Category Archives: Recipes

Cookie Making Weekend

Every year we complain about how much work it is, and every year Ellen and I make them anyway: Christmas cookies on the weekend before the holiday. We made four kinds this year, beginning with Mocha Nut balls, above. Ellen made the dough with the key ingredients being cocoa powder, chopped pecans and freeze-dried instant coffee. Recipes for these, the Butterballs, and Mrs. Field’s Gingerbread are on THIS cookie post on my blog from 2008. The one new recipe we tried is below.

While Ellen worked on the Mocha Nut, I made the dough for Butterballs, from my Mom’s recipe in the Klein family cookbook I put together many years ago. The key ingredients are butter (as you might guess) and chopped walnuts. The above two ball cookies are easy to make, and complement each other well, the Yin and Yang of spherical cookies.

Ellen’s now working on rolling the Butterballs. She’s much better at getting them small enough and a consistent size.

After they were baked, I garnished both with powdered sugar, though the Butterballs are rolled in it while warm, forming a sort of snowy icing, while the Mocha Nuts just have the tops dipped after completely cool. Ellen doesn’t like too much sugar on them.

Here’s the finished batches.

This year’s new recipe was for Chocolate-Raspberry Crumb Bars, a recipe by Carole Zwycewicz that was in our local paper. The bottom layer is very similar to shortbread, then a chocolate sauce goes over that…

…and it’s topped with more chocolate (chips) and dollops of raspberry jam and more dough.

After baking we cut it into small squares. I liked them better than Ellen, she didn’t think it tasted chocolaty enough, so I doubt we’ll make them again, but at least they were easy. Those three batches were all made Saturday.

On Sunday Ellen did most of the work on the more time-consuming and somewhat difficult Gingerbread shaped cookies, making the dough, chilling it, rolling and cutting shapes.

Here’s a tray being filled to go into the oven.

My part with these is helping with the decorating after they’re baked and cooled. Usually I make batches of colored icing (as seen in the 2008 post), but this year when prepared to do that I found we had no food coloring at all. We’d brought ours up to Ann’s last Christmas and forgotten to get more. So, we just used the white icing and colored it with sugar crystals and candies. Worked fine.

I was still able to get some reasonably artistic results, I think.

Here’s how the cookies are dispensed: Ellen brings some to work, we bring some to each of our families when we go north for Christmas, and we keep a small batch here for ourselves. There’ll be more cookie making at Ellen’s sister Ann’s later in the week, too, so we’ll bring home a sampling of those. Christmas cookies, try some, you’ll like them!

Here’s the recipe for the bars.


1 cup butter, softened
2 cups flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, divided evenly
14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With an electric mixer (or by hand with a fork) beat butter in large mixing bowl until creamy. Beat in flour, sugar and salt until crumbly. Press 1 and 3/4 cups of mixture into bottom of greased 9 by 13-inch baking pan, save remaining mixture. Bake until edges are golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. While bars bake, combine 1 cup chocolate chips with condensed milk in small saucepan. Stir over low heat until smooth. Pour sauce over baked mixture. Sprinkle remaining chips and small dollops of preserves and remaining mixture over top. Return to over and continue baking until center is set, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely and cut into small bars or squares.

Holiday Cooking

We’re making things to bring to Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow at Ellen’s sister Ann’s house. Ann and David will make the Turkey, Dressing and Mashed Potatoes among other things. We’re bringing Pumpkin Pie, always a favorite, made from the Libby recipe on the pumpkin filling can, but substituting Half-and-Half for the Evaporated Milk.

We’ll also bring Stuffed Mushrooms so Ellen has a veggie option, since she doesn’t eat meat. We all have at least one. Then there’s the Sweet Potatoes, our Fresh Cranberry Relish, and some green beans. Recipes (previously posted) in the links. Looking forward to the meal!

Penne with Fresh Spinach, Tomatoes and Olives


We eat a lot of pasta, what with Ellen being vegetarian, and we’re always on the lookout for a recipe with lots of flavor that’s a little different. I adapted this from one in The Cancer Project Newsletter, and it turned out really well. For the olives, any Kalamata olives will do, but I recommend Krinos brand “Greek Black Olives” in a jar. You do have to pit them, but the flavor is tops.


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 head garlic (6 to 8 cloves) peeled and minced
Two 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and cut in quarters
10 ounces fresh spinach, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
8 ounces dry whole-grain penne pasta (or of your choice)
Pecorino Romano cheese to taste, freshly grated

Saute the garlic in heated olive oil until the smallest pieces are beginning to brown, about 1 minute. Add chopped tomatoes with their juice, bring to a boil, and simmer over reduced heat about 10 minutes to thicken. While the pasta is cooking per package directions, add the olives, spinach and parsley and simmer another 5 to 10 minutes until thickened to your liking.


Add small amount of salt if needed, to taste. Serve topped with cheese. As shown above, some fruit makes a good complement. This makes two large portions or three smaller ones.

Stuffed Grape Leaves


We have a recipe for Greek Salad with Pita Points that we like, based on one we had in a Greek restaurant, but the past few months our supermarket has stopped carrying the prepared stuffed grape leaves, one of our favorite parts of the meal. They do have grape leaves for stuffing in a jar, Krinos brand, though, and I decided to try making them myself. I prepared them for the second time tonight; the first time I used too much lemon juice, and they were kind of sour. This time they came out tasting as good as those we’ve had in Greek restaurants, and better than the supermarket ones. I think I’ve got it!

The recipe is time consuming — taking over an hour, but it could be worse. I looked through a number of recipes online, and then created this modified version using precooked rice to speed the process. The recipes I looked at, in addition to using meat (which mine does not, and you won’t miss it), looked like they would take well over two hours start to finish. This makes about 30, most of which I’ll freeze in containers of four, the amount we use in our Greek Salad recipe.


Jar of prepared grape leaves
In a mixing bowl combine:
1 cup rice, cooked per package directions
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, pressed
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon dried dill
1 tablespoon dried mint
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
freshly ground pepper to taste
Add to finished pan:
2 cups vegetable broth
juice of 1 lemon

While the rice is cooking, remove grape leaves from jar and smooth them out, making a pile to stuff. Cut off any stems at base of leaf. You’ll have plenty, so use the best  and largest ones. Prepare the filling.


Place a leaf on your cutting board and put a heaping teaspoon of filling on it:


Larger leaves will hold more, of course. Some leaves have deep indentations, those will hold less. Large leaves can be folded at the sides:


Then rolled away from you to make the finished product:


For smaller leaves, I just folded them in sections over the filling. None of mine turned out quite the shape of the store-bought ones, but they’re close enough. Fill a large saute pan with finished leaves:


Our pan held all 30, tightly packed:


If you don’t have a large enough pan, you can make a second layer, but spread out some extra leaves in a flat layer between to keep them separated. Add the vegetable stock and additional lemon juice and simmer over medium-low heat until most of the liquid has either evaporated or been absorbed, about 1/2 hour. Remove from heat and serve, or they can be eaten at room temperature, whichever you prefer. In Greek restaurants I’ve had them with a delicious lemon sauce, similar to Hollandaise, but that’s another whole cooking adventure, and we like these just as they are. The finished, cooked leaves are in the first picture above.