Chocolate Muscat Cookies

Chocolate Muscat Cookies

Do you ever wonder what it would be like if you could actually see what was going on in people’s heads?  I am sure someone created a television show on that at some point, but think about it – so often people convince themselves of something that really deep down inside, they don’t believe for a minute.  Transparency is a very powerful tool.  It just goes to show you, that everything is more complex than it seems.  Just when you think you understand exactly what it going on, think twice. It’s what makes life extremely interesting.  It is the people that can navigate well through ambiguity that deserve all the credit in the end.

The same can be said about food – what if you always knew exactly what you were eating – not just that you were eating a chocolate cookie, but exactly what ingredients were.  Sure, we are living in a world where that is happening more and more with packaged foods – but when you are in a restaurant, there are still unknowns.  And that is exactly what creates the “secret ingredient”.  I have never been a fan of the “secret ingredient” or even not sharing recipes.  Sharing a recipe allows other people to join in on the happiness that you felt when eating that special dish.

But there is another side to all of this – if you knew that you didn’t like something, and then you knew it was in the food you were eating, you would never have the opportunity to try it in a different way.  For example, my daughter doesn’t like nuts – but in these cookies, they are so finely ground that she loves them!  It wasn’t until after she ate one did she ask if there were nuts in them – when I said yes, she already decided she liked them, so we were good.

This recipe from my mother not only has ground nuts, but also Muscat – a desert wine.  You would never know, but again, it just gives these cookies a hint of flavor that you would not get otherwise.  They are absolutely delicious.  So – maybe not knowing exactly what is going on is a good thing – it opens your mind to new things…a perfect way to learn and grow.

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 lbs. Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate
  • 4 oz.. sweet butter
  • 3/4 cup Muscat
  • 6 eggs
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups slivered almonds
  • granulated sugar for rolling
  • confectioners sugar for rolling

Preparation

Melt together butter and chocolate over double boiler. Meanwhile, mix eggs, Muscat, and sugar.  Grind almonds with flour and baking powder in food processor. Whip the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the almond mixture. Chill the dough until firm. Overnight works best (can freeze). Scoop out about 1 oz. of dough and roll into a ball with the palms of your hands. Roll the ball, first in granulated sugar, then in confectionery sugar. Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Place 1-2 inches apart to allow for spreading. DO NOT OVERBAKE. Bake at 350 for 13 minutes. Freezes well after baking. Batter can keep in refrigerator for a week as well. Makes 90 small cookies. For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chocolate Muscat Cookies

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Double-Chocolate Cookies

Double-Chocolate Cookies

Sometimes life takes you by surprise.  Even when you knew it was a possibility, it still catches you off guard.  Then it is up to you to figure out how to move forward.  That was my Friday night at 10pm.  And yes, it still shocks me even as I write this.  I won the Girl Scout Recipe contest

I couldn’t believe it, and still can’t.  I had such strong competitors!  But in the end, I think it came down to my daughter’s marketing plan.  And yes, at age 12 1/2, she definitely succeeded.  At 10pm on Friday night, already in bed, I frantically rearranged my Monday morning schedule, because as a winner, I get to make my recipe on television – which just happens to be filming tomorrow morning.  So thank-you to all of my readers who voted, every vote counted, and from what I heard – it was an extremely close race.

Now for the really fun part!  As I mentioned previously, I plan to donate my prize winnings to a charity.  Which charity?  Well, that is up to you.  Please leave me a comment on this blog post of your favorite charity, and I will select one randomly that will receive the donation.

Speaking of cookies, I leave you with this recipe for Double-Chocolate Cookies, which I found in Cooking Light.  They were super easy to make, and were a huge hit with my daughter and her friends – they are particularly good right out of the oven.  It is important not to bake these cookies to much, you want them to be soft and chewy.  Ok, so maybe they are not as good as Samoas, but hey, you can make these all year long – and you only have a few more weeks to get ahold of those Girl Scout Cookies!!

Ingredients

  • 6.75 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 3/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Preparation

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cocoa, and salt in a bowl, stirring with a whisk.

Place sugar, butter, and oil in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined (about 5 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla; beat 1 minute. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until combined. Add chocolate; beat at low speed just until combined. Cover with plastic wrap; chill 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Drop dough by 1 1/2 tablespoonfuls 2-inches apart onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350° for 8 minutes or until almost set. Cool on pan 2 minutes or until firm. Remove cookies from pan; cool on wire racks.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Double-Chocolate Cookies

Macklesmores

Maclasmores

Macklemore is now a household name in most families with teenagers.  That’s what happens when you have a hit song.  He is even more of a hit in his hometown of Seattle.  People here love him, and he was a product of Seattle Public Schools – even better. My daughter may just end up at the high school he attended – which is now probably famous because of him.

Not far from where he went to high school is a cookie shop named Hello Robin – they sell delectable homemade cookies (that you can watch come out of the oven), along with Molly Moon’s Ice Cream (another Seattle icon).  We started going there last summer, and that’s where I saw the Macklesmores.  I was instantly obsessed – without even trying one.  It took me a few visits, but I finally broke down and bought one.  Oh my gosh – this was quite a cookie.  It was almost the best cookie I have ever had.  I had to make them for myself.

So one night when we were there, they were actually taking them out of the oven – so I asked the woman if I could get the recipe.  No can do – she said she really didn’t mix them up anyway, but she was pretty sure they used Honey Maid Grahams.  That’s all I got.  So – I was on my own to try and figure it out.  The first batch I made I decided to go with these cookies.  I thought they looked similar to the cookies in the store.  Unfortunately it was a bust – the cookies just almost melted over the grahams, and the marshmallows just melted into the cookies – they tasted great, but they were just sad looking.

That’s when I turned to my mother.  I needed a rustic cookie recipe that would be perfect for these grahams, and she had just the solution.  Her go-to cookie recipe.  Now, when she determines that something meets that type of standard, she has done her due diligence.  She doesn’t mess around when it comes to perfecting the best recipe.  Even though I knew this, as I was mixing them up, I was still worried – I made her call me from Paris just to make sure I was doing it right – and I was.  I followed the directions though completely – the most important of the steps is refrigerating the batter.  You MUST do that for these cookies to work, and for the marshmallows to stay intact.  These were outstanding…they looked exactly like the real thing.  Even if Hello Robin is frustrated right now…at hopefully Macklemore would approve.  After all, how many other Seattle legends have a cookie named after them?

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound sweet butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3/4 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
  • Honey Maid Graham Crackers
  • Dark Chocolate cut into squares

Preparation

Melt the butter. Whisk in both sugars and cool to room temperature. Add vanilla and eggs one at a time and beat well. Stir in dry ingredients then chips, then wrap and chill 60 minutes.

Break the graham crackers in half, and place them on a sheet pan lined with parchment.  Using a small ice cream scoop (a generous tablespoon), place a scoop on each of the graham crackers.  Bake 325 degrees convection until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Turn pan in oven when there’s 3 minutes left on the timer refrigerator between batches.

Makes about 40 cookies.

When cookies come out of the oven, place a square of chocolate in the middle of each chocolate, and lightly press.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Macklesmores

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Gluten-free cookies.  Right away there is a strike against the cookies when those words are involved.  I hate to admit that, because I am all for people being gluten-free, but there are some things that just need gluten to taste delicious, and in my opinion, cookies are one of them.  I thought I had made the one and only delicious gluten-free cookie already, and that there would be no others that could even compare.  Boy was I wrong, just WRONG.

I am sure someone has already thought of this – but one of the reasons why gluten-free cookies scare me is because there is notoriously some special ingredient or flour (made without gluten) that you have to use.  I walk down the baking isle in our market, and I see all those special flours – there are tons of them, but they don’t exist in my house.  That means I would actually have to plan to make them and buy the ingredients in the house, which would also require me to plan.  Seriously – do you know my life these days?  Planning is just not part of the routine.  “Just in time” is my new mantra. So back to where I started this paragraph – I am sure someone has thought of a gluten-free cookbook, where you use only regular ingredients.  Because seriously – you can make a delicious gluten-free meal without even thinking about it – we had one tonight.  Just fresh vegetables, some nice potatoes, and delicious meat smoked on the egg.  Magic.  No tapioca flour, sorghum, or arrowroot starch.

So, when I saw the title of these cookies in Cooking Light, I almost turned the page – but then my eyes wandered to the ingredients, and I couldn’t believe it.  Just like those chocolate brownie cookies, these also just used regular ingredients.  I thought it was too good to be true.  Well, that’s exactly what these cookies were.  You seriously would never know they lacked flour.  They were soft and chewy, yet crunchy on the outside.  I washed them down with some chocolate milk, and it was like eating a Reese Peanut Butter Cup – except a delicious one, since they are way too sweet for me.

I think the tides may be changing, and I may start taking that strike away when I see the words gluten-free.  Or maybe I should just write my own cookbook – gluten-free baking without the fancy ingredients.  Just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it. I will put that on my list…let’s see, number 1,729.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 cup reduced-fat chunky peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate minichips

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375°.

Place salt and egg white in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk until white is frothy. Add peanut butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and chocolate chips, stirring to combine.

Divide dough into 20 equal portions (about 1 tablespoon each); arrange dough 2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Gently press the top of each cookie with a fork; press the top of each cookie again to form a crisscross pattern, and flatten to a 2-inch diameter. Bake at 375° for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate-Pistachio Sables

Chocolate-Pistachio Sables

I know that one of my New Year’s resolutions was dairy-free baking, but everyone needs just a little break from their resolutions every once in a while.  I am no exception – particularly because I love butter.  It has been fun experimenting without butter lately, but sometimes you just need a little butter in your life.  With 75% of our household being dairy lovers, every once in a while we just need to indulge.

As I was making these delicious morsels, I was reminded about the last time I had pistachios in my baked goods.  Yes, my wonderful week in Istanbul…  So, Istanbul has always been one of those places that I read about, but never thought I would actually go there.  As it turns out, I was asked to travel that in the fall for work.  Lucky for me, my meetings didn’t start until Monday evening, so I had Monday during the day to explore, and I definitely wanted to make the best of it.  Of course food was at the top of my list.

I did some research on the internet, and all roads led to this woman named Olga.  She was amazing – her blog captivated me instantly.  She runs a food tour (as well as owning a B&B), and it was exactly what I was looking for.  Five hours of walking the city tasting all of the local delicacies. Fortunately I had some adventurous co-workers that I was travelling with, and when I told them about this fun excursion, they were completely on board.  We had the most incredible day.  It started off with a delicious breakfast (eggs with tomato sauce, cheese, peppers, sausage, etc…) then onto a pastry shop where we tried two sweets with some amazing Turkish coffee, we went to markets, local eateries, bakeries, and everything in between – and ended the afternoon at a very local fish restaurant.  Of course I couldn’t try the fresh fish, but they brought me other local food to eat instead.  I was absolutely stuffed, but loved every minute of it.  We learned so much about the food and culture of Turkey, I couldn’t have asked for a better day. Oh, and did I mention the amazing restaurant recommendations?

Of course my favorite of all the sweets I had in Istanbul was pistachio baklava – and when I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, that’s immediately what I thought about.  These cookies are much easier to make than baklava – although quite tasty.  What I loved most about this recipe was that I could leave 3 logs in the freezer, and make a fresh batch of cookies in just minutes.  The girls have been taking these in their lunches, and I think they are helping them focus in the afternoons – with all that chocolate, how could they not?

Ingredients

  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1¼ cups (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1¼ cups (lightly packed) light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg white
  • 5 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup unsalted, shelled raw pistachios, coarsely chopped
  •  Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

Preparation

Whisk flour, cocoa powder, kosher salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Reduce speed to low and gradually add dry ingredients; mix just to combine, then mix in egg white. Fold in chocolate and pistachios.

Divide dough into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into an 8”-long log about 1½” in diameter, pushing dough together if it feels crumbly. Wrap tightly in parchment paper and chill until firm, at least 4 hours. (The colder your dough, the easier it will be to slice.)

Place racks in lower and upper thirds of oven; preheat to 350°. Working with 1 log of dough at a time and using a serrated knife, cut logs into ¼”-thick rounds and transfer to 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing ½” apart.

Sprinkle cookies with sea salt and bake, rotating baking sheets halfway through, until set around edges and centers look dry, 10–12 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and let cool.

DO AHEAD: Cookie dough can be made 1 month ahead; freeze instead of chilling. Slice frozen logs into rounds just before baking.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chocolate-Pistachio Sables

Chocolate Brownie Cookies

Chocolate Brownie Cookies

Things are not often as they appear.  I love that saying on mirrors on cars, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.”  It should just say something like this, “Watch out, nothing is ever as it seems.”  Many people don’t like to admit that though, and are stuck in the past.  That is definitely not me – sometimes I feel like I live a little too much in the future, thinking that things have changed when they haven’t just yet – maybe just hoping.

I have almost surpassed a major milestone – I have lived in Seattle just about longer than I have ever lived anywhere in my life.  That is quite a big deal – particularly because I didn’t grow up here, and I didn’t leave my home town until I went to college – so we were not one of those families that moved around.  In addition to that, when I go back to my home town (which I don’t do very often), nothing is really the same – including where my parents live.  When people tell me that I haven’t changed a bit – they are only looking peripherally.  In my view, there is very little that hasn’t changed.  Or maybe those people never really knew me to begin with.

The thought of making dairy-free and gluten-free baked goods has just no appeal to me whatsoever.  I have really never been impressed with a gluten-free baked good – but then again, I don’t really eat them very often.  I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, and it is a good thing it was not labeled DF and GF.  I swear, had it been, I would have passed right over it.  Instead, the title got my attention, and there it went into the pile.  It didn’t really hit me until after the batter was made what I had done.  I was actually falling for a DF and GF baked good – and wow did I fall hard.  These cookies were outrageous – and so ridiculously easy to make.  I let a few different people sample these, and the reviews were unanimous – in addition to the kids, who absolutely devoured them in their lunches.  So, there you have it – nothing is ever as it seems – particularly when it comes to these Chocolate Brownie Cookies.  Nothing like a good taste of reality.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups gluten-free powdered sugar
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1  teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2  large egg whites
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons cacao nibs

Preparation

Place racks in lower and upper thirds of oven; preheat to 350°. Whisk powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a large bowl, then whisk in egg whites and egg; fold in chocolate and cacao nibs. Spoon batter by the tablespoonful onto 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 2” apart.

Bake, rotating sheets once, until cookies are puffed, cracked, and set just around the edges, 14–16 minutes.

Transfer baking sheets to wire racks and let cookies cool on pan (they’ll firm up).

Do Ahead:  Cookies can be baked 3 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chocolate Brownie Cookies – GF and DF

Chewy Molasses Cookies

Chewy Molasses Cookies

There is really only one time of year when everything slows down, at work, at home, and pretty much everywhere.  We are in that zone right now, and boy am I loving it (as I knock loudly on wood).  Thanksgiving was more like a tease…there was hopes of quiet in the air, but that never really happened.  Similar to any vacation I try to go on during the year, life never stops, you just dodge the waves the best you can and put everything back together again when you return.

Of course relaxation in my world takes on a very interesting form.  Yes, cooking is always involved, and I am looking forward to making some fun creations for New Years this year.  So this brings me to this recipe.  As I mentioned before, Thanksgiving was a little crazy for me, mostly on the work front, and of course because I thought things would be slow, and I was taking some time off, of course I tried to cram in a little too much.

A week before Thanksgiving I travelled to Istanbul (definitely more on another post), and the day after I retuned our house guests started arriving.  I have no idea what possessed me to do this, but when the email came asking for baked goods for teachers during parent- teacher conferences, I signed up.  Big mistake.

So, here I was scrambling for a simple yet delicious holiday cookie.  It was a good thing I read the annual cookie edition of Bon Appetit and found these morsels.  I swear they were a life-saver.  Within an hour, the house smelled amazing, and the girls were standing over the counter drooling.

As I sit here relaxing, I look back on that day with a smile.  Typical me trying to do too much, but it ended in sugar, spice and everything nice.  Just the way a holiday should be.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup mild-flavored (light) or robust-flavored (dark) molasses
  • 1/4 cup (packed) brown sugar
  • Coarse sanding or raw sugar (for rolling)

Preparation

Place racks in lower and upper thirds of oven; preheat to 375°. Whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and salt in a small bowl. Whisk egg, butter, granulated sugar, molasses, and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Mix in dry ingredients just to combine.

Place sanding sugar in a shallow bowl. Scoop out dough by the tablespoonful and roll into balls (if dough is sticky, chill 20 minutes). Roll in sugar and place on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 2” apart.

Bake cookies, rotating baking sheets halfway through, until cookies are puffed, cracked, and just set around edges (overbaked cookies won’t be chewy), 8–10 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and let cool.

DO AHEAD: Cookie dough can be made and rolled into balls 2 weeks ahead. Freeze on a baking sheet; transfer to resealable plastic bags. Let sit at room temperature 30 minutes before rolling in sugar.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chewy Molasses Cookies

Spiced Ginger Sandwich Cookies with Lemon Cream

Spiced Ginger Sandwich Cookies with Lemon Cream

First impressions can be tough – particularly when things don’t go so well.  So what happens if the second impression is not much better, and either is the third?  Well, it definitely can be tough to recover.  I say this because I am definitely not one that gives people lots of chances.  Most of the time you are guilty and then you must prove yourself innocent – I hate being this way, but it is just who I am.  I have worked hard over the years to adjust my style at work, but every once in a while I see myself slipping.  Years ago though, I was told I have a gift – I can certainly be hard on people, but I do it with a smile on my face.  And being in those situations on the other side – isn’t it always better to receive critical feedback when someone is smiling at you on the across the table?  It is all in the delivery.

Food is the exact same way.  How many times have you eaten something for the first time and hated it?  You might decide to give it another chance at some point – but if it doesn’t meet your expectations again – it is just that much harder to have an open mind the next time.  I have never been very fond of lemon flavored desserts.  My mother makes some amazing lemon squares – but I just can’t get myself to like them, no matter how hard I try.  I love lemons in savory dishes – and definitely in cocktails – but sweets just don’t cut the mustard.

The other week my daughters and I spent the afternoon at The Pantry at their Holiday Gift Workshop for Kids.  We made three delicious treats and then packaged them all up to give as gifts.  I have been there before for this workshop, but this was the first time they offered it for kids – it was awesome.  When I saw the recipe for Spiced Ginger Sandwich Cookies with Lemon Cream – I was hardly excited.  I knew I would love the cookies, but was not crazy about the lemon cream.  My daughters on the other hand couldn’t wait – they both love lemon desserts.  As we were finishing up, there were plenty of extras to snack on.  These were hands down their favorite treat that we made, and absolutely loved the lemon cream.  They convinced me to give it a try – and I am so glad they did – finally a lemon cream that I could have eaten with a spoon.  I know it was the cream cheese that won me over.  But seriously – put that on top of one of these crunchy cookies, and lemon – you just made it to my good side.  Thank goodness for second chances…or should we say, never underestimate the power of the delivery.

Ingredients

 Cookies

  • 9 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 ounces butter, melted and warm
  • ¼ cup unsulfured molasses
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 ounces diced crystallized ginger
  • ½ cup turbinado sugar

Filling

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest + 2 teaspoons (from about 2 lemons)
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar

Preparation

Pre-heat the oven to 350 F.  Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.  Combine the flour, baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and salt in a medium bowl and mix thoroughly with a whisk or fork.  Combine the warm butter, molasses, sugars, fresh ginger, and egg in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.  Add the flour mixture and crystallized ginger and stir until incorporated.  The dough will be soft.

Form the dough into a log shape on a piece of parchment paper.  Roll into a 1 ¼ inch diameter log.  Sprinkle the outside of the log with the turbinado sugar and place in the freezer to chill completely.  Once chilled all the way though (about an hour), slice into 1/4-inch rounds and bake for 7-8 minutes.  Let cool on a rack.

In a medium bowl combine the cream cheese, lemon zest and powdered sugar until well mixed.  The frosting should be pretty stiff – add more powdered sugar as necessary.

Pipe filling over the bag side of one cookie, and place another cookie on top.

Makes about one dozen sandwich cookies.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Spiced Ginger Sandwich Cookies with Lemon Cream

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

My grandmother was 100% goodness.  There is really no other way to describe her.  She was beautiful – no stunning; she was quiet yet always had something to say; she was very strong, although she didn’t have a lot of will power when it came to sweets – which always cracked me up.  I spent a lot of time with my grandmother, and I always enjoyed it – in fact, I longed to be at her house with her.  She offered me advice from time to time, but like a good grandmother, mostly she just loved and supported me unconditionally.  In my life, she was a strong force of stability.

I have so many good memories over the years – her calming voice, her endless love of flowers (which I did not inherit), watching her play bridge with her friends or having a glass of Scotch before dinner, spending endless days at the beach then having her get the aloe plant for my very red body – it goes on and on.  She was a great traveler – and was very adventurous.  When most of her friends were spending their winters in Florida, she and my grandfather would go to Portugal.  About 12 years ago she wanted to go to Alaska, so I told her I would go with her.  We had a great week together and even went on some fun excursions – she was over 80 at the time, but that didn’t stop her.  She was incredibly active most of her life – and it inspired me.  I remember that my goal when I was younger was just to be able to keep up with her.  I remember the day when I started walking faster than her, and it made me sad.  When my daughters were born, she came out to Seattle to help – again, she was over 80 at the time.  The girls loved her – and she loved them.  I can still see her smile as she stared at them – even just watching them eat made her happy.

Sweets were just about her only vice that I knew of – my grandfather died when I was in high school – and he was diabetic.  She hid just about anything with sugar from him – and after he passed away, she was free to eat what she wanted.  I never saw her go nuts, but she would tell me stories about how she couldn’t keep ice-cream in the freezer because she would eat it all.  She always kept baked goods in the freezer just in case she happened to entertain – and she would wrap them tightly and in multiple layers – just another way to make it difficult for her to indulge.  She was never overweight – so I had a hard time believing she really had a problem – which made it somewhat funny to think about.

This year for my younger daughter’s birthday (which was on Thanksgiving), she had a very specific request – Red Velvet Whoopie Pies.  She loves her cream cheese frosting – and she wanted to make it clear that this dessert was all birthday and not about Thanksgiving.  She loved helping me find a good recipe on Annie’s Eats.  I remember telling my grandmother on the phone what I was going to make for her birthday, and she wasn’t quite sure what I was talking about – once I explained them to her – she told me they sounded delicious. I know she would have loved them – but what she would have loved more was watching my daughter devour hers.

When I saw my grandmother this summer, I remember I gave her an extra big hug when I said goodbye.  For some reason I knew it might be the last time.  Unfortunately I was right, but she was ready to go.  All I could think of when I hugged her frail body is that she will always be 100% goodness.

Ingredients

For the cookies:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 oz. red food coloring

For the frosting:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 375˚ F.  Using a circular template (biscuit cutter), trace evenly spaced circles onto pieces of parchment paper sized to fit two cookie sheets. Place the parchment on the cookie sheets so that the side you have drawn on is facing down; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the egg until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Blend in the vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, beat in about a third of the dry ingredients, followed by half of the buttermilk, beating each addition just until incorporated.  Repeat so that all the buttermilk has been added and then mix in the final third of dry ingredients.  Do not overbeat.  Blend in the food coloring.

Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round tip.  Pipe the batter onto the parchment paper using the heart tracings as a guide.  Bake 7-9 minutes or until the tops are set, rotating the baking sheets halfway through.  Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets at least 10 minutes, until they can be easily transferred to a cooling rack.  Repeat with any remaining batter.  Allow cookies to cool completely before proceeding.

To make the cream cheese frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Mix in the vanilla extract.  Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth.

Transfer the frosting to a clean pastry bag fitted with a plain, round tip.  Pair the cookies up by shape and size.  Flip one cookie of each pair over so that the flat side is facing up.  Pipe frosting onto the flat-sided cookie of each pair, leaving the edges clear.  Sandwich the cookies together so the flat sides are facing each other and press gently to help the filling reach the edges.  To store, refrigerate in an airtight container.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

Chocolate Peanut Butter Acorns

Chocolate Peanut Butter Acorns

Not only it is Thanksgiving at our house tomorrow – we are also celebrating the first day of Hanukkah – and my younger daughter’s 8th Birthday.  It is quite the celebration, the trifecta to end all trifectas.  There has been a lot of activity in the house this week – with the birthday party this weekend – and then guests arriving for the week.  It has been quite something – but the best is yet to come.

One of our special visitors this week is my sister-in-law – she is a “real” foodie (where I just play one on TV) – she does this for her career, so she actually knows what she is talking about.  One of the treats I made for Niela’s birthday party were these cute little acorns.  For the life of me, I can’t remember where I saw these, but I remembered there were 3 ingredients, and I knew they would be adorable.  I usually make treats from scratch, but occasionally I find something like this that I can’t resist.  When I saw her pop one in her mouth – I was a little worried, but she had the same reaction as me.  Wow, what a combination.  Nutter butter’s are not my favorite cookies – but stick a Hershey’s kiss on top, with a chocolate chip on the bottom, and boy do you have yourself a delectable morsel.  That got us talking about how there are certain combinations of foods that are just meant to go together.  Hands down – these win.  I can pass of a peanut butter cup any day of the week – but these babies are in a different league.

So, as you celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, take some time to remember what this holiday is all about.  I am so thankful for my family and friends, and the food I am always surrounded by.  I am thankful that I have a beautiful kitchen to cook in tomorrow, and my family around me to share the bounty.  I am thankful that my children understand they will not get Hanukkah presents tomorrow, but at some point this month they will…and I am thankful that my daughter’s birthday party this past weekend was a complete success, and that she is thrilled to be sharing her day with a turkey and a menorah tomorrow.  Happy BirthGivakkah everyone!!

Ingredients

  • Mini Nutter Butter Sandwich Cookies
  • Hershey Kisses
  • Chocolate Chips

Preparation

Place 1/2 cup chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl.  Melt the chocolate in the microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring each time, until melted.  Dip the bottom of the Hershey Kiss in the melted chocolate, and stick onto one side of the cookie – do the same with the chocolate chip on the other side.  Let sit until the chocolate gets hard.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chocolate Peanut Butter Acorns