Pastries in Paradise

3The past month has been a busy one and I admittedly placed the blog on the back burner once again. I have been flooded with med school homework lately and when I am not working on that I am following around my toddler. A few months ago I also started a new commitment to a more healthy lifestyle and began working out again. This commitment to eating clean, organic foods led me to really increase my desire to garden. I went and bought a bunch of organic seeds (to ensure my seeds were never derived from a GMO plant) and started planting. I involved my toddler so she could learn to appreciate living off the land as much as her father and I do. The daily process of watering, pulling weeds, and fertilizing (natural of course) has consumed the extra little bit of time I would normally have for writing.

2I truly have missed writing but with my new course of healthy eating I really don’t like making sweets since they will be there to tempt me into eating them. To solve my new dilemma I sat awake one night thinking how I could continue the blog in a new direction that would not only fit my current lifestyle but also stay loyal to the readers who already followed. The initial result would be to focus on what used to only be a segment of this blog…the skinny sweets. If I focus on skinny sweets (desserts that are significantly lower in calories and fat and therefore inflicting less guilt when you devour them) then I could continue the blog without the risk of completely spoiling my healthy lifestyle. This was the plan until one day I was gardening with my daughter.

5While I was pulling weeds, my daughter was watching two blue butterflies swarming around the flowers growing in the yard near our garden. I thought to myself that the butterfly would make a really beautiful cookie. It had been some time since I had made decorated cookies and I began to have an itch for them. Cookies have always been a great way to bring out one’s artistic expression through food. Even children love taking part in them, which means I could have my daughter help me and I would then have more time to bake if she feels like she is involved. This gave me the revelation that I could not only post skinny sweets but also decorated cookies since I absolutely hate the taste and texture of royal icing. With each cookie being covered in royal icing it would keep me from being tempted to eat the cookies and not disrupt my new healthy lifestyle.

1I know this post is getting more lengthy than usual so I promise to wrap it up soon. I chose to write a lengthy post because I wanted to thoroughly explain to all of my loyal followers the reason for the slight shift in the content of the blog from here on out. For my first post of this kind I decided to make a blue butterfly based off the butterfly that triggered my initial epiphany. The base is a simple sugar cookie and I dug out an old butterfly cookie cutter I had lying around collecting dust. Once the cookies had cooled I prepared a big batch of royal icing (recipe will be provided in a future post). I separated the batch into three portions and colored two of the portions, taking only a little bit from the third portion and saving the rest for a future project. The first portion I tinted with royal blue gel color. Americolor is my favorite brand of gel color but I only had Wilton on hand in the colors I needed so that is what I used. The second portion I tinted with cornflower gel color.

4I used the royal blue tinted icing as my base color. I outlined and flooded the cookies and allowed them to dry overnight. The next day I used the cornflower tinted icing to outline the cookie again and add more details. I also used the white icing to add accents that finished the cookie. This was a simple design that I made sure wasn’t too complex since it was my first time making these cookies in a long time and I didn’t want to overcomplicate things, especially it would be the first time doing it with my daughter around. All in all I am very happy with how they turned out. I feel they are perfect to serve now as we flutter into the summer months ahead. The blue really sets the tone of summer, similar to the crisp blue, sunny skies.




5When I was a kid, each week we would make a trip to the local bread store outlet to get our bread for the week at a much cheaper price than the supermarket. Whenever I went with my dad, I would always get to pick out one treat to bring home along with one of those instant chicken noodle mixes that I would have for dinner that night. Despite the broad selection of goodies, I usually always selected the Hostess Chocolate Cream cupcakes. As much as these were my favorite, I started to steer clear of them as a young adult when I learned the reason they stay good and moist for weeks on end. Seeing as I am trying to eat clean and teach my daughter the same healthy habits I refuse to buy the commercial Hostess brand.

6When Hostess went temporarily out of business awhile back there became a huge demand for their products. Instead of paying the outrageous prices that were being set on auction sites like Ebay, many set to recreate their own at home. Even though the Hostess favorites have since returned to the shelves for purchase, I still wanted to give a homemade version a shot just to revel in the old memories without all the chemical additives. These cupcakes turned out even better than I ever remember and making them not only brought back old memories but created new ones as I baked them with my toddler.

1Now I won’t deny these cupcakes were rather tedious to make and what seems to be a simple mistake that couldn’t do much harm can turn into disaster if you are not careful. For example, most people will fill a cupcake using a piping bag and shoot the filling into the bottom of the cupcake. This method works fine with most cupcakes and have done it myself in the past. Problem is, if you do that with these cupcakes you will cause a blow out that you will notice even with the glaze on top. The reason you can’t fill the cupcakes the “easy way” is because the texture is too delicate. I recommend cutting out a little portion from the top, filling with a spoon, and then placing the top back on to avoid any problems. Another area that can cause a lot of problems is when you go to prepare the filling. The filling may get the perfect flavor from the marshmallow fluff, but it gets the proper texture from gelatin. The gelatin can also make the worst filling if not prepared properly. If you don’t sprinkle the gelatin over the water and allow it to dissolve a bit, you will end up with hard pellets in your filling. Gross I know. Another tricky part is when cooling the filling after microwaving it. You only need to cool the filling slightly, not completely before adding the marshmallow fluff. If the filling mixture is too cold when adding the fluff it will turn lumpy and be impossible to pipe curlicues on the top with the piping bag. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if the filling is still too hot when you mix in the marshmallow fluff, you will end up with filling that is too loose and runny. If this occurs the filling will mostly absorb into the cupcake and the curlicues won’t hold their shape on top. If you take caution when preparing these particular steps you will surely be successful.

4NOTE: Be sure you purchase Marshmallow Creme, such as Fluff or Kraft Jet-Puffed Creme and not marshmallow sauce used for ice cream. If you make the mistake your filling will not set properly. Be sure to bloom the cocoa with boiling water so that you get depth of chocolate flavor and prevent the chocolate chips from leaving unwanted, unmelted bits to tarnish the desired creamy mixture. The following recipe yields 12 cupcakes.


Homemade Hostess Chocolate Cream Cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients:

  • 1 cup All-Purpose Flour
  • ½ tsp. Baking Soda
  • ¼ tsp. Salt
  • ½ cup Boiling Water
  • 1/3 cup Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder
  • 1 tbsp. Instant Coffee
  • ¾ cup Granulated Sugar
  • ½ cup Sour Cream
  • ½ cup Vegetable Oil
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract


Filling Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp. Water
  • ¾ tsp. unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 4 tbsp. (½ stick) Unsalted Butter; softened
  • 1½ tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 1¼ cups Marshmallow Creme (Fluff)


Glaze Ingredients

  • ½ cup Semisweet Chocolate Chips
  • 3 tbsp. Unsalted Butter



FOR THE CUPCAKE BATTER: Heat the oven to 325°. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In another large bowl, whisk together the boiling water, cocoa, chocolate chips, and coffee until smooth. Add the sugar, sour cream, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Mix until well combined. Add in the flour mixture and whisk until incorporated. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake cupcakes until toothpick comes out with a few crumbs attached, about 18 to 23 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the tin for about 10 minutes, then remove cupcakes from the tin and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

FOR THE FILLING: Combine the water and gelatin in a bowl and allow to sit until the gelatin softens, about 5 minutes. Microwave the mixture until it bubbles around the edges and gelatin fully dissolves, about 30 seconds. Add the butter, vanilla, and salt and mix until just combined. Allow the mixture to cool until still slightly warm to the touch, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the marshmallow creme until smooth. Refrigerate the mixture until set, approximately 30 minutes. Measure out 1/2 cup of the marshmallow filling and transfer to a piping bag fitted with a small, plain round tip. Reserve the remaining marshmallow mix for filling the cupcakes.

CUPCAKE ASSEMBLY: Microwave the chocolate and butter in a small bowl, stirring frequently until smooth, approximately 30 seconds to 1 minute. Cool the glaze to room temperature, approximately 10 minutes. Meanwhile,  cut cones from the top of each cupcake and fill the cupcakes with 1 tbsp. of filling each. To cut the cones, insert the tip of a paring knife into the cupcake top at a 45 degree angle about 1/4 inch from the outer edge of the cupcake. Cut out and remove the cone from all 12 cupcakes. Cut off the bottoms of each cone, leaving a 1/4 inch circle of cake. Discard or eat the bottom portions of all 12 cones. Use a spoon to fill each cupcake with 1 tbsp. of marshmallow mixture. Once all of the cupcakes are filled, top the filling with the reserved circles of cake to plug the center. Once the tops are replaced, frost each cupcake with the cooled glaze using an offset spatula. Allow the glazed cupcakes to sit and harden for approximately 10 minutes. Using the pastry bag filled with the reserved marshmallow mixture, pipe curlicues across the tops of the glazed cupcakes. Serve immediately or store in a sealed container at room temperature for 2 days.





3When I initially went to work on these no bake bites I was having quite the rough week. My daughter was sick with a severe cold and I had caught the dreaded bug myself. I spent many hours wiping boogies, picking up spit out food, and changing sweat soaked, vapor rub scented pj’s. If I managed to get her to sleep for longer than a few minutes without waking up in a coughing fit or needing consolation, I had to work on my 20 pounds of homework I had waiting for me each week to figure out how to complete. Since my focus had obviously been everywhere else but the blog, I needed another quick fix and what could be more quick than something you do not have to bake.

These bites are perfect for mommy’s/daddy’s and all the worker bees out there who simply do not have the time or energy to make anything elaborate. My no bake crispy date bites come together quick (only 5 minutes of cook time on the stove) and taste like they have had hours spent on them in a confectionery getting the flavor and texture just right. Everyone that sampled these tasty treats thought they had been slaved over and they were shocked to find out these dainty treats were practically as simple as the traditional back of the box Rice Krispie favorite. These really are a simple treat that can be made to give kids after school or as an additional treat at a holiday table or office party.

2Being as this recipe is a quick one I will also keep my discussion about it brief. The following recipe prepares about 3 dozen bites, which is adequate for entertaining or munching over several days. The bites should be stored at room temperature and kept for no longer than three days.


Note: When toasting the nuts be sure to stir them frequently to prevent them from burning. Also please be sure that the date mixture does not reach a rapid boil as you may risk curdling the eggs.




  •  8 tbsp. (1 stick) Unsalted Butter
  • ¾ cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 cup Chopped Dates
  • 1 Egg; lightly beaten
  • ¼ tsp. Salt
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 2 cups Rice Krispies Cereal
  • ½ cup Pecans; toasted & chopped


  1. In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add the sugar, dates, egg, and salt to the butter and cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar has dissolved. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the vanilla, Rice Krispies, and pecans until the mixture is well incorporated (there should be no areas of dry cereal pieces). Allow the mixture to cool for about 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Once the mixture has cooled it is time to shape them into bite size portions. Grab a portion of the mixture and shape it into a 1-inch ball. Transfer the shaped ball onto the prepared baking sheet. Continue until all of the mixture has been shaped into bite size portions. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator and chill the bites until firm, about 15 minutes. Remove from the refrigerator and serve or store in an airtight container at room temperature.






Spumoni Cookies

DSC_0323Like many, I feel completely exhausted after the holidays. I love the winter holiday season but it truly does know how to wipe a person out. I feel like ever since Halloween in October it has been non-stop craziness preparing for whatever festivity comes next. If the typical holidays are not enough, the addition of my daughter now fills January with two more celebrations I never had to plan for before. January 17th is my daughter’s name day and January 24th is her birthday. For those that do not know, a name day is a Greek tradition of celebrating the name of the Christian saint you are named after on that saint’s feast day. So now that all of those celebrations have since passed, I finally feel some ease until Easter but it has left me extremely fatigued. It is so bad I hardly feel like doing anything each day, but of course we all know that is not possible with a 2 year old and 100 pounds of med school homework.

DSC_0318Since my energy has been sapped as of late it has really took its toll on my baking hobby. When I do manage to summon enough energy to cook outside of making breakfast, lunch, and dinner for my family it needs to be something that isn’t too strenuous. I always used to be against taking baking shortcuts but now that I am a mom and full-time student, any shortcut I can find that still tastes good is acceptable. I even recall as a teen trashing my grandfather’s shortcut cookie recipe that he made with a boxed cake mix. After they were made he had me try one. They were of course delicious and it was then he told me something that has stuck to this day. He said, “As long as you know you can make it from scratch and have it taste good, it doesn’t hurt to take a shortcut every once and awhile.” This has been my motto as of late. I know I can make great cookies from scratch and have done so since I was old enough to see over the kitchen counter, so it doesn’t hurt to take a shortcut when I need one. This recipe is one of those shortcuts.

DSC_0322The reason this recipe is considered a short cut is because it uses store bought sugar cookie dough. If you are completely against the idea of anything store bought, you can make your own batch of sugar cookie dough as I have also done when I have more time and energy, just be sure your sugar cookie recipe produces about 2 pounds of dough. I prefer to take the shortcut method with these cookies though because they are rather involved compared to others already and making your own sugar cookie dough will make the process that much longer. I know anyone with a busy lifestyle will surely appreciate this shortcut method that not only takes less time but is also a special, elegant looking cookie.

DSC_0315What makes these cookies so impressive are the three different layers of color and flavor. This is the spumoni influence on the cookie. Spumoni originates in Italy and is traditionally found as ice cream. Spumoni is relative to Neapolitan, with three flavors, traditionally being chocolate, pistachio, and cherry. I do not care for pistachios so I altered the traditional make-up and used walnuts instead. You can certainly swap out an equal amount of pistachios for the walnuts in this recipe. Even though Spumoni has pretty much disappeared in Italy, it is still much loved in the U.S. with good reason. Give them a try and have a taste of forgotten Italy.

Note: These cookies use three separate doughs merged into one to make the tri-colored appearance. I roll the dough into ropes, place them alongside each other, and roll flat with a rolling pin to merge the dough. You can also roll out each dough ball into equal length and thickness then stack the dough on top of each other and slice with a sharp knife to get a similar effect. Whichever method you choose, be sure to chill the dough slightly to make it easier to get uniform cookies. This recipe produces approximately 3 dozen cookies.


Spumoni Cookies


  • 2 (16 oz.) tubes Refrigerated Pillsbury Sugar Cookie Dough
  • 1 cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 12 Maraschino Cherries; drained, stemmed, & chopped fine
  • ¼ cup Walnuts; toasted & chopped fine
  • ¼ cup Semisweet Chocolate Chips; melted & slightly cooled
  • Red & Green Food Coloring


  1. Remove cookie dough from refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature, approximately 1 hour. Place both tubes of cookie dough into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add ¾ cup of flour and mix on low until combined. Separate dough into three equal portions and place one portion back into the bowl of the stand mixer. Add the remaining ¼ cup of flour to the dough portion in the mixer bowl. Mix until just incorporated. Add 5 drops of red food coloring and chopped cherries to the dough. Mix until well combined. Shape the dough into a ball and set aside.
  2. Wipe out the same mixing bowl and place back on the stand mixer. Add the second portion of dough to the mixer bowl. Add 5 drops of green food coloring and the chopped walnuts. Mix until well combined. Shape dough into a ball and set aside.
  3. Wipe out the same mixing bowl one last time and place back on the stand mixer. Add the final portion of dough to the mixer bowl. Add the melted chocolate to the dough and mix until well combined. Shape dough into ball. Wrap all three dough portions in plastic wrap and refrigerate until slightly firm, approximately 10 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 375°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Divide each chilled dough portion in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll each dough half into a 12 inch rope. Place 1 rope of each color side by side on the floured surface and gently press together. Refrigerate ropes until slightly firm, approximately 10 minutes. Remove chilled ropes from refrigerator and on a floured surface, use a rolling pin to flatten the cookies and merge the dough ropes together. Once rolled, use a knife to cut 1 inch wide cookies. Place cookies on the prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Repeat until all dough is used and refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Bake chilled cookies until set but not browned, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Be sure to rotate baking sheets halfway through cooking time for even baking. Cool cookies on the baking sheet for approximately 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely. Cookies can be stored for approximately 1 week.




Apple Cobbler Bars

DSC_0146Whenever the days turn cooler everyone in the house begins craving warm drinks, rich spices, and anything apple. Today was one of those days where it was cool but not freezing, reminding us of a brisk fall day more than chilly winter. Unfortunately, I did not have any apples on hand to make a pie but I did have some dried apples. Dried apples are perfect for apple bars because they do not make the bar too soggy like a fresh apple would. Problem is I love the flavor fresh apples bring to any baked good. To amp up the flavor of the dried apples I turned to a favorite of mine that I always use in my apple turnovers, apple butter. I had some apple butter I had made in the fall from fresh apples still in the refrigerator so I paired that with the dried apples to rehydrate them with the flavors of their fresh counterpart.

DSC_0147I love apple cobbler but it is something you need to sit down and eat from a bowl. I love these bars because it makes apple cobbler portable for our always on the go family. The following recipe yields approximately 24 bars. You can use homemade fresh breadcrumbs or plain store bought breadcrumbs without any noticeable difference. Also make sure you toast the walnuts before you add them into the bars. The toasting helps bring out the nutty flavor and enrich the bars overall.

Apple Cobbler Bars

Crumb Topping Ingredients:

  • ½ cup Bread Crumbs
  • ½ cup Walnuts; toasted & chopped
  • ½ cup Light Brown Sugar; packed
  • ¼ cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 8 tbsp. (1 stick) Unsalted Butter; chilled, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon

Cookie Ingredients:

  • 3 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 16 tbsp. (2 sticks) Unsalted Butter; softened
  • 2/3 cup Light Brown Sugar; packed
  • 2 Eggs
  • ½ cup Apple Butter
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • ½ cup Walnuts; toasted & chopped
  • 1 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1 cup Dried Apples, chopped


  1. Heat oven to 350°. Line a 13×9 inch pan with foil. Be sure to allow excess foil to hang over the sides of the pan to allow an easier lift. Grease the pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. To prepare topping: In a food processor pulse bread crumbs, walnuts, sugar, flour, butter, and cinnamon until coarsely ground.
  3. To prepare bar base: In a large bowl combine the flour and baking powder. With a stand mixer or electric hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, apple butter, and vanilla, mixing until incorporated. Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture. Continue to mix until just combined. Stir in the chopped walnuts by hand.
  4. Press the dough into the prepared pan. Scatter the apple slices over the dough. Sprinkle with the crumb topping and bake until the bars are deep golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the bars completely on a wire rack, at least one hour. Once cooled, use the excess foil to lift the bars out of the pan. Cut the bars into squares and serve. Bars can be stored at room temperature in a sealed container for about 3 days.



DSC_0242Winter has officially set in and with the bitter cold comes a desire to stay bundled up in bed under the warm covers all day. Having a daughter that is about to turn two in just a few weeks prevents me from exercising such a dream but it does still keep me indoors. Although Florida is not as cold as the rest of the country, having lows in the upper 30’s and highs in the mid 50’s is extremely chilly for us with thinned blood. I was born and raised in Iowa so I was used to the negative temperatures this time of year, but surely after years of being a Floridian my blood has quickly thinned like the crushed ice pellets of a slushy on a hot summer day.

Being that I am stuck inside it leaves me one of only a few options: bake, write, or watch endless episodes of Sofia the First with my daughter. I have elected to write (and still have endless episodes of Sofia the First playing in the background). The recipe I present to you today is another cookie I baked for Christmas that I hadn’t the time to get posted prior to Christmas. Melomakarona (Greek Honey Cookies) are yet another traditional Greek Christmas sweet. I will warn you these little gems are extremely popular because they are extremely addictive. Melomakarona happen to be my favorite Greek cookie I have tried so far. Unfortunately with such fine gems there will always be a catch and these are no exception. Melomakarona tend to be a little more time consuming than other sweets I tend to post but they are ever so worth it. I guarantee once you take a bite of this moist and flavorful cookie soaked in sweet honey syrup you will surely be satisfied with your work.

DSC_0245Now that I dropped the bit of bad news regarding these cookies I can overcome any negativity with a positive. Not only do these cookies scent the house with a wonderful aroma, they are the most perfect cookie to prepare during the busy holiday season. I know I just stated they are more time consuming than other cookies so you are certainly wondering how I can then say they are perfect for the busiest and most stressful time of the year. I assure you I am not crazy. The reason I say they are perfect is because these cookies, although time consuming, can be made weeks in advance and still remain soft and fresh as the day they were made. In fact, it is best that they are made a bit in advance so that the honey syrup has enough time to penetrate the cookie and regain a bit of structure. If you try to serve these cookies right after they take a bath in the honey syrup they will crumble and dissolve into a mess in your hands the second you take a bite (although it will be a finger-licking, delicious mess).

If you would like to be as authentic as possible with the Melomakarona, you will want to purchase Greek honey. I won’t lie this can be rather hard to find and a bit pricey so check out your local International market or shop for it online. You may certainly substitute regular honey but keep in mind the flavor will not be the same. This is due to the fact that Greek honey is extremely thick and made from bees that harvest most of their pollen from the thyme plant, imparting a specific flavor unique to Greek honey. For the final authentic touch, top each cookie with a sprinkle of chopped walnuts and a pinch of cinnamon and clove right after they are removed from the honey bath. The cookies displayed in the photos however only have walnuts and cinnamon added since I skipped on the clove as my daughter finds the flavor too harsh if it is not baked into the product. Whichever way you choose to prepare these cookies, each will be guaranteed heaven and a joy to all on the holidays (or any day for that matter).

Note: Cookies can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for about 2 weeks. You will have a good remainder of honey syrup after soaking the cookies. I usually use the delicious syrup to top pancakes and toast but if you would not like leftovers you may cut the ingredients for the honey syrup in half to create a smaller yield.


Syrup Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Water
  • 36 oz. Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick
  • 18 oz. Greek Honey

Cookie Ingredients:

  • 5.5 oz. Thin Semolina
  • 18 oz. All-Purpose Flour
  • ½ tbsp. Baking Powder
  • 1 tbsp. Ground Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. Ground Nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. Ground Clove
  • 3 tbsp. Brandy or Cognac
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 3.5 oz. Granulated Sugar
  • 3.5 oz. Orange Juice
  • ½ tbsp. Baking Soda
  • 3.5 oz. Water
  • 4.5 oz. Olive Oil
  • 4.5 oz. Vegetable Oil
  • 2 oz. Greek Honey
  • Zest of 1 Orange

Garnish Ingredients:

  • 7 oz. Walnuts; toasted & chopped fine
  • Powdered Cinnamon
  • Powdered Clove (optional)



  1. To prepare the honey syrup: In a large saucepan add all of the syrup ingredients except for the honey. Bring the mixture to a boil. Boil until the sugar has dissolved, about 3 to 5 minutes (mixture will foam so pay close attention). Remove from heat and add in the honey. Stir to combine then set syrup aside to cool completely.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the cookie dough by adding the semolina, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove to a large bowl. Stir the mixture with a whisk to evenly distribute the spices. In another large bowl, add the brandy, vanilla, and granulated sugar. Measure out the orange juice into a large measuring cup. Hold the measuring cup over the large bowl with the brandy mixture. Add the baking soda to the orange juice, causing it to foam up and possibly over the rim of the measuring cup (depends how large the measuring cup is). After the orange juice mixture has finished foaming pour it into the bowl with the brandy mixture and whisk vigorously for 10 t0 20 seconds (if the orange juice mixture overflows the measuring cup while it is reacting, begin whisking the second it overflows into the bowl and continue to whisk until you pour all of the orange juice mixture into the bowl of the brandy mixture). Add the water, oils, honey, and orange zest and whisk to combine.
  3. Add the flour mixture into the brandy/orange juice mixture. Knead the dough lightly by hand until the ingredients are just combined and the dough feels smooth and soft. Be sure you do not overwork the dough or add any extra flour because the cookies will become tough. The dough will feel oily and is normal.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. To shape the Melomakarona, pinch a piece of dough about the size of a walnut and shape into a ball. Once in a ball use your palms to shape the dough ball into an oblong egg shape. Place the shaped cookie on the prepared baking sheet. Press down lightly with the tines of a fork. Continue shaping the rest of the dough. Bake cookies until they are lightly brown and cooked through, approximately 20 minutes.
  5. When the Melomakarona are removed from the oven, let them cool on the cookie sheet for about 1 minute so they are easier to pick up. Working in batches, place the cookies into the cooled syrup. Flip the cookies while in the syrup with a slotted spoon for about 20 seconds (longer if you want a more syrupy cookie). Remove the soaked cookies with the slotted spoon and place on a serving platter. Sprinkle them immediately with the chopped walnuts, cinnamon, and clove (if using).





DSC_0172Every year in the past I have provided readers several non-traditional holiday cookie recipes that are great to offer on holiday dessert tables or pass at holiday related functions. These non-traditional cookies help bring variety to the plethora of sugar cookies typically found decorating dinner tables or being passed at holiday affairs. I am not in any way discounting a sugar cookies worthiness of being served during the holidays as I too love them and look forward to my mother’s every year. However, I do like to try new things and venture outside of the typical so it is always nice to have something new alongside of a childhood favorite.

With that said, I slacked this year and only brought readers one non-traditional offering and it wasn’t even a cookie, it was the Greek jam tart Pasta Flora. I did make several cookies during the holidays that most families would not consider part of the norm so I would like to share these with you. Although you will not have the time to make them for any holiday this year as they have all since passed, perhaps you may try them now and decide if you would like to offer them next year at your holiday events.

DSC_0179The cookie for this entry that I am anxious to share is a classic Christmas dessert staple for Greeks and is known by the name Kourabiedes. These festive, soft delights are butter cookies drenched in the sweetness of confectioners’ sugar (also known as powdered sugar or icing sugar). My daughter devoured so many to the point I began to doubt the study that confirmed sugar does not make kids hyper. Along with attracting kids like a magnet, they are very easy to prepare and will add the perfect holiday theme to any table with their snowy appearance.


(Greek Christmas Butter Cookies)


  • 9 oz. Butter; room temperature
  • 3.5 oz. Confectioners’ Sugar; plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 2 tbsp. Ouzo or Brandy
  • 4 oz. Sliced Almonds; toasted
  • 16 oz. All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 ½ tsp. Baking Powder



  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.
  2. Using a stand or hand mixer, beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar together until it becomes light and creamy. Add the vanilla and ouzo/brandy, mixing until just incorporated. Add the toasted almonds and again mix until just incorporated.
  3. In a large bowl, sift together the flour and the baking powder. Do not skip this step as it is detrimental to the final texture of the cookies. Slowly add the sifted flour mixture to the creamed butter in 3 additions. Mix together until the dough is combined, soft, and easy to work with. If the dough appears too sticky and hard to work with, add up to no more than 2 ounces of sifted flour until the desired texture is achieved.
  4. To form the Kourabiedes, roll 1 to 2 tbsp. of dough into a ball between your palms and place on the prepared baking sheet. In the middle of the cookie dough ball, push down with your finger to form a small dimple in the surface. Repeat with the remaining dough, leaving at least 2 inches between each cookie on the baking sheet. Bake cookies for about 20 minutes or until they take on a very light golden hue. Do not overcook them as they should not look golden brown. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for at least 5 to 10 minutes. Do not try to remove them from the sheet immediately as the cookies will break if they are still warm and they will not be thoroughly cooked.
  5. Once the cookies have cooled, remove them from the baking sheet and place on a wire rack to cool completely. Continue forming Kourabiedes as in step 4 until all the dough has been used. Once all the cookies have cooled completely, place a few cups of confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl. Working in batches, roll the cookies in the sugar so that the sugar coats on all sides. Before serving, place the cookies on a platter and sift a generous amount of confectioners’ sugar over the cookies.






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