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You’ve heard it before, many times in fact.  Like many of my fellow blog colleagues I’m not a baker, I’m not much for sweets and I’m astonished at how many food holidays are devoted to desserts.  (Little wonder we have an obesity problem in North America.)  And with this in the distant recesses of my mind I have arrived at Pecan Sandie  Day.   Of all the desserts in the world cookies are the least likely to make me reach for one, the least likely to induce “mmmmmm’s” and also the thing I am least likely to make at home.  Like anyone with young kids in the house, cookies have been part of my culinary repertoire but those days are long over.  So what to do on a day that asks you to make something you don’t particularly like or that fit into your current healthy eating commitment?

I had planned to get all nostalgic and make cookies with my daughter.  I thought I would tell you some charming stories about cooking with my children, about the fun that occurred with them standing on kitchen chairs around the kitchen counter, about the family ties bonded with gooey chocolate chip cookies.  It sounded better in my head.  First, anyone who knows me well would have called me out on my fabricated domestic bliss.  I did cook with my kids, but we spent a good deal more time at hockey, figure skating, soccer, lacrosse, gymnastics, ballet… you get the idea.  I always cooked well for my family and we always ate together at the dining table, but there were few Hallmark moments in our kitchen.  It was a more of a factory operation than anything – cooking large batches of core ingredients that could be one thing today and something completely different tomorrow – packaging some into individual dishes for lunch – prepping what could be done ahead for the next meal.  I mentioned in the pastry blog a few months ago that spanokopita was great for the freezer and worked well in entrée sized portions – in those hectic years I never made fewer than a dozen of the entrée sized pies.

I know.  I am still avoiding the subject.  I didn’t want to admit that I hadn’t actually cooked my mandated dish.  I really had planned on it, but the month has sped past me much more quickly than I anticipated.  In my defense I haven’t been home since the end of May.  The fridge is empty and we’ve been living on take-out for the last two days.  The plan to bake with my daughter in Montreal was foiled by her work schedule and a more demanding conference schedule than anticipated.  So there you have all my excuses.

However, I can tell you what I would have cooked.  Martha Stewart is my go to when it comes to cookies and bars.  Her 1995 book “The Martha Stewart Cookbook: Collected Recipes for Everyday” bears all the hallmarks of a well-loved cookbook, replete with splatters and grubby finger prints.  In that book you will find this recipe for Pecan Cookies on page 544.  I’ve made these cookies for Christmas a few times to rave reviews I might add.  When I was assigned Pecan Sandies, I knew immediately what I would cook.  Please enjoy.

Pecan Cookies

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ pound unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup loosely packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup finely chopped pecans
  • 36 pecan halves
  1. Sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda; set aside.
  2. Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg and vanilla.  Gradually add the flour mixture, a bit at a time, until thoroughly blended.  Stir in the chopped pecans.
  3. Shape the dough into an even cylinder approximately 1 ½ inches in diameter.  Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 15 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 3500F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  5. Remove plastic wrap and cut the dough into slices approximately ¼ inch thick.  Place the slices on the baking sheet (leave room for them to spread) and lightly press a pecan half into the center of each.  Bake until lightly browned, about 12 minutes.  Cool on a rack.

Makes 30 to 36 cookies.

There is another recipe on Martha’s website for Pecan Sandies that has larger chunks of nuts and no baking soda.  The website recipe will make a flat chewy cookie, but I prefer my cookies thin and crispy.  The cookbook refrigerator cookie is the one for me – if I were to make cookies that is.

My sincerest apologies for there are no photos of my kitchen in the ‘90s, no pictures of fresh from the oven cookies.  But trust me on this one.  It’s a good recipe.  If cookies are required I will use this recipe again.  Given the choice, however, I’d prefer to use my pecans for pie.

I promise not to disappoint on Catfish day.

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*whew*

this blog today has been a bit of a challange.

There hasn’t been any internet at my house for about a day. So I hadn’t been able to post the blog last night. I went to bed hoping the connection would be back this morning. But rather that finding the informtion super-highway when I awoke, what I found was that the internet was still down, and now it was blowing a gale outside (literally- my lawn furniture is skittering across my deck at the worst bits!). So, dear readers, I pulled on my warmest hoodie, and took myself to work (!!) on the first day of my 5 day weekend.

I’d like a gold star please. 😉

Today is National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day. I’m not a big fan of PB&J sandwiches, so I thought I would look for a differnet way to bring these ingredients to life/my tummy. What I found is many many recipies for peanut butter and jam/jelly cookies. Which makes perfect sense to me – the only thing that I don’t like about most peanut butter cookies is that they can be kind of dry, sticking to the top of your mouth. What you need is a little sweet jam to keep it moist. It’s so crazy it just might work. Time to get down to work.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies

(my recipe is an adapatation of this recipe from Gourmet Magazine)

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 large egg (or you can use egg replacer)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a bowl whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda. In another bowl whisk together peanut butter, butter, and brown sugar until smooth and whisk in egg and vanilla. Add flour mixture to peanut butter mixture, stirring until blended.

The dough will be very soft- almost too soft to handle. Roll pieces of dough into 1-inch balls and roll in granulated sugar. On a large baking sheet arrange balls 2 inches apart. Don’t squish then, they will melt to flatter on thier own. Bake in middle of oven 7-10 minutes (you want them to have slumped). Working quickly, with the back of a 1/4-teaspoon measuring spoon make an indentation about 3/4 inch in diameter in center of each cookie. Fill each indentation with slightly heaping spoonfull of jam and bake cookies 7-10 minutes more, or until golden. Transfer cookies to racks to cool.

How were they? I think Rumon’s photo of the lovely Aviva enjoying a cookie pretty much speaks for itself…

~Dea

PS- I also made this cake yesterday, which I’m pretty darn happy with. Happy Birthday Kristen!

[Ed. – The lovely Sarah has survived the insanity of the gold medal hockey game, and now is waxing poetic about PB…]

Peanut Butter Lovers Day.  Ah, who among us is not a peanut butter lover?  Crunchy, smooth, organic, sugar free, salt free, homemade … everyone can find a peanut butter they can fall in love with.

I found this on Peanut Butter Lovers.com:

“There are many claims about the origin of peanut butter. Africans ground peanuts into stews as early as the 15th century. The Chinese have crushed peanuts into creamy sauces for centuries. Civil War soldiers dined on ‘peanut porridge.’ These uses, however, bore little resemblance to peanut butter as it is known today.

 

In 1890, an unknown St. Louis physician supposedly encouraged the owner of a food products company, George A. Bayle Jr., to process and package ground peanut paste as a nutritious protein substitute for people with poor teeth who couldn’t chew meat. The physician apparently had experimented by grinding peanuts in his hand-cranked meat grinder. Bayle mechanized the process and began selling peanut butter out of barrels for about 6¢ per pound. ”

My favourite mode of ingesting peanut butter is actually just on a knife.  Out for weekend brunch when you’re starving from standing in line for an hour and there are those wee packets of Kraft peanut butter on a table, who can resist?  Crack one open, scoop some out and mmmmm, you can now wait another 25 minutes for your real breakfast to arrive.  I’m also a fan of peanut butter cookies – just the very plain “1c peanut butter, 1 egg, 1/2 c. sugar, mix and bake at 325 for 12 minutes”.  Deliciously peanut butter-y goodness.  My mom has made, for as long as I can remember, peanut butter chocolate chip cookies on a weekly basis.  My parents are visiting right now so she brought some for Andrew.  Pictured here are both kinds of cookies, in front of the gold medal winning men’s jockey jersey, worn by a very happy Andrew.

Other vehicles for peanut butter enjoyment include smoothies (try it!  Makes the smoothies stick to your ribs), chocolate cups, with homemade jam on homemade bread … the list goes on.  Peanut butter is also a good snack for puppies.  Susie always gets a peanut butter cookie when we visit the dog store in our neighbourhood.  Unfortunately she ate the last one before I could snap a pic.

I leave you with this word of caution oh peanut butter-crossed lovers: too much peanut butter cannot be good for a person, aptly illustrated by one of my favourite poets, Shel Silverstein:

Peanut-Butter Sandwich

    by Shel Silverstein (1932-1999)

I’ll sing you a story of a silly young king
Who played with the world at the end of a string,
But he only loved one single thing —
And that was just a peanut-butter sandwich.

His scepter and his royal gowns,
His regal throne and golden crowns
Were brown and sticky from the mounds
And drippings from each peanut-butter sandwich.

His subjects all were silly fools
For he had passed a royal rule
That all that they could learn in school
Was how to make a peanut-butter sandwich.

He would not eat his sovereign steak,
He scorned his soup and kingly cake,
And told his courtly cook to bake
An extra-sticky peanut-butter sandwich.

And then one day he took a bite
And started chewing with delight,
But found his mouth was stuck quite tight
From that last bite of peanut-butter sandwich.

His brother pulled, his sister pried,
The wizard pushed, his mother cried,
“My boy’s committed suicide
From eating his last peanut-butter sandwich!”

The dentist came, and the royal doc.
The royal plumber banged and knocked,
But still those jaws stayed tightly locked.
Oh darn that sticky peanut-butter sandwich!

The carpenter, he tried with pliers,
The telephone man tried with wires,
The firemen, they tried with fire,
But couldn’t melt that peanut-butter sandwich.

With ropes and pulleys, drills and coil,
With steam and lubricating oil —
For twenty years of tears and toil —
They fought that awful peanut-butter sandwich.

Then all his royal subjects came.
They hooked his jaws with grapplin’ chains
And pulled both ways with might and main
Against that stubborn peanut-butter sandwich.

Each man and woman, girl and boy
Put down their ploughs and pots and toys
And pulled until kerack! Oh, joy —
They broke right through that peanut-butter sandwich.

A puff of dust, a screech, a squeak —
The king’s jaw opened with a creak.
And then in voice so faint and weak —
The first words that they heard him speak
Were, “How about a peanut-butter sandwich?”

~Sarah