not paleo

Recipe: Peppernuts

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I've been posting pictures of them on Instagram & unless you know me personally or live in an area with Swiss/German Mennonite roots, you've probably been wondering: What in the world are peppernuts??? 

I hear that a lot. 

They're a tiny cookie made with Christmas-y spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and anise oil. 

Though a bit labor intensive, I beg you to give these a try, especially since it's an ideal activity to make with help. Now that my girls are old enough to actual offer up USEFUL assistance, we've made it our tradition to roll out the dough over a Christmas movie. I've also thought it would be fun to invite some friends over to chat, drink wine & roll peppernut dough. (Want to join me?)  

My Grandma has been making these as long as I can remember, making them in time for Thanksgiving and not letting the peppernut jar run dry until after New Year's. I didn't even realize what a novelty they were until I moved away, and have since enjoyed making the tradition my own. 

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Melt in Your Mouth Peppernuts

1 cup butter
1 and 1/2 C. sugar
1 beaten egg
2 T. dark syrup
3 and 3/4 C. flour
2 t. baking soda
1 t. cloves
1 t. ginger
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
1 t. anise oil (or 2 t. anise extract)

Cream butter, sugar, syrup and egg. Add dry ingredients and anise oil.

The dough is really stiff, so for the sake of your mixer, don't make a double batch. I personally just follow one batch immediately with another. The dough will also look a bit crumbly. If you're worried that it's not going to stick together at all, you can add a little water, one Tablespoon at a time – but would not add more than 3 Tablespoons.

Divide the dough into 3 or 4 balls & then chill the dough.  

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This is the part where it's fun to have friends or at least a movie. :)

Working with 1 dough ball at a time (the rest stay in the fridge), roll out into long snakes the size of your little finger. Again, sometimes the dough can be a bit crumbly. The trick is to develop a smoosh-roll technique. Roll it out gently, if it starts to crumble a bit, smoosh it back together and then keep rolling. It's taken many years to perfect. ;)

Keep chilled. I like to roll out all my dough at once, piling it high on a rimmed cookie sheet in the freezer. Putting them in the freezer makes them a bit easier to work with.

Slice into small pieces and bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool on paper towels spread out on your counter. 

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One more weird fact for you: This is probably the only cookie that isn't better directly out of the oven. I know. Weird, right? 

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They're amazing by themselves, but try them with coffee. Trust me.

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So. Good. And addicting. You've been warned. :) 

Let me know how you like them!

xoxo—Lori

In case you'd like to know more about these little cookies, here's some more background information I've dug up: 

Like most baked goods, there are many variations of peppernuts. While most recipes call for cloves and cinnamon, some also use nutmeg or anise. A Danish recipe for pebernødder requires white pepper, while most recipes don’t use pepper at all. Some versions of the German pfeffernüsse contain pecans, ginger, or cardamom.

In the Netherlands, St Nicolas, patron of children, sailors and the city of Amsterdam, arrives by boat from Spain with his white horse and his helpers, chimney sweeps called Petes, to assist him. It is a busy time for St Nick, crossing the roofs with his horse while the Petes take the presents down the chimneys. Traditionally, the Petes also scatter “pepernoten” around for the kids.

German Mennonite women used to make the dough several weeks before Christmas and let it chill for up to a week in a cold cellar to let the flavors mellow.

Years ago, a reader on my blog, excited to see a photo of what she called “our peppernuts”, shared that her husband’s grandmother made them every year. Her mother-in-law didn’t share the recipe with her until she had been married for 25 years as it was a closely guarded family recipe that they knew had been in the family for at least 150 years. She was told that each village or family had their own shape and version of peppernuts, and the recipes were never shared outside the family.

Butternut Quiche

This time a year when the mornings are brisk it just doesn't see right to sit down to a cold breakfast. This recipe combines sweet butternut squash, smoked Gouda, a buttery crust, and farm fresh eggs to warm you up.

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Here's what you'll need for the crust

  1. A store bought one.
    It's the morning. Who wants to make a homemade crust?
    If anyone complains, take their quiche away. :)

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For the Filling

  • 1 tbsp of butter

  • 1 small onion finely diced

  • course salt and ground pepper

  • 1/2 butternut squash peeled,seeded, & finely chopped

  • 1 tsp fresh minced sage

  • pinch of sugar

  • 1 cup freshly grated smoked Gouda (my grocer happens to have a great selection in the deli, check yours, often cheeses are less expensive at the deli counter than at the gourmet cheese bar, additionally fontina, and smoked provolone can be used in substitution)

  • 8 eggs

  • 3/4 cup whole milk

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Preheat oven to 375.

Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion with a generous pinch of salt and pepper until the onion begins to soften about 2-3 minutes.

Add squash and sage and cook until squash is softened about 5 minutes more, when you're done cooking add a pinch of sugar and remove from heat.

In a bowl whisk eggs and milk until throughly combined. Then add the squash mixture and cheese; stir to blend.

Pour the eggs into pre-baked pie crust, and bake for 45-50.

The center should be cooked but jiggly. 

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CHICKEN POT PIE WITH BISCUIT CRUMBLE TOPPING

The days are starting to get shorter and the weather is getting crisper. Putting us in the mood for hearty, savory foods. I ask, "Does it get any more savory than chicken pot pie?" 

My obstacle to making a great chicken pot pie has always been the pie crust. I just don't have any luck making homemade pie crust. However, being a Southerner I can make a variety of great biscuits.

Instructions

For the Filling

  • 1 1/2 lb. pieces, boneless, skinless chicken breast and thighs

  • 3 cups of chicken broth

  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil

  • 1 onion (chopped fine)

  • 5 carrots (chopped into 1/4" pieces)

  • 3 celery ribs (minced)

  • 10 oz of cremini mushrooms (trimmed & minced)

  • 1 tsp of soy sauce

  • 1 tsp tomato sauce

  • 4 tbsp. butter

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour

  • 1 cup of whole milk

  • 2 tsp of lemon juice

  • 3 tbsp of fresh parsley

  • 1 cup of frozen peas

For the Biscuit Topping

  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour

  • 2 tsp of baking powder

  • 3/4 tsp. salt

  • 1/2 tsp of pepper

  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

  • 6 tbsp of chilled butter (cut into 1/4" pieces)

  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

  • 3/4 cup buttermilk + 2 tbsp more

First, heat your oven to 450F to cook the crumble biscuit topping. 

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and butter into a large bowl, stand mixer, or food processor. Mix the combination into a coarse meal then stir in the parmesan, and buttermilk until a dough forms.

Crumble the mixture in irregular shaped pieces and place them onto a baking sheet. Then cook the crumbles just until they start to smell like warm biscuits, shouldn't take more than 10 minutes.    

{Tip: Wet your hands with water when you handle to dough it will prevent the dough from sticking to them} 

While the crumbles are baking, in a dutch oven or heavy pot bring the chicken broth to a simmer and cook the chicken until done (170F), should take about 10 minutes.

Once the chicken is done transfer it to a large bowl, to cool, and strain the broth. Poaching the chicken in the broth will give you full bodied base for your gravy in the pie.

When the chicken has cooled to a point where you can handle it cut it into 1/4" cubes.

While the chicken cools, add 1 tbsp oil to the now empty dutch oven heating the oil until it is shimmering. Then add the onion, carrots, and celery cooking until soft, adding salt and pepper to taste.

When the onion, carrots, and celery are done cooking transfer them to a container.  Then add the other tablespoon of oil to the pot heating over medium until it is shimmering. Add the mushrooms, cooking covered until they release their liquids.

The mushrooms should release their liquids after a few minutes once they have add the soy sauce and tomato paste. Cook uncovered until the liquid evaporates. A dark fond should develop on the bottom of the pot once this has happened transfer the mushrooms to another container.

Melt the butter in the empty pot over medium heat. Once melted add the flour and stir constantly for about a minute. Then slowly whisk in the chicken broth and milk. Bring the liquid to a simmer, scrapping any fond from the bottom of the pot. Cook until a thick gravy forms.

Once you have your thick gravy remove pot from the heat add the lemon, parsley, chicken, and peas. Season the filling with salt and pepper to taste.

Place the filling into a 13" x 9" baking dish. Place the biscuit crumbles randomly on top of filling cooking until the crumbles are nicely browned, about 15 minutes.

{Tip: You may want to place the baking dish onto a foil lined baking sheet just incase the filling bubbles over.}  

Allow to cool for a bit and enjoy!

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Candied Orange Peel S'mores

It's camping season and that means S'MORES!

I'm the type of cook that likes to add some kick or zing to everything. While the s'more is close to perfect; I couldn't help eat one and ponder, "maybe some mint, anise, vanilla.....," then one day it hit me: "some zest!"

 You'll want to make these the morning of.

What You'll Need

  • 1 Peel of an Orange

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1 cup water

  • Some more sugar

  • Graham Crackers

  • Premium, Ghirardelli, chocolate chips (that's what I like, read on to see why)

  • Marshmallow

  • Some roasting sticks

How You Do It

First thing you'll do is peel the orange, I have a little tool from Tupperware that works great. If you don't have one don't sweat it, use a paring knife or peeler to cut the orange peel into 1/4-1/2" slices, careful not to get the pith.

Next, throw the orange peel slices into a small pot, and cover with water. Then blanch em' for about 2-3 minutes. Remove them from the pot, and set them on a paper towel. Next, bring the cup of water to a boil, once boiling add the cup of sugar stirring until dissolved. Then add the the peel slices to the pot, reduce to a simmer and cook for 10-17 minutes. Remove slices from the pot, and discard the syrup. Place the orange peel on a cookie sheet, and sprinkle some sugar on; sprinkle a lot of sugar. Gently, but aggressively shake the tray back and forth to insure sugar covers the peel well. Then let em' sit until time to use.

When the time comes make your s'more, you don't need me to tell you how. I do want to make one suggestion though; instead of chocolate squares use chocolate chips, inserting them into the marshmallow after roasting. I have found the marshmallow will adhere to the graham cracker, and not slide all over the place when you bit into it. When you go to build your s'more simply place 1 or 2 of the peel slices on the bottom, and enjoy.

Let me know what you think.

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Additional Notes: Enjoy this s'more fireside with a shot or two of Frangelico.

DIY Apple Cupcakes

Cupcakes that look like apples are a surprisingly versatile treat. So far, I've made them twice. Once for a Snow White Princess Party & most recently for a Apple-tastic AppleJack (My Little Pony) Party. But they could also be used for back to school, teacher appreciation, or Fall themed parties.

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To start, make cupcakes using your favorite box mix. You don't want the mounding over type of cupcakes, so divide the batter to make sure you get all 24 cupcakes. For optimum results, use a white cake mix with red liners. We like chocolate cake, so that's what we used — and I think they still look great. The trick to making Apple Cupcakes?

Donuts.

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These by Entenmann's are PERFECT. Apparently, their donuts come in 3 sizes: Regular/Full size, Mini, and bite-size. Make sure to get the Mini size which are exactly the size of the top of a regular size cupcake, while the regular size donuts are too big & the mini are too small. Plus, they come in a 12 pack, which works out perfectly with one box of cake mix. Also, get the chocolate ones. I know, the powdered sugar ones are better, but believe me, I learned the hard way that they just don't work when it comes time to frosting them.

Cut all the donuts in half like a bagel.

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Next, whether you make your own frosting, or purchase it, you'll need to dye it red with a gel food dye. Even when spreading the frosting on, I like to use a pastry bag to make it easy to apply. With your pastry bag, or a knife, put a dab of frosting on the top of the cupcake.

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Top & smoosh down with one half of a donut.

Again, using your pastry bag, pipe out enough frosting on top of the donut to cover, then spread it all out with a knife.

To complete your apple, you need a stem & a leaf. I found these Rips in our grocery store's candy aisle and they are exactly what you need. Again, one bag is enough for 24 cupcakes, plus a few red ones for you to snack on while your making them. See? I'm here for you!

I found if you cut each rectangle in half on a diagonal, you can then cut 2 good sized leaves out of each piece of candy, like this:

To make them stem, you'll need Tootsie Rolls. Roll them out into snakes, and then cut into stem-sized pieces.

Insert into the indent of the donut, and Viola! You've got some amazingly cute apples!!

Pesto

The first time I tasted pesto my eyes opened wide and only one thought went through my mind, “must have more pesto.” It’s a perfect paste that goes on pretty much every summer dish; eggs and toast, pasta, potatoes, caprese salad, burgers, chicken sandwiches, anything.

In my quest to have “more pesto” I found basil to be quite expensive, so being the makers Lori and I are we began to grow the herb. This is the time of the year when basil bolts, this herb likes it hot, so we really get stocked up on pesto.  Here is our family recipe I hope you enjoy it as much as us, and don’t forget to include the kiddos; this recipe is super easy!

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(This is what basil looks like when it bolts. Don't let it do this, if you do it will stop producing foliage.)

Instructions

  • 1 cup packed fresh basil

  • 1/4 cup whole walnuts

  • 1 garlic clove

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 cups fresh grated percino romano

In a food processor combine the basil, walnuts, and salt; pulse until finely chopped. Add romano and pulse until well blended.With motor running slowly add extra virgin olive oil. If you don't have a food processor just chop by hand and mix thoroughly in a large mixing bowl.

Homemade Peanut Butter

Add Peanut Butter to the things you should be making yourself at home. You can buy raw peanuts and roast them yourself, or you can purchase peanuts already roasted from a trusted source and skip the roasting, shelling, and de-skinning (this is what I do). Making peanut butter is as easy as it gets, takes less than 5 minutes, and the kiddos love helping. Here's how. You will need some peanuts, peanut oil (make sure these are not genetically modified; mutant peanuts = mutant people; I'm sure that's scientific), and a food processor or pretty stout blender.

Instructions

1. Place about a pound of peanuts in a food processor or blender, and start chopping them up.

2. When the peanuts are pretty much into a really chunky thick paste drizzle about 1 1/2 tbsp of peanut oil into the machine while it is still running. I don't measure any of these things. I throw some peanuts in and slowly pour oil in until I get what I want, not rocket science.

3. Add more or less oil to get the consistency you like.

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4. Add raw honey if you like, about 1 1/2 tsp.

5. Put in an air-tight container and refrigerate.

Little's Favorite Peanut Butter with Raw Honey. 

  

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Kiddo Approved!

Sage Stuffed Chicken

This dish is one of my favorites, it is light, and fresh, yet gooey with a just the right amount of kick.

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Instructions

  • 4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast

  • 4 Slices of Smoked Gouda

  • 8 Fresh Sage Leaves

  • Salt

  • Pepper

  • ½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  • 1 tbsp. Fresh Sage (minced)

  • 4 Cloves of Garlic (minced)

  • ¼ tsp. Ground Cayenne Pepper

Place chicken inside a plastic grocery bag, or use plastic wrap to cover the chicken breast. Using a meat pounder, or a rubber mallet whatever you have in the tool box to do the job, pound the chicken evenly as flat as you can without tearing the meat. Next place a slice of gouda inside the chicken, then roll the sage between you index finger and thumb crushing the sage and releasing its extracts, place the sage on top of the cheese. Fold the other half of the chicken over closing the breast. Season the breast with salt and pepper.

(The chicken breast in the back is a great example of what not to do. If this happens suture the breast with tooth picks.)

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In a large skillet add the oil, minced sage, garlic, and cayenne pepper to a small pan cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook chicken until done, inside temperature should be 165F.

An Additional Tip: Make a double batch of the oil mixture and toss with some pasta for the side.