Cookie Butter, yum!

Well, well, well…I made a discovery last week, thanks to my sister-in-law, and being the public-spirited person I am, I’m passing this little jewel on. As usual, I’m not sure if I’m cutting edge, or the last to know. Just in case anyone out there hasn’t heard of Cookie Butter…well, you might want to start dieting right now to accommodate the cravings.

Unbelievably, I must admit, Nutella has a serious rival in my heart. I found a new love. Not chocolate, surprisingly, but delicious and just sweet enough to satisfy…grab a spoon and have taste of Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter. (If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s in your area, you can order this through Amazon.) Pricey, but available. It looks like peanut butter, but tastes a little like a smooth and creamy gingerbread cookie dough. You can spread it on anything: bread, fruit, waffles, spouse, pancakes, your fingers or a spoon…I bought one jar, and now that I’m far away from a Trader Joe’s store, I see my mistake. Should have bought a case. And so I can fit into my clothes, after this little discovery, I’m walking just a wee bit more these days.

If you don’t live near a Trader Joe’s, you can make your own version. I haven’t tried this myself, (haven’t tried it yet, I’m sure I’ll be whipping this up soonwe’ll see how long my one jar supply lasts) but it looks about right, based on the list of ingredients on the label.

Speculoos Cookie Butter Recipe


3/4 sleeve Biscoff cookies (about 24 cookies)
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut oil
a pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 Tablespoon skim milk


Grind the cookies into a fine meal using a food processor. Melt the coconut fat and let cool down until luke warm. Add coconut oil to the cookie meal and process until combined. Then add sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, canola oil and milk. Process until combined, scraping the sides as needed. This could take up to 5 minutes, but stop whenever you reach your desired consistency. Play around with the oil or milk amounts if you still want it creamier.

This spread will harden in the fridge and it is best to let it stand 30 min at room temperature when serving.


Perfect Biscuits; or, how to follow directions

Southern Living Buttermilk Biscuits

I grew up in the South. I had grandmothers who cooked; a mom, aunts, cousins, a mother-in-law who are all stars in the kitchen. And I don’t do too badly myself, in some areas. But I’ve always been defeated by biscuits. I know, they’re such a Southern staple…tragic that I couldn’t produce a successful version of that breakfast icon.

Over the years I’ve collected a variety of recipes, each promising to be the best, the fluffiest, the epitome of biscuitness. And every time I’ve tried a new recipe, I’ve had another disappointment.

Last weekend I was doing a little internet surfing and stumbled across a classic Southern Living recipe for buttermilk biscuits. The photos looked so amazing, I decided to give it one more try. And I produced perfection! I’ve probably even made this recipe, or something very similar, before. So what was the variable this time? Well, for the first time ever, I baked the biscuits at the temperature the recipe specified! I know right now you’re thinking, why would you not bake at the temperature the recipe gives?

I like lightly browned breads, nothing too crisp or crusty. So I’ve always baked at a lower temperature, thinking that would keep my biscuits from browning too much. But when I actually baked them at 450 degrees, they puffed up to an amazing height. To my surprise, they were lightly browned on the exterior and were the perfect pillowy texture on the inside.

There are times that it is good to think outside the box. There are times when it is good to make your own rules, to do what works for you. But there are also times when following the rules pays off. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel for some things. Biscuit recipes work as they’re written. Math works according to known formulas. Sometimes the best course is to see what has worked for others and to copy what has been successful. That doesn’t mean you don’t have creativity or ability to be original. It may mean that you are smart enough and humble enough to recognize that others may know a thing or two. That you may not always have the best answer, the best idea.

The trick is to know what strategy to use for the given situation. From now on, if I’m making biscuits, I’m going to trust the recipe and “bake as directed.” How many times I’ve read that instruction, and how frequently I have not baked as directed! And what else have I mis-managed because I didn’t follow the directions? On the other hand, there are situations in life that demand that I listen to my heart, that I follow my instincts.

Maybe that’s the challenge for each of us…when to conform and when to stand up and follow our on path. I don’t have all the answers. A lot of the big questions of life are complex, and there may not even be one “right” answer for some things. But I’ve learned that’s not the case for baking biscuits. It’s good to follow the recipe. It’s good to follow directions.

Perfect Southern Living Biscuits


  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 2 1/4 cups self-rising soft-wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • Self-rising soft-wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter


  • 1. Cut butter with a sharp knife or pastry blender into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Sprinkle butter slices over flour in a large bowl. Toss butter with flour. Cut butter into flour with a pastry blender until crumbly and mixture resembles small peas. Cover and chill 10 minutes. Add buttermilk, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.
  • 2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead 3 or 4 times, gradually adding additional flour as needed. With floured hands, press or pat dough into a 3/4-inch-thick rectangle (about 9 x 5 inches). Sprinkle top of dough with additional flour. Fold dough over onto itself in 3 sections, starting with 1 short end. (Fold dough rectangle as if folding a letter-size piece of paper.) Repeat entire process 2 more times, beginning with pressing into a 3/4-inch-thick dough rectangle (about 9 x 5 inches).
  • 3. Press or pat dough to 1/2-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface; cut with a 2-inch round cutter, and place, side by side, on a parchment paper-lined or lightly greased jelly-roll pan. (Dough rounds should touch.)
  • 4. Bake at 450° for 13 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven; brush with 2 Tbsp. melted butter.

Enjoy! And don’t under-bake!

Comfort food, Asian style

Five Spice Pork Wraps

We have snow on the ground with more expected. The first winter we lived in Ketchikan we had frequent snows. The accumulation wasn’t significant most of the time, but snowfall was a regular occurrence. Last winter we experienced more rain than anything else. This season has been mild until the past few weeks. But now, with March on the calendar and daffodils breaking through the soil, spring is delayed. The forecast for the weekend is more of the same: wind and snow…it will be good to be indoors.

I would typically be thinking of making hearty comfort food to combat the weather. A product of a Southern upbringing, I love barbecue. It is not just for summer cookouts or tailgating, it’s a favorite year round. The traditional tangy/sweet sauce dressing a pulled pork sandwich is a little bit of heaven on a bun for me. But thanks to a recipe from Williams-Sonoma that I tried recently, I have a new twist on barbecue. Pork tenderloin, infused with Asian flavors from ginger, garlic, and hoisin sauce, is the updated version of the classic taste. I’ve made this twice in the past few weeks, and I absolutely need to experience it again. It’s so easy and versatile. The recipe suggests using the pork in a lettuce wrap, but you could also serve this as an entrée with a stir fry of mixed vegetables (zucchini, broccoli, red peppers, snow peas, water chestnuts, onions…whatever you like); or shred the meat for sandwiches.

Asian Barbecue Pork

(with thanks to Williams-Sonoma for the inspiration; the recipe is in their current catalog and on their website as “Five-Spice Pork Wraps.” I have adjusted it a bit to suit my taste)


  1. 1 package pork tenderloin (usually two tenderloin pieces are packaged together; be sure to purchase meat that is not pre-seasoned)
  2. 1 or 2 yellow onions, cut in thin wedges
  3. 2 cloves of fresh minced garlic, or 2 tsp crushed garlic
  4. 3 or 4 pieces of pickled jarred ginger
  5. 1/3 cup hoisin sauce
  6. 1/2 cup Litehouse Sesame Ginger Dressing
  7. 1/3 cup soy sauce
  8. 2-3 Tbsp canola oil
  9. 2 Tbsp chili sauce or hot sauce, if desired
  10. Salt, black pepper


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle surface of pork with salt and pepper.
  2. Using oven proof cookware, heat oil on medium high setting. Brown pork, onion and garlic until meat is seared on all sides.
  3. Remove pan from heat; add ginger, hoisin sauce, Litehouse dressing, and hot sauce, combining all ingredients to coat pork.
  4. Bake, covered, about 2 hours, or until the meat is very tender and shreds with a fork.

When the meat is tender, shred and pair with stir fried vegetables; serve in a lettuce wrap; or serve on a warmed bun. Garnish with fresh cilantro,  green onions, additional hoisin sauce, Litehouse Sesame Ginger Dressing, or hot sauce if desired.

You can also prepare this dish in a slow cooker rather than the oven if you prefer that method. Follow the same prep steps, but transfer the meat and sauce to a slow cooker after meat is browned. Cook on a low setting, checking tenderness of meat after 4 hours. If meat does not easily shred, continue cooking until meat shreds with a fork.

Here’s another tip for free: I like to make spring rolls. You can find a wide variety of recipes online. But whether you make your own, or buy frozen spring rolls or egg rolls, these are a tasty addition to any Asian-inspired meal, or a delicious little snack or appetizer. I have found a quick and easy dipping sauce that is a perfect partner. Mix to taste, and with proportions based on the number of people you will be serving…no measurements here! For each serving, combine a spoonful or two of apricot jam or orange marmalade with Litehouse Sesame Ginger Dressing and mix well. You can heat the mixture if you prefer the sauce to be warm, or serve cold. This is so simple…why didn’t I think of this before?!