bar to make. Great for the holidays.

What’s NOT: nothing really.

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Chocolate Pecan Shortbread Bars

Recipe By: Food & Wine magazine
Serving Size: 32

2 sticks unsalted butter — softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 sticks unsalted butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate — finely chopped
2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 large eggs — beaten
3 cups pecan halves — chopped (10 ounces)
Flaky sea salt

1. SHORTBREAD: Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a 12-by-17-inch baking pan with foil, allowing it to extend 1/2 inch over the edge on all sides. Spray the foil with vegetable oil spray.
2. In a standing mixer or food processor, beat the butter with the confectioners’ sugar, flour and salt until a soft dough forms. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan, breaking it up into about 6 chunks and evenly place them on the baking sheet. Then use a flat-bottomed glass, to press the dough into an even layer. If you have difficulty, use your hands to gently coax the dough into the corners. Freeze the dough for about 10 minutes, until firm.
3. Bake the shortbread in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, until lightly golden. Do not overbake.
4. TOPPING: In a saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, chocolate and cream and cook over low heat just until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. If you add the eggs too soon, the hot chocolate mixture will “cook” the eggs, rather than thicken the topping. Add in the eggs, then fold in the pecans.
5. Spread the topping over the shortbread crust. Bake the shortbread bars for about 25 minutes, until the topping is set. Allow it to cool a few minutes, sprinkle lightly with sea salt, then cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until firm. Using the foil, carefully lift the bars out of the pan; discard the foil. Cut the shortbread into 32 triangles and serve. If you cut them into squares (larger) you can serve these as a stand-alone dessert with a topping of sweetened whipped cream. Or cut into triangles or smaller bars to serve as cookies. Store bars in refrigerator. You may stack them with pieces of waxed paper in between.
Per Serving: 312 Calories; 26g Fat (72.5% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 62mg Cholesterol; 34mg Sodium; 9g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 21mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 67mg Potassium; 52mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, on November 22nd, 2021.

Because the calendar says it’s Fall, I’m thinking about baking. Fall flavors. Gingerbread comes to mind.

Actually I made these a few weeks ago and they’re already long gone. In the interim I was helping both Karen and Sara with posting recipes of their own and I let this recipe sit in the wings. You’ve seen a lot of biscotti recipes around here in the last several months. I’ve convinced myself that a biscotti has less fat, calories and sugar (and since I make it with mostly artificial sugar) then I can have one now and then. Given my ‘druthers, I’d make either chocolate biscotti, or anise biscotti, or combination of chocolate and anise, but even I get tired of those after awhile. And since I write a blog, it was time for a variation. Something totally different.

This recipe actually came from the Challenge dairy company. Is Challenge a West Coast firm? My DIL, Karen, gave me this recipe several years ago and I just hadn’t gotten around to making them.

It took very little time to mix them up. Except for grating the fresh ginger. I have a little flat device for doing this, but still it took me about 10 minutes to get 1/4 cup of it! The dough I made in my stand mixer – the only caution I’d give you is to add the almonds and dried apricots slowly and mix it well. The mixture is kind of dry-ish, so the add-ins didn’t want to come together very well without striations of almonds or of dried apricots. So when I sliced the logs, some fell apart because they had too much of those in the middle. But it made no difference in the finished product, obviously. They tasted fine, even though some of them broke apart.

What’s GOOD: I liked the fall flavors – the spice mix of cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and the hint of molasses too. The biscotti are good. I won’t call them sensational, but then my palate is jaded because I love anise biscotti and/or chocolate ones. But it’s fall – these were nice.

What’s NOT: only the grating of 1/4 cup of fresh ginger. Otherwise, mixing these up and baking them were pretty easy.

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Gingerbread Biscotti with Apricots and Almonds

Recipe By: Challenge Dairy recipe
Serving Size: 30

1/2 cup unsalted butter — (1 stick) softened
1 cup sugar — or artificial sugar, or combo of both
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons molasses
1/4 cup grated ginger root — yes, freshly grated ginger root
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped almonds — or sliced
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots — be sure to cut them into very small little cubes

1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
2. Cream butter, sugar, ground ginger and allspice until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, molasses and chopped ginger root. Combine flour, baking soda and salt; blend into butter mixture. With mixer on, slowly add almonds and apricots. Chill dough for ease of handling.
3. Divide dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, shape each portion into two 12-inch long logs. Place logs on a lightly buttered or parchment lined cookie sheet. If you have one of the corrugated-style baking sheets, neither parchment nor butter is required.
4. Bake 30-35 minutes or until firm. Cool for about 15 minutes, then using a long, serrated knife, cut diagonally into 3/8-inch slices. Place slices on a cookie sheet and bake at 250°F for approximately one hour to dry the biscotti. If you use a convection oven for this step, reduce time to about 40 minutes. If you run out of room on your baking sheets, stand some of the biscotti on the edges but leave enough room around them to dry out in the oven. Make sure they aren’t touching. Cool completely then freeze in plastic storage bags. They’re fine, eaten from a frozen state. Great with a cup of coffee or tea.
Per Serving: 135 Calories; 5g Fat (34.7% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 20mg Cholesterol; 85mg Sodium; 8g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 19mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 106mg Potassium; 42mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, on November 15th, 2021.

A post from Carolyn. My freezer was bare – of cookies.

Having resisted making more cookies for a couple of weeks, I knew I needed something new to stock the freezer. I found this recipe in my files – it says it came from the blog cookie madness, but when I researched her website I didn’t find them, so perhaps I was wrong. Have no idea then, of the origin of these cookies. There’s another recipe here on my blog for a cookie called Ranger Cookies. Any of  you ever made those? I think they have oats and walnuts in them too. These are similar. Maybe even better.

They were cinchy easy to make – first thing was to melt a couple of cubes of butter then let that cool. Meanwhile I roasted the whole almonds in a medium oven, then added the coconut on top and let all of that become golden brown. Once that had cooled some it was poured into the food processor and chopped up finely. Then I started the butter and sugar mixture (I used nearly all artificial sugar – golden brown Splenda, and So Nourished erythritol granulated form) in my stand mixer, added the egg, extracts and salt.

In another bowl I’d combined the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, soda and salt. I mixed that up a little bit with a whisk to distribute the cornstarch and the soda clumps (actually I poured that out into my palm to mash any little clumps first). Then that was added to the wet mixture just until it came together, then in went the corn flakes and lastly the chocolate chips. With very little mixing. I used my handy-dandy scoop to make rounds, flattened them slightly and baked the cookies for 16 minutes. They rested briefly on a rack because they were a bit too fragile to transfer immediately. Once cool, they’re quite sturdy. Packed into plastic bags, they’re now resting in the freezer for frequent visits by those of us in the house at the moment (my granddaughter and her dad, Todd, who is visiting). Can’t tell you how many times the freezer door has been opened and shut since I made these cookies. Does that tell you whether these cookies are worth making?

What’s GOOD: they’re simply wonderful. The cornstarch obviously adds some crispy texture to the cookies, but the corn flakes do too. Altogether great cookies. A winner of a recipe.

What’s NOT: nary a thing that I can think of. These are really good crispy cookies.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Crispy Crunchy Almond Chocolate Chips Cookies

Recipe By: From the internet, somewhere
Serving Size: 60

1 cup almonds — whole, unsalted
2 cups sweetened coconut flakes — about 5 ounces
2 sticks unsalted butter — softened
1 cup brown sugar — I used Splenda brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar — I used 90% So Nourished erythritol
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 large egg
2 cups all-purpose flour — very lightly spooned, so scant the measurement slightly
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups corn flakes
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips — or bittersweet, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment or foil and set aside.
2, Place almonds in a 13×9 inch pan or rimmed cookie sheet and roast for 6 minutes. Dump coconut over almonds and roast both together for another 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Reduce oven heat to 325°.
3. In a mixing bowl, cream butter, both sugars, both extracts and egg. In a separate bowl, thoroughly stir together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir flour mixture into butter-sugar mixture.
4. Transfer almonds and coconut to a food processor and pulse until almonds are finely chopped. Add corn flakes and pulse 5 more times to crush cereal. Dump almond/coconut/cereal mixture into cookie batter and stir until batter comes together. Do not over mix. Add chocolate chips and mix very briefly.
5. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place on cookie sheets. Press balls down slightly so that tops are flattened a little bit. Bake one sheet at a time for 16-18 minutes. Let cool for about 3 minutes on cookie sheet, then transfer to wire rack to cool. Store in plastic bags in the freezer for longer term storage. However, they may not last all that long.
Per Serving: 112 Calories; 6g Fat (46.6% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 11mg Cholesterol; 76mg Sodium; 8g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 20mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 49mg Potassium; 37mg Phosphorus.

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