Christmas Cookies – Cinnamon Lemon Spiral Cookies

Almost like a cinnamon roll! Perfect for a holiday breakfast addition or just to have around for snacking during the holidays. Would also make a nice statement on a Christmas cookie plate.

Cinnamon Lemon Spiral Cookies

4 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ cups granulated sugar
2 cups butter
1 tablespoon (packet) yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup scalded milk, cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs

I cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Dash of cloves
Zest of one lemon, finely grated

In a large mixing box, combine Flour ½ cup sugar and cut in the butter until it resembles peas in size. Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm 1/4 cup of water and all it to the milk, vanilla, and eggs, mixing together well. Add to the flour mixture and mix into a ball of dough. Cover with greased/vegetable oil sprayed plastic wrap and refrigerate eight hours to overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cover baking sheets with parchment paper or use light coating of vegetable oil spray.

On a well-floured board, roll out the dough into a rectangle about one-quarter thick. Mix the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and lemon zest and sprinkle liberally over the rolled out dough. Roll the dough up along the long size, pinch the edges closed and roll onto the seamed side. Cut into 1/2-inch to 1-inch slices (thinner is crisper/thicker is more cake-like) Place cut slices on parchment covered baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes depending on your oven and the thickness of your cookies. Cool a few minutes before removing from the baking sheet. Glaze cookies while still a bit warm.

1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon or so of finely grated lemon zest
Enough fresh lemon juice to form a glaze.

Thanksgiving Shortcuts in the Kitchen

Yes, we are in that month where we are thinking about guest lists, menus, and plans for  a holiday dinner. My ever-present notebook is always at hand but lots more scribbling going on in it at this time of the year.


Here is one super-fast recipe that will make you look like a culinary expert in the kitchen!

For a nice breakfast snack with the first cup of coffee of the day, Monkey Bread is always a welcome addition. There are many, many recipe versions but this one is easy to get in the oven and baked within 30 minutes. Okay, 35 minutes if you decide to ice them, too.

Monkey Bread

3 cans of refrigerated biscuits (I like using the flaky type but any will do nicely.)
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter (margarine would be okay, too)
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons water
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or vegetable oil spray a Bundt pan or any round cake pan with high sides. Place the chopped nuts evenly over the bottom of the baking pan.

Cut each biscuit into fourths. Kitchen scissors make fast work of this. Combine the granulated sugar and spices in a bowl. Roll each piece of biscuit in the mixture. Place in prepared baking pan.

In a small pot, melt the butter, brown sugar, water, and vanilla together. Bring to a boil and boil for about two minutes, stirring constantly. Pour over the biscuits in the baking pan. Bake for approximately 20-30 minutes. Biscuits should be golden. Cool for a few minutes and turn out onto a serving plate. Pour the glaze over the still warm treat and let it drip down the sides!

Fast glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Enough milk to form a glaze.

Thanksgiving Thinking . . . Snacking Oatmeal Cookies!


November first shows up and you know it is countdown to Thanksgiving. I try and plan ahead but there are always last-minute panic attacks that disappear once the turkey exits the oven and friends and family are nothing but happy with the holiday food placed in front of them. The days leading up to the feasting day can be testy, however, My thought is making a big batch of something fun and sort of healthy to ward off unhappy ‘spirits’ as they get anxious for the real day and are tired of quick meals in order to make time for the big, Thursday meal in November.

My favorite go-to snack has always been oatmeal cookies! I have a multitude of recipes but this is one of my favorites. They go together easily and if things get really testy in the preceding days, I’ve found that sandwiching two  cookies around a small scoop of ice cream is a miraculous tonic.

Barbara’s Favorite Oatmeal Everything Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, well-beaten
1 Tablespoon (yes tablespoon) vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cups oatmeal (quick cooking or old fashioned, not instant)
1 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Zest of one orange

The key is to soak the raisins or dried cranberries. This makes all the difference in the world. Beat eggs and vanilla together and then add the raisins or dried cranberries, stir. Soak for about an hour.

Preheat to 350 degrees

Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl combine flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Stir the dry ingredients until well blended. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture and mix well. Now add in the egg and raisin or cranberry mixture. Then add oatmeal and chocolate chips/nuts. zest and combine well. Form into balls on cookie sheet. Bake 10-15 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheet for 2-5 minutes or until firm enough to transfer to wire rack.

Gluten-Free Cupcakes


Nothing I like better than an excuse to bake. On Sunday, our parish had an event that included a bakery table so it was my cue to get out the recipes and ingredients. I ended up with apple tarts, peanut butter/chocolate cupcakes, cranberry/carrot cupcakes, and chocolate/marshmallow cupcakes. They are all gluten-free offerings but no one could tell. Who says there is no life without wheat products?

Donut Days Should Happen During Holiday Days!

Although we don’t indulge too often, it is always a welcome treat to have fresh donuts. With the holidays coming up, the idea is getting more and more appealing. I prefer fresh, plain donuts but my children always have input as to what flavor icing and how much icing should go on their donut. I don’t know too much about storing donuts . . . as they seldom last until the next day!

Cake Doughnuts

3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour*
1 cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons shortening
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk

Heat oil in deep fryer or heavy kettle to 375 degrees.

Beat 1 ½ cups of the flour and the remaining ingredients in large mixing bowl on low speed, scraping bowl constantly, 30 seconds. Beat on medium speed, scraping bowl occasionally, 2 minutes. Stir in remaining flour. Turn dough onto well-floured board; roll out 3/8th inch thick. Cut with floured doughnut cutter. Slide doughnuts into hot oil with wide spatula. Turn doughnuts as they rise to surface. Fry until golden brown, 1 to 1 ½ minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels. Serve plain, sugared or frosted.

*I’ve been successful in using a gluten-free flour blend called BetterBatter to make these gluten-free. Just remember, you have to go by weight rather than cups to get a workable, tasty outcome.

Raisin-Crasin Nut Cookies


As always, simple cookies get the cookie jar filled in short order and makes one a much-loved mother. And, if you sneak in some raisins and nuts, you can almost feel healthy.

Raisin-Crasin Nut Cookies
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 1/2 cups shortening
1/2 cup walnuts
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1 tablespoon of freshly grated orange zest
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup milk

Run the raisins, cranberries, and walnuts through the food processor briefly to coarsely chop them up a bit.

Place the shortening and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat until well-combined and fluffy. Add the eggs, extracts, and zest. Beat well.

Mix together the dry ingredients. Add to the shortening/sugar combination along with the milk. Mix well. Chill the dough until easy to roll out and handle.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or use vegetable oil spray.

Divide the dough up into thirds or fourths for easy rolling. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out to about 1/4-inch thick. With a large, round cookie cutter (or your choice of shape!) cut out the cookies and place them about one-inch apart on prepared baking sheets.

Bake for approximately 8-10 minutes until lightly golden brown. Place on wire racks to cool.

Orange Glaze
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Enough fresh orange juice to form a glaze

When the cookies are cooled, you can either brush on a coating of glaze or drizzle it over them.

Easy Stir, Drop, and Bake Sugar cookies


Although I may have shared this before, tis the season to start thinking about warm kitchens and quick treats to start welcoming in the holiday season which will be here all too soon!

Stir, Drop and Bake Sugar Cookies

2 eggs
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon each of finely grated lemon zest and  orange zest
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Beat eggs until foamy; stir in oil, vanilla, and sugar. Add dry ingredients to egg mixture. Combine until smooth. Drop by teaspoonsful about two inches apart on very lightly greased cookie sheet. Dough should be rather soft. Sprinkle a bit of sugar on each cookie before baking. Colored sugar is fun if it is on hand. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.

This was one of the first cookies of my memory. It takes only a few minutes to throw together and is easy for older children to make on their own. On rainy days, my mother would make me these along with a cup of hot cocoa. Rainy days and warm kitchens are great! Memories!

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

I’m always thinking ahead so no one that knows me can be surprised to see me offering ideas for Thanksgiving already! Everyone thinks they have all the time in the world and the Sunday before  Thanksgiving, you suddenly realize why the grocery store is so crowded, there seem to be an abundance of pumpkins around, and what’s with all the sales on turkeys, anyway. After you avoid a graceful faint right there in the canned foods aisle, you grab a basket and join the crowd stocking up for Thanksgiving.

Here is a recipe to save you time and yet, make you look the part of the thoughtful cook sharing your culinary ideas with your holiday company.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake
1 package yellow cake mix
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter
Freshly grated orange zest

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Vegetable oil spray two round, 8-inche cake pans. Slice the butter into thin slices and divide between the two baking pans in one layer around the bottom of the pans. Spread out 1/2 cup of brown sugar in each pan on top of the butter. Layer 1 cup of cranberries in each pan over the sugar. Sprinkle the fresh orange zest on top of each pan.

Prepare the cake mix according to directions. Divide between the two pans. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until the top is golden and springs back when lightly touched. Let the cakes cool for ten minutes and then carefully invert them onto serving plates. If a few berries stick, just press them back into any missing places on the cake.

NOTE: You can do the same recipe only using canned pineapple rings, drained. Don’t use canned cranberries, however! You need to use either fresh ones or fresh frozen ones.

The Season of Squash!

It is that time of year when people with gardens discover that planting more than two or three zucchini plants might not have been a good idea once the crop keeps coming in seemingly overnight. I don’t think it is against any laws to secretly ‘gift’ complete strangers with a bag of surplus zucchini on their doorstep . . .

The last six months, we have been making an effort to eat healthier and various squash and mostly zucchini has been our most cost effective way to add to our meals. We have finely chopped and added them to tomato sauce. We regularly prepare a pan of oven-roasted vegetables heavy on the zucchini. Any and all soups reflect the summer’s abundance of zucchini!

Recently, however, we discovered an tasty way to present zucchini. I found a nifty peeler/julienne tool that makes both long, wide, thin slices of zucchini as well as ‘noodle-shaped’ ones.

The wide thin slices make a great salad with the addition of a favorite light oil/vinegar dressing, halved  cherry tomatoes, and lots of pepper and salt to taste.

The ‘noodle’ ones saute nicely. I usually start with finely chopped onion in a large skillet. When the onions are almost translucent, I add diced mushroom, a smashed and diced clove of garlic, and cook a minute or two longer. I add back the zucchini noodles, given them a few turns in the pan to heat through, add salt and pepper to taste  and serve.

I’m always looking for new and interesting ways to use this vegetable. I guess I’m one of the few that truly like it. I even eat it sliced and raw for a lunch time snack. Here is a way to sneak some vegetables into your unsuspecting family’s diet.

Zucchini Spice Oatmeal Cookies

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup honey
1 large egg
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup grated zucchini
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

1 cup dried cranberries (although raisins or diced dates would work, too)

Cream together the butter and honey. Add the egg and beat well. Mix in the dry ingredients and then stir in the rest of the ingredients.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a parchment-lined or vegetable oil sprayed cookie sheet and bake in preheated 375 degree oven for approximately 10 minutes.

You can dust them with powdered sugar for presentation purposes or ice them with lemon or orange icing. Makes about 4 1/2 to 5 dozen cookies. Great with a glass of milk for an after-school/work snack.