Tag Archives: Cookies

Lemon Yogurt Cookies

Here in Arizona, we have incredible citrus all around us.  The blossoms smell heavenly right now, perfuming the warming spring breeze.

On our little patch of ground, we have planted orange, Meyer lemon, Eureka lemon, Mandarin orange, and two lime trees but our trees are young because we have had to start from the ground up – literally. One of these days, I promise I will tell you all about the desert wasteland we purchased three years ago and have spent every moment since remodeling and cultivating into what is now pretty much my favorite place on earth.

Back to the trees; they are filled with blossoms and budding but not yet mature fruit. Soon. I just have to be patient. Sadly, patience is not my super power so I am grateful to our neighbors who are supplying me with more lemons than I know what to do with, presenting me with the challenge of coming up with all sorts of ways to use them.

The leaves are still looking a little rough from the cold but the lemons are incredible!

The leaves are still looking a little rough from the cold but the lemons are incredible!

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Over the weekend, our citrus supplying neighbors invited us over for cocktails and a tour of some recent renovations to their home. It is hard to get me out of the yard these days (just ask my son who was on a desperate hunt for a pair of clean socks this morning) so I needed to find something quick, easy and of course, “lemony” to take to them (after all it is their lemons I’m having so much fun with).

In my quest to use every last precious lemon, I have been looking for new recipes. I have a lot of good ones already but my curiosity led me to browse through the numerous “fundraising” cookbooks I have; you know the ones – spiral binders, put out by churches and booster clubs, lots of jello salad recipes.

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Those are the ones.

Just to be clear, I am not knocking Jello salad, I am simply using it as a descriptive example. The fact that Mrs. Mabel Johnson or Mrs. Thelma Thompson thought it was the best dish in her arsenal, worthy of immortality, preserved for all time between the color coded pages of the “Best of fill in the blank Church’s” cookbook is none of my concern.

All joking aside, these little books really do have some “best of” recipes. Good basic recipes that offer considerable opportunity to fine tune, tweak and make your own. In the “Favorite Recipes from St. James” cookbook circa 1984, which was my Great Aunt Helen’s Episcopal church in Tigard Oregon, I found this lovely little Lemon Yogurt Cookie recipe.

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After tweaking the recipe a bit, I baked up a batch of what turned out to be a soft and moist cookie that has a delightful cakey texture, more like a soft scone than a cookie.

I am IN LOVE with this recipe.

Because I am in love with this recipe, naturally, I just had to see which sweet church lady submitted it. I doesn’t matter that I would have no idea who she was, it would just be fun to imagine her, cheek dusted with flour, humming softly as she lovingly placed each cookie on a rack to cool and then turned her attention to one of the other four dishes she was working on for the church potluck the next day.

Scanning down the page, I found the lovely woman’s name at the bottom of the recipe. My great-aunt Helen. It was her recipe. What? Out of all of the recipes in the book, I chose hers. I kid you not. I was a little take aback.

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Helen LeFebre, age 20, circa 1936

The best part about this story is not the fact that up to this point I hadn’t noticed her name on the page, Helen LeFebre right there in front of me, and baked on oblivious to the fact that I was making a family recipe. No, the best part is that Helen LeFebre did not cook or bake. Never. Not ever. I have absolutely no memory of her doing anything in the kitchen beyond making tea.

Aunt Helen was more of the “let’s do lunch” type of lady and certainly never made five dishes for the church potluck. Actually, she would have been the lady who placed the tin of Danish Butter Cookies amid the Jello salads and countless hot dishes.

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In all honesty, this is probably the reaction you would have gotten from her had you asked “these are delicious, did you make them?”

Her life’s passion was not for the domestic. She was a teacher, studied at Berkley and spent nearly thirty years (1950-1978) in the Philipines as a missionary for the Episcopal Church, serving as a Medical Librarian for St. Luke’s hospital, training local women in her field.

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She never married or had children. Her heart was always in the Philipines and with the Filipino people.

I can’t tell you how blessed I feel to have landed on this recipe. This little book was pretty much single-handedly created from the recipes of Alice Thornton and June Boone. Whoever they were. Sweet little 5 dishes for the potluck ladies I am sure. But I was led to one of the two recipes submitted by my great-aunt who didn’t cook. And it was fabulous. And I got to spend the morning thinking about her, writing about her, remembering her.

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I have no idea where she got this recipe. But I am most grateful that she submitted it and that 29 years later, it fell into my hands when I opened a small little paper cookbook looking for a lemon recipe.

Great Aunt Helen’s Lemon Yogurt Cookies

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Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon zest
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup lemon yogurt – I used lemon flavored Greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice (originally called for 1 tsp. lemon extract)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.

In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the sugar, butter and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated. Add the lemon yogurt and lemon juice and mix well. Add in the flour mixture in thirds, incorporating well after each addition.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls two inches apart on prepared cookie sheet (greased or covered with a Silpat matt or parchment paper).

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until just a light golden brown around edges.

Makes 4 dozen cookies.

The recipe did not originally call for a glaze but I decided to add one, which turned out to be a really good decision. It added a lot to the flavor to the cookies, upped the intensity of the lemon flavor and made them just a little bit more finished and special.

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For the glaze …

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 6 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest

Mix until smooth and drizzle over cookies.

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I feel like I have discovered treasure with these little cookies and I am so happy to share them and my great-aunt Helen with you.

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I hope you will try them. They would be a wonderful Easter treat and will be on my Easter buffet. Alas, there will be no Jello salad.

Enjoy!

White Chocolate Dipped Gingersnaps

ready-to-serveThese are my favorite “go to” Christmas Cookies. Versatile, delicious, easy and one batch makes a lot of cookies. I found this recipe several years ago in one of those little “Best Christmas Cookies Ever” type mini-magazine cookbooks that you pick up on impulse at the checkout stand. You know just in case you didn’t already have the “Best Christmas Cookie Ever Recipe” amongst the hundreds of recipes you already have and actually might just find it in this particular little magazine so you buy it because you can’t take the chance you’ll miss out on the best thing that has ever happened to you. As it turns out, this little magazine did actually have the recipe for the “Best Christmas Cookie Ever”.

Over the years, I have happily shared this recipe with countless friends and now I am going to share it with you too!

White Chocolate Dipped Gingersnaps

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups Granulated Sugar
  • 1 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 Cup Molasses – I use “Full Flavor” Molasses
  • 4 Cups Flour
  • 4 teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Ginger
  • 2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • Additional sugar to roll cookies.

White Chocolate Dip:

  • 2 – 12 ounce Packages Vanilla Baking Chips
  • 1/4 Cup Shortening (Crisco)

Directions

In a mixing blow, combine sugar and oil; mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Sugar-and-OilAdd molasses and mix well.

MolassesHere is a little trick that may or may not be life changing for you …Measuring-Molasseswhen you add the molasses use the same measuring cup that you used for the oil and the molasses with slip right out without sticking to the sides. Yes, I do watch entirely too much Food Network.BatterGorgeous!

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and gradually add to creamed mixture, mixing well after each addition.Adding-MolassesKeep going, you’re almost there.DoughPerfect, such a beautiful dough.

Now, shape the dough into 3/4 inch balls using a small scoop for uniform size.scoopAnd then roll the cookie balls in sugar.A-roll-in-the-sugarAhhhhh, there’s my sweet boy.Nathan-helping-2You didn’t think I could post a recipe without pictures of my helper did you? The sugar rolling step is perfect for little helpers. Here we are experimenting with a roll in Turbinado Sugar which turned out to be a little much. We recommend sticking with the plain old granulated stuff.Nathan-helpingNext, place the sugar rolled balls 2 inches apart on a baking sheet (mine is lined with a Silpat mat to prevent sticking but parchment paper works just fine too).Ready-for-the-ovenBake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until cookie springs backward when touched lightly. A little less time will give you softer, chewier cookies and a little more crispy and crunchy.bakedFresh from the oven and smelling fantastic. Remove to wire racks and cool.

What to do next? These cookies are so beautiful and delicious just as they are (go ahead, try one) which brings up the question to dip or not to dip? This is entirely up to you but you really must try the white chocolate dip at least once. The white chocolate dresses them up and puts them over the top but the gingersnap really is wonderful on its own too. ready-to-dip

If you decide to dip (which really is a good decision), melt the chips with shortening in a microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring after each until not quite melted as to not scorch the chocolate. Keep stirring until the heat of the mixture fully melts the chocolate.

Melting-chocolateYes, my picture shows the chips in a pan that clearly can not go in the microwave and is obviously on its way to the stove top. This is the way the original recipe says to melt the chips. I did it this way. I should not have. I know better. Melt them in the microwave, unless you can properly care for your melting chocolate and are not likely to be distracted by a five-year-old, a dog, the phone or the doorbell or all at the same time. Trust me, unless you use a double boiler, this can go wrong quickly and will only end in heartbreak. Use the microwave.ready-to-dip-2Okay, now that your chocolate is perfectly melted, dip the cookies halfway and shake off the excess. Place on waxed paper or parchment paper to harden for about an hour. dipped-and-dryingIf you want to get festive, right after dipping (before the chocolate hardens) decorate with colored sugar or sprinkles.sprinkledNow, here is where it get’s interesting. If you are a ginger lover and can take a pretty big flavor punch, sprinkle your cookies with a little bit of chopped crystallized ginger.Crystallized-GingerHeavenly!ginger-toppedThese are the cookies that we leave out for Santa. I hope you love them too and that they become a part of your Christmas traditions! Thanks for reading, I’d love to know if you try them and what you think!

My Grandmother’s Ice Box Cookie Recipe

My Grandmother’s Ice Box Cookie Recipe

Click here to read the story behind the cookies.

Finished-Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 pound butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 6 cups flour
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 1 Tablespoon of cold water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt (less – about half – if you use table salt)

Directions

Shape into a small “log” roll. Refrigerate several hours, slice and bake at 350 degrees 10 minutes.

WAIT, WAIT, WAIT! Okay, so those were my grandmother’s instructions, written back in the day when knowledge and technique were assumed.

I have added slightly to the “how to” of the recipe:

Cream the butter and sugars together in a stand mixer (or with an electric mixer) until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.

Creaming-Sugar-and-Butter

Add and incorporated the eggs, one at a time.

One-Egg-at-a-Time

Add and incorporate the vanilla and the soda dissolved in water.

Mix salt into the six cups of flour and mix into butter mixture one cup at a time.

Flour

Mix in the roughly chopped walnuts (or the nut of your choice).

Walnuts

Add-in-Nuts

If you have a dreamy little brown-eyed boy, let him lick the beater.

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Shape the dough into three rectangular log rolls by placing the dough in thirds onto sheets of plastic wrap. Use the wrap to help you shape the dough.

Wrapping

Log

Logs

Seal it up and refrigerate for several hours, otherwise, it will be impossible to slice – also, this is why they are called “Ice Box” cookies.

After the dough has chilled, remove the plastic wrap and slice the cookies 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.

Sliced

Place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10 – 12 minutes.

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Cool and store in an airtight container or freeze.

Enjoy!

A Flood of Memories from The Icebox

This post was supposed to be about cookies. My Grandmother’s Icebox Cookies. But in the process of looking for a (as in one) picture of her to go with the recipe, I found myself spending the morning digging through hundreds of photos and remembering countless special moments from a childhood filled with them.

There are so many things that make me think of my grandmother. I lost her almost 30 years ago but rarely a day goes by that she isn’t with me. She was such a big part of my childhood and I have so many precious memories associated with her. She truly was my very first best friend.

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She was a wonderful lady and a good cook. The queen of the baked ham and Jello mold. A simple cook and not an overly confident one but her meals were always delicious, often prepared fresh from my grandfather’s incredible garden. My grandparents are the reason I didn’t know kids weren’t supposed to like vegetables. What is better than a carrot pulled straight from the ground and washed off with the garden hose? Not much.

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A foot wash after some barefoot gardening.

There is so much I remember about my grandmother. She was fastidiously neat, clean and tidy bordering on germ-a-phobic. How many times did I hear from the neighboring stall in a public restroom, “YOU’RE NOT SITTING DOWN ARE YOU?” In fact, the current state of my kitchen floors probably has her begging the Lord Himself to allow her 10 minutes in my kitchen with a mop and bucket. I’m also pretty sure she deserves at least some of the credit for my freakishly strong quads.

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Grandma and Grandpa having a little fun.

She was a lady and very proper but also funny with perfect timing, grace and poise. She never missed a beat. At least that is how I remember her. I remember how beautiful and pulled together she always looked. I also remember the nighttime routine of face cream, curlers and a foam/net hair wrap that were all paramount to her being fabulous the next day.

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I remember getting dressed up to go downtown and visit my grandpa at the bank where he worked as head of maintenance and then to lunch at the Crescent – a fancy department store with a wonderful cafe. Back in those days, you did not go downtown in black yoga pants and flip-flops; at least not in my grandmother’s world. Heck, I still don’t go downtown in black yoga pants and flip-flops and I go everywhere in black yoga pants and flip-flops. I’m a mom. In Arizona.

Santa-&-I-blog-readyThis picture is from one of our trips downtown where I was dressed to meet Santa in my taffeta skirt, lace tights and a beautiful butter yellow poncho and hat grandma had knit for me. How I cherished those outings with her. What I wouldn’t give for just one more.

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I remember how she would rub my forehead as I was falling asleep and how she sat and rocked me first thing each morning even when I no longer fit comfortably in her lap and the tips of my toes were starting to just brush the floor.

I miss her. I don’t think I realized how much until just this moment.

I’m sure by now you are wondering how all of this ties into cookies and where the promised recipe is. My grandmother may not have been Julia Child in the world of savory but when it came to baking, she was in her element. I spent a lot of weekends with my grandparents and I remember my grandmother always having a “little something” awaiting my arrival.  I remember the chocolate cake with white frosting she made so often because it was my dad’s favorite; and the cherry pie that was mine. I remember the amazing birthday cakes she made and decorated especially for me. Doll cakes, a horse cake, a beautiful yellow layer cake covered in handmade sugar flowers. All made with so much love and care for the sole purpose of making me feel special.

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At Christmas what I remember most were the delightful “spritz” cookies she made. Delicate perfect little cookies in the shape of trees, wreaths and stars beautifully decorated with holly leaves and berries. And I remember her Ice Box Cookies. The ice box cookies that started this whole post and the flood of memories that has come with it.

A week or so ago, In my preparations to get started on some Christmas cookie baking, I sought out a recipe I had discovered earlier on a wonderful blog called Piping Dreams. When I went back to the blog and found the recipe I was looking for, Fresh Cranberry, White Chocolate and Sea Salt Shortbread, I read through the comments and saw that another lady had asked about a recipe she’d been trying to find for quite some time. A recipe for “Refrigerator Cookies”, which sounded almost identical to my grandmother’s Ice Box Cookies that I remember from Childhood. I hadn’t thought about them in so long and had never actually made them myself. I did a little digging and found the recipe and went back and shared it in the comment section in the hope that it might be what she had been looking for.

And then I made a batch myself. With my grandmother standing right there next to me in my kitchen on my floors that are so in need of her attention. My rushed and busy spirit so in need of her attention. I don’t know if they were what that particular lady had been looking for but they were just what I had been looking for.

Seeing those cookies on the tray after baking was like looking through the eyes of my six-year-old self. They were just as I remember. They tasted just as I remember. A little bit of my Childhood recaptured through a recipe for a simple cookie. I will make them every Christmas from now on and I will think of my grandmother and remember how much she loved me and what she meant to me.

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My Grandmother’s Ice Box Cookie Recipe

shown above nestled alongside

Fresh Cranberry, White Chocolate and Sea Salt Shortbread from Lauren at Piping Dreams.

Oh, I also remember how she put my grandpa’s whiskey into a musical decanter that would chime out and alert her every time he poured a drink. Sorry, I just needed to laugh a little.