Smith’s Puppy Pawty

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The little rump roast I am always writing about is a full blown toddler these days. He’s walk-running, trying to ride Athena like a miniature pony, throwing tantrums when he doesn’t get his way, and making us laugh on a daily basis. We had a first birthday party for him last month and, boy, did we have fun. Our immediate families and close friends joined us for a little shindig that involved lunch, cake and ice cream, and opening gifts.

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To highlight the adorable relationship between Smith and our dog, Athena, I decided on a puppy theme for the gathering. I kept decorations pretty low key by making some garland with cardstock and colored baker’s twine. My mother-in-law printed pictures of our rump roast and Athena together to display throughout our house.

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I didn’t get any pictures of the non-desserts, but the menu included:

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While this PAWTY was definitely a celebration of our ham ball’s birth, it was also a celebration for the birth of new parents, new aunts and uncles, new cousins, and new grandparents and great grandparents. This past year was definitely not all sunshine and lollipops, but it was an absolutely life-changing and incredibly amazing time that we will not soon forget. It’s difficult to put into words how it feels to be given the gift of motherhood. When I sit and think about the love I feel for my son, I can only describe it as a physical symptom of a combination of butterflies in my stomach and chest tightness. As I type that out, I realize It doesn’t sound pleasant-perhaps it may even sound like I need to find a cardiologist- but it’s a good thing. A wonderful thing. Happy birthday, my sweet boy.

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Birthday Cakes

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My second birthday- 1987

My earliest memory was on my second birthday. Some of my family members don’t think I could possibly recall moments from that early in life, but I absolutely do. There are pictures to prove me correct (see above). I remember it so well because my mom ordered me the most beautiful 2-tiered clown cake the world has ever seen.  It was 1987 and I was wearing purple courdoroy bibs. When I saw the cake, my toddler heart was so full that I wet my pants in pure joy. My body was still testing out the whole “fight or flight” thing. In this case- “faint or void your bladder.”  In an effort to avoid missing out on the magic of the moment, I chose the latter.

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The cake was covered in fluffy white icing and decorated with colorful plastic clowns that were embellished with candy lifesavers. It was so beautiful I could hardly breathe. The only thing that seemed logical at the moment was to kiss the cake, and so I did. And I did it with the tender love and affection that sweet Fraulein Maria and Captain Von Trapp share during their first kiss in The Sound of Music. My sweet darling.

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My clearest memory of that day is of me sneaking into the kitchen in the old farmhouse we lived in and trying to take just “one more taste” of heaven on earth. My mom came in after me and told me no (total buzzkill… it was my birthday, for goodness sake!) and ushered me back into the dining room. But what an impression that cake made on me. To earn a permanent spot deep in the hippocampus of my brain.

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Every once in a while, I get requests to make birthday cakes and/or cupcakes for children’s birthdays. I always feel so honored and I take it very seriously. Childhood birthdays are big.  I’m not talking these out of control, Pinterest-crazed, everyone-gets-a-pony birthday parties. I am talking about the gathering of family and close friends to celebrate another year of life and the hope of a new year.

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When I look back through old pictures of both me and my husband, there are lots of pictures from birthdays. My husband grinning widely while he stands next to a panda cake, me sitting in front of a frilly Barbie cake with my childhood friends smiling on. These are deposits in our memory banks that will last forever and my goal is to provide these kids with a special cake that makes an impression on them. Something that will make them “wet their pants” in excitement, literally or figuratively or both. I hope little Johnny or Susie will be able to someday look back through their childhood photos and see a picture of a birthday cake that I made for them; and I hope they smile fondly and remember what a happy day that was and the love that was shared and felt in that moment. The laughs, the singing, and probably the fights between siblings about sharing a toy. It’s all good stuff. 0Y0A7761

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Funfetti Cupcakes with Whipped Vanilla Buttercream

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This cupcake recipe is one I have been making for a few years now. It’s reliable and classic and I love it so much that I made it twice within the past month. Once on Smith’s actual birthday, and a few weeks later for his birthday party. The first round went over very well with my boo and my little rump roast. Smith gobbled up an entire cupcake with delightful glee (see picture below). The cakes were light and fluffy and had a lovely crumb. The second time around, however, I had to make a lot more cupcakes to accommodate all of the guests we would be having for lunch. In an attempt to save time, I doubled the recipe. And, wouldn’t you know it, the texture was completely different. This time, the cakes were spongier and firmer. I had mixed the batter and used the exact same ingredients. I just multiplied everything by two and the laws of chemistry cursed me.  Oh chemistry. You always win.

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One of the main rules in baking is that it’s not always possible to double a recipe and get the same product.  The chemical leavening agents- baking soda and baking powder*- are integral in the chemical reaction between the ingredients in the baking process, which means there isn’t much wiggle room. Unless you are using a recipe that has the exact weights of ingredients listed, there is always the risk for a small amount of error when using measuring cups and spoons. That “small” error may not matter as much for a single batch of a baked good, but when that “small” is doubled, it can turn into a more substantial difference. The moral of the story: if you’re thinking about doubling a cake recipe, it’s probably best to play it safe and make 2 separate batches of the batter. The end result will be worth it.

*Interesting side note- baking powder is just baking powder combined with cream of tartar and cornstarch.

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This boy. He fills my heart with love.

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Funfetti Cupcakes with Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Yield: 2 dozen cupcakes

Cupcake Recipe (plus a mix-in of 1/2 cup of sprinkles)

For the frosting:

Ingredients

  • 3 sticks + 2 tablespoons (375 grams) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 3 cups sifted (475 g) powdered sugar (icing, powdered)
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) heavy cream, or milk
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Sprinkles, if desired

Directions 

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed. The butter will become very pale & creamy.
  2. Turn the mixer off and slowly add in the sugar, one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low speed until combined. Turn mixer speed up to medium and whip for about 2-3 more minutes to allow frosting to become light and fluffy.
  3. Decorate cupcakes as desired. Top with sprinkles. Store unused frosting in the fridge for 1 week.

Source: Cupcakes- Martha Stewart, Frosting- Sweetapolita

Copycat Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup

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We’re in the middle of a big snow storm here in Ohio and I always look forward to the days when we can stay bundled up inside and watch the flakes fall. I often conjure up these images in my head of curling up on the couch by the fireplace while we sip on warm drinks and read.  Of course, my imagination and reality sometimes conflict, especially since we don’t even have a fireplace and Smith is currently boycotting naps and battling a bad case of the grumps as a result. There are books, though. Lots and lots of lift-the-flap board books that our boy loves to read over and over and over. Spoiler alert: the Hungry Caterpillar turns into a butterfly.

For the days when the weather is frightfully cold, a bowl of soup is the perfect antidote. This broccoli cheese soup is especially comforting with its thick, creamy base and satisfying chunks of broccoli and carrots. A little bit goes a long way. Add in a hunk of fresh bread and it’s a lovely winter meal.

I hope you are all staying warm. We’re ready to go sledding!

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Copycat Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • ½ medium chopped onion
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 cups half-and-half (or 1 cup cream, 1 cup milk)
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • ½ lb fresh broccoli (about 1 cup), chopped
  • 1 cup carrot, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese (it’s best to shred your own since pre-shredded cheese is coated with cornstarch or flour, which impacts thickness)
  • salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions

  1. Saute the onion in 1 tablespoon melted butter and set aside. In a large pot whisk together the melted butter and flour over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes.
  2. Slowly whisk in the half and half and chicken stock. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes.
  3. Add the broccoli, carrots, and onions. Let them simmer on medium low for about 25 minutes until the broccoli and carrots are tender.
  4. Add salt and pepper and sharp cheddar cheese. Allow the cheese to melt. Remove from heat. Use an immersion blender (or a regular blender) to puree some of the soup until you achieve your desired smoothness.

Source: The Recipe Critic

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Feeding Our Rump Roast: Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal

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Our not-so-little rump roast (also known as our son, Smith), recently celebrated his first birthday. As he hits more milestones and as he continues to cut those razor-sharp baby teeth, we are gradually introducing him to new foods. Now more than ever,  I am thinking about the meals that I am making for our family. I could live on bowls of cereal for dinner every night if it were my choice; but the nutrients that are going into our little whippersnapper’s body have taken precedence.

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One of my favorite go-to breakfasts is this apple cinnamon baked oatmeal. It’s full of fiber and vitamin C, and it is especially satisfying this time of year in the cold Ohio Winter months. Even better, Smith gobbles it right up. I typically make a batch on Sunday and it lasts us for the whole week.

I adjusted the original recipe that I used in the past to make this breakfast a little more nutritionally-sound. I reduced the amount of sugar and substituted applesauce in place of the butter. For the sake of my little dude, I also used whole milk since being a toddler is a glorious time in one’s life as they get to enjoy high fat dairy. Lucky Smith. :)

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Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal 

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • large eggs
  • 1/2 cup organic applesauce (unsweetened is fine, too)
  • 2 cups whole milk (low fat is fine, too)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 baking apples (I usually use Golden Delicious), peeled and diced

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease a 9-inch baking dish with butter. Place the diced apples in the bottom of the pan. Set aside
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the oats, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
  3. In another bowl, break up the eggs with a whisk; then whisk in the milk, vanilla, and applesauce until well-combined.
  4. Carefully add the milk mixture to the oat mixture and gently stir together until evenly mixed.
  5. Pour the oatmeal mixture into the baking dish and spread evenly. Bake for about 45-50 minutes, until the top is golden and the oats are set. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Source: Adapted from Once Upon a Chef

Homestead Living: Wheat Pita Bread

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While I find making food from scratch very fulfilling, there are a few items that I currently don’t have much desire to attempt on my own.  These include: cheese (maybe because we now live in an area with so many cheese houses),  yogurt (Fage Greek yogurt is my favorite), and ketchup (sorry hipster restaurants; I just am not on board yet). It’s fun and empowering to learn methods to make nourishing meals without needing to rely on so many pre-packaged and processed components; but, for me, the choice to make something from scratch has to make sense for our family’s health,  budget, time, and tastebuds.  Artisan bread, hummus, jam, pizza, granola, hot fudge sauce, and now this wheat pita bread are recipes that I believe meet all four of the aforementioned categories.

I finally got around to making this bread a few weeks ago. The dough doesn’t require any extraordinary ingredients, just a little time to allow it to rise and rest, and the baking process goes very quickly with the use of a pizza stone. I was so pleasantly surprised with how lovely these precious little pitas turned out. They were soft and fluffy and were a fabulous accompaniment to our dinner of chicken shawarma that evening. Our little rump roast gladly gobbled some up as well. That boy loves to eat.

In our quest to embrace more of a “homestead living” lifestyle, I am happy to add this recipe to our list of foods we will gladly make at home.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Wheat Pita Bread

Yield: 8 whole pitas

Ingredients

  • 2¼ tsp. instant yeast
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1¼ cups warm water (105˚-115˚ F), divided
  • 1½ cups bread flour, divided
  • 1½ cups whole wheat flour, divided
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Cornmeal, for sprinkling

Directions

1. Combine the yeast, honey and ½ cup of the water in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Stir gently to combine.  Whisk in ¼ cup of the bread flour and ¼ cup of the whole wheat flour into the yeast mixture until smooth.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm and dry area until doubled in bulk, about 60 minutes.

2. Remove the plastic wrap and return the bowl to the mixer stand, fitted with the dough hook.  Add in the remaining ¾ cup of warm water, 1¼ cups bread flour, 1¼ cups whole wheat flour, olive oil and salt.  Mix on low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.  Transfer the ball of dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat. Allow dough to rise again until doubled in bulk, about 60 minutes. Meanwhile, place an oven rack in the middle position.  Place a baking stone in the oven and preheat to 500˚ F. Lightly sprinkle 2  large baking sheets with cornmeal. Set aside.

3. Once the dough has risen, transfer to a lightly floured work surface, punch down the dough and divide into 8 equal pieces.  Form each piece into a ball.  Flatten one ball at a time into a disk, then stretch out into a 6½-7 inch circle.  Place the rounds on the baking sheets and loosely cover with clean kitchen towels.  Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. The dough should puff up slightly.

4. Transfer 4 pitas, 1 at a time, onto the baking surface (you can place directly on oven rack if you don’t have a stone). Bake 2-3 minutes, until puffed and pale golden.  Gently flip the pitas over using tongs and bake 1-2 minutes more.  Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.  Repeat with the remaining pitas.  Store in an airtight container. Pitas should stay fresh for 2-3 days.

Source: Annie’s Eats, who adapted it from Confections of a Foodie Bride, originally from Gourmet (May 2003)

 

Classic Hummus

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Phew! The holidays are over and it’s back to business. This time of year, most are looking for a break from all of the excess of December and we are no different. We are hungry for meals that will give us more bang for our buck, nutritionally, and that are delicious. Contrary to popular belief, health and taste are not mutually exclusive. Just take this recipe for hummus as an example. It’s creamy and earthy and goes really well as a dip for vegetables, as a sandwich spread, or as a base for grilled chicken. And for all of you out there who think they don’t like hummus, I challenge you to reconsider. I am a converted hummus lover. Before we found The Olive Tree, our favorite Mediterranean restaurant in Columbus, I really didn’t care for hummus. I had only tried the store-bought versions and I felt it always tasted kind of pasty; but, at the risk of sounding overly-dramatic (me? … never!), my life changed forever when I tasted the pillowy goodness made by the Greek gods at The Olive Tree. Opa!

I’ve made hummus in the past, but this is the first time I have cooked the garbanzo beans myself instead of using canned beans. Not only is this more economical, it takes hummus to the next level. And, cooking beans is not at all difficult- it just takes a little planning ahead. All you need to do is pour a 15 ounce bag of dried beans into a dutch oven, cover it with water, let it soak overnight, and then simmer for about 2 hours (or until desired tenderness) the following day while you are going about your business. I found the hummus came together really nicely when I used the still-warm beans. There is always the option to peel the skins off the beans before you process them for an even creamier texture if you have extra time on your hands, but my little rump roast was throwing my mini tartlet pans all over the kitchen and heading straight for the heirloom china cabinet in our living room with a look of pure mischief on his face while I was making the hummus, so I wisely opted out of this method.

I hope you are off you a happy and healthy 2015. Happy Sunday, everyone!

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Classic Hummus

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas, liquid reserved and set aside
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/3 Cup tahini
  • 7-8 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp reserved chickpea liquid (or water)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Hot sauce, optional (I love Sriracha)

Directions:

Place all the ingredients (except the Sriracha) in a food processor. Pulse until creamy and well-combined. You may need to ad more liquid depending on your desired consistency. Remove from food processor and top with hot sauce, if desired. Store covered in the refrigerator. Enjoy!
Source: Oh She Glows, who adapted it from Barefoot Contessa

Peanut Butter Pretzel Fudge

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I have one more Christmas treat to share with you and it’s a super simple, easy, and tasty recipe. Before I go any further though, I have to make a comment about the title of this dessert. It is deemed “fudge,” but I know the fudge purists out there (i.e. my beloved Aunt Khaki) will cry foul. It is not boiled or made with cream; but it is still a great addition to your holiday dessert tray. So there you go my sweet fudge queen, Aunt Khaki. You have taught me the true candy-making ways.

Now- onto this dessert. One of my favorite things about this fudge is that it’s no-bake and it only took about 15 minutes of total active time in the kitchen. That, and the fact that the combination of salty, crunchy pretzels and peanut butter go so well with the flavor of bittersweet chocolate.  This is the perfect thing to make with only 5 days before Christmas. Minimal fuss in the kitchen means there is plenty of time to spend with the ones you love the most, which is usually a good thing. :)

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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Peanut Butter Pretzel Fudge

Ingredients

  • 5 ounces (2 cups) salted thin pretzel sticks, broken into ½-inch pieces
  • 12 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1½ cups creamy peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups (12 ounces) powdered sugar
  • 2 ounces (½ cup) bittersweet chocolate chips (semisweet or milkchocolate is fine, too)
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Directions
1. Line an 8×8 inch pan with foil. Spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

2.Process 1 cup of the broken pretzels in a food processor until finely ground. Combine pretzel crumbs and the 12 tablespoons melted butter in a bowl of a stand mixer. Let sit for 5 minutes.
3.Add the peanut butter, vanilla and salt to butter mixture and mix on low speed until smooth. Slowly add the powdered sugar and mix until peanut butter mixture comes together. Add remaining 1 cup broken pretzels and mix until just combined.

4.Transfer peanut butter mixture to the prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Cover surface directly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
5. Microwave the chocolate and corn syrup in 30 second intervals, stirring after each 30 seconds. Continue to put in the microwave for 30 seconds until fully melted. Stir until smooth. Pour over top of the chilled peanut butter fudge and spread evenly. Cover pan and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 2 days. This fudge also freezes really well for a few weeks.

Source: America’s Test Kitchen Best-Ever Christmas Cookies

 

 

Soft Cut-Out Cookies with Fluffy Buttercream Frosting

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What are your all-time favorite Christmas cookies? I adore a lot of them, but the top spot in my heart goes to soft cut-out cookies with fluffy icing. The whole process brings back a lot of happy memories from
my childhood. If my mind serves me right, my mom usually made spritz, snowball, and cut-out cookies at Christmas time. I always loved helping frost the cut-out cookies and eating the icing when my mom wasn’t looking. One Christmas, I ate so much, I ended up with a bad stomach ache. Or maybe that was the Christmas when everyone in our family came down with a nasty bout of gastroenteritis? Nothing says “Merry Christmas” quite like spending the night curled up in the fetal position on the bathroom floor. Happy memories… and a great topic for a food blog.

Anyways, back to these particular cookies…

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I used one of my favorite drop cookie recipes for sugar cookies and decided to see if the dough would hold up as cut-outs. Boy, does it ever. The cookies are soft on the inside, but have enough of a sturdy exterior that they can be topped with frosting. And the frosting is just lovely. It’s fluffy, pillowy, and it pairs so well with the cookies.

I should point out that the cookie recipe calls for a lot of vanilla and baking powder, so make sure your pantry is well-stocked. This recipe can also be doubled and it freezes great. It’s perfect for making a few weeks in advance.

I hope you will fall in love with these cookies as much as we did.

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Soft Cut-Out Cookies with Fluffy Buttercream Frosting 

Ingredients

For the Cookies

  • 4½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 4½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 5 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the frosting

  • 3 sticks + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream (or milk)
  • 2 teaspoons  pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Directions

1. Make the cookie dough ahead of time: beat the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add in the vanilla and mix until combined.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Slowly add the flour to the butter mixture, just until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure the dough is evenly mixed. Chill the dough for a hour.

3. While dough is chilling, make the frosting. Place the butter, salt, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Whip the butter at medium speed until it is pale yellow and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Gradually add in the powdered sugar, about 1 cup at a time until well-combined. Add in the cream and mix well. Add in desired food coloring.

4. When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.Roll out the dough on a lightly-floured surface with a rolling pin until it is about 1/8 inch thick. Cut out with desired cookie cutters.  Transfer to baking sheet and dpace the cookies about 2 inches apart. Bake about 8-9 minutes or just until set. Be careful not to overbake – they should barely browned on the bottom. Let cool on the baking sheet for several minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely,

5. Decorate cooled cookies with frosting using a knife, offset spatula, or piping tips (I used Wilton 233 tip for the Christmas trees). Top with sprinkles, if desired.

Source: Cookies- Annie’s Eats (originally adapted from Hostess with the Mostess), Frosting- barely adapted from Sweetapolita 

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Date Nut Pinwheels

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When I was planning what cookies I was going to bake for this Christmas season, I perused through my cookbooks and surfed my Pinterest boards and found myself in absolute sensory overload. I couldn’t decide, so I asked Bert what his favorite Christmas cookies are and after brief deliberation, he decided on date nut pinwheels. I was kind of surprised to learn this little fact about the guy I have grown to know so well that I can (and, so annoyingly, do) finish his sentences. My husband, who has declared chocolate chip the supreme cookie of all time and holds a classic double chocolate cake as his most revered birthday treat, had revealed to me a side of him that I never knew. The lad loves the underrated and often overlooked date nut pinwheel. My heart swelled with pride and I marked my notebook in pen; date nut pinwheels were a must for this holiday season.

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These cookies are a little more time-consuming in that you have to allow plenty of time to make and cool the filling, and chill the dough two separate times. The actual rolling up of the pinwheels can be a little intimidating, but the folks at America’s Test Kitchen included great instructions on how to do it simply with parchment paper. I was feeling a little sassy and festive on the day I was baking these and decided to have Bert and Smith record me rolling up one of the pinwheel logs . I always learn better by watching a video over a series of pictures, so I’ve included the video here. It’s very homemade, but I hope you find it helpful.

Have a wonderful week, everyone, I am going to be posting more holiday treats on the blog as Christmas nears. It’s going to be extra sweet around here, but I have some lighter recipes to share in a few weeks, as well.

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Date Nut Pinwheels

Yield: America’s Test Kitchen says 40 but I got around 48

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped fine
  • 9 ounces pitted dates, chopped fine (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) packed brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

1. Bring the pecans, dates, 1/2 cup sugar, and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir frequently and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture is thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 1 hour.

2. Use the paddle attachment in a standing mixer to beat together the butter, brown sugar, and remaining 1 cup of granulated sugar. Beat for about 3 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, soda, and salt. Set aside. When your butter mixture is nice and fluffy, turn the mixer to low and slowly add in the eggs, one at at time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowls and mix again. Next, add in the vanilla and mix until well-combined. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add in the flour mixture, in about 3 additions, until the dough is just sticking together. Turn off the mixer and divide the dough into two equal-sized hunks. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

3. After the filling is cooled and the dough has chilled, place one of the hunks of dough on a lightly-floured piece of parchment paper. Roll the dough into a 9×13 inch rectangle and spread half of the date filling on the dough using a rubber spatula. Pull up on the long side of the parchment paper that is facing you and slowly peel and roll the dough while pulling up on the parchment paper to form a log (see video above). Repeat with the other hunk of dough. Place the logs on a cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or up to 1 day. You can also speed up this process by freezing the dough for about 1 hour.

4. When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with greased parchment paper or silicone mats. Carefully slice the logs using a sawing motion as to not flatten the pinwheels into rectangles. Gently adjust the sliced cookies with your fingers to make them rounder. Place on baking sheets, about 2 inches apart, and bake for 14-16 minutes**, rotating the pans halfway through. Remove from the oven and let cookies cool completely.

**America’s Test Kitchen provides a baking time of 18-22 minutes, but I found that my cookies were a little overdone at this time. My advice would be to do a test cookie and see which duration works best for you.

SourceAmerica’s Test Kitchen Best-Ever Christmas Cookies