Free Range on Food: Holiday cookies

Dec 03, 2014

Every Wednesday at noon, Food section staff members and guests answer your burning culinary questions. Past Free Range on Food chats

Greetings, all, and welcome to today's chat! 

We've got cookies on the brain -- and chilling in the fridge, cooling on the counter, browning in the oven. And why wouldn't we? It's the most wonderful time of the year -- cookie time!

Hope you're enjoying the beautiful collection that Bonnie curated this year, with the help of some of today's special guests: Buttercream Bakeshop owner Tiffany MacIsaac, creator of this year's cookie-tower project; Nancy Baggett, baker and author extraordinaire and author of the piece on "crossover" cookies; and Roxanne Roberts, our colleague in the Style section who is a very talented baker and cookie decorator in her own right and author of the piece about Patti Paige and her cookie-cutter creativity.

We will have the rest of us regulars in the house, too, so don't feel like you can't ask about non-cookie things -- we're well-rounded! 

We'll have giveaway books for our favorite chatters today: Paige's "You Can't Tell a Cookie By Its Cutter" and "The Ultimate Cookie Book" by Better Homes & Gardens.

Let's get to it.

Hi. Maybe you have such a recipe in today's section, which I've not yet had a chance to read? If not, please point me towards some deelish recipes I can make without baking! I need to make a few dozen cookies for an event two days from now and my oven is not working - Oy!! I do have an electric stove-top (burners), microwave, Forman grill and, in a box in the basement somewhere, a small electric oven that's not much more than a toaster turned on its side. I also have a toaster. I'm told there are such things as non-cook cookies involving dates. Or microwave brownies. But I want to make something that tastes delicious, not just looks like a cookie! (And I haven't made dessert in years.) Thanks so much - you guys are the best!

I think this was the first year we didn't include a no-bake; chiefly because DC pastry chefs gave us such a multitude of good options! 

No oven!  Sounds like a cookie emergency.  But don't worry, there are lots of no-bake options.  The one I make most mixes butter, chocolate and  peanut butter then folded in oats and whatever else you want to flavor with.  Maybe dried fruit or nuts.  

Another great option is rice kris pies or marshmallows.  both require few ingredient and neither need an oven!  They also have a great shelf life so you can get started early!! 

I made this recipe which was from Tarver King, at Patowmack Farm and it never thickened. Was there a typo in the amount of apple cider?

This sauce doesn't thicken like a typical cranberry sauce -- the saucy part of it, apart from the cooked-down whole berries, is pretty liquid. As the recipe says, you can keep cooking it down longer to get that firmer consistency (once it's chilled). You saw the recipe photo, right?



RECIPE Cranberries Cooked in Honey


Hi! I recently went to Florida, and I discovered the magic that is guanabana/soursop. Is there anywhere in the DC area that carries them? Thanks!

The Red Apple Farmers Market in Takoma Park MD carries it, but the store hasn't had it for several months. I'm told the season for it runs late summer through early fall. You can buy the canned juice, tho...

Have people stopped breaking wishbones on Thanksgiving? I've had several Thanksgiving meals in the past decade at the homes of people I didn't grow up with, including last week, and not one of them saved the wishbone to break at the end of the meal. This was a ritual in my family. Rangers?

It was a ritual in my childhood home in Omaha, too. I can still recall the sinking feeling of being on the short end of the wishbone tug-of-war.


By the way, the whole wishbone ritual apparently has its roots in ancient Etruscan culture, where chickens (yes, chickens!) were considered oracles of a sort.

When baking a cake, should I lower the oven temperature if the baking pan has a dark rather than a shiny finish? Would this keep the cake from getting overly browned? If so, should the baking time be lengthened? Thanks for your help.

Hi!  I use both light and dark baking pans and I've never adjusted the temperature.  If you are having issues with coloring on a cake I'd consider checking out placement in your oven.  It's possible that the oven bakes hot or cold in certain spots.  But if you do decide to turn down the temperature I wouldn't go below 300 degrees.  And check for doneness using a cake tester, toothpick or small knife.  Insert into the center of the cake and if it comes out clean, you are in the clear!

Please take care of this every week.

Done. Thanks for the eagle eye. But ... You do know you can go to and see the "Latest Recipes" list at the right there? That's continually updated, automatically. That page also always features the latest Dinner in Minutes, Nourish and Weeknight Vegetarian recipes in the photo carousel.

And with cookies, the bulk of our recipes this week, we gathered them for you in a special link, played up on that Food landing page.

Reporting back on my too sweet muffins, since Bonnie asked for the recipe. I don’t know how I made the batter in my first attempt. I probably used my standard muffin recipe with 2 cups of flour and either a half or a quarter cup of sugar, ca. 1 c. milk, 1 egg, some oil, baking powder, and a bit of salt. This time I decided to adapt the Pound Cake recipe from Laurel’s Kitchen, hoping for something more fluffy: Sift together 2 1/4 c. flour (half white, half whole wheat), 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt. Separate 2 eggs, beat whites until stiff. Beat yolks, add 1/2 c. brown sugar, 1/2 c. oil, a bit of vanilla and grated ginger. Add dry ingredients to egg yolk-sugar mixture, a third at a time, alternating with 3/4 c. buttermilk. Stir in a good tbsp. of the beaten egg whites to loosen the batter up, then fold in the rest. Then I added 1 medium pear, peeled, cored and diced, 3 1/2 oz. chopped up white chocolate (a little more than half a cup), 3 1/2 oz. marzipan, chopped up in little bits. For the ginger: I ended up using grated ginger root – started with about half a tsp. Tasted the batter, added another half tsp ginger. The result was not too sweet, which was my goal. The ginger couldn’t be tasted and they weren’t really fluffy either. But they were good. Yield: 15 muffins. Use paper liners – they stick when the extras attach to the pan. Thanks for your advice!

And thanks for reporting back!

Hi Rangers, I'm submitting early from the West Coast. I made stock from my turkey carcass, and when it cooled down, it turned into jelly. My mom assures me this is normal, and I realize it will liquify when heated, but it sure is unappetizing. Would love your expert 2 cents. Thanks!

You have liquid gold thar, pardner.  In simmering the carcass, collagen from the bones was released -- that's what causes the jelly effect for chilled stock. It does indeed reheat to a full liquid, and has more flavor than anything you might pour out of a store-bought carton. The more you reduce the stock, the more gelatinous it might become.

The thicker the better!  It means you have a rich, delicious stock, with lots of collagen in it.  Keep reducing it and you'll get a delicious sauce.

I loved the variety presented today, but the best thing about this year's cookies issue is you could scroll down one link and see ALL the different cookies instead of having to click a different page for each photo. Great job! My question is this - the recipes all tend to say to store the baked cookies for a few days. Those of us who give cookies as gifts must bake in advance, and can rarely do so immediately before gifting all the cookies. Thus, how to interpret the information on how long cookies keep? Honestly, I have safely (and deliciously) eaten many a cookie that was several weeks old, especially crisp cookies. I'd appreciate a bit more information on what you mean with the storage information, and advice for cookies that keep longer than a few days. Thank you very much.

Thank you! The recommended storage times are for enjoying the cookies at their best. Few of them become inedible, in truth. But I think it's safe to say that you can tell by reading the recipes which cookies would survive much longer without issues. A cookie that is supposed to be chewy might harden a bit; a cookie with filling might taste a bit staler than a sugar cookie. That's why we try to include information about freezing, for longer-term storage.



ARTICLE: The 2014 Holiday Cookies Collection

So glad you asked this question! Most cookies  won't spoil if left sitting around, but they do tend to dry out and many kinds just don't taste as fresh (often due to the butter getting stale).  When I bake ahead for holiday gift giving I freeze most kinds of cookies--then they are as fresh tasting as I'd like.  Most baked cookies (sugar, gingerbread, bars, biscotti)  do freeze well, but not some very delicate meringue cookies or very tender-crumbly butter cookies which tend to crumble even more.  I just bake these last (and I never try to ship them!).

Is it possible to roast frozen vegetables (like the kind you buy in a Green Giant/Birdseye package)? Roasting is my favorite way to prep veggies, but I don't know if I could do this with frozen. Would they burn before they could cook through? If I thawed them and roasted them, would it work? Would they suffer structurally? (Soggy? Mushy?) I'm interested because, depending on the vegetable, they're often cheaper than fresh and a lot of the prep work is done -- plus, I always hear about how frozen vegetables are picked fresh and frozen immediately. If I could prep them with my favorite method, it would be a real win-win.

Yep, you absolutely can roast frozen vegetables. I think it'd be better to do it without thawing them. Just toss them in olive oil and salt. The texture will depend on the vegetable -- they won't be just the same as roasting raw vegetables, and some of them won't get as crisp/browned, but they'll be better than steaming or boiling, I'd say. 

I had asked a few weeks ago about coq au vin with white wine. After Tim went to all the trouble of calling Robert Wiedmaier, I *had* to make it. I went to MacArthur's to get the wine and choked when I saw the price tag - $50, for something I would boil not drink! But they kindly pointed me towards a reasonable viognier. The dinner was delicious. I do think the red wine version is better, but the white was a very nice substitute. Thank you again!

Very glad to hear it turned out well.


Out of curiosity, what was the color of your sauce? (Part of the reason I ask is because in winter, when it's really cold outside, I love to eat coq au vin for its rich, ruby sauce, which feels so warm and comforting.)

I need a festive, but easy dessert to take to a holiday party tomorrow evening. I've found a couple of cake recipes, but they require more time than I would like to spend (or have) this evening. Do you have a less time consuming, but good, recipe that I might try?

I know this might seem a little obvious, but ....


Right? We have some nice simple ones in our collection this year, and if you took something with a good amount going on, it would be perfect for a holiday party, I'd say. First thing that comes to mind: Fudgy Walnut Cookies. You could pair them with some good store-bought gelato or ice cream: salted caramel or vanilla would do well here. How much more festive can you get than a scoop of good ice cream with a luscious cookie like this?



RECIPE: Fudgy Walnut Cookies

Or, if you don't want that -- how bout Lisa Yockelson's lovely Harvest Apple Cake from September? Nice and simple, and glorious. You could gild the lily with dollops of whipped cream or creme fraiche if you'd like.



RECIPE: Harvest Apple Cake

You  might try a trifle or parfait.  It's a beautiful and festive centerpiece and most of the ingredients can be made easily (puddings, whipped cream and cake are generally the main components.)  Or cheat a little and make the puddings and whipped creams from scratch and buy a angle food or pound cake to layer.   

I have an 8-ounce (minus 1 tablespoon) leftover from Thanksgiving baking. Any suggestions on how to use this? Preferably looking for something savory as we are still recovering from an abundance of dessert.

Whipped mascarpone makes a great topping for, well, anything. In my opinion anyway.  If you mix about 1 cup of chilled heavy cream, 1/3 cup of powdered sugar,  and a few drops of vanilla extract  with the mascarpone you'll have a great topping for a sundae, pie or anything else you want whipped cream on.  

Or add a little espresso and you've got a good start to a tiramisu.  Just add lady finger!

Hi Tiffany - My friends and I love seeing you in the paper! We want to know where you think the best pastries, desserts and pastry chefs are in DC? Where would you go if you had to pick a few places?

Oh yay!   I'm so happy to get to be a part of one of the best issues of the year!!!  I love a good cookie so being included was a huge honor!

If you are looking for great rugelach Grassroots Gourmet has some that is delicious.  They also do a lot of vegans sweets, which is hard to find

As far as composed desserts Chris Ford is back in DC at Range and I haven't been yet but I'm sure they are great.  He's such a pro.  The desserts at Rogue 24 are also very impressive.   Baked and Wired is my #1 for cupcakes and GBD or District Doughnut for your fried fix.  Oh, and I could eat a million of the canele at Bread Furst.  A million!

I can keep going but I think that's a good start :)

I have a lot of extra tequila and was hoping to use it in a festive holiday punch. I haven't seen any recipes I like, so other than making a big batch of pomegranate or cranberry margaritas, what would you suggest? And I have to say a big THANKS for the cookies - I was feeling pretty uninspired but the Honeyed Sriracha and Chocolate Cinnamon Chipotle are right up my alley and I can't wait to make them.

You might take a look at this one, which would have some nice holiday spice flavors (and you can also buy the falernum if home-making is too much trouble this time of year). Or how about this one, which has a gorgeous color along with some spice and bitter elements? Tequila and grapefruit tend to go beautifully together, and this dresses them up with ginger ale and orange. 

Another shout out for WaPo's cookbook. Roasted Mashed Apple-Pear Sauce has become the most "may I please have more" dish at the holiday table. I can never make enough Sweet Potato and Pear Mouse to have leftovers, and the Guacomole Eggs are the most requested hors d'oeuvres at our house. Is volume 2 in the works?

Not yet, but I'm willing! I applaud  your choices. I plan to make that applesauce for Chanukah -- it's a hands-down favorite, for sure. 



The Washington Post Cookbook: Readers' Favorite Recipes


I know the chatter wasn't looking for a sweet recipe, but I just had to share that I recently made a pumpkin mousse with canned pumpkin puree, mascarpone, cream, sugar and spices that was really good and super easy (and eggless, which mousse traditionally isn't). Loved this with gingersnap crumbs on top.

That sounds lovely. Thanks!

Hi food folks. Looking for a gift idea for a person who's in love with Japanese food. I'd like to find a gift that will be a little trip to Japan... maybe a gift box/kit (think Reuben kit from Zingerman's or tapas tasties from LaTienda) rather than a single item. Any thoughts/recommendations greatly appreciated.

The Japanese like almond and green tea flavors--if you are thinking of cookies those flavors together or solo are quite authentic both in the doughs and fillings.

Another idea: How about a little set of sake cups or noodle bowls with chopsticks? And then a nice bottle of sake and/or soba or udon noodles, toasted sesame oil, rice vinegar. A little Japanese market like Hana on U Street would have all of those -- and more!

You might try checking Honey Comb Grocer in Union Market.  They have a handful of home made and well sourced food ingredients!  The house made miso and vinegars are particularly delicious!

Every year for the past four or five years, I've tried to make gingerbread cookies. I've used loads of different recipes and techniques, and every time (without fail!) the cookies turn into one humongo cookie in the oven. I can't remember all of the recipes I've used, but I've tried creaming butter and sugar (rather than melted butter), chilling the dough, chilling the sheet pans and the dough, chilling the cut cookies on the sheet pan before baking. You name it, I've tried it. Do you have any advice? I'd really like to get a molasses-y, extra-gingery, actual-cookie-shape gingerbread cookie this year.

This is hard to answer! Since you've used different recipes, it seems odd that they ALL come out runny. It sounds like maybe you aren't adding enough flour--since you're chilling the dough before baking the problem wouldn't be overly-warm butter.  If you are sifting the flour before measuring that fluffs it too much. Unless a recipe says otherwise, measure then sift. To help you get non-runny cookies, I suggest doing a dough pre-test: Bake a couple cookies and see if they run. If they do, add in a little more flour to the dough and try again. When you get the results you want bake the whole batch. Be sure to bake on room-temp pans, not ones warm from the oven.

Nancy's advice is on the ball, of course, but it's probably also worth seeing whether your oven is running hot. If you'd like to try another recipe, here are two:

Mimi Miller's Long-Lost Gingerbread Cookies

Mimi Miller's Long-Lost Gingerbread Cookies

Raeanne's Gingerbread

Raeanne's Gingerbread

Both ladies are completely correct.  Try creaming the butter and sugar as little as possible. Start with room temperature butter and mix on a medium speed only a few minutes.  The longer you mix the more the cookies will spread.

I've got a ton left, and although I've been enjoying it mixed with Greek yogurt for breakfast, I need more ways to use it up. Mine has sliced grapes in it--tasty, but not sure how they'd do if cooked. Thoughts? Thanks!

Blend it, strain out the solids, and use the remaining syrup as a replacement for creme de cassis in a Kir Royale.  

Whisk it with vinegar or lemon juice and oil, maybe a little Dijon, and make a salad dressing!

What's the best way to achieve to classic French macaroons at home? What's the best color to use for those vibrant colors.

Macarons are soooo finicky.  tricky to do at home but not impossible.  Just takes time and practice.  

A few tricks:

Start with a flat sheet tray.  Warps will affect the shape and "feet" 
When coloring use a thick paste/gel rather than liquid, if it's available.  The shells will be slightly lighter than the color of the batter so account for that.  The darker colors are harder to achieve because they can thin the batter.
Pipe directly onto a silpat or parchment on the cookie tray.  Moving the sheet after piping will result in lopsided cookies
We like to mix the almond flour with the sugar in a food processor to make sure everything is evenly mixed and not lumpy.  Just a few pulses.
Pipe straight up and down.  Piping at an angle will make the shapes oval rather than round.
Rotate the trays half way through baking, especially in convection ovens.




RECIPE: Tiffany MacIsaac's Elegant Macarons

Dear Editor Joe: I like the fact that the Post's restaurant reviewer tries hard to be anonymous. While I look forward to Tom Sietsema's photo on his memoir, please don't follow the trend of publicly identifiable restaurant reviewers!

Fear not: We have no plans to follow the lead of the Dallas Morning News, whose critic -- and the controversy swirling around her -- Tim Carman writes about today (which I assume prompted your comment). Tom and I discuss this periodically, and we are in agreement that, in our opinion, there's no good reason to stop at least trying to maintain anonymity. Just because it's gotten harder doesn't mean it's less worthwhile, I'd say.

I too made the cranberries cooked in honey for Thanksgiving and thought they were too soup. Since I had made them the day before, I put them back on the stove for an additional 30 minutes (so they cooked like 1 hr 15 min total), and after that they were thick enough for my purposes although still not slightly jellied like you usually get. My sauce was also somewhat cloudy looking--could have been the cider. All that said I really liked the recipe. I loved that it had onion it in too. It is different, but not in a bad way.

Yep, that sounds about right. The first time I made the sauce it looked just like Tarver's; the second and third time (for my own holiday table) it was a bit cloudy. I did use different ciders so I chalked the difference up to that. Didn't affect the flavor. 

Any recommendations on how to scale down a cornbread/corn muffin recipe to serve two? I use a modified version of the recipe on the cornmeal carton, but it makes at least 12 muffins, or a full 8-inch cake pan. That's a lot of temptation for two people.

It gets tricky to scale down that much. Leavening amounts becomes so small it's almost unmeasurable.   Maybe try freezing them for a quick grab-and-go breakfast.  Or become the most popular person at work and bring a few in.

LOVE IT ALL - savory, sweet, making everything in the next month!

Give that fan a contract :)

Yea! Love to hear that!

I would say it was the color of chicken broth. I regretted forgetting to buy parsley to make it more colorful. I think white wine coq au vin might be a good meal for spring - when it's still cool out and you want something warming, but you might want something slightly lighter than the version you get with red wine.

I suspect the dish is very tasty, but it would take me time to get adjusted to the color!

I mistakenly bought three bricks of neufchatel recently, and was thinking of making a cheesecake with it! My internet research has turned up mixed results (it's not REALLY cheesecake without cream cheese vs. a healthier option!!), so what's the take from the Rangers?

I say go for it!  Just be careful not to over cream the cheese and sugar.  That will make the cheesecake softer.  And if you a re really worried maybe pick up some cream cheese and do a 50/50 mix of the two.

I noticed quite a few gluten-free cookie recipes this year, which I imagine is a reflection of that diet being a major trend at the moment (one I don't subscribe to--I'm not a fan of any diet fads). I'm curious whether the expert bakers who came up with these recipes really enjoy these cookies as much as traditional flour-based ones. Are these trend-chasing recipes or recipes that are really delightful in their own right?

Can't speak for those folks, especially as they're not with us, but I'll say I definitely enjoyed them, as someone whose diet is chock-full of gluten. The Amaretti are so almond-y and ethereal, the Fudgy Walnut Cookies almost like a brownie and the Chai-Spiced Gluten-Free Snickerdoodles really could have fooled me if I didn't know they were GF.

We can debate whether gluten-free is a trend, but I think it's here to stay. At least for those people who have been diagnosed with celiac disease. These cookies are excellent enough to stand on their own, trend or not!


I get a lot of compliments on my cookies, no matter the variety and I've determined some simple rules make all the difference. Cream your butter and sugar properly, chill your dough, and bake one sheet at a time on the center rack, with the cookies well spaced on the sheet. Also, cookies bake while resting so if you want a chewy, soft, cooke, you must underbake a little!

I'd add a couple other tips: I like to let the dough sit for 24 hours before baking so all the flavors can meld. For rolled cookies, I lightly dust the dough with flour, then roll out between two pieces of wax paper. Too much rolling and flour can make a tough dough.

One of my favorite uses for leftover turkey is a turkey curry recipe by Jane Adams Finn published in the Post many years ago. It is not "authentic" curry but appeals to my husband who doesn't like anything too "exotic". I have misplaced my printout of the recipe and it doesnt appear in your recipe finder. I found it on a search of the Post archives - wow, it came out in 2001. I was surprised to find that the Post charges for archived articles, even though I have been a print subscriber for 25+ years. Any chance you could include the recipe in the recipe finder? Thanks.

Here is the recipe for now. Might be able to add to the Recipe Finder too.

Curried Turkey Salad 


(4 to 6 servings) 


Cooked turkey is good in many salad combinations. I love it shredded with sprouts and sesame oil dressing and peanuts. It's a great stand-in for poached chicken in the classic rendition with celery and homemade mayonnaise. But I think that turkey surpasses other poultry in this recipe, with its fruit, nut and curry accents.


1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) dried cherries (may substitute dried cranberries) 


3 cups cooked shredded turkey meat 


1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) sliced almonds, toasted* 


1/3 cup mayonnaise 


1/3 cup plain yogurt 


1 teaspoon vegetable oil 


1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder 


1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions (white part only) 


Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 


Rinse the cherries. Place in a bowl, add enough warm water to cover and set aside for 30 minutes. Drain well.


In a large bowl, combine the turkey, cherries and 3/4 of the almonds. Set aside.


In a medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise and yogurt. Set aside.


In a small skillet over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the curry powder and scallions and cook, stirring constantly, just until heated through and fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Scrape the curried scallions and oil into the mayonnaise mixture and stir until completely combined. Add about 3/4 of the mayonnaise dressing to the turkey mixture and toss to coat; add as much of the remaining dressing as desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Arrange the salad in a dish and sprinkle with the remaining almonds. Serve immediately.


* Note: To toast almonds, place in a heavy skillet and cook, stirring or shaking, over medium heat for 1 or 2 minutes, or until just lightly browned and crisp, being careful not to scorch the almonds.


Per serving (based on 4): 413 calories, 30 gm protein, 15 gm carbohydrates, 26 gm fat, 67 mg cholesterol, 4 gm saturated fat, 250 mg sodium, 3 gm dietary fiber

Do you know where I could get one in the area? Arlington/Alexandria preferred, but I realize they may be easier to find in Maryland!

Call your local Giant and see whether it carries Smith Island Baking Co. cakes; the bakery struck a deal to be in MD and VA stores. Last year, BTW, the Smith Island-based company shipped to 2,500 cities and 7 countries, according to owner Brian Murphy. So maybe ordering via mail's the way to go for  you! 

Speaking of, did you ever see our recipes for the cake and cupcakes?


I enjoyed the savory cookie piece and am ready to make the ruglach. However, I have a big bag of sun-dried tomatoes that aren't in olive oil. They are good quality and I'd like to use them before buying something else. Can I rehydrate in oil? Chop and use as is?

It is always tricky to sub one ingredient for another. Since the  fat content, texture and taste of the dried and oil-packed tomatoes are so different, I'm not sure the dried would work. I think you'd first have to rehydrate them with water, then with oil. If you are really brave and don't mind taking the risk of experimenting, you could try this, but I am not sure the results will be satisfactory.

No question today- but just a big thank you to the staff for such a great cookie assortment for this year! I look forward to it every year. Also Nancy's piece on savory options is a welcome addition to the appetizer table. And I loved Roxanne's cactus cookie - she could start her own DC custom cookie company. Great work!

Aw, thanks -- my day job keeps me pretty busy. But the cactus cookie is pretty easy -- cover the cookie with green icing and let dry, then pipe lines and sprinkle sugar to create a nice sparkle and crunch. The Christmas lights are just candy-covered sunflower seeds glued to the cookie with a dot of icing. Super easy and festive. 

The base cookie has a great combination of flavors, too. It's from the Baked guys in Brooklyn's latest book. 


RECIPE Chocolate Cinnamon Chipotle Cookies

Roxanne is too modest: I've seen her pipe straighter lines freehand than I could ever manage to do with a guide! (More evidence, in case you needed it: The Gingerbread Stocking Cookies she decorated for us last year, shown below!) Besides a second career as a decorator, the woman could have a third career: as a surgeon.

I'm looking for some ideas for winter cocktails with muddled ingredients. My first thought is a sort of winter mojito with dark rum, cranberry, mint and honey syrup, but I'd love other ideas if you have any. I usually associate muddled drinks with summer, want to try something more akin to this season.

A winter mojito?  Sounds delicious!!!

My husband and I frequent cider drinks this time of year.  Bourbon, ginger syrup, mulling spices.  Great hot or cold.

I think your idea sounds terrific. You might play around with sage and rosemary, too -- not necessarily muddled, but slapped around a bit and added as garnish. How about some cinnamon or ginger syrup and fresh, ripe pear muddled on the bottom with bourbon or rye? Or in something like this, perhaps.

Because I am allergic to apples, I can't have the traditional applesauce accompaniment with potato latkes. I eat them with sour cream and cranberry sauce, and even the applesauce lovers in my family have started eating a few of their latkes my way. It's delicious!

Great idea!  I also like to use cranberry sauce to make fritters.  Because it's nice and tart the flavor really comes through.  If it's not too wet it can also be swirled into muffin batters.

The question may sound a bit more like a knowlege Finder, the intent isn't. What is the oldest known cookie made during the holiday season? And what is the recipe?

The answer could get very long! Sweets that we might say are cookie-like date back to Green and Roman times. The tradition of sweet cookie-like treats for the holidays  dates to the European Middle Ages. Most experts think the first cookies were fairly crude honey-spice cakes, as the spice trade was flourishing and refined sugar wasn't available but honey was.  Some of the really old honey Lebkuchen from central Europe still in circulation are probably what the first ones were like--they are interesting but not IMO nearly as good as modern gingerbread.  It's partly because they lack butter--peeps weren't supposed to eat butter due to Papal edict--so they are hard, on the dry side, and taste a bit flat!

According to the Food Lover's Companion, "the word 'cookie' comes from the Dutch koekje, meaning 'little cake.' The earliest cookie-style cakes are thought to date back to 7th-century Persia, one of the first countries to cultivate sugar."

Indeed, pastry chef/historian Amanda Moniz says: 

"I don't know what the oldest known cookie is, but one of the oldest in what became the United States is the Dutch Nieuwjaar koeken, or New Year's cookie.  The word cookie comes from koekjes, or little cake.


"The first American cookbook by Amelia Simmons has a Christmas cookie recipe spiced with coriander."

After Thanksgiving, I had a lot of leftover mashed potatoes as well as turkey, so I made this recipe for Shepherd's Pie: I used onions instead of leeks, and it was so delicious I'm going to make more mashed potatoes, so I can make it again.

Did you happen to see Ellie Krieger's version this week? You might like a mixed mash of spuds and cauliflower, or spuds and parsnips/turnips. 

RECIPE: Shepherd's Pie

Kicking off the Christmas season this weekend with a holiday party at my apartment. Since I'll only have about 2 hours after work before my guests (15-20 people) arrive, I'm hoping you can recommend a festive holiday punch and/or spiked cider recipe that can be thrown together quickly with little to no ingredient prep. I've seen lot of really wonderful looking recipes online that involve far too much work for what I'm planning but I still want to make something tasty and visually appealing too. Thanks!

Imbibe just came out with a book called "Cocktails for the Holidays" that has a terrific drink in it called the Spiced Apple. It does require a little pre-prep, but it's prep that takes 10 minutes and could be done the day before (infusing whiskey with apples and spices). I can't find that one online yet, but this one -- the Vixen -- is online and sounds great. The book is available on Kindle in case you want to take a peek.

I also never get tired of Gina Chersevani's cranberry punch, but it does require a little advance prep (you could make the syrup the day before). 

Here is a recipe my husband I make at all our winter gatherings.  Most palates enjoy it, and it's fairly easy on prep.   For a large group you can easily double or triple!

Mr. Flakey’s Pinecone


1 1/4 cups old Old Overholt Rye

2 cups apple cider

1/2 cup Domaine de Canton

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

4 to 5 cinnamon sticks




Combine ingredients in a large pitcher or punch bowl.

Allow the cinnamon to infuse while you light a fire (or fifteen minutes, if you don’t have a fireplace).

Pour over ice.


Hello Free Rangers! I'm participating in an office cookie swap and I really like my colleagues so I want to choose a cookie wisely. Should I prioritize good looks over, say, shelf life, transportability, interesting flavors, lack of ingredients like gluten/nuts that are problematic for some? (Let's assume they'll be tasty no matter what!)

I say go for something that looks great. December is the month for delicious everything, so  there will be plenty of tasty treats. Since you like your colleagues, I'd pick something that looks festive -- something they could serve at a Christmas party or at the end of their Christmas dinner. I wouldn't worry too much about nuts, etc as long as you label the ingredients. So pick something that requires a little extra effort --a festive biscotti dipped in chocolate, a beautiful linzer cookie, or (my favorite) decorated gingerbread -- which look adorable and can be as elaborate or simple as you wish.

I think taste and texture are even more important than looks. Of course you don't want to do ugly, but it is so disappointing to bite into a cookie that looks great but doesn't deliver. Unless you know that some of your fave peeps attending have food restrictions and want to make something especially for them, just choose a cookie with some flavors you love.  If the cookies look a little plain, be a little creative and add a garnish--a few chopped nuts on a nut cookie, cinnamon sugar on a spice cookie, a quick icing drizzle on a sugar cookie can add a lot without much work.

I made a quince and cranberry compote for Thanksgiving which the family didn't care for (they prefer savory foods). Can I turn it into a drink or dessert?

I rarely encounter the preserve or compote that can't be made into a great drink. I think I'd try yours with gin and then adjust the sweet/tart levels with lemon and simple syrup.

Looking for a good butcher shop with regular meats and also dry aged prime beef preferably the top of the nine grades but don't want to travel out to the Plains or into DC from Clifton, VA. Any new ones I have missed?

It won't take you all the way into DC but Merrifield has a location of Red Apron, a great butcher shop based in DC.  They have a fair amount of items in stock but if you are looking for something specific call ahead and they can usually have it ready for you!

I brought to boil and then simmered chicken neck and backs with a pho spice packet for over an hour. Not sure what to do with it next to turn it into pho.

You're making pho ga, the tasty Vietnamese soup that plays the neglected stepsister to the more popular beef pho.


Back in the mid-2000s, we published a recipe for pho ga. I'm not sure what spices came in your packet, but one important ingredient is Chinese rock sugar. Check out the recipe here.

I love the way Paige has converted her loft in to an art wall with cookie cutters! With numerous cutters, there are essentials and there are those that produce art forms. How does an amateur cookie maker make a right choice on selection of cutters?

I have hundreds of commercially available cutters -- an entire closet full, but then I'm crazy about cookies. I'd start by thinking when you take the time to decorate cookies. For most people, it's only around Christmas, so I'd invest in a dozen or so simple holiday shapes: A tree, a gingerbread man, a Santa hat, a reindeer, an ornament, a stocking. All those are manageable to decorate even when you're just starting out.  Then I'd buy a couple simple shapes: round, square, triangles that can be abstract designs or nametags. Then -- if you're anything like me -- you'll decide to make cookies for a baby shower or birthday, and start geeking out on the possibilities. Sur la Table has a good selection; Fran's cake and Candy in Fairfax and Little Bitts in Wheaton have just about any shape cutter you can imagine. And while copper cutters are beautiful to look at, the less expensive tin work just as well.


ARTICLE: Patti Paige and her cookie cutters transform treats into whimsy

I made the Fudgy Walnut Cookies with powdered swerve sweetener and well, they turned out OK but you can still feel the “cooling” effect of the erythritol. I will make them again by adding spices, maybe garam masala or nutmeg. I want to try many of these years’ recipes but for health reasons I need a healthy sugar substitute that won’t compromise the results: what would you suggest?

Do you need to get rid of the sugar entirely? If not, I'd suggest making these very small -- maybe one-quarter the size -- and sticking with real sugar. I can't imagine that adding spices to this recipe will ameliorate the effect of a substitute sweetener. 

RECIPE Fudgy Walnut Cookies


I bought some dried lemongrass in a jar because it was on clearance, but I'm perplexed about what to do with it. Do I need to "brew" it, then add the liquid to recipes? I enjoy your chats, and hope you will have some ideas for me.

I've never used dried lemongrass myself, but some suggest freezing the stalks first and then shaving them thin with a sharp, sharp knife. It apparently cuts down on the fibrous nature of the stalks.


Others suggest tossing dried lemongrass into a broth as you make soup and then straining them out at the end. It deepens the flavor.


Chatters, what other uses have you found for dried lemongrass?

Just a notes - PostPoints members get some number of archived articles free per year. As a subscriber, it is easy to sign up for.

Gold star for you!

I love pumpkin pie but the gals I want to make one for are either gluten free or carb counting. How can I make a pumpkin pie with just the filling? Is that even possible?

Sure!  You can bake the custard alone in any pan.  Since it's a soft pie filling you might have a hard time serving it though.  You might consider turning it into more of a crumble, baked in a brownie pan.  You could top with a streusel made from gluten free oats.  Then you would still get a little crunch and it would be fine that it's a bit more "rustic"

Love the idea. Tim's comment that "it would take me time to get adjusted to the color" is interesting and important, I think. It's a concept I've witnessed among some family and friends -- I think for some people, certain words or descriptions have a specific taste or appearance connotation that is hard for them to overcome. For instance, if I tell my spouse that we are having "chicken chili," he gets sort of confused and tells me it tastes good but it's not what he expected. If I tell him it's a spicy southwestern-style chicken dish, he's fine. Same food, but not complicated in his mind by the word "chili." (Yes, Joe, I know this is a whole different kettle of fish for you.) I figured this out after several different instances of hearing family say, "It's good, but it's not what I am used to." For these people, I try to adapt my wording so that I am not confusing their palates before we even try the food. I admit to being frustrated by this at first, and even making silent food-snob snarks, but then I scolded myself and got over it. Afterall, every food writer in the world tells us that we taste food with all our senses, that presentation matters, etc. I think that can be very true of wording as well, and I think it is worth respecting others views on that. Having now exceeded my 2cent allotment, I'll go away quietly. Maybe to make white coq au vin.

I agree. Expectations are a double-edge sword. Don't we all sort of savor the expectation of a good meal almost (*almost*) as much as the meal itself? But those same expectations can blind us to seeing (and tasting) something good in a dish that goes against our expectations.


Thanks for your two cents!

I have 2 leeks leftover (they came in a pack of 3) from thanksgiving. Can I make a quiche or meal that are centered around them?

Mmmm.  Leeks are so delicious.  I have made a quiche in the past that combined sautéed leeks, olive oil poached fingerling potatoes and fontina cheese.    

You could also sauté them and mix into a savory scone with ham and white cheddar.

If they're on the large size, you could halve this recipe, one of my favorite featuring leeks in quite awhile. (It calls for 8 small leeks or 4 large ones.)



RECIPE: Sweet and Sour Leeks


I received gifts of cinnamon tequila and Chambord. Any drink recipes to go with either, if not both, of these? I like drinks that require as few ingredients as possible. Thanks!

For the Chambord, I would try this one. I think it would provide some nice balance to a sweet liqueur.

With the cinnamon tequila, eesh. Not sure how sweet/spicy it is, but if you're hosting any holiday parties (or heading to any) it strikes me as a good thing to drop in a festive cider punch. Hard to say without tasting the stuff -- some of those cinnamon spirits that are coming out these days are either aggressively cinnamon-y or really sweet. I'd just say look for flavors that will balance it without covering it (unless you taste it and it NEEDS to be covered!)

Love all the recipes for savory cookies - general question though - what differentiates a savory cookie from a cracker or biscuit? Either way, excited to try some with my holiday spread this year!

It's complicated--and as the lines between crackers and cookies continues to blur, it will get even more so!  Actually, my "crossover" cookies are called that because they have characteristics of both crackers and cookies. Usually, crackers are very thin, crisp and savory and are shaped by cutting the dough into a grid. But some cookies are going in that direction these days also.  As for biscuits, there is some confusion, because the British term for what Americans call cookies is biscuit. BTW, a shortbread is their biscuit with only fat and no egg.  (The word cookie originated in America in the 19th century and never took hold in Britain.)  If you are thinking of American biscuits, the key difference between them and cookies or crackers is in the amount of liquid; they have enough that steam is produced during baking and produces a telltale puffing and lightness.  Afraid this hasn't totally answered your question. Like I said, it's complicated.




RECIPE: Zippy Peppercorn-Chive Cheddar Wafers 

What's the purpose of fish sauce in pho?

It adds an unmistakable pungency to the soup, while also lending it savory umami qualities.

"Rotate the trays half way through baking, especially in convection ovens." I thought the whole benefit of a convection oven was that it cooked more evenly so you wouldn't have to rotate trays... And why specifically convection ovens?

I've never met an oven that didn't require a pan to be rotated.  Yes, convections bake more evenly than still but there are always hot spots. 

As far as being specifically convection when it comes to macarons, they are so delicate I find that the convection fan blowing on them in one direction the entire baking period actually tends to push them to one side.  This often results in feet on one side of the mac and none on the other side.  

What do you call the peanut butter cookie with the chocolate kiss on top? I had one yesterday and loved it. I would like to try making them this year.

A classic! Different names, but they're often referred to as Peanut Butter Blossoms or Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies. Man, it's been a while since I made those -- always a hit. I always made them using this Pillsbury recipe (from the 1957 Bakeoff!).

I prepared the whole roasted cauliflower with chimichurri and almonds for lunch on Sunday and it was "off the chain"--very good. Thanks for winding my taste buds. Thanks for so many cookie recipes. Efforts expended by the staff is appreciated

So glad to hear it! It's a fun one, isn't it? For Thanksgiving, I did it with a romesco sauce instead.



RECIPE: Whole Roasted Cauliflower With Chimichurri and Almonds


Kentucky pastry chef Stella Parks has compiled a truly incredible number of macaron tutorials on her blog, Bravetart.


Would love to see Tom as a guest on this chat. I love reading his own, but would love to see the whole WaPo Food Family together.

We love Tom, too! He's, well, a smidge busy with his own chat and, you know, everything else -- but the next time he writes something that's more on the cooking side than the restaurant, we'll consider that!

Lots of local library systems subscribe to searchable full-text newspaper databases. I've found lots of old Post recipes that way. Nothing like seeing the food pages from the 70s with black and white food ads right there instead of in a separate section.

I'd love some advice about making my own cookie cutters so the kids and grownups can design their own. Is it better to use store-bought cookie cutters and save the originality for the icing?

Save it for the decorating. The cookie cutter kits are pretty expensive, and you have to be an expert like Patti Paige to get a really clean design. Since there are literally hundreds of great shapes available in stores, I'd say go crazy with colors, sanding sugars and other decorations. A great idea for a decorating party: Prebake 4-5 dozen cookies in 4-5  different shapes and let kids and grownup create their own masterpieces. You'll be amazed at the creativity.  

Wow, making your own cutters sounds like a major project. Would you have time, and still find time to actually make cookies?! BTW, almost any shape cutter you can imagine can be found with a quick on-line search--I've found dragon flies, cacti,  alligator, every kind of flower, and the plain metal cutters (which do give the best cuts) are not even very expensive.  So yes, I'd say save the originality for the icing (and maybe a nice assortment of sprinkles).

Hi, I'm looking for a recipe for a good egg bake or egg casserole to make for Christmas morning. I'm tired of making 8 individual omelettes.

Well, you could make two skilletfuls of today's Dinner in Minutes recipe (which was called baked but done on the stove top!)

This strata's terrific, and can be made in advance: Baked Apple, Smoked Turkey and Cheddar. Along the same lines: Chicken Sausage and Three-Cheese Egg Casserole.

These Shirred Eggs With Cream and Parmigiano-Reggiano could be done in 1 big pan, but if you have individual gratin dishes they look great that way


These Creamy Eggs With Tomatoes and Peppers, Basque-Style stay quite moist in the pan. You could assemble/prep all but the eggs in advance.




There was a question on Sietsema's chat today about a patron who may or may not have been served a tough hanger steak at a restaurant. Regardless of who was in the right in that case, I just want to mention that in such an instance I'd take the leftover meat home, then in the next day or two I'd cut it up for stew, so that long slow cooking would tenderize it and the meat wouldn't go to waste. I've also done that successfully with tough home-cooked roasts.

I'd be curious to see how well hanger steak works in a stew. As Kenji over at Serious Eats notes, hanger steak is a fussy cut. It needs to be cooked to medium-rare to medium, no more, no less. Go higher or lower, and the meat will suffer in texture.


But perhaps a good, low braise would benefit from hanger's deep beefy flavors.

Springfield Butcher! The variety is great, the location might work for you, and my husband told me today they have dry-aged steaks available. Oh, and they have a Groupon deal going on, if that's good incentive, too!

I have a convection oven for the first time in my baking life and I'm trying to decide if it is better for baked good or not. What are your preferences for cookies and cakes? Do you reduce the oven temp or cooking time? Thanks for any advice!

Congratulations.  Convection ovens are great!  It gives cookies nice color and crust while keeping them soft in the center.  It also tends to cook a bit faster, keeping baked goods from drying out.  

I would recommend reducing baking temperature by 15-25 degrees.  You'll have to play around a bit since the strength of the fan will be the deciding factor.  My home oven has the option to bake still or convection.  I actually prefer still for really wet cake batters so the bake more evenly.  I'll start on still then finish on convection for the last 10 minutes.

Keep playing.  Once you get the hang of it you'll love it!!

That's an interesting idea. I wonder if it would work to mix in a little gelatin and (maybe hopefully) end up with something textured like flan or panna cotta.

You could make a mousse and combine it with either gluten-free cookies (to satisfy the OP's request) or layer with nuts/etc. 

Will this ever come out in paperback? Believe it or not, paperback cookbooks last much longer when well used. Thx

Never say never, but there are no plans for a paperback edition. Snap it up!

Could you use leftover cranberry sauce for a modified version of the Tiny Tim Cranberry Tarts?

I thought about that! But the genius of that recipe is the balance of tangy/sweet crust and tart, burst berries, so I d on't think it'd be ideal. Plus, there are onions in Tarver's cranberry sauce....It might really just depend on what else was in the sauce you had left over. 

Hello Rangers! I guess I've been using a lot of egg yolks. I have several snack baggies of egg whites in my freezer, but I foolishly did not keep track of how many whites are in each bag. Is there a rule of thumb I could use when thawing--by weight or by measuring cup volume--that would tell me how many I've got?

If you have a scale one white is roughly 30 grams.  (and in case you ever find yourself with the reverse issue, one yolk is 20 grams :)

Love the formatting on the 2014 cookies article (and the recipes). Thank you for abandoning the slide show format! The article loads so much quicker and more reliably than the slide shows.

It is nice to look at isn't it?

Since peanut butter is not allowed in school I bought sunflower butter for sandwiches but the kids are not impressed. Can I use it for satay or cookies?

I haven't tried sunflower butter in either satay or cookies, but it would probably work in cookies as a sub for peanut butter. You will likely need to crank up the flavor with a good bit of salt and vanilla, as the flavor will not be nearly as pronounced as peanut butter. You might try throwing in chocolate chips, too.  Or maybe  make it into thumbprints and zip up flavor with a zest berry jam.

How do cookie recipes get submitted? Do you know any of the chefs personally or do they come to you?

Some are aware of our annual Holiday Cookies issue, and their crackerjack reps approached us with recipe possibilities. Others we reached out to, based on their fine work! 

I made a batch of Makhni sauce (for Murgh Makhni or Butter Chicken) one year for an alternative main course for the vegetarians. It is sensational with leftover turkey.

I bet!

Reminds me that when giving a recipe to a newbie cook to always tell them how things should look and why. Here's two sadnesses I remember: I had someone helping me pack up our apartment and when we were unpacking, I couldn't find my beautiful heads of garlic that my uncle had grown. My helper had thrown it out because she thought it was shriveled up onions! The other was someone a few years ago (maybe in this chat?) who threw out a pound of soaked beans because they'd sprouted and he thought those white things were worms.

I know of one person who threw out a smokehouse cured country ham--because it looked weird and shriveled on the outside! :-)


I had a recipe for a coffeecake baked in a bundt pan with chopped apples, struesel and chocolate drizzle. It was something I baked every Fall and I don't remember where I got it from, but it was a newspaper or magazine. I lost the recipe and tried googling, but nothing was exactly right. Most in my computer search included sour cream, but this recipe was more basic than that - very simple, but moist and delicious. Is it possible that any of your readers would have a recipe to share?


Do you have a recipe for a normal-thickness classic sugar cookie that's SOFT, not one that's rolled out 1/2 inch thick?

How about these Soft Amish-Style Sugar Cookies?

Soft Amish-Style Sugar Cookies

I don't have the recipe in front of me, but I use my great-grandmother's recipe, which calls for shortening instead of butter and makes a softer cookie. (I sprinkle course white sanding sugar on top of each cutout before baking.) Cook's Illustrated did a comparison a few years back testing both butter and shortening sugar cookie recipes -- the butter are almost always more crisp. It just depends on what brings back childhood memories.  

I was told you can roast it whole, then let it cool a bit before removing the seeds and skin. True? Or too-good-to-be-true and really messy?

Hmm, I've never heard of that but I think it sounds messier than removing the seeds before roasting.  It's fairly easy using a spoon.  Plus, if you coat the cut side of the squash in salt, butter or spiced I think you'll risk loosing all that flavor when you remove the seeds post cooking.  

But if you do try it I'd be interested to hear how it turns out.

And I am another person who made that honeyed cranberry sauce. Really, it was WAY too soupy. More than a quart of liquid for just a bag of cranberries and the cranberries were lost. I ended up cooking it for a long time to thicken, but then the berries cooked down and there were no whole ones or even big pieces left. I ended up adding another bag and I think that is way closer to the mark. Though then I had to add more honey because the extra berries made it too tart. At that point I thought the recipe was a keeper. I will make it again with just half the liquid and see what happens.

It is really, really supposed to be somewhat soupy. Designed that way. Free your  mind of the jelled stuff! Or like the other chatter, keep cooking it down, then chill it and see what you get. That said, if made it work for you by altering the recipe to your liking, well, that's what cooking's really about. 

Don't know about flavors, but won't any cut of tough meat get tenderized in a long slow braise -- not just beef but other animals as well?

That would be my guess, too. But I've learned that you never know until you test it out.

WOW! When I saw the Food insert, I knew I had to have one. (I subscribe online only). So I went to the box out in front of my office - all gone. A shout out to the employee at the Courtyard next door for giving me a copy. I can't wait to tackle the cookie tower, as well as some of the others - you just knocked it out of the park!

Take it back to the Garden State and tell your friends! 

No, I didn't know about Thanks, but some of the recipes in the slide show are older, and I like a "newest-only" list.

Well, now you have the full range of choices! Happy cooking!

An earlier chatter suggested a pumpkin-mascarpone mousse to use up mascarpone cheese - that could work instead of a typical pie filling.


For cookies and every other baking task get a good *readable* oven thermometer and test different temps-works wonders when oven is accurate...


Not a question, just a statement. I put last year's Gingerbread Pear Smores into permanent rotation at our house. Wow, they are great. So much awesomeness in a little package.

RECIPE Gingerbread Pear S'mores

One of our favorites! 

I bought several pounds of sweet potatoes on the last day my farmers market was open and don't know how to tell if they've gone bad. I nuked one and its texture was weird, taste negligible. Should I cook the others a different way, like in stew, or toss them? They look a little wrinkled and maybe shrunken but no visible mold or other signs of spoilage. Thanks.

Bummer that they are lacking in flavor.  In the interest of not wasting them you could try roasting in the skin then peeling and pureeing to use in biscuits.  I think a stew would be your next best bet.  Good luck!

My husband will not eat purple potatoes because they taste "funny." To me, they taste like a starchy potato, but to him there's an odd flavor. No way to disguise them for him, though.

Just wanted you to know I appreciated the Meat Book, which I received after the chat a couple of weeks ago. It arrived just in time for me to use the recipe for brined turkey breast and make my juiciest turkey ever.

To the poster's point - if it were pitched that way, and not as coq au vin with white wine, I'm guessing it would sound delicious....

May I respecfully submit an egg dish I hit upon accidentally? I ran onion, spinach, ham and smoked gouda in the food processor to be a pretty fine consistency. Mixed it with eggs, milk, salt and pepper and bake at 325 for about 45 minutes. Amazing consistency and flavor.


I would like to thank you wonderful folks here at the chat for making this one of the easiest Thanksgivings ever. I spatchcocked the turkeys (I always get two smaller ones for the 4 legs/thighs/wings bonus) and put the stuffing in cheesecloth under the birds on racks. Tons of delicious "in the bird" stuffing, and still had drippings to enhance my turkey stock for gravy. Had hours extra in the morning to roast the veggies. Thanksgiving is going to be easy, breezy from now on. You folks are the best!

Lotta love today. Makes us happy. 

Would almond butter be OK? It's delicious with raspberry jelly on toast or in sammiches.

Almond butter works sometimes but not always.  Most cookie and baked goods recipes use smooth peanut butter that has been emulsified.  Almonds butter tends to be natural so the nuts separate from the oil.  If subbing be sure to stir really well before using so the almond butter isn't too wet!

Well, you've rotated us front to back and top to bottom and baked us until golden brown, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's today, and thanks much to our special guests for helping us with the a's!

Now for the giveaway books: The chatter who asked about seasonal cookie cutters (and making his/her own) will get, of course, "You Can't Judge a Cookie by Its Cutter." The chatter who asked about no-bake cookies will get "The Ultimate Cookie Book." Send your mailing info to, and he'll get you your books!

Until next time, happy baking, cooking, eating, cookie decorating -- and reading!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Travel editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Food section's Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick has the job most envied among cocktail-party conversations. If they only knew. ... Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is the Food section's Spirits columnist.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman serves as the full-time writer for the Post's Food section.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is Food's editorial aide.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
Nancy Baggett
Nancy Baggett is a cookbook author and blogger who has contributed many recipes to our annual cookie issues.
Tiffany MacIsaac
Tiffany MacIsaac is the pastry chef-owner of Buttercream Bakeshop and created this year's cookie project.
Roxanne Roberts
Post staff writer Roxanne Roberts wrote this week's profile of cookie decorator Patti Paige and is herself an experienced decorator.
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