No-Chill Cutout Cookies

Cook’s notes: This recipes used to be posted on the Penzeys site, but it is no longer there. Luckily, I had an arcIMG_2702.jpghive copy of this recipe, which makes buttery, delicious cookies. The original author said, “These cookies are especially quick and easy because you don’t have to chill the dough before rolling.” I doubled the vanilla in this recipe. No frosting is needed. And of course, the number of cookies depends on the shape you cut. I got well over 50 moon cookies.

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

Heat oven to 400°F.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg and the vanilla, mix until well blended.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder then gradually add to the butter mixture and blend well. Form the dough into a smooth ball. (Add a little water if needed.)

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of 1/8 to 1/4 inch. Cut out with cookie cutters and place on ungreased cookie sheets. Fill each cookie sheet with cookies of equal size to ensure even baking.

Bake for 6 minutes (a bit longer for thicker cookies), but they shouldn’t brown at all. Remove from cookie sheets and cool on wire racks.


Pumpkin Pie Spiced Milk

pumpkin-vintage-color-1475656833nqoCook’s notes: Used plant-based milk and cut the sugar. Use any kind of milk you like: 2% cow, whole milk, almond milk, etc. Makes a wonderful holiday drink.

Pumpkin Pie Spiced Milk

  • 1 cup coconut milk (in a carton, not canned)
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (recipe below)

Heat the milk in a mug (60 – 90 seconds in microwave). Stir in sugar and spices. Blend well and serve warm.

Pumpkin Pie Spice from Dessert for Two. Blend together and keep in a small jar:

  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Adapted from Kid-Friendly Chai Tea | Horizon

Peppermint Hot Chocolate

IMG_2199Cook’s notes: I posted a version of this recipe several years ago that used two kinds of syrup (Peppermint Hot Cocoa, Syrup Version). This version includes two kinds of chocolate. The maple syrup seems to intensify the chocolate flavor. If you don’t have maple syrup, use either 1 Tablespoon honey or 4 teaspoons white sugar (you need to use 1/3 more sugar than maple syrup). Guittard does not add milk to their chips, but if you need certified vegan chips, I recommend the Enjoy Life brand.

1 cup almond milk
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (Droste Dutch Processed Cocoa)
1.5 Tablespoons extra dark chocolate chips (such as Guittard)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract

Microwave the almond milk in a glass measuring cup for 2 minutes on High.

Place the cocoa powder, chocolate chips, and salt in a mug. Add a splash of  hot almond milk; stir until chocolate chips are melted and the chocolate mixture is thick and smooth.

Add the remaining hot milk, maple syrup, and peppermint extract. Stir to combine.

Top with whipped cream and serve hot.



Best Recipe: Cinnamon Skillet Pecans

2 cups raw pecans

2 cups raw pecans

Cook’s notes: You can use pecans, almonds, cashews (or a mix of nuts) in this recipe. I’d also like to try these with the Chai Spice Mix. I like that this small-batch recipe only makes 2 cups of nuts, which is just enough to enjoy without being too tempting.

I made these pecans for a friend’s birthday, and this was her reaction: “Deliciously addictive. I love ‘em! Lots of flavors going on with slightly sweet at the beginning, then salty, and a little heat kick at the end…. I am enjoying these nuts tremendously. Thank you so much!”

Spice mix:
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups pecan halves
1 teaspoon sugar, plus a little more for sprinkling

Make the spice mix: Combine salt, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice in a small bowl.

Melt the butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-low heat; stir in the the spice mixture. Stir in the pecans, and cook for 3 minutes.

Sprinkle the pecans with the sugar. Continue to toast the nuts, stirring often, until the color of the nuts deepens slightly, for a few more minutes (6 to 8 minutes total). Transfer the nuts to a bowl and sprinkle with a little more sugar. Spread the coated nuts on a plate to cool.

Adapted from The Frugal Girl (reduced sugar; reordered ingredients)

Chai Spice Mix

Cook’s notes: I adore this spice blend and have made it several times. It’s different from a lot of cinnamon blends. The cardamom is an interesting flavor.

The original author of this recipe says, “Use this spice mix in hot cocoa, chocolate cake, muffins, banana bread, or granola. Substitute it for the spices in pumpkin or apple pie. Or use it in chocolate bark” (link). It would also be delicious on spiced pecans.

2 Tablespoons cinnamon powder
2 Tablespoons ground cardamom
2 Tablespoons ground ginger
1 Tablespoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons allspice powder
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground pepper

Mix all spices together in a small bowl. Store at room temperature in a sealed container.

Beer Gravy

Cook’s notes: I used an IPA ale for the gravy to go with chicken and rice. This could also be served with “bangers and mash” (sausage and potatoes such as the oven-roasted version).

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon butter
1/2 cup onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic cloves (jarred)
4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup beer
1 cup vegetable stock

Melt the butter with the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and continue cooking another 5 minutes, until onions start to soften.

Add flour and stir, cooking another 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk in the stock and beer. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until thickened.

Taste and season with salt and pepper. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Source: Adapted from a set of recipes on Today Food.

2012 Holiday Party Mix: Nutlacker Sweets

Cook’s notes: A terrible pun, yes indeed. This year’s “White Christmas” mix has no nuts but plenty of flavor. This is easy to make, and the recipe makes enough for you to give a generous amount to several people.

No nuts, but lots of crunch

No nuts, but lots of crunch

2 bags (12-oz each) white chocolate chips
12 oz bag dried cranberries
14 oz bag dark M&Ms
4 cups multi-grain Cheerios
3 cups Rice Chex
3 cups small waffle pretzels

In a microwave-safe large bowl, heat chips on medium power for 1 minute. Stir. Add 1 tsp olive oil into the bowl and stir again. Heat the chocolate for another 30 seconds on medium; stir well until chips are completely melted and smooth. If required, continue to heat the chocolate on medium at 30-second intervals, stirring well each time.

Add mix-in ingredients to the melted chocolate. Stir to mix well with a rubber spatula, being sure to completely coat all ingredients. Spread mixture onto parchment paper to cool, separating the mixture into individual pieces or bite-size clusters (the easiest way to do this is by hand, wearing food-safe disposable gloves). When chocolate is set, store mix in an airtight container.

Pumpkin Oat Pancakes for Two

Cook’s notes: I had extra pumpkin puree and oat flour left after making the pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and a craving. Penzeys Cake Spice is a blend of China cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and clove. These wonderful pancakes were very satisfying, quick to make, and not a huge production.

Homely but tasty

Homely but tasty

Makes 6 small pancakes. Real maple syrup is a must.

1 egg
1/4 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 cup vanilla-flavored coconut milk beverage
2/3 cup oat flour (Bob’s Red Mill)
1/2 teaspoon Cake Spice by Penzeys (or cinnamon powder or pumpkin pie spice)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of kosher salt

Break the egg into a small bowl and beat it lightly with a fork. Stir in the pumpkin puree and milk until well combined. Add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

Lightly coat a skillet with cooking spray and heat to medium on stove top.
Spoon batter into pan (I did 2 batches of 3 pancakes each).  Flip after about 90 seconds and brown on the other side until fully cooked.

Source: Adapted from a recipe by Running to the Kitchen.

Cranberry Oatmeal Buttons

Cook’s notes: Adapted from a recipe by Sunmaid Raisins (link). These are tasty, low-fat cookies. As the original recipe said, “This is one recipe where low is good. Low sodium, low fat, and low cholesterol — now that’s a really good cookie.”

Tasty and low fat

The recipe has several options: I used white whole-wheat flour, canola oil, plain yogurt (instead of vanilla, to keep the sugar down), and quick oats. You could even reduce the amount of brown sugar to 1/2 cup. If you like oatmeal raisin cookies, try these button-shaped cookies, which are tasty and very satisfying.

1 cup white whole-wheat flour (from King Arthur) or whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup fat-free plain yogurt (or fat-free vanilla yogurt)
1/8 cup (1 oz) canola oil (or corn oil)
1 large egg
1 overflowing teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/3 cups quick-cooking rolled oats (or uncooked old-fashioned oats)
1 cup dried cranberries (5 oz package)

Heat oven to 350∫ F. Cover 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt together.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine brown sugar, yogurt, oil, egg, and vanilla. Beat to combine. Add flour mixture; beat just until combined to make blended dough. Beat in oats and cranberries. Dough will be quite sticky.

Using a small cookie scoop, drop mixture by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets. They will puff slightly when cooking, but they will not spread out flat.

Bake for 12 minutes until very lightly browned. Check them at 10 minutes — do not over bake.

Slide cookies from parchment paper onto countertop to cool.

Makes 40 cookies.

Estimated nutrition information per serving (1 cookie): Calories 42; Protein 0.9 g; Fat 1 g; Carbohydrate 7.6 g (net carbs 6.9 g); Dietary Fiber 0.7 g; Cholesterol 5 mg; Sodium 52 mg (from

Dietary exchanges for 2 cookies: 0.9 bread/starch

Menu: Healthful Holidays

Cook’s Notes: We are having a “Happy & Healthy Holiday Potluck” at work. I was inspired by this great idea to start researching appropriate recipes. Healthy dishes don’t have to be boring! You can still have festive holiday meals while you lighten the menu. Dishes that are low in sugar, fat, or carbs, or high in fiber are much more than cardboard and rabbit food. Think about serving grilled chicken or salmon, roasted vegetables, fresh fruit, quinoa salad with beans, open-topped pies, dips made with fat-free plain Greek yogurt, whole-wheat pita bread, mixed salads with vinaigrette dressing, or raw vegetables served with salsa.

Helpful Articles:

  • Low-Carb Thanksgiving
  • High fiber ideas: Explore categories at allrecipes
  • Low-fat Christmas cookies at delish
  • Lighter Thanksgiving recipes (at least 20) at eatingwell
  • Non-alcoholic holiday drink recipes at eatingwell
  • Potluck recipes made healthy (these may be more suitable for summer, but at least 6 recipes are provided)
  • Recipe Makeover: Holiday Classics from Cooking Light
  • Top 10 Healthy holiday foods (link)
  • Top 10 low fat Christmas recipes can be found at

Menu ideas

Select a few items from each category. You would not serve all of these dishes at one time!

Baked chips
Black bean hummus (link) on whole-wheat pita breads
Cranberry salsa
Pear and blue cheese flat bread (link)
Raw nuts and seeds, instead of potato chips and salted nuts
Shrimp with cocktail sauce (best one: Alton Brown’s recipe)
Sliced turkey wrapped around asparagus stalks or steamed broccoli
Smoked salmon spread on cucumber slices
Smoked turkey with blueberry chutney on a biscuit
Tortilla rollups with sliced turkey on a light tortilla spread with low-fat cream cheese
Vegetable tray with salsa, instead of cheese dips
Whole-grain crackers with low-fat cheese

Main Dishes:
Black bean burgers
Boneless skinless chicken breast with a light pan sauce and mushrooms
Grilled poultry
Grilled or roasted salmon
Skillet Salmon
Stir-fry: brown rice with vegetables
Stuffed baked squash with crunchy pecans and sweet dried cherries or acorn squash with rice and cranberries
Turkey breast or cutlets

Starches (rice, pasta, potato, or bread):
Baked Sweet Potato Fries, instead of sweet potato casserole with butter and marshmallows
Garlic mashed potatoes, made dairy free with fat-free broth (link)
Pasta with peas in a fat-free cream sauce
Whole-wheat rolls

3 bean salad
Baked squash
Black and White Beans
Mixed salad with vinaigrette (non-creamy) dressing on the side
Quinoa salad with black beans and corn (link)
Quinoa salad with roasted vegetables (link)
Roasted broccoli
Roasted carrots and chickpeas
Roasted green beans, instead of the green bean casserole with cream of mushroom soup
Roasted vegetables (or lemon roasted vegetables)
White bean salad (link)

Roasted red pepper soup
Soup made with Faith’s Roasted Vegetables
Turkey and vegetable soup

Applesauce (homemade)
Cranberry chutney
Fresh fruit salad
Fresh fruit: apples and pears
Winter fruit salad: Orange slices and pomegranate seeds

Desserts: Fruit
9 Apple Pie with minimal sugar
Baked pears with cranberries
Dark chocolate oatmeal cookies
Dried fruit dipped in dark chocolate
Low-fat gingerbread cookies (link)
Open-top pie (uses less pastry)
Pumpkin pie made light with 1 cup of evaporated skim milk and 3 egg whites, or a crustless pumpkin pie
Reduced-fat cheesecake
Sweet potato pie

Apple Zinger Punch
Non-alcoholic drinks (“mocktails“) or mineral water, instead of alcohol and sodas
Spiced cider, made in the slow cooker (link)