Dec 29

Every year I make goodies for Christmas to hand out to close friends.  This year my goody tins contained four treats:
Butter Tarts
Praline Cookies
Butterscotch Sticky Buns
Amaretti Cookies

Each recipe holds special meaning to me; the Butter Tarts are a recent memory of teaching my stepson Tyler to bake; the Praline Cookies are a reminder of how far I’ve come with my cooking and loved ones who are far away but dear to my heart; the Butterscotch Sticky Buns are a new recipe but make me think of my mother because she favors a home made sticky bun over most anything in life; and the Amaretti Cookies are for my dear friend Tony because they remind him of being in Sicily with his mother and they are special to me because he’s shared those memories.

I’ve always been a smidge (OK, a ton) sentimental; and2009 has reminded me to prioritize my friends and family, not my stuff.  This year has been miserable in many ways but it has taught me a lot.  No matter how tough things have gotten, I’ve been very lucky to always be within the embrace of my loving husband, the encouragement of a dear friend and the support of my parents.  Maybe I needed this year so I could appreciate and prioritize them and rather than my Le Creuset (which believe me, I appreciate!)

Part of this learning process for me is the lesson that cooking isn’t about perfection, it’s about sharing yourself and your love with your friends.  I’ve made breaded chicken cutlets with “sauce” more times than I can count, but never have I had as much fun as before Christmas making them with Tony who kicked me off the breading station because I wasn’t draining the egg-wash the way he wanted or pounding the chicken into the bread crumbs to his liking.  I’ll forever have the memory of that laughter — and the fact that he’s shared his mother’s recipe with me.

My Christmas dinner this year was one of the best I can remember.  My mom made turkey and her cornbread stuffing for me, because I asked for it.  No matter how hard I try I can’t get mine to turn out like hers so every pan of it is a gift that I greedily gobble up.

I’d like to share my goody recipes and a bit more of me with you.

Butter Tarts:

From the Top Clockwise: Butter Tarts, Praline Cookies, Butterscotch Sticky Buns

From the top Clockwise: Butter Tarts, Praline Cookies, Butterscotch Sticky Buns

If you are not familiar with these little gems, they are a Canadian treat similar to a pecan pie, only SO MUCH better and SO MUCH more fattening!  This recipe joined my repertoire when Tyler volunteered us to make “Canadian Food” for his multi-cultural fair.  This was probably because I had just returned from Canada but I was in a huge state of panic because my knowledge of Canadian food was limited to Beer, Maple Candy and Maple syrup; none of which were going to get him a good grade on his project.  Luckily my Twitter family came to the rescue and we made these guys.  Tyler was so excited that he made them and his smile when we finished was priceless.

A word to the wise — this recipe is just as easy as it looks AS LONG AS you: A) use nonstick muffin tins;  do not believe the Pam commercial it can’t keep everything from sticking;  and B) make sure not to over-fill the tarts because the filling becomes like molten dry wall and will stick to anything.  Make this mistake and you will invent swear words trying to get them out of the pan!  I used a recipe I found at Joy of I adopted it (essentially I cheated) for the skills of a teenage boy and a crust challenged mentor.

For the tart crust use your favorite pie crust recipe, mine is the Ready Bake Pre-rolled sheets from Pillsbury.  *wink*  I love to make things from scratch but I know when to acknowledge defeat.  Pillsbury pie crust is good, it’s easy and it’s inexpensive.  Use a 4 inch cookie cutter and cut 12 disks.  Place the disks in the center of greased muffin tins and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Toast about 1/2 cup of walnut pieces and set aside to cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine:
1/3 cup softened butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

You’ll also need 2 eggs and 1/4 cup half and half set aside

Use the lowest setting and combine the butter, brown sugar and vanilla in the bowl of your stand mixer.  Next add 2 eggs, one egg at a time making sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next.  Remove the bowl from mixer and by hand stir in 1/4 cup half and half.

Once the pie dough has chilled a half hour, remove it from the refrigerator, evenly sprinkle walnuts in the 12 muffin cups then spoon the filling into each tart to just below the rim of the dough.  Bake for 15 – 20 minutes.

Praline Cookies

This is a family recipe from my ex-mother-in-law who I love and adore.  She made it for Christmas about 10 years ago and after much begging I was given the soon to be not-so-secret family recipe.  I immediately wanted to make it for her and send some her way.  As I mentioned, I was not always the cook I am today — so there is hope for everyone!  I made the recipe using cornmeal instead of flour (imagine mistaking the two!).  Being as stubborn as I am; I sent them off anyway (and frankly dog food topped with the praline icing would be good).  To this day she laughs at the memory especially now in light of my blog. The cookies are a favorite of family and friends and she graciously agreed to let me post the recipe.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

3 1/3 cups of flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 box of dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Sift together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Cream the butter, brown sugar, vanilla and eggs.  Stir in the dry ingredients.  drop one tsp per cookie onto a prepared cookie sheet.  bake 8 – 10 minutes (*note, these cookies are very rich don’t be tempted to make big cookies or you’ll have lots of half eaten cookies!)

Cool on a rack.

When all of the cookies are made and cooled, place a pecan half on each cookie and prepare the icing.  The icing sets up quickly so you don’t want to make it before you are ready to use it.


1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 box confectioners sugar

Over medium heat bring the brown sugar and evaporated milk to boil in a heavy saucepan and cook for 2 minutes constantly whisking.  Remove from the heat, add confectioners sugar, whisk in until smooth then drizzle over the cookies.

Amaretti Cookies

My friend Tony always speaks of his mother and his memories of Sicily with a special fondness .  Amaretti Cookies are distinctly Italian and take him back home.  So I make these for him.

Amaretti Cookies:
Preheat oven to 35o degrees

4 egg whites
1 1/2 pounds almond paste (not marzipan)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
2 cups ground almonds
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup pine nuts

Use a blender or food processor to combine the egg whites and almond paste (if the almond paste is hard, soften it in the microwave — this is important I almost burned the motor out of my food processor because I skipped this).  Once the batter has begun to form add the rest of the ingredients until a sticky dough forms (it is VERY sticky).

Use a 1 oz cookie scoop and put them onto a cookie sheet with parchment (some people spray the parchment because these cookies are very very sticky — did I mention they are sticky?)  top with pine nuts and bake for 8 – 10 minutes.  They should have a little gold color but still be soft and chewy.

You’ll get 60 cookies.

Butterscotch Sticky Buns

Links to Food and Wine Recipe

Links to Food and Wine Recipe

I make sticky buns at Christmas and pretty much every chance I get because they remind me of being a kid and biting into a warm sticky bun straight out of the oven is like being transported to a fairyland where everything is happy and tasty.  When I saw these on the cover of the January 2010 Food and Wine Magazine I had to make them.  I’m not going to re-post the recipe click on the photo and you’ll go straight to it.  As I was making the sauce I was lamenting “What did I get myself into.”  Well, what I got myself into was one of the most amazing sauces I’ve ever eaten that I will find more uses for.  It’s intimidating, there are lots of ingredients but when you taste it you’ll see it was worth it.  As if the sauce isn’t fattening enough, when you rewarm these if you put a pat of butter on the top; well, as they said in the “Big Night” it’s  so good that “if you eat it, you gotta kill yourself.”  You are forewarned!

I made all of these on December 23.  At the end of the day I had 3 sticky buns in my belly (true) and 6 healthy gift tins.  Is it any wonder that I curled up with some Turnbull merlot?

As a special teaser, stay tuned for a New Year’s give away!  I’m pretty excited about this one and hope you will be too!

4 Responses to “Cooking Feeds the Soul and the Body!”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Whineaux, The Town Tavern. The Town Tavern said: RT @Whineaux: Just posted about my Christmas Cookies and some memories […]

  2. oh my how beautiful these look and Amaretti is my fav, I love almond flavored and pine nuts so delicious these are beautiful 🙂

  3. These all look so darn yummy. Don’t you just love baking and giving it away? I love to do this at the holidays’ too.
    One more question….where is mine? hehehe

  4. *I’ve* never managed to actually get the Praline Cookie recipe from Mom…or maybe I just always forgot to ask because my mouth was too stuffed with Pralines. Either way, I have it now! Yay!

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