Monday, March 6, 2023

My Favorite Irish Soda Bread!

No need to reinvent the wheel, as they say! They also say, when you've got a good thing, go with it, so I am re-upping this post from 2021 with my favorite Irish Soda Bread recipe.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Panera Kitchen Sink Cookies

Greetings, Cook’s Tour Readers!

I hope you are all well. I apologize for the lack of posts in the last couple of months. I’ve been a bit overwhelmed since December; what with somehow contracting Covid right around Christmas, then packing up and moving to a new home at the end of December, and finally, hand/wrist surgery in early January (which, of course, rendered me unable to type or write) - whew! But I am seeing the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, as I am almost finished with my physical therapy and able to type for a little bit at a time. And last week I threw caution to the wind and decided to bake some cookies! I was so missing baking and the act of “bake and release” to friends and co-workers. 

Speaking of co-workers, one of them gifted a bag of these incredible cookies to all of us at Christmas. Please don’t judge, but I am not a huge chocolate chip cookie person. I find most of them “meh.” But not this one. I took one bite and immediately asked John for the recipe. What made this different was the melded flavors of chocolate (of course), caramel, and pretzels! What?! That’s what hooked me - the buttery caramel, and the salty pretzel crunch - wow! Now this was a chocolate chip cookie I could get behind!

When he brought in a copy of the recipe a few days later, I was surprised to see it was the famous Panera Kitchen Sink cookie. I’ve only been to Panera a handful of times for lunch but never ordered the cookies. I guess I really missed out. 

So you may already be on the Panera Kitchen Sink cookie bandwagon, but if not, here is the recipe. I made these a bit smaller than the recipe calls for because I don’t like huge cookies, but you do you. 

As I write this, it’s almost 50 degrees at the Jersey shore in mid-February so I am optimistic (and so hopeful) that spring is right around the corner. I saw daffodils sprouting the other day, always a good sign. 

If you make these cookies (or any other baked good), try Dorie Greenspan’s practice of “bake and release” and spread some joy. Hope you have a great day!

Panera Kitchen Sink Cookies


1 C butter, melted

2 t vanilla extract

1-1/2 C light brown sugar

1/2 C granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2-1/2 C AP flour

2-1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t salt

3/4 C bits of broken pretzels

1 C caramel bits

1 C chocolate chips

Flaky sea salt for sprinkling


Preheat oven to 350°F.

With a stand or hand mixer, beat melted butter, sugar, and vanilla until butter is cooled and mixture has lightened a bit.

Add eggs, one at a time, and mix.

Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt into butter mixture until incorporated.

Fold in broken pretzels, caramel bits, and chocolate chips.

Using a large scoop (3 TB) scoop dough (NOTE: I used 1 TB of dough), and drop onto baking sheet. Leave about 2” between cookies (they spread).

Flatten slightly and top with a sprinkle of sea salt. You can also top with a few additional chocolate chips, pretzels, or caramel bits.

Bake for 10 minutes. Edges should be just starting to take on color and center should still be soft and puffy looking.

Cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before moving to rack.

Keep stored in airtight container, or freeze (they freeze very well).

Recipe (as originally written) yields about 30 cookies.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Recipe-in-a-Flash: Potsticker Soup!

This truly is a “recipe-in-a-flash” because most of it comes from ready-to-go ingredients. The recipe is from Trader Joe’s but other than the Gyoza Potstickers, you can get almost all the other components at any store. The recipe serves six, but freezes very well (without the potstickers) so you can do as I did and pack it up in freezer containers for easy dinners in the future. 

The soup is rich, full of veggies (courtesy of fresh spinach and a mirepoix), and oh-so satisfying. The delicious Trader Joe’s gyoza are available in vegetable, chicken, or pork (I chose chicken), and can be pan fried in just about 10 minutes. Then you just add them to the soup (of course, you could eat them on their own as a great, little appetizer, drizzled with a splash of soy sauce). 

After plating the soup, and adding the potstickers, garnish with cilantro and a dollop of crunchy chili onion (or another hot sauce). It really is a terrific weekday dinner or lunch.

Trader Joe’s Potsticker Soup


TJ’s imported olive oil

1 package TJ’s Gyoza potstickers

1 container TJ’s mirepoix (or your own mixture)

2 packages TJ’s chicken broth

1 bag baby spinach

1 TB soy sauce

1 TB toasted sesame oil

Handful of chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

TJ’s crunch chili onion, or your favorite hot sauce


  1. Coat the bottom of a large frying pan with oil (about 2-3 TB) and lightly fry the potstickers over medium-high heat until nicely browned on both sides, about 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. In a large soup pot over medium heat, heat 2 TB olive oil. Add mirepoix and saute until onions appear translucent. Add broth and bring to a slow simmer. When the soup gets some energy, toss in the spinach and stir in soy sauce and sesame oil.
  3. When the soup is officially simmering, add the potstickers. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with cilantro and a heaping spoonful of chili onion crunch or hot sauce.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Pumpkin "Pillow" Cookies

It’s that time again. When every store, restaurant, even gas stations, start pushing pumpkin spice. The aroma of the quintessential fall flavors (cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, allspice) evoke images of cozy nights in front of a warming fireplace, wearing our favorite sweater or hoodie. And who am I to argue with this annual phenomenon? Even though it’s currently 73 degrees and sunny, I am ready for fall baking. Instead of the yearly publishing of my all-time favorite pumpkin bread, I opted for something a bit more portable - a cookie! 

The title of this recipe, from the NY Times cooking site, is pumpkin cookies, but it should really be officially re-named pumpkin “pillows.” These are like little clouds of deliciousness, bursting with those requisite autumn flavors. These have a hefty two teaspoons of ground ginger, giving them a nice bite. The recipe calls for a sprinkle of sanding sugar before baking, but I didn’t have any so I used regular granulated sugar, but next time (yes, these are so good there will be a next time) I will use the sanding sugar for added texture.

They are not the prettiest cookies  (reminding me of the Italian cookie, “brutti ma buoni,” which translates to ugly, but good), but when a cookie is this good, who cares what it looks like?! Seriously, make these cookies for all your fall get-togethers.

Pumpkin Cookies


1-1/2 C AP flour

2 t ground ginger

1-1/2 t ground cinnamon

1/2 t ground nutmeg

1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 t kosher salt

8 TB unsalted butter, at room temp

1 C packed light or dark brown sugar

1 large egg, at room temp

3/4 C pumpkin puree

1 t vanilla extract

Sanding sugar, for sprinkling (optional)


  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and kosher salt.
  3. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium, beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg, pumpkin puree, and vanilla extract until blended.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and beat just until combined.
  5. Scoop the batter into 2-tablespoon scoops, at least 1 inch apart, onto the prepared sheets. Sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake one sheet at a time until the cookies are puffed, set and spring back when gently pressed in the center, about 12 minutes. Repeat with second sheet.
  6. Transfer cookies to rack to cool completely.

Because these cookies are moist, it’s best to store them between parchment or wax paper in an airtight container at room temp. You could also freeze them and thaw before serving.

Friday, July 15, 2022

Recipe-in-a-Flash: Pan-Roasted Green Beans with Golden Almonds

This might not be the most summery-type recipe, but I was recently gifted some beautiful, just-picked green beans and didn’t want to just throw them in the oven with the usual suspects of salt, pepper, & EVOO. The ever-reliable NYT Cooking site came to the rescue with this terrific recipe. It’s a bit more work but worth it. Charring the beans gives it a delicious smokiness, and the melding of shallots, parsley, and lemon plays perfectly with the beans.

I served it alongside fresh Sockeye salmon that I pan-seared with a sprinkle of Paradise Powder from the wonderful Paradise Seafood Market on Marco Island, chased down with a crisp white wine from Sicily.

If you’ve got green beans in your summer garden, try it. The recipe says the almond-shallot topping will work with just about any vegetable so you may want to think about this for your Thanksgiving table.

Pan-Roasted Green Beans with Golden Almonds (NYT Cooking)

4 Servings


Kosher salt

8 oz green beans and/or wax beans, trimmed

1/4 C blanched whole almonds, coarsely chopped

3 TB EVOO, plus more as needed

1 large shallot, minced

1 TB fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, thinly sliced

1 lemon

Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and add salt (a teaspoon or so, or to taste). Fill a large bowl with ice and water. Add the green beans to the boiling water and cook until bright green but still firm, about 2 minutes. Drain and transfer to the ice water. When cool, drain again. Pat dry with paper towels until completely dry.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the almonds and the oil, adding more oil if needed to just cover the almonds. Cook over medium heat until the almonds are golden, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the shallot. It will cook in the residual heat.
  3. Coat a large skillet with oil. Heat over medium-high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add the beans and season with salt. Cook, tossing frequently, until charred dark brown in spots and tender-crisp, about 7 minutes.
  4. Top with the almond mixture, then the parsley. Grate the zest from a quarter of the lemon directly over the beans, then cut the lemon into wedges for serving. Season with pepper and serve.

Friday, July 8, 2022

Blueberry Schlumpf


Photo credit: LK

Wow! Wow! Wow! Not hyperbole. This recipe is a WOW! From Food52, a recipe from Marian Bull, who got it from a distant relative, this should be your go-to summer dessert recipe.

The recipe calls for wild blueberries, but unless you live in Maine, or somewhere else where wild blueberries are widely available, regular blueberries will do fine. I made this with incredible New Jersey blueberries picked up at my local farmer’s market - huge, plump, sweet - and I think it really made the dish.

It couldn’t be easier. Combine the blueberries with a bit of flour and sugar; dump in a baking dish. Then mix the topping together, sprinkle over the blueberry mixture, and bake.

Serve warm from the oven with a scoop of “good” vanilla ice cream (I used Häagen-Dazs). The “yummy” sounds around the table told me this recipe was definitely a winner. Even without ice cream, which is how I ate it the next day, it was outstanding.

Blueberry Schlumpf


Makes one 8x8” pan.


1 qt wild blueberries (conventional will do)

2 TB flour

2 TB sugar


1 C flour

1/2 C brown sugar

1/2 C cold butter, cut into pieces


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Mix the filling ingredients and put in 8x8” baking dish.
  3. Mix the topping roughly (so that it’s still lumpy) and sprinkle over the top. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve hot, preferably with vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Recipe-in-a-Flash: La Flordita Daiquiri!

Happy Sunday, friends! I hope you are well and enjoying a restful day.

I happened upon this recipe in an e-mail from one of my favorite magazines, Garden and Gun. It sounded like the perfect summer cocktail and since I had all the fixins’ in-house, I whipped it up. Wow! I was right, this is the perfect summer cocktail - delicious, icy, pretty, and just boozy enough! I give you the La Flordita Daiquiri!

Recipe makes one fabulous cocktail:


2 oz Cuban rum

1 oz fresh lime juice

1/2 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur*

2 TB refined sugar

1-1/2 C crushed ice

1 slice lime

1 Luxardo maraschino cherry


Place the first five ingredients in a blender. Blend at high speed for 20 seconds. Pour into a coupe or short highball glass. Garnish with lime slice and Luxardo cherry. 

*Do NOT confuse Luxardo cherries with the horrible red dye maraschino cherries of the 60s and 70s. No, no - these are made in Italy and are a dream, especially after your drink is gone and you eat the alcohol-soaked cherry - deluxe! If you are a serious cocktail maven, Luxardo cherries should be on your bar cart (they are terrific, by the way, in a classic whiskey sour).