Friday, December 28, 2007


Holidays make me a little sad. The reason for this is that we're not near our children. One son lives on the west coast, and the other lives in western North Carolina. Brothers and sisters are scattered throughout the country as well. So for most holidays, we are alone. I've tried to buffer that by inviting other "orphans" in our community to eat with us. But there aren't too many of them -- most neighbors travel to be with their children/grandchildren; others have their children/gradnchildren visiting them. This year, we anticipated sharing Christmas dinner with 7 others, but 5 of them canceled out for various reasons, leaving just 4 of us for Christmas. Four is better than 2. Two days before Christmas, our son in western North Carolina said he would come. His wife is from Hubert, and she had dinner with her family while he dined with us. Since they had to drive 4-1/2 hours one way and had to return home the same day, it didn't leave them much wiggle room. (They breed, raise and train dogs and had to get back for them.) We had a wonderful time with our friends and our son and I only got sad when our west coast son called because I wanted him to also be with us.

Guy decided he wanted to make my father's filling, which conjured up more memories for me. I grew up with this filling and am so glad that one day I sat with my father and wrote down the recipe ingredients. My father delighted in making this authentic German recipe, every Thanksgiving and every Christmas, year after year, and boasted that no one could duplicate it, because no one else had the patience to chop the vegetables fine enough. He would painstakenly peel whole mushrooms. And he chopped for hours till everything was almost a paste. As we threw the pre-washed, sliced mushrooms into the Cuisinart, followed by the other ingredients that needed chopping, I wondered what my father would think of this new way to make his filling. If he had been here to taste it, I know he would have given his approval. Shortcuts or not, it tasted just like Dad's. Everyone had seconds. To explain what it's like, I call it a sausage meatloaf. It slices like a meatloaf. It tastes divine. Thanks, Dad -- your recipe lives on.

Daddy's German Filling
INGREDIENTS: 3-4 Tbsp. butter, margarine or Smart Balance
1 medium-sized onion
1/2 green pepper
1/2 lb. mushrooms
3/4 of 1 stalk celery
Liver and Giblets of turkey or chicken
3/4 lb. plain pork sausage (My father used breakfast sausage)
2 eggs
1/2 cup -3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup - 3/4 cup plain bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste (Try 1 tsp. sea salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper)

DIRECTIONS: In food processor, chop mushrooms, onion and pepper -- each separately. (I used pulse so I could check the conditions of the veggies.) The mushrooms will chop fine enough, but the onion and pepper you may need to stop before they get too watery and then finish chopping them by hand until there are no large pieces left. In a large frying pan, slowly saute the veggies till transparent and beginning to brown in butter or margarine (I used Smart Balance). Transfer sauteed veggies to large mixing bowl. (If fry pan is large enough, you can let the veggies cool in it and then mix the filling in it.)

Chop the celery in the food processor, and finish by hand if needed, so that it is chopped very fine, almost like a paste. Transfer to mixing bowl. Chop the Giblets and Liver in the food processor. Transfer to the mixing bowl with the celery.

Add the pork sausage, eggs, bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Mix with clean hands till well combined. Add enough milk to make a soft meatloaf. It should not be soupy, but it should not be firm either; it should be somewhat loose. Refrigerate overnight or bake immediately at 350F for 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours (or till instant read thermometer inserted in center registers 165F).
(I baked mine in a round Pyrex dish, where I could see clearly how it was cooking. ) Serve with turkey or chicken. Serves 8-12 people, depending on appetites (Leftovers are great served cold alone or on a sandwich with turkey or chicken.)

NOTE: I do not recommend stuffing the bird with this mixture, since the stuffing, being in the center, takes longer to cook than the bird. You'll have to cook the stuffing to 165F and by that time the breast meat will be quite dry.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


My sister thinks that Emeril is not a chef. I don't know why. This recipe, alone, validates his credentials. I used his gravy recipe for the first time last year. There are other sites that call it "make ahead gravy," but I think he was the first to post it. This year I decided to follow his turkey recipe as well, and I'm glad I did. It was easy and delicious. If you want his original recipe, it's on the Food Network website. I'm posting the recipe as I've adapted it. Since I'm not into photography much, as always, when I have company, I forget to take a pic. I took the above photo the next day. The filling that's on top of the turkey is a separate recipe that I'll be posting probably tomorrow.

Emeril's Big Bird with Giblet Gravy, Adapted
INGREDIENTS: 1 (14 - 14.5 lb.) turkey, thawed
Giblets, neck and liver reserved for gravy (I used the giblets and liver for the filling, and only the neck for the gravy)
1/2 - 3/4 cup Kosher salt
1-1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 rib celery, coarsely chopped
5 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves)
1 bay leaf
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened (I used Smart Balance)\
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup apple cider (I used 1/4 cup frozen apple juice concentrate + 1/4 cup water)
1 recipe Giblet Gravy, recipe follows

DIRECTIONS: Completely thaw frozen turkey for 3-4 days in refrigerator. On 4th day, remove wrapping, take out neck, giblets and liver. Remove any ice crystals that remain in cavity. Rinse turkey inside and out with cold water. Liberally salt with kosher salt, inside and out, including neck, giblets and liver. Place in pan in fridge for 1 hour. After 1 hour, fill a clean sink with very cold water and place turkey in the clean cold water. Clean out cavity and rub skin with water. Drain sink. Rinse turkey again inside and out with cold water. Drain. Pat dry inside and out with paper towels. Refrigerate, covered till ready to bake. (I did this on Christmas Eve, and loosely covered the turkey with several layers of plastic wrap and put it in the coldest part of the fridge. I also cut off the wings, since the turkey was too big for the 5 of us and no one was going to eat the wings anyway. I made a nice turkey stock with the wings which will be the basis of my dinner tonight which is turkey soup with cut up turkey meat. I also cut up all the veggies to stuff the inside of the turkey with, added the herbs and put everything in a plastic baggie on top of the turkey in the fridge. That was one less thing I had to do on Christmas Day.)

When ready to roast turkey, preheat oven to 400F and fit a roasting rack inside of a roasting pan. Take the turkey out of the oven and pat it dry again, inside and out, because it will have weeped more liquid. Place turkey in roasting pan breast side up on rack. Season the inside of the turkey with 1/2 tsp. of the sea salt and 1/2 tsp. of the black pepper. Transfer the contents of the plastic baggie into the turkey cavity. Secure turkey legs with twine. Rub the turkey skin with butter (or Smart Balance) and sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper (or adjust to your taste, adding more or less). Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Remove turkey from oven. Combine the chicken broth and apple cider or juice and baste the top of the turkey evenly with 1/3 of the liquid. Return turkey to oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 350F and cook for an additional 2-1/4 to 2-3/4 hours, basting twice more during this time with the remaining chicken-apple liquid. The turkey should be a nice golden brown color, and the juices should run clear when you insert the tip of a knife at the joint of the leg and thigh. An instant read thermometer inserted into the joint of the leg and thigh, without touching a bone, should register 165F when the turkey is cooked through. (If the turkey begins to look too browned, cover the top loosely with aluminum foil until it is done. Note: I had to tent the turkey for the last 1-1/2 hours.) Remove the turkey from the roasting pan and place it directly on the cutting board, cover it with foil, tucking it in at the bottom, then with an old clean bath towel. Let it sit so that the juices settle and it finishes cooking for at least 1/2 hour. (I let mine sit for an hour, and it was perfect.) You will have plenty of pan juices and drippings to work with, and you can add them to the gravy that you should have made the day before (as I did).

(Note, last year I made this as is and it was exceptional. This year, I needed the giblets and liver for the filling, but am happy to say that the end gravy was still delicious. This is a very easy and really good gravy and I love making it the day before. It's one less thing to do on Christmas Day.)
INGREDIENTS: 1 Tbsp. butter + 2 tsp. olive oil (I used 2 Tbsp. Smart Balance)
Giblets, liver and neck from 1 turkey (I used neck only)
1 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped cleery
1/3 cup peeled and chopped carrot
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
4 tsp. flour
1/4 cup dry white wine, drinking quality
1-1/2 cups chicken broth
1 sprig fresh thyme
salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS: In a medium sized heavy pot, melt the butter and olive oil (or Smart Balance) over medium-high heat. Add giblets, liver and neck, (or just neck) and brown, stirring if needed, 4-5 minutes. Add veggies and garlic and saute an additional 5 minutes, or till veggies are soft. Stir in flour and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, stirring to incorporate any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken broth, thyme sprig and any reserved juices from the bottom of the roasting pan, and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Strain, discarding all but the smooth gravy. Adjust seasoningss with salt and pepper. If making this the day before, refrigerate overnight. After turkey is cooked, add turkey pan drippings to pot with gravy, bring to boil, stir and strain again if necessary. (If you decide to add the pan juices as well as the drippings, you will need to add more flour. I saved the pan juices to mix with soup stock for added flavor.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


I wish I could remember where this recipe came from. It's at least 40 years old, and I've used it over and over because it's no-fail and not at all fussy. For the past year or so, I didn't use it because of the changes to Crisco shortening. Since they've taken out the trans-fats, the shortening acts more like oil in a pie crust and it's terribly hard to work with. It breaks apart easily, and the pie crust can't be shaped as easily as before. I've tried numerous other pie crust recipes, but none could measure up to my favorite. So I finally went back to it and adapted it. The results were better than expected. By mixing the fat, part butter, part shortening, I can now roll the crust. It still tends to break more easily than the original with shortening only, but I can live with it now. Once you try this recipe, you'll be hooked as I am on the flavor and flakiness. What's also nice is that it makes 4 crusts at one time, which can be frozen and used later.

My Favorite Pie Crust

INGREDIENTS: 4 cups all-purpose flour lightly spooned into cup (I used half White Lily
bleached and half Pillsbury unbleached.)
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. sea salt
3/4 cup cold solid vegetable shortening
1 cup cold or frozen unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. white or cider vinegar (I use cider)
1 large egg, cold

DIRECTIONS: Place flour, sugar and salt in workbowl of food processor or large mixing bowl. Add shortening and pulse till it is incorporated into flour and there are no shortening pieces visible. (By hand, cut in shortening with pastry blender or knives.) Now do the same with the butter, but only process until butter is in very small pieces, smaller than peas. In a measuring cup, combine the vinegar and egg. Add enough ice water to make 1/2 cup. Add enough of the egg mixture to the flour mixture to form a ball. Sometimes you will use it all, other times there will be some liquid unused.  (By hand, mix with fork till pastry forms a ball.) Separate dough into four equal pieces. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for several month.


My new Cuisinart came with a recipe booklet. The apple pie recipe in the booklet was for a 2-crust pie, but I used a crumb topping instead. If you have a food processor, this recipe is easy and delicious. I liked it almost as much as my favorite pie recipe (see previous post, "Perfect Apple Pie"). The apples, of course, did not have the intensity and depth of flavor that comes from cooking them twice, but this pie made up fast and everyone, including me, liked it. I will make it again when I don't have the time to cook the apples, let them cool and then make the pie like I do for my favorite. If you don't have a food processor you can still make this pie, it will just take you longer.

Food Processor Apple Pie

INGREDIENTS: Pastry for 9.5" pie
Crumb Topping: 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup quick oats
pinch sea salt
1/4 cup sugar (I used 2 Tbsp. sugar, 1 tsp. Stevia+)
1 tsp. molasses
5 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter (I used 2 Tbsp. butter + 3 Tbsp.
Smart Balance
Filling: 1 cup sugar (I used 1/2 cup sugar + 1 Tbsp. Stevia+)
4 Tbsp. flour
1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon (I omitted nutmeg)
4 Tbsp. butter (I used 2 Tbsp. butter +2 Tbsp. Smart Balance)
5 large apples (I used 3 Rome + 2 Granny Smith) (about 6-1/2 - 7 cups sliced)
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice (my addition)

DIRECTIONS: In workbowl of food processor, combine crumb topping ingredients and pulse till butter is size of peas. It's ok if there are a few larger pieces, just not too large and not too many. Pour this out into a bowl or container and set aside in fridge. (Note: You're going to use the workbowl 3 separate times for this pie -- for the crumb topping, for the filling and to slice the apples -- and you don't have to clean it out in between.)

Adjust oven shelf to lowest setting. Place pizza stone or some bricks on bottom shelf of oven. Preheat oven to 375F. Roll out pie crust and fit into 9.5" deep dish pie pan. Refrigerate. Use the metal blade of the food processor to process the sugar, flour, cinnamon and butter. Pour this into a large mixing bowl. Insert the standard slicing disc. Peel, core and quarter the apples. Slice the apples and place them in the large bowl with the flour/sugar mixture. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the apples and toss them to evenly distribute the lemon juice and the flour/sugar mixture over them. Place the apples in the pie crust, mounding them in the center. Spoon the crumb topping over, patting down gently over the apples. Pie will be fairly high, but will condense after it bakes as it cools. Place the pie pan on a piece of tinfoil and then onto the pizza stone. (The tinfoil will catch drips, if any. I didn't have any, but it probably depends on the juiciness of the apples.) Bake for 1 hour, or until pie begins to bubble. Test the pie for doneness by inserting a fork or knife in the center. If it enters easily, apples are done. If there is any resistance, bake pie until there is no resistance. Serves 8-12, depending on the size of slice. This is a high thick pie and you can cut the slices thinner because there's a lot of apples inside. What I like about this recipe is that you don't need to cover the pie to keep the top or the crust from burning. 375F is a perfect pie baking temperature to properly cook the apples and the crust.

If you want to take this pie over the top, serve it with purchased caramel sundae sauce drizzled over each slice and a nice scoop of sweetened or plain creme fraiche. (I made an easy creme fraiche by combining 3/4 cup heavy cream with 2 Tbsp. lite sour cream. I let it sit overnight in fridge, then whipped it with a little Stevia+ and some vanilla paste.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Christmas dinner can potentially have an overload of sugar dishes, as well as high-fat dishes, so wherever we can save some calories, carbs or fat, I'm all for it. I love whole berry cranberry sauce but it's way too high in sugar for my liver, since I'm a borderline diabetic. Fruit, itself, is high on the glycemic index, so even when you cut the extra sugar out, you still have to eat very carefully. This is a great recipe. It's full of fruit, and the dried cranberries thrown in at the end contain the only extra sugar in the whole dish. The flavor is outstanding. It's a great accompaniment to poultry or pork. Try it as a substitute for jam on toast or bagels. I love to put a couple tablespoonfuls on my oatmeal....yumm.

Judy's Almost-Sugar-Free Double Cranberry Sauce

INGREDIENTS: 3 MacIntosh apples, peeled, cut in chunks
12 oz. fresh or frozen whole cranberries, rinsed and picked over
1 slice fresh lemon, no seeds
12 oz. frozen apple juice concentrate
2 Tbsp. frozen orange juice concentrate
1 Tbsp. Stevia Plus, or 1/2 cup Splenda or other sugar substitute
3/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries

DIRECTIONS: Place all ingredients except dried cranberries in medium sized heavy pot and cook, stirring as needed, till mixture boils, then reduces in size, and becomes thickened. This will take about 1/2 hour. Add the dried cranberries at the end of the cooking time. Cover pot and let sauce set for 15 minutes, then pour into jar or serving dish. Serve cold or room temperature. Makes about 1 quart. Refrigerate or freeze.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


This is Ellie Krieger's recipe, and it's posted on I think there is an error in the flour amounts. 2-1/2 cups of flour was too much. Even though the cookies taste great, the dough wasn't sticky enough for a biscotti. So I've adjusted the flour amounts to 2-1/4 cups total, as other similar biscotti recipes have this amount. (Be sure you lightly spoon the flour into the measuring cup before you level it off.) I took 1/4 cup of the flour and mixed it with the cherries, chocolate and nuts. This makes it easier to mix them -- they don't clump together with the flour coating them. Ellie uses olive oil in her recipe, but I used canola oil. The olive oil that I buy has a strong flavor. It's first cold pressed extra-virgin. To use a lighter oil negates the benefits of olive oil, so I went with canola oil which really has no great benefit either, except that it doesn't solidify in your arteries. You can choose which oil you want to use. Other than that, I followed the recipe exactly, and it's a pretty good one. Biscotti are so easy to make and most people really like them. Because of the oil in the recipe, these are lightly crunchy, not break-your-teeth crunchy, and the flavors blend nicely. Try this recipe; I think you'll agree it's a keeper.

Biscotti with Dried Cherries, Chocolate and Almond

INGREDIENTS: 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided use
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (I used King Arthur whole wheat flour)
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. grated orange zest
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup canola, vegetable or olive oil
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried tart cherries, chopped
1/2 cup toasted and chopped almonds
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate (I used 1/4 cup Hershey's Special Dark chocolate chips and 1/4 cup chopped Hershey's milk chocolate bar)
For the Dipping: 1/2 cup semi-sweet or milk chocolate + 1 Tbsp. half and half, cream or milk)

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 cup of each of the flours, baking powder, salt and orange zest; set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the cherries, almonds and chocolate with the remaining flour and mix till cherries are well coated and not clumping together; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla until well combined. Add the flour mixture in 3 portions, mixing the flour in after each addition. Stir in the cherries, almonds and chocolate and mix till just combined. (I did this in my KitchenAid, but I have a 450-watt motor. If your motor is not up to this, then fold in the last ingredients by hand.) Ellie says to knead the dough, form it into a 3" x 10" log and put it on the baking sheet. I like to spoon large blobs of dough directly onto the cookie sheet and then with wet hands (if needed), shape the dough into a log. You pick which works best for you. Bake for 25 minutes. Carefully transfer to a wire rack to completely cool. (I used two spatulas to lift the log onto a wire rack.) The biscotti must be completely cooled before you slice it; otherwise, it will crumble into pieces. When it is completely cool, slice 1/2" diagonal slices (or cut straight down if you prefer). Arrange the slices cut side down on the baking sheet (use the same one, no washing needed) and bake at 325F for 10-12 minutes; turn the cookies over and bake for 10-12 minutes more, or till golden. Transfer to wire rack to cool again. These cookies are great as is. If you want to take them over the top, add the chocolate dip or glaze. (Ellie's recipe does not include any chocolate dip or glaze.)

If chocolate dip is desired, heat the chocolate and half and half in a small heat-proof dish over simmering, not boiling, water, stirring till liquid state is obtained. (You can also heat the chocolate in the microwave, but be careful because it does burn easily.) Add more half and half if needed to keep the chocolate thin and liquiddy. Dip one end of each biscotti in the liquid chocolate, or drizzle over the biscotti. Ellie says this recipes gives 12 biscotti, but I got more like 20. I must have cut them thinner.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Inspired by Alison's chewy chai meringue cookies (see my previous post), I set out to get more of that wonderful Chai spice flavor, this time in a sugar cookie. I took a basic sugar cookie recipe and added tea and Chai spices, along with dried cranberries, chopped crystallized ginger and toasted ground pecans. Some of them I rolled in a Chai spice/sugar mixture before baking, and others I glazed with a milky glaze. I am hooked on Chai, although I've never had a Chai Latte -- I don't frequent Starbucks, and I don't buy the powdery drink mixes, so I'm late to the party on Chai, but I'm catching up fast. These cookies are great and pretty easy to make. There's nothing fussy about them; they're not beauties to look at, but they're winners on taste. This recipe gave me 52 cookies.

Judy's Cranberry Ginger Chai Latte Cookies

INGREDIENTS: 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 black tea bag (I used Harris Teeter Traders Decaffeinated English
Breakfast tea)
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioner's 10X sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour, lightly spooned and swept
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/3 cup chopped crystallized ginger
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup toasted ground pecans

Sugar coating: 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ginger, pinch cloves

Milk Glaze: 2 Tbsp. butter, 2 Tbsp. condensed milk,1/2 cup 10X sugar,
2 Tbsp. heavy cream

DIRECTIONS: Combine 1/2 cup sugar and the contents of one black tea bag in a food processor or mini chopper and pulse till tea leaves are ground fine. In large bowl, combine butter, tea sugar and 10X sugar and beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add egg and vanilla; continue beating until well mixed. Reduce speed to low; add flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and spices. Beat until flour is dispersed, then add remaining ingredients and mix till dough forms a ball. (My dough did not form a ball; if yours does not, don't overbeat it because it won't make it form a ball. It'll be ok, just a little sticky.) Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1/2 hour or up to 3 days.

When ready to bake cookies, preheat oven to 375 F and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove dough from fridge about 1/2 hour before you are ready, so dough has time to soften (exception: if you just put the dough in 1/2 hour ago, skip that part, and just remove the dough and start working on it.) You can shape the dough into 1" balls if desired. I just roughly formed the dough into discs. You can dip them in the spice-sugar mixture before baking if you want, or you can just bake them as is, it's up to you; they're good both ways. Place the dough 2" apart on the cookie sheets. Bake 7-11 minutes, or till toothpick inserted in centers return clean. (The amount of baking time really depends on a lot of things: how your oven runs; what kind of baking sheet you're using; how many cookies you have on a sheet.) These cookies don't brown, so watch them and test them for doneness. I had 18 cookies to an 11 x 17 sheet, and they took about 11 minutes. They're very tender and delicate with a wonderful flavor from the tea and spices.

If you want to take them over the top, glaze them: Combine butter, milk and cream in small microwaveable bowl and heat on high till butter melts, about 45 seconds. Stir in 10X sugar until smooth. If necessary, microwave again till mixture is thin enough to drizzle. With a spoon, drizzle over warm cookies.

Below, you can see I didn't fuss with the shapes -- these were just rough discs. It's all about the flavor with these cookies. I really hope you'll try them. And please leave me a comment if you do. I love hearing from you.

Friday, December 21, 2007


After spending the morning in Greenville shopping with Guy, I was looking for a cookie recipe that I could make quickly. This one is from Land O Lakes, and if you haven't been to their website yet, surf over to to find some really good recipes. The only complaint I have about this recipe is that it only made 16 cookies. You can get 20 if you do it their way -- in sticks instead of in triangles. But since I'm giving away the majority of my cookies, 16 means I will be putting 1 or 2 in each gift plate -- not very many. If I make these next year, I'll double the recipe and do it in a 9 x 12 pan. As for the taste -- how can you go wrong with shortbread? The buttery taste of shortbread topped with caramel and pecans is a winner.
Caramel Shortbread Sticks or Triangles

INGREDIENTS: 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. firmly packed brown sugar (I used 1/2 tsp. molasses & 2 Tbsp. sugar)
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
For topping: 30 unwrapped caramels
1 Tbsp. half and half
1/2 cup chopped pecans
(I used 1/4 cup caramel sundae sauce boiled with 1 Tbsp. butter
for the dip, and 1 cup of toasted chopped pecans.)

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 325F. Combine butter and sugars in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Reduce speed to low; add flour, baking powder and salt. Beat until well mixed.
Press dough evenly into 8" square pan lined with aluminum foil (I used parchment and had it hang over the edge slightly so I could pick it up.); prick with tines of fork every 1/2 inch. (I lightly scored the dough the way I was going to cut it after it was baked: first in 4 squares, then each square in 4 triangles, making 16 triangles, as in the top photo above. I pricked each triangle 3 times at the broad base.) Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Lift cookies from pan immediately using the aluminum foil or parchment ends. Cut into 20 sticks, approximately 4 x 1/2 inch, or into 16 triangles. Cool completely on wire rack.
Place caramels and half and half in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high, stirring twice, until caramels are melted (1-2 minutes). Dip ends of shortbread sticks into melted caramel mixture; roll in pecans. Place onto waxed paper; let stand till set. (Or you can boil the caramel sauce and butter for a few minutes and dip cookies into that. And they will set quickly if you place them on a waxed paper lined cookie sheet and put them in the freezer for about 15 minutes.)

Monday, December 17, 2007


This recipe won a local cookie recipe contest in Austin, Texas, and was featured on blog. The recipe calls for 4 egg whites, and I only had 3, so I did some quick math and changed the measurements. I was a bit worried about the cloves, as I thought they were going to overpower the other flavors; but when the cookies baked up, the flavors were perfect and really quite mild. This recipe has everything in it to ensure success: cornstarch, cream of tartar and really no liquid except for the small amount of vinegar. Still, it's best not to try these on a humid day. The humidity levels here in New Bern were 41% inside, 31% outside today, so it was a good day to make these. They puff up nicely but don't spread too much. Meringues are not very pretty to look at, but the taste of these is divine. They're light as air and just slightly crunchy, and slightly chewy inside with all the surprise flavors to greet your teeth as you chomp down. You can make them a little nicer to look at if you spoon the batter into a resealable plastic sandwich bag with the corner snipped off and a star tube inserted in the hole. Really, try these. They are wonderful cookies. Thank you Alison!

Alison's Chewy Chai Meringue Cookies
INGREDIENTS: 1/2 cup 10X sugar
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
3/8 tsp. cloves
3/4 tsp. ginger
1-1/2 tsp. cornstarch
3/4 cup white chocolate chips (Sam's Choice at Wal-Mart is good stuff.)
1/2 cup toasted finely chopped nuts (I used pecans)
3 egg whites, room temperature or slightly warm
3/16 tsp. cream of tartar
pinch of sea salt
3/8 cup superfine sugar
3/4 tsp. white or rice vinegar

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 300 F. In small bowl, sift together the first 5 ingredients. Add the chocolate chips and nuts and mix together. Set aside. Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar and salt till stiff peaks form. Do not overbeat. Gradually add the superfine sugar and beat till glossy and stiff. Add the vinegar, stir once, then fold in the powdered sugar mixture. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto parchment-lined cookie sheets and bake for about 30 minutes or till meringues are set and just beginning to turn golden around the edges. Remove to cake rack to finish cooling completely. Yield: About 32 cookies that are delicately crusty on the outside and very slightly chewy on the inside. These freeze well.


Meringues are temperamental creatures and must be treated carefully to avoid disappointments. Meringues have two basic enemies: fat and moisture. Following are some tips to help you create light meringues that do not deflate.

1. Do not bake meringues on humid days. Check the humidity outside and inside before you
bake. Do not bake if humidity is above 50%.

2. Do not touch the meringue mixture with your fingers, if possible. The oil on your fingers will
help the meringue to deflate. Use two spoons to put batter onto cookie sheets, instead of one
spoon with your finger pushing the batter off.

3. Cornstarch will help hold the meringue together, even if it's somewhat humid, but a better
plan is to bake when weather is not humid.

4. Cream of tartar and cornstarch are both stabilizers for meringues. Cream of tartar should
be added to the egg whites before you start beating them. For every 4 egg whites,
use 1 Tbsp. cornstarch. This can be added by first dissolving into 1/3 cup cold water, then
heating and stirring till thickened. Set aside to cool and add to meringue after the sugar,
adding 1 Tbsp. at a time. Or the cornstarch can be sifted with powdered sugar and folded in
at the end.

5. The best meringues are made with a mixture of superfine sugar (caster sugar) and
confectioner's sugar 10X. Granulated sugar can be made into superfine sugar in the food
processor very easily.

6. Egg whites must be room temperature or slightly warmed to get them to whip up with
volume. Cold egg whites will not whip up. When egg whites are ready to whip, they will look
more liquiddy and clear -- the cloudy look will be gone.

7. If you have any tips to add, or have more questions about meringues, please leave a
comment on this post.

Friday, December 14, 2007


This is another recipe from the Muirhead people -- the ones who make that wonderful pecan pumpkin butter that Williams Sonoma sells for $10.00/jar. Visit their website for more recipes with pecan pumpkin butter: If you're not near a Williams Sonoma store, or if you would rather make your own pumpkin butter, the knockoff recipe is on my blog under Jams and Preserves category. It's not hard and it's so delicious. I followed the Muirhead recipe, except I added toasted pecans to the crust and topping; added a chocolate drizzle to the topping; added cinnamon, vanilla and flour to the filling; and subbed heavy cream for the milk. Instead of serving this as the main dessert, I cut them into small, cookie-size squares and will include them on my Christmas cookie tray.

Pecan Pumpkin Butter Cheesecake Squares
CRUST: 2 cups all-purpose flour, lightly spooned and swept
2/3 cup packed brown sugar (I used 1/3 cup sugar + 1/2 Tbsp. Stevia Plus +
1 Tbsp. molasses
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) + 2 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter
1 cup toasted finely chopped pecans

FILLING: 16 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup Muirhead Pecan Pumpkin Butter (or homemade)
3 Tbsp. heavy cream (or milk if you prefer)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. flour

DRIZZLE: 1/2 - 3/4 cup chocolate chips
2 Tbsp. condensed sweetened milk

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil, letting it hang over the edges. (This will be your "handles" to pick up the cheesecake squares when they are cool.) If using mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar. Mix in flour and salt until just combined, then add nuts. Mixture will be crumbly. If using food processor, pulse flour, sugar and salt together till combined. Add cold butter, cut into small chunks. Pulse till crumbly. Add pecans and pulse till combined. Set aside 1-1/2 cups for topping. Press remaining dough into bottom of the baking pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Cool slightly while preparing filling.

Have all filling ingredients at room temperature before starting. With electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth in medium sized bowl. Mix in eggs, cream, cinnamon, vanilla and pumpkin butter. Stir in flour. If using food processor, pulse cream cheese and sugar till smooth and fluffy, about 5-6 pulses. Add eggs, pulsing till combined, about 3 pulses. Add cream, cinnamon, vanilla and pumpkin butter, pulsing again till combined, about 4-5 pulses. Add flour and pulse till it disappears, about 2 pulses. Spread filling on pre-baked crust. Crumble remaining dough on top evenly. Bake 35-40 minutes or til filling is set. Cool completely on wire rack.

When cool, pick up "handles" and transfer cheesecake to cutting board. Heat the chocolate chips and condensed milk in a small saucepan over low heat till melted, then drizzle over the bars. Cut into squares. Refrigerate or freeze these till you are ready to serve them. Best served cold rather than room temperature.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


These are interesting little cookies. The recipe is from McCall's Cookie Collection, 1965. There is no picture, and the recipe is not annotated in any way, so I was left on my own to figure out a puzzling recipe. First of all, there is very little flour in this recipe, and I am wondering if the amount listed is an error, because there was no way I could get a workable dough with the amounts given. When I got to the point of rolling out the dough, I found I had two options: first, throw the dough out and forget the cookies; or second, rework the dough adding more flour. If I had chosen option 1, I would have lost all the ingredients; choosing option two seemed a better idea since the only thing I would lose is time if the cookies didn't turn out. I thought the cookies would be tough from being reworked, but they weren't. There is no fat in these cookies, so they're not a tender butter cookie. Instead they are a crispy nut cookie with a wonderful lemon flavor. I opted not to glaze them with the lemon glaze. Instead I rolled them in 10X sugar. They're a nice little bite-sized lemon nut cookie that will blend nicely on my Christmas cookie tray. I am printing the recipe as it appears in the cookbook, with my notes. The yield will depend entirely on how large your cookie cutter is and how thin you roll the dough.

Lemon Hearts
INGREDIENTS: 1-1/2 cups toasted ground pecans or hazlenuts (I used pecans)
1/3 cup sifted all-purpose flour (I used at least 2/3 cup, maybe more)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. grated lemon peel
3 egg yolks (I used large eggs)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice

Glaze: 1 cup sifted 10X sugar
1-1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2-3 drops yellow food coloring (optional)

DIRECTIONS: In work bowl of food processor, pulse the toasted nuts until they are finely ground. Do not overprocess or they will turn to nut butter. Add the flour, baking powder and lemon peel and pulse till combined. Set aside.

In medium mixing bowl at high speed, beat egg yolks until thick and lemon colored. Gradually add 2/3 cup sugar, beating until mixture is smooth and well blended, about 5 minutes. At low speed, add lemon juice, beating just till combined. With wooden spoon or spatula, stir in nut mixture; mix to combine well. Refrigerate, covered, overnight.

Next day, preheat oven to 325 F. Generously grease and flour cookie sheets. (I lined with parchment paper, no greasing or flouring needed.) On lightly sugared surface, roll out dough 1/4 inch thick. (I used flour instead of sugar. If dough is too sticky, add more flour and work it in until you are able to roll it out without the dough sticking to the bottom.) With 2-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out cookies. Place 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheets. Bake 12-15 minutes, or just til cookies are puffed and set. (10-12 minutes is a better guide. By 12 minutes, my cookies were overbaked.) Meanwhile, make glaze: In small bowl, combine sugar, lemon juice and food coloring; stir til smooth. Remove cookies to wire rack; cool partially. Spread tops of warm cookies with glaze. Decorate, if desired, with cinnamon candies; cool completely. (I did not use the glaze; instead I rolled the cookies in 10 X sugar.) Makes about 4-1/2 dozen.


One thing I like about living in the southeast is having pansies in December -- and on through the spring. I love the way these little soldiers stand up tall and salute you, smiling at your comings and goings. When all the trees have lost their leaves and no other flowers are blooming, they continue to bring cheer to the dreariness of winter.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Guy is a meat and potatoes man. OK, I confess....I love beef, too. My fondest memories of our early years together include Friday nights at Maruca's in Trenton, NJ, with Delmonico steak sandwiches and French fries. Maruca's Delmonico steaks were about 1/2" thick, tender as butter, and the meat was well aged with fantastic flavor (not to mention the steak was on the best roll in the world -- Italian People's Bakery roll). In the southeast, there is great pork, but they don't age their beef and the flavor just isn't there. And who can get a steak sandwich with 1/2" thick steak any more? Fudd Rucker's used to have it, but they cut back and now their steak sandwiches are awful. We ate those steak sandwiches every Friday night with no guilt added. It's a different story now. As I cut the beef for this stew and saw the nice marbling that was going to make the meat tender, I envisioned all that fat clinging to my arteries. Needless to say, I had a light portion and doubled up on salad.

About stew meat: chuck is your best cut if you want tender stew. My recipe has a little kick to it because that's what we like. Coffee and wine enhance flavors, and the paprika and chipotle chile powder give a little kick. For us, this is 6-7 servings, but we're small eaters. Although I will say when it comes to beef stew, we both tend to eat more than we would normally.

Beef Stew
Source: Judy's Kitchen
INGREDIENTS: 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. chipotle chile pepper
1 tsp. paprika
2.5 lbs. beef chuck, cut into bite-sized pieces, excess fat removed
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups coarsely chopped onions (about 1 large)
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh garlic
1 cup coarsely chopped celery
1 cup dry red wine, drinking quality (I used Firenze 2006 Chianti)
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp. instant coffee powder
1 cup coarsely chopped parsley
2 large baking potatoes, peeled, cut in large pieces
2 carrots, peeled, cut in chunks
1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Mix flour and seasonings in gallon size resealable plastic bag. Add beef, seal bag and shake to distribute flour evenly over beef. Heat oil in large skillet. Add beef with any excess flour, onions, garlic, and celery. Saute' over medium heat till beef is lightly browned and vegetables start to cook, about 5-10 minutes. Turn heat up to high and pour wine over skillet. Let it bubble up for a minute or two and scrape up any residue on the bottom of the pan; then add the tomatoes, water, coffee powder and parsley. After the mixture comes to a boil, spoon or pour it into a 9x12 baking dish and bake it in the oven, covered, for 2-3 hours. Remove cover, add potatoes, carrots and parsley and cook, uncovered for 1 hour.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


These are new cookies for me. Since I'm Hungarian, I usually make kiefles for Christmas -- they're similar to these. Although Barefoot Contessa makes rugelach look easy, I wouldn't recommend them for a beginning cook. First of all, plan to spend some time in the kitchen if you do make these. They're not a simple drop cookie. As I read reviews on recipe sites, I found that the most cited problem was the oozing of the filling. Interestingly, I didn't have that problem, except for a few cookies. I put all the filling ingredients in my food processor (like I do for kiefles) instead of brushing on the jam and covering it with the nut/sugar. But I ran out of my filling when I got to the second tray, so the last few cookies needed filling. I spread those with jam and sprinkled nuts, cinnamon and sugar over the jam. Those are the ones that oozed. (I increased the filling ingredient amounts below so it should now be enough.) Also, many of the reviewers felt the process was expedited by using a pizza cutter to cut the dough. Since I rolled the dough between sheets of wax paper, I hesitated to cut the paper with the pizza cutter. I used an ordinary butter knife, and it worked fine. I had a damp paper towel on hand and I wiped the knife on the paper towel after I cut one line. (whew, that sounds weird, cutting one line, huh?) I also used the butter knife to spread the filling over the dough. I tried a spoon and a spatula and the knife worked best.
How can I explain to you how good these cookies are? Even though you will get a good number (if you make them small), it will not be enough. I could eat these all day long. Of course, I'm the same way with kiefles. After quickly downing 6 cookies, I put the rest in the freezer and asked Guy to padlock it. These are not lo-cal. And, by the way, this is not Barefoot Contessa's recipe. It's actually from, submitted by Jackie, and rated 5 out of 5 by 87 members. One member said, "I have many rugelach recipes, but this is truly the best I have ever made."

INGREDIENTS: 2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup unsalted butter, very cold
1 8-oz. package cream cheese (I used Neufchatel) very cold
1/3 cup sour cream very cold (I used Lite)
1-1/3 cup walnuts, toasted
2/3 cup white sugar
4 tsp. ground cinnamon
2/3 cup raisins
3/4 cup apricot or peach jam or preserves
For rolling the rugelach: 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon

DIRECTIONS: Make dough: In work bowl of food processor, place the flour and salt and pulse briefly to combine. Cut cold butter and cream cheese into smaller pieces and add to flour. Pulse two or three times, then add the sour cream and pulse till mixture comes together. Separate into 4 pieces, and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2 hours or up to 2 days.

Making filling: Place toasted walnuts in work bowl of food processor and pulse till they are ground fine. Add sugar, cinnamon, raisins and jam or preserves and pulse till mixture is a coarse paste. Refrigerate till you are ready to make cookies.

To make cookies: Take filling out of fridge and bring to room temperature, so that it spreads easily. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. (Did you know you can reuse it? Just wipe it down -- it lasts a long time.) Cut two sheets of wax paper like you would for a pie crust. Lightly flour one sheet. (I put the flour in a sieve and shook it over the paper, making a light dusting.) Take one piece of dough out of the fridge, and roughly shape into a rectangular block, like a brick shape. It's easier if you do this now, rather than when you roll it. Sprinkle flour over the top of the "brick." Using a rolling pin, roll the dough the long way to lengthen it. When you get it so that it fills up the length of the wax paper, roll it the other way. Be sure you check the bottom of the dough for stickiness as you do this, because you will need to sprinkle some more flour underneath and on top. This is very sticky dough because of all the fat. But be careful not to add too much flour or you will have a tough dough instead of a flaky dough. When you get the dough all rolled out -- nice and thin -- you can spread the filling on. See the photo below. You can see my rectangle isn't perfect. It's ok -- when the cookies are rolled up, it will be fine.
Spread the filling with a butter knife, leaving both of the short ends open. First cut the dough in half, lengthwise, making two strips. Then cut each half into strips about 1 to 1-1/2" wide. Beginning with the end that has filling, roll up so that the end without filling is last. Roll cookie in cinnamon/sugar mixture before placing seamside down on cookie sheet. Wipe knife on damp paper towel after each cutting.

Place the cookie sheets in the oven after all cookies are rolled. Chill for at least one hour, longer is better. OK to let sit overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. When oven is ready, remove cookie tray from fridge and place in hot oven. Bake 25-30 minutes, or till lightly browned and done in centers. Cool on wire racks. These cookies freeze well.

Monday, December 10, 2007


These mini-chess pies from a 40-year old cookbook (Jaycee-ettes) used to be a Christmas regular for me, but I haven't made them in quite a few years. I ran into some problems because I had no notes on the recipe, and the amounts are off. To spare you the trouble of what I went through, I'll give you better recipe amounts. I added some chcolate syrup and brandy to this recipe and I toasted the walnuts to enhance flavors. If you're unfamiliar with these pastries, they're very chewy, like a pecan pie, except the walnuts are ground, so you don't get the big pieces of nuts. The sweet nut filling combined with an unsweetened short crust makes for a very pleasant taste experience. They can be topped with candied cherries or maraschino cherries. I ran out of those, so I used some chcolate that I had stored in a glass jar that had been mixed with condensed milk -- kind of like a frosting. So you could sub canned chocolate frosting I guess, just a dab in the center before you put the top layer of nuts on. Then when you bite into the cookie, you get that dab of chocolate frosting in your mouth with all the other goodness.....very yummy. I am warning you ahead of time, these are a little bit of work and are messy, but they are so good I think they are worth the trouble.

Dee's Chess Pies
INGREDIENTS: Crust: 1/2 cup unsalted butter or margarine (I used 1/2 butter/1/2 Smart
Balance buttery spread)
6 oz. Neufchatel cheese
2 cups all-purpose flour, lightly spooned and swept

Filling: 2 Tbsp. melted butter or margarine (I used Smart Balance)
1-1/4 cups sugar
2 tsp. molasses
2 Tbsp. chocolate syrup
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 tsp. brandy (I used Jim Beam)

Other: 1-1/2 cups walnuts, toasted and ground
24 Maraschino or candied cherries cut in half to make 48 halves

DIRECTIONS: Make the crust: Have all crust ingredients chilled. Combine flour, butter and cream cheese in work bowl of food processor and pulse till well combined and mixture is crumbs. (Alternately, cut the butter and cream cheese into the flour with a pastry blender, then form a ball by pressing ingredients together.) Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 1 hour or longer.

When ready to make cookies, remove dough from fridge. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. You will need mini muffin tins for 48 little pies. (I only have 2 12-well tins. My other 2 tins are old and rusty and I would not put food against the wells. So I lined the wells with little paper cups. This was a mistake, because the crust partly stuck to the paper liners. You do not want to give cookies to someone who will get paper in their mouth, so don't do what I did. As it turned out, I had to bake a second batch anyway, because the filling amount made way too much. I had some frozen cookie dough that I used for the last batch. I still threw out half of the filling because it was too much.) Cut the cherries in half and, if using maraschino, drain them on paper towels. Put all filling ingredients in medium bowl and whisk well till combined.

Break off pieces of dough to make 1-inch balls. Place balls in muffin wells and, with thumb, work the dough to go up the sides of the well. Using a half-teaspoon measuring spoon, sprinkle nuts in bottom of each well.

Spoon a scant tablespoonful of filling over the nuts, then sprinkle 1/2 tsp. nuts over top and cover with a half-cherry.
Bake for about 1/2 hour, or till tops start to crack and pastry browns. These will puff up and -- if you've filled them too full -- they will spill over, so watch them. Remove tins to cool on counter for 5 minutes, then take them out of the tins and finish cooling on rack. These freeze well.
I'm calling these cookies since I make them at Christmastime with my Christmas cookies, but they could also be considered a pastry.


This is an easy dessert when you really have no time to fuss. You can serve it with store-bought cookies, or your own. This pudding is light, smooth and mousse-like, not overly sweet, but it's rich tasting and satisfying.

Chocolate Cream Pudding

INGREDIENTS: 1 box instant pudding of your choice (I used chocolate)
1-1/2 cups fat-free half and half, well chilled
1/2 tsp. instant coffee granules
1 Tbsp. Kahlua or other coffee brandy

1-1/4 cups heavy whipping cream, well chilled
1/4 cup 10X sugar
1/2 tsp. instant coffee granules
1 tsp. Kahlua or other coffee brandy
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Chocolate bar for grating

DIRECTIONS: In medium-sized chilled bowl with chilled beaters or whip attachment, beat the pudding mix, half and half, coffee granules and brandy for about 2 minutes. Cover and place in fridge for about 30 minutes to set. In a separate small chilled bowl with chilled beaters or whip attachment, beat the cream till stiff. Add remaining ingredients and beat till incorporated. Place about 1 cup of the cream mixture into a resealable plastic bag and place in fridge. Fold remaining cream mixture into pudding till well mixed, then spoon the pudding into 6 individual serving dishes. Cut a corner of the plastic bag with the cream mixture, and pipe onto the top of the puddings. Grate a chocolate bar over the top of the whipped cream, letting it fall onto the pudding. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Sunday, December 9, 2007


These cookies won first place in Better Homes & Garden 1981 Prize Tested Recipes recipe contest, and readers still request it. Mine don't look exactly like the picture in the BH&G All-Time Favorites Cookbook -- the frosting I think was a tad too thin and baked down over the cherries, exposing the cherries. So I reduced the added liquid in the recipe below so that hopefully it won't happen. Nevertheless, these are very good -- chocolatey with a rich chocolate frosting and then there's that cherry. They make up quickly, too, even though they look complicated. I made a few changes, which I've noted below. I did have one problem: the recipe stated a 10-oz. jar of maraschino cherries which I bought, only to find that there weren't enough cherries to do all the cookies. So I cut the cherries in half. The cherries in this cookie are the star, so be sure you get a jar big enough so that you don't have to cut them in half.

Chocolate Cherry Cookies
INGREDIENTS: 1-1/2 cups + 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour, lightly spooned and swept
(I added the 2 Tbsp. flour)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar (I used 1/2 cup sugar + 1 Tbsp. Stevia Plus)
1 large egg
1 Tbsp. instant coffee granules (decaf is ok)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 tsp. coffee brandy, such as Kahlua (I used Samosa brand) divided use
44-48 maraschino cherries (a 10-oz. jar has only 30 cherries)
6 oz. semisweet chocolate pieces (1 cup)
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)

DIRECTIONS: Have all ingredients at room temperature before starting. In a medium bowl, combine the first 5 ingredients and whisk well; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter for a minute or two, then add sugar and beat till well combined and fluffy. Add the egg, coffee granules, vanilla, and 2 tsp. brandy and beat well, scraping bottom and sides as needed. Gradually stir in flour mixture till everything is incorporated into a soft dough. Chill for about a half hour if you have the time.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place about 2 inches apart on cookie sheet. With your thumb, press down center of each ball. Drain cherries, reserving juice. Place a cherry in the center of each cookie.

Prepare frosting: In a small saucepan, combine the chocolate pieces and condensed milk. Heat and stir until chocolate is melted. Stir in the remaining 1 tsp. coffee brandy and 1 tsp. reserved cherry juice. (If frosting is too thick to spread, thin it with additional cherry juice, but you don't want it too thin or it will bake down off the cherries.) Spoon 1/2 - 1 tsp. of the frosting over each cherry, spreading to cover the cherry.

Bake cookies 10-14 minutes or until edges are firm. (Mine took 13 minutes.) Cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute. Transfer to wire racks and let cool. Yield: 48 cookies (I got 44 cookies.)

Saturday, December 8, 2007


I don't know why these cookies are called kisses. It always makes me think of the cookies that have a Hershey's kiss in the middle. But these have Lekvar in the middle. Lekvar is readily available in the jams and jellies section of many foodstores, especially in the northeast. However, I cannot get it in New Bern, unless I buy the Solo prune filling in the can. Actually, I prefer making my own Lekvar once I found out how easy it is. Anyway, this recipe has been in my file for 30 years, and I got it from a neighbor when we lived in Whitehall, PA. She moved to Bethlehem, PA and I haven't heard from her in years. Joann, if you're out there, your cookies will be remembered forever. These are a basic shortbread cookie and, as such, they are not very sweet. The jam is tart, making this a delightful snack, not overly sweet, but very satisfying. You can substitute any tart jam if you are unable to find Lekvar or are unwilling to make it. Or you can buy Solo prune filling. These are not hard to make, but can get messy. To simplify matters, I spoon the Lekvar into a resealable plastic bag and cut a corner off, then pipe the prune butter into the cookie depression. Otherwise you have to use two spoons and it gets all over your fingers...yuk, yuk, although you can lick it off...yum.


INGREDIENTS: 1/2 lb. unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, divided use
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1-1/2 cups finely ground walnuts
1 cup Lekvar or other tart jam

DIRECTIONS: Have all ingredients at room temperature before starting. In medium bowl, beat together the softened butter and sugar till smooth and fluffy. Separate eggs. Add the yolks to the sugar/butter mixture and beat till well incorporated. Stir in the flour and salt. Refrigerate dough for one hour or more. (It will keep in fridge for several days.) When ready to bake, take dough out of fridge and let sit on counter for 15-30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare baking sheets with parchment. Whisk the egg whites in a small bowl with about 1/4 cup water. Roll dough into 1" balls. (See photo below.) I used my round measuring teaspoon for this and lined up all the balls at once. I had an assembly line going: the finely ground nuts were in a pie plate; the egg whites were whipped with water in a bowl; the Lekvar was in a plastic bag with the corner cut; and the dough balls were lined up.

After you get enough dough balls for one cookie sheet, dip them in the egg white mixture, then drop them on the pie plate with the nuts. The pie plate should hold one cookie sheet full of dough balls, so get them all in there before you start rolling them. Otherwise, you will get nuts in the egg whites when you go back and forth. Roll the balls in the nuts so they are covered all around, then put them on the lined cookie sheets. With your thumb, make a depression in each cookie, and fill with some Lekvar. Bake about 13-16 minutes (mine took 15 minutes) or till cookies are set. When they come out of the oven, pipe some more Lekvar in center of each cookie. (It works better if you do this in two stages; trust me on this one.)

Lekvar filling

INGREDIENTS: 1 10-oz. bag of pitted prunes (2 cups)
1/2 cup apple juice concentrate
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. grated lemon rind
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar

DIRECTIONS: Simmer all ingredients covered on stove in small pot for 1 hour, until very soft and most of water is evaporated, stirring as needed. If necessary, uncover pot during last 5-10 minutes to facilitate evaporation. Remove from heat and mash with fork or spoon. This will keep in the fridge for several months in a glass jar. It's delicious with cream cheese on bagels, toast, muffins, or breads. This recipe will yield approx. 2 cups, enough for 2 recipes of Kisses.

Friday, December 7, 2007


It's time to bake Christmas cookies. I started with these little goodies that I made for the first time last Christmas. The recipe is from, and it was submitted by Michele O'Sullvain. It was rated 4 out of 5 by 10 members. Although the chopped nuts are optional, I think they really add a lot. When making any of these butter balls, you must shake them in powdered sugar when they come out of the oven, and then again after they have cooled completely. If you wait till the cookies are cool to shake them in the sugar, it won't stick. If you only coat them once, the first coat will disappear. I freeze my cookies and then take them out when I want them. They thaw quickly, and they stay fresher in the freezer. The only thing I added to this recipe was 1/2 tsp. almond extract to accentuate the almond flavors. These are easy and pretty fast. The cookie itself is not sweet, but when you add the two coats of powdered sugar, it's just right. They're very tender because of the butter and the nuts, so handle carefully.

Amaretto Butter Balls
INGREDIENTS: 3/4 cup finely chopped almonds (optional)
1 cup butter
1/2 cup 10 X sugar
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, lightly spooned and swept
1/2 tsp. salt (I used sea salt -- it has minerals)
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/4 cup amaretto liqueur (I used Bols Creme de Noyaux -- probably about
20 years old)
1/2 cup - 1 cup 10X sugar for rolling

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Have all ingredients at room temperature before starting. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar until smooth. Stir in the flour and salt and blend well, then mix in the liqueur and extract. Fold in the chopped almonds if desired. Roll the dough into walnut-sized balls. (I used a rounded measuring teaspoon.) Place the cookies 2 inches apart on the parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, or till cookies are set and begin to crack. (Mine took 12 minutes, and I tested them with a toothpick in the center, just like for a cake.) Remove cookies from oven and let them cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing them to a wire rack. Before setting them on the wire rack, carefully roll them in powdered sugar. (They are tender and can break easily.) After cookies are completely cool, roll them again in powdered sugar.


My old Cuisinart served me well for 30 years. As I was whipping up the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, the filling was oozing out of the crack in the work bowl. It was time to replace my favorite kitchen appliance. Internet research gave me the facts: there are only 3 food processors to buy -- the KitchenAid 750, the Cuisinart Custom Pro 11-cup, or the Cuisinart 14-cup Power Prep Plus. There simply are no others to even consider. The Custom Pro 11-cup was the top choice for pastries and pie crusts because the pulse mechanism stops in 2 seconds, supposedly making a huge difference with pastry doughs. Next, the price shopping. Costco offered the Custom Pro with "added value." The added value was an extra work bowl and your choice of either a pizza pan with cutter or a storage unit for the discs. Their model only came in stainless steel/black, which was perfect for my kitchen. I was sold. Because we purchased it Thanksgiving Saturday, we got the special price of $129.95 + tax. Unbeatable, or so I thought. When I got it home, I was surprised to see that the work bowl was smaller than my old work bowl. I mistakenly thought I had a 7-cup work bowl because my old model was the DLC-7. Then I went to my Cuisinart file and looked at my records. What I had was a 14-cup model of the DLC-7. It was the perfect size. I thought I had a 7-cup model and that I was upgrading to the 11-cup. In reality I was downgrading to the 11-cup! Well, it's too late now. I've already used it. I won't be able to make large cheesecakes in it like I did in my 14-cup, but it will be ok. And I do have a 6-quart KitchenAid stand mixer to make the cheesecakes in. At my age, I doubt I'll ever replace it. If someone makes me a good offer on it, though, I will sell it and buy the 14-cup model.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


This recipe comes from the Robin Hood flour people (I think they're British), and it's very good. I've made these muffins several times since I found the recipe in 2005. These are very light and moist; the crumble topping makes the top of the muffin very crispy, crunchy, and the flavors of the cranberries and apples....well you know. You'll get 12 very large standard-size muffins from this batter.

Apple Cranberry Crumble Muffins

INGREDIENTS: Topping-- 1/4 cup brown sugar (I used 1 tsp. Stevia Plus, 3 Tbsp. sugar +
1 tsp. molasses)
1/4 cup chopped almonds
3 Tbsp. quick oats
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. melted butter (I used Smart Balance buttery spread)

Muffins-- 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour, lightly spooned and swept 1-1/2 cups brown sugar
(I used 1 Tbsp. Stevia Plus + 3/4 cup sugar + 1 Tbsp. molasses)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 large egg
1 cup plain yogurt (I used lite sour cream)
1/2 cup Canola Oil
2 cups peeled and chopped apples (I used 1 very large Rome apple)
3/4 cup cranberries (I cut the big ones in half)
I added 1/8 tsp. sea salt and 1 tsp. lemon juice

DIRECTIONS: Topping: Combine all ingredients. Mix well. Set aside.

Muffins: Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Have all ingredients at room temperature before starting. Prepare muffin tins by greasing and flouring. For coated pans, just spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray.

Chop the apples, place them with the cranberries in a small bowl and toss with the lemon juice. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, yogurt (or sour cream) and oil (and molasses if you are using). Add the liquids to the dry ingredients all at once, whisking a few times till almost combined. Gently fold in the cranberries and apples. Divide batter evenly among 12 muffin wells (a little more than 1/4 cup of batter to each well). Sprinkle crumble topping over each muffin. Place muffins in oven and immediately reduce heat to 375 degrees F. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or till toothpick inserted in center of muffin returns almost clean. (Mine took 19-1/2 minutes.)