A Practical Guide To Healthy Living
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Category — Cookies

Chocolate-Espresso Snowcaps


You can say what you want about Martha Stewart.  She might make you feel small, or she might not be the friendliest woman around, but the gal can cook, dammit.  Her stuff’s reliable.  Martha’s recipes are well written and they work.

This weekend I used two new Martha recipes – one that’s sure to become a staple in our Christmas cookie rotation, and one that I might make again for a crowd, but probably not just for the three of us.  I’ll explain that one later in the week.  Since we’re on the brink of Christmas, and ya’ll might be noodling around for something else to add to your dessert plates, today we’ll do the sweet stuff!  [Read more →]

December 20, 2010   5 Comments

Of Cookies & Skinny Jeans & Robbing Peter to Pay Paul


Are you a fan of Semi-Sweet on Facebook and Twitter?  If you’re not, you should be – you’ll have access to all manner of “bonus content,” including links to interesting health- and nutrition-related articles, delicious-looking recipes I find, news about goings-on around town, and many days, updates on what I’m eating (you might find something new to try!).  A couple of days ago, I posted some tips for making it through the holidays while still fitting into your skinny jeans, and also about baking cookies.  And a few people commented – surprised comments like “Hey, idiot! The two are incompatible!”

Well I argue they’re not.   [

December 2, 2010   5 Comments



One last cookie recipe for you this season – the grand-daddy of them all. This is the most praised cookie in my battalion of cookie recipes.  I am not exaggerating when I tell you that people fall all over themselves for these rugelach.  Lifetime rugelach-lovers have confided in me that these are better than any they’ve ever tasted before . . . . so if you want to make some friends (maybe influence some people?) this season, whip up a batch or two of these and be generous.  And read to the end for a shortcut that might make these less daunting to bake.  


8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
½ lb. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 c. granulated sugar plus 9 T.
1/4 t. Kosher salt
1 t. vanilla extract
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
3/4 c. raisins
1 c. walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 c. apricot preserves, pureed in a food processor
1 egg beaten with 1 T. milk, for egg wash


Cream the cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light. Add 1/4 c. granulated sugar, the salt, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour and mix until just combined. Dump the dough out onto a well-floured board or countertop and roll it into a ball. Cut the ball in quarters, wrap each piece in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

To make the filling, combine 6 T. of granulated sugar, the brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, the raisins and the walnuts.

On a well-floured board, roll each ball of dough into a 9-inch circle (a nice way to get a neat circle is to place a 9-inch pie plate upside-down over the dough as a stencil, scoring the dough around the edge with a small knife). Spread the dough with 2 T. apricot preserves and sprinkle with 1/2 c. of the filling. Press the filling lightly into the dough. Cut the circle into 12 equal wedges, cutting the whole circle in quarters, then each quarter into thirds. Starting with the wide edge, roll up each wedge. Place the cookies, points tucked under, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Combine 3 T. granulated sugar and 1 t. cinnamon in a small bowl.  Remove the cookies from the fridge, brush each cookie with the egg wash, and sprinkle each cookie with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack and let cool.

Yield:  approximately 3 dozen cookies.

Note:  the possibilities for fillings are endless.  I usually make at least 2 batches of these, half with apricot and half with seedless raspberry preserves.  You can use a chocolate spread, like Nutella, or chocolate and raspberry together.  I’ve heard of people using fig jam, some just use cinnamon-sugar and nuts.  Think of what flavors appeal to you and go from there – the dough is neutral and will showcase whatever’s inside.

Next – these are a lot of work: mixing, rolling, filling, chilling, yada yada yada.  If you want to make “lazy-man’s rugelach,” you can roll the dough into a rectangle instead of a circle, insert your fillings, roll it up into a log and cut slices.  Then chill them and brush them as you would traditional, crescent-shaped rugelach.

December 22, 2009   1 Comment


Walnut Snowball Cookies

Back on the butter train, folks . . . if you’d like to find vegan cookie recipes with whole wheat pastry flour or flax meal . . . please point your browser elsewhere today.  ‘Cause for me, the real culinary spirit of Christmas is in a wide array of buttery, sugary treats.  But what do I always say?  Moderation in everything . . . so during this indulgent season, pick your battles.  Don’t eat a sweet roll for breakfast, a heavy mayo-laden sammie for lunch and a rich prime-rib dinner, OK?  If you’ve got a gathering in the evening, balance the apps, dinner and cookies with a light, fruit- and veggie-rich breakfast, a high fiber lunch that contains a bit of protein (think big green salad with some chicken, tofu or beans on top) and then have whatever you like later.  Consider, however, having only what really looks super delicious and special to you – blindly grazing on all the options is a bigger deal fat- and calorie-wise.  But here’s the thing – this is a once-a-year thing and you should ENJOY yourself, too . . . so if that means that if you really love indulging here and there, then I say, have at it.  Life is waaay too short to deny yourself all that pleasure.

Today’s recipe evokes warm memories in me.  My Grandma Helen’s walnut snowballs are a riff off Mexican Wedding Cakes, Russian/Swedish Tea Cakes, and a Lebanese cookie called mamoul.   And while I’ve tweaked her recipe a bit over the years, no one can touch my Grandma in the cookie-baking department.  Every Christmas, Grandma whipped up about 8 different kinds of cookies, placing them neatly in between sheets of waxed paper in Currier & Ives tins that she’d collected.  Before guests came over, or after a meal, we’d haul out the various tins of goodies and pick and choose our favorites.  Going to her house at Christmastime and eating all those different cookies is one of my top-ten childhood memories.

This recipe is my favorite of the lot.  Rich and crumbly and not over-the-top sweet, with a great toasty walnut flavor.  Best ever is that they also happen to be L.’s favorite Christmas cookie.  So the traditions of my Swedish-American grandmother, who married my Lebanese-American grandfather, are living on through her Chinese-American great-granddaughter.  Life is good.

Helen’s Walnut Snowballs

 1 c. (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
2 c. powdered sugar
2 t. vanilla extract
2 c. all purpose flour
1 c. walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped


Beat the butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy.  Add 1/2 c. powdered sugar and the vanilla; beat until well blended.  Beat in the flour, then the walnuts.  Divide dough in half; form each half into a ball.  Wrap each ball separately in plastic wrap and chill until cold, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the remaining 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar into a pie plate.  Set aside.

Working with half of the chilled dough, roll the dough by 2 teaspoonfuls between palms into balls.  Arrange the balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment, about 1/2-inch apart.  Bake until golden brown on the bottom and just pale golden on the top, about 18 minutes.  Cool cookies 5 minutes on the sheet.  Gently toss each warm cookie in the powdered sugar to coat completely.  Transfer the coated cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.  Repeat the same procedure with the other half of the dough.

Makes about 4 dozen.

Here’s a little tip – did you know that most Christmas cookies can be baked and then frozen?  It’s true!  So if you’re a compulsive over-achiever planning type like me, you can start cranking out the goods weeks in advance, then layer them in air-tight containers (parchment or waxed paper in between layers, please) and pop ‘em in there for later.  Cookies make welcome gifts and you’ll always have some on hand for company.

December 10, 2009   9 Comments

Cooking With Your Kid

little girl chef full size

Have you seen all those articles that say that if you get your kid(s) in the kitchen, they’ll be more invested in trying the foods they make?  That they’ll suddenly become more adventurous and maybe even like to eat <gasp!> a wide variety of foods? 

Well, in my case, it’s hogwash.  My daughter has been cooking with me since she was 2-years-old, and since then, she probably eats fewer foods.  This is a child that used to eat EVERYTHING with gusto.  Then at 2, the list of foods she’d eat got progressively smaller and smaller.  I used to scoff at picky kids and figure that it was nurture, but we are living proof that it’s not always the case.  She was, for a period, on that dreaded American “beige diet” – it’s mortifying, I know.  It’s interesting that all this time, she has clamored to be cooking with me, yet she has no interest in tasting the final product.  I keep at it though.  I’m stubborn.

But I digress. 

There are some things she loves to make and eat.  They’re all in the dessert category, surprisingly enough.  Yesterday we made a great and easy s’mores bar cookie recipe.  The Brownie troop leaders (of which I’m one – no snickering) and their kids got together to plan some meetings, and I offered to bring dessert.  What’s more Girl Scouty than s’mores?  This is a nice recipe for a 6-year-old because there are no electronics involved in the preparation, save for the oven.  It’s just a smash, stir, dump, press, spread, sprinkle operation. 


Smore’s Cookie Bars

1 pouch Krusteaz sugar cookie mix
1.5 c. graham cracker crumbs
1 c. unsalted butter, melted
3 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 1/2 c. mini-marshmallows


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Put several whole graham crackers (approximately 7) in a large zip-top bag and squeeze the air out.  Pulverize the crackers with a rolling pin/meat mallet until they form a fine crumb.  In a large bowl, stir together cookie mix and crumbs. Stir in melted butter until a soft, crumbly dough forms. Press into a 13×9-inch pan that’s been coated with cooking spray.

Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until set. Immediately sprinkle chocolate chips over crust. Let stand 3 to 5 minutes or until chocolate begins to melt. Spread chocolate evenly over crust.

Set oven to broil. Sprinkle the marshmallows over the melted chocolate. Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat for 20 to 30 seconds or until the marshmallows are toasted. (Watch closely; marshmallows will brown quickly.) Cool 10 minutes or longer.

Serve warm or room temp, and store any remaining bars tightly covered – those marshmallows will get hard & chewy if you don’t.

August 28, 2009   No Comments