Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cookie Marathon Comes To an END

My cookie marathon comes to an end but not without one last recipe. Ending on a healthy note has been on mind, especially since I tallied up my cookie marathon butter totals. Yikes!

I will continue on with other things now, like culinary coaching for you, and working on my cookbook.

I would like to thank all of you for your support and for sharing your enjoyment. Prince Charming gets a big thank you for his support, encouragement, and for doing all the dishes! I would also like to mention Lauren, Belinda, and Susan, thanks, life would not the same without fabulous girlfriends.

My Blog will continue on into it's third year. You never know what spring may bring. Another marathon?

Just for fun:
Number of cookies without butter- 5
Total butter used- 41 sticks of butter
Funniest moment- Christmas day, outside arranging my gingerbread village. Prince Charming was video taping me, taking my photo shoot. Out of no where I asked my gingerbread village animals, men and women to smile for the picture.
Favorite cookie- Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk
Cookies made, but didn't make the cut- Turtle cookies, gingersnaps and cherry chocolate oatmeal.
Favorite picture- Chocolate Espresso Sparklers
Favorite moment of the month- Reading about my cookie marathon in The New York Times!
Last minute trips to the store- To many to count.

Cookie talk- I heard about sunnies and thought really? But when I tasted them I knew they were going to be the last cookie of my marathon. I wanted to end on a healthy note so Sunnies are perfect. A no-bake cookie that can be quickly prepared. This is a great cookie to keep around when you want a healthy snack. Great for the kids. Other than a few small changes this cookie is a Waite original from St. Albans Vermont. Thanks big Jim and Marilyn.

Makes 14

1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts
1/4 oat bran
pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup unsweetened peanut butter
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Place seeds, nuts, oat bran, salt, and wheat germ in food processor. Finely grind.
2. Then add honey and peanut butter. Mix until well combined.
3. Shape into balls and flatten with a fork. Top with a chocolate chip. Cover well and refrigerate.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

December 31st- St. Nicolas Cookies

Gourmet Magazines from long ago have covered many surface areas in our home for a couple months. They bring me great smiles, laughs, and wonderful recipes. One recipe from a very old November Gourmet was part of our Thanksgiving meal this year, creamed pearl onions. Today I am sharing a cookie recipe I love from a 1971 issue of Gourmet Magazine. This recipe is called Speculaas - St. Nicolas Cookies. I have scanned the recipe for you and shared pictures of the cookies. You should be able to read the recipe fine if you zoom in. If not contact me. Also, I scanned old December Gourmet covers and a couple cheese adds that make me laugh!

Happy New Years Eve Day!

Below-Gourmet Magazine 1955 and 1956, cheese adds.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

December 30th- Walk In The Woods Brownies

The cold weather and slippery roads has kept me home and close to the wood stove, but has not stopped me from baking. Walk In The Woods brownies are easy to prepare, sweetened with honey, and taste great! I love the chocolate chunks and nuts on top. Healthy enough to eat for breakfast?

Walk In The Woods Brownies

1/2 cup unsalted butter
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 beaten eggs
1 cup chopped walnuts, divided
1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 325. Melt butter, chocolate, salt and vanilla together over low heat. Mix well. Then mix in honey, flour, baking powder, eggs, and 3/4 cup nuts. Mix well and pour into a well greased 9x9x2 inch pan. Top with chocolate chunks and rest of nuts. Bake for 25 minutes. Cool on rack 15 minutes before cutting.

Monday, December 28, 2009

December 29th- Chocolate Scribs

The pate is gone and as the cookie marathon comes to an end our home has kicked into healthy cooking mode. Tonight I made Quinoa Tabbouleh served in a roasted Buttercup Squash. I made extra red quinoa which will be mixed with pinto beans I also cooked tonight becoming Bean Burgers for tomorrow night's dinner.

The beautiful snow inspired me to have a tea party using my Christian Dior Limoges China. The Chocolate Scrib Cookies may not be a tea cookie but that did not stop me from sipping green tea and savoring the flakey chocolate cookie. The large snow flakes we falling during my photo shoot and as you may notice the pates are a bit wet. But I continued on. Recently my flash broke on my camera so it will be outside photos only until I figure out what's next in my camera world. Any suggestions? Anybody own a camera shop?

You will have a touch of melted chocolate left over. Now is your chance to make a cup of the best hot chocolate. Sit, enjoy, and relax with your cup of hot cocoa. It is a bonus. I use soy milk in mine and keep it thick but whole milk will also make a wonderful rich hot chocolate.

Chocolate Scribs
Makes 4 dozen

20 tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
zest of one orange
2 1/4 cups unbleached flour

1. Melt four tablespoons butter in small pan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and espresso. Stir until mixture forms a smooth paste. Cool for 15 minutes.
2. In a bowl of mixing stand fitted with paddle attachment add butter, sugar, and cocoa mixture and mix well on hight speed for 2 minutes. Scrape sides with rubber spatula Add egg yolks, sea salt, and vanilla, mix on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrap sides of bowl. Add flour in three parts with the mixer on low. Continue to mix until dough is formed. Divide dough into three flat discs and wrap each with plastic wrap, chill for 50 minutes.
3. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 375.
4. Roll out 1 chilled dough disc between two sheets of parchment paper to even thickness of 3/16 of an inch. If dough become soft and sticky place on baking sheet and chill 15 minutes. Peel parchment paper and cut into a two inch square or two inch round. Place cut out cookies on baking sheets and chill. Gather the dough scraps and chill.
5. Bake until cookies offer slight resistance to the touch about 10-12 minutes. Rotate half way through. If the begin to darken around the edges they are over baked. Cool on trays for 3 minutes. Using a metal spatula remove form trays and place on cookie racks. Repeat with remaining dough and dough scraps.

Chocolate Glaze

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, tempered
1/2 teaspoon orange zest

Tempering determines the final gloss, hardness, and contraction of the chocolate. When you melt chocolate, the molecules of fat separate. To put them back together, you temper it. There are a variety of ways to do it.

Here is one of many ways to temper chocolate. Tempering is achieved by adding small pieces of unmelted chocolate to melted chocolate. The amount of unmelted chocolate to be added depends on the temperature of the melted chocolate but is usually one fourth of the total amount. I usually use a whisk blender to mix the two together.

A simple method to check tempering is to apply a small quantity of chocolate to a piece of paper or to the point of a knife. If the chocolate has been tempered correctly, it will harden evenly and show a good gloss within 5 minutes.

Dip cooled cookies half way into the melted tempered chocolate. If chocolate seizes up, reheat it. Allow glazed cookies to dry for 20 minutes.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

December 28th- Lemon Cookies

Rainy day here in Vermont. As a skier all this rain is a downer but snow will come around. Lots of yoga in the meantime.

Lemon cookies are delicate and full of lemon flavor with an added boost from lemon extract.
Eat them up and share the cookies with people you do not know and people you do know. I have had so much fun sharing the cookies with strangers this month. We have given cookies to Vermont Gas working in front of our house, to the folks working at the Burlington library, Phoenix Books in Essex, Sweet Clover Market, IBM, the mail carrier and more! Sharing is all part of the joy of making these little cakes.

Lemon Cookies
Makes 2 1/2 dozen

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (4 ounces) cream cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 baking powder
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon lemon oil
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup confectioners sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 - 2 tablespoons heavy cream

1. In a medium size mixing bowl, beat together the butter, cream cheese, salt, baking powder, lemon zest, and lemon oil. When the mixture is creamy, add the sugars, a bit at a time, beating until fluffy. Finally, mix in the flour. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 375. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.

3. Scoop out two level teaspoons of dough for each cookie and roll eat piece into a ball. Place the balls on prepared baking sheets and use bottom of a drinking glass, dipped in confectioners sugar, to flatten them to a thickness of about 1/4 inch, and 1 3/4 to 2 inch diameter.

4. Bake the cookies for ten to twelve minutes until they are lightly brown.

5. To make the glaze place the sugar in a small mixing bowl, and stir in lemon juice, then add the cream, a little at a time, to achieve the consistency you like. Then spread the cookies with the glaze and let them set for a hour or so before wrapping.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

December 27th- Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies

A relaxing day before another holiday family gathering on Sunday.

By now the house smells like butter all the time. I had lots of requests for oatmeal cookies and I found these to be my favorite. You can substitute dark chocolate for the white or change the nuts to anything you prefer. Enjoy!

Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies
Makes about 4 dozen

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups old-fasioned rolled oats
2 cups white chocolate chips
1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1 1/4 cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts

1. Preheat oven to 350. Add butter and sugars in bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Mix in eggs, 1 at a time, until combined. Stir in vanilla.

2. Sift flour, baking baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Gradually stir into butter mixture until combined. Stir in oats, chocolate, coconut, and nuts.

3. Drop batter by heaping tablespoons onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing about 2 inch apart. Flatten slightly. Bake cookies until golden, 14-16 minutes. Remove from oven, let sit one minute then transfer to cooling racks. Store cookies in an airtight container up to three days.

Friday, December 25, 2009

December 26th- Gingerbread Village

Uno, fine wine, great company, wood heat, candles, sledding, and amazing foods were the highlight of my Christmas day. Late afternoon we snacked on pate, nuts, Vermont cheeses, and French olives. Then, after twilight sledding and cards in front of the wood stove, we enjoyed a large batch of Spanish paella with chorizo and vegetables. Lots of smiles and memorable laughs were had!

Thank you for your wonderful emails. The cookie marathon will continue until January 31st. Please remember that I have a helpful search link on my website where you can type in key words or recipe names. You will find this very helpful.

Gingerbread men are the norm but I decided to mix it up a bit. Included were moose and bear gingerbread. After all, this is Vermont. I decided not to make a gingerbread house but I made a little gingerbread family. This recipe is the best I have ever used, and let me tell you, I have been making gingerbread houses and cookies for 20 years. The dough is friendly and very easy to work with. You don't have to chill the dough, just mix and roll.


1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup dark molasses
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon soda
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger or 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger root
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl with electric mixer. Add molasses and mix well. Add rest of ingredients and mix until well incorporated, 1-2 minutes.

3. Form dough into a ball and roll out with extra flour as needed. Using cookie cutters, cut out your cookies and place on a silpat lined baking sheet. Bake cookies for 8-12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 1-2 minutes then transfer to a wire rack.

4. Decorate as desired. Personally I just dust with powdered sugar.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

December 25th- Chocolate Amaretti Cookies

Christmas Eve! Our home smells like bacon and gingerbread. Prince Charming grilled Lamb Sausage and Local Beef Brochettes outside on the charcoal webber. We sipped Cake Bread Cellars Pinot Noir and danced to Christmas music. Louis Armstrong and very old blues Christmas music are some of my favorites. Christmas Eve was one big hors d'oeuvre party. Blue goat cheese stuffed paeppadew peppers, whole nuts for cracking, citrus, and white bean soup. I made a batch of gingerbread and truly just enjoyed the time. Since I was young, I always opened one gift on Christmas Eve, this year was no different. My lovable birdbrain sister from Miami, Florida found a one piece pajamas suit and hysterically had to send it up to me in Vt. Thanks Al!

Cookie talk- Amaretti cookies are so fun to have around. They last for months. If you do not dip them in chocolate they are grea to grind in the food processor and use in all sorts of desserts. They have no wheat, butter, and egg yolks. So kinda healthy?

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

Chocolate Amaretti Cookies
Makes 18

3 cups blanched almonds
1 cup sugar
3 egg whites
1 teaspoon almond extract
8 ounces dark chocolate, melted

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a food processor, grind the almonds into a fine meal. Add the sugar and continue to process for another 15 seconds. Finally, add egg whites and almond extract, continue to process until a smooth dough forms around the blade.
3. Using 2inch ice cream scoop, place dough onto prepared baking sheets. Cookies should be at least 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Cookies should be golden. Allow cookies to cool completely on the paper before removing. Then dip 1/2 the cookie into the melted chocolate. Store in a dry place.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

December 24th- Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk

Holiday grocery shopping is wild, I know I am not alone here. I was grocery shopping yesterday at two busy markets. I entered the colorful produce section where I loaded fruits and vegetables into my cart. The crowd was on that same mission I was, excited to be shopping for one or two holiday dinners. My menus were not finalized, I was going to plan one of my menus while being inspired at the market. The next thing I know, I pilled all my produce and more on top of my grocery list. Accepting that it is way too late to get it now, I continue on, winging it. You must understand I grocery shop everyday. My grandmother makes fun of me because every time I call her I am on my way to the grocery store. We do tons of cooking and eating that it becomes too much to plan all the time. Besides, I like our food fresh. I had no special orders unlike most at the market, picking up large pieces of meat and so on. Me, I knew what I needed would be in stock because I was not cooking a traditional holiday meal. More to come about our holiday menus.

Cookie talk- Freshly ground peanut butter and dark chocolate just love each other. This recipe originated from a wonderful article in the New York Times last week. The story was about weddings in Pittsburg that have elaborate cookie tables. A relative is in charge of the cookie organizing while family and friends make tons of cookies for the special day. Up to 2000 cookies will be displayed at the wedding party. Click here to read more.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk
Makes about three dozen

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Nonstick spray or vegetable oil for cookie sheet, optional
3/4 cup chocolate chunks
Sanding sugar for rolling the cookies

1. Using an electric mixer, cream together butter, peanut butter, granulated sugar and light brown sugar. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat until well blended. Gradually add dry ingredients, mixing thoroughly. If the dough is very soft, refrigerate for about 1 hour.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or silpats and set aside. Roll dough into 1-inch balls.
3. Roll cookies in sanding sugar and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet. Bake until very light brown and puffed, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove sheet tray from oven. Using a wine cork make a indent into the center of each cookie, allowing it to crack slightly, and add about 5 chocolate chunks to the cookie center (filling up the holes). Return to oven until light golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from oven, cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Chef Contos in the New York Times!!!

It is not everyday you can say you were in the New York Times. But I can say it today!

My Chocolate Espresso Sparklers were one of 35 cookies picked for a holiday special.

Prince Charming and I celebrated at The Kitchen Table Bistro in Richmond, Vermont. Chef Steve's chicken liver pate always makes me smile. Thank you Neal, Andy, and the crew for a welcoming dinner.

Thank you New York Times!

Happy gourmet holidays,

December 23rd-Mexican Chocolate Cookies

My Mexican Chocolate Cookies are rich and dense but soft and brownie like. The cinnamon and chocolate are best friends. The almonds tie all the cookies flavors together. This is a new cookie I developed for my cookie marathon. Mexico and and the fabulous Mexican cuisine has been in my life since I was born. One of the restaurants my father owned was Mason De Lago. Mason, as we called it, was a casual Mexican restaurant in Chicago still remembered by many downtown locals today. Another Mexico tie-in is; I lived in Ziaquatinao, Mexico for 8 months when I was 17 years old. I adore Mexican culture and cuisine. I will be traveling to Mexico in March where I will take some advanced cooking classes and explore. Wish I had more pictures of this cookie for you but we ate them all.

Happy Holiday,

Mexican Chocolate Cookies
Makes about 32

1 stick unsalted butter, sifted
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon fresh ground cinnamon
1/2 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1. Preheat 350. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until thick, about 5 minutes. Add egg and vanilla, mix well. Stir in dry ingredients and mix well.

2. Drop batter using a 2 inch scoop, onto parchment lined baking trays, spacing 2 1/2 inches apart. Press down a bit with the palm of your hand to lightly flatten cookie and then press almonds on top. Chill 30 minutes before baking. Bake about 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on racks.

Monday, December 21, 2009

December 22nd-Vienna Cookies

Wow! Twenty one days of making cookies so far. Just so you know I am still having tons of fun with this cookie marathon project. Although my desire to eat cookies for breakfast has not gone away as I had wished.

Last night I had my first and not my last meal at Trattoria Delia in Burlington Vermont. I dined with thee Dinner Bell, of Ferrisburgh Vermont, Sarah Anderson. Sarah has a wonderful catering business called Dinner Bells. We shared many good laughs as we always do.

Cookie Talk-The dough for these cookies is flakey and buttery, similar to pie dough. My preference is using locally made and organically grown jam. The fruit flavor from the jam and the low sugar content in the dough is the draw.

Adapted from Martha Stewart Holidays

Vienna Cookies

Makes 18

1/2 (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 ounces cream cheese
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 cup apricot or raspberry jam
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
Confectioners sugar, for sprinkling

Cream the butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Add the flour and knead until smooth. Wrap and refrigerate for at least three hours.

Preheat the oven to 400. Line two baking trays with silpats or parchment paper.

Roll out the dough until 1/8 inch thick and cut into 2-inch squares. Place 1/4 teaspoon jam in one corner of each square. Fold square to completely cover the jam, press down to seal, and roll diagonally. Place on cookie sheets and form into crescents.

Beat together the egg yolk and milk; brush this glaze onto the crescents and sprinkle with chopped nuts. Bake 12 -15 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool on wire racks, then sprinkle with confectioner sugar.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

December 21st-Gluten Free Treat

This Sunday morning started with watching birds at the feeder while water in the kettle came to a boil. Later, moving a bit faster, I started answering emails on my Mac. After catching up on emails, I moved into my creative culinary realm, the kitchen. Walnut, oat bran, and blueberry (organic berries we picked in August) pancakes were prepared for Prince Charming and I. Sweet potato hash browns are a staple with morning pancakes in our home. Of course, these get topped with Vermont's liquid gold: Maple Syrup.

Gluten free and wheat free has been requested of me more than a few times lately. I know this isn't a true cookie but a delicious, sweet treat it is. They're easy to prepare and semi healthy. I used bittersweet chocolate because I love dark chocolate. If you like extremely sweet desserts you might choose to use sweetened coconut but as you may have noticed my recipes call for reduced sugar (most recipes use much more). Maple sugar is very easy to find in Vermont. If you can not find maple sugar where you live, you can order it at Morse Maple Farm.


Coconut Maple Haystacks

8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons maple sugar
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans

Arrange 1 1/2 inch paper candy cups on a baking tray. Melt chocolate in a large bowl over a pan of hot water. Stir occasionally just until smooth (3-5 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in 3/4 cup coconut, maple sugar, and pecans. Using a 1 inch scoop. Scoop into paper cups. Sprinkle with coconut. Chill until firm, about 1 hour. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to two weeks

Saturday, December 19, 2009

December 20th-Kourabiethes

Happy Sunday morning! I'm over flowing with gratitude and joy, thank you for your emails, keep them coming.

Last night's holiday party was in a beautiful Vermont home decorated with fragrant Christmas trees, a gingerbread village, and the punch bowl centerpiece that surely packed a punch. The food was splendid and the company was engaging. Big thanks to Lauren and Dave for the invitation and throwing a memorable party.

Nina Contos was my dad's mother. She was an amazing cook, mostly I remember her coffee cake and Kourabiethes. Kourabiethes are a Greek New Year cookies and they are definitely a Contos family tradition. I have a copy of Nina's original recipe which talks about heating the oven just right with wood. Wonderful! Similar to my life now here in Vermont. My mom even had a super large bowl just for baking theses cookies because she made so many batches at once. Sharing this cookie and recipe with others has long been our tradition. Every Christmas and Greek Easter a tissue paper bow tied bundle of this cookie was baked and shared with family and friends. About 4 years ago I added my own twist on the cookie by adding cocoa powder. If recipes could be family members this would be one. Here in VT I have my own following of friends that look forward to this cookie baked in my kitchen.

Yield: 3 dozen

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoon Brandy
2 ½ cups flour
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 pound powdered sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 350ยบ
In a bowl mix the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy.
Mix in egg yolk and brandy.
Then add sifted flour, salt, and baking powder, a little at a time. Knead well until dough is smooth.
Divide dough in half. Mix in cocoa powder into one half, mix until incorporated.
Take small pieces of dough and shape into balls using both even amounts of the chocolate and the plain dough to create a marble effect. Shape the size of a small egg or shape into crescents, or into small pears and insert a clove in the top of each.
Place on lightly greased baking sheets. Bake cookies 18-20 minutes.
Roll Kourabiethes while warm in powdered sugar. Then sift sugar over as they must be very well coated.

Variation: You may add 1/2 cup blanched and finely chopped almonds to the dough.