Recipe: Sour Cream Cutout Cookies

This one is an oldie. My aunt shared it with my mom back in 1974, and it’s been Mom’s go-to cutout cookie recipe ever since.

I generally follow the instructions. And then I get mad because chilling the dough thoroughly means that it has to sit out for at least 30 minutes before it softens enough to roll out. Grrr. This time, I chilled the dough for only 30 minutes, while I cleaned up the mixer and did a few dishes. They rolled out fine. So, yeah, the original chill time is a little excessive.

There are 2 spices listed: nutmeg and cardamom. The original recipe called for nutmeg. Mom uses cardamom when she wants a cookie that’s a little more exotic-tasting, or when she doesn’t want the little flecks of nutmeg to show in the finished cookies. You could use whatever spice you like. Same for the extract – use lemon or almond instead of vanilla. And for heaven’s sake, if you’re using nutmeg and you have it, use fresh-grated!

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Recipe: Sesame Candy

The forum that is my primary social outlet is having a food swap. There are a few of us who signed up, filled out a questionnaire about preferences (including whether we would be willing to eat homemade food from a virtual stranger), allergies, etc. and were matched up with a name. The responses from the name I was assigned are funny and reminded me of this recipe.

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Toasted seeds and nuts

I have made this before. But like many recipes, I tried it when I first got the cookbook. Then when the novelty of the book wore off, I put it on the shelf and forgot about it.

I really need to go through this book and make some of these things.

Usually when I make this, I do a half batch. So that’s what I’m including below. Depending on how you cut them, you can get 30-50 pieces from the half batch. They are small, but then you can have more than one piece, or can try something else off the dessert tray. They have a nutty flavor that’s only lightly sweet, and are a great little tidbit to include on a cheese tray. Making smaller batches means you can make a couple of variations, trying different nuts and seasonings, without ending up with candy for weeks.

If you live near a store with a good bulk foods department, check it out for some of the ingredients. They can be pricey at standard mega-marts. Middle Eastern groceries are a good source for inexpensive sesame seeds, too.

A word of warning: this stuff gets HOT. The oils in the nuts and seeds come out during toasting and can burn if you’re not careful pouring them into the mixing bowl. And molten honey not only burns, it sticks.

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Zucchini Brownies

I know, yuck, right? Chocolate and vegetables?

Ew.

Sorry, that assumption is completely wrong. These brownies do not taste like vegetables. The zucchini adds body and moisture to them without adding a lot of fat or calories.

Plus, it’s something to make from enormous harvests of zucchini that’s not bread or yet another batch of Ratatouille. I know it’s only March, and therefore not zucchini season here in the northern contiguous US, but you can totally make these with frozen zucchini. Last summer, when I’d happen upon zukes at amazing prices, I’d snap them up, wash them, shred them (thank heavens I finally got a food processor) and then freeze the shreds in 2-3 cup bags. If you use frozen, let your bag thaw, then put the shreds in a non-fuzzy tea towel and give it a squeeze to get most of the excess water out.

This recipe was shared by a member of a forum to which I belonged that is, sadly, no longer. And I don’t have the link saved anywhere. But this is my slightly modified version.

Notes: I increase the applesauce a bit from the original, because 1/2 cup is one of those lunchbox portion cups. No waste! My preferred flour is King Arthur Flour Whole Wheat or White Whole Wheat; cocoa is King Arthur Flour Triple Cocoa Blend. I use spices and extracts, including double strength vanilla, from Penzey’s Spices.

Zucchini Brownies

2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt (I use table salt or fine sea salt because it dissolves a little more evenly in batter)
2 cups peeled and grated zucchini, drained if thawed from frozen
Optional: 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350˚F and line an 8″x8″ baking pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, vanilla, sugar and applesauce.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Make sure there are no lumps.

Add the dry mix to the wet and gently stir until combined. Do not overmix, as the brownies will get tough. The batter will be very, very thick at this point. Do not panic. Fold in the zucchini shreds and optional chocolate chips. See? The moisture from the zucchini loosens the batter right up! Pour the batter into the prepared pan and even the surface with a spatula.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick or tester inserted in the middle doesn’t come out gooey. Moist crumbs are OK, but raw gooeyness is not.

Let cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan, then use the edges of the parchment paper to lift the whole brownie up from the pan. Cool completely, then cut into 16 pieces.

Store in an airtight container. Refrigeration is highly recommended, as the high moisture content means these mold easily.