Vacation Cookies

IMG 4064 Edited Vacation Cookies

In Chole’s Kitchen, Chef Chole calls these cookies Yoga Cookies because they are her “favorite after-yoga snack.” I renamed my version Vacation Cookies because I made them before I went on vacation. The cookies could have also been named I Need to Bake Cookies but I Don’t Have Time to Go to the Grocery Store but I Have Most Everything in This Recipe on Hand. But that title would have been much to long.

IMG 4059 Edited e1340847450105 Vacation Cookies

I liked the many add-ins found in these cookies: oats, coconut, raisins, walnuts, and chocolate chips. I did not have nuts on hand, so I substituted an extra 1/2 cup of chocolate chips in their place. If raisins or coconut are not your favorite things, you could substitute other add-ins in a similar manner, but I must tell you the coconut’s flavor is completely lost within the other ingredients.

Another plus to these cookies is their lack of white sugar. The sweetness of the agave (or maple) syrup, raisins, and chocolate satisfied my sweet tooth just fine. And if one bakes with whole-wheat pastry flour in place of the white flour, these cookies would make a fairly decent snack. A downside was the cookie dough was fairly difficult to pull together, but I just sort of smashed it down as best I could, and for the most part the cookies held together.

IMG 4050 Edited Vacation Cookies

I try so many baked goods I sometimes loose my baseline of what tastes good and what tastes not-so-good. I am proud to report these cookies passed the Mom Test. My mom, the best cookie baker in the world (she shares that title with many other mom’s out there, I’m sure), said the cookies were “really good.” And if that wasn’t enough, she asked for the recipe. Enjoy!

Vacation Cookies
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 16-18
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup canola or similar oil
  • ½ cup agave syrup
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
  • ½ cup raisins (I used golden)
  • ½ cup chocolate chips
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  1. Whisk together the flour, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, stir together the oil, syrup, and vanilla.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until combined.
  4. Fold in the oats, coconut, raisins, walnuts, and chocolate chips.
  5. Scoop 1½ to 2 tablespoons of dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets, then gently flatten the dough with the palm of your hand.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes until the edges of the cookies are golden.
The original recipe indicated 1½ cups whole-wheat pastry flour can also be used in place of all-purpose flour. The recipe also indicated maple syrup could be used in place of agave syrup. I opted to omit the walnuts indicated above, and instead used ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips and ½ cup milk chocolate chips.


Happy Summer! Velvety Grits with Summer Squash, Tomatoes & Parsley-Walnut Pesto

IMG 4024 Edited Happy Summer! Velvety Grits with Summer Squash, Tomatoes & Parsley Walnut Pesto

Summer. Days filled with sunshine, swimming pools, colorful garden vegetables, evening breezes, air conditioning, baseball, ice cream…lots and lots of ice cream! These are just a few of the things that come to mind when I think of summer.

If only the days could stay light for 14 hours a day all year long, I would be oh, so very happy. According to my iPhone app that tells me the times of the sunrise and sunset, the sun rose in Charlotte at 6:09 a.m. and will set at 8:40 p.m. for 14 hours and 31 minutes of daylight.

Can you tell by the fact that I have an iPhone app of this type that I am obsessed with sunlight? I can see only one solution for a girl in the Northern hemisphere to get her year-round sunlight fix. I will have to winter in Australia. (Dare to dream, right?)

On December 21, when the sun will rise at 7:28 a.m. and set at 5:15 p.m., I will wistfully look back on this post and think, “at least tomorrow the days start getting longer!” That’s a bit of a joke in my family, as I guarantee you my dad told my mom today, “Well, it’s the longest day of the year. You know what that means, don’t ya? The days are going to start getting shorter.” He says this every year, and it drives us all mad.

IMG 4020 Edited e1340235881123 Happy Summer! Velvety Grits with Summer Squash, Tomatoes & Parsley Walnut Pesto

Six months from now when the shortest day of the year is upon us, I will likely enjoy a warm bowl of grits. Grits are very much a comfort food for me and were my go-to breakfast during the cold, dreary Ohio winters I used to endure. Today’s grits are a little different as I prepared them for dinner and topped them with summer vegetable and pesto (the first I ever made, and with parsley from my tiny urban garden to boot).

I cringe to think of the toils a chef goes through to write a cookbook just to have someone like me butcher the recipe on the internet, but I needed to simplify this one for us common folk. The pesto called for miso, an ingredient I am fairly certain the majority of us do not keep in our kitchens, and the grits called for creamed cashews, which I am sure most of us do not want to take the extra step to make when trying to get dinner on the table.

Though the recipe may seem tedious, requiring the preparation of four separate foods in grits, pesto, summer squash, and tomatoes, it is actually pretty easy. I cooked the grits while I prepared the pesto, then cooked the squash while I chopped the tomatoes. I had my dinner ready and the dishes washed in 45 minutes.

The grits, squash, and tomatoes I liked both alone and in the dish as a whole. The pesto was way too tart from my tastes when I sampled it, but on top of the creamy grits and sweet squash, it really worked. I even found myself adding more pesto to the grits as I ate my dinner. So until the seasons change and I’m left longing for bright summer vegetables and light summer days, I’m going outside to enjoy what I have of them now. Enjoy!

IMG 4031 Edited Happy Summer! Velvety Grits with Summer Squash, Tomatoes & Parsley Walnut Pesto

Velvety Grits with Summer Squash, Tomatoes & Parsley-Walnut Pesto
Recipe type: Entree
  • For the Grits
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup grits
  • 1 cup milk (whole, soy, or rice)
  • For the Pesto
  • 2 cups loosely paced parsley leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ⅓ cup walnuts, toasted
  • For the Vegetables
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 4 cups summer squash and/or zucchini
  • 2 tablespoons to ¼ cup water
  • 2 cups tomatoes, diced
  • Lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste
  1. To make the grits: Bring the water, vegetable broth, and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan.
  2. Stir in the grits, return to a boil, then reduce heat and allow the grits to simmer until they thicken. Stir occasionally to avoid the grits from sticking.
  3. After the grits have thickened, about 10-12 minutes, stir in the milk. Continue to simmer until most of the liquid has been absorbed, about another 10 minutes.
  4. To make the pesto: Combine the parsley, garlic, lemon juice, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and puree.
  5. Slowly add the olive oil and process until smooth.
  6. Add the toasted walnuts and chop a few times until incorporated. The pesto will remain slightly chunky from the nuts.
  7. To prepare the vegetables: In a medium pan, combine the olive oil, garlic, and salt and sauté over high heat until fragrant, about two minutes.
  8. Add the squash and sauté, stirring to ensure the squash is well coated with oil.
  9. Add the water, cover, and steam until tender. Additional water may be needed for steaming, hence the range of measurements.
  10. Toss the tomatoes with the juice from a wedge of lemon, salt, and pepper.
  11. Combine the dishes by placing ¾ cup of grits, ½ cup squash, ¼ cups tomatoes, and 1-2 tablespoons in a bowl.
Coming from a vegan cookbook, the broth is obviously going to be vegetable and the milk non-dairy. Realizing we are not all vegans, broth and milk substitutions of your choice are allowed. To toast the walnuts, simply place the nuts on a baking sheet in a 300 degree oven for 7-10 minutes. Stir mid-way through to ensure even toasting. Watch them very carefully in order to prevent them from burning.




Wedding Weekend: Mexican Wedding Cookies

IMG 4009 Edited e1339949142991 Wedding Weekend: Mexican Wedding Cookies

As I baked my last Wedding Weekend cookie, a pecan shortbread also known as a Mexican Wedding Cookie, it occurred to me I was suffering from a case of writer’s block. I usually have at least an idea of where a post could go, but today, I had nothing. In hopes procrastination would transform into inspiration, I decided to clean out my desk drawers. And voilà, I a found a little card titled 40 Promises for Marriage.

I picked up this card from a table at Hyman’s Seafood while spending a weekend in Charleston a couple of summers ago. The restaurant keeps the cards on tables as food for thought while diners wait for their actual food. At least that is why I assume the cards are there. In addition to 40 Promises for Marriage, I also found a card titled Words Women Use.  I have shared those words below as they seem equally applicable to relationship success.

MWC Edited Wedding Weekend: Mexican Wedding Cookies

Fine: This is the word women use to end an argument when they are right and you need to shut up.

Nothing: This means “something”, and you should be on your toes. Arguments that begin with “nothing” usually end in “fine.”

Five Minutes: If she is getting dressed, five minutes is actually 30 minutes. Five minutes is really only five minutes when a woman gives you permission to watch the game on television for five more minutes before she expects you to help out around the house.

Go Ahead: This is a dare, not permission.

That’s Okay: This statement means a woman is going to think long and hard before deciding how and when she will make you pay for your mistake.

IMG 4002 Edited e1339956109455 Wedding Weekend: Mexican Wedding Cookies

Mexican Wedding Cookies are my favorite cookies of the weekend. They remind me of the Keebler Pecan Sandies I was so fond of in my younger years. Except these cookies are better because they are, by nature of making them at home, fresher.

I found the cookies to be especially delicious when warmed in the microwave for a few seconds before eating. I enjoyed one with my coffee this morning and a few more as snacks this afternoon. At this rate, they likely will not make it to see tomorrow. Enjoy!

IMG 4004 Edited Wedding Weekend: Mexican Wedding Cookies


Mexican Wedding Cookies
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: approx. 2½ dozen
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1½ cup confectioners’ sugar, divided into 1 cup and ½ cup portions
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2¾ cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  1. Beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. Add the vanilla, then mix in the flour and salt. Mix until well combined; the mixture will be grainy, almost like sand.
  3. Stir in the pecans, then form the dough by hand into small balls.
  4. Flatten the balls slightly (I found using my hands to gently press the dough together worked best) and place on greased baking sheets.
  5. Bake at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes.
  6. Allow to cool, then toss in the remaining ½ cup of confectioners’ sugar.