Peter

 

 

Autumn’s brilliant colors blanketing the landscape is always a vivid reminder that time is flurrying by and the holidays are just around the corner. For cooks this means it is time for some careful planning that is key to seamless holiday entertaining. Baking cookies tops my list. It is always good idea to include old favorites that are sure please everyone, but I like to include a cookie that has a back story.

Pumpkins and pecans are both native to the Americas. They pair well, and are ideal for both sweet and savory holiday baking projects. I urge you to try these festive pumpkin pecan cookies with a caramel Kahlua glaze. They are sure to liven up your holiday entertaining!

 

Pumpkin Pecan Cookies with Caramel Kahlua Glaze

Makes 24 cookies

preheat oven to 350 f / 180 c

Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.

Ingredients:

Pumpkin Pecan Cookies

  • 1 ½ cups pecans, toasted, and chopped
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ginger
  • ¼ tsp allspice
  • ½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup full fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Caramel Kahlua Glaze

  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp Kahlua (or rum)
  • water to thin

 

Spread the pecans out on a baking sheet and pop them into the preheat oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove them from the oven and set aside to cool. Then chop the pecans and set aside.

Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and auspice and whisk to combine.

, Combine the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar in a mixing bowl. Using either a stand or hand mixer, beat the ingredients on medium high speed until until light and fluffy.  Add the Greek Yogurt and beat  until incorporated. Then ddd the pumpkin puree, and vanilla, and mix on medium low speed until just combined.

Reduce mixer to ow speed and begin adding the dry ingredients. Mixing just until combined. The dough will be very firm.

Add the pecans and fold in using a silicone spatula until evenly distributed throughout the dough.

Using an ice cream scoop with prominently a 2 tablespoon capacity is ideal for shaping the cookies. Dipping the scoop into cold water before scooping up the dough w makes it so much easier to to release the dough onto prepared baking sheet without any fuss. Allow about 1 ½ inches between each cookie.

Gently press the tops of the cookies with your finger tips to flatten them slightly.

Transfer the baking sheet to the oven. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheet front to back half way through the baking time.

When done transfer the baking sheet to a rack and set aside to cool.

Once the cookies are cool you can prepare the glaze.

Measure out the powdered sugar and set aside.

Using a heavy bottomed sauce pan combine the brown sugar and heavy cream set over medium heat. Swirl the pan until simmering. Once the mixture begins to boil turn the heat down so the mixture bubbles evenly, while swirling the pan, for 4 or 5 minutes without overheating.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the Kahlua and swirl until combined.

Promptly add the powdered sugar and whisk continuously until the mixture is smooth and thickening as it begins to cool down. If the mixture begins d to seize up just add a little water the thin it down a bit.

Quickly glaze the cookies by spooning the glaze over the top of each cookie in a circular motion. Work as fast as you can as the glaze will become less fluid as it cools. Should that happen just whisk in a little water to thin the glaze just enough to continue.

Allow the glazed cookies to set for 30 minutes. Yu can then place them in cookie tins with parchment sheets between layers.

 

 

Ditty's Hearty and ever so Healthy Breakfast Muffins

Ditty’s Hearty and ever so Healthy Breakfast Muffins

 

My dear sister has been baking various renditions of her ever evolving hearty breakfast muffins for as long as I can remember.

Like so many home cooks these days she has been updating and adapting her muffin recipe to accommodate her extended family’s food intolerance issues. Lactose and gluten intolerance are as common these days as is an awareness for reducing fats and sugar in our everyday

diets.

There is such an abundance of healthy nutritional ingredients baked into these breakfast muffins to fuel even the busiest of mornings!

 

Ditty’s Healthy and ever so Hearty Breakfast Muffins

makes 12 muffins

Equipment: 12 muffin baking tin lightly spritzed with cooking spray

preheat oven to 400 f /180 c with oven rack set in the center position.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups gluten free flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • ¾ cup chopped dates, golden raisins, or dried cranberries
  • ½ cup broken pecans, walnuts, or slivered almonds, + 12 whole nuts for garnish
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 large organic eggs
  • 2 cups almond milk
  • ½ cup applesauce or Greek yogurt, or a combination of both
  • 1cup peeled and diced apples or pears, optional

For the Holidays add the following :

  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree to the batter;  omitting the of Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • a pinch  of clove
  • Topping:
  • 1 egg white, whisked
  • 1 tablespoon each of cinnamon and sugar, combined
  • 12 whole nuts for garnish

 

In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and rolled oats all stirred together until well combined. Add the dates, or other dried fruit, and pecans, or other nuts, and the sugar. Using your hands massage all the ingredients together until well incorporated.

In a separate bowl combine the eggs and almond milk and whisk until combined.

Begin adding the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients while stirring with a wooden spoon. Continue adding the liquid mixture and folding it into the batter until well combined.

Add the applesauce and / or the Greek yogurt and fold in until well combined.

 

Then fold in the diced apples or pears if using.

Using an ice cream scoop, fill the muffin tin until each cup his fully filled with batter and the batter that is mound up slightly in the center of each muffin.

Whisk the egg white and lightly brush the tops of each muffin. Place a whole nut atop each muffin and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Transfer the muffins into the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes. Test by inserting a skewer into the center of a muffin. If the skewer comes out clean when withdrawn the muffins are done.

Transfer the muffins in the tin to a cooling rack and set aside to cool.

Best to Serve the muffins while they are sill warm!

Za'atar Lemon Chicken

Za’atar Lemon Chicken

 

Za’atar chicken is a paring born out of south eastern Europe and the Middle East. Za’atar is a centuries old seasoning mixture of ground dried hyssop leaves and flowers combined with ground sumac, ground  toasted sesame seeds, and sea salt. Za’atar’s flavor is as beguiling as is the regions where the herbs are grown. The distinctly minty flavor of the hyssop combined with the citrus like flavor of the sumac imparts a lovely earthy citrus note to grilled meats as well as vegetables and flat breads that make up the foundation of eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern meals.

Za’atar can be found in Middle Eastern shops and markets and, due to it’s increasing popularity with European and American cooks, Za’tar is more than likely available in your local supermarket as well.

That said many ready made za’atars may include other herbs, spices as well as chile. I much prefer sticking to the basics and mixing up my own za’atar ground and blended at home. Hyssop and sumac are readily available online. Proportions of ingredients when making your own Za’atar vary to suit your own tastes. 

As there are so many tasty applications for Za’atar  you will find yourself mixing up your own Za’atar at home as well as exploring store bought blends. 

Za’atar Lemon Chicken:

serves 4

  • 2 organic chicken breasts, skin on
  • 2 organic chicken legs, skin on 
  • 2 organic chicken thighs, skin on
    1 cup full fat fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely grated
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil plus more for drizzling
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise and halved
  • 2 lemons, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 2 tablespoons za’atar
  • fresh watercress as a garnish

Choose a mixing bowl that will hold all the chicken and marinade snugly.

In the bowl combine the yogurt, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, and salt and pepper. Stir until well combined. Add the chicken and press into the marinade until submerged. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400 F / 220 c

Needed: a shallow roasting pan

Lightly oil the roasting pan pan with a little olive oil. Remove the chicken from the marinade, shaking off excess marinade, and placing the chicken pieces, skin side up, evenly distributed in the roasting pan.

Scatter the sliced shallots over the chicken and season generously with za’atar.

Place the lemon rounds on top of each piece of chicken and drizzle lightly with olive oil and season the lemon rounds with a light dusting za’atar.

Transfer the chicken to the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Test the chicken using a thermometer with an internal temperature of 165 degrees f. If the chicken is not quite done pop it back in the oven for another 10 minutes or more if needed.

Allow the chicken to rest for five minutes before plating as pictured. Drizzle with pan juices and serve garnished with fresh watercress as pictured.

For more information on sumac and another recipe you may enjoy: Sumac Roaster Chicken (click here)

Lancaster County Peaches

 

PEACHES

Nothing compares to the exquisite taste of  ripened peaches just plucked from the trees here in Pennsylvania Dutch country.  Farm stands that dot the verdant green landscape are laden with an abundance of peaches, sweet corn, green beans, patti-pan squash, zucchini, eggplant, and of course the very best vine ripe tomatoes you will ever taste!

 

PEACHES

No recipes required! 

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