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6 posts from September 2017


~ Caprese Chicken Meatballs w/Mozzarella & Sauce ~

IMG_4389A Summertime caprese salad.  It's classic Italian, and, it's my favorite way to enjoy our Summer garden. Nothing compares to same-day-picked tomatoes and basil leaves served with fresh mozzarella cheese, a drizzle of fruity olive oil, and, some freshly-ground sea salt and pepper. That said, in my food world, for most food, I can find a way to enjoy its flavors in every season, so, come Fall, a warm bowl of caprese-style ground chicken meatballs simmered in a warm, garlicy, homemade crushed-tomato and basil sauce served with a few bocconcini (small, fresh mozzarella balls) along with some spaghetti is Italian-American caprese-style comfort food.

IMG_4414A bit about fresh mozzarella cheese: Mozzarella is a unique Italian cheese known for its soft, moist texture and delicate, fresh taste of milk.  Traditionally it's made from the milk of the water buffalo, although cows milk versions are used more and more due to the limited amount of water buffalo milk available.  It's been made by hand in home kitchens throughout Italy for centuries.  It got popularized in the 20th Century when refrigeration escorted in refrigerated trucks that were able to deliver this delicate cheese long distances.  Fresh mozzarella is sold in various sizes, but, it's always packed in a brine. (On a personal note, while I have access to fresh buffalo milk mozzarella, I prefer the taste of the cows milk mozzarella.)

IMG_4379It's time to make some full-throttle caprese chicken meatballs:

IMG_3795For the chicken meatball mixture:

2  pounds chicken breast tenderloins, sliced into 1"-1 1/2" pieces

1  medium yellow or sweet onion, medium-diced, 6-7 ounces, about 1 1/2 cups 

2  large garlic cloves

1/2  cup chiffonade of fresh basil leaves

1  extra-large egg

1/2  teaspoon dried basil leaves

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

2  cups soft fresh breadcrumbs from 3 ounces soft potato bread or rolls, or almost any type of soft white or the soft center of rustic Italian bread, torn into pieces (Note:  When making bread crumbs, 1 ounce of bread produces 1/2 cup of crumbs.  I hesitate to talk in "slices" because size and thickness varies so much from manufacturer to manufacturer.)

3/4  cup whole milk

1 1/2-2  cups plain, dry breadcrumbs

1-3 quarts tomato-basil sauce, preferably homemade, or your favorite brand (Note:  Three quarts of sauce is enough to simmer all 3 dozen of the meatballs at the same time.  To cook in batches, plan on 1 quart of sauce per dozen meatballs.), for simmering meatballs

For serving:

1  pound spaghetti per 1 dozen meatballs, cooked al dente, as package directs, 4 servings spaghetti per pound

3  dozen bocconcini, fresh mozzarella balls about the size of cherry tomatoes, (Note:  For every meatball I serve per person, I serve one bocconcini per meatball.

minced fresh basil and fresh basil sprigs, for garnish

IMG_3800 IMG_3802 IMG_3807 IMG_3812 IMG_3815~Step 1.  Slice and place the chicken pieces in the work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade, along with the onion, garlic and basil chiffonade.  Using a series of 20 rapid on-off pulses, coarsely-grind the chicken, along with the onion and basil.  Add the egg, dried basil, sea salt and pepper to work-bowl of processor.  With processor motor running for 10-15 seconds, incorporate the egg and spices throughout the now finely-ground chicken.  Place in a large bowl.

Note:  You will have a little over 2 1/2 pounds chicken mixture.  The mixture will resemble the soft "sticky" consistency of a meatloaf mixture rather than a typical burger mixture.  This is intentional. Because ground chicken is naturally dry when it is cooked, extra moisture must be added to the poultry mixture at the outset, and, it was done in the form of onion, garlic and fresh basil.

IMG_4264 IMG_4267 IMG_4273 IMG_4278 IMG_4287 IMG_4291~Step 2.  Wash and dry the processor work bowl. Place the bread in the work bowl.  Using a series of 25-30 rapid on-off pulses, process to crumbs. Transfer to a medium bowl and add the milk.  Stir to combine and set aside for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to give the bread time to absorb all of the milk.  Add the bread mixture to the chicken mixture.  Using a large rubber spatula (or your hands) thoroughly combine the two mixtures.

IMG_4293 IMG_4297 IMG_4300 IMG_4304 IMG_4313~Step 3.  Line a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan with parchment paper and preheat oven to 350°.  Place the dry breadcrumbs in a shallow soup- or salad-type bowl.  Using a 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop as a measure and working one-at-a-time, scoop, drop and roll each meatball around in the dry breadcrumbs until it is lightly and evenly coated.  As you work, place meatballs, side-by-side on pan. There will be about 3 dozen (36-38) standard-sized meatballs.

Note:  Even though the chicken mixture is quite sticky, the coating process is not messy.  The dry breadcrumbs keep the meat mixture from sticking to your hands while rolling them around.

IMG_4315~ Step 4.  Bake meatballs on center rack of preheated 350º oven for about 25 minutes, or until an internal temperature of 162º-165º is reached.  If you have an instant-read meat thermometer, now is the time to use it.  Safe temperature = safe-to-eat poultry.  That said, because I am going to simmer my meatballs in sauce, which will further cook them,  I remove them from the oven when an internal temperature of 158°-160° is reached.

IMG_4329 IMG_4330 IMG_4334 IMG_4341~Step 5.  In a 14" chef's pan, bring 3 quarts of your favorite tomato-basil sauce to a simmer over medium heat.  Add all of the meatballs to the pan.  Adjust heat to a gentle, steady simmer, partially-cover the pan and simmer meatballs for 10-12 minutes.  Remove from heat, cover the pan and allow meatballs to steep while cooking spaghetti according to package directions.

Note:  I cooked all of my meatballs all at once today.  To cook them in batches, use a smaller pan and one quart of sauce per dozen meatballs.  To freeze meatballs, do it prior to cooking in the sauce, then, once the sauce is simmering on the stovetop, drop frozen meatballs into the simmering sauce.  When the sauce returns to a simmer, cook the meatballs as directed. 

What?  No Parmigiano-Reggiano?  No.  It's just caprese baby!

IMG_4386A whole lot of caprese-heaven on a plate:

IMG_4404Next up:  The Incredible Edible Caprese Chicken Meatball Sub.

IMG_4451Caprese Chicken Meatballs w/Mozzarella & Sauce:  Recipe yields approximately 3 dozen (36-38) 1 1/2"-round ground chicken meatballs.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; 12" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid

IMG_3854Cook's Note:  The difference between meatballs (a diminutive form of meatloaf) and any type of burger is:  bread or breadcrumbs. Meatballs contain breadcrumbs, burgers do not.  For a variation on the same caprese theme, this time a moist, juicy, chicken 'burger (containing no breadcrumbs) check out my recipe for ~ Grillmarked: Ground Chicken Caprese-Style Burgers w/Balsamic Mayo ~. Unlike my chicken meatballs, which are baked in the oven, they're made in a grillpan on the stovetop.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)


~ Seriously Special K Crispy & Chewy Sugar Cookies ~

IMG_4254Sugar cookies traditionally fall into the category of "rolled cookies" which are cut into shapes to suit your fancy and the occasion, but, they can be treated as "drop cookies" too, meaning:  they can be formed into uniform-sized balls and baked.  They can be crisp and thin or soft and thick. They should melt-in-your mouth, taste rich and buttery and have a flaky, delicate texture. Perfectly baked sugar cookies have clean edges that hold shape when baked.  They emerge from the oven just cooked through and puffy, with almost no signs of browning.  Sugar cookies require patience and love -- except for this super-easy, seriously-special recipe courtesy of:  Kellogg's Special K.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb08b15209970dIt's odd, but, as a child, when all the other kids were reaching for the Frosted Flakes and Sugar Pops, the only two cold cereals I would eat were: Kellogg's Special K and Raisin Bran exclusively. The only hot cereal I would eat was Quaker oatmeal.  Some things never change.  All three cereals are staples in my pantry to this day. Now that you know that, it should come as no surprise that when my mom was baking cookies for me or with me,  IMG_3786quality mother-daughter time, she or we would choose (top photo) oatmeal cookies, (bottom photo) raisin bran cookies, or, these Special K sugar cookies, and, use the recipes printed on their respective boxes.  It is, in fact, how I learned to bake basic drop cookies. There's more.  The three together make a great trio on a cookie plate, and, from a nutritional standpoint, they're a step above cookies loaded with chocolates or candies.

Crispy outside, chewy inside, buttery flavor w/a salty edge:

IMG_41774  ounces Kellogg's Original Special K Cereal (about 3 cups), crushed to fine bits and pieces (about 2 cups)

1  cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon baking powder

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  cup salted butter, at room temperature, very soft

2/3  cup sugar

1  large egg, at room temperature

2  teaspoons pure vanilla extract

IMG_4166 IMG_4167 IMG_4170 IMG_4172~Step 1.  Weigh or measure the Special K cereal and place in a ziplock bag.  Seal bag, and using a small rolling pin, crush to fine bits and pieces.  Do not process to crumbs in a food processor.

IMG_4184 IMG_4187 IMG_4190~ Step 2.  Divide the crumbs in half, placing 2 ounces (about 1 cup) in a small bowl and the other 2 ounces (1 cup) in a medium bowl.  Add the flour to the medium bowl of crumbs and stir until thoroughly combined.

IMG_4193 IMG_4196 IMG_4199 IMG_4202~Step 3.  In a large bowl, over high speed of hand-held electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.  Add the egg and the vanilla.  Continue to beat until creamy.

IMG_4206 IMG_4208~ Step 4.  Lower the mixer speed and blend in the flour/crumb mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl constantly with a large rubber spatula, until thoroughly combined, about 1 1/2-2 minutes. Line a large baking pan with parchment paper.

IMG_4211 IMG_4215 IMG_4219 IMG_4221~Step 5.  Using a 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop as a measure and working one scoop of dough at a time, drop a scoop of dough into the small bowl of crumbs and roll it around until completely coated in crumbs.  Place coated balls of dough, well-apart (2 1/2"-3"), on prepared pan.

IMG_4224 IMG_4229~ Step 6. Bale on center rack of 360°-365° oven until very lightly browned and puffed up in their centers, about 11 minutes, watching them carefully after 10 minutes so they don't over-brown*. Remove from oven and cool in pans 3-4 minutes prior to using a thin spatula to transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely, 1 hour.

* Note:  For cookies crunchy-through-to-their-centers, brown a bit more and bake for 12 minutes.

A drop-sugar-cookie that competes w/a rolled sugar cookie?

IMG_4237You betcha.  Try the recipe & judge for yourself:

IMG_4261Seriously Special K Crispy & Chewy Sugar Cookies:  Recipe yields 12-14, 3"-round cookies.

Special Equipment List: kitchen scale or 1-quart measuring container; 1-gallon food storage bag; small rolling pin; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; thin metal spatula; wire cooling rack

IMG_8762Cook's Note: ~ "My" No-Fail Easy-to-Make Sugar Cookie Recipe ~ has been my go-to special-occasion sugar-cookie recipe since 1974. Because the recipe worked perfectly the very first time, I've never looked for another.  They've made appearances at a wide range of festive get-togethers: bridal and baby showers, weddings, and, of course, my annual Christmas and New Years Day cookie trays.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)


~ Start Dunking: Double-Raisin Bran Cereal Cookies ~

IMG_3767If you're one of the few, the proud and the many who adore Kellogg's raisin bran, this cookie recipe is for you.  I'm sure the recipe is a Kellogg's original too, because I remember sitting at my mother's kitchen counter the day she made them, for me, the first time.  It's odd, but, as a child, when all the other kids were reaching for the Frosted Flakes and Sugar Pops, the only two cold cereals I would eat were: Kellogg's Raisin Bran and Special K exclusively.  That 1960's Winter afternoon, which was a snow day off from school, we decided to experiment with something new: Raisin-Bran cookies (instead of our usual Quaker's oatmeal cookies), as printed on the box.

Trust me, these are full-throttle full-of-raisin cookies:  

Our cookies turned out great, but we both agreed they needed more raisins, so, next time around, they became double-raisin bran cookies.  It was fun, quality mother-daughter time back then, and, to this day, when I'm down to near-the-end of a box of Raisin Bran, I use the last couple of cups to treat myself to these cookies.  They're crispy around the edges with chewy centers, not overly sweet, and, perfect for dunking in a glass of milk or enjoying with my morning coffee.  If you're looking for a cookie to serve or take to a breakfast or brunch, these are indeed the ones:

IMG_3778Crunchy outside & chewy inside w/bits of bran too.

IMG_37143/4  cup salted butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature, very soft

1/2  cup firmly-packed light brown sugar

2/3  cup sugar

2  large eggs, at room temperature

1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2  cups Kellogg's Raisin Bran cereal

2  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon baking soda

1/8  teaspoon sea salt

1  cup additional raisins

IMG_3716 IMG_3720 IMG_3723 IMG_3724~Step 1.  In a large mixing bowl, starting on low speed of hand-held electric mixer and working your way up to to high speed, combine the butter, and sugars until light-colored and fluffy, about 1 full minute.  Crack in the eggs, add the vanilla, then, continue to mix until creamy, 30-45 seconds.

IMG_3728 IMG_3731 IMG_3734 IMG_3739~Step 2.  Add Raisin Bran.  With mixer on medium, while scraping down sides of bowl with spatula, thoroughly incorporate the cereal, 45-60 seconds..  Mixer will effectively chop bran flakes into smaller bits and pieces.  Lower mixer speed to low and add flour, baking soda and salt. Continue mixing and scraping bowl until flour is incorporated and a thick cookie batter forms.

IMG_3742 IMG_3746 IMG_3749 IMG_3756~Step 3.  Remove the mixer -- you won't need it anymore.  Add the raisins.  Use the spatula to fold them into the cookie dough.  Using a 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop as a measure, place 12 balls of dough onto each of 2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans that have been lined with parchment paper.

IMG_3760 IMG_3762 IMG_3773~ Step 4.  One pan of cookies at a time, bake on center rack of preheated 350º oven, 12-13 minutes, until puffed up through to their centers and nicely, but not overly, golden brown.  Remove pan from oven.  Using a metal spatula, immediately transfer each cookie to a wire rack to cool completely, 45-60 minutes.

Raisin Bran cookies.  I love thee.  The few, proud & many:

IMG_3786Start Dunking:  Double-Raisin Bran Cereal Cookies:  Recipe yields 2 dozen cookies

Special Equipment List:  hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; parchment paper; 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop; thin metal spatula; wire cooling rack

IMG_5181Cook's Note:  We all agree that a muffin is at its best as soon as it can be eaten -- as soon as it has cooled enough to pick it up with your fingertips and pull it apart.  For me, a warm muffin with a slather of softened butter or cream cheese is the ideal breakfast.  Check out my recipe for ~ Make the Batter ahead: Buttermilk & Bran Muffins ~.  Make the batter ahead and bake the muffins up fresh -- the whole batch or 1-2 at a time.  FYI:  These are full of Raisin Bran and raisins too!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)


~ Balsamic Mayonnaise: The Other Italian Dressing ~

IMG_3916We all have our quirks.  I'm no exception.  Today's example:  I love Italian dressing, but I don't love creamy Italian dressing.  I don't love Balsamic dressing, but I do love creamy balsamic dressing -- especially if it is mayonnaise-based.  Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike creamy Italian or regular balsamic dressings, I simply have my (quirky) preferences.  While I often make my own, like most folks, for convenience sake, store-bought dressings have earned a place in my kitchen.  There is always a bottle of Wishbone Light Italian dressing on the door of my refrigerator, and, for a time, I happily kept a jar of Hellmann's Balsamic Mayonnaise there too.

999999-68400318217Hellmann's introduced their balsamic mayonnaise in 2013 -- a new product in celebration of their 100th anniversary.  A recent internet search revealed it was discontinued -- shocking, because the same search revealed there are a lot of folks, like me, who loved the stuff.  I even came across a discussion in an on-line "foodie chat place" where folks were attempting to duplicate the recipe.  This was not surprising, as, for those of us who loved it, there was more to it than just a basic stir together of mayo and balsamic vinegar.  Once I finished sharing my recipe with those in need, I decided to take a few moments to share it with you all too. 

Toss into salads or pasta salads, slather on subs or clubs or:

IMG_3947anything your creamy-balsamic-dressing heart desires. 

IMG_37061/2  cup mayonnaise

1  tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/4  teaspoon garlic powder

1/4  teaspoon onion powder

1/4  teaspoon dried basil (Note:  I used dried basil today.  That said, depending what I'm serving this on or with, I sometimes substitute dried Mediterranean oregano or Italian seasoning blend.

1/4-1/2  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

In a small bowl, thoroughly stir together all ingredients.  Refrigerate one hour prior to serving.

IMG_3711I adore it on my Caprese-Style Ground Chicken Burgers:

IMG_3854Balsamic Mayonnaise:  The Other Italian Dressing:  Recipe yields 1/2 cup balsamic mayonnaise.

Special Equipment List:  1-cup food-storage container w/tight-fitting lid.

IMG_1418Cook's Note:  If you'd like to know the history behind America's two most famous brands of mayonnaise, check out my post ~ Spreads go Bread to Bread: Duke's vs Hellmann's ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017) 


~ Hey, Honey -- Pass the Honey-Mustard Dressing ~

IMG_3523Honey mustard.  It's one of the simplest condiments in the food world to make, and, I bow to the mustard makers that invented it.  In my kitchen, I use it as a salad dressing, a sandwich spread, a dip for vegetables, and occasionally, a glaze for baked ham.  In the '80's, when my kids were in elementary school, there was always a jar of it on my refrigerator door.  When we were traveling, if an eatery had chicken tenders and honey-mustard sauce on their list of menu options, my three boys were happy campers -- given the choice, all three of them preferred it to ranch dressing, so, that's quite an endorsement.  As for me, I love it on onion rings and Philly-style soft pretzels.

IMG_3500A bit about honey:  The earliest written reference to honey dates back to the Egyptians in 5500 B.C., but, honeybees were making honey long before historical records were written.  Only relatively recently, mid 19th Century, did sugar become available and affordable to the average Westerner.  Prior to that, it was a very expensive luxury for the wealthy, because it had to be imported over long distances. Honeybees native to Asia, were brought to the New World by the Colonists in 1622, and honey was their primary sweetening agent for tea, cakes, cookies and candies. Once it got introduced to the Native Americans, honey became a popular item to trade too.

IMG_3502A bit about mustard:  Mustard is the world's oldest manmade condiment. There are recipes for mustard that date back to 42 A.D. in Roman writings, but, it wasn't popularized until their seeds were exported to Gaul (France).  By the 13th Century, food peddlers were selling their homemade mustard concoctions all over France, and, in the 16th Century, legal protection was given to the mustard makers and their secret recipes (which varied greatly from maker to maker).  In time, a few mustard makers began experimenting with substituting green grape juice ("verjus" -- "green juice") for vinegar, which produced a milder taste we now associate with their white-wine-made Dijon.

IMG_3514A bit about honey-mustard:  It was only a matter of time before the mustard makers added a bit of honey to sweeten their Dijon a bit, to gentle it down even further.  Next, French chef's began adding their mayonnaise (a French invention) to the honey-mustard, along with other ingredients:  various herbs (basil, dill, rosemary, thyme), garlic and even chile peppers for some heat. I'd say that was the unofficial start of the honey-mustard dressing/sauce industry, and, to this day, honey mustard dressing is typically made using just three ingredients: Dijon mustard, honey, and, mayo. That said, there are many types of honey-mustard because there are many types of honey and mustard.

Three seriously basic "staple" ingredients:

IMG_3490Honey + Dijon + Mayonnaise = Honey Mustard Dressing

IMG_3495To make basic honey mustard dressing, in a 2-cup size food-storage container, whisk together:

1/4  cup honey

1/4  cup Dijon mustard

1/4  cup high-quality mayonnaise

Taste.  If you want it sweeter, whisk in more honey, by the teaspoonful, to please your palate.  You've just made honey-mustard dressing.

IMG_3497My favorite add-ins, which are entirely optional, are:

1/8  teaspoon black pepper

1/8  teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/8  teaspoon paprika, or smoked paprika (if it's a smokey flavor I'm looking for occasionally)

Cover and refrigerate, for at least one hour, to allow the flavors to marry.  The dressing will thicken up a bit in the refrigerator too.

The perfect consistency to drizzle over salad or use as a dip:

IMG_3528Poached or roasted chicken chef salad anyone?

IMG_3534Hey, Honey -- Pass the Honey-Mustard Dressing:  Recipe yields 3/4 cup salad dressing or dipping sauce.

Special Equipment List:  2-cup size food storage container w/tight fitting lid; whisk

IMG_5989Cook's Note:  No matter how easy or complicated, recipes that have a history or a lore are always on my short list of blog posts to share because, for me, they are the most fun to write.  My recipe for ~ Pretty in Pink: Thousand Islands Salad Dressing~ is one such recipe.  It's also yet another salad dressing/sandwich spread/dipping sauce that I am never without.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)


~ Butter-Rum Frosted Banana-Walnut Spice Cookies ~

IMG_3470Spice is nice, particularly in spice cakes and spice cookies, and, when Summer turns to Fall, I find myself gravitating to spiced sweet treats.  I generically refer to them as the "apple pie spices" -- you know the ones -- spice rack essentials.  They're exotic and aromatic, and, they play oh-so-well together:  allspice, cinnamon, clove, ginger, and nutmeg.  Sometimes I choose just one or two, other times I use three or four, occasionally I use all five.  That said, I'm always reminding folks to use them judiciously, as, too much of any one, is overpoweringly wrong.

These spice cookies are puffy & light, &, cake-like.  

IMG_3439They soak up milk or coffee faster than crunchy cookies.

These cake-like cookies are lightly and nicely, yet noticeable spiced.  If you're not a fan of cookies with a soft cake-like texture, move along without expressing any criticism.  For a dunker like me, a cake-like cookie soaks up my milk or coffee faster than any crunchy cookie does, and, near the tailend my beverage, it has acquired a pleasant tinge of spice -- spiced milk or coffee -- yum.

IMG_3370For the dry ingredients:

3 3/4  cups all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon baking soda

1  teaspoon baking powder

1  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2  teaspoon ground ginger

1/8  teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8  teaspoon ground cloves

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

~ Step 1.  In a medium bowl, place and stir together all of the above dry ingredients.  Set aside.

IMG_3379For the wet ingredients and add-ins:

1 1/2  cups sugar

1/2  cup salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (1 stick)

1  large egg, at room temperature

2  teaspoons pure banana extract

1  teaspoon butter-rum flavoring

1 1/4-1 1/2  cups fork-mashed bananas, from 3 large, over-ripe bananas (Tip from Mel:  If the bananas are not soft enough to mash easily with a fork, they are not IMG_3397ripe enough to use for banana bread, cake or cookies.)

1 3/4 cups chopped, lightly-toasted walnuts (total throughout recipe, 1 1/2 cups to add to cookies, and a generous 1/4 cup, reserved and ground, for sprinkling on finished cookies as directed below)

~ Step 2. Chop and place walnuts on a small baking pan as you work.  Place on center rack of 350º oven or toaster oven for 5-6 minutes, until lightly-toasted and fragrant.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool, 20-30 minutes.  Remove and reserve a generous 1/4 cup walnuts.

IMG_3374 IMG_3383 IMG_3388 IMG_3392~Step 3.  Using a fork, in a 2-cup measuring container, mash 3 large, peeled overripe bananas. You should have 1 1/4-1 1/2 cups mashed bananas.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, place the sugar, butter, egg and extracts.  On medium-high speed of hand-held electric mixer, cream the ingredients together, constantly scraping down the sides of the bowl with a large rubber spatula for 1-1 1/2 minutes.  Add bananas, increase mixer speed to high and thoroughly incorporate.

IMG_3399 IMG_3401 IMG_3403 2 IMG_3408~Step 4.  Lower mixer speed to medium-low.  In two parts, add the dry ingredients (the flour/spice mixture), mixing thoroughly while scraping down the sides of the bowl with the spatula each time. Remove the mixer.  Add the nuts and use the spatula to fold them into the cookie dough.

IMG_3422 IMG_3423 IMG_3427 IMG_3429~Step 5.  Using a 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop as a measure, place firmly-packed balls of cookie dough, well apart, 12 on each of three 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans that have been lined with parchment paper.  One-pan-at-a-time, bake on center rack of 350º oven, 12-13 minutes until puffed up through to the center and lightly-browned.  Remove from oven.  Using a thin spatula, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Repeat this process two more times with remaining pans of cookies.  Prepare cream cheese frosting and frost/top cookies as directed below.

Remove from oven & transfer to wire rack(s) to cool...

IMG_3444... prior to frosting & topping cookies as directed below:

IMG_6408For the cream cheese frosting :

8  ounces cream cheese, at room temperature, very soft

1  cup Confectioner's sugar

2  teaspoons butter-rum flavoring

1  tablespoon milk

1/4  cup chopped lightly-toasted walnuts, reserved from above 

IMG_3447 IMG_3452~ Step 1.  In a small-capacity food processor, place the walnuts.  Using a series of of 12-15 rapid on-off pulses, followed by the motor running for 8-10 seconds, grind the walnuts to a fine-grained "sprinkleable" consistency.  Set aside.

IMG_3464 IMG_3453 IMG_3456 IMG_3462~Step 2.  Place the cream cheese, butter-rum flavoring and Confectioners' sugar in work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade.  Using a series of 12-15 rapid on-off pulses, followed by the motor running for 8-10 seconds, process until it's got an ultra-smooth consistency, adding milk, by the teaspoonful, if necessary, to reach the desired consistency -- I added 1 teaspoon today.

IMG_3478~ Step 3.  Place the wire rack of cookies atop a piece of parchment or paper towels.  Using a knife, spread some frosting over the top of each cookie (do not dip the cookie top into the frosting).  While the frosting is still moist, sprinkle ground nuts over the the frosted cookies. The parchment paper or paper towels will collect the excess underneath.  Allow cookies to sit, uncovered, for several  hours, to give the frosting time to set.  

Spread frosting over tops of cookies & sprinkle w/ground nuts:

IMG_3476Fall has arrived.  Are you ready for some spice?

IMG_3482Butter-Rum Frosted Banana-Walnut Spice Cookies:  Recipe yields 3 dozen, 2 1/2"-round cookies.

Special Equipment List:  2-cup measuring container; cutting board; chef's knife; small baking pan; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 3, 17 1/2" x 11 1/2" baking pans; parchment paper; 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop; wire cooling rack; butter knife; mini-food processor; food processor

IMG_6433 IMG_9233Cook's Note: It's never to early to start thinking about your holiday cooking baking.  For two more of my favorite lightly- and nicely-spiced cake-like cookie recipes, one for Thanksgiving and one for Christmas, click on the following links to my posts for:  pumpkin cookies and eggnog cookies.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)