Pecan-Brown Sugar Crack-Ups

“More crumble than cookie” we are told. Basically a shortbread, but with the dough’s resemblance to a streusel, we are to make these into broken cookie size bites.

I was thinking they would be more of a cracker consistency, but really mine turned out more like thin cookie bars…not that anyone was complaining haha. Maybe I should have dropped the dough by bits into the 9×13 pan instead of pressing…might have given more of an appearance of a struesel.

What I loved about these, other than the simplicity and ease to make them, was the fact that they really are a party cookie! When I pulled my parchment paper out of the pan and onto the cookie rack, the cookies broke apart themselves…and I took the picture. I loved the unevenness of all the pieces, and my family loved the interactive nature of eating the cookies from the broken slab…maybe we are all just a little bored these days haha. The only negative thing they said was that because they werent portioned out in “cookies” you loose track of how much you are eating and because they are so tasty, you keep eating…breaking of a piece or crumb here and there haha. 😂

These were really tasty and most of us commented on loving the added saltiness on top. I would totally make these again, really only needing to make sure I buy pecans for it..the rest…flour, cornstarch, butter, brown sugar, eggs, and fleur de sel are things I usually have on hand.

These are a keeper!

Chicken-Chili Tamale Pie

This dish would seem to be a good fit for a cold or stormy day…warm and comforting..and it sure smelled good while cooking! We unfortunately had it on an unseasonably warm 90 degree day here in California…that is hot for the end of April 😳. All good though, my guys never complain about having Mexican food…that is always a good choice.

This tamale pie is basically a chicken chili topped with cornbread, but a more adult and grown up version. The textures and flavors are elevated from the usual “throw together and top with a box of cornbread mix” casserole.

The chili has a combination of chicken, black beans, sweet potato, tomato, red bell pepper and onion flavored with jalapeño, cumin, chipotle, honey and chili powder. (I omitted the cilantro).

Rather than use a box mix of cornbread we make our own adding some elements to that as well…chili powder, honey, bell pepper, and jalapeño.

The chili is placed in a dish and topped with the cornbread…cooked for about half and hour. I think our consensus was the ratio was off a bit…way too much cornbread and maybe not even necessary. I think if I was to make this again I would use half the cornbread recipe so there was a thinner topping and you could taste more of the chili.

All in all, good…but maybe not a favorite.

Chocolate Chip Not-Quite Mandelbrot

Long name for a delicious cookie! We will be calling them “the soft biscotti” from now on in my family haha.

Seems like the best place to start is with, what is “Mandelbrot”?

Dorie tells us,

“The literal translation of Mandelbrot is “almond bread”, a name that gives no hint that it defines a twice-baked cookie. Popular among Ashkenazi Jews, the cookie has all the characteristics of a biscotti- it’s baked in a log, sliced and baked again. That these Mandelbrot are made without mandel, or almonds, is a technicality to be glossed over.”

What makes this “biscotti” different than the usual ones you eat, is that they are more like cake and not hard and dry. This particular recipe is speckled with mini chocolate chips and then what takes it to another level, is that the cookies are dusted with cinnamon sugar on both bakes…once on top and then again on the cut side during the second bake. I am not sure we had an appreciation of the chocolate and cinnamon combo before, but that is a really good match!

These were loved by all who I was able to share them with…which was a lot. I didn’t quite get the 60 it states but a good 30 anyway and that made way for some good sharing. 😍 I can definitely see myself making these again…easy, with ingredients usually found on hand AND everyone loved them…this one is a keeper!

Fennel-Orange Shortbread Wedges

These shortbread cookies are easy to make and are flavored with orange zest and chopped fennel seeds. Interesting combination that is suppose to go well with a glass of wine.

The cookies are fragile, have a slight crunch and are melt in your mouth goodness which comes from baking with all that butter haha. I baked mine in an 8in cake pan rather than the free form method…adding the spoke pattern with a fork to separate the slices. I was leery when cutting the pieces after baking that they would fall apart…but no problem

I think we all would say these were interesting and good to try but I am not sure we loved them…although…we are not wine drinkers so maybe that would have made a difference haha.

Western Frittata

Ironically, I made my first frittata about a month ago. We loved it. I think it was a function of not having a cast iron skillet, but now I have one and it has opened up a whole new world.

Frittatas are quick, easy, delicious…and versatile. You can add anything you like to the base, much in the same way you can to an omelet. The best part is that there is no flipping or folding so there is no worry on how it will hold together.

This frittata is a take on the Denver or Western omelet…this one has onions, bell pepper, jalapeño, chili powder, and hot sauce. Then it is topped with tomato, thyme, and cheddar cheese. Really anything goes here…you can add bacon or ham but this time I went with the recipe as stated…although we did top ours with avocado!

This really couldn’t have been easier…in fact it was easier than the first one I made just recently. This one, after adding the eggs and giving it a quick stir, you leave the egg mixture alone for two minutes and then pop it in the oven for another 8 minutes. Seriously easy…and seriously delicious.

This was a keeper with us…and had us discussing possible new combinations to try out. What a game changer for an easy, throw together dinner in a pinch!

Matcha-White Chocolate Mini Mads

My “mini mads” became full mads haha since I only had a regular size madeleine pan. I figured it wouldn’t matter except for the amount of cookies I was able to get…and it was substantially less. The other thing that was interesting was I cooked them for the lowest amount of time suggested, and they turned out a little too brown I think…but surprisingly, it didn’t seem to affect the taste.

We are told that while these cookies don’t have the traditional flavor composition, their shell shape and sponge texture are models of the genre…and I would agree.

Matcha green tea is among the most prized and expensive of Japanese’s teas…it is powdered rather than a leaf tea and apparently has a culinary grade, rather than ceremonial, that we are to use with these cookies. Even at that, the matcha was quite pricey…even for the smallest pouch. The hidden ingredient though, that shines in these cookies isn’t really the matcha or the white chocolate…it is the lime zest. That is the flavor that seemed to come through to all of us.

I wasn’t sure my investment in the matcha would be worth it if we didn’t enjoy these cookies enough to make them again, but you know what, we really did like and enjoy these. I would certainly make them again…probably doubling the recipe next time, and using up the rest of my tea.

When I started this journey many years ago, I had decided within reason I would get what I needed to participate if I didn’t have the right tools or ingredients just so I could fully appreciate the experience…score on the madeleine pan from way in the beginning, and now the matcha tea 😄

Spring Avocado and Berry Salad

Oh, I wanted to love this.

We eat a lot of strawberries and avocados so this was an intriguing mix and got my attention. This is a layered salad with a base of avocado, strawberries, and Ruby Red grapefruit…topped with jalapeño, pink peppercorn, lime juice, basil, salt and pepper…and then finished with the vinaigrette consisting of grapefruit juice, lime juice, sugar, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Interesting right?! I even went the extra mile ordering the pink peppercorn because I was that convinced we would love this. 😳.

Our first reaction was that we have never had this combination of flavors before. My second reaction was, I don’t think I really like this combination…but I kept eating it because I so wanted to love it haha.

We ended up with a mixed bag…I didn’t care for it, my son liked it, and my husband loved it. We all did agree…very different…quite beautiful and appetizing looking!

Now what to do with this pink peppercorn haha! 🤷‍♀️

Peanut Brownie Sablés

Dorie tells us this cookie is a “combination of a French shortbread and an American brownie…with texture a little sandy here, a little fudgy there”. I was intrigued, I mean chocolate and peanut butter are a fantastic pairing.

The interesting thing about this recipe was it really is a combination…we are asked to make two distinct cookie doughs and then mix them together.

Doesn’t that beg the question, “Can’t I just mix all the ingredients together?” It is an interesting question, and on the surface the answer seems to say what is the difference..sure go ahead, but I was wondering…maybe it is the elementary teacher in me, but I was thinking this would have been a great Science Fair Project haha. Perfect question to test and see if there were any differences to the final product.

My thought was that, each recipe had specific instructions such as chilled butter or room temp butter, full egg beaten or egg yolk room temp. Doesn’t all of that impact the composition of the dough in question. The sugars would cream differently with the two different butters…different consistencies for example. Would all of these minor differences make a change to the overall composition of the combined dough?? I don’t know haha but it sure had me thinking.

Being the rule following person that I am 🤷‍♀️, I chose to make the cookies as directed…two distinct doughs mixed at the end together. I have no idea if there would be any noticeable differences had I made it all combined…and I don’t think I will be making these again to test my theory haha so I will have to see what you all have to say about that.

These cookies were good and we all really liked them but I would have to say though, I was feeling a little underwhelmed at the lack of chocolate taste given all the cocoa and chocolate included. I think the peanut flavor was definitely dominate….which is fine, but not when you are expecting a chocolate punch haha!

So, my professional, fellow bakers…what would be the verdict on the method of combined dough? 😂😂

Mediterranean Shepherd’s Pie

I am not sure I have ever made a Shepherd’s Pie 😳, not even sure why not, but this seemed to be a first for us. We are told, this is a Mediterranean twist on the rustic pie usually made with leftovers, never quite the same twice.

This recipe uses your choice of ground meat and sausage, which I used turkey and a hot sausage, and then you add onion, spinach, tomato and an optional butternut squash…which I did not add. It is the spices though that are what makes this dish special…the harissa powder, cumin, lemon zest, and oregano. The base is made and then topped with mashed potatoes and then cooked for about 40 min.

This was good…really good. Very satisfying and VERY flavorful. We all loved it. What I also loved, was that it made enough for two nights haha.

This one is a keeper!

Tangerine-Topped Cheesecake

I am reminded when we bake these different cheesecakes that although quick to get in the oven, the rest of the baking, resting, and chilling pretty much take you into the next day haha. You don’t just have a craving for cheesecake and have one ready.

This version is a little different in that it uses a mix of cream cheese and ricotta and then also because of the use of citrus…tangerine, orange, or lemon…on top, but also zest on the inside. I refrained from topping my cake until it was served so it wasn’t soggy.

My husband enjoys cheesecake but said he couldn’t ever remember having cheesecake with oranges. He said the oranges on top were so refreshing…that it was just plain fantastic. Another comment I got was it reminded them of a 50/50 creamsicle…even more so when the cheesecake was eaten frozen!

I am not a fan of cheesecake but everyone else that was a taster really enjoyed this…for the same reasons my husband had said. What I loved…was that I could go out in my backyard and pick an orange to use haha. I LOVE my orange tree…they are like candy and so juicy. 😍

I have a feeling this will be a recipe we repeat each year when our oranges are ripe!

This one is a keeper!