Lemon Drop Cookies

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I’m not sure if it is because my wedding is only a few weeks away or if my spirits are still flying high after yesterday, but I am feeling better than I have in a long, long while. Cooking/baking and being happy is a total chicken-egg situation for me. Cooking and baking can bring a smile to my face, but I’m also more motivated to do it when I am already happy. Last week was a roller coaster ย of emotions, and Mr. Foodie just strapped in for the ride. One of the highs was receiving a special gift from my maternal grandmother. She hand-sewed a special article of clothing for me to wear on the big day – a floor-length cloak! I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but it is the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever owned. I cannot wait to wear it at my winter wedding ๐Ÿ™‚ What I wasn’t expecting was the beautiful gold cross with a ruby in the center – a necklace her own mother used to wear. She also passed on to me the Bride’s Book of Recipes and Household Hints that her grandmother gave to her as a wedding gift 57 years ago!

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While the Brides Book has many neat recipes, I cherish it most for the pieces of advice it gives for managing a household. Even though some of its precepts are outdated (like the fact that the “bride” will be the only one cooking and cleaning), much of the actual advice remains accurate and helpful, like making a list before you go shopping (to save time and money), taking care to entertain with simple, delicious foods that allow you (the host or hostess) to enjoy your company instead of being stuck in the kitchen all night, and replacing shoelace ends with scotch tape lol

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When I saw the “lemon drop” cookie recipe, I was instantly eager to try it out. I love lemon baked goods – really lemon in anything and I’m in love. This is partly because I like tart flavors more than sweet in general. The fact that they are “drop” cookies reminded me of my own mother who preferred the imprecise method of dropping dough on a cookie sheet not only because it is easier but because it often makes a softer cookie (due to less handling). I prepared myself to make some tweaks to the recipe itself because of all the research I’ve done on the evolution of cooking methods and recipes since this book was first published. For example, it says “bake in a moderately hot oven–400 degrees F” for 10 minutes – this is not standard for cookie baking anymore, but I went with it and kept a watchful eye on the dough. My instincts were correct – I ended up taking the cookies out at 8 minutes just as they started to brown around the edges.

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The end result was a delicious, fluffy cookie with a sugar cookie flavor and texture that was punched up with lemon tartness. For a little added drama, I mixed up a quick lemon glaze to drizzle over the tops of the cookies – adding even more lemon flavor and another touch of sweetness from the powdered sugar. Mr. Foodie gave two thumbs up, and later today I’ll bring a batch to my future in-laws to see how they like them.

I am no stranger to loving my grandma’s recipes (and neither are you if you’ve had the good fortune of tasting her molasses ginger cookies which I make all the time!), but this just might become a new go-to recipe for me. The only “special” ingredient you have to have on hand is fresh lemon as everything else is standard baking fare, but I always pick up lemons when I grocery shop. I know I’ll use them in something each week whether it is a cocktail, a marinade, a soup, or a baked good ๐Ÿ™‚

What recipes (and/or household wisdom) did your grandma pass along to you?

Lemon Drop Recipe from Brides Book:

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Lemon Glaze Recipe

This is not a part of the original recipe, but I added it mostly because I had extra lemon juice that I didn’t end up using in the cookie recipe itself. Just pour about a half cup of powdered sugar into a bowl, and toss in 1-2 teaspoons of lemon juice. Because I was just trying to use up extra juice, I eyeballed the amounts -you can always add more sugar if it is too liquid or more liquid if it is too thick. Good to know for glaze is the liquid to powdered sugar ratio is small – often one teaspoon to 1 cup of sugar depending on what other liquids you’re adding (a standard version calls for a little milk and vanilla extract – what I use for holiday cookie decorating). You want a slightly thick, but still drizzly mixture. Wait until the cookies cool, drizzle, and let set so you can stack them without sticking. Enjoy!

 

Surviving January – Potato Leek Soup

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In my family we nearly always put up our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving and take it down the day after New Year’s Day. My mother, while wanting to enjoy the decor as long as possible, was also very pragmatic. Wanting to take advantage of the days off work surrounding these holidays, she managed our lives accordingly. I am definitely my mother’s daughter and follow this pattern in my own home. But whereas she would rejoice in the look of her house without the Christmas decor clutter, describing it as refreshing, simple, and relaxing, I always mourned the loss of the lights, the sparkle, and the festive atmosphere. Living now in a place where we have bitter cold winters and the unromantic every-day dealing with snow, I’ve come to loath putting away the decorations even more (it’s, like, fun for a minute when you’re cuddling with a cup of hot cocoa inside your house until you’re stuck scraping ice off your window while wet snow water seeps into your boots so you can get to work on time).

I didn’t notice it at first, but over the past few years I’ve been rebelling. It started when I didn’t take down my window lights in the dining room – I liked keeping them up for when I had parties all year around – they are white, simple, and don’t scream “the person who keeps their holiday lights up all year around.” Then I noticed I’d forget to put away certain decorations – the snowman bowl that sits on my coffee table, the red and grey dish towels with snow flakes on them. Slowly I realized that I wanted to keep some non-Christmas, but still-winter things up and out to pull me through the dark, cold month of January and into February when I’d perk back up because of Valentine’s Day.

I see now that I’m slowly building up specific rituals designed to get me through January intact – this California desert girl still wilts under the weight of the winter blues despite having lived here for over 15 years. One of the things I love to do now is try even more new recipes because — what else do you do while you’re trapped in the house for a three-day snow storm? Luckily we haven’t had that yet, but the impulse to stock up on handy ingredients for experimentation is still there. This year, I was also the grateful recipient of two new cookbooks for Christmas gifts – Paula Deen Cuts the Fat and The Ellis Island Immigrant Cookbook. I’ve been pouring over these in my spare moments, enjoying the real-talk of Paula as she details her struggle to cook and eat more healthily and loving the unique stories of the immigrants who contributed to the Ellis Island volume.

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A little blurry, but I was trying to show you some of the chunks we left after blending – mmmm!ย 

This week, Mr. Foodie and I took a stab at Paula’s Leek and Potato soup because even though we love soup all year around, we especially love making it in winter. Paula’s goal was to create a warm, rich soup without loading it up with butter or cream. We both declared it a success! Paula’s recipe calls for chicken broth, but we used veggie stock. I imagine the broth would have given lovely flavor, but we only had veggie stock on hand and thought it might be slightly healthier, although I’ve yet to make the comparison to check. The only “fat” element in the soup is a cup of 2% milk (although we think Paula would go with whole milk. The cauliflower is what lends the creaminess in place of actual cream or the addition of cheese. I LOVE cauliflower, although Mr. Foodie is not a fan, generally. Cauliflower makes so many cool things you wouldn’t expect – a great substitute white sauce for pasta, the base for pizza crust, even roasted with some garlic it’s delicious.

The part I liked best about preparing this soup is that we got to use the immersion blender! This blender was the first Christmas gift Mr. Foodie ever gave me. We’ve used it before, of course, but mostly the blender bowl version for smoothies. Making smooth, creamy soups is so much easier with an immersion blender. No transferring hot soup to a blender, no risk of burning yourself, and it is so much quicker.

This recipe made a LOT of soup. We had two big bowls and still more for lunch the next day. Mr. Foodie said it could have benefited from the addition of bacon – lol. I see what he means, we are almost conditioned to see potatoes and think of bacon, but we were trying to keep it healthy. On the other hand, a little sprinkle of crispy bacon on top of the soup for garnish would be heavenly. On its own, the soup was hearty, creamy, and yet fresh in the mouth – a great use of leeks!

We have one leftover leek, so we’ll see what we come up with for that – maybe for inclusion in a new batch of risotto? If you have suggestions, we’d love to hear them!

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Paula Deen’s Creamy Potato Leek Soup

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

4 medium leeks, green and white parts sliced thinly

2 cups cauliflower florets

2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (or veggie stock like we used)

salt and pepper

1 cup milk

Paprika for garnish

Melt the butter and cook the leeks on medium until softened (7-8 min). Add cauliflower, potatoes, broth or stock, and salt – bring to a boil. Reduce and simmer 20-30 min, until potatoes are soft. Blend in the pot with immersion blender. Stir in the milk and heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.