Maple Sugar Cookies

3Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Sugar cookies! Sweet and chewy. Throw in a little maple and you’ve got a twist on a true Christmas classic. My little brother raved about these over the weekend. I don’t think anyone loves sugar more than he does. Sweet tooth people unite!! My favorite part about this recipe is the maple glaze on top. It adds a little something extra and looks gorgeous on a Christmas table. Who’s getting ready to bake up a storm? Merry Christmas, everyone!

1

2

4

All Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco


Yield: 20 cookies — Prep time: 20-30 minutes — Cook time: 12-14 minutes

Cookie Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
    1/2 cup shortening
    1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
    1/4 cup packed brown sugar
    1/4 cup pure maple syrup
    1 tsp. baking soda
    1/8 tsp. salt
    3 egg yolks
    1/2 tsp. vanilla
    1 3/4 cups all purpose flour

Maple Glaze Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream or milk
    1/4 cup butter, melted
    3 tbs. pure maple syrup
    2 to 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, beat butter and shortening in a stand mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds.
  2. Add the granulated sugars, maple syrup, baking soda and salt. Beat on medium for 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of bowl as needed. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla. Beat in flour.
  3. Shape dough into 1 1/2 inch balls. Place 3 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. This is important as you don’t want your cookies to spread and touch each other! Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. The tops will look soft.
  4. Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes. Remove and finish cooling on a wire rack. The centers of cookies will dip as they cool. Drizzle with maple icing.

To make maple glaze: Stir together 1/4 cup heavy cream or milk with 1/4 cup melted butter and 3 tablespoons of pure maple syrup. Whisk in 2 to 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar to make icing drizzling consistency. Enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens.

Chestnut Soup with Cognac Cream

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” Nat King Cole says it best (or should I say, sings it best). I grew up listening to these Christmas words among others sung by the voices of Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby and Johnny Mathis. When I close my eyes, I can still see the familiar scene: It’s evening. The light is dim and my mother is tidying up the kitchen. My father hasn’t returned from work yet. I’m in the living room, watching and listening. The tree is a-glow. Not a light, bow or berry our of place. They know that Santa’s on his way, he’s loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh. So calm and so serene. This is Christmastime.

Although I didn’t grow up eating chestnuts, since I’ve been with my husband I’ve eaten them every Christmas Eve. His family roasts them and eats them warm. It’s a real treat, so soft and flavorful. Recently, a good friend of mine shared this recipe with me: chestnut soup. It sounded unreal… I love soups. And to boot, a cognac cream on top. Hello! This recipe comes from Bon Appetit magazine, from many years ago. It makes a perfect starter to your Christmas meal. I bought whole chestnuts so I could get the full experience. To save on time, you have the option of getting vacuum packed, ready-pealed nuts. Either way, this one is worth the effort! Merry Christmas, everyone!

0

1

4

6

7

8

9

All Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco


Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients for Soup:

  • 2 Tbsp (1/4 stick) butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 small carrot, chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp minced fresh thyme or 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups boiled chestnuts* (see instructions below for cooking) or 2 cups vacuum-packed chestnuts (about 10 oz), halved

Ingredients for Cognac cream:

  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 2 tsp Cognac
  • pinch of salt
  1. To boil chestnuts (1 lb nuts will make about the 2 cups you’ll need): using a sharp, small knife, cut an X in each chestnut. Cook chestnuts in a large pot of boiling water until just tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer the nuts to work surface. Remove hard shell and papery brown skin while chestnuts are still warm.
  2. Melt butter with oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add celery, carrot, onion and thyme and sauté until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add broth and chestnuts. Cover partially and simmer until chestnuts are very tender, about 30 minutes.
  3. Puree soup in batches in a blender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
  4. To make cream, whisk whipping cream, cognac and pinch of salt in a medium bowl until thickened but not stiff. Bring soup to a simmer over low heat. Ladle into bowls. Swirl spoonful of Cognac cream into each bowl and serve. Enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of Bon Appetit Magazine.

Kale + Chickpea Hummus Salad

2

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Since I’ve been married (it’s already been a year and a half!) I’ve been watching Food Network on television almost solely. So I’m now quite familiar with Bobby, Alex, Scott, Ted, Giada and the bunch of them. I even got to meet a few of them in New York recently which was surreal!! Love them all. When I heard about Giada de Laurentiis’s new cookbook Happy Cooking, I knew I had to get it. She is a little Italian powerhouse. And not to mention that blinding, beautiful smile! This tasty, hardy salad is in her new book. It may look simple, and that’s because it is! Simple yet full of good-for-you ingredients and flavor. It’s basically a hummus vinaigrette coated onto fresh kale and chickpeas. It takes less than 10 minutes to whip up. Not only is it quick, but it’s seriously satisfying for a salad. Don’t let these greens fool you! And, my favorite part: make it one day and have leftovers for lunch the next day. Kale holds up really well in the refrigerator, making it ideal for this. Get your healthy on and get Giada’s new book!


Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 5 cups shredded kale
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 (15-ounce) can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup slivered sun-dried tomatoes (optional)
  • Za’atar (optional, see note below)
  1. Warm a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and the sliced garlic and cook just until the garlic is fragrant. Allow to cool slightly.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the tahini and lemon juice. Slowly add the warmed garlic oil, whisking constantly. Add the kale, salt, chickpeas, and sun-dried tomatoes, if using, and gently toss together, bringing the dressing up from the bottom to coat everything evenly.
  3. Serve, sprinkled with za’atar*, if desired.

Notes: Za’atar is a popular Middle Easter spice blend. It’s a mixture of herbs (basil, thyme, oregano) sesame and salt. You can also buy it here.

Recipe courtesy of Giada de Laurentiis, Happy Cooking, 2015.

1Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Pecan Snowball Cookies

1Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Holiday baking is in full swing!! These pecan snowball cookies are one of my favorites. Sweet and nutty, melt-in-you-mouth goodness. My grandmother makes these every year in smaller, bite sized balls. They dissolve instantly in your mouth. The great thing about this recipe is that it will yield about 48 cookies, making it great for large gatherings or cookie exchanges with friends and family. Set these on your Christmas table and watch them disappear! Happy Christmas baking, everyone!

3

4

610

2

All Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco


Prep time: 15 minutes — Cook time: 15 minutes — Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar (plus more for coating)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ cups finely chopped pecans
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl or in the bowl of your stand mixer, cream your butter and sugar. Add the vanilla and salt and mix well. Gradually add the flour, mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Your dough will become thick.
  3. Add the chopped pecans and mix well. I found incorporating the chopped pecans to be easier to do by hand rather than in the stand mixer, as the dough is so thick. Once combined, scoop 1 tablespoon of the dough out and roll it into a ball and place it on the cookie sheet. For consistency, use a 1 Tablespoon measuring spoon to scoop out balls. Place them on the cookie sheet about 1 inch part. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes.
  4. Allow the cookies to cool for about 5 minutes then gently roll them in powdered sugar while still warm. Allow them to cool completely and then coat them in powdered sugar again. The first coat will be sticky– the second coat will allow the sugar to stick better. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Southern Bite.