Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Galette

Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Galette

Large cookies. Rustic pastry. Flat cake. Pizza pie. Can you picture it? Using these descriptions, can you picture a galette? Well, yes, you did have the advantage of that pretty picture that intrigued you enough to be reading my post but aren’t those some pretty awesome culinary adjectives? One look at that freeform, perfectly-imperfect Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Galette and it’s easy to be intrigued.

galette 101

Similar to a pastry (like pie crust) or more like a pancake or crepe, the base of a galette is subject to regional adaptations. Some are even made with potatoes. Fillings can be sweet (fruit and/or cream fillings) or savory (vegetables, herbs, cheeses and/or meats). The edge of the crust is often folded up and onto the filling to keep the filling contained and for convenience of eating. The fact that it looks stunning doesn’t hurt either!

Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Galette

start here

For anyone who has ever hesitated to make a pie from scratch, this is the place to start.

  1. Store-bought crust is fine. Sometimes it is a good idea to simplify certain steps in a process to gain experience which will, in turn, encourage more confidence. It will be delicious! However, making pie crust from scratch is one of my favorite things to do and I credit that to the recipe I use (thank God for church cookbooks). It’s called Never Fail Pie Crust for a reason and this link includes a video of the rolling process and a trick on how to transfer the crust to the plate. One batch will make 3 single crusts which can be made ahead and frozen.
  2. A galette simplifies the pie-making process by using a cookie sheet in place of a pie plate. Once the crust is rolled out, it only needs to be transferred to, and laid flat on, the cookie sheet … no centering the crust over the plate … no crimping edges. It is a perfect way to become comfortable rolling out and handling pie crust.
  3. Make your own filling. This is where the homemade factor is really noticeable. It is not a difficult process and the smell of the fruit simmering is worth every minute! Also, the filling can be made a day or two in advance. If you still need convincing, the galette most likely will not hold all of the filling which means … LEFTOVERS! Just imagine the warm blueberries spread over pancakes or waffles or stirred into oatmeal. Even cold, it can be mixed into yogurt or added to a smoothie!

Blueberry Pie Filling

the folding process

ready … set … blueberry lemon ricotta galette

Print Recipe
Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Galette
This rustic pie, or galette, is filled with homemade blueberry-lemon filling and ricotta cheese sweetened with honey. Get the recipe and tips for making this perfectly-imperfect dessert!
Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Galette
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Passive Time 2-3 hours
Servings
8 slices
Ingredients
  • 1 Lemon
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water divided
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract optional
  • 1 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 pie crust see notes below
  • 2 tablespoons raw (Turbinado) sugar or granulated sugar
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Passive Time 2-3 hours
Servings
8 slices
Ingredients
  • 1 Lemon
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water divided
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract optional
  • 1 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 pie crust see notes below
  • 2 tablespoons raw (Turbinado) sugar or granulated sugar
Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Galette
Instructions
  1. Zest and juice the lemon.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine blueberries, sugar and 1/4 cup of water. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Simmer until blueberries pop or burst easily with light pressure from the back of a spoon (5-10 minutes).
  3. Combine corn starch with remaining 1/4 cup of water. When most of the blueberries have burst, drizzle the corn starch and water mixture over the syrup, stirring constantly.
    Blueberry Pie Filling
  4. Continue to simmer until filling thickens. The consistency should be thicker than maple syrup but not as thick as a fruit jam. Add half of the lemon zest, half of the salt and the almond extract (if using) to the filling and stir to combine.
  5. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely (2-3 hours or overnight in the refrigerator).
  6. Preheat oven to 400°.
  7. Combine ricotta cheese, honey, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Set aside.
  8. Roll out pie crust into a 12" circle on a floured surface. Transfer crust to a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.
  9. Sprinkle a few of the almonds and the remaining lemon zest around the inner 9" circle of the crust (staying away from the outer edges). Drop the ricotta mixture by spoonfuls around the inner circle and gently spread to cover, leaving the outer 2"-3" of crust bare. See video in text above.
  10. Spread a thick layer of blueberry filling over the top of the ricotta mixture. Any remaining filling can be used as a topping for pancakes or waffles or stirred into oatmeal or yogurt.
  11. Gently lift an outside section of the crust and fold it over onto the blueberry filling. Working around the crust, continue to make folds that slightly overlap the previous fold until filling is enclosed. Gently press on the folds to "seal".
  12. Whisk together the lightly beaten egg and a tablespoon of water and brush a thin layer all around the crust. Sprinkle crust with almonds and sugar.
  13. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and filling begins to bubble.
  14. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes before serving.
Recipe Notes

Pie Crust: It is perfectly fine to use a store-bought crust. It is absolutely perfect to use one of the crusts from my Never Fail Pie Crust post too!

 

pin it for later!

Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Galette

Reuben Meatballs Feature

Reuben Meatballs with Thousand Island Coleslaw

Daffodils, daylight savings time, green beer, Lent, basketball: March has arrived. I typically forget to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day, have never filled out a March Madness bracket, and miss that hour of daylight in the morning. However, the extra hour of daylight in the evenings, the sight of the first green blades of grass and an Iowa State trip to the Big Dance are worth celebrating. What better way to celebrate than with a seasonal meal: Reuben Meatballs with Thousand Island Coleslaw!

Reuben Meatballs

deconstructed sandwich: reuben meatballs

I love Reuben sandwiches all year-long, but seem to crave them more in March when Corned Beef and Cabbage is so popular. When thinking about creating a meatball from this amazing sandwich, there were the obvious ingredients to consider: corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, rye bread, and Thousand Island dressing. The difficult part would be recreating that distinct flavor balance throughout each meatball.

corned beef

The biggest challenge for this recipe was the main ingredient. I wanted to use ground beef as it is convenient and accessible. I have had mixed experiences buying corned beef in the deli counter: sometimes it’s great and sometimes it isn’t. Starting with a beef roast and allowing it to cure for 10 days was obviously much too complicated a process for making meatballs. After researching the spices and herbs used to create the brine for corned beef, a rather unusual combination resulted and, more importantly, worked! You can see the list of ingredients for the seasoning in the recipe below. Do not allow the number of ingredients to discourage you from making this recipe. They are likely already in your cupboard and take little time to measure and combine.

cabbage

The cabbage that typically accompanies corned beef is incorporated two ways in this recipe: as sauerkraut inside, and in the coleslaw beside, the meatball. Replacing the milk that is typically added to a meatball mixture with finely chopped sauerkraut and some of the sauerkraut liquid ensures that element of the Reuben will not be lost.

And who can resist that layer of tangy dressing? Using it to create a side of Thousand Island Coleslaw and as a dipping sauce for the meatballs carries the flavor into every bite.

rye bread

A Reuben just wouldn’t be a Reuben without rye bread. Making homemade bread crumbs is super easy and immediately adds more flavor to the meatballs. A blender is the perfect tool for making flaky breadcrumbs. My food processor tends to grind the bread up, making the crumbs dense. If the bread crumbs are dense, the meatballs will be too.

Reuben Meatballs Prep

bonus flavors

The trial run of this recipe turned out well but was definitely lacking something. My family agreed that they tasted good but did not taste like a Reuben. Adjusting the ingredient proportions and adding toasted caraway seeds was all it took to make the difference. Toasting and crushing the seeds is important; it brings out the oils in the seeds which wakes up the flavors.

The final enhancement comes from baking the meatballs alongside some carrots, celery and onions. When a beef roast is curing, these vegetables are added to the brine to give more flavor to the meat. Placing them on the pan with the meatballs will deliver a similar subtle flavor.

I am very happy with the results of this recipe. There were enough meatballs leftover so we now have a bag in the freezer to enjoy another day.

TIP: When reheating leftover Reuben meatballs, place some extra sauerkraut in a pan
with the meatballs and slowly warm them on the stovetop. The moisture from the
sauerkraut will keep the meatballs from drying out.

Blessings of March

Among all the other wonderful things about the month of March, I do love the season of Lent. Ash Wednesday, the midweek services and the accompanying soup suppers prior, Holy Week and the celebration of Easter are a traditional transition from winter to spring for my family. So allow me to close this post with a beautiful Irish blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Reuben Meatballs

Print Recipe
Reuben Meatballs with Thousand Island Coleslaw
Deconstruct that Reuben sandwich and you've got a bite-sized meatball! Ground beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, rye bread crumbs create an awesome replica in this recipe!
Reuben Meatballs Feature
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
50-60 meatballs
Ingredients
Meatballs
  • 2 teaspoons toasted caraway seed see notes below
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 cups sauerkraut
  • 8-10 slices rye bread
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
  • 1 cup shedded Swiss cheese
  • 1 onion peeled and cut into 1” pieces
  • 3 carrots peeled and cut into 1” pieces
  • 2 stalks of celery cut into 1” pieces
Thousand Island Slaw
  • 1 14-ounce bag Coleslaw Mix no dressing needed
  • 1 cup salad dressing or mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sweet or dill pickle relish see notes below
  • 1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
50-60 meatballs
Ingredients
Meatballs
  • 2 teaspoons toasted caraway seed see notes below
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 cups sauerkraut
  • 8-10 slices rye bread
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
  • 1 cup shedded Swiss cheese
  • 1 onion peeled and cut into 1” pieces
  • 3 carrots peeled and cut into 1” pieces
  • 2 stalks of celery cut into 1” pieces
Thousand Island Slaw
  • 1 14-ounce bag Coleslaw Mix no dressing needed
  • 1 cup salad dressing or mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sweet or dill pickle relish see notes below
  • 1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
Reuben Meatballs Feature
Instructions
Meatballs
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toast caraway seeds in a dry pan over low heat, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. Remove from pan and into a small bowl. Add black pepper, salt, cinnamon, allspice, clove and ginger. Place in a small food processor or coffee grinder and pulse until caraway seeds have been crushed. Mixture could also be placed in a resealable plastic bag, folded into a towel and crushed with light pressure from a rolling pin.
  3. Add 2 cups of sauerkraut, removing as much liquid as possible, in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
  4. Tear half of the the rye bread slices into smaller pieces and place in a blender. Pulse until fine crumbs form. Measure resulting crumbs and repeat with more bread to make 3 cups.
  5. In a large bowl, combine ground beef, 1 1/2 cups of the chopped sauerkraut, spice mixture, eggs, mustard, 2 cups of the bread crumbs and cheese.
  6. Form into 1 1/2 inch meatballs. If the mixture is too soggy, add more breadcrumbs (1/2 cup at a time). If the mixture is too dry, add liquid from sauerkraut (1/4 cup at a time). Make adjustments until meatballs will hold together. Place in a roasting pan or two sheet pans that have been coated with cooking spray or lined with aluminum foil. Leave room between the meatballs to allow browning and even baking. Toss carrots, onions and celery in between the meatballs.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Larger meatballs may require more baking time.
  8. Serve hot with Thousand Island Coleslaw.
Thousand Island Coleslaw
  1. Combine all ingredients except cabbage mix in a bowl and stir to combine.
  2. In a large bowl, combine coleslaw mix and half of the dressing. Fold together gently just until cabbage is lightly coated with dressing. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. The salt will draw out the water from the cabbage, adding moisture to the slaw. More dressing can be added according to personal preference.
  3. Serve remaining dressing as a dip for the meatballs.
Recipe Notes

Toasting Caraway Seeds: Pour seeds into a dry, non-stick pan over low heat, stirring frequently. Allow seeds to warm 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant. Remove from heat and from pan and allow to cool.

Pickle Relish: If using dill relish instead of sweet, add one teaspoon of sugar to the dressing.

Reuben Meatballs

 

Cajun Chicken & Andouille Pasta Feature

Cajun Chicken & Andouille Sausage Pasta

Disclaimer: I’ve never been to Louisiana. I am not French, Creole, Cajun or even the slightest bit southern. “BAM!” sounds ridiculous coming from my mouth. The only qualification I have for preparing a Cajun recipe is that I like spicy food. That being said, this recipe for “Cajun Chicken & Andouille Sausage Pasta” makes my family happy and therefore I am sharing it with you.

advice from my favorite cajun

If I told you my cousin married a man from Louisiana (born in New Orleans and raised in Lafayette), would that help? It does when he clarifies a few things for this midwest farmer’s daughter. I asked him what he would want people to know about Cajun food:

  1. Cajun and creole are not the same thing. New Orleans is creole – much more Spanish and Haitian influence and more tomatoes.
  2. “Cajun” is a phonetic derivative of the French word “acadian”. Acadiana is the region in south central Louisiana where you find true Cajun food – all of which is based on classical French cuisine and adapted to what could be grown very cheaply as the people were poor.
  3. Food and family are the absolute heart of Acadiana – so we pour all of our love for God and each other into our dishes.

I think my cousin married well … don’t you??

Cajun Chicken & Andouille Pasta

cajun + chicken + Pasta

Pasta is not the first thing I think of when it comes to Cajun/Creole food. Rice might be more authentic and could certainly be adapted into this recipe. As is the case with so many recipes, this one seems to be a melting-pot version: taking elements from a variety of cultures (or what’s available in the pantry) and making something different.

Andouille is a French sausage that was brought to Louisiana, as so many wonderful foods are, by immigrants. It is a spicy sausage but I have quickly learned that heat levels vary greatly among different brands. The one used for this post was disappointingly mild … which might be perfect for you. My best advice is to ask and try. Before adding all the cooked sausage to the dish, try it. If it’s too spicy, don’t add it all. If it’s not spicy enough, consider adding more cayenne pepper or Tabasco sauce. Make notes on the brands you like or don’t like on the recipe so it will turn out perfect next time.

There are many Cajun seasoning blends on the store shelf and, like the Andouille, they vary in heat levels too. It is not difficult to make your own blend and it is always a good idea to look for a recipe by someone you trust. In this case, I’d go to Emeril Lagasse. Here is his recipe for Creole Seasoning. Yes, it’s “creole” instead of “cajun”. There is no intent to mislead or misrepresent. It will be delicious.

Just say “BAM!” when you add it and all will be well.

recipe

Print Recipe
Cajun Chicken and Andouille Pasta
Dice up the Cajun Trinity (onion, celery and peppers), simmer a spicy tomato-based sauce, add chicken and andouille sausage and toss in pasta ... ready, set, GEAUX!
Cajun Chicken & Andouille Pasta Feature
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hours
Servings
4 people
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil divided
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 pound Andouille Sausage cut into 1/2-inch rounds or semi-circles
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning divided
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced green/red pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 2-3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 3-4 sprigs of fresh
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 3-4 drops Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 15-ounce can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 cups chicken stock/broth
  • 8 ounces fettuccini, linguini or penne pasta
  • 1/3 cup half-n-half
  • 1/2 cup diced green onions
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hours
Servings
4 people
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil divided
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 pound Andouille Sausage cut into 1/2-inch rounds or semi-circles
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning divided
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced green/red pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 2-3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 3-4 sprigs of fresh
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 3-4 drops Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 15-ounce can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 cups chicken stock/broth
  • 8 ounces fettuccini, linguini or penne pasta
  • 1/3 cup half-n-half
  • 1/2 cup diced green onions
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Cajun Chicken & Andouille Pasta Feature
Instructions
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of Cajun seasoning over diced chicken pieces and place half of the chicken in the pan (do not crowd). Brown chicken on all sides, remove from pan and repeat (adding last tablespoon of olive oil to pan) with the remaining chicken.
  2. After removing all the chicken pieces, sauté sausage pieces 2-3 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pan.
  3. Sauté onion, peppers and celery in the last tablespoon of olive oil for 3-4 minutes; add garlic and continue cooking for another minute, stirring constantly.
  4. Add thyme, cayenne, black pepper, basil, 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning, celery salt and bay leaf; stir until fragrant (about one minute).
  5. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce and white wine. Simmer for 5 minutes to cook out the alcohol from the wine, stirring frequently to release the browned "bits" of chicken and sausage from the bottom of the pan.
  6. Add sugar, tomatoes and chicken stock/broth; simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until liquid has reduced by at least half.
  7. While sauce is simmering, cook pasta according to package directions. Do not overcook as pasta will continue cooking when added to the sauce.
  8. When the sauce has reduced, remove and discard bay leaf (and fresh thyme stems if using), stir in half-n-half and then the chicken and sausage and return to a simmer. Make sure chicken is fully cooked.
  9. Add pasta to the sauce and meat and toss until pasta is coated. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese and 1/4 cup of the green onions.
  10. Serve with remaining Parmesan cheese and green onions.

Cajun Chicken and Andouille Pasta Pin

Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies

Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies

The winter of 2018-19 here in the midwest has been beautiful … but long and cold. We are searching for any hints of spring to help us through this virtual hibernation. For me, that hint came in the form of a request to help a friend and colleague with her tablescaping presentation for the DIY Or Don’t Expo in Des Moines. Rebecca, owner of This New Old House, asked me if I’d be interested in making some kind of baked treat for each place setting of her table. She described her vision and these beautiful Lemon Thyme Shortbread cookies came to mind.

shortbread basics

Shortbread might just be the simplest recipe I have ever encountered. Butter, sugar, flour … that’s it. Scottish by origin, these biscuits are simply delicious! This particular recipe varies a little from the traditional 1:2:3 ratio of sugar:butter:flour and calls for slicing the cookies into little rounds, or circles. Other traditional shortbread shapes include the fingers (long and rectangular) or a pointed wedge, which brilliantly, allows the cookie to fit into a wine glass for dunking.

I know, right?!?

I suppose that would also be a good shape for enjoying with tea but I’ll bet you’re stuck on that wine idea.

Getting a little silly with the wine discussion but seriously it brings us to the next beautiful thing about shortbread: it’s versatile. What you stir into the basic dough is up to you.

Lemon Thyme Shortbread

shortbread seasons

We choose different wines or teas because of personal preferences … spice, fruit and floral notes. Each season we crave and respond to different flavors: lemon and herbs in the spring and summer, orange and warm spices in the fall and winter.

Herbs, dried fruit, spices and juices/zest are the best options for customizing shortbread cookies. Herbs may seem an unusual addition for cookies but they add a subtle flavor. Use fresh herbs, not dried. Just as you wouldn’t want to bite into dried herbs by themselves, you don’t want to bite into a cookie and be overwhelmed by the herb itself.

If you want to add dried fruit, start with a quarter cup and make sure it is finely chopped. Adding too much will keep the dough from holding together and pieces that are too big will not distribute nicely throughout the dough.

I am already thinking about combinations for the other seasons this year:

SUMMER: Lime Basil
FALL: Cranberry Walnut
WINTER: Grapefruit Rosemary

Where are your taste buds leading you?

Lemon Thyme Shortbread

lemon thyme shortbread recipe

Print Recipe
Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies
The basic shortbread recipe becomes the perfect cookie for spring with the addition of lemon and thyme. Enjoy with a glass of tea (hot or iced) or wine.
Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 2 hours
Servings
3-4 dozen cookies
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup butter room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves chopped
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt omit if using salted butter
  • additional sugar for baking optional
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 2 hours
Servings
3-4 dozen cookies
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup butter room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves chopped
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt omit if using salted butter
  • additional sugar for baking optional
Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream butter and sugar in a mixer until light and fluffy.
  3. Add lemon zest, lemon juice and thyme leaves and mix until combined.
    Fresh Thyme and Lemon Zest
  4. Add flour and salt and continue mixing, scraping the sides of the bowl, until well combined. Dough will be crumbly.
    Shortbread Crumbs
  5. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently press together. Divide into two equal portions and press together again just until dough holds together.
  6. Roll each portion into a long rope with a diameter of a quarter.
    Shortbread Roll
  7. If the dough feels crumbly during the rolling process, simply pinch it together and gently knead the dough two or three times and try rolling again.
    Shortbread Tips
  8. Wrap in plastic wrap and repeat with the other portion of dough.
  9. Refrigerate dough for at least two hours.
  10. Cut one roll into 1/4-inch slices. Place each slice in a shallow bowl of sugar and press gently. Only one side of each cookie needs to be dusted with sugar. Place cookies, sugar-side up and one inch apart, on a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.
  11. Bake for 8 minutes. If cookies are lightly browned on the bottom edges and firm on top, they are done. If not, continue baking, checking every 2-3 minutes. See note below on the effect of different cookie sheets on baking time and oven temperature.
  12. Remove from oven and allow to cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack.
Recipe Notes

The type of cookie sheet, along with the oven temperature, can greatly affect the results of the cookies. A dark, metal cookie sheet will cause the cookies to bake faster and often the bottom of the cookies will be darker. In this case, it is often helpful to decrease the oven temperature by 25 degrees. A lighter weight and/or color cookie sheet (e.g. air-bake) will bake the cookies more evenly at the higher temperature.

Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies

Valentine Food Gift Feature

10 Tempting Food Gifts for Valentine’s Day

Cesar Chavez said: “The people who give you their food give you their heart.” Valentine’s Day is the celebration of sharing our hearts. It only makes sense then to give food gifts for Valentine’s Day.

The good ol’ days

Where did the days of construction paper, crayons, glue and (if you were very lucky) stickers go? Do I just not see it as much because my children are grown? Do kids still scramble to find the biggest shoe box in the house to cover with crepe paper and imperfect hearts for holding the collection of cards from their friends at school? Candy hearts, gum or even a lollipop found taped to a card was extra reason for joy.

Simple joy. Small favors. Thoughtfulness.

I love getting a card in the mail. It’s such a simple thing, really, just knowing someone was thinking of me and took the time to do that old-fashioned act of putting a stamp on an envelope.

Is there anything sweeter (literally and figuratively) than receiving a small cellophane bag of homemade cookies? Maybe a small cellophane bag of homemade cookies with the recipe attached?

Valentine’s Day is a holiday for small gestures of kindness and thoughtfulness, glammed up with a little effort. So let’s break out our crepe paper and crayons … or color printers and glue guns … and see if we can’t find some ideas that will make your Valentine’s heart and stomach happy.

10 food gifts for Valentine’s Day

❤️ number one

Valentine Food Gift Tea

“You are bu-TEA-ful.”

I wish I could take full credit for this one but the idea came from a free publication I picked up at our local Fresh Thyme grocery store last fall. Their theme was “Perfect TEA-cher” (need to show a teacher a little Valentine joy?), but I had it in mind for a very special friend who loves tea and especially the celebration of holidays.

The tea in this cup (from Little Woods Herbs & Teas) is appropriately called “Heart Tonic” and contains these tiny, pink rose petals that emphasize the sentiment. To complete the gift, I added some fruit and nut cookies, honey sticks, a tea infuser and a sweet silver heart-shaped spoon, all tucked neatly inside a mug. A cute heart tag with the words “You Are bu-TEA-ful!” completes the gift.

Heart Tea Spoons

Seriously, though, how CUTE are these spoons! Six of them for $6.50. Get them here.

 

❤️ number two

Valentine Food Gift Pecans

“Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice!”

Sweet and spicy, these pecans are so impressive because they are delicious but also simple to make. The “spice” comes from a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove but you could add a bit of cayenne if you like some actual heat. Almonds, cashews and walnuts are options too.

Including the recipe with this Valentine will remind them all year long that they are special to you. Just like I think about my good friend, Lori, whenever I make them.

There’s only one hitch with this gift … and it’s pretty obvious but bears mentioning: make sure the recipient is not allergic to nuts.

 

❤️ number three

Bacon Hearts Baked Potato

“Don’t go BACON my heart!”

Just the smell of bacon sends a message of love … am I right? Whether you are making pancakes or a cheesy soup (why, yes, I do have a recipe for that), baked potatoes or a BLT sandwich, a heart-shaped piece of bacon provides the perfect, edible adornment to make your family and guests feel special.

Making Bacon Hearts Bacon Hearts

Start with center-cut bacon (it’s not as long as the regular cut) and cut each slice in half lengthwise. Pinch the two ends together and place on a baking sheet (with sides). Take each of the other ends out and around, laying the sides out in a heart-shape, until they meet again in the center. Press these ends together and reshape your hearts. Place baking sheet in a COLD OVEN. Turn oven on and set temperature to 400 degrees. When oven reaches 400 degrees, start checking on the bacon. When bacon is nice and crispy, remove pan from oven. Tip one side of the baking sheet up on some potholders to force the drippings to the other side. Allow bacon hearts to cool (very gently moving them out of the drippings if necessary). Gently remove hearts to paper towels or a plate using a spatula/turner.

Add some maple syrup or black pepper before baking for even more flavor. For more ideas, you can search “bacon hearts” on Pinterest.

 

❤️ Number four

Valentine Food Gift Ice Cream

“My hearts MELTS for you!”

There is not one single thing wrong with a gift card, as long as the gift card is for something the recipient loves. It becomes even more thoughtful when you accent the card with a fun token. Add one of these sweet spoon-straws to a gift card for a favorite ice cream shop and the Valentine goes from nice to a smile-inducing gift.

Yes, I said “spoon-straw”. Brilliant, right? A long-handled spoon with a hole in it so you can slurp up all the melted goodness at the bottom of that root beer float or chocolate shake. I’m pretty sure there are a few frozen beverages that would benefit from a “straw” like this too.

Just sayin’.

You can get them here. Again, six for a little more than a dollar each.

 

❤️ number five

Valentine Food Gift Pizza

“I’m here for you … through THICK and THIN!”

I don’t know about you, but I would have LOVED to get this Valentine when I was in college. An empty pizza box … well, empty except for the gift card to a local pizza place inside … and a supportive message to go with it. This is the gift that says “everything is going to be just fine!”.

DISCLAIMER: For those of you paying attention, when I was in college it would have been a gift CERTIFICATE, not a gift CARD. Ah … memories.

 

❤️ number six

Beer Bread Hostess Gift

“HOPPY Valentine’s Day!”

At first glance, this looks like a “guy” gift. It is, but it is also a gift for CARB LOVERS! This six-pack carrier contains all the fixins for a beautiful loaf of beer bread: simple mix, one bottle of beer, a bottle opener, the recipe and some napkins. If you want to leave out the alcohol, just substitute a bottle of ginger beer.

 

❤️ number seven

Valentine Food Gift Pepper Grinder

“You CRACK me up!”

Who’s the entertainer in your family? Or that friend who bakes the perfect bars for every tailgate and party? These serving pieces are from a local shop called Holly’s. This is a small sampling of the fun selection they have. This apron caught my eye on my way out of the store. I think it’s a compliment for the chef and the non-chef alike!

Food Gift Apron

 

❤️ number eight

Valentine Food Gift Jam

 

“You’re My JAM!”

It doesn’t matter if it’s homemade or a store-bought favorite, jams and jellies are always appreciated. Tie a fun ribbon around the ring, add a silly label and, since you already bought the heart tea spoons, attach one for that little something your Valentine gets to keep after the jam is all gone.

This idea was inspired by the nicest display of kitchen and home products at The Woodsmith Store. We stopped in to get some ideas for floating shelves and I ended up browsing though a collection of Iowa products, tea towels and kitchen gadgets. You never know where inspiration will strike.

Valentine Food Gift Jam

 

❤️ number nine

Valentine Food Gift Cookies“DOG-gone happy you’re my Valentine!”

Your local bakery is an awesome resource for holidays. These adorable heart cookies made into puppy faces charmed me from the minute I ordered my latte at Dutch Oven Bakery. They had other cookie options as well as some very tempting individual cakes. Each bakery has their own personality. A little browsing might help you remember someone who could really use a little something from you.

 

❤️ number ten

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

“LAVA you a lot!”

I think you should be very proud of me. I made it all the way to number ten before I played the chocolate card. This is one of the easiest and most impressive desserts ever made. Serving it warm with a scoop of ice cream melting on top is better than a box of chocolates.

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

This is not just playing the card, it’s winning the game … the Valentine Food Gift game.

Be silly

It’s okay to be silly and to use lots of exclamation marks. Being creative and clever and funny in simple ways is good for the soul … yours and your Valentine’s!

If you haven’t found an idea for your Valentine here, take a minute to think of something simple they love (e.g. my husband loves doughnuts). Try to think of a pun or play or words that goes along with that item (e.g. I love you a HOLE bunch!). Make a tag or card and sneak it into their lunchbox, briefcase, purse, mailbox … somewhere it will surprise them and make them smile.

It is possible you are thinking that you aren’t that creative. Here’s the solution to that problem: do what I did for the doughnut quote above and GOOGLE it! By typing “donut valentine” into the search bar, I found multiple options as well as some free printable cards. Technology can be wonderful!

Personally, I have my eye on that pepper grinder, but don’t tell my husband. He needs to figure this stuff out for himself. 😉

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!

Valentine Food Gifts Pin

Oatmeal Banana Nut Feature

Build-Your-Own Oatmeal Bowls

I did not grow up eating oatmeal.  This probably seems odd given that I grew up on a farm. After all, it’s hearty, healthy, cheap and comforting. We didn’t eat oatmeal.  We used it … in cookies and meatloaf. Only a few years ago did I discover what I was missing.  If you aren’t a fan or if you currently tear open a paper packet and add water and microwave it for a couple minutes, I have three words for you:

Steel. Cut. Oats.

oatmeal bowls

It is trendy to use the word “bowls” as not just a vehicle for holding ingredients but as a descriptor of a meal that is beautiful and composed and satisfying. In this case, oatmeal may be the main ingredient of this breakfast but it’s the flavor profile you build by choosing toppings and mix-ins that keeps your spoon returning to the bowl.

Oatmeal Buffet 3

How to choose?

Think of your favorite quick breads, muffins or doughnuts …

Banana Nut Bowl

Oatmeal Banana Nut 2

Bananas — Walnuts — Cinnamon — Brown Sugar

Berry pecan Bowl

Oatmeal Berry Pecan

Strawberries — Blueberries — Candied Pecans — Honey — Nutmeg

Apple crisp bowl

Oatmeal Apple Crisp

Apple Sauce — Apple Slices — Walnuts — Cinnamon

Or go eccentric with a peanut butter-banana-bacon or chocolate-hazelnut-coconut (Nutella, hazelnuts and toasted unsweetened coconut flakes) bowl.

The combinations are endless and personal. Kids love to make choices. Let them create their own masterpiece … just help them decide appropriate amounts. You never know. You’re little chef might come up with the most unexpected concoction and they might make a pretty delicious discovery!

what makes your stomach growl?

Mix-Ins: peanut/almond/cashew butter, hazelnut spread, jams or jellies, apple sauce, brown sugar
Drizzles: flavored vinegars, honey, maple syrup
Nuts: pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, pepitas, walnuts
Fruit: raisins, dried cranberries, bananas, apples, berries, peaches, pears
Toppings: chocolate, granola, bacon, coconut
Spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, turmeric

CAUTION: It is very easy for this nutritious breakfast to become a sugar-bomb. Find your balance and maintain control of your proportions. Oatmeal is the main ingredient. Choose your healthiest toppings first. Go light on the sweeteners.

overnight oatmeal recipe

Print Recipe
Oatmeal Bowls
Warm, comforting, nutritious, simple and customizable ... oatmeal is the perfect breakfast. Using steel-cut oats and an overnight soaking method, everyone in your family can create their own perfect bowl!
Oatmeal Banana Nut Feature
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
6-8 bowls
Ingredients
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
6-8 bowls
Ingredients
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
Oatmeal Banana Nut Feature
Instructions
  1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan.
  2. Rinse oats with water in a fine-mesh sieve until water runs clear.
  3. Add oats and salt to boiling water. Stir. Remove from heat and cover.
  4. Allow to "soak" overnight.
  5. In the morning, stir and slowly reheat over low to medium-low heat, stirring frequently to avoid scorching.
  6. Gently simmer for 10 minutes or until oatmeal is thick and creamy. Remove from heat. Serve immediately or allow to cool and refrigerate.
  7. To Reheat: Place desired amount in a microwave-safe bowl with 1/4 cup of liquid (milk, water, coffee, etc) and stir to combine. Microwave on high for 30 seconds at a time until hot.

 

Steel-Cut Oatmeal Pin

Instant Pot Egg Bites Feature

Instant Pot Egg Bites

The words “pressure cooker” initiate strong images of my mom standing near our stove, carefully watching a round gauge on a big, metal, enclosed pot. It was not a time to ask her questions or distract her with anything less than a major emergency. Her focus was on that gauge and making sure to adjust the temperature of the burner just enough to keep the pressure from getting too high or too low.

my introduction to instant pot egg bites

When I started hearing people talk about these new, programmable, electric pressure cookers, I was curious, but skeptical. My curiosity started outweighing my skepticism as my Pinterest feed showed more and more uses … stock, dry beans, rice, roast, baked potatoes, cheesecake … in less time and with no gauge-watching. And then my cousin made me egg bites in her Instant Pot. I have never tasted eggs with such an airy texture.

You guessed it … one of those 8-quart Instant Pots was delivered by Santa. I love that guy! I quickly ordered an accessory kit which included a silicone egg mold so I could make those fluffy egg bites. After posting a picture of my first attempt (Parmesan, spinach and prosciutto), recipe requests filled the comments.

start with the basics

It all starts with 3 large eggs and two tablespoons of “liquid”.

I told you it was simple.

The Simple Scrambled version contains 3 large eggs whisked together with 2 tablespoons of milk and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Divide the mixture evenly between the seven molds (not  filling over 75-80%) and cover the mold with aluminum foil.

Instant Pot Egg Bites Tools

NOTE: Not all pressure cookers are the same. I am describing the process I used on
my particular pressure cooker. Make sure you read all directions and safety
precautions for using your pressure cooker and follow those instructions.

Pour 12 ounces of water into the bottom of the Instant Pot. Place egg mold on a compatible, removable trivet and lower into Instant Pot. Lock lid into place, making sure the pressure release valve is set on “SEALING”. Press the “PRESSURE COOK” button and set the time for 10 minutes. It will take a few minutes for the proper pressure level to be reached. At this point, the timer will start counting down from 10. When the ten minutes are over, allow the Instant Pot 12 more minutes to naturally release pressure. Press “CANCEL” and carefully move the pressure release lever from “SEALING” to “VENTING”. Make sure your hand and fingers are not above that lever as hot steam and water will escape as soon as it is moved.

Instant Pot Pressure Valve

The red valve pictured above is the pressure indicator. When it is raised above the lid like this, there is still pressure inside the Instant Pot and it is not yet safe to open. This valve will drop down, indicating that the pressure has dropped and it is safe to open the lid. Open the lid, carefully lift the lid up and away from you so the remaining steam escapes away from your face and hands.

Instant Pot Egg Bites

Using some hot pads (the ones pictured above came with the accessories kit I ordered), remove the  trivet from the Instant Pot and carefully remove the aluminum foil. Allow the egg bites to cool for 2-3 minutes, invert onto a plate, gently apply pressure to the outside of the silicone mold until egg bites drop out.

how do you like your eggs?

Instant Pot Egg Bite Platter

The recipe was just too simple so I just had to experiment a little … like four different versions.

Left to right in the picture above:

  1. Simple Scrambled
  2. Parmesan, Spinach & Prosciutto
  3. Pesto
  4. Salsa and Cheese
  5. Deviled

SIMPLE SCRAMBLED: This is the basic recipe described above.

PARMESAN, SPINACH & PROSCIUTTO: Place a little Parmesan and sautéed spinach in the bottom of each mold. Pour basic Simple Scramble egg mixture into molds and top with a little more Parmesan.

PESTO: Substitute pesto for milk in basic Simple Scramble egg mixture.

SALSA & CHEESE: Substitute salsa for milk in basic Simple Scramble egg mixture. Place a little shredded Mexican blend cheese in each mold and pour egg mixture into molds. Top with a little more cheese. Garnish with thinly sliced jalapeño.

DEVILED: Starting with the 3 large eggs, add 2 Tablespoons mayonnaise or salad dressing, 1 Tablespoon pickle juice, a dash of paprika, a dash (or four) of Tabasco sauce and 1 teaspoon yellow mustard. Garnish with a roasted red pepper strip and/or paprika.

ON THE GO … THE TABLE … Or THE TOAST

It’s a super-convenient breakfast. These can be made ahead, refrigerated and then reheated as needed. (If you are going to reheat them in a microwave, make sure you do so using medium power. Reheating on high power will toughen the eggs and make them rubbery.)

It’s not even necessary to reheat. Think of deviled eggs. They are enjoyed cold.

Speaking of deviled eggs … make these egg bites your go-to appetizer for tailgates, picnics, potlucks and parties.

My favorite way to munch of these cute little bites?

Instant Pot Egg Bite Avocado Toast

Avocado Toast.

Drop the mic.

Instant Pot Egg Bites Pin

Almost Homemade Gravy Feature

The Ultimate (Store-Bought) Gravy Transformation

Like icing on a cake, gravy takes mashed potatoes from yummy to yuuuuu-mmmmmmmmyyyyyyy! Let’s face it though … making gravy is an art. It requires those amazing drippings from slow-roasted meat, the right amount and kind of thickener and a good teacher. Art takes time. Time isn’t always on your side. Enter the ready-to-serve option: never as good as homemade but convenient. What if it could be closer to homemade? All it takes are a few simple tricks.

Gravy from the Store

awareness

This post came into existence because of a text I received from a good friend right before Thanksgiving. She was planning a family meal that would be transported to her mother-in-law’s home and wanted to use a box of turkey gravy she purchased but wanted to know if I had any tips on how to “beef” up (she’s funny that way) the flavor. Not being familiar with the product I asked if she had ever tried it and, if so, what she didn’t like. It was a little bland and quite thin.

Where to start? You can’t bump up the flavor of something if you don’t know what went into making it. Highlight the existing flavors.

She sent me the ingredients; onions, garlic and “spices” were on the list. The word “spices” caught my attention and it made me think of all the amazing flavors that accompany a good Thanksgiving dinner: sage and thyme, lemon and orange, clove and nutmeg. Simple things make a big difference.

The most important thing you can do, before you add anything, is to taste what you have. The most important thing you can do after you add something is to taste it again. Your taste buds will guide you. Pour that gravy into a pan, warm it up and grab a spoon.

Gravy - Herbs

Freshness

Canned/jarred/boxed/frozen foods sacrifice freshness for convenience and longevity. The easiest way to restore some of that freshness is to add … you guessed it … something fresh. Adding a sprig of fresh herbs while the gravy is warming will make a big difference. Pair sage and thyme with turkey, rosemary with beef and ham, and basil and thyme with chicken. One dry bay leaf will save the day for any kind of gravy.

NOTE: Be sure to remove the bay leaf and any herb stems before serving.

Taste it again.

Gravy - Acidity

brightness

An effort to add “brightness” to food has nothing to do with appearance. It is an effort to add some zing to the flavors already present, much like adding lemon juice to a glass of water. It is the acidity of the lemon that achieves the zing. Fresh citrus (juice or zest) and even vinegar can make a surprising difference. Again, think of the seasonality of your meal. Lemons go well with chicken and spring-time dinners. Oranges pair perfectly with fall meals like turkey. Pineapple is always a delicious addition to ham. Although apples don’t fall into the citrus category, a splash of apple-cider vinegar will work well with a pork or beef roast.

Gravy - Spices

Another option is to add spices. Lemon Pepper, nutmeg (especially for white gravy), allspice or ginger will add warmth and depth and make a big impact.

The obvious question is “how much”? Start small. You can always add more. Even a quarter teaspoon of spice, a half teaspoon of fresh citrus zest or a teaspoon of vinegar will go a long way.

Taste it again.

saltiness

We have long been taught that it is the solution to blandness. Ready-to-serve foods seldom require the addition of salt. There are two big clues to help you decide if you should add salt or not. First, look at the label. See where salt falls in the ingredient list. If it’s one of the first ingredients, plenty of salt has already been added. Second, taste it. If, after making the addition of herbs, spices and zest/vinegar, it still needs improvement, add black pepper. Salt and pepper balance each other. Still think it needs salt? Add a little at a time and remember the mashed potatoes will also provide some salt to each bite.

thickness

Too thick? Remember to warm the gravy before you decide if it needs thinning. The easiest way to thin something is to add water but I don’t recommend it. You will not be happy with the flavor. Instead, add the appropriate broth (chicken, beef, turkey or vegetable) in small amounts until the desired consistency is reached.

Too thin? All-purpose flour will do the trick. Mix one tablespoon of flour with one tablespoon of water or broth and dissolve completely. Drizzle half of this mixture into warm gravy and whisk until combined. The flour needs to “cook out” so bring the gravy to a low boil and simmer, stirring frequently, as the gravy thickens. Add more of the mixture if necessary and continue cooking.

Taste it again. A “chalky” flavor (don’t ask me how I know what chalk tastes like … you’ll know it when you taste it) just means it needs to simmer longer.

Gravy - Bouillon and Broth

other gravy tips

Bouillon: I highly recommend Better Than Bouillon as an alternative to bouillon cubes. It is stored in the refrigerator, comes in beef, chicken, turkey and vegetable flavors, is organic and reduced sodium and has easy-to-pronounce ingredients. Adding one-half teaspoon to bland gravy will intensify the flavor without diluting the consistency.

Worcestershire Sauce: A splash of Worcestershire sauce will add spice and zing to the gravy. Be careful. It will also add salt and a darker color.

Well-Seasoned Mashed Potatoes: Make sure you also taste your mashed potatoes. Properly seasoned potatoes will make your properly seasoned gravy taste even better!

spoiler alert

Warning: There are a lot of options in this post. The idea is to provide suggestions that, in the right combination, will work with your pantry and refrigerator. Pick one or two (maybe three) of these suggestions but don’t try adding them all or the gravy will taste worse than it did straight out of the jar.

My friend blended a little turkey bouillon with some flour and water and added thyme. She said it was “perfect”! Not gonna lie. I’m pretty pleased. I learned some new things AND was able to help my friend via text messages with more than 500 miles between us.

It’s like icing on a cake … a mashed potato cake.

Gravy Transformation Pin

 

Lebkuchen (German Honey Cookies)

Grandma Glienke’s German Honey Cookies

Baking cookies at Christmastime is more than a sugar-loaded, flour explosion in my kitchen. As is the case for so many foods, it is the creation and recollection of memories. It is a hands-on recitation of “remember when”. Story after story surfaces about successes and failures, who made which delicacy best and the tricks and tips of those people who taught us the recipes. There is always the regret of not asking more questions regarding the history of those family favorites.

bitte, danke and lebkuchen

The first German word I ever learned was either Bitte (please), Danke (thank you) or Lebkuchen (German Honey Cookies). I spent a lot of time with my Grandma Glienke throughout the year but especially during Weinachten (Christmas). I would help her wrap presents, clean house, put gumdrops on her gumdrop tree, and make cookies. As she aged, it became more of a challenge for her to make all the different types of cookies each year. Luckily, just as I was getting to the age of actually helping and not just “helping”, my mom invited her to come to our house to bake. Not long after, my Grandma Hinkeldey joined us and the four of us joined forces to produce a ridiculous amount of cookies. Sugar cookies, almond cookies (with egg white brushed on top for a shine), peppernuts (German and Danish), peanut butter blossoms, thumbprints (birds nests), snowballs (pecan crescents) and, of course, Lebkuchen.

Lebkuchen (German Honey Cookies)

 

At that age, I was mostly interested in those with chocolate or frosting. Almonds, pecans, walnuts, nutmeg, and clove had little appeal to me. I helped with those simply to get to the ones I wanted. It was unclear to me why anyone would choose a “plain” honey cookie when they could get a stomach ache over a properly adorned sugar cookie … or three.

Brown is a christmas color

With age comes wisdom. I will still grab a well-frosted sugar cookie when I get the chance … and probably ask you for the frosting off of your cookie too … but brown has become my favorite color for Christmas. Give me molasses, honey, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, almonds, pecans and hazelnuts. There is a warmth to these ingredients that is so appropriate during this season.

baking lessons with a side of history

Lebkuchen (German Honey Cookies)

In an effort to learn more about this cookie that made an annual appearance on our Christmas scene, I found this article, A Brief History of Lebkuchen: German’s Heart-Shaped Gingerbread Cookie. Dating back to the 13th century, these “honey cakes” continue to be very popular at the German Christmas markets, are typically heart-shaped and often the size of a dinner plate. Gee … sure sad to know that tradition didn’t trickle down.

The recipe has many variations, some sweeter and some with more spice. Some are decorated with frosting and others with nuts. Some are glazed and some have chocolate (NOTE: chocolate is also brown). As with so many recipes, the adaptations are often regional and subject to ingredients that are readily available and/or affordable.

I wish I had asked Grandma more about her memories of making Lebkuchen. When and why did they change from the traditional round or heart-shape cookies to the Christmas shapes like bells and trees? Did she make these with her mom? Her grandma? Were they her favorite cookie?

the ever-important slice of bread

As mentioned above, the tips and tricks of any recipe passed down from generation to generation are priceless. The trick I learned for this recipe from my Grandma Glienke has nothing to do with measuring, mixing, baking or decorating. It is a way to extend the life of these cookies. If you happen to bake the cookies a little too long or if they lose their chewiness and turn hard and crunchy, simply put a few of the cookies in a plastic bag with a slice of bread for an hour. The moisture from the bread will soften the cookies and restore their chewiness. Now that is a valuable lesson.

adding to my notes

Next year I think I will make two changes to this recipe. First, I will use my heart-shaped cookie cutter (the big one). Second, I will incorporate my other favorite brown ingredient into the recipe by dipping some of the cookies in chocolate.

Don’t worry. There will be plenty of bells and trees and stars.

The traditions will continue.

recipe

Print Recipe
Lebkuchen (German Honey Cookies)
Lebkuchen (German Honey Cookies)
Cook Time 10-15 minutes
Passive Time 1 day
Servings
100 4" Cookies
Ingredients
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar packed
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 2/3 cup dark corn syrup
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • walnuts or peanuts
  • 1 slice bread see notes
Cook Time 10-15 minutes
Passive Time 1 day
Servings
100 4" Cookies
Ingredients
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar packed
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 2/3 cup dark corn syrup
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • walnuts or peanuts
  • 1 slice bread see notes
Lebkuchen (German Honey Cookies)
Instructions
  1. Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar, honey, corn syrup and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes, or until sugar is completely dissolved and ingredients are well combined. Cool to lukewarm and pour into mixer bowl.
  3. Add eggs and one-third of the flour mixture to the bowl and mix on low speed until well combined. Add another third of the flour mixture and continue to mix, scraping the sides of the bowl to ensure flour is mixed into the batter. Add the final portion of the flour mixture and stir it in by hand. If you have dough hooks for your mixer, you may be able to do all of the mixing with your mixer.
  4. Store dough in the refrigerator for at least one day (see storage comments in the post above).
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Apply a light coating of cooking spray to cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
  7. Remove about 1/6 of the dough from the bowl and return remaining dough to refrigerator. Roll dough out on a well-floured, cool surface until it is 1/4" thick. Cut out shapes with well-floured cookie cutters and transfer to cookie sheets, leaving an inch between cookies.
  8. Add some peanuts or walnuts to the shapes, if desired.
  9. Bake for 10-15 minutes, depending on thickness and size. Remove from oven and allow to cool on cookie sheet for 1-2 minutes before removing to a cooling rack or parchment paper.
Recipe Notes

When shapes have been removed from the rolled-out dough, gather the dough scraps and return to refrigerator. When all the original dough has been rolled out once, gather the scraps together and roll out again.

If cut-outs stick to countertop, try running a well-floured spatula underneath to avoid destroying the desired shape.

Why would I list a slice of bread in the ingredients? It's actually an amazing and useful trick. If the honey cookies lose their chewiness and become hard, place a few cookies in a bag with a piece of bread for an hour or two. The moisture from the bread will transfer to the cookies and soften them. Don't leave the bread and cookies together too long though or sogginess will ensue ... and who needs that.

Lebkuchen (German Honey Cookies) Pin

 

Pomegranate and Rosemary Mule

Pomegranate and Rosemary Moscow Mule

If I wasn’t able to convince you to make the pomegranate simple syrup for the Pomegranate Fruit Salad, maybe this will get your attention.

pomegranate and rosemary moscow mule

Pomegranate Mule

Pretty, huh?

Tastes even better.

My intent was for you to make the fruit salad, double the simple syrup and then try these Mules with the extra syrup. Not a rule-follower? It’s ok. I too am attracted to pretty and fragrant beverages that involve gin.

Just do me a favor? At least try the fruit salad. It’s pretty awesome.

If you have yet to click on either of the “fruit salad” links above, I’m going to force you to do so. Why? You need the recipe for the simple syrup and it’s right there in the Pomegranate Fruit Salad recipe.

make the syrup

Pomegranate, Orange and Black Pepper Syrup

Once you have a jar of syrup like this, you are minutes from …

Pomegranate Rosemary Mule

gather other ingredients

You will also need:

  • gin
  • ginger beer
  • fresh lime
  • pomegranate seeds (optional, but awesome)
  • fresh rosemary sprigs

find a mule mug or a pretty glass

Pour one ounce of gin into your mug or glass. Add one tablespoon of the syrup, a squeeze of lime juice and ice cubes. Pour 4-6 ounces of ginger beer into mug/glass and stir with the rosemary sprig. Sprinkle a few pomegranate seeds on top and garnish with a slice of lime.

Don’t have a mule mug? All of your pretty glasses in the dishwasher? No worries. There are worse things than Solo cups.

black pepper? gin?

If you have been following this blog for even a short time, you will have likely picked up on the fact that I am an improviser. Two of my favorite things about this cocktail are the addition of black pepper to the syrup and the substitution of gin for vodka.

Black pepper seems like an odd thing to add to a syrup but, just as the tartness of the pomegranate balances the sweetness of the syrup, the black pepper gives it all a hint of warmth. It’s subtle. So subtle, in fact, that I am likely to add a little cracked black pepper to my next mug along with the sprinkle of pomegranate seeds. I like the contrast.

If you haven’t already called me out on this, Moscow Mules are typically made with vodka. Unless it’s in a Bloody Mary, I’m a gin girl. You can use vodka (might I even recommend the pepper flavored vodkas for this one?). I’m sticking to gin.

We can be friends.

Cheers to that!