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Frosted Butter Cookies with a Hint of Lemon

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Time: Approximately 2 hours active: 30 minutes to make the dough, 30 minutes to rollout and cut cookies, 30 minutes to bake, 30 minutes to decorate. Also allow at least 2 hours to chill the dough before rolling it out and at least 2 hours after decorating for the frosting to dry.

Serves: 1 batch makes 20-25 medium sized cookies. These pictures show a double batch.

Inspired by: My family, like many, had a tradition of decorating cookies together at Christmas. Since I love everything lemon and have a Meyer lemon tree, I decided to add my own twist that gives these just a hint of lemon. I never make them at Christmas, but do enjoy making them around other festive holidays.

Cookie Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup softened unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups unsifted all purpose flour

Frosting Ingredients:

  • Confectioners sugar – approximately 1 cup
  • Fresh lemon juice – 1-3 teaspoons
  • Food dye if you want to color your frosting, and any other sprinkles, sparkles or decorations you’d like

Cookie Dough Preparation:

  • Measure butter, granulated sugar and salt into bowl. With electric mixer, beat until smooth.
  • Add egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon extract and vanilla extract and beat until fluffy – 2 minutes.
  • Gradually add flour, stirring with mixer or wooden spoon until well combined and smooth.
  • With hands, shape dough into ball. Place on waxed paper or plastic wrap. Flatten into disc and wrap.
  • Refrigerate 2 hours or overnight until dough is firm.

Bake Cookies:

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  • On lightly floured pastry board, roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick and press together cracks at edges. Use cookie cutters for cut outs. Place cookies 1 inch apart on uncreased sheets (using parchment paper can help keep them from burning).
  • If cookies start getting soft while making them, it can help to put the cookie sheet with the cookie cut outs into the freezer for 5 minutes before baking. This will help them will hold their shape better while baking.
  • Bake 10-15 minutes or until edges are just barely golden.
  • Remove to wire rack to cool.

Icing:

  • In a small bowl or coffee cup, mix 1 cup of confectioners sugar with a teaspoon of lemon juice. Add lemon juice and continue stirring until you get your desired consistency. A thinner icing will be more like a glaze. A thicker icing will create better color.
  • After cookies have cooled, use a pastry brush for glazing/painting, and dust with sprinkles/sparkles while the frosting is still wet.


Lentil Vegetable Soup

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Time: 90 minutes

Serves: 20 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound French green lentils (3-4 cups)
  • 3 medium yellow onions, chopped (3-5 cups)
  • 2 leeks (white part only), chopped (2-4 cups)
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced (1 tablespoon)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt (+ add additional at the end to your desired taste)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional – adds a bit of a kick)
  • 2 carrots, chopped (1 – 1.5 cups)
  • 4-5 stalks celery with leaves chopped (3-4 cups)
  • 3 quart chicken broth
  • 2, 28oz cans fire-roasted tomatoes, diced
  • 1 bunch collard greens with tough ribs removed (or Kale), chopped (3-5 cups)
  • Juice of one Meyer lemon

Preparation:

  • Rinse and drain lentils.
  • In large soup pot, heat olive oil. Sauté leeks and garlic for 2 minutes. Add onions, salt, pepper, cumin, thyme, and optional red pepper flakes. Saute for another 5-8 minutes until soft and translucent.
  • Add the celery and carrots and sauté for another 10 minutes.
  • Add chicken broth, tomatoes with their juices, and lentils.
  • Cover and bring to boil. Then uncover and simmer for 1 hour, until lentils are cooked (French green lentils will still hold their shape and firm texture even when cooked through).
  • Add greens and simmer for another 5 minutes or so until they have softened.
  • Add the juice of one lemon and mix well.
  • Taste and add salt if necessary. If you are using a broth that already has the appropriate seasoning, you may need very little salt. But if you are using low to no sodium chicken broth you’ll likely want to add more salt.

Notes: This is a large batch, but it freezes well. The recipe is modified from one published by Ina Garten in the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook 1999.


Margaritas

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Time: Depends on how many you’ve already had

Inspired by: My love for Mexico.. and tequila makes all parties rock! While I already enjoyed Tajín® Clásico Seasoning, in numerous ways, my surfer friend Nicole was the one who suggested it as an alternative to salt for rimming a margarita glass. There is NO BETTER WAY. And I also thank her for this picture. We surf together every November (my birthday month) in Southern Mexico. She makes margaritas for us each night, while I make dinner. Her job (squeezing all of those limes!) is much more difficult. The picture above is the gift she made for my 49th birthday. Nothing could have been more perfect 🙂

Supplies: Margarita shaker, plate wide enough for dipping/salting the rim of the glass, and margarita pitchers if you are making these in larger batches

Ingredients:

  • 3 parts reposado tequila
  • 3 parts fresh lime juice
  • 1 part Cointreau
  • Tajín® Clásico Seasoning, salt, or salt with a bit of Cayenne mixed in to rim your glass

Preparation for One Glass:

  • Moisten the rim of your glass with a lime wedge and dip it into the Tajín or salt
  • Add to shaker: tequila (3 shots), lime juice (3 shots), Cointreau (1 shot), ice cubes, and shake well
  • Put some ice cubes into the glass
  • Pour the shaker contents into the glass while straining out the ice, then add additional ice as needed
  • Garnish with a slice of lime

Notes:  I do not like sweet margaritas – I prefer to really taste the tequila and the fresh lime. If you prefer yours sweet, add additional Cointreau or a dash of Agave syrup.  Fresh lime juice is the only way to go and rimming with Tajín is the final perfect touch to me. In case you are not familiar with the salty/chile/limey flavor of Tajín, I included a link above. These are pretty strong margaritas, but they rock! If you plan to be drinking them like they are going out of style, you might consider cutting the tequila quantity back just a bit!


Roasted Tomatillo Soup with Shrimp

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Time: 60 minutes

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 5 – 6 tomatillos
  • 1 large Anaheim pepper
  • 1 very small Jalapeño pepper
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 leek (white part only), halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 pound shrimp, cleaned with shells removed – you can leave tails (or substitute black beans, white beans or shredded chicken)
  • Cilantro or another green for garnish (I’m not a fan of Cilantro, but had some arugula)

Preparation:

  • Roast the tomatillos and peppers at 375 degrees F for approximately 30 minutes. Turn half way through roasting. They will be done when soft, lightly browned, and oozing liquid.
  • Meanwhile, sauté leek and onion in olive oil for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to sauté until they are well cooked, but not browned. Add approximately ¼ teaspoon of salt while cooking.
  • Put all of the above ingredients into a blender and purée. Return to soup pot. Add the chicken stock and cumin and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10-20 minutes covered.
  • Add the shrimp 2-3 minutes before serving (if the soup is boiling, medium-sized shrimps will take approximately 2 minutes to cook). Rock shrimp or other small shrimp will likely cook in a minute. Previously cooked shrimp, beans or chicken will heat through in 2-3 minutes. If chicken is your protein of choice, you can add a chicken breast when the soup comes to a boil. It should get cooked through in about 20 minutes. You can remove it, shred it with a fork, and put it back into the soup.

Notes: This will likely be relatively spicy with the roasted peppers and pairs well with an off-dry or dry riesling. It should also pair well with any white wine with nice acid – either light and crisp or full and round. It went really well tonight with a beautiful Chassagne-Montrachet.


Prickly Pear Cactus Sorbet

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Prickly Pear Cactus Sorbet

Time: 30 minutes to prepare (chill overnight); 10-20 minutes in sorbet maker.

Serves: 6 – 10 single small scoops.

Inspired by: My long time friend Emmett Lynch brought some goodies from nearby orchards. One bag he said was “dangerous” and not to stick my hands into. I peeked inside and saw those beautiful prickly pear fruits that I grew up with in the Arizona dessert! I had a dinner planned with some friends with multiple courses, so decided to use them to make a beautiful deep purple sorbet with lots of lemon and lime. My plan was to serve it as a palate cleanser, or as a transition between the last dinner course and dessert, so I made it a bit more tart than sweet.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5-2 pounds of large prickly pear fruits
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1-2 teaspoons Cointreau (optional)
  • 3-4 tablespoons lime juice
  • 3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon or lime zest
  • Pinch of salt
  • Fresh mint for garnish

Preparation:

  • Make a simple syrup by simmering the 1/2 cup water with the 1/4 cup sugar.
  • Cool mixture in refrigerator.
  • Use tongs to hold the fruits over an open fire (gas stove) and burn off the needles (without burning the fruit).
  • Cut off the outside layer of skin and preserve as much fruit as possible. Use a non-staining plastic cutting board and gloves if you don’t want purple stains on your hands and board.
  • Put fruit in blender with the simple syrup, pinch of salt, zest, and half of the lemon and lime juices. Puree well and taste.
  • Add additional lemon and lime juice until you get your desired level of acidity.
  • Strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove seeds and any pieces of skin.
  • Chill in refrigerator overnight if possible – or at least for several hours.
  • Run this through a sorbet maker. Freeze for a few hours if you would like a harder consistency.

Mediterranean Grilled Vegetable Salad

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Mediterranean Grilled Vegetable Salad

Time: 45 – 60 minutes (ideally with a couple of hours cooling time for the grilled veggies midway). Grilled veggies and dressing can be prepared ahead.

Serves: 6

Inspired by: My friend Rikke who always makes delicious food brought this to a party recently. I made just a few modifications. The dish was fabulous and will be something I make often.

Salad Ingredients:

  • 3 small bell peppers (red, yellow, orange) – about 1 pound, stemmed, seeded and quartered
  • 5 slender zucchini (about 1 pound), trimmed and cut lengthwise in half
  • Olive oil, salt, and pepper to toss the peppers and zucchini in before grilling
  • 4 small Persian cucumbers, halved, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (or English cucumber… or if you use another type, remove the seeds and some of the peel)
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
  • 4 ounce square of feta cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup (packed) finely chopped mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup (packed) finely chopped Italian parsley
  • 2-3 teaspoons ground sumac to sprinkle on top

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 clove garlic crushed (optional)

Preparation:

  • Heat your grill (medium).
  • Toss or rub zucchini and peppers with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Grill peppers and zucchini until slightly charred and just tender, turning often, about 12 minutes.
  • Transfer to a baking sheet to cool. Once cooled, refrigerate if you are preparing this ahead.
  • To make dressing: whisk 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice, cumin, and optional garlic in small bowl to blend. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Cut peppers lengthwise into 1/2 inch wide strips, then crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces.
  • Cut zucchini lengthwise in half, and then into 1/2 inch pieces.
  • Put zucchini, peppers, cucumber, tomato, olives, mint and parsley into a large bowl and toss with dressing.
  • Add feta and toss gently.
  • Transfer to a large, shallow bowl. Sprinkle ground sumac over the top.

Wine Suggestions: A medium bodied red with some spice and earthy flavors is ideal. The first time we made this, it was with a vegetarian dinner of spiced lentils. A red burgundy, or earthy rustic Italian red or Southern Rhone would all be good pairings.


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