Auntie Jane’s Shortbread

IMG_8735My aunt knows how to lay a table. She uses good china, silver, and cloth napkins even for the breakfast table, which is laid the night before. Lunch may be as simple as homemade soup and bread, but somehow it becomes a gracious break in the day, time to sit, and enjoy a small, wonderful meal. A few treats will be arranged on a pretty plate, to be enjoyed with a pot of tea before heading back into the day.

One of my favourite treats she makes is her shortbread. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that hers was a recipe that should definitely be preserved. I have never had a shortbread as good as hers, quite simply it is the best. It is slightly rustic, giving it a timeless quality. Continue reading

Butternut Squares

IMG_9052This recipe dates back at least 50 years for me. I’m pretty sure it was one of the first things I ever baked from start to finish without help. An easy bar to make, with ingredients that are usually on hand, this is perfect for when you’re short of time. Regardless of how long ago the recipe became part of my mother’s repertoire, it still stands well today as part of a cookie & bar file. Continue reading

Nutty Peanut Butter Cookies

IMG_7580I was sitting waiting for my car to be serviced, and noticed on the coffee bar that there was a container of homemade cookies. As I sat, I watched how many people took one as they walked by. Pretty much everyone took one, including a gentleman who took one simply to feed to another customer’s dog. It was such an easy thing for the dealership to do, and yet it instantly made the area homey. For employees and customers alike, it made it less of just a work place, and more friendly.

Having been away for a while, in a non-baking climate, and busy before hand, I haven’t made cookies in a long while. With just the two of us home now, I certainly don’t need a jar full.  But when the urge to bake some arose, I used my usual catering trick, I made the cookies but didn’t bake them. I formed them and put them in the freezer until frozen solid, then tipped them all into a freezer bag. All that needs to be done, when we want some fresh cookies, is to cook 8 or so at a time. They cook just as easily from frozen as they do fresh, with maybe a minute or so longer in the oven.

I decided to clean out my nut supply (which I keep in the freezer), as most containers were getting low. There were about 2 cups of mixed raw, unsalted nuts, including some salted Virginian red-skinned peanuts. Somehow that inspired me to make peanut butter cookies, filled with a good selection of other nuts as well. The extra bit of salt from the red-skinned peanuts are great addition.

Without the nuts, this is my very oldest peanut butter cookie recipe from the 1970’s. Hand-written on an well-worn index card. Although I’ve tried other versions, this is the one I use most often, especially when someone is expecting a traditional slightly chewy peanut butter cookie. The recipe works well with Cup-4-Cup all-purpose gluten free flour. Continue reading

Cranberry Bars

IMG_6816When cranberries are fresh in the fall, I buy several pounds of them, to store in the freezer.  I use them for all sorts of baking, adding to savoury stuffings, sliced thinly to garnish, or to add as a tart bite to salads.  They’re a great addition to home-made dog food, too (in case you were wondering).

This year I thought I’d be smart and buy 10 pounds of them.  That’s a whole lot of cranberries.  Now as winter dies down (I’m being optimistic), I’ve been making curd with them. As I was figuring that out, I thought about trying them as a topping for a cookie bar, like lemon bars.  After a few tries, I’ve got this one figured out.  They need a little more cooking, and a little more stabilizing from flour than lemon bars.  The red filling is a nice change, and the tartness of the berries with the orange citrus is very yummy.

So here’s hoping that you have 4 cups of cranberries languishing in your freezer, so you can try these out. Continue reading