Holiday Danish Butter Cookies

I have very few store bought guilty pleasures that I not so secretly love, and have loved ever since I was a kid. Zebra cakes, frosted circus animal cookies, powdered sugar tiny doughnuts and those Danish butter cookies that come in a blue tin are my all time favorites. I’m obsessed. Now I know they’re not healthy treats, and who really knows what kinds of crazy unpronounceable ingredients they have, but I can’t help it, they remind me of my childhood. In my defense, it was the nineties and no one was really scared about crazy chemicals in food back then (or at least I don’t think they were). It was a different time, for sure. Don’t judge me! I’m sure I’m not the only one out there with guilty food pleasures. Sure, I’m a baker and I can easily make any dessert at home, but no matter what I do, those treats up there are irreplaceable. I’m not saying to go out and eat these cookies, cakes and doughnuts every single day, but I am saying it’s totally okay to treat yo’ self every now and then. You deserve it. 

I most commonly get a craving for Danish butter cookies during the holidays. Maybe because that’s when I see millions of those blue tins around grocery stores everywhere. My favorites are the wreath shaped ones and the small pretzel shaped cookies. Those are the best. I recently decided it was time to make my own version of those cookies at home. I browsed online and found that I’m not alone in this Danish cookie fascination. I was lucky enough to find lots of recipes on the internets that I was able to piece together a few to make the ultimate butter cookie recipe. It’s great because they’re made with everyday ingredients that you (most definitely) probably have on hand already. No need to take a trip to the grocery store for anything fancy. Well, maybe just sprinkles but you know what, that’s totally worth a trip to the store because these cookies need to get they’re sprinkle on. 

With the holidays around the corner, I think they fit perfectly with the season. Plus, who doesn’t love a good cookie recipe in December? Let’s get into the holiday spirit and whip up a big batch of these cookies and make it rain down the most delicious buttery treats you’ll ever encounter. Let’s also run down to the grocery store, while we’re at it, and try those guilty pleasures I mentioned earlier. Let’s keep it just between us and not tell anyone that we’re living our lives. Most importantly let’s have a good holiday season filled with lots of guilty pleasures!

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Cherry, Dark Chocolate, Cinnamon and Pecan Rugelach

Well hello again! If you haven’t already noticed by now, I’ve been away for a while. I sincerely apologize for that. Believe me, it hasn’t been by any choice of mine. The holidays have kept me quite busy.  Thanksgiving taught me that there is no limit to how much turkey I can eat. I know that it seems like I haven’t been working on the blog, but if you really think about it,  I have been working on new recipes for the blog to share with you guys. I’ve teamed up with a few companies that I’m super excited to work with and although I can’t share the recipes or all of the details right at this moment, I do want you to know that some new and exciting recipes (that I’m most proud of, mind you) are coming to the blog very soon. And by very soon I mean a couple of weeks. I’m just itching to tell you guys all about them. To let the cat out of the bag and spill the beans but unfortunately I can’t just now. I can tell you though that these recipes I’m talking about are going to blow your socks off. Blow them clear across the country. I think that justifies my absence, right? 

The other day I was video chatting with my mother—which by the way, I had no idea she even knew how to Facetime, but I gotta tell you she’s more of a pro than you and I could ever dream of being—so she proceeds to tell me that I’ve been neglecting my blog for far too long. She hasn’t gotten any email updates from me recently, and she’s worried that I’m going to lose all of my followers if I don’t post anything soon. Thanks mom. Now, I’m no cookie pro baker but I do have to inform you that I am a professional cookie eater. Don’t believe me? It’s on my resume. (It really isn’t on my resume, but how cool would that be?) Anyhow, as I was saying, my mother was throwing shade my way so I knew that I needed to get my act together.  

After that, I wanted to get into the holiday cookie-baking spirit so I decided to think outside of the box for a bit. I didn’t want to share an easy recipe of something we’ve all seen far too many times. I wanted something that was unique and perhaps maybe even new to some of you. Rugelach sort of made all the sense in the world because you can easily fill it with whatever your heart desires. These are loaded with butter, cinnamon sugar, dark chocolate, cherries and pecans. I don’t think it gets any better than this, but luckily for me, I’m not complaining about the situation. Rugelach kind of look like croissants but the doughs are completely different from one another. This one is a little more dense than pie crust, but it’s still super delicious. If you’ve never made these before or have never tried them for yourself, I think it’s safe to say that you’ve been missing out. Don’t worry, you still have time to catch up to the rest of us. I’ll even help you eat your way through. I’m willing to take one for the team. 

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Thanksgiving Crostini

There’s a serious lack of Thanksgiving Day appetizers out on the web. Have you noticed that, or is it just me imagining things? I was searching for some starter ideas for my family’s big celebration, and I couldn’t find much. Especially nothing that appealed to me. We’re always on the lookout for “THE” perfect turkey recipe or “THE” perfect mashed potato recipes for the big day. Sides are pretty important so I get that, there are literally a billion side dish recipes out there. I kid you not, a billion! (Okay maybe not a billion). You get the point though. We’re all concerned about the main components of the meal, but sometimes forget that appetizers are just as important, if not more important, because they set the tone for the entire dinner. 

Maybe it’s because most people don’t even bother serving appetizers? I have no clue. Perhaps they’re saving their appetite for game time. I don’t know about you though, if I tried to do that in my house, my family would revolt. They would complain all the way to Christmas. I have to worry about breakfast, snacks, appetizers, dinner and dessert on Turkey Day. They can definitely eat so providing hors d’Oeurves is a must. I can’t get away without them. Luckily for me, I delegate the cooking and baking to everyone so that I don’t have to do it all. You should definitely do that as well. Plus, it’s nice to get everyone in the kitchen on Thanksgiving. Helping out and having fun with some music on. There’s nothing better. 

So anyhow, like I was saying, where are all of the Thanksgiving Day appetizers?! Someone buy me a vowel because I don’t know. Just in case I’m not alone in this battle, I’ve decided to make up a recipe for me. For you. For us. So here we are, Thanksgiving Crostini. It sounds and looks fancy but I gotta tell you, it’s not fancy at all. It’s really simple to make and the best part of it is that you can prepare the components the night or day before and then keep them separately. Then just assemble the appetizers right before serving. I devised this recipe to be served either cold, warm, or at room temperature. You can thank me now. Oh you’re welcome. You’re welcome. I’m keeping you all in mind. The last thing you need is another complicated recipe to add to your already long list of things you need to prepare. So let’s make this appetizer, be rock stars in the kitchen and have the best Thanksgiving EVER! We deserve it. 

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Pistachio Eclairs

For me, growing up, Valentine’s Day was something special. Not because of all the valentines I would receive from my many admirers—that goes without saying. I was pret-ty popular as a kid. I’m totally kidding. You caught me. I didn’t have any admirers, and what’s more, I’d get just the same amount of cards as any other boring Joe at school. The bare minimum. It was sad and depressing. I don’t want to talk about it. No, it was a special day because of the crafts we’d do at home. The coloring of cards and cutting of construction paper and gluing of pipe cleaners. My hearts were always cut lopsided, unlike my sisters’, but that’s okay. I think we all know which were better (mine). The youngest child can practically make a pile of crap and it would still be considered cute. The best part of the day, however, was when we’d get to decorate cookies, and then eat them, of course. Mamma would make a batch of heart-shaped sugar cookies for us. Then we’d proceed to dump globs of pink, red and white colored icing on them, and make it rain nothing but sprinkles. I’d make it rain sprinkles—in my mouth. It was awesome! Sure there would be a gigantic mess at the end of it all, not even worth the cookies that came out of it, but the memories were totally worth it. Now don’t get me wrong. Mamma, bless her soul, isn’t a baker at all. She didn’t spend hours in the kitchen making said Valentine’s Day cookies. Nope. Instead, she would take a few minutes to open up a package of store-bought dough and plop them on a baking sheet and call it a day. We never complained. I mean after all, a cookie is a cookie.

There are only a few things in life, when it  comes to food, that I really enjoy. Okay, who am I kidding? I don’t even believe that myself. There are a lot of food things in life I can’t get enough of, like Valentine’s Day cookies for instance. Also, doughnuts are definitely on the top of that can’t-get-enough list. Come to think of it, I don’t think there is a list out there where doughnuts don’t make an appearance. Freshly popped popcorn doused in a generous amount of questionable white cheddar cheese powder, add that to my “food I really enjoy” list also. Powdered popcorn cheese? Yes, please! 100% yes. I don’t even give it a second thought, yes. Of course there are more reasonable foods I absolutely go nuts for like, french fries, tater tots, hash browns (I promise you it’s not all potatoes, but really it is), potato tacos, and garlic mashed potatoes. I was a potato in my past life, remember? Dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets—you’ll forever have my heart. Croutons on an iceberg salad. Hard boiled eggs in the evening. Whipped ricotta on crusty bread with a drizzle of good olive oil. Pistachios in pretty much ANYTHING (especially ice cream). Yeah, I could go on and on but you catch my drift, I love food. Especially themed food.

I think the best part of any holiday is the themed food, snacks and desserts you can make and eat. What makes Valentine’s Day so special? Is it all the love that is going around? Sure that’s nice, but no that’s not it. Is it the fact that you can spend the day with your loved ones? Uh I don’t think so. That can happen any day of the week, if you think about it. Perhaps it’s all the heart shaped chocolate, brownies, cookies, love-inspired desserts and meals out there? Yeah that’s definitely it. Think about it, what other day of the year is it perfectly acceptable to dive, mouth first, into a heart-shaped box of chocolate and not even feel guilty about it? What other day can you pretend to make something decadent like pistachio eclairs for your “significant other,” when in reality, we all know it’s really just for you? There is no other day. This is the only chance we get. So let’s stop fighting it and do nothing but eat chocolate and candy and pistachio eclairs on this day of love. That’s what February 14th is all about, right? Well that, and chubby naked babies flying around, flinging arrows at people.

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Gingerbread Cookies

When I was a kid all I really wanted to do was eat gingerbread cookies. Like all the time. Gingerbread cookies, night and day. It wasn’t because I loved gingerbread cookies so much that I just had to have them. The truth was, I just wanted to bite their heads off. And then eat them. But definitely not in the weird way that it sounded just now. Sometimes I’d go easy on them (I was a reasonable kid) and start with an arm, or a leg and then work my way up. Okay, that does sound weird, now that I think about it, but come on, I was a kid. You can’t blame me. What child doesn’t get pleasure out of torturing cookies by eating them, limb by limb? I think that’s totally normal, right? Doesn’t everyone do that? Nothing screams “Happy Holidays” like a cookie massacre, and by massacre I of course mean feast. A cookie free for all. A buffet of cookies. A never-ending supply of cookies. I envied Santa Claus (maybe because of his red suit) but it was mostly because of the fact that he got to eat cookies and drink milk all night long. ALL. NIGHT. LONG. Talk about a dream job. Professional cookie eater sounds like the kind of thing I would be great at. I can eat cookies for a living. I would’t mind. I’d do it like my life depended on it, and as if every cookie I ate, saved a life. I’d save a million lives, in that case. It would be a tough job, but one I would hesitantly excel at, you know, for the good of the people. I’m saving lives after all.

It’s fun sometimes to just forget about everything and decorate some cookies. Especially during the holidays. There’s something about gathering everyone together in the kitchen and getting all those creative juices flowing. The holidays can be so stressful at times, brought on by the pressure of fighting the crowds and purchasing gifts, but if you really think about it, it isn’t about the gifts but rather the good times and the memories you create with those you love. Those are the things we carry with us throughout our lives. Material items come and go, but memories, those will last a lifetime. No assembly or batteries required. Just the willingness to have fun. It doesn’t even matter how old you are, you can still have a good time at any moment of your life. I mean, I’m a quarter of a century and I still get a kick out of biting the heads off of gingerbread men. Some things never change. Especially my love for gingerbread. That will always be there.

As a child, I often wondered if Santa Claus had a favorite cookie. It would keep me up at night. “What if he doesn’t like sugar cookies?” I would ask my mom, (which were the ones we always left for him). I felt bad, as a kid, for forcing him to eat just the one type of cookie, year after year. What if the man loved gingerbread and I had no idea? Of course it was impossible to leave a variety for him because my mom wasn’t much of a baker, and the cookies we left Mr. Claus were from out of a tube. It wasn’t until I was older when I saw the red markings left behind on the glass of milk and the leftover cookie pieces one year and I thought to myself, “Santa Claus wears lipstick?!” Who am I to judge? Whatever floats your boat Santa. Whatever floats your boat. Of course it was then that I realized it didn’t matter what cookies we left behind because my mom (aka the best Santa in the world) was just like me. We don’t discriminate against a cookie. We welcome each and every one of them. I’ll never say no to a spicy gingerbread cookie that’s for sure, and something tell me, Santa wouldn’t either.

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Gluten-Free Carrot Bundt Cake

I don’t know about yours, but my Easter Bunny happens to be gluten intolerant. I learned that the hard way when for years he didn’t eat the cookies I left out for him. Each year comes and goes; the treats left behind, untouched, while the milk was completely gone. I’d lay them out by the Easter plant that I decorated with colored eggs and chocolate candy….wait….that’s not right. I’m getting my holidays mixed up. Now I know what you’re thinking, “Silly Jonathan. Cookies are for kids. Bunny rabbits don’t eat cookies!” And do you know why that is? Because most cookies have flour in it. Ergo, they must be gluten intolerant. It is the only explanation as to why bunnies don’t eat cookies. So this year I’ve decided to get smart by making a gluten-free cake for my furry Easter friend. Maybe, just maybe, this year will be the year he eats the dessert I leave out for him, so he can get energy to deliver Easter baskets for all to enjoy. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for an Easter miracle.

All kidding aside, I’ve been promising you all more gluten-free desserts on this here blog. So here it is. Or rather, here one is. I thought a carrot cake would tie in perfectly with the upcoming holiday, regardless if you celebrate it or not. I know that Easter tends to be a religious holiday, but you don’t have to be religious to enjoy the seasonal treats that spring up during this time of year. If you don’t care for gluten-free desserts, have no fear, my blog isn’t becoming a gluten-free blog. I still very much enjoy making and posting and gorging on ridiculous amounts of crusty, golden brown, gluten-rich breads. I’m just taking a break to show my appreciation for those fans who are indeed gluten intolerant. I’m trying to expand my horizons and reach out to as many people as possible. I don’t have any special dietary restrictions—as you all may know by now with my penchant for all foods—but I do have to admit this is a really good cake. You don’t have to have celiac disease to appreciate the awesomeness of this recipe.

Growing up, Easter was always a big event at my house. My mom would go all out for my sisters and I. Even now as adults we still go through with our Annual Easter Egg Hunt, and there may or may not still be some baskets filled with goodies for us. If you thought that four grown adults could be civilized while searching for plastic eggs filled with prizes, you are very much mistaken. We get extremely vicious when searching for these eggs. Fighting hard to find the most we possibly can. Hair is pulled, clothes are ripped, siblings are pushed to the floor. Stealing, cheating and sneakiness are traits that are possessed for the day (and that’s just my middle sister, she’s very competitive). We demolish the house looking for eggs that mom has so cleverly hidden. We enjoy the occasional egg filled with chocolate Easter candy here and there, but what we’re really yearning for are the eggs stuffed with the major prizes. Frozen yogurt gift certificates, lottery scratchers and of course money. Those are the treasures that make the black eyes and bruises worth it. Of course at the end of the day we all sit down as a family and enjoy a pleasant meal together. One of us happier than the others because we were fortunate enough to find the perfect eggs. That my friends is Easter in my house and has been for as long as I can remember.

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