chocolate espresso cookies

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Merrrrry December, my little ones! As I type, there is a Christmas tree…thistle? needle? branch?…I think it’s needle…stuck in my number 8 key. So, please pardon any funky symbols. It’s not secret code or anything.

espresso10espresso11My Christmas season thus far hasn’t been too whirlwindy. The past few weekends have entertained a couple of parades, my city’s tree lighting, and the Lights at the Zoo, which is basically that: our sweet zoo covers the place with lights and it’s sort of a South Carolina tradition to spend an evening there during Christmastime. It’s pretty magical, BUT…I am rather partial/biased. I haven’t found too many nights to sleep under the tree yet, mostly because our tree branches this year are practically touching the ground. I think our trembling-causing Christmas excitement forced our bodies to skip the tree-trimming itself and skip right to fun part of popping on those ornaments. But it’s cool. I’ve still found lots of time for music and cleaning (…weird? Prepping the house reminds me of Christmas) and baking.

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Last week, my kitchen was devoted to testing, baking, and sampling cookies for The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. It’s basically like a cookie swap party (bake cookies, go to party with cookies, swap cookies with other attendees who baked cookies, come home with an assortment of cookies), except it’s worldwide. Each blogger baked a dozen cookies for three other bloggers and, in return, received three different types of cookies for themselves (I received cookies from Beth’s Blue Plate Special, The Cultural Dish, and Princesss Pea. Thanks, y’all!). The whole event is a great connection tool. Plus, 100% of our sign-up costs went directly to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, an organization that supports research of new and improved therapies for pediatric cancer. So, yeah. Basically, this swap is the bomb. I decided to do a chocolate cookie with a vibrant, yet deep, espresso glaze. Why? I like chocolate. Husband likes coffee. BAM. Winning combo.

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chocolate espresso cookies
yield: 3 dozen cookies

cookies
ingredients
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup unrefined cane sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar (made with natural cane sugar), packed
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup brewed espresso
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/8 cup dark cocoa powder
1/4 cup dark chocolate chunks

glaze
ingredients
1/2 cup unrefined powdered sugar
2 tbsp (or so) brewed espresso

create
Preheat oven to 375º. Using a mixer, beat butter, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt together until well combined. Add eggs and beat well. Stir in 1/4 cup brewed espresso until well combined.
Stir the flour, baking soda, and cocoa powders together and gradually add it to the butter mixture. Beat until well combined. Stir in the chocolate chunks.
On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, drop tablespoonfuls of batter a couple of inches apart and bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the middle is set. Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack.
While the cookies are baking, make the glaze. In a bowl, whisk the powdered sugar and brewed espresso together until smooth. The glaze should thin enough to pipe over the cookies, but not watery. Use more or less brewed espresso to reach the desired consistency.
Transfer the glaze to a piping bag (or a sandwich bag with a very small amount of one of the tips cup off). When the cookies have cooled, quickly pipe the glaze over the cookies in a zig-zag motion.
Tip: Use a wire rack with foil or parchment underneath it. It will prevent mess, help the glaze dry correctly, and save any glaze dripping from the cookies.
Let the glaze dry/harden and store in an air-tight container.

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The espresso I used to bake and glaze these cookies comes from the super-fly (sorry, my 90s is showing), super-knowledgable owner of Loveland Coffee, a coffee company based here in Columbia which focuses on local roasts, ingredients, and the process. The respect of the ingredients and process is the whole idea behind and the whole reason I started Heed the Feed, so I totally appreciate Loveland Coffee’s stance. That being said, I am nowhere close to being a coffee authority (my husband had to make the cookies’ espresso, for Pete’s sake), so I will just let Loveland Coffee describe the espresso to you :

” Our espresso is a blissful union of base, body and aroma that produces an amazingly long lasting crema when extracted properly as espresso. Used in lattes and cappucinos, it offers a strong, smooth chocolate taste. Roasted light, in the Northern Itailian style, as all fine espressos are… it has no flaws to hide by roasting to a crisp.”

Ehh, ehh (with a little elbow nudge)? Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? Heck yeah, it does. Well, here’s your chance to get your hands on some of those carefully-prepared beans. That’s right, Bob, it’s time for Heed the Feed’s very first giveaway! Come on down! (GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED)

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The Prize: (GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED)
1. One Pound Whole Bean Northern Italian Style Espresso
AND
2. One Pound Whole Bean Ethiopian Yirgacheffe

How to Enter: (GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED)
1. Like Loveland Coffee on Facebook and let me know you’ve Liked it in the comments below this post
and/or
2. Subscribe to Heed the Feed!
(You will receive one entry for each task. For example, if you like Loveland Coffee on Facebook and tell me in the comments below, you will receive one entry. If you subscribe to Heed the Feed, you will receive on entry. If you do both, you will receive two entries.)
That’s it!

A Few Other Things I Should Mention: (GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED)
1. Open to U.S. residents only. Frown. Sorry, international friends.
2. The giveaway will open at 12:00am EST 12/12/12 (cool) and close at 12:00am EST 12/19/12.
3. Winner will be chosen at random and contacted after 12:00am EST on 12/19/12.

Good luck and happy cookie baking!

Loveland Coffee will soon open at a brand new location: 7001 St. Andrews Rd. Columbia, SC 29212. Visit the website at www.lovelandcoffee.com

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pumpkin chai pie

Happy November, my friends! This is a rather important month. I was married in this month. Some kind of national election is in this month. Carolina plays Clemson in this month. And, not to place any discredit by placing it last, Thanksgiving is in this month. When I was in high school, I sent Gowie a rather lengthy e-mail giving her a very detailed list of all of the things I treasured about this holiday. I can’t remember the whole thing, nor do I know if she even still has the list, but I remember a couple of them being simple, yet beautiful things like, “I love Thanksgiving because the whole family sits around the table and we pass the food to the right” or “The cousins leave with grass stains from our annual front yard football game” or “I get to wear a sweater.” That last statement, however, can be translated into a forced sweater wearing on my part, mainly because Thanksgiving in South Carolina is usually still in the 70s. Oh, well.


But Thanksgiving is one of my favorites because of its simplicity. I can picture people screaming, “Simple? What? WHAT?!” I get it. There’s houses to clean. There’s casseroles to prep. There’s turkey to photograph and tea to brew. But in the midst of all that craziness is a reminder to ourselves that we are doing these crazy chores and checklists because we are anticipating the arrival of family. We’re doing these things for others. And it’s beautiful. Holy cow, when did my blog become a motivational blog? Well, now you know how I feel about Thanksgiving. Thank you, Jesus, for a time of year filled with such intense beauty.


Perhaps we can talk about food now, no? I suppose we’ll finish off this year’s pumpkin series (and I’m not promising that I won’t use pumpkin in any more recipes before next year. It’s a good possibility that I will) with the cornerstone of most Thanksgiving tables: pumpkin pie! Pie and pumpkin, pumpkin and pie, the combination is perfect and irresistible. I decided to amp the traditional pie up a little bit and add a bit of chai, another one of my favorite flavors.

pumpkin chai pie
prep time: 90 minutes cook time: 90 minutes yield: 8 servings

pie crust (this is the recipe for my favorite pie crust, from Smitten Kitchen)
ingredients
1 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tsp natural cane sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, very cold, cut into small pieces

filling
ingredients
1/2 cup natural cane sugar
1/2 cup natural brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 eggs
2 cups roasted pumpkin purée (I used a white pumpkin, but any baking pumpkin will work)
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup chai latté concentrate

create
For the crust, fill a small bowl with water and drop a few ice cubes in. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. Sprinkle the very cold pieces of butter into the flour mixture and quickly rub the butter into the flour until it resembles little peas. Add ice water (no ice cubes!) one tablespoon at a time until the mixture just comes together (I think I used almost 1/2 cup of cold water). Gather it up and turn it onto a floured surface. Knead gently and very quickly until it all comes together (Don’t let that butter melt. Those pieces of butter are gonna make a beautiful, flaky crust). Shape into a dish and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350º. For the filling, stir together the sugar, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the eggs and then the pumpkin, milk, and chai. It will be a little thin.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand until malleable. Roll the dough on a floured surface to a 12 inch circle. Transfer the flat dough to a pie plate (I usually roll it around the rolling-pin and then unroll it over the pie plate. This way, it doesn’t tear and stretch). Gently ease the dough into the plate corners. Tip the pumpkin filling into the pie crust and bake for 90 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely and allow it to set before serving.


I told y’all last year that I was going to buy a prettier pie plate than the glass gas station one I have now. Oy. Still haven’t done it. I’m sorry I had to subject you to that once again. But pie plates fall to the bottom of the list when you’re trying to buy a house. Whoops. Secret’s out. Another time, another post, you guys.

eggnog streusel muffins


It IS officially Christmas. 12:21 AM. Santa’s around here somewhere. But before we go to sleep, I wanted to leave you guys with a little festive breakfast recipe to fit the, well, festive spirit.


I hope you all have a very merry Christmas and it’s filled with joy and happiness.



eggnog streusel muffins
ingredients
1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup natural cane sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups egg nog

create
Preheat oven to 425º. Butter and flour a 12 count muffin pan.
In a mixing bowl, combine the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat for several minutes until smooth. Beat in the baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla. Add the flour and egg nog alternately to the butter mixture, starting and ending with the flour and making sure everything is combined in between additions.  Spoon the batter evenly in the greased muffin pan.

streusel topping
ingredients
1/2 cup natural brown sugar
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
2 tsp egg nog
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

create
Stir together all ingredients until just crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over unbaked muffins.


Bake the muffins for 20 minutes until light golden brown. Serve warm.


“…radiant beams from Thy holy face with the dawn of redeeming grace…”

turkey with lemon-sage butter


It’s almost Christmas! Butttttt in the meantime, let’s talk about blog contests! Blog contests, you say? Oh, yes. Blog contests. You see, Stonyfield and Organic Valley are hosting a national organic food blogger contest and, somehow, they picked me as a finalist! I would absolutely LOVE you forever if you would vote for me! I’ll love ya, anyway, but I’d really love it if you could vote.

Here are the rules: Click on the link below and enter your e-mail address under “Your Email” and click “Vote Now.” You can only vote once a day, but if you have multiple e-mail addresses, by all means, use them all! Voting is over January 31st and every day and every vote does count! Lordy, this has turned into RocktheVote2012.

Here is the link: http://celebratewithorganic.com/vote/3

Phew, love you guys. Now! Onto the cooking.

So, like I said, it’s almost Christmas! We had a little gathering here in the tiny Columbia kitchen for Christmas, with a miniature feast and a festive gift exchange and, of course, plenty of music and random dancing. I also made my first, dum dum dee dum, turkey! Yes! It’s true. I’ve roasted plenty of whole chickens, but turkeys are so durn big that I’ve never done it for just my husband and myself. I mean, we eat, we certainly do EAT, but…again. Turkeys are just so durn big. But this time it was CHRISTMAS. And CHRISTMAS is just about as good an excuse as any other time, including Thanksgiving, for anything that is good and plentiful. The bird turned out well! Thank you for your concern and awe. Smile.

This is a classic roasted turkey recipe from Bon Appétit. The page in my magazine that has this recipe printed on it is absolutely covered in splattered butter. And I see some more butter. Butter. Butter. Turkey juice. And oh, yes, more butter. I’m sure you have guessed that this recipe is already going to be GLORIOUS based on my dried up magazine page.


turkey with lemon-sage butter
ingredients
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, plus 1/2 stick, melted, for basting
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh sage
2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
1 tsp paprika
1 12-14 lb hormone-free, all-natural turkey, patted dry
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 lemons, quartered

create
Set a rack inside a large, heavy roasting pan. Mash 1 stick butter, sage (I also added a bit of thyme because I was a little short on sage, heh, note the picture), lemon zest, and paprika in a bowl to combine.
Starting at neck end of turkey (Oh, make sure all of those goodies are taken out of the cavity of the turkey. I did that for the first time, too! It really wasn’t so bad. I’m a wuss.), loosen the skin of the breast by gently sliding your fingers underneath. Work half of lemon-sage butter under skin. Loosen skin around legs and thighs; work remaining lemon-sage butter under skin. Season turkey inside and out with salt and pepper and stuff with lemons. Transfer turkey, breast side down, to prepared pan and refrigerate, uncovered, overnight.
Let turkey stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 375º. Pour hot water into pan to a depth of 1/4″. Roast turkey, basting occasionally, with remaining 1/2 stick melted butter, for 1 hour. Using paper towels, flip turkey; roast, basting occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 165º, 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours longer. Transfer to a platter. Let rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.


Ahh, Christmas! I can’t contain my excitement. Eat some turkey! Hug your family! Love your neighbor! Give your all! And celebrate all the good goodness in your life! Since it’s Christmas, let’s be glad, even if your life’s been bad!

Again, Merry Christmas, y’all. Thanks for voting. Thanks for reading.

mommy’s ranch dressing


I’m writing this post in the passenger seat of a vehicle that’s in a caravan on the way to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains for a celebration of Christmas. That has nothing to do with this post, really. Just wanted to let y’all know.

But aren’t y’all excited about Christmas? Geez. I am. I’m still a child, though. I guess I should finally admit to the world that I still watch cartoons and jump up and down when I’m excited and absolutely adore musicals, sing-a-longs, and anything else that has a singing character in it. The other night my dog slept on my side of the bed while I slept under the Christmas tree because it was too beautiful to leave. Charlie Brown makes me cry. The Grinch warms my heart. And y’all know baby Jesus was the cutest baby ever.

This recipe isn’t really a Christmas recipe by tradition, but you know what people serve at parties? Crudités (I can picture people jumping up from their chairs, “Crew dytes?” It’s really just a fancy French word for raw veggies and dip, pronounced crew-deh-tay). And you know what holiday hosts lots of parties? Christmas. So, there ya go.

I kind of grew up with my mom making this ranch dressing and every time she did I remember being so impressed. I guess when I was seven I thought there were trees that had ranch dressing siphoned out of them like maple trees. Who knows. But this stuff is delicious. She used to make this, like, 16 layer salad with tons of random things in it and it was topped with her ranch dressing. It was the bomb. Mother, if you are reading, make this salad? Hmm?

And, man, y’all know I love making stuff that’s chemical free for our little ol’ bodies.

mommy’s ranch dressing
ingredients
1 garlic clove
2 tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped
1/3 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
~1 cup mayonnaise
~1/2 cup sour cream
pinch of salt
pinch of white pepper
pinch of onion powder
buttermilk, to desired consistency

create
Mince the garlic clove and sprinkle a little salt over the top. Mash the garlic and salt together with a fork until well combined. Put in a bowl with the chopped parsley and chives.
Add the mayonnaise, sour cream, pepper, and a little more salt. Mix together.
Add as much buttermilk as you’d like. If you like your dressing thicker, just add a little. If you like it thin, add a little more. Keep tasting it along the way and adjust the flavors based on what you think it needs. Keep in the fridge in a jar (and remember that spices will get stronger as they sit).

That’s it! You’re done! The thing about this dressing is that everything in it is crazy adjustable to personal taste. Don’t like as much mayo? Psh, add less. Want more garlic? Add it. I almost listed the ingredients as “some of this” or “some of that.” You can even get crazy, people. Add hot sauce, or other spices, or whatever your heart fancies. And then, dadgummit, get some raw veggies and crudité it up!

Update on the trip: we’re currently driving up a mountain near Asheville, my husband’s ears are popping, my brother-in-law and his fiancé are sleeping, and we’re listening to the glorious sounds of a very She & Him Christmas. Really, was there ever a more beautiful place than the mountains? I’m in love with them. Thank you, Jesus, for a beautiful earth.

Merry Christmas, y’all.

beef pie with sweet potato topping

I will not start this post by blabbing on about my obsession with Gordon Ramsay. But…it may happen somewhere in the middle. Warning. Hehh. Eh.

This recipe of Gordon’s is one of my husband’s favorites. Every time I ask him what he wants for dinner, he says, “Sweet potato pie.”, which, to most people, means something sweet, a dessert, a pumpkin pie alternative. But I know him well enough to decode his husband language to mean Beef Pie with Sweet Potato Topping. Actually, to be honest, I made a few changes to Gordon’s recipe. Oh my gosh! No! Please put the knives down. I promise it’s not blasphemy. Let me explain. Some of the things in his recipe I simply just don’t have available right around me. Gordon’s dish is called Venison Pie with Sweet Potato topping from his book Healthy Appetite. Now, I’ve known some people from down here in the South who have had fathers and uncles and cousins (who are technically only friends) who hunt and freeze 20 freezers full of meat and they eat it all year long and try to give it away to their friends as party favors (“Ya want sum meat?”), but my family doesn’t really…hunt. So, for me, Gordon’s venison pie is easier as beef pie.

I’m going to list the recipe here in the post with my small little adaptations that I made. I have Gordon’s exact recipe, so if you’d like to see it or use it, I will gladly tell ya all about it. Oh? Is this where my blab about my Gordon Ramsay obsession comes in? Okay. Okay. I’ll be brief. Basically, Gordon is the king of kitchens. It’s not that he can simply cook (and if that’s all he did, it’d be enough), but he knows management, sanitation, every culinary skill or rule ever invented, and when something is slightly off or even slightly on. That’s all I will say, but because I said this, just know that you can trust any recipe he gives to the world.

Oh, and sweet potatoes are totally in season right now.

beef pie with sweet potato topping
beef pie:
ingredients
1 1/3 lb all natural beef for stew
sea salt and black pepper
3 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
3 to 4 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 rosemary sprig, leaves only
2/3 cup red wine
2 3/4 cups chicken stock
1/2 lb red potatoes

sweet potato topping:
ingredients
1 lb sweet potatoes
2/3 lb red potatoes
3 tbsp butter
1/3 cup white cheddar cheese
2 egg yolks

create
Season the flour with salt and pepper and use to coat the beef. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large Dutch oven and brown the meat in batches until evenly browned, about 2 minutes each side. Transfer to a bowl.
Add the onions and carrots to the pot with a little more oil and stir over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes until colored. Add the rosemary and cook for a minute. Pour in the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze. Bubble until reduced right down.
Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer. Return the beef, with any juices released, to the pot. Partially cover with a lid and gently braise for 40 to 50 minutes until the beef is tender, giving the mixture a stir every once in a while.
About 15 minutes before the beef will be ready, slice the 1/2 lb of red potatoes into 1/2-inch thick circles (I peeled my potatoes, but you can certainly leave the skins on if you’d like). Season with salt and pepper and cook in a little olive oil in a wide, nonstick skillet until golden brown on both sides. Add to the beef pot to finish cooking. Once the potatoes and beef are tender, remove the pot from the heat and let cool slightly.

For the topping, peel all the potatoes and cut into 2-inch chunks. Cook in a pan of salted water for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain and return to the pan. Mash potatoes with a potato masher. While still hot, add the butter, cheese, and salt and pepper. Mix well to combine. Cool slightly, then mix in the egg yolks.

Time out: Gordon’s recipe calls for double Gloucester cheese. The reason Gloucester cheese is Gloucester cheese is because it’s made with milk from cows who live in Gloucestershire, England. As you may assume, it’s not exactly around these parts very often. Double Gloucester typically has a stronger flavor than single and is usually larger. Have you ever seen those crazies chasin’ that huge roll of cheese down that hill? Yeah, that’s double Gloucester. Yeah, I’d chase that cheese too if I lived there. Check it out. (Y’all. They’re never gonna catch that cheese. Just sayin’.)

Heat the oven to 425º. Tip the beef mixture into a large pie dish or shallow cast-iron pan and top with the mash. Rough up the surface with a fork. Bake for 20 minutes until the topping is golden brown and the filling is bubbling around the sides. Grind over some pepper and serve.

This is like shepherd’s pie to the max. The wine gives it a crazy, deep taste and everything else is like the comforting ingredients you already know in beef stew. So, enjoy the brilliantness of it, the autumness of it, and the curl-up-date-night-movie-night-warmingness of it.
I keep walking into the kitchen and picking the potatoes out of the casserole dish, looking over my shoulders to see if anyone is watching me. Pretty soon it’s going to be beef pie with no sort of topping. Y’all know where my heart lies.

white chocolate cranberry cookies

When I was at Carolina, we spent a lot of our time in the GMP. GMP, short for Grand Market Place, pronounced gimp. I feel like I could dedicate a whole week to USC/Russell House inspired posts. Chicken Finger Wednesdays. Fried chicken and mac + cheese Fridays. Grits and biscuit early kick-off Saturday mornings. The GMP had horrible/amazing music (you know, the old Britney Spears you hate, but secretly love singing), hit or miss food, and a little bit of every type of person. The collegiate watering hole.

One thing I remember loving was their cookies. They had the norms, you know, chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin. But then they had this special cookie, a white chocolate cranberry cookie. All year round. I loved it. We were like cookie monsters up in there. They had a slight crunch on the outside and a chewy, soft center. The perfect cookie, really. Now, I have no idea what was in those. I have no idea whether or not they actually made the batter. They were probably filled with shortening and diesel fuel. So, this is what we’re gonna do. We are going to make that cookie with yummy, natural ingredients. And every bite will be filled with Gamecock goodness.

white chocolate cranberry cookies
ingredients
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup natural cane sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar (made with natural cane sugar), packed
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries

create
Preheat oven to 375º. Using a mixer, beat butter, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt together until well combined. Add eggs and beat well. Stir the flour and baking soda together and gradually add it to the butter mixture. Beat until well combined. Stir in the white chocolate chips and cranberries. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, drop tablespoonfuls of batter a couple of inches apart and bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the middle is set and the edges are golden. Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a cooling rack, a platter, or your mouth. This recipe will make around three dozen cookies, depending on how large or small you make them.

These cookies are neat because every once in a while, you’ll get a pretty tart cranberry and your mind says, “Okay. Halt. Sour.”, but then your thought is interrupted with the buttery sweetness of the white chocolate. It’s a wonderful combination.

Russell House, this cookie post is dedicated to you. Thank you for hosting me for so many doggone tired, hungry hours and for dealing with my friends and me laughing at ridiculous things while we ate turkey wraps, vegetarian chili (cheaper, eh?), and, of course, cookies.

dried cranberries

Autumn in South Carolina is a little bit of a tease. And also a bit humorous. As soon as the temperature drops below 70 degrees, people find it necessary to pull out the coats and big socks. Hey, I’m not doggin’ ya. I’m just as guilty. Last night, the husband and I slept with five blankets and a puppy. With the radiator on. And fleece pants. And wool socks. And I love it. Even if SC is teasing us with little spurts of cold, I’m okay with that. I can be patient. And I’ll continue wearing my scarves and boots in 65 degree weather.

So! Since it’s getting cooler (eh, here and there), I like to think of foods that remind me of this glorious time of year. Heck, I think of those foods all year long. My friends make fun of me because I have Andy Williams’ “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” on my running playlist. It’s a good song, people.

Off topic.

I really like cranberries. No, not the kind shaped like a can. I like their tartness, the tiny bit of sweetness you have to search for, and their beautiful color. And they fall perfectly into this time of cooler weather and holiday menu planning! Dried cranberries are great because you can throw them into lots of recipes for a little pucker and raisin-like chewiness. Now, please don’t hate me. The process of drying cranberries (without a dehydrator) is a little time consuming. It requires very little hands-on work, but drying fruits takes time. It’s worth it. You know your result is fresh and you know what ingredients are in it. No guessing!

dried cranberries
ingredients
12 oz fresh cranberries
2 quarts boiling water
1 tbsp natural cane sugar (optional)

create
Preheat oven to 170º. Gently rinse the cranberries and place in a heat-proof bowl or saucepan (this bowl is not over heat). Pour the boiling water over the cranberries. Let the cranberries sit until their skins pop. Some of my cranberry skins popped instantly, but some took a little longer. It should altogether only take a few minutes. You can see that the skins almost look split down the middle.

Drain the water and toss with the sugar. You can certainly leave the sugar out if you’d like. Lay the cranberries in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Place in the oven and leave them there for at least 8 hours.

I’m going to be honest. I dried my cranberries in shifts. If you’re brave enough to leave your oven on all night, an overnight drying should do the trick. I tried to dry mine on my day off so I could be awake and available (not that you have to do anything to them while they’re in the oven, but, you know, safety and junk). Of course, I realized there were things I had to do, so I ended up drying mine at random times of the day and and at different intervals each time. Not the best method, but it worked. You can store them frozen to last longer and they don’t need to be thawed before baking or cooking with them.

Mmm.

I love you, Autumn.

And I love you, SC. Thank you for busting your pride a little bit and bending over to the cool nights and having to see your natives carve pumpkins and wear sweatshirts with palmetto trees on them. I’m sure you’ll get us back next summer.