Wednesday, December 30, 2009



In the 2009 Crisco Great American Pie Festival, Dawn Viola’s vanilla apple pie won top honors in the professional category. Dawn, a professional member of the American Culinary Federation, is a food writer, award-winning cook, and nationally recognized artist who has written original recipe articles, food features, cooking instruction documents and commentary for a variety of publications and blogs.

There’s been some hype going around the blogosphere about Dawn’s winning recipe, and I was sucked in. I actually bought every expensive ingredient so that I could make this pie ($12.00/lb for Danish butter + vanilla beans + vanilla powder). This ranks as the most expensive pie I’ve ever made. And, sadly – or happily, depending on how you look at it – I will never make it again.

There were six of us ready to sink our teeth into this delectable-looking pie the day I made it. And all six of us were let down. The consensus was that the pie is over-flavored with vanilla and heavy with fatty butter in the crust and filling. It’s very heavy and rich tasting, to the point where the apples are overwhelmed. In addition, broiling the apples is very time-intensive. It took about a half hour for the amount of apples (13 cups to be exact) to broil properly. You really need to stand right by the broiler the whole time and constantly toss apples to keep them from burning. If you’re looking for a really great pie recipe that delivers a truer apple flavor, try Perfect Apple Pie, the absolute best apple pie I’ve ever tasted, and the hands-down fave of everyone who has tried it. For less work, and almost as good results, try Southern Living's Best-Ever Apple Pie or Food Processor Apple Pie. But, just in case you don’t believe me and need to find out for yourself, I’m printing the recipe below. I’ve rated this pie 7 out of 10. The reason I gave it such high marks is because we did enjoy it. The crust is very flaky and tender and the filling is good – it’s just not good enough to warrant the expense and work involved. Final word: It’s okay to add a little vanilla to an apple pie, but the amount that’s used in this recipe is overkill. And, although butter rocks, you can overdo anything.

Final, final word: It doesn't make me happy to diss a recipe. This pie did win a major prize, and the judges obviously loved it. Dawn clearly came up with a winning combination of flavors, and I'm sure that anyone who makes this pie will love it. I'm just sayin'...

Vanilla-Vanilla Bean Roasted Apple Pie
Source: Dawn Viola, 2009 Crisco Great American Pie Festival Professional Category
Rating: 7 out of 10 PRINTABLE RECIPE
Crust: 2-1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. vanilla powder
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
2-1/2 sticks unsalted Danish butter, cut into 1/2” cubes
1 Tbsp. white vinegar, chilled
6-8 Tbsp. ice water

Filling: 4 Tbsp. Danish butter
12 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, sliced in large chunks (about 13 cups)
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup sugar
4 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup apple cider
1 Tbsp. heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract (Dawn left this out of the ingredient list, and I’m guessing the amount.)

Egg Wash: 1 egg
1 Tbsp. cream
coarse sugar

Measure out all crust ingredients and place in freezer 15 minutes. Place the food processor blade & bowl in freezer for 15 minutes. Combine flour, salt, vanilla powder, sugar & vanilla bean seeds in food processor; pulse to mix. Add butter cubes; pulse 10 times, or till mixture is like coarse meal with pea-sized pieces. Add vinegar; pulse to mix. Add 1 Tbsp. water at a time, pulsing to incorporate, till mixture begins to clump together. Pinch some dough in your hand. If it sticks together, the dough is ready. If dough does not stick to itself, add another Tbsp. of water, pulse and pinch dough again. Repeat till dough holds together without being overly wet. Remove dough from processor; transfer to work surface. Dive into two equal parts and gently shape into two flat round discs. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat broiler. Add apples, vanilla bean seeds, cinnamon and 2 Tbsp. of the sugar to a roasting pan; toss apples to coat. Broil until the tops of the apples begin to brown. Toss apples as they brown. Once apples are caramelized, remove from heat and add remaining sugar, flour, vanilla extract and salt. Add apple cider & cream; stir to incorporate. Taste for seasoning, add salt, sugar, vanilla or cinnamon to taste.

Place a 9” pie plate in freezer. Remove one dough disc from fridge and let sit at room temperature 5-10 minutes, or till easy enough to roll, but still chilled. Lightly flour work surface; roll dough out to 12” circle. Place in bottom of the chilled pie plate. Return to fridge to chill. Remove after 5 minutes and add apples. Remove second dough disc and roll out to 1” circle on lightly floured surface. Place on top of apples and pinch top and bottom dough edges together to enclose apples. Add decorate edge if desired. Slice 1” air vents around top of pie.

Beat egg in small dish; mix in cream; lightly brush over top of pie and along edges. Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake at 400F 30 minutes. Cover edges with aluminum foil if needed. Turn pie in oven and continue to cook for another 15 minutes, or longer until crust is golden brown and flakey and apples are cooked through. Transfer pie to wire rack and cool at least 2 hours before serving.

Friday, December 25, 2009



This cookie has made the rounds in the blogosphere lately, so I jumped on the bandwagon. The key to success is to underbake the cookie, resulting in the most amazing texture and flavor – the molasses and chocolate marry and become one, producing a decadently chewy chocolate-molasses flavor in every bite. Of course, you must use the very best chocolate you can afford.


These cookies are definitely worth making, but I will warn you: they are rich, sweet and very chocolatey. They are not a cookie that I will make again, because they are too sweet for my taste, but I have given them to friends who have swooned over them. Truth be told, while I was test-tasting some, I admit to swooning, too. They are that good.


Thanks to Kristin, of The Schell Cafe blog, for procuring this recipe. She actually hunted down the pastry chef at the Four Seasons Hotel, who gave her the recipe. Of course, it made huge quantities, so Kristin worked this recipe till she got the right ratios and was able to reduce it down to a manageable size for home cooks.


Four Seasons Hotel Chocolate Ginger Cookies
Source: The Schell Cafe
Rating: 9 out of 10 PRINTABLE RECIPE
INGREDIENTS: 12 oz. chocolate chips (I used Hershey’s Special Dark + Nestle Chocolatier Dark Chocolate Morsels, 53% cacao)
3 cups + 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour (Pillsbury unbleached)
2-1/2 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
2 Tbsp. natural cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking soda
2 Tbsp. crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature (If using unsalted butter, add 1/8 tsp. salt)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup molasses
bowl of granulated sugar for dusting + some coarse sanding sugar for tops

Whisk together first 9 ingredients in large bowl. Cream butter and brown sugar in another large bowl until light and fluffy. Slowly add molasses, scraping well after each addition. Gradually add dry ingredients and mix only till combined. Cover bowl and refrigerate overnight for best results.

Heat oven to 350F. Using rounded tablespoonfuls of dough, roll in wet palms to form balls. Roll balls in sugar to coat. (If using sanding sugar for tops, then roll part of the ball in sanding sugar and place, sanding sugar up, on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake till puffy and just starting to crack. A toothpick inserted in center will return with some, but not too much, dough sticking to pick. These cookies are best when slightly underbaked and will continue to cook as they cool. My cooking time was approximately 9-10 minutes. Cookies deflate as they cool, also, and are supposed to be thin with a slightly crunchy, crispy edge and soft chewy insides. Yield: about 52 cookies


Merry Christmas, everyone! Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009



Bon Appetit is a dependable source for good recipes, and this ginger cookie is quite good. Crispy edges, soft chewy insides and bursting with spicy ginger flavor, it will have you coming back for seconds….and thirds….and more. A combo of ground, crystallized and fresh ginger, along with brown sugar, molasses, cinnamon and cloves produces the intense flavor and pleasing texture of this outstanding cookie. Full disclosure: You’re going to have to be a real ginger lover to appreciate this cookie, because ginger is the dominant flavor here, and it’s strong.006

The recipe calls for two kinds of brown sugar: golden and dark. I only had light brown sugar in my pantry, and that’s what I used, without detriment. If ginger is your thing, then this is your cookie.

Triple-Ginger Cookies
Source: Bon Appetit Magazine, December 2009
Rating: 8 out of 10 PRINTABLE RECIPE

INGREDIENTS: 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup minced crystallized ginger
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1/4 cup light (mild-flavored) molasses
1-1/2 tsp. finely grated fresh peeled ginger
1-1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
approx. 1/3 cup sugar for rolling

Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 350F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, crystallized ginger, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until creamy and light, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in both brown sugars. Beat on medium high speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add egg, molasses, fresh ginger, ground ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Beat to blend. Add flour mixture in 2 additions, beating on low speed just to blend between additions.

Place 1/3 cup sugar in small bowl. Measure 1 Tbsp. dough. Roll into ball between palms of wet hands, then roll in sugar in bowl to coat; place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining cookie dough, spacing cookies 2-1/2 to 3” apart to allow for spreading.

Bake cookies until surfaces crack but cookies are soft in center, about 13 minutes. (Use a toothpick test to ensure cookies are set -- toothpick should have some dough on it.) Cool completely on baking pans set on wire rack before removing. Yield: about 40 (3") cookies.


Monday, December 21, 2009



These are not your standard spicy ginger cookies. There’s no brown sugar or molasses, nor is there a consortium of spices. They’re really a deliciously tender vanilla-ginger flavored butter cookie, with crispy edges and soft chewy centers. And believe me, they are addictive. If you don’t have vanilla powder, just use vanilla extract in the same amount.

I love the vanilla-ginger combo in this cookie. My one disappointment, though, is that it’s very bland looking. I recommend sprucing up the tops in some way. Use coarse sanding sugar, sprinkles, or even white or dark chocolate drizzles to make them look more appealing. I took the easy way out, just heating up some cream cheese frosting and spreading it onto the tops of the cookies, then sprinkling some with red shots and some with crushed toasted walnuts.


Mellissa’s Vanilla-Ginger Cookies
Rating: 9.0 out of 10 PRINTABLE RECIPE
INGREDIENTS: 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. vanilla powder (or vanilla extract)
2 Tbsp. fresh ginger root, grated
2-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 oz. crystallized ginger (1 bag of Melissa’s crystallized ginger, in the produce section), chopped into 1/4” pieces

Heat oven to 375F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together butter, sugar and salt until creamy. Add eggs; mix well. Add vanilla and ginger root; mix well. Add flour and crystallized ginger; mix until combined. Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto ungreased cookie sheet, 2” apart. Flatten balls to 1/4” thick and bake 10-11 minutes, or till just set and beginning to brown. (These are best a little underdone.) Yield: approximately 30 cookies

Friday, December 18, 2009


I just purchased vanilla beans and vanilla powder to make a prize-winning apple pie (post will follow at a later date), and now, of course, I must use them. I made several batches of my own vanilla extract (I’ll be posting how to do that with the results, later) and I also made my own vanilla powder (another post to come). But I still have vanilla beans left. This cookie, from a very old recipe, is a classic fave of just about everyone I know. I used some vanilla, but also used part of a vanilla bean. I mixed some vanilla powder with the confectioner’s sugar that the cookies got rolled in after they baked. I won’t say they taste dramatically different from any other butter ball, but they are good. If you don’t have beans and powder to use up, just use vanilla extract in the cookie and leave the powder out of the final rolling. They’ll be delicious.
Using confectioner’s sugar in the cookie makes it more tender. You can put regular sugar in the food processor and grind it more finely, but confectioner’s sugar also has cornstarch in it. I’ve made butter balls both ways; and, frankly, no matter how you make them they melt in your mouth and are amazing. I could eat these all day long, but thankfully, I gave them all away so they won’t tempt me.
Vanilla-Vanilla Bean Butter Balls
Rating: 10 out of 10
INGREDIENTS: 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup toasted walnuts or pecans
1-1/8 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped (put the scraped pod in your sugar jar, or make vanilla powder)
1/8 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Confectioner’s Sugar Coating: 1/2 cup 10X sugar + 1/2 tsp. vanilla powder

Heat oven to 350F. Place all ingredients in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse till mixture forms a dough (about 1 minute or so), scraping sides + bottom as needed. Turn mixture out onto lightly floured board and roll slightly rounded teaspoons of dough into balls. Place balls, 1” apart, on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 11-13 minutes, till set but not browned. (The undersides should be lightly browned, and tops should start to crack.) Transfer carefully to wire rack. Place coating ingredients in resealable sandwich bag; seal; shake well to distribute vanilla powder. Carefully toss hot cookies, two at a time, in coating and place back on rack to finish cooling. When completely cool, repeat process for a second coating. Butter balls made with confectioner’s sugar will be more fragile, so handle them very lovingly or you will have cookie pieces instead of cookies. Yield: 24-25

Wednesday, December 16, 2009



Based on the classic Mexican Wedding Cakes, these Coconut-Almond Rum Balls are a delicious deviation from the norm. I was disappointed that the coconut flavor didn’t come through more, but the toasted coconut on the outside of the cookie makes up for that. Fussy hubby gave these two thumbs up, way up, and he’s not a coconut fan.

If you don’t have, and don’t want to buy, coconut oil, just sub butter. You can also sub vanilla extract for the vanilla powder, if you want. (I’ll have a post coming soon on how to make your own vanilla extract and vanilla powder.) If you’re looking for something a little different for your Christmas cookie tray, try these.

Glazed Coconut-Almond Rum Balls
Source: Judy’s Kitchen
Rating: 8.5 out of 10 PRINTABLE RECIPE
Cookie: 1 cup toasted slivered (not sliced) almonds
1/4 cup sugar
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. coconut oil (or butter)
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. sea salt
2-1/2 Tbsp. coconut-flavored rum (or 1/4 tsp. coconut flavor + 1/4 tsp. rum flavor + 2 Tbsp. coconut milk, water or cow’s milk)
1/2 tsp. vanilla powder (or vanilla extract)

Glaze: 2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. cream cheese
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 Tbsp. or more coconut-flavored rum (or dash of coconut & rum flavors + milk)
3/4 cup dried sweetened coconut flakes, toasted*

Heat oven to 350F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In work bowl of food processor, combine all ingredients. Pulse several times to mix, then pulse till mixture comes together and forms a dough. Turn out onto lightly floured board. Using rounded teaspoonfuls of dough, roll dough into ball with hands and place on baking sheet, 1” apart. Bake 11-13 minutes, or till dough is set but not browned. Underside of cookies should be lightly browned. Let cookies cool on pans for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.

Make glaze: In small microwaveable bowl, heat butter & cream cheese on high in 10-second intervals, till melted. Beat in confectioner’s sugar and rum, using enough rum to bring mixture to a thick glaze consistency. Dip tops of thoroughly cooled cookies in warm glaze, then into toasted coconut. Allow glaze to set before storing or freezing cookies. Yield: 30 cookies

*To toast coconut, spread flakes onto a pie plate and place in 325F oven. Check coconut after 8 minutes. If edges are starting to brown, stir with spatula to redistribute. Once coconut starts to brown, check it every couple of minutes and stir. It will take close to 20 minutes to completely toast it to a nice golden brown. If it is browning too quickly, turn oven heat down 25 degrees. Cool pie plate on wire rack. Coconut will crisp up as it cools.


Monday, December 14, 2009



This cookie was last year’s holiday prizewinner in BH&G’s contest. After making it, I can see why it won. It’s softly chewy inside, with just the slightest crunch on the outside. The topping (of raisins and pecans) accentuates the additional raisins and pecans on the inside of the cookie. Although the cookie contains orange zest, I couldn’t really taste it. So you can either leave it out or up the amount. Honestly, I don’t think you even need it. And the orange juice in the glaze is also undetectable, so feel free to sub milk, cream or water. Actually, some melted cream cheese icing works very nicely too. The title of the cookie says it’s spicy, but the spice works as an undertone. If you want a really spicy cookie, you’d better up the spices. I liked it just like it was. All in all, this is a cookie worth making. You’ll have trouble staying away from them, because they’re just that good. I made a half batch (17 cookies), but I’m printing the full recipe for you because I think you’ll want all of them.


Santa’s Spicy Gingersnappers
Source: Better Homes and Gardens
Rating: 10 out of 10 PRINTABLE RECIPE

INGREDIENTS: 1 cup raisins
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. chopped crystallized ginger (Increase if you want a spicier cookie)
1 tsp. finely shredded orange peel
1 tsp. vanilla
3-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon (Increase if you want a spicier cookie)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg (Increase if you want a spicier cookie)
1/4 tsp. ground ginger (Increase if you want a spicier cookie)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 recipe Pecan Topping, below
1 recipe Orange Glaze, below

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Place raisins and butter in food processor; process until raisins are chopped and combined with butter. Transfer mixture to extra-large bowl. With electric mixer, beat in brown sugar, eggs, crystallized ginger, orange peel and vanilla until creamy.

2. In medium bowl, combine flour, pecans, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder,nutmeg, ginger and salt. Gradually beat flour mixture into butter mixture. Mix until well combined.

3. With a 2-Tbsp. cookie scoop, drop dough 4” apart on ungreased cookie sheet. (Note: I used a rounded Tbsp. of dough and lined my cookie sheet with parchment paper.) Flatten tops lightly. Spoon about 1 tsp. pecan topping onto center of each unbaked cookie.


4. Bake 11-13 minutes, until edges are just set. (Note: cookies will be soft and look undone, but they harden as they cool.) Let cool on pan for 2 minutes; transfer cookies to cooling rack. Cool completely.

5. Drizzle cooled cookies with Orange Glaze. Yield: 3 dozen large cookies. (My yield was 34.)


Pecan Topping: In small bowl, combine 1/2 cup chopped raisins, 1/2 cup chopped pecans, 3 Tbsp. dairy sour cream and 2 Tbsp. caramel topping. (Note: I used 3 Tbsp. cream cheese + 2 Tbsp. Kraft caramel bits.)

Orange Glaze: In small bowl, combine 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar and 2 Tbsp. orange juice. (Or just microwave some cream cheese or butter cream frosting till melted.)

Friday, December 11, 2009


pecan shortbread paper box
This is a delicious recipe – not too sweet, delicately butter-tender and crunchy at the same time. The brown sugar and pecans impart a sweet, caramel flavor to the cookie. I thought of drizzling caramel and chocolate over the tops, but decided against it, as I may use these as a base for a cheesecake crust.
pecan shortbread paper box (3)

If you make these, be sure to space them at least 1” apart, preferably 2”, because they do spread a little. Joy of Baking says this recipe yields about 36 cookies, but I got 33, using 2-1/2” cutters. The finished cookie measured 2-3/4”, and I baked them about 17 minutes. Next time, though, I’ll only bake them 15 minutes.
pecan shortbread paper box (4)

Joy of Baking’s Pecan Shortbreads
Source: Joy of Baking
Rating: 9 out of 10 PRINTABLE RECIPE

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

In bowl of stand mixer, cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy (2-3 minutes), or beat with a hand mixer. Beat in vanilla; scrape sides of bowl; add flour and salt, and stir till barely incorporated, then stir in nuts.

Divide dough in half; wrap each half in plastic wrap; refrigerate until firm (at least 1 hour).

Heat oven to 350F (325F for dark or coated pans). Place rack in center of oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

Remove 1/2 of dough from fridge and roll into 1/4” thick circle on lightly floured board. Cut out desired shapes with lightly floured cookie cutters. Place cookies on prepared baking sheets; refrigerate 10 minutes to firm up dough. Roll and cut out remaining cookies.

Bake 13-15 minutes, or till shortbreads are golden brown. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool. Store at room temperature for about 1 week, or freeze. Yield: 33-36 cookies, depending on size.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009



The photos of this cookie in the December 2009 issue of Bon Appetit screamed out at me. Not only did the cookie look appetizing and delectable, but also the recipe sounded easy and delicious. And I already had a package of candy canes in my cupboard and all the other ingredients to make these. For the dark chocolate, I used a 3.5 oz. bar of Lindt Excellence Intense Dark 70% cacao plus 2.5 oz. of Nestle Chocolatier 53% cacao dark chocolate chips. I also had a bar of Ghiradelli white chocolate, and I used that, even though it wasn’t on Bon Appetit’s recommended list. My kitchen scale came in handy, ensuring I got the exact amount I needed of each ingredient.


I heartily recommend this cookie. It lived up to every one of my expectations. The tender and flavorful thin shortbread crust combines perfectly with dark chocolate, chopped peppermint candy canes, and white chocolate. The sweet complex flavors and textures of this cookie invite you to taste and then devour it. One caveat: You must not mind the little pieces of chopped candy cane. They bothered my hubby, but I adored them. I have a feeling my hubby will be in the minority on this one, because IMHO, this is one fantastic holiday recipe to keep, cherish and make again and again.

Bon Appetit’s Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies
Source: Bon Appetit Magazine, December 2009 issue
Rating: 10 out of 10 PRINTABLE RECIPE
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
6 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped red-and-white-striped hard peppermint candies or candy canes (about 3 oz.)
2 oz. high-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina)

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan* with nonstick spray. Line bottom of pan with long strip of 9”-wide parchment paper, leaving overhang on both short sides of pan. Whisk flour and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer**, beat butter in large bowl until creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in sugar. Continue beating until mixture is light and fluffy, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl, about 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla, then egg yolk. Gradually add flour mixture, beating on low speed just to blend.

Drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking pan, spacing evenly. Using moistened fingertips, press dough to form even layer over bottom of pan. Pierce dough all over with fork.

Bake cookie base until light golden brown and slightly puffed and edges begin to come away from sides of pan, about 30 minutes***. Place pan on rack; immediately sprinkle bittersweet chocolate over. Let stand until chocolate softens, about 3 minutes. Using small offset spatula, spread bittersweet chocolate over top of cookie in thin even layer. Immediately sprinkle chopped peppermint candies over.

Stir white chocolate in medium metal bowl set over saucepan of simmering (not boiling) water until melted and smooth. Remove from over water. Using fork, drizzle white chocolate all over cookies. Chill until white chocolate is set, about 30 minutes****.

Using paper overhang as aid, lift cookie from pan and transfer to work surface. Using large knife, cut cookie into irregular pieces. (Can be made 1 week ahead. Store in refrigerator in airtight containers between layers of waxed paper or parchment paper. ) Yield will depend on how the cookies are cut.

VARIATION: Sprinkle the melted dark chocolate with chopped peanut brittle or peanut butter cups instead of the peppermint candies.

NOTES: *I used a brownie pan.
**I used my heavy-duty Kitchen Aid stand mixer, which I believe overbeat the dough. It puffed up and wrinkled in the pan, then deflated; but the shortbread was still fabulous. Next time, I will beat the mixture less and use 325F as my oven temperature.
***My cookie was done in 20 minutes, leading me to believe the oven temperature was too high. My pan was dark and coated and I think 325F would have worked better.
****After one hour, chocolate was still soft. I had to put the cookie in the fridge to get it to set.

Monday, December 7, 2009


  • Better Homes and Gardens awarded me their top prize ($400) for my one-bite appetizer recipe this month. The recipe and photo are in the December issue, and I’m printing both below.

avocado pesto-stuffed tomatoes

Avocado Pesto-Stuffed Tomatoes
First-Place Winner in Better Homes & Gardens Dec. 2009 Prize Tested Recipes
Source: Judy’s Kitchen PRINTABLE RECIPE


30 cherry tomatoes (about 1-1/4 pints)

½ medium avocado, pitted, peeled and cut up

2 oz. cream cheese, softened

2 Tbsp. homemade or purchased basil pesto

1 tsp. lemon juice

Snipped fresh basil (optional)

Cut a thin slice from the top of each tomato. (If desired, cut a thin slice from bottom of tomatoes so they stand upright.) With a small spoon or small melon baller, carefully hollow out the tomatoes. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Invert tomatoes on the towels. Let stand 30 minutes to drain. Meanwhile, for filling, in a food processor bowl combine avocado, cream cheese, pesto and lemon juice. Cover; process until smooth. Spoon filling into a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round or open star tip. Place tomatoes, open sides up, on a serving platter. Pipe filling into the tomato cups. Serve immediately or cover loosely and refrigerate up to 4 hours before serving. Sprinkle with snipped basil before serving. Makes 30 appetizers.

  • Carlson Labs awarded me third place ($100) in their fish oil contest for my fish recipe, also printed below.


Third-Place Winner in Carlson Labs 2009 Fish Oil Recipe Contest
Source: Judy’s Kitchen

Honey-Lime Trout

3 Tbsp. olive oil or canola oil

2 Tbsp. lime juice

1 tsp. finely grated lime zest

2 Tbsp. honey

1 Tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

4 Trout fillets, skinned and boned, about ¼-1/3 lb. each

Non-stick cooking spray

Cilantro-Mint Pesto

2 cups fresh cilantro

½ cup fresh mint leaves

¼ cup slivered toasted almonds

2 tsp. peeled, grated ginger

1 tsp. lime juice

½ jalapeno or serrano chile, seeded and chopped (or more if you like it hotter)

1 tsp. honey

¾ tsp. chopped garlic

¾ tsp. sea salt

1/3 cup Carlson Fish Oil

Optional Garnish: 1 (8 oz.) container plain Greek yogurt

Prepare marinade for fish: Combine marinade ingredients in large resealable plastic bag. Rinse fish under cold running water; pat dry with paper towels; add to marinade ingredients in bag. Reseal; massage to distribute ingredients; refrigerate 1/2hour – 2 hours.

In the meantime, prepare pesto: Combine all ingredients, except oil, in work bowl of food processor. Pulse till finely chopped. Add oil in a slow stream through food tube and pulse till well incorporated. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes; serve or refrigerate.

Bake fish: Heat oven to 400F. Spray a 9 x 12 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Place fillets in pan; pour marinade over. Bake 15-20 minutes, or till fish flakes when pierced with fork. Serve with cilantro-mint pesto. Yield: 4 servings

  • Janice, of Serial Crafter, gave me the “Over the Top” award. Thanks so much, Janice; I truly appreciate each and every award I’ve received!

Overthe_top award from Janice, Serial Crafter (

Friday, December 4, 2009



Have I told you how much I love frangipane? The sweet-but-not-too-sweet, almond pastry cream, underneath apples, pears or peaches and enveloped in flaky pastry is just about the best dessert there is. And, though it looks fancy, it’s not hard to make.


You can use refrigerated pie crusts (such as Pillsbury’s) if you want to make it even easier. I prefer homemade crusts for better flavor and texture; and I like knowing what the ingredients are.


These are so very good. But please remember that they’ll only be as good as the apples you use. If the apples are not fresh, don’t expect them to magically get better when they’re baked. When baking, always start with the freshest, best ingredients you can find.

Apple Frangipane Tarts for Four
Source: Judy’s Kitchen
Rating: 10 out of 10 PRINTABLE RECIPE
Pastry -- Flaky Cream Cheese Pie Crust, or your favorite pie crust (Note: you’ll need about 2 pie crusts)

Frangipane – 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar (10X) (I used 1/4 cup 10X sugar + 1-1/2 tsp. NuNaturals Stevia)
3/4 cup almond meal (or very finely ground blanched almonds)
big pinch sea salt
1 Tbsp. flour
1-1/2 tsp. almond liqueur (or 1/8 tsp. almond extract)
1 large egg

Beat all ingredients together with a wire whip, or process in a food processor. Set aside.

Apple Filling – 2 Medium tart apples (Rome, Winesap or Pink Lady)
1/4 cup frozen apple juice concentrate
1-1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, divided use
1-1/2 tsp. almond liqueur (or 1/8 tsp. almond extract)
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Peel, core and slice apples in half.

With cut sides down, slice each half into 1/4” slices, but don’t cut all the way through. Leave the half apple intact, only sliced on top, 3/4 of the way down.
In small saucepan, combine juice, butter, almond liqueur, sugar and cinnamon. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and cook about 1 minute. Off heat.

Assembly – Heat oven to 375F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut out 4 (7”) rounds of dough and place on the parchment paper. Divide frangipane equally among the 4 rounds, leaving 1-1/2” on edges open.

Lay one apple half, cut side down, over each frangipane. Pull up sides of pastry to form a ridge around the apples.
Using a pastry brush, apply the apple glaze over the apples, brushing some glaze down inside slices. Brush a little glaze over pastry, too.
Bake 20 minutes, till apples are cooked and pastry is golden brown. Remove with spatula to wire rack to cool slightly. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009



This recipe, from a cookbook that I bought as a young bride almost 50 years ago, is still one of my favorites. In the 60’s, I made it by hand, but now I have a Cuisinart to do the hard work. The ingredients mix up quickly in the food processor and do a slow rise in the fridge. When I take the dough out and shape it, they do their second rise and then go into a hot oven to produce the fluffiest, moistest, absolutely best rolls you could ever eat. I’ve made this recipe using instant mashed potato flakes, also, but I prefer using fresh potatoes. Either way, these rolls belong on your holiday table.


Refrigerator yeast dough is a little different from a regular yeast dough, in that you don’t mix the yeast with warm ingredients. You start out with lukewarm water to just soften the yeast. It won’t bubble up. The goal is to gently wake the yeast up, but not to get it going on all engines, because you want it to slowly rise in the cold refrigerator. The food processor and the fridge are the workers here, and I guarantee they’ll make you look like a star if you make these rolls.

Refrigerator Potato Rolls
Adapted from Meta Given’s Encyclopedia of Cooking
Rating: 10 out of 10 PRINTABLE RECIPE
INGREDIENTS: 1/2 pkg. (1-1/8 tsp.) Active Dry Yeast
2 Tbsp. lukewarm water (not hot, not cold)
3 Tbsp. sugar, divided use
1-1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup milk, sour cream, yogurt or buttermilk
1/2 cup cooked potatoes, mashed, riced or grated
1 large egg
1/3 cup melted butter or margarine + 1 Tbsp. to brush tops of rolls
up to 3-1/8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

In work bowl of 11-cup or larger food processor, dissolve yeast in 2 Tbsp. lukewarm water. Add 1/2 tsp. of the sugar and pulse once; let soften 10 minutes. Add remaining sugar, salt, milk, and potatoes; process till smooth. Add egg and butter; process again till smooth. (Don’t be afraid to process – yeast likes to be worked, so go ahead and hit that pulse button!) Add flour, about 1 cup, or a little less, at a time and process till smooth after each addition. Only add enough flour to make a soft, almost sticky dough that just comes together, and aim for about 3 cups or a little less. Feel it with your fingers. It should almost stick to your fingers, but not quite.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead it for about 5-10 minutes, till it’s soft and supple, adding flour only if the dough is sticking to your fingers. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning it once to bring the greased side up.

Grease the inside of a lid that fits the bowl; place lid on top, then wrap in a damp cloth and place in fridge overnight, or up to 48 hours, no longer.

When ready to make rolls, take all or part of dough from fridge. Let rest 15 minutes on a floured board, then roll dough out in a squarish shape, about 1/2” thick. Divide into 16 equal pieces.
Roll each piece in your hands to make a ball. Place in a greased 9x9” pan.

Brush tops with 1 Tbsp. melted butter. Cover with damp towel and let rise in warm place about 1 hour or till light (when the tips of your fingers make a dent that remains). (I usually put rolls in the microwave and shut the door, because it’s free of drafts and usually a little warmer there. Top of refrigerator works too.) In the meantime, heat the oven to 400F for shiny or glass pans, 375F for dark or coated pans. Bake rolls 12-15 minutes, till tops are nicely browned. Turn out immediately onto wire rack, or place in bread basket and serve. (If you leave them in the pan, they’ll get soggy.)

Yield: 16 dinner-size rolls

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


There is something to be said for Pillsbury pie crusts. They’re easy, quick, convenient and virtually fool-proof. Those thoughts were running through my head as my Thanksgiving piecrust got ruined. I prepared the dough for flaky cream cheese pie crust and froze it several days ago, but forgot to take it out of the freezer the night before. If it had thawed in the fridge overnight, I might not have had a problem. Instead, I tried to quick-thaw it on the counter and probably left it out too long. When I tried to prebake my pie shell, I wound up with a shrunken, tough mess that went into the trash.
Plan B was a quick butter pie crust, thrown into the fridge for an hour to cure. I like to let pie crusts cure overnight in the fridge, but there was no time. And this crust did not get prebaked. Instead, I lowered the oven rack to its lowest position and placed my pizza stone on it, preheated the oven to 400F for a half hour, and then placed the filled pie on tinfoil on the stone. Of course, to complete my day, the pie cracked in a very unappetizing manner…… Deep cracks…… I guess this is my humble pie.
The pie filling recipe, found on, was tweaked to my liking. I wanted to taste the pumpkin, not spices and sugar, and I liked the spices in this recipe. I just decreased the nutmeg by 1/8 teaspoon. I cut the sugar and corn syrup a bit, used dark corn syrup instead of light, subbed milk for 2/3 of the cream and added melted butter. The filling calls for 1-1/2 cups of fresh pumpkin puree, but I’m sure that canned pumpkin can be used. I used 1 cup of Hubbard squash, 1/2 c of butternut squash and 1/2 cup of sweet potato. After pureeing and draining, it came to 1-1/2 cups. Draining the squash is an integral part of this recipe, so I didn’t want to skip it. If you opt to use canned pumpkin, you might still want to drain it to get the excess water out. The filling for this pie fits perfectly into a 9” pie plate with no leftovers.
I am still thankful at Thanksgiving time. I’m thankful that the pie, although ugly, is still edible and that I have people to share it with. Sometimes it’s the little things……

UPDATE: The pie was fantastic! Guy said it was the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever made. It was very light, yet rich and creamy with just enough sweetness and subtle spices that perfectly complemented the mix of squashes and sweet potato. An ugly duckling for sure, but still a winner. The crust was as ugly as the filling. It broke if you looked at it, but it was absolutely delicious – buttery, tender, flaky and perfect with the pie. Oh, and best yet – the crust was cooked through. Using the bottom rack of the oven and a pizza stone that’s preheated definitely makes a difference in the pie crust.
Adapted from Printable Recipe
Rating: 10 out of 10
INGREDIENTS: 1-1/2 cups cooked butternut and hubbard squashes or canned pumpkin
1/2 cup cooked or canned sweet potatoes
1/4 cup brown sugar (I used 1 Tbsp. NuNaturals Stevia + 1/2 tsp. molasses)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (I used 1/8 tsp.)
1 Tbsp. melted butter
1/3 cup dark corn syrup
1 Tbsp. flour
1 cup 2% milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Puree squashes (or pumpkin) and sweet potato in work bowl of food processor or blender.  Drain overnight.* (See note below)

Place pizza stone or quarry tiles on bottom rack of oven, in lowest position. Heat oven to 400F about 15-30 minutes before you plan to bake the pie. Fit a 9” pie plate with your favorite pie crust and refrigerate.

In work bowl of food processor or in blender, combine pumpkin, sugar, salt, spices, butter and corn syrup. Pulse till very smooth and no lumps remain. Add remaining ingredients and pulse again till very smooth, scraping sides and bottom if needed. Remove pie crust from fridge; put a sheet of tinfoil underneath pie plate, then pour filling into prepared crust. Place pie and tinfoil on pizza stone.


Bake at 400F for 10 minutes, then, without opening oven door, lower temperature to 325F and bake an additional 25-30 minutes, or till filling is slightly puffed up around edges and pie crust is nicely browned. (Filling will be jiggly in center but will continue to cook as it cools.) Transfer pie to wire rack to cool, then refrigerate overnight, covered. Serve chilled pie with ice cream or whipped cream.

(A very nice spiced whipped cream topping can be made by whipping heavy cream with a little cinnamon, ginger, vanilla extract, and some dark corn syrup. Taste it and make it to your taste preference. I also made some leaves with the extra pie dough, rolled them in sugar instead of flour and baked them separately. I added them on the whipped cream as a garnish – see top photo. )

*You can drain pumpkin puree by placing a large coffee filter in a strainer, then putting the puree into that over a bowl. The liquid will drip through. This will take several hours, or place it, covered, overnight in the fridge. You will have to press it a bit to get all the liquid out.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Here’s the recipe I used for my Chicken Pot Pies. I’m also going to use this pie crust recipe for my Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. What I especially like about this recipe is the fact that the dough is firm and doesn’t shrink. The flavor is good, and the crust is flaky and tender. It probably would have been more so had I used all bleached flour. I opted to use half unbleached all-purpose. It was great for chicken pot pies, and I suspect it will also be great for my pumpkin pie. I’ll let you know.
Flaky Cream Cheese Pie Crust (for 9” pie shell)
Adapted from, “The Pie and Pastry Bible,” 1998 Cordon Rose, Inc.
Rating: 10 out of 10
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold
1 cup + 1 Tbsp. pastry flour or 1 cup (dip & sweep) bleached all-purpose flour
(I used 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose & 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp. White Lily all-purpose)
1/8 tsp. salt (1/4 tsp. for savory recipes)
1/8 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup cream cheese, cold
1 Tbsp. ice water
1-1/2 tsp. cider vinegar

Cut the butter into 1/2” cubes. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze about 30 minutes. Place the flour, salt and baking powder in a reclosable plastic sandwich bag and freeze about 30 minutes. (I also put the work bowl and metal blade of my food processor in the freezer.)

In the work bowl of a food processor with the metal blade, pulse flour mixture a few times to combine. (Save the sandwich bag for the finished dough.) Cut cream cheese into 3 or 4 pieces and add to flour. Process for about 20 seconds, or until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add frozen butter cubes and pulse until none of the butter is larger than the size of a pea. (Toss with a fork to see it better.) Remove the cover and add vinegar and water. (I actually added about 3 Tbsp. water, as 1 Tbsp. just didn’t do it.) Pulse until most of the butter is reduced to the size of small peas. The mixture will be in particles and will not hold together. Spoon it into the plastic bag. Holding both ends of the bag opening with your fingers, knead the mixture by alternately pressing it, from the outside of the bag with the knuckles and heels of your hands until the mixture holds together in one piece and feels slightly stretchy when pulled. Flatten into a disc, reseal the bag and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes, preferably overnight.

Can be refrigerated up to 2 days; frozen, up to 3 months.

Friday, November 20, 2009



A rotisserie chicken with lots of meat to use up was the inspiration for this recipe. I used a pie crust recipe from epicurious which I will post separately. Over the years, I’ve made so many different pot pie recipes, including my own. Though I love shortcuts, I just don’t like using canned soups in my cooking. Call me weird. How long does it take to make a roux, anyway? And I can pronounce the ingredients in my pot pie, besides the fact that mine tastes better than anything from a can, IMHO. If you’re looking for a shortcut, skip this recipe, because this is all from scratch. It’s the way I mostly cook. 002

This is my own recipe, and I pretty much used what was in my fridge. Results were stellar. We both gobbled this one up and gave it my highest rating. The crust was tender, flaky and light, and the filling was perfect – nice chunks of meat with a not too soupy sauce and just enough veggies and seasonings. I have two Corning Grab-It pots that I used to bake the pot pies in. They’re the perfect size for one serving each, and I always make our pot pies in them. Any small casserole dish will work, though, or use a slightly larger one for two servings.001

Traditional Chicken Pot Pies for Two Printable Recipe
Source: Judy’s Kitchen
Rating: 10 out of 10
INGREDIENTS: Your favorite pastry recipe
3 Tbsp. Smart Balance 50/50 Butter Blend (or butter, if preferred)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tsp. finely chopped garlic
2-3 slices cooked, crumbled bacon
2 Tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
Sea salt and pepper to taste (go light on this, and taste at the end to adjust)
2-1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup shredded or chopped cooked chicken, turkey or meat of choice (or veggie if preferred)
1 cup frozen peas (or other veggie of choice)
1/2 cup cooked chopped potatoes (half white, half sweet)
1/2 cup heavy cream

Heat oven to 400F. In a medium-sized sauté pan, cook the onion in the SB over medium heat till transparent. Add the garlic and bacon and cook another minute. Stir in the flour, thyme, salt and pepper to make a paste. Add the broth slowly, stirring all the while to make a thin roux. Bring to a boil, stir, stir, stir. Add chicken and veggies. Reduce heat to simmer. Cook a few minutes to heat everything, then stir in the heavy cream. Get the roux to the proper consistency now. If it’s too thick, add more broth. If it’s too thin, stir in a bit more flour. Transfer contents to buttered ramekins or small casserole dishes. Top with pastry; flute edges; cut steam vents in top. Place casseroles on foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and place in oven about 20-25 minutes, or till pastry is nicely browned and pot pie is bubbling hot. Let cool about 10 minutes before serving.
Yield: 2 servings.