Posts Tagged 'cookies'

Jam Bars

These are the perfect last minute cookies. You know, your child announces that cookies are needed at school in the morning, or you need something for an unexpected event.  They are bar cookies, always my favorite because they don’t require dropping, rolling, or shaping. And they use ingredients you commonly have in the house – nothing exotic here. In fact, one of the great things about these cookies is that they can use any jam you happen to have around. The first time I made them for an unexpected potluck, I used bits of leftover jam – a few spoons of blueberry, some leftover currant jam, and even the rest of a jar of red wine jelly opened for use as a glaze on chicken. The mix worked out great – generic jam.

Jam Bars

¾ cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1¾  cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups rolled oats (old fashioned oatmeal will work)
1 cup jam

Preheat oven to 400. Spray a 9 x 13 baking pan with cooking spray.

Beat butter and sugar together thoroughly. In a separate bowl, stir flour, soda, and salt together. Stir into butter mixture. Stir in oats, blending thoroughly. Melt jam slightly in microwave (I didn’t do this once, and it didn’t spread well enough). Press half of flour mixture firmly into prepared baking pan. Spoon jam evenly over bottom crust. Evenly sprinkle remaining flour mixture over jam and press down slightly.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Cool for about 10 minutes, and cut into bars. Remove from pan while still warm.  Makes 3 dozen cookies at about 3.7 grams of fat/cookie.


Thumbprint Cookies

My little congregation in having a musical Sabbath tonight. To be precise, the klezmer band “The Kosher Red Hots” will play. Klezmer is a musical tradition of the Ashkenazic Jews of Eastern Europe. Klezmer music is easily identifiable by its expressive melodies, reminiscent of the human voice, complete with laughing and weeping. Two of the members of the band are members of the congregation.  We expect a crowd of guests to come to hear them.

Like every Friday night service, there will be an oneg – enjoying Shabbat by eating snacks and sweets after the service. This is not a potluck meal, but “a little something” to have while you socialize with others. But this time we expect a larger number of people, so the word went out “bring extra”, if we run out of food, it will be a shanda (a shame on us).

So I decided on cookies, since most recipes make a lot of cookies. These thumbprint cookies, from American Profile, are very easy to make, and can be made the day before. In fact, they are the type of cookie that can be packed and sent as a gift – they’re pretty sturdy despite their delicate texture.  You can use any jam you have in the house. I used blackberry jam for half of them, and ginger jam for the other half. But apricot, strawberry, or even exotic jams will work.
Thumbprint Cookies

2 cups sifted flour (flour should be sifted before measuring)
1 cup butter (no substitutes!)
1/2 cup superfine sugar (I didn’t have superfine; I used granulated sugar and it worked just fine)
1½ tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
Your preferred jam
1/2 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar

Sift together flour and salt; set aside. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy; add extract(s). Slowly mix in flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until just blended. If you find the dough is too crumbly and not coming together, just beat it a little longer (with an electric hand or stand mixer) and you will get a creamy, light smooth texture. Wrap the dough in wax paper or plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 325°F. Quickly shape dough into 1-inch balls, and space them 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Make a deep thumbprint in the center of each dough ball; fill with preferred jam. 

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until cookies are the color of pale sand. Transfer to wire cooling racks. 

When cooled, dust with confectioners’ sugar. Makes 48 buttery cookies at 4 grams of fat/cookie.

Zucchini Cookies

There was still zucchini left even after making zucchini bread. That thing was huge!

It has gotten decidedly chilly, and time to bake things to warm the kitchen up. My television and comfy chairs are in the little family room that is part of the kitchen, so using the oven makes for a pleasant space to relax.

I started to look up Zucchini Cookies.  I didn’t want anything fancy. These weren’t take to a potluck cookies (although a plateful came to the office). I wanted cookies that were low enough in fat to tuck in my lunch bag or eat for a late night (ok, early morning, too.) snack. Many of the recipes had nuts and/or chocolate chips – and even coconut. You could add one of these to dress up the cookies, but you’d have to add them to your fat count.  These cookies are a combination of recipes with some additions of my own. They taste very buttery, and the recipe makes at least 60 cookies, so despite the generous amount of butter, they are individually quite low in fat. They have lasted quite well out of the freezer (except for the ones I took to the office which disappeared immediately).  I plan to freeze some for later snacking.

Zucchini Cookies

1 cup butter, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
½ cup egg substitute
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini
2¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup uncooked oatmeal (regular or quick)
½ cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat cookie sheets with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg substitute and vanilla. Stir in zucchini. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and oatmeal. Add to zucchini mixture. Beat until thoroughly mixed. Stir in raisins. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake until lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes, and transfer to a rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough. Makes 60 cookies at about 3 grams of fat per cookie.

Note: I made this with yellow zucchini so there are flecks of yellow in the cookies.  I don’t know how they would look with green flecks – although they would probably taste just as good.

Molasses Spice Cookies

One of the joys of baking lots of cookies over the holiday season is that you have them in the freezer, waiting to accompany a cup of nice hot tea when you come home after struggling your way through freezing  “wintery mix” falling from the sky. I baked 5 different kinds of cookies in the last few months, bringing them with me to various gatherings, and putting the rest in the freezer for later.  When I was growing up, there were always homemade cookies in the freezer not only to snack on, but also to be able to serve something nice to guests who might drop by.

These cookies came from Parade magazine. They were not exactly what I thought they would be.  They are actually flat and somewhat soft – I kind of thought they would be thick and chewy.  They are not really too spicy. But they are delicious, both fresh out of the oven and defrosted for an afternoon comfort snack.

Molasses Spice Cookies

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
1 large egg
granulated sugar for rolling

Whisk together the flour, soda, spices, and salt.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, and molasses until well combined. Add the egg and beat one minute more. Blend in the flour mixture until you have a soft dough. Divide the dough in half and freeze for 30 minutes to firm up.

Preheat oven to 350. Line one or two baking sheets with parchment paper. Put granulated sugar in a flat bowl or on waxed paper.  Shape the dough by teaspoonfuls into balls. Roll the balls in sugar. Place the balls 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 9-11 minutes, until the cookies are flattened and crackle-topped.  Cool on pan for 10 minutes. Remove to a wire rack and cook completely.  Makes 5 1/2 dozen cookies at 2 grams of fat/cookie.

Chocolate Mistake Cookies

The latkes were not the only disaster for the Hannukah party.  For the inevitable potluck, I planned to make a plate of cookies, including the famous lemon bars and an old recipe I found among my clippings called “Chocolate Crinkles”.  Something, however, went terribly wrong.  I should have realized something was amiss when the recipe said to stir the chocolate into the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon. Mine was way too stiff for that, and I needed to put it into my heavy-duty mixer.  I should have realized there was a problem when the recipe said to put the dough into the refrigerator to chill for a couple of hours until it was stiff enough to roll into balls.  Mine was already more than stiff enough. But I dutifully put it into the refrigerator to chill while I made the lemon bars.  Then I took out the rock-hard dough, and realized that the recipe said to put the remaining cup of confectioners’ sugar into a bowl to coat the dough balls.  What remaining confectioners’ sugar?  I had mixed the entire 2 1/2 cups specified into the batter. You see, the recipe didn’t say 2 1/2 cups, divided, just 2 1/2 cups, and I was in my usual hurry and read the subsequent instructions quickly.

But what was I to do. The potluck was in only a few hours, and I had run completely out of flour, eggs, and other baking ingredients.  So I rolled the very stiff batter into balls, coated them with confectioners’ sugar, put them on the baking sheet  – and baked.  The worst that could happen, I reasoned, would be that I would only have lemon bars to take with me.  Unbelievably, they chocolate cookies came out great.  They were slightly crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.  They were very chocolaty.  Everyone loved them.  So I decided to provide the recipe as I made them.

Chocolate Mistake Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, divided
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 1/2 Tablespoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 1/2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1 1/2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
4 large egg whites

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray one or two baking sheets with cooking spray.

In the large bowl of a mixer, sift together flour, 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a medium-size heavy saucepan, combine chocolate and oil and warm over very low heat, stirring frequently, until just smooth. Be careful that chocolate does not burn.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Stir in brown sugar, corn syrup, and vanilla until well-blended. Using a whisk, beat egg whites into the mixture until no lumps of brown sugar remain.  Gently stir the chocolate mixture into the dry ingredients, beating on low until no lumps remain.  Dough will be very stiff.

Put the remaining 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar into a shallow bowl. Dusting your hands with additional confectioner’s sugar, roll portions of the dough into one inch balls. Dredge each ball in confectioners’ sugar until heavily coated. Arrange balls on baking sheets 1 inch apart.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the tops are almost firm when tapped. Let stand about 2 minutes until the cookies firm up slightly. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and cool completely.  Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days’ freeze for longer storage.  Makes about 5 dozen cookies with 2 grams of fat/cookie.

Here they are nestled on a plate of lemon bars.  They don’t even look like mistakes.

Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookies

These are lighter than air cookies that still have a bit of crunch to their outer shell.  They are also reasonably chocolaty and very low in fat. These cookies are meringues, which are essentially egg whites and sugar, and so they are very easy to make.  They say not to make meringues on a humid day, so do this when it’s not humid…I’ve never encountered this because I live in a rather dry climate.  The original recipe came from Cooking Light, but I think a similar recipe exists in several other places, since I have been to potlucks where other people brought them and they say they are not from the same source.  At any rate, they make a nice item to take to a potluck, or just for a snack.  How often do you get chocolate in a very low fat format.

Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookies

3 large egg whites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
3 Tablespoons semi-sweet chocolate minichips

Preheat oven to 300°.  Cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  I usually spray the baking sheet lightly with cooking spray to hold the parchment paper down – but don’t spray the parchment paper.

Beat egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt at high speed in a mixer until soft peaks form. Add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form and all the sugar is incorporated. Sift cocoa over egg white mixture and fold it in thoroughly. Fold in minichips.

Drop batter by level tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets. Bake at 300° for 40 – 50 minutes or until crisp. Cool completely on pan on a wire rack.. Store in an airtight container.  Makes 36 cookies with .4 grams of fat each.  That’s right, less than a half of a gram of fat each!


Oatmeal Coconut Snack Bars

I snack a lot – in the office, in the car on the way home – basically, all the time. One of my principles is that a snack should be 4 grams of fat or less. Of course you can snack on lots of non-fat food like fruit.  Grapes that have been cleaned and separated,  for example, are good to eat when driving home.  I’m not much on carrots and celery unless I have dip, although slices of red or orange pepper are tasty.  I’ve gotten in the habit of carrying snack food with me at all times, lest I get ravenously hungry and stop for a bite to eat of some high fat goody.  I often carry what I refer to as “food bars”, the chewy bars you buy in the grocery, since they pack in a purse or pocket well. There are some bars that meet the 4 gram requirement, but a lot of the tastiest bars are 8 grams or more, and since they’re not that filling, it seems like a waste of fat grams (and money) to eat them often.

So I have been making my own food bars.  These snack bars, which were called “breakfast bars” when the recipe appeared in American Profile, are rather moister than store bought bars.  I packed them each separately in a zip top snack-size bag, and they kept and traveled well.  I also froze about half of them.

Oatmeal Coconut Snack Bars

1 cup quick oats
1 ½ cups apple juice
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
½ cup toasted wheat germ
¾ cup shredded sweetened coconut, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
2 cups finely grated carrots
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with cooking spray.  Combine oatmeal and apple juice in a microwave safe bowl. Cover and heat on high for 2 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Lightly spoon flour into measuring cups and level with a knife.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, wheat germ, 1/2  cup of the coconut, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In a separate bowl, whisk together brown sugar, applesauce, carrots and eggs.  Fold into flour mixture.  Add oatmeal mixture and stir until just blended.

Spoon into baking dish and sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup of coconut.  Bake 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  This makes 18 large bars at 2 grams of fat/bar.


Note:  These were good, but I wasn’t that crazy about the coconut, which I usually like. Somehow it didn’t go with the other flavors that well.  I’m going to experiment with other nuts, and maybe raisins or dried cranberries.  I’ll let you know how the experiments come out.

Rugelach (Grandma’s Butter Cookies)

When I was young, there were two cookies that captured the essence of home and tradition. They were “rugelach” (sometimes called “der ahnderer” or the other ones) and “der geralte”, the rolled ones, which were damson plum jam, raisins and nuts rolled in a pastry dough and sliced.  The recipes were passed down from my Grandma Fredyl.  Fredyl, having grown up in the “old country”, did not have recipes; she cooked by eye and feel.  Family legend has it that my Aunt Gladys stood by her side as she cooked, and every time Grandma tossed in an ingredient, Gladys stuck out a measuring cup to measure the recipe.  Now I have the recipe on my mother Sylvia’s recipe cards, a memory of her since she’s gone.  They still evoke home.  Once I was visiting my sister when she lived in North Carolina, and we baked “Grandma cookies”. Her husband thought we were crazy, since we rarely saw one another, and we were spending our precious time together baking cookies.  We told him that we were “channeling Sylvia”.

For several years, I’ve been looking for a way to make low fat rugelach.  After all, the family recipe started with a quarter of a pound of butter.  I thought I found a recipe in a low fat baking book.  The recipe was a bit fussy, and after my experience with the lemon bars, I decided to calculate the fat content of my family recipe.  I was delighted to see that Grandma’s rugelach were quite reasonable in fat grams, so here is the recipe.


¼ pound of butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
1 ¾ cups all purpose flour + up to ¼ cup flour if needed (I used about a Tablespoon)
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped small
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (or to taste)

Preheat oven to 350.  Sift 1 ¾ cups all purpose flour and baking powder into a medium bowl and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar until well-blended. Add egg and vanilla and beat well. Gradually add flour mixture, beating at low speed until flour is incorporated.   Turn out onto a floured surface and knead in enough of the ¼ cup of flour to firm up the dough.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill overnight.

Take dough out of refrigerator and cut about ¼ of the dough. To make rolling the dough easier, roll it out between 2 pieces of either parchment paper, wax paper, or plastic wrap, with the lower sheet lightly sprinkled with flour. Use new sheets for each ¼ piece of dough.  This makes it much easier to get the cookies off the paper.  Roll the piece of dough into a rough square, about 1/8 inch thick.  Sprinkle with ¼ of the walnuts and a bit of the cinnamon and sugar (I have a shaker with mixed cinnamon and sugar, so I don’t usually measure them). Gently roll the rolling pin over the dough to set the filling.  Cut the dough into 2 inch squares.  Don’t worry about ragged edges.  I find that I have to shape each cookie by hand, and rough edges can be tucked in.  Put 2 raisins at each end of the squares.


Roll up each square, pushing the dough around the raisins to cover them up. Try to make them approximately the same size so they will bake evenly – I am not always successful in doing this.  Bend the cookies into little crescents.  Place on an ungreased cookie sheet.

I was rather distressed the first time I made these, since my rugelach were rather bumpy and unshapely.  But then I remembered that the rugelach of my youth looked that way, too.  They are a homey cookie, not a glamour cookie – but oh the taste of them.  Here they are in their lumpy splendor on the cookie sheet waiting to be sprinkled and baked.


Sprinkle the unbaked rugelach with the cinnamon and sugar mix.  Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes. Do not let them get too brown.  Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes and then cool completely on rack (Try not to eat too many of the “broken ones). This makes 60 cookies at about 2 grams of fat/cookie.  These keep well, and freeze beautifully. We always had them in the freezer when I was growing up for a late night “nosh” or if unexpected company came.


NOTE: My mother didn’t toast the walnuts, but toasting brings out the flavor so that you can use fewer of them.

Now if I can only figure out how to make low fat geralte.

Grandma Sylvia’s Lemon Bars

My mother made the world’s best lemon bars.  Tart, sweet, and rich, every body loves Grandma Sylvia’s lemon bars.  My daughter inherited the lemon bar gene, and her lemon bars are as good as her grandma’s.  I have always thought of the lemon bars as supremely high in fat – after all, the recipe starts out with two sticks of butter.  But after searching for and making several low fat lemon bars (2-4 grams of fat/bar depending upon the size), which were ok but not great, I decided to try and figure out just how many fat grams my mom’s lemon bars had in all their deliciousness.  They only have 3 grams/bar!  Oh my heart be still.  Why am I struggling to find substitutes? The trick is that my mother cut the bars into relatively small pieces, which you need to do because 1) they look better on a cookie plate when they’re not a big slab, and 2) they’re so rich you can’t eat a big slab, anyway…although I confess to eating more than one bar at times.  So here, without further adieu, are Grandma Sylvia’s Lemon Bars.

Grandma Sylvia’s Lemon Bars

1 cup (1/2 lb) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups all purpose flour
½ cup confectioners’ sugar

½ cup lemon juice
1 ¾ cups sugar
¼ cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 beaten eggs
confectioners’ sugar for sprinkling (optional)

To make the crust: Preheat oven to 350. Spray a jelly roll pan (10” x 15”) with cooking spray.  Place butter, flour, and ½ cup confectioner’s sugar into a medium bowl.  Mix with your fingers until it the ingredients are well-blended and the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press the crust mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan and slightly up the sides.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly golden.  Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes.

To make the topping:   Make the topping while the crust is baking. Mix the ingredients (lemon juice through eggs) with a mixer, beating until smooth. Pour the lemon mixture over the warm crust.  Return pan to oven and bake for 25 minutes, or until the edges begin to turn golden and the center is set.  Remove from oven and sprinkle immediately with powdered sugar if you are using it.  Cool pan completely on a wire rack. Cut into 64 bars with 3 grams of fat/bar.


These freeze very well, which is a good thing, because when they are in the freezer I am less likely to walk by and grab one.

Cranberry-Pistachio Bars

Back to cookie making.  These bars are quite festive looking, especially for the holidays, because of the bright red cranberries and the green-tinted pistachios (but they don’t photograph well).  They are a bit surprising to taste, because they are both tart and sweet.  The original recipe came from Eating Well magazine.

Cranberry-Pistachio Bars

The Crust
3 Tablespoons unsalted  butter at room temperature
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt

The Topping
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange rind
¼ cup orange juice
2 cups fresh or frozen (thawed) cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup shelled pistachios, preferably unsalted, chopped and toasted

To make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and position rack in center of oven. Coat an 8 inch square pan with cooking spray.  Beat butter, granulated and brown sugars in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until creamy. Stir in whole wheat pastry flour, all purpose flour, and salt until well combined.  The mixture will be crumbly.  Evenly press this mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Bake until just barely golden around the edges, 10-12 minutes.  Remove crust from oven. You do not have to let it cool before putting the topping on.

To make the topping
: Chop cranberries coarsely by pulsing them in a food processor. Combine ¾ cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add egg, egg white, orange zest and juice. Stir until blended and smooth.  Sprinkle chopped cranberries over the baked crust.  Pour the orange mixture over the cranberries and sprinkle with the chopped pistachios.

Bake until golden and set, 40-45 minutes.  Let cool completely on a wire rack.  This is easier to cut if you chill it before you try to cut it.  The recipe says that this makes 16 cookies, at 4 grams of fat/cookie.  But I found the cookies to be very large, especially for a cookie plate, so I cut them in half – and then they made 32 cookies at 2 grams/cookie.


A note on pistachio nuts: If you can get unsalted nuts, use them.  There is a lovely brand called “Everybody’s Nuts” that has unsalted nuts that are easy to open.  But my local stores seem to longer carry them, and I was in too much of a hurry to order them online.  I used salted nuts and rinsed them to get the salt off, but it really wasn’t as satisfactory as unsalted nuts would have been.

Hint: Specialty flours and grains that are sometimes called for in recipes (like the whole wheat pastry flour in this recipe) can become rancid if they are kept too long. The same is true of nuts.  If you need ¼ cup of wheat bran, or 2 tablespoons of pecans, what do you do with the rest?   You seal the in a zip top plastic bag, and put them in the freezer!  They will keep for months, and you really don’t have to defrost them to use them.


I have lost 200 pounds. I did not do it through surgery – I don’t like knives and needles – or by joining a club, vigorous exercise, or rigorous dieting. I did it by gourmet cooking. To be precise, by cooking low fat, really delicious food. I love to cook as much as I love to eat. Food magazines are some of my favorite reading. I would feel deprived if I couldn’t have the sensuous experience of good food crossing my lips. This blog is about my perpetual feast, my passionate love of food, with recipes, photos, and occasional advice and principles that I have learned along the way.

More about me.

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