Apricot-Rosemary Thumbprint Cookies


It may only be October, but it’s definitely NOT too early to start thinking about Christmas cookies. In fact, in my house, it’s apparently not too early to think about anything Christmas-related, especially presents. All of my kids have already made their Christmas lists, all of which basically read like Target ads. My middle son actually wrote “all items sold at Target” in large font at the top of his list. Got it, thanks, buddy.

As for me, though I thoroughly enjoy all things fall, I’m also excited about Christmastime. One of my favorite things to look forward to is our annual white elephant Christmas party, celebrating its 15th year this year! I love putting together a vibrant, eclectic menu to serve our guests, and I’d like to think it’s partly the food (and not just the terrible sci-fi DVDs, clown paintings, and poo-scented candles) that keeps people coming back year after year.

Probably my favorite portion of the menu to plan is the dessert spread–for which I believe these Apricot-Rosemary Thumbprint Cookies are a strong contender. I usually like to plan a mix of bars, candies, cookies, possibly a pie or trifle, and at least one show-stopping cheesecake for the event. Past favorite cookies have included mint chocolate candy cane cookies and pumpkin chocolate chip. But the unique hint of savoriness is where I think these apricot-rosemary thumbprints really shine, either on their own or as part of my larger holiday cookie combo.

These don’t take many ingredients, but fresh rosemary is essential. (I’m fortunate enough to have some in my garden, but if you don’t, you can always freeze it if you end up with too much from another recipe!) Also, as you’re making these, you may think, “Holy saturated fat, that’s a lot of butter for such a small batch.” And you’re right. But these come out sooooo perfectly rich and fluffy, I’d say they’re worth the hefty dose of butter. Combine that richness with the earthiness of the rosemary and the fruity sweetness of the apricot jam and you’ve got a Christmas cookie that will disappear fast.

Got a party coming up this holiday season? I’d love to hear if you try these thumbprints!

Apricot-Rosemary Thumbprint Cookies

Sweet and savory, these buttery thumbprints disappear fast!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time14 mins
Total Time1 hr 29 mins

Ingredients

  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. cornstarch
  • 2 tsp. snipped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 c. butter, softened
  • 1/3 c. powdered sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. almond extract
  • 1/3 c. apricot jam
  • extra powdered sugar for dusting

Instructions

  • In a small bowl stir together flour, cornstarch, rosemary, and salt. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, beat butter with a hand mixer for 30 seconds or until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and almond extract and beat again.
  • Beat in as much of the flower mixture into the butter mixture as you can with the mixer. Work the rest in with a wooden spoon.
  • Collect the dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate one hour.
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove dough from fridge and form into about 16 balls, placing them 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Press a divot into each cookie with your thumb or a spoon and fill in with a little apricot jam.
  • Bake about 14 minutes. Cool, then sprinkle with additional powdered sugar.

Notes

Green Bean Casserole {No Soups, No Mushrooms}

There was a time when I thought condensed cream soups were God’s gift to the home cook. I specifically recall a Crock Pot chicken recipe I used to make that involved cream of chicken and cream of mushroom soup (and maybe Velveeta cheese?). Yes, it was creamy, and probably tasty, but also crazy high in sodium and pretty highly processed.

I’ve come a long way since those days. Now, whenever I can, I prefer to make sauces for casseroles, meat, or pasta dishes myself. I’ve found doing so cuts back on mystery ingredients, reduces sodium, and honestly just results in better quality food.

Enter this condensed soup-free Green Bean Casserole.

If you’ve ever made green bean casserole with a traditional recipe, I’ll bet it called for cream of mushroom soup. I know the recipes in both my Betty Crocker and Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks start this way. But now that I’m a fan of homemade sauces–and since I’ve never been fond of mushrooms–when I wanted a green bean casserole to go with a grilled chicken dinner recently, I thought I’d try my hand at a 100% from-scratch version. (Except for the fried onions on top. Those I’m happy to outsource to good old French’s.)

This recipe came out full of savory flavor, thanks to shallot, sage, and thyme. And thanks to a vegetable broth base, it’s totally vegetarian. Even though Thanksgiving may be several weeks off, I’d make this again for a veggie side dish any day!

Give this one a try if you’re looking for something a little less processed, or if someone in your family has the good sense to not like mushrooms. 🙂

Green Bean Casserole {No Soups, No Mushrooms}

Not crazy about mushrooms? Prefer not to use condensed soups? This delicious from-scratch Green Bean Casserole is for you!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time45 mins
Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 24 oz. frozen French-style green beans
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • generous 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. dried sage
  • 1/4 + 1/8 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 1/4 c. vegetable broth
  • 6 oz. crispy fried onions

Instructions

  • Heat a large pot of water to boiling. Add green beans and cook about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Wipe out the pot and melt butter over medium-low heat. Add flour, salt, pepper, sage, and thyme and whisk about 1 minute.
  • Add milk and vegetable broth and whisk to combine. Increase heat to medium and whisk occasionally until sauce thickens. (It's ready when the whisk leaves a defined trail.) Remove from heat and stir in green beans.
  • Spray an 11 x 7-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Pour in green bean mixture and smooth. Sprinkle with fried onions.
  • Bake 20-25 minutes or until heated through.

Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.

Sangria Cake

A delicious, fruity Sangria Cake for any summer special occasion!

Did you know that August and September are the months with the most birthdays? It’s probably the result of couples getting cozy around Christmastime nine months earlier–or some science even suggests the body is biologically predisposed to procreate in the winter months. Whatever the reason, in my own family of origin, it rings true: Both my parents have August birthdays, and I’m right behind in September.

Every year I bake my mom’s birthday cake. It’s a super fun exercise in creativity because she gives me free reign to make whatever I like, from this Chocolate Mint Layer Cake to this Apple Cream Cheese Bundt Cake.

This year, inspired by some gorgeous cupcakes I saw awhile back, I thought a sangria cake sounded perfect. Fruity, colorful, and a little different, it seemed just right for a summer birthday.

Once made, the flavors in this cake were actually rather subtle–not overpowering, but definitely with a fruity depth and a hint of orange. I especially loved the frosting, which was pretty in pink and just the right level of sweet. And I must confess I geeked out over decorating the exterior with an arrangement of fresh fruit. With the alcohol baked into the cake and just two tablespoons in the frosting, even my kids were free to partake. (And I think my mom liked it, too!)

So, for a special celebration, give this sangria cake a try! (My birthday is next week, hint, hint…)


Sangria Cake

Happy summer! This Sangria Cake makes the perfect pretty, fruity celebration for a summer birthday or other special occasion.
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time35 mins
Servings: 16

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 c. butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 c. white sugar
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp. orange juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 c. room-temperature sangria
  • 6 drops pink or red food coloring

For the frosting:

  • 1/2 c. butter, softened
  • 4 1/2 c. powdered sugar
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp. orange juice
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp. sangria
  • 4 drops pink or red food coloring

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8-inch cake pans. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in orange zest, then add eggs one at a time. Mix in orange juice and vanilla.
  • Mix in dry ingredients and sangria, alternating between the two, until fully incorporated. Stir in food coloring until well mixed. Divide between cake pans and bake 30-35 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, make frosting: In a large bowl combine butter and powdered sugar. Add orange juice and sangria and mix until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Once cake is done, let cool at least two hours. When cake has cooled, frost to your liking.

Notes

Cake adapted from Liv for Cake, recipe A Love Letter to Food Original.

Banana Almond Butter Muffins

Why is it that every time you search for a recipe with almond butter (especially baked goods) everything that comes up is touted as Paleo? Do a quick Google search for almond butter muffins and you’ll find results like this:

Almond Butter Muffins {Paleo}!

SUPER Paleo Banana Almond Butter Protein Bites {PaleoPaleoPaleo}

Flourless Almond Butter Muffins With Secret-Ingredient Buffalo Meat–As Paleo As It Freakin’ Gets!

Apparently, in the world of Paleo (aka the way our ancestors supposedly ate) peanuts are legumes, not “real” nuts, so for some reason, hunter-gatherers wouldn’t have eaten them. Almonds, on the other hand, are allowed on the diet.

Since I’m a freelance food and nutrition writer and I usually write for other people, sometimes it’s such a joy to get to write my own opinions on my own blog. So let me just say, I think all this Paleo almonds-versus-peanuts business is nonsense. Looking at the nutrient profile of peanuts and almonds, I think we’re splitting hairs, so I don’t really care whether my furry forebears ate or didn’t eat one or the other. I’m just trying to find a decent almond butter muffin recipe because I happen to like almond butter, mmkay?

So what’s a girl to do when she can’t find a muffin recipe that’s not made with rice flour or coconut sugar (and/or buffalo meat)? Make her own!

These Banana Almond Butter Muffins are a riff on the always-reliable Sally’s Baking Addiction’s skinny peanut butter banana muffins.

They do have a couple of unique ingredients, like some flax seed for extra fiber and omega-3 fats, and in place of almond milk, I used an interesting banana nut plant-based coffee creamer I’ve been trying out. But of course, if you don’t have flax seed or banana-nut coffee creamer, whole wheat flour and any kind of milk will do. (Even cow’s milk–take that, Paleo!) Heck, you could even revert to peanut butter instead of almond butter. In addition to these ingredients, you’ll find Greek yogurt, honey, whole wheat flour, and a couple of mashed bananas.

Healthy? Yes. Delicious? Absolutely. Paleo? Nope, not for me.

Banana Almond Butter Muffins

Creamy almond butter meets wholesome whole wheat flour, mashed banana, and ground flax seeds in this healthy breakfast recipe. Chocolate chips optional but necessary.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time17 mins
Total Time27 mins
Servings: 14 muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 large bananas, mashed
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. 2% plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 c. banana nut coffee creamer (or almond or any other milk)
  • 1/2 c. creamy almond butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 c. white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 c. ground flaxseed
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. mini chocolate chips (optional)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees and grease 14 muffin cups.
  • In a large bowl, combine mashed banana, honey, brown sugar, yogurt, egg, creamer/milk, almond butter and vanilla.
  • To the same bowl, add white whole wheat flour, ground flaxseed, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Stir until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips, if using.
  • Divide batter evenly between muffin cups. Bake in preheated oven for 5 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking 12 minutes. Muffins are done when a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Store in an airtight container, preferably in the refrigerator.

Notes

Inspired by (but heavily edited from) Sally's Baking Addiction.

Herbed Tuna in Heirloom Tomatoes

I could sit down with a good cookbook like a good novel. A nice night in, to me, is poring over a new cookbook, imagining each step of each recipe, and picturing the delicious finished product. It’s basically the equivalent of fantasy fiction for cooks.

With a fairly large collection of cookbooks (plus compulsively checking them out from the library, as I do) there are always those recipes I bookmark during my perusing and think, I’ll make that eventually. But time goes by, I find new and exciting ideas on Pinterest, and sometimes things I think I’ll make fall by the wayside.

These Herbed Tuna in Heirloom Tomatoes are one such recipe.

For years I’ve been a fan of Real Simple’s line of cookbooks, and this recipe called out to me from Meals Made Easy as long ago as–dare I admit it–2009. I thought it looked healthy, easy, and bit unique. I mean, how often do you put fish in a tomato? Sounds kinda weird…but not in a bad way. Plus, I find the idea of food as its own serving container ADORABLE and kind of a genius way to minimize on doing dishes.

The thing is, though, heirloom tomatoes are only in season so often. And even when they are, I usually pass them by in the grocery store, thinking they’re just a little too fabulous for me. They’re the fine china of vegetables: Fancy and gorgeous, but really? For everyday?

You know what, though? Yes! Why NOT splurge on something as healthy (not to mention gorgeous) as heirloom tomatoes? I picked up these multi-colored models yesterday determined to finally put fish in a dang tomato!

The results were worth the wait. (Of ten years, haha.) I really enjoyed not only the process of stuffing these heirlooms for unique presentation, but also the fun of eating them. The tuna mixture is flavored with a Mediterranean profile of lemon juice, olive oil, capers, parsley, and pepper, but could be played with any way you like. Plus, if you have dietary restrictions like gluten-free or dairy-free, these fit the bill.

Give them a try for a tasty, healthy, seasonal summer lunch!


Herbed Tuna in Heirloom Tomatoes

This light and healthy Mediterranean-flavored lunch is a fun way to soak up the flavors of summer!
Servings: 2 as a main course

Ingredients

  • 3-4 large heirloom tomatoes
  • 2 6-oz. cans tuna, drained, preferably albacore packed in olive oil
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp. capers
  • 1/3 c. fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • drizzle olive oil, if you used tuna packed in water

Instructions

  • Using a paring knife, slice a circle in the top of each tomato. Scoop the flesh out of tomatoes, leaving about a 1/4 inch-thick tomato "shell." Drain any excess water out of the flesh you've scooped and dice it into 1/4 to 1/2-inch pieces.
  • Place diced tomato in a mixing bowl. Add all remaining ingredients and mix to combine.
  • Scoop the mixture into your tomato shells and serve.

Notes

Adapted from Real Simple.