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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Carrot Cake Cookies with Cream-Cheese Fillling

With its rich cream-cheese frosting and moist interior, what's not to love about carrot cake? Inspired by another heritage recipe, these carrot cake cookies are ultra delicious.

Carrot Cake Cookies with Cream-Cheese Filling

Makes about 30 sandwich cookies

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pressing cookies
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 3/4 cups carrots, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 1/2 cups raisins
  • Cream-Cheese Filling (recipe follows)
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars on medium speed until mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla; beat on medium speed until combined. 

2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture; mix on low speed until just combined. Add rolled oats, carrots and raisins on low speed; mix just until combined. Do not overmix. 

3. Chill the dough in the mixing bowl for approximately 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with nonstick parchment paper and set aside. Place additional flour in a small bowl. 

4. Using a 1-inch ice cream scoop or your hands, form dough into 1-inch balls and place them on the baking sheets, spacing the cookies at least 2 inches apart. Dip the bottom of a small custard cup or glass in the flour and press down on the balls of dough, forming flat rounds. 

5. Bake cookies until brown and crisp, about 10 to 11 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from front to back in the oven to ensure even baking. Transfer baking sheets to wire racks to cool; cool cookies on baking sheets for 2 to 3 minutes, then remove to racks to cool completely. 

6. Spread about 1 teaspoon of the Cream-Cheese Filling onto the bottom of a cookie. Place a second cookie on top of the filling to form a sandwich. Repeat with the remaining cookies. Store cookies in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. 

Cream-Cheese Filling

Makes about 2 cups
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature, cut into small cubes
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small cubes
  • 1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Place cream cheese in a mixing bowl; beat cream cheese with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add butter and combine with the beaten cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar and vanilla extract; stir until smooth, making sure no lumps of cream cheese or butter remain. Refrigerate until ready to use. 

Peanut Butter Cookies

Heritage recipes are a part of the fabric of American cooking. If you're like I am and have a collection of old-fashioned recipes at home, I'm sure you'll likely find one for old-fashioned peanut butter cookies. These cookies are ones that will transport you back to childhood when your mother or grandmother baked these cookies with the distinctive fork marks on the top.

Here are a few interesting facts about peanuts and peanut butter. Did you know that Americans consume enough peanut butter in one year to make about 1 billion peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? In fact, the average American child will purportedly eat 1,500 peanut butter sandwiches by the time he or she graduates from high school.

Runner peanuts are the best for making peanut butter; these peanuts are grown in Georgia, Alabama and Florida. Despite their name, peanuts are actually not nuts; they're legumes and provide an excellent source of protein in one's diet.

Peanut Butter Cookies

Makes 4 Dozen

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
1. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.

2. Add eggs and vanilla; stir until combined. Add the peanut butter and stir until smooth.

3. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Add the sifted dry ingredients and beat just until blended. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 1 hour.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place balls on baking sheets, spaced about 2 inches apart. Dip the tines of a fork into a bowl of flour, and press balls of dough flat, using the tines of a fork to mark the tops in a crisscross pattern. 

5. Bake until golden brown about 11 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store cookies in an airtight container.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Lunch Box Idea: Green Bean, Scallion and Tomato Pasta Salad Recipe

Add crispness and a boost of flavor to simple spaghetti in this Green Bean, Scallion and Tomato Pasta Salad. This dish sparkles with the colors and tastes of scallions, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese and a light lemon dressing.

Makes 4 servings


  • Coarse salt, for cooking water, plus more for seasoning
  • 8 ounces green beans, washed well and ends trimmed
  • 6 ounces spaghetti 
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper, for seasoning
  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes
  • 2 scallions, white and light-green parts only, chopped
  • 1 large tomato, cored, seeded and chopped
  • Fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves, for garnish (optional)
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium heat. Prepare a large bowl of ice water and set aside. Cut green beans into 2-inch pieces and add to boiling water. Cook for 4-5 minutes, or until the beans are bright green and become tender. Transfer cooked green beans to ice water bath. Let beans sit in ice water for 1-2 minutes, then remove beans from ice water with a slotted spoon and place on a clean kitchen towel to drain.  
  2. Return the saucepan of water to a boil and add another pinch of salt to the water. Once the water returns to a boil, add spaghetti to saucepan and cook according to package directions, or just until al dente. 
  3. In a large serving bowl, whisk together lemon juice and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  4. Place mozzarella cubes in a medium mixing bowl and spoon half of the lemon dressing over the cheese. Toss lightly to coat the cheese cubes with the dressing.
  5. Remove cooked spaghetti from saucepan and transfer pasta with a slotted spoon directly to serving bowl containing the remaining lemon dressing. Toss lightly to coat.
  6. Add cooked green beans, scallions and tomato to serving bowl with spaghetti and toss gently to combine. Sprinkle mozzarella cubes over the top of the salad and toss gently with the vegetables and pasta. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve. Garnish each serving with fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves, if desired, before serving.

Preserving Basil Pesto in the Freezer

You can savor the bounty of summer basil by making pesto. Pesto is favored by Italians for its combination of ingredients: fresh basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts and olive oil. The freezer makes preserving this flavor-packed condiment even easier.

The next time you're looking for an alternative to tomato sauce for your pasta, or a topping for a piece of chicken, defrost some pesto for a quick and delicious way to enjoy the flavor of summer-grown basil.

Makes about 1/2 cup

  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • Coarse salt, for cooking water
  • 4 cups basil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Toast pine nuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet for about 8 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack and let pine nuts cool slightly.
  2. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over medium heat. Wash basil leaves under cold running water. Prepare an ice water bath in a large mixing bowl and set aside. Place basil leaves in cooking water and blanch leaves for 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer basil leaves to ice water bath to stop the cooking. Turn basil leaves out onto a kitchen towel and gently blot dry.
  3. Transfer basil leaves to the bowl of a food processor. Add toasted pine nuts and garlic clove to food processor. Pulse until basil leaves, pine nuts and garlic are broken down. With the motor running, slowly drizzle olive oil through the feed tube and process just until the ingredients are combined.
  4. Use pesto immediately or store for future use. Fill half of an ice cube tray with pesto, transfer tray to freezer and freeze until the pesto is solid. Once frozen, remove the frozen pesto cubes from the ice cube tray and transfer to resealable freezer bags and store in the freezer until ready to use.
Tips: Store pine nuts in the freezer, rather than the pantry, to keep the nuts stable and to prevent them from going rancid in warm places. Blanching the basil leaves in boiling water will preserve the bright green color and prevent the pesto from turning brown.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Cottage Cheese Cheesecake

This rustic dessert is lighter than traditional cheesecake, since it uses cottage cheese in place of cream cheese. This cheesecake is open to a variety of flavoring ideas - citrus fruit zests, flavored extracts, and liqueurs, like Frangelico.

Makes 10 servings


  • Unsalted butter, for buttering pan
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 pounds whole milk cottage cheese
  • Zest of 1 lemon and zest of 1 orange
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan. Tap out excess flour. Place springform pan on a parchment-lined baking sheet and set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, sift together flour and sugar.
  4. In a large bowl, combine cottage cheese, lemon and orange zest. Whisk until mixture is smooth. Add flour and sugar mixture and stir to combine. 
  5. Add eggs, 1 at a time, and stir gently after each addition. Stir in the vanilla and salt. 
  6. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the center of the oven for about 55 to 60 minutes, or until the top of the cheesecake is a light golden color. The center of the cheesecake should be fairly firm; test firmness by inserting the tip of a sharp knife into the center of the cake (it should come out clean). 
  7. Remove cheesecake from oven and let cool in the springform pan on a wire rack. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator until the cheesecake is chilled, about 2-3 hours.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Lemon Drop Cookies

For those who love the crunch of a sugar cookie and the flavor boost from fresh lemon, these Lemon Drop Cookies combine the best of both worlds. For extra crunch and a glistening top, apply a coating of sanding sugar to the tops of the cookies before baking. Due to its coarseness, the sanding sugar won't melt into the cookies during baking.

Makes 24 (3 1/2-inch) Cookies


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Sanding sugar, for sprinkling


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line eight baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and cream of tartar. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well on medium speed after each addition. Add lemon zest and juice and mix just until combined. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture and mix just until the flour mixture is combined. Do not overmix the dough.
  4. Using a 2-inch ice cream scoop, place 3 mounds of dough onto prepared baking sheets, spacing cookies several inches apart. Lightly moisten the palms of your hands and gently flatten down the tops of the cookies. Lightly brush the tops of the cookies with a wet pastry brush and sprinkle sanding sugar over the tops of the cookies. 
  5. Transfer baking sheets to oven and bake for 15 minutes until lightly golden, rotating baking sheets halfway through baking to ensure even browning. Remove cookies from pans to wire racks to cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Tip: If you need to reuse baking sheets when making multiple batches, always make sure you allow the sheets to cool completely from the previous batch before you place the dough onto the baking sheets. Cooling your baking sheets in between batches will prevent the cookies from spreading too much while they're in the oven.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Soup for Supper

Enjoy a light-tasting Jamaican Winter Squash Soup with Salad for a family dinner at home.

After the lavish holiday dinners we've feasted on for Christmas and New Year's celebrations, we may be ready for a simple and light supper. The recipes below make a great healthy and light soup-and-salad supper that's great for a family dinner and for casual gatherings with friends.

Jamaican Winter Squash Soup

Serves 6

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 6 medium scallions, trimmed
  • 6 whole sprigs thyme
  • 1 medium winter squash (about 2 pounds), such as butternut, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes (4 1/2 cups)
  • 3 cups Homemade Chicken Stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth, skimmed of fat
  • 1/2 small Scotch-bonnet chile pepper
  • 2 cups low-fat milk
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Mint or basil sprigs, for garnish (optional)

  1. In a large saucepan over low heat, cook the onion in the butter until tender but not brown. Tie the scallions and thyme together with a piece of kitchen twine. Place the squash, broth, chile pepper and scallion bundle in the saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer until the squash is extremely tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Remove the scallion bundle and chile pepper; discard. Transfer the soup to a blender container and puree until smooth. For a very silky soup, pass through a sieve. Return the pureed soup to the saucepan; add the milk, salt and pepper, to taste. Heat through. Serve topped with mint or basil sprigs, if desired.
Salad Greens with Cheese Croutons

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1/2 cup freshly grated aged white cheddar cheese
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 6 cups torn mixed salad greens
  • 1 recipe Maple Vinaigrette (recipe below)

  1. In a small bowl, toss together the cheddar and Parmesan cheeses. Sprinkle the cheese mixture in the bottom of a heavy, nonstick skillet. Cook over medium heat for about 2 to 3 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and become bubbly over the entire surface. (You may need to reduce the heat, if necessary, to prevent the cheese from overbrowning.)
  2. Tip the skillet to allow excess oil from the cheese to collect in one place in the skillet and remove with a spoon. Carefully lift the "crouton" from the pan with an offset spatula and place on a piece of paper towel to drain; cool. When cooled, crumble the crouton into pieces.
  3. To serve the salad, coat a large salad bowl with some of the Maple Vinaigrette. Add the greens and crouton pieces. Toss to coat. Add additional dressing, if desired.
Maple Vinaigrette

Makes about 1/3 cup vinaigrette

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

  1. In a small jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine all the ingredients.
  2. Cover the jar and shake vigorously.