Another Batch of Cookies

With Easter being right around the corner, it is time to make, eat and enjoy cookies.  I was not planning on making another batch of cookies so soon, however, we are getting together with friends on Easter Sunday to celebrate and cookies were a welcomed and requested menu item.  We are doing a joint brunch where everyone brings a portion of the meal.  I was already planning on taking both my chocolate pistachio bites Chocolate Pistachio Bites and my cranberry pistachio cookies Cranberry Pistachio Cookies and my dear friend Priscilla said she would like another kind of cookie to offer as well.  No problem.  I love making cookies, almost as much as I love eating them.  I decided to make some lemon-almond cookies for this batch.  Yes, I know there is a nutty-lemony theme in the cookies and sweets I am bringing, but lemons and nuts are also some of the many wonderful flavors of Spring, and I love them both.  Today’s batch of cookies is called citrus crisps.  They are very light and delicate cookies that just melt in your mouth.  Delicious!

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Citrus Crisps

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1 cup sugar, divided

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/2 stick butter at room temperature

2 TBSP heavy whipping cream

1/2 tsp lemon extract

1 TBSP lemon zest

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 cup cake flour

1 cup almond meal – I used my almond meal from Living Tree Community Organic Foods. More Treats from Living Tree Community Foods

 

Mix all the dry ingredients together well and set aside.

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Mix the lemon juice and 1/4 cup of sugar into a saucepan, bring to a boil and let boil for 1 minute.  Then add the butter and continue to boil until the butter is completely melted.

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Add the rest of the sugar, lemon extract and the flour mixture and mix well until everything is well blended and you have a dough that is medium stiff in consistency.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for an hour.

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Preheat the oven to 350* F .

Once the dough has set, roll it out onto a lightly floured surface to about 1/8-1/4″ thickness.  Cut into any shapes you like.  I decided to make my cookies into flower shapes as another way to honor Spring.  Once the cookies are cut, place them on an ungreased cookie sheet.  You can top them with either turbinado sugar or colored sugar if you like.  I used colored sugar.

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Bake the cookies for about 10-15 min, or until the edges are lightly golden.  Let cool for about 5-7 minutes before placing them on a cookie rack to continue to cool completely.  Then …. let the cookie eating process begin.

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Cranberry Pistachio Cookies

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE cookies; all kinds of cookies.  NO cookie will ever be left uneaten in my house.  So I am always on the lookout for new cookie recipes to try.  If I can find recipes for healthy cookies, SWEET!!  Even better.

Since I had some leftover peeled pistachios from when I made my chocolate pistachio bites Chocolate Pistachio Bites  I decided to look for a cookie recipe that would use those up.  As you are probably well aware by now, I hate to throw food away.  I will ALWAYS come up with delicious ways to use up my leftovers if I can (all hail to the Queen of Leftovers).  When I came across this recipe, it was just perfect.  It would use up my leftover pistachios and it has cranberries, which I also love.  So it is actually a very a healthy cookie recipe.  How could I not make them, right?!  🙂  Not only did I find a new, creative way to use my pistachios, but I also had some left over lemon glaze that I was able to top my cookies with, to make them really pop and come to life.

Cranberries, like pistachios, are loaded with health benefits.  Both are packed full of fiber, vitamins and minerals.  One cup of cranberries contains about 16% of the daily recommended intake of fiber and about 19% of the recommended amount for Vitamin C.  Because cranberries are so high in Vitamin C, they are also good for the immune system and help prevent or lessen the effects of diseases and illnesses.  Cranberries also contain a ton of anti-inflammatory agents as well as a host of anti-oxidants, which help prevent cancer.  As far as fruits go, cranberries rank among the lowest for sugar content.  They also contain a lot of manganese, which helps regulate the body’s blood sugar levels too.  So by making cookies with BOTH cranberries and pistachios, I also made a very healthy snack that I do not have to feel guilty about eating.  The only problem I have with these cookies, is NOT eating them all up at once.

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Cranberry Pistachio Cookies

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1 cup almond flour meal – I used some of my flour from Living Tree Community Foods Organic Foods More Treats from Living Tree Community Foods

1 cup almond flour

1 cup reg. flour

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 cup coconut oil, melted

1/2 cup chopped pistachios

1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp vanilla

lemon glaze, optional

 

Lemon Glaze

2 cups powdered sugar

2 TBSP milk

1 TBSP lemon extract

 

Mix everything together and drizzle over your favorite cookies or cakes.

 

 

Preheat the oven to 350 * F

Combine the flours, almond meal and baking soda together and set aside.

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Mix the eggs, sugar, and vanilla together in a mixer, then slowly add the melted coconut oil, and continue to mix until everything is well blended.

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Add the flour mixture 1/2 at a time.  Mix everything together just enough to make sure all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.  Once the liquids and the flours are combined to make the cookie dough, add the chopped pistachios and cranberries, and fold into the dough.

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Make cookie balls of about 1 TBSP each and place them on an ungreased cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart.  I like to flatten my cookies down a bit once they are placed on the cookie sheet.  Bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly golden around the edges.

IMG_6248Once the cookies are removed from the oven, let them cool for about 5 minutes, then place them on a cookie rack, allowing them to cool completely, before icing them (if you choose to use icing).  I had some leftover lemon glaze that was a perfect flavor combination for these already delicious cookies.

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At last – Cookie Time!  Try stopping at only one or two or three.  🙂  Enjoy!

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Chocolate Pistachio Bites

All nuts are considered to be a healthy snack.  In general, they are loaded with a lot of minerals and vitamins, are good sources of protein and fiber, and have high ratios of beneficial fatty acids and antioxidants.  Pistachios are high on the top of the list for healthy nuts.  Pistachios are among the world’s oldest nuts too.  They are even mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible as a healthy food source.

When I saw this simple recipe for these chocolate pistachio bites, I knew I just had to make them right away.   I saw these tasty, healthy treats on my blogging friend nadiiag’s website FitnessBlog.  You should check out her page.  She has a lot of great ideas and tips about health and nutrition.  Believe it or not, these chocolate pistachio bites are actually pretty healthy snacks too.  I also added some heavy whipping cream into the chocolate when I melted it to give the chocolate a shiny coating, and to make it as a ganache.  By adding the whipping cream, it made it a little less healthy, but not by much.  There is so little whipping cream, that it did not affect the healthy benefits of these snacks.  If you want to make these vegan, and still want to make them with a ganache coating, just substitute soy or coconut milk for the whipping cream.  The consistency will be a little different, but they will be healthy and vegan, if that is what you are looking for.

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Chocolate Pistachio Bites

There are ONLY 3 ingredients in these healthy little treats, 4 if you include the water.

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2 cups of pistachios or 15 oz of pistachio paste

2 bars of baker’s chocolate – I used semi sweet, but you can use any kind of chocolate you like

1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream, or soy or coconut milk

 

I made my own pistachio paste by boiling some water to a rapid boil, then adding the pistachios and boiled them for 1 minute.

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After 1 minute, drain the nuts and put them in an ice cold bath of cold water and ice cubes to shock them.

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Drain the nuts again.  The reason for boiling and shocking the nuts is to get rid of the skin around the nuts, so they are softer and to make them as “green ” as possible.  After the nuts have drained, “skin” the nuts by rubbing them in between your thumb and forefinger, or by rubbing them together in your hands, and the skin will come right off, very easily.  Though this was not hard to do, it was more of a pain in the neck than I anticipated.  But, look how “green” the pistachios are for doing it.  I guess the end results make it all worthwhile.  🙂  Sometimes I just get these crazy ideas into my head that sound good and fun at the time, and then once I get started I just kind of shake my head and say to myself “what was I thinking?”.  But once I start something, I always see it through to the end.  This time I am really glad I did too.

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Once you have all the nuts “skinned”,  put them all in a food processor and process until they are ground into a fine paste.  Save some of the nuts to place on top of the chocolate covered candies.

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Shape the paste into little nuggets with your hands.  Get about 1 heaping tsp full of nut paste and squeeze and press it together.  Then shape it how you like.  I made mine into nuggets about 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 in size.  Place the nuggets in the refrigerator for at least an hour to chill and set before dipping them into the chocolate.

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Melt the chocolate together with the heavy whipping cream (or soy or coconut milk), stirring constantly, until all the chocolate is melted and it is smooth and shiny.  Then dip the nuggets into the chocolate by placing them on a fork.  Make sure to completely coat the nugget.  Place the coated nuggets onto a piece of parchment paper and place a whole pistachio on top.

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Once all the nuggets are covered, place them in the refrigerator once more.  Let them chill and set for at least 2-3 hours before serving.

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Once the nuggets have set, cut away all the excess chocolate from the edges and plate them up to serve and enjoy.  These are healthy little treats that you do not need to feel guilty about for eating.

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Green Chili Day

I normally do not like to reblog things too much, especially foods and recipes I have already made and created.  However, there are always exceptions to everything.  This is one of those exceptions.  My husband switched jobs 4 years ago, and when he did, he started a new tradition.  He brings in green chili and tamales for everyone he works with to celebrate his work anniversary.  It seems to be a popular tradition.  Every year, the pot of green chili gets bigger and bigger and it always comes home empty, so I guess they like my green chili.  Time for Green Chili  The tamales he buys, though I can easily make them.  I love to make tamales, however, they are very time consuming to make, and I usually do not have the time to make them for everyone he works with.  So a compromise is made.  I make the green chili, the tamales he buys and everyone is happy.

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USA Swimming Women’s Coaches Leadership Retreat

As most of you already know, I wear many different hats.  “A Jeanne in the Kitchen” is only one of the many.  Many of the other hats I wear are water related, and certainly for my paying jobs, they are all water related.  Aside from being Chef Jeanne, I am also a water aerobics instructor (soon to be an instructor to the instructors) and a swim coach.  I coach primarily the 10 and unders age groups.  This past weekend I attended a women’s leadership summit and retreat in beautiful Black Forest, right outside of Colorado Springs, Colorado.  It was an awesome event and I got to meet and connect with some wonderful, strong, courageous women, many of whom are leaders and pioneers in the world of women’s coaching.  Because of these strong leaders, the pathways have been opened for many other women to follow.  A big thank you to all of them.  Because of you and all you have done, we are now able to follow in your footsteps.  Hopefully we can leave our marks on the world of swimming just like you have, although we have very big shoes to fill.

At this event, we were able to stay in this beautiful, rustic retreat which allowed us to not only reconnect with what is important to us, and to “find our why’s”, but we were able to do so while reconnecting with nature as well.

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We spend the bulk of the weekend in this beautiful, rustic gem.  I would love to have this as my house.

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Making new friends and connections.  Life is all about making connections.  Women came from all over the United States to be a part of this fabulous retreat.

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We all stayed in these cute, rustic cabins.

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My roommate Norie and I.  I got very lucky and had a fantastic roommate.  She and I just really hit it off.  Norie is now coaching in Santa Monica, CA, not too far from where I grew up.

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The gifts of nature that surrounded us.

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One of our “assignments” was to “forest bathe”, which was to take a walk through the woods on our own to clear our heads of any negativity and to help us reconnect with ourselves.  Well … it started out just fine, and I was happily hiking around, taking great pictures, and then I got lost and it started to really snow, coming down very heavily.  Needless to say, as I was lost, yelling “hello” to gain any passers-by attention and tracking around through the cold snowy weather, it was no longer so much fun for me after this.  Fortunately though, I am VERY resourceful, and once I found a dirt road with tire tracks on it, I followed it to someone’s house.  I knocked on the door and explained the situation, and the lady who lived there very graciously took me back to our “home away from home”.  I had hiked about 3 miles in total, and ended up almost a mile away from our retreat location.  I did not go out exploring on my own after that.   I had had enough off-road experiences at that point.  The ironic thing is that my roommate Norie also got lost and had to be rescued.  I guess great minds think a like, in both good and bad situations.

We had quite a bit of snowfall during our stay as well.  Typical to Colorado’s weather, it would snow, then a few hours later would melt, then would snow again.  On our last day, we had clear blue skies and 62* weather.  Only in Colorado.

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My friend, my boss, and our Head Coach for the 10 and unders age groupers, Lauren.  Lauren and I have such a good bond and such a great friendship and working relationship.  She makes going in to “work” seem like I am just hanging out with my buddy.    Lauren is simply AWESOME!!!!!

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After the summit ended, some of us went to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.  Sadly we were not able to take the tour, since it is only open for touring during the summer hours, but it was still very cool to go and to see what we could.

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During our down time, when we were not busy working, we got to really meet and socialize with our new friends.  This is my new friend Hillary.  What makes this friendship so special, is that it really ties my two worlds of swimming and cooking together.  Unbeknownst to either of us at the time, Hillary had been a follower of “A Jeanne in the Kitchen”, and she says she learned how to cook through following cooking blogs, including mine.  WOW!!!  Such a small world.  Who knew?!  This was a totally surreal moment and revelation to both of us.

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The Secret is in the Sauce

I am a “saucy” kind of girl, and not just with my foods either.  But sticking to food for now, I love sauces and marinades, particularly on my meats.  The sauces and marinades you use definitely make or break the meal.   They transform plain, boring dishes into something delicious and bring the whole meal to life.  Sauces and marinades do not need to be fancy and elaborate.  They just need to be tasty.  Here are a couple of marinades that are full of flavor and and are super easy to make.

The first marinade is a bold and spicy bourbon-molasses sauce for steaks and pork.  I used it over some T-Bone steaks and it was fantastic.  Because the sauce was very bold, I wanted some milder side dishes to go along with the steak, to focus on the flavors of the sauce.  I served it with mashed sweet potatoes made with maple syrup and green beans.  I had cut up some mushrooms, peppers and onions to serve on top of the steak, but my husband did not see those so he didn’t cook them.  By the time I got home from work, he was hungry and ready to eat.  The mushrooms and peppers were save and used for another meal.  Because I work nights, for simple meals, I get everything prepared ahead of time and my husband cooks them so they are ready to eat as soon as I get home.  He is only trusted with simple dishes though, and even then they don’t always come out right.  He tries, bless his little heart.  🙂

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Bourbon Molasses Steak Sauce

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1 TBSP dried minced onion

1/2 cup ketchup

2 oz Bourbon

1/4 cup molasses

3 TBSP apple cider vinegar

2 TBSP Worcestershire sauce

2 TBSP brown sugar

2 tsp dried mustard powder

1 tsp salt

1 TBSP garlic or roasted garlic

cayenne pepper to taste

 

Mix everything together in a saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes, until it thickens.  Turn off the heat and let it cool for a bit.  Then cover your favorite cut of steak or pork and let it marinate for at least 1 hour before cooking the meat.  I let it set for about 4 hours.    The acidity in the ingredients is also acting as a meat tenderizer too, so the longer it marinates, the more tender the meat will be.

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My second sauce is just as easy to make, and just as delicious.  It is a yogurt lemon-herb sauce, and is a perfect sauce for chicken and seafood.  This is a very Mediterranean and specifically Greek, way of preparing chicken and seafood.

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Lemon-Herb Yogurt Sauce

I cup plain yogurt

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 TBSP garlic

red pepper flakes to taste

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp each fresh herbs of your choice – I used basil, thyme and oregano

 

Mix everything together and marinated your chicken for at least 1 hour before cooking.

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To complete the Mediterranean theme, I served it with garlic roasted potatoes and rataouille, along with my garlic, herb & tomato focaccia and a dry white wine.  Delicious!  Garlic, Herb & Tomato Focaccia

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Cooking does not have to difficult or complicated.  Things just have to look good and taste good.  Often times, simple is best.

I will be out of the kitchen for a few more days.  I am leaving to go to a coaches’ conference later on today.  But have no fear, I will be back in the kitchen and back in business very soon.

 

Garlic, Herb & Tomato Focaccia

We had a spring snow yesterday.  All the weather people were saying it was going to be another doozy, like the last one, so everything was cancelled and/or closed.  Well …. we did get rain, snow and wind, but it was nothing like what all the “experts” were predicting.  In fact, based on the predictions, it was really a bit of a disappointment.  However, it was a good day for baking.  We had spaghetti for dinner, and usually I make my famous garlic cheese bread to go along with spaghetti, but because it was such a good day for baking, and I had the time, I decided to take advantage of it and made some garlic, herb and tomato focaccia instead, or as it is known in Italian, focaccia al aglio e pomodori.  I warmed up the house and had a delicious homemade bread instead.  It was a win/win.

I love breads of all kinds, and I love to bake breads too.  But baking breads, particularly yeast breads, can be time consuming.  Making and baking the bread is not the time consuming part.  It is the time needed to allow the dough to rise, and often breads need two rises before baking.  But because everything was cancelled for the rest of the day, I actually had time to bake some bread without being hurried.  From start to finish, it took about 3 hours to make this delicious focaccia, but it was well worth every minute.

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Focaccia is an Italian flatbread.  It is very versatile and lends itself to many different toppings.  Focaccia with Caramelized Onion Marmalade I thought a garlic, herb and tomato was a perfect choice to accompany our spaghetti dinner.

Focaccia with Garlic, Herbs and Tomatoes

The Sponge

1 tsp dry active yeast

1/2 cup warm water

3/4 cup flour

 

Whisk the yeast and the water together and let it stand for about 10 minutes, then mix in the flour.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise for about 45 minutes.  You will have a very soft, sticky “sponge”.

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The Dough

1 tsp dry active yeast

1 cup warm water

3 TBSP olive oil

the sponge

3 1/4 cups flour

2 tsp salt

 

Mix the yeast and the water together, again, letting it set for about 10 minutes.  Mix in the sponge and the olive oil, using a wooden spoon.  Add the rest of the flour, one cup at a time, and work it in to the sponge mixture until all the flour has been incorporated.  Dump the dough mixture onto a lightly floured surface and start kneading the flour into the mixture until all the flour has been mixed in and you have a dough ball.  This will take about 8-10 minutes.  Once the dough forms into a ball, place it into a bowl that has been lightly oiled.  I like to rub the olive oil all over the dough as well to help keep it moist.  Then cover tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for 1 1/4 hours.  This is for the first rise.

After the dough has doubled in size, place it on an ungreased baking sheet and press the dough out to fit the baking sheet with your hands.  If you need to, let it rest for about 10 minutes so the dough can relax, and then start again.  Once you have filled the baking sheet, let the dough rise again, for another 45 minutes.

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While the dough is rising for the second rise, chop the tomatoes and herbs.

2 TBSP olive oil

1 lb ripe tomatoes, medium dice

1 TBSP garlic

1 tsp each fresh basil, oregano, thyme and sage, chopped fine

 

Saute the garlic and tomatoes in the olive oil in a hot skillet for about 5 minutes to let the tomatoes cook down and concentrate a bit.  Then let the tomato mixture cool.

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Preheat the oven to 425* F.

Once the dough has risen for the second time, dimple it with your fingers and spread the tomato mixture evenly over the dough.  Then sprinkle the herbs over the tomato mixture.

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Bake the focaccia for about 25 minutes.  Use a spray bottle to spray the inside of the oven 3 times within the first 10 minutes of baking.  This helps “crisp” up the dough.  Once the focaccia is lightly golden brown, remove it and let it cool before cutting.  Then …… Mangia!

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