Baklava thumbprint cookies

Happy Healthy New Year To You All

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I am guessing you are thinking wait didn’t she write just last week it was going to be a sugar free zone January. I did, especially at the office, now if only someone; anyone would come and eat the giant margarita glass overflowing with Lindt chocolates before I go back to work on Wednesday there might be a fighting chance.  Also I did mention this at home and got a resounding hell no we won’t go chant sooooo not sure how this is all going to pan out.

IMG_3864.JPGI also mentioned several blog posts ago that there will always be baked goods in my life so I am just going to keep being me!
IMG_3865.JPGI saw this recipe in a magazine that intrigued me in 2 ways. Firstly I have always wanted to make a thumbprint cookie but none of the fillings seemed calorie worthy; I’ve never been a huge fan of a lot of jelly, don’t get me wrong I like it just fine, but I want it to be a light layer as an accent not the main ingredient, if you get my drift. You will never see me eat a jelly donut – just saying! Secondly I like baklava and actually since spending time in Greece recently you could say love; because theirs was all amazing. But the ones I have had here in the states were just way too sweet for me. I sound too picky for a foodie but there you have it!
IMG_3866.JPGThese cookies were almost perfect and everyone over Christmas loved them. The only thing I would do actually will be doing differently is; not a huge fan of almond extract it is such a powerful flavor and tastes kind of fake to me, I would add half the amount of that and increase the vanilla extract. I will give you the recipe as I found it but since I am going to be me; you do you!
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Ingredients
1 cup of sugar
½ cup butter, softened
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon almond extract – here I would do ½
1 teaspoon vanilla extract – here I would to 1½
2¼ cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

Topping
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup honey
¾ cup of chopped walnuts

Directions
Add the flour, baking powder and salt to a small bowl and set aside.

Cream the sugar and butter until well blended. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the extracts.
IMG_3868.JPGAdd the dry ingredients to the wet, beat until creamed all together.

Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate until firm enough to form into small balls. Around 30 minutes or so.
IMG_3870.JPGPreheat oven to 375’F
Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside

Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Place them about 2 inches apart on either parchment lined or silpat lined baking sheets.
IMG_3872.JPGBake for 8 minutes. Pull them out of the oven and press a deep indentation in the center of the cookie with the back of a spoon or I used the back of a melon baller. Fill each indentation with a little honey and top with nuts; then sprinkle them with the cinnamon and sugar. Back into the oven for another 1-9 minutes.
IMG_3876.JPGCool them on the sheet for a minute and them remove them to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Approx.
1 cookie 168 calories, 7g fat, 25g carbs, 2g protein

Recipe: Sharon Eshelman – Taste of Home

Russian tea cakes or Mexican wedding cookies?

I really love these cookies, I mean what’s not to love, butter, sugar and nuts. They are super easy to put together and rather quickly too. I don’t know why but they are generally only made around this time a year. Maybe because they look like a snowball?

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How cute are my fish teaspoons?

I have heard them called many things; Russian tea cakes, Mexican wedding cakes, Italian wedding cakes, snowballs, snowball cookies, and butterballs to name a few. Why so many names? Why called a cake when they clearly the size of a cookie?
IMG_3719.JPGIn doing a little research the names Russian versus Mexican seem to come from what nut you choose to use. Russian tea cakes use Hazelnuts, almonds and walnuts. And Mexican wedding cakes use pecans. The names snowballs and butterballs seem to be more of whatever your family has grown up using maybe? The cake versus cookie has a long explanation but I will try to condense it A LOT. Mexican weddings used to not have the typical tiered creations that we have here in the US instead they had tables with all kinds of confections for their guests and these were popular. The Mexican wedding cake cookies are known as polvorones. The Russian name is said that they were a popular treat at tea time for Europeans. 
IMG_3718.JPGPreheat oven to 325 – prepare 2 cookie sheets either with parchment, spray or silpat mat

2 cups whole pecans or walnuts, chopped fine
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened but cool
⅓ cups sugar
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups confectioners sugar for rolling cooled cookies

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Mix 1 cup chopped nuts, flour, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside
Place the remaining nuts in a food processor and process until they are the consistency of corneal, careful not to over process and make butter. Stir into the flour mixture and set aside.
IMG_3713.JPGCream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about a minute or two. Beat in the vanilla; scrape as needed. Add the flour mixture and beat on low until the dough just comes together; about 15-20 seconds. Scrape again as needed and process till dough has all come together a few more seconds.
IMG_3714.JPGWorking with 1 tablespoon at a time, use a cookie scoop if you have one to make them all the same size. Roll into a ball and place on a prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes; just until the tops are barely brown. Rotate halfway through cooking.
IMG_3716.JPGCool on the cookie sheet for about 2 minutes. Remove to a wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes or so. Roll cookies into confectioners sugar, gently shake off the excess. They can be stored in an airtight container up to 5 days, or frozen for a couple of months. Just before serving roll them again in confectioners sugar to coat again; tap off the excess.
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Recipe: Cook’s Illustrated

Buttermilk Biscuits

I have been writing this blog for several years now and while I enjoy writing and sharing with you all. You would think I would have a better game plan; I don’t I have been on vacation this past week and it didn’t occur to me to write this weeks blog or even make something worthy of sharing until 7:40 last night ugh! I literally had all week and I want to say we had cereal at least 2 nights and I think my husband made banana pancakes one night. It could have been a perfect week to try out some new recipes write up a few blogs so I didn’t add to the pressure of the holiday season. Nope not me let’s get up early and make something so I could take pictures and write it down for you. You’re welcome 🙂
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I have been wanting to make cookie dough for the freezer so I figured I would make some sort of cookie for you, then the fridge ingredients dictated that I needed to use up some of the buttermilk and we needed to eat something for breakfast; who doesn’t love biscuits; seriously I don’t know of anyone that doesn’t at least like biscuits.
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I have made this recipe several times and they never had really come out as advertised. I will go on record that it was all my fault. I used her recipe and made them my usual way which apparently was wrong; well not wrong I was just not going to get the same results as they showed in their pictures. So I decided to make them step by step according to the recipe which I will share with you, and you can decide if you want fluffy or flat biscuits, they taste the same to me. but the fluffy ones are beautiful to look at.

Buttermilk Biscuits
Spray a sheet pan lightly with nonstick spray or use a silpat mat like I did.
Preheat oven to 450°F.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping the dough
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
4 tablespoons (½ stick) cold unsalted butter
¾ cups cold cultured buttermilk

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Add the shortening and use your fingertips to pinch it completely into the flour mixture.

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Using a box grater, grate the cold butter into the flour. Toss until all of the pieces are coated. We have some butter we keep in the freezer so mine was frozen.
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Lightly coat your work surface with nonstick cooking spray, then flour. (The spray keeps the flour in place.) Add the buttermilk to the flour mixture. Gently mix the dough with a rubber spatula until there are no dry bits of flour left. The dough should be slightly sticky. I really did this step to the letter and I think the dough is a little more than slightly sticky.
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Transfer dough to the prepared work surface. Lightly coat your hands with flour and gently press the dough with the heels of your hands to form it into a smooth flat rectangle, 1/2-inch thick. Sprinkle the dough with flour, then fold it into thirds (like a letter). Press the dough out again, sprinkle with a little flour, and fold it into thirds again. This time folding in the open ends first. Repeat one more time. Dough should no longer be sticky. again this is the first time doing this step and it worked and I get it!
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With a floured 2-inch biscuit cutter, cut out dough rounds. Flip the rounds over so that the smooth sides that were against the work surface face up and place on the prepared pan, 1-inch apart. Stack the scraps and press and cut again. Refrigerate until cold, about 15 minutes. I put mine in the fridge just long enough to clean up my mess.
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Bake until the tops are golden brown and crisp, about 16 minutes. I set the timer for 10 and only added 3 more minutes. You know your own oven so adjust the time. Let cool 5 minutes before serving hot. This step was killing my husband; he is pretty dramatic when it comes to food. He is always starving – not really!!!

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the ones in the back are the fluffy ones

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You can see the difference in size – so your choice follow the directions as written or have flat biscuits – both are delicious!

Recipe by Carla Hall

 

Cranberry-Pistachio Cookie Bar

So last week I mentioned having some cookie bars cooling while I was writing. They are all gone, no I didn’t eat them all by myself I had some help. Actually it is kinda funny that my son who doesn’t live here anymore but works with my husband so is here most mornings does a drive-by of the stove and immediately looks to see what might be packaged up to snack on.
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My name is Donna and I am a snack-a-holic. (stop laughing KP) we have not one but two snack drawers and anything homemade goes on the shelf above the stove, mostly to keep my dog from counter surfing. Which he has done a few times.

IMG_3615Back to the cookie bars. I am going to blame the magazines I was going through to try to get rid of a few. Out of a half dozen or so I think I got rid of two. That is not how you clean out your magazines/catalogs. While going through them I came across one that they had me at the title Cranberry-Pistachio bars. One of my most favorite combination of sweet and salty is cranberries, pistachios and white chocolate. I have made cookies, biscotti’s and bark with these three magical ingredients and have NEVER been disappointed.
IMG_3622.JPGThese bars are thick, dense and chewy; not too sweet or salty just the right amount I think. Though they did not list white chocolate I had to add a drizzle of some of it melted on top.

Cranberry-Pistachios cookie bars
Preheat oven to 350’F – line a 9×13 pan with foil, spray non-stick spray

Ingredients
¾ cup butter, melted
1¼ cups light brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated white sugar
½ cup honey
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cup salted pistachios, chopped
1 cup dried cranberries

Directions

In a stand mixer bowl, beat the melted butter, sugars and honey on medium until fluffy about 3-4 minutes. Scrape as needed. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. Beat in the vanilla.
IMG_3616IMG_3617In a small bowl, whisk the flour and salt. Add them to the wet mixture, beating until combined. Add pistachios and cranberries till combined.
IMG_3618IMG_3620Press batter into pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes until a wooden toothpick comes out slightly sticky. Let cool completely in the pan. Optional drizzle of white chocolate. I took a handful of chips and in a Pyrex measuring cup; melted them in the microwave for about a minute. Then drizzled them on the cooled bars. Slice and enjoy!
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Recipe adapted from Southern Lady magazine

Apple Galette – Rustic Tart

I am in a bad way! I have not only been craving baked goods; containing flour, sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla etc. I have been making way too many of them; which also means eating them.
IMG_3610.JPGLast weekend I made 2 different kinds of dessert, as I write there is a pan of cookie bars cooling on the stove. It is a little early to be packing on my winter weight. Yeah like that’s what it is; well that is what we call it when our pants get a little tighter and the baggy sweaters come out.
IMG_3612.JPGMy sister-law was up for the weekend and I had bought some apples the week before that were still in the bowl on the counter. So I decided we were going to make something with them. I can’t be certain but I do not recall ever making a galette and I have always wanted to. What I didn’t know was my sister-in-law had never made a homemade dough before. So many people; including me on occasion; buy pre-made dough from the store; making one from scratch can be well worth the extra 10-20  minutes. Plus it takes me longer to run to the store than to just make a simple crust.
IMG_3600So I held a little cooking class in my kitchen that was enjoyed by everyone. I enjoy showing/making, she enjoyed learning and everyone else enjoyed eating.
IMG_3601IMG_3602A galette is a simply a fancy word for a rustic tart. I mean if you were going to present or try to sell one. I mean you could probably get $3 for a slice of a rustic tart; but by calling it a galette you could probably get $5.

Tart dough
1½ cups (6¾ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon table salt
11 tablespoons (5½ ounces) cold, unsalted butter – grated or cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
3 tablespoons milk

Fruit Filling
5-7 Granny Smith – 4 cups of apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Cinnamon
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In a stand mixer add the flour, sugar and salt. Using the paddle attachment combine the dry ingredients for a about 30 seconds. On low speed add the cold butter to the flour mixture until the flour is no longer white and it can hold together when you squeeze it together in your hand. Around 1-3 minutes. If there are any butter pieces larger than a pea squeeze them to break them up.
IMG_3604In a small bowl mix the egg yolk and milk and then add them to the flour mixture. On low speed mix until the dough just comes together, about 20 seconds. The dough will look crumbly and dry. Dump the dough onto a clean lightly floured surface. Working it with the heel of your hand, push and smear it away from you, gather it back up and repeat until the dough come together and is pliable.
IMG_3607Press it into a disc and wrap it in plastic wrap; let it rest in the fridge for 15-20 minutes. The dough can last up to 4 days in the fridge or a couple of months in the freezer. Place it in the fridge overnight to defrost. Let the dough sit on the counter for 15 minutes before the next step. Preheat the oven to 350’F
IMG_3608While the dough is resting prepare the fruit. Peel, core and slice the apples, add the sugar and cinnamon and some flour. Taste an apple and if it needs more sugar now is the time to add it. Roll the dough on a floured surface into a 13-14 inch circle. It does have to be a circle It doesn’t have to be perfect, remember it is called a rustic tart.
IMG_3609On a sheet pan covered with tin foil or a silpat mat. Place the round dough and add the apples to the center of the dough. If you want to make it pretty line up some of the apples that will be seen through the open part of the top. Fold the edges of the dough over some of the fruit to create a rim about 2 inches wide. Working your way around the dough pleating as you go.
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Make an egg wash by beating a whole egg in a small bowl with a fork. Using a pastry brush, brush the pleated dough evenly with some of the egg wash. Sprinkle with whatever sugar you have on hand. I used sugar in the raw.

Bake until the pleats of the dough are golden brown, about an hour. Once done transfer to a rack to cool. When cool enough to handle, transfer to a cutting board or plate and slice. Serve it warm or at room temperature. Top with whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

If you want to make a smaller tart you can quarter the dough into four separate disks and wrap each one in plastic wrap. When you roll out the dough into 7 inch circle. When you pleat the dough it should have a 1 inch rim.

When the tart’s ( we each made one) were in the oven I showed my sister-in-law the first dough I was shown how to make when I was a kid. Flour, water and oil. which I still make. I am glad I showed her the galette dough first the second is so easy though not as flaky and buttery but is the only dough I make when making curly cues. Dough rolled out covered with butter cinnamon and sugar rolled up and sliced into 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces.  

Zucchini chocolate chip muffins

I am writing this one last blog (Wednesday) before I leave for Greece – weeeeeee
I am hoping to be able to write the next one on one of the Greek Islands and share with you all what I have been eating.
IMG_3121We are leaving the house, dog and business in the kids hands, we are not worried at all. I am slightly concerned about my gardens. The kids have never really been interested in the process; other than eating everything. Hmmmmm I might have failed them – time will tell when they get their own home and yard I hope they will want to garden even if it is not to the extent that we do.
IMG_3112Thankfully the squash plants are starting to fade away. We had a crazy squash season; I think the best we have ever had to be perfectly honest. This will probably be my last zucchini recipe – OK you can stop smiling or rolling your eyes. It is a good one!!!!
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Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins / preheat oven 350’F / makes 12 muffins plus a few smaller ones if you have leftover batter

Ingredients
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ cup vegetable oil – or substitute ½ cup applesauce
¼ cup milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup shredded/drained zucchini
½ cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup chopped walnuts

Directions
Grease 12 muffins cups or line with paper muffins liners.
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Combine in a large bowl the flour, sugar, soda, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl mix egg, oil, milk, lemon and vanilla. Stir wet ingredients into the dry till combined. Fold in zucchini, chips and walnuts.  Fill cups about ⅔ full.
IMG_3120Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Adapted from Allrecipes

Buttermilk Berry Muffins

This weekend and last I have been spending at least one of the weekend days in the kitchen. I wanted to; well actually had to make sure my gardening wasn’t for not.
IMG_3111Last week I had some blueberries and raspberries that needed to be either eaten or made into something else. Tomatoes that I needed to make into a sauce, green peppers washed, sliced and frozen and broccoli into soup and froze the rest. Plus cucumbers needed to turn into pickles and I had a ridiculous amount zucchinis that I wanted to give to someone else. I did bring seven or so to work and sent my daughter to the lake she works at with a basket full. Thankful people are still excited, or that might be a strong adjective, to see me coming with produce.
IMG_3105Last weekend I made some mixed-berry muffins that I hope you like. You can use whatever kind of berries you have on hand or one that you like the most. The berries can be fresh or frozen so these can basically be made whenever you want with what you have on hand
IMG_3107Buttermilk  Mixed Berry Muffins – makes 12 muffins – preheat oven 350’F

2 cups all purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
¾ cup sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
¾ cup buttermilk
⅔ cup canola oil – or ⅔ cup applesauce
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups blueberries
2 cups raspberries

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, applesauce or oil and vanilla.
In another bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt.

Gently fold in the berries into the dry ingredients.
Fold the wet ingredients into the dry just till combined, do not over mix the batter
IMG_3106Either spray the muffin pan or line with paper cups liners.  Fill to 3/4 fill or slightly more.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let rest for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack.