Tag Archives: cream cheese

Zucchini Walnut Anise Sandwich Cookies

Before I get to these lovelies, (which I’m sure you’re dying to try) I have been reminiscing of high school gym class.  Worst yet, first day of gym class as a freshman.  Oh, and it’s co-ed.  For me, nothing could have been worse.  I wasn’t uncoordinated or even the last to be picked for teams in gym, so it wasn’t about that portion.  It was about the vulnerability.  That ever-present reality of who you were standing there in rows, waiting for warm up in that all too often awkward gym uniform, while  sizing up who could be below you.  It wasn’t like your academic classes, where you could hide your test scores or become the shadow on the wall (at least you were in your full clothing to say the least).

But gym class.  For the dreadfully modest, awkward body shapes, and lack of strengthened muscles–it was like watching the “all humiliation channel.”  And for a person who has never been the “jock,” I think that’s what working out/exercising can be like at times.  So when I was considering joining Jogo Crossfit, it was as if all these fears of 9th grade gym class flooded my system.  Was I going to be able to keep up?  How out of shape am I?  What if I can’t do the exercises required?  What if people are sizing me up?  Oi Vye!  The night before my first class I got those butterflies in my stomach (along with the multiple questions).

Yet, what I found was something so different.  When we were set up doing running warm ups, I was without a partner, which meant I would run by myself.  I was fine with this, but so surprised by one of my fellow Jogo teammates, that he came back to run every single warm up with me.  He did double time.  Everyone was encouraging me saying, “Good job!”  But not in that, “we’re saying this because we have to” way, but in the, “I’ve been there, we’ve all been there..and you’re honestly doing a good job,” way.  I never thought you could be hospitable in a gym setting, but I feel like I found it here.  It’s community being embraced.  It’s working as hard as you can without sizing someone up and encouraging others toward the goal.  It’s vulnerability and allowing others to see my weaknesses, while embracing where I’m at without comparison.

It’s hard, really hard, but good.  In fact, I think it was due to me getting some hardcore exercise that gave me energy to make these here cookies.  I’ve had them on the dock in my memory bank for a while and I think I hit a home run with them.  They make use of the ever abundant summer zucchini (so why just use it for zucchini bread?).  The honey-anise cream cheese brings it together with great harmony.  I love the soft taste of zucchini with the licorice-fennel taste of the anise and crunch of the walnuts.  And if you just exercised a bit, then these whole wheat & unrefined sugar treats won’t make you feel like it was done in vain.  So what are you waiting for?

Zucchini Walnut Anise Sandwich Cookies (printable recipe)

These cookies have an every so subtle hint of anise, which pairs lovely with the summer zucchini & honeyed cream cheese.  And by using whole wheat flour you feel a bit healthier eating more than one cookie.  Use a box grater for the zucchini and be sure to squeeze out the water, as zucchini is full of it.

Zucchini Walnut Anise Cookies:

1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup quick cooking oats

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened

1/2 cup Sucanat sugar

1/4 cup rapadura sugar

1 large egg, room temperature

1/2 tsp anise extract flavoring

1 1/4 cup grated zucchini, squeeze out the additional water

2/3  cup toasted & chopped walnuts

Honey-Anise Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounce cream cheese

1/4 cup honey, mild flavor

2 tsp anise extract

Directions: Pre-heat oven to 350.  Combine all the dry ingredients into a small bowl.  Beat the butter for 30 seconds on medium speed in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment.  Add in both sugars & beat on medium speed for another 30 seconds.  Scrape the sides down.  With the mixer on low-speed, add the egg & anise extract.  Mix until combined.  While the mixer is still on low-speed, slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until completely combined.  Squeeze out the water in the zucchini before you add it to the dough. Add the zucchini and mix until it is evenly distributed.  Then, add the walnuts and briefly mix just until they are combined.

On parchment lined sheets, drop one tablespoon of dough at a time, 1 to 1 1/2 inches apart.  Bake for 12-14 minutes.  Put on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to foil or parchment sheet.

Make frosting: Put cream cheese in bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 30 seconds on medium speed.  Add honey & anise flavoring, beat for an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Putting together: Put about 2 Tb of frosting on one upside down cookie and take another cookie (without frosting) and sandwich together.  Makes about 15-20 cookie sandwiches.


Rhubarb-Strawberry filled Lime Cupcakes

Have you noticed how many cupcake shops have popped up in the past five years?  I have loved baking ever since I was little.  My true love for the art came in my first Home Economic class in sixth grade.  True to any first year Home Ec. class, you learn a plethora of introductory level crafts.  I still remember learning plastic canvas, where I made a tissue box cover of penguins designed for my mom, due to her love of the cute little creatures.  But seriously, although my mom heaped words of praise upon my creation–do we really need tissue box covers lining the aisles of Goodwill (a lost craft that should remain lost)?

I made a pillow cover, did at home projects of our choice, created various items in the kitchen & decided that I would undertake the largest size duffle bag (think body bag) while all my peers were a bit more sensible & chose the smallest one.  Little did I know that the duffle bag scenario would be a metaphor for my life.

Biting off more than I can chew.  My vision of what I can accomplish and what I will actually tackle are two different notions.  But in some ways, I like how this transfers to my baking.  I’m all for simple desserts & baked goods; however, I plain ole’ love creating something a bit more time consuming to have a wonderful end product.  Sometimes this is hard with some of my perfectionist sensitivities, because I would rather not attempt something & fail than attempt it at all.

It reminds me of the pie crust portion of Home Econonics.  Mrs. Haile, my teacher, showed us how to cut the butter into the flour, add just a little ice cold water, lightly combine it, chill, roll & transfer to the pie plate.  This terrified me.  The idea of transferring to have it split, crack, tear or crumble did not look appealing in the slightest.  And although I had Kitchenaid mixer on my wish list since 11 years old, it wasn’t until I was 20 years old that I began to overcome my fear of the pie crust and make pie after pie.

I’ve realized that baking is like that (as well as cooking).  We all have flops.  In fact, as I was making this recipe, I was trying to make Neoclassic Buttercream (cook the sugar, add said sugar mixture to egg yolks, mix & mix, cool, add butter).  What was the end result–pieces of chewy sugar/caramel dispersed throughout a 1/2 pound of butter.  Sad yes–defeated no.  I will go back and tackle it again, same as the pie crust.  Do I make a perfect pie crust with no flaws?  No.   Julia Child approached the culinary arts with embracing the flaws & going with it.  That’s how I began to see the pie crust and so many other baking adventures.

But, when we do have monumental food successes–they make up for the 1/2 pound of butter that got ruined (actually–I’m going to use it for some frosting still), flavorless muffins, or burnt dinner.  So, as with the advent of the cupcake shops, culinary triumphs & 2+hours of baking with a 5 second eating party–meet the cupcake who will convert even the die hard chocolate lover.

I am utterly, head over heals, infatuated-crazy about these cupcakes.  The melding of the lime cupcake with the tang of the rhubarb sauce, sweetness of the strawberry puree and creamy, richness of the cream cheese frosting (laced with strawberry puree) makes for a complete flavor profile in a dessert. I’m not fond of using the word “best” when talking about food on a blog.  However, I’m about to break that vow right now as these cupcakes are absolutely superb.  Dare I say it, “the best.”  They’re knock your socks off good.  If you have time to spare–you need to make these.  But, I’m warning you if you do, you might not ever be able to eat a “so-so” cupcake again.  Just saying:)

Rhubarb-Strawberry Filled Lime Cupcake & Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting (printable recipe)

The cupcake has been changed from a cupcake base found in Rose’s Heavenly Cakes Cookbook, which is a white cupcake & I have changed it to a lime cupcake.  If you don’t have a scale, then I would highly recommend investing in one; as it will make your baked items a step up.  I used cake flour, as it has a lower protein content versus all-purpose.  This being said, you can use all-purpose with the amount in parenthesis below.  You can make the cupcake the day before and assemble them the next day.  More information on rhubarb is found here.

Lime Cupcakes

The total capacity of the liquid should measure 2/3 cup.  Measure the milk to 1/2 cup and the rest should be lime juice.
  • 3 large egg whites (90 grams), room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) whole milk
  • a little less than 1/4 cup (40 grams) lime juice, 2 limes
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (1 3/4 cup if using unbleached all-purpose flour) sifted into the cup & leveled off (200 grams) cake flour
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 to 1 1/2 Tb lime zest, zest of 2 limes
  • 2 1/4 plus 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter (65 to 75 degrees)

Preheat the oven: Line 14 to 16 cupcake liners in a muffin tin and set aside.  Preheat oven to 350.

Mix the liquids: In a small bowl, whisk the egg whites, 3 tablespoons of the milk and vanilla until lightly combined.

Make the batter: In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, lime zest, and salt on low speed for 30 seconds.  Add the butter and the remaining milk & lime juice on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened.  Raise the speed to medium and beat for 1 1/2 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Starting on medium-low speed, gradually add the egg mixture in two parts, beating on medium speed for 30 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients & strengthen the structure.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Scoop batter into the lined muffin tin (it should weigh about 1.7 ounces/50 grams) filling about 3/4 full. Smooth the surface evenly with a small metal spatula.

Bake the cupcakes: Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean and the cupcakes spring back when pressed lightly in the centers.

Cool the cupcakes: Let the cupcakes cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove them from the pans and set them on a wire rack.  Cool completely.

Rhubarb Sauce

  • 2 cups rhubarb, 1/4 inch slices
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup turbinado sugar

Directions: Throw the chopped rhubarb, water & sugar in a small pot over medium heat.  Stir every now & again.  Allow it to cook down until it resembles chunky applesauce (except rhubarb).  Pour into a bowl and set aside.

Strawberry Puree

  • 2/3 cup hulled strawberries, cleaned

Put the hulled strawberries into a food processor and puree until no more chunks appear.  Pour into a bowl and set aside.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 Tb unsalted butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 Tb strawberry puree
Side note: I process the butter & cream cheese in a food processor, until thoroughly combined.  Then, I added 1 cup of powdered sugar along with the strawberry puree and processed again (10 seconds).  I ended up putting it all in the stand mixer, added one more cup of powdered sugar & mixed on medium speed, until it was all combined.

Put the butter & cream cheese in an electric mixer medium speed for 1 minute.  Add strawberry puree and mix on medium until blended.  Add one cup powdered sugar & mix for 30 seconds.  Add an additional 3/4 cup to 1 cup of powdered sugar.  The frosting shouldn’t be too thick, but not ultra runny.

Assemble the Cupcakes:

  1. Take the cupcake and cut out a cone from the center of each.  Go here for instructions on this method.
  2. Remove the cone & cut off the bottom half (the pointed end) and save the top half (eat the bottom half).
  3. Put 1 teaspoon of rhubarb sauce in the cut out portion of the cupcake.  Put 1/8-1/4 tsp of strawberry puree on top of rhubarb sauce.
  4. Place the top part of the cone back on top of the sauce & puree.  Press down gently, just enough to avoid the filling coming out.
  5. Either pipe the frosting on top to cover the cut out area or spoon it on top.
  6. Eat!!!

Lemons for Lindsey

Coconut Cream Cheese Filling

My good friend Lindsey’s birthday was last weekend and I know my practical gifts of love made in my kitchen are always a sure hit with people, especially Lindsey who never hesitates to sing my culinary praises.  In fact, if I’m feeling a bit blue, I can ask Lindsey what she liked about my latest creation & by the end—I’m encouraged.  Ya know, sometimes it doesn’t take much.

When I asked Lindsey what her favorite type of flavors or desserts were she said, “Lemon, not pie or cake–not so much!”  Well, I understood what she was talking about.  Because I really like lemon desserts, but lemon meringue & a lemon cake (or should I say lemon filling) doesn’t sit well with me.  I do like lemon curd though & lemon tart; however, the meringue atop a lemon pie is so sad most of the time.  And the lemon filling in cakes is typically poorly done.  I knew what she needed was lemon sandwich cookies, but all the recipes you would come across for lemon sandwiches are the rolled out kind and this tired mama wasn’t feelin’ it after putting my girls down for bed & cleaning up the chaotic remains.

So after perusing my cookbooks I came across this Vanilla Sugar Cookie and knew it could easily be adapted to suit that lemon hankering I was seeking.  I thought I would make two different kinds of frosting to spice things up a bit.  And since I wasn’t about to go and buy more cream cheese than what my fridge was holding, I did what any inventive baker would do–split it in half & say a blessing to see if the frosting would multiply like the loaves & fish.  Some had lemon & some had coconut filling.  And I would say both hit a great spot with just the right amount of lemon in the cookie.  Ben even said, “These are pretty good for a lemon cookie, because I don’t like lemon cookies.”  And he ate more than one.

Lemon Cream Cheese Filling

Lemon Sandwich Cookies with Coconut & Lemon Filling (printable recipe)

I was inspired by the Vanilla Sugar Cookie in The Good Cookie Cookbook.  I wanted to make a lemon cookie and used two different fillings.  One is a lemon filling, while the other is coconut filling.  You choose what you like best..or do both!

Cookie Ingredients

1 cup granulated sugar
zest from one lemon (about 2 Tb)
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
½ tsp lemon essence
squeezed juice of one half lemon
Coarse sugar (turbinado) for sprinkling

Coconut Filling Ingredients & Lemon Filling Ingredients

½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp coconut extract
1 cup sweetened coconut
½ to 1 tsp lemon essence

Directions for cookies: Preheat the oven to 375.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silipat.

Put the granulated sugar into a bowl and add the lemon zest to the sugar.  Using your fingers to rub the zest into the sugar, in order to get as much of the oil out of the zest as possible.  Set aside.  In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, & salt and set aside.

In a mixer bowl, add the butter and beat on medium speed for about 1 minute.  Add powdered sugar & the lemon zest sugar to the butter, beat on medium speed for 3 minutes, till the mixture is light & fluffy.  Turn off the mixer and add one egg at a time, briefly beating at low speed just until the egg is combined.  Add lemon essence & lemon juice and mix for about 10 seconds.  With mixer on low, slowly add dry ingredients until it’s all combined.

Put about ½ cup of coarse sugar in a bowl, then take the other half of the lemon and do one light squeeze onto the sugar.  It will get the sugar a bit wet, but not drenching it.  Have your hands lightly wet, put one tablespoon of dough in your hand and roll it to make a ball.  Continue doing this placing the rolled dough 2 inches apart on the lined baking sheet.  Either roll the balls around in the lemon turbinado sugar or sprinkle the lemon turbinado sugar on top.  Lightly press down on each ball, so you’re making them into a circle (not too much & not too little either).  Bake for 9-11 minutes.

Put on a cooling rack and let them cool for about 5 minutes.  Remove and put on aluminum paper.  Meanwhile, make the frosting.

Directions for Frosting: Beat the butter in your stand mixer on medium speed for 1 minute.  It should be light & fluffy.  Now add the cream cheese in halved pieces and beat for 2 to 3 minutes, still on medium speed.  Turn mixer down to low and slowly add powdered sugar.  Once the powdered sugar has been fully incorporated, then turn up the speed to medium and beat for an additional 30 seconds.

Get out a medium bowl and scoop out 1/3 of the frosting.  Add ½ tsp of lemon essence to the bowl and mix thoroughly.  Set aside and there is your lemon frosting.

Add the 1 cup sweetened coconut & 1 tsp coconut extract, mix thoroughly and there is your coconut frosting.

You might have assorted sizes, so match up the ones most similar and begin frosting by putting about 1 tablespoon of frosting on each cookie smoothing it out and put another cookie on top.  Then eat one or two to sample, so you can attest to their goodness to your family & friends.

Bursting with Delight Cookies

Not only are these cookies bursting with delight, but I have been reflecting upon this notion as I await what the Christian world calls “Holy Week” or “Passion Week.”  As my girls took their nap today, I was folding laundry listening to the song, ‘O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus.’  One of the lines says, “How he loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore…how for them he intercedeth.”  I was struck by how great his love is for me.  When I was a little girl I would stand up on mall benches and sing “Jesus Loves Me.”  When people would ask me why I believed in Jesus, I would respond with, “why wouldn’t I (this at a very young age).”

I think it’s because I was drawn to Jesus’ incredible love.  I knew he was good, but not just good as in the superhero fighting the villain, it was much deeper than that.  And as my oldest is three understanding more concepts, listening to all the stories we tell her, taking initiative in conversations & thoughtfulness, I’m seeing how at such a young age–Jesus makes sense.  I was reading to her some Bible stories, very simplistic in nature, and it came to the part where Jesus was being crucified (like I said, it was simplistic, not the Passion in full swing) where she had a sadness in her eye.  I could identify with that sadness and conjure it up from when I was her age, because I like her, could see why it was so sad.  It was sad & lonely, because this person who was so incredibly good & just was being robbed of life.

But the part in which I burst forth, as did she, was when we soon realized that wasn’t the end of the story, but Jesus overcame death, bursting forth from the tomb–leaving it empty.   I could see the shadow of sadness quickly being replaced with joy & hope in my three year old’s eyes.  And as I saw in this child illustrated Bible, feet on a cross, my eyes got misty connecting with the same mourning my daughter was feeling.  But, unlike watching a fake romance movie Hollywood has portrayed giving us hope deferred & hope renewed–this is such a better love story.  This is a love story even a three year old understands to be true & wholeheartedly genuine.

And even though we rarely think about feasting upon cookies during this season of Lent (most people giving them up), I do offer you a burst of delight upon your senses (not that I think these compare to the Easter story at all).  I made these cookies for my mom getaway a couple weeks back and I find they have a wonderful marriage with sour, freshness of the lime, the creamy depth of the cream cheese, the buttery, saltiness of the caramel and the crunch & melding of it all with the macadamia nuts.  I like how the flavors blend, some pack more of a punch, while others leave a nice undertone on in your mouth.

I think that’s why I find these cookies applicable with this post–it’s about awakening the senses.  So as you might read the Passion story for the first time or the 70th time, notice how much of the story deals with smell, touch, taste, sight, & sound.  How Jesus reached us with our senses.  How the Lenten season is typically about denying the senses, yet as Jesus burst forth from the tomb on Easter morning–we burst forth in celebration with him to feast in a hope no longer deferred.

Burst Delights (printable recipe)

I used my Orange Cardamom Cookies as the base for these Lime-Cream Cheese-Macadamia Nut-Caramel Cookies.


  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lime zest
  • 1/4 cup macadamia nuts, measure out 1/4 cup and finely chop it up
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 lime for juice

Cream Cheese-Caramel Icing

  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup whipped cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup homemade caramel sauce (or store bought)
  • splash of lime oil essence (or extract)
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest

Make dough:
Whisk together flour, zest, 3 Tb. finely ground macadamia nuts, and salt.

Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, then beat in yolk and cream. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches just until a dough forms. Put the dough on parchment paper.

Mound the dough together and roll into a log. Once you get a basic log shape, position the dough in the middle of the parchment. Then, take the parchment that’s north of the dough and cover it over the dough. Take a bench scraper and push the edge of it at the base of the parchment covered dough, trying to make a concentric log. Roll the log so the parchment covers the whole thing and twist the edges. Refrigerate for 3 hours to overnight (if you want to speed the process, then place in freezer for about 30 minutes to 1 hour).

Cut and bake cookies:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Remove firm dough. Unroll the parchment so the dough is still sitting on top of the paper. Place on a cutting board. Cut the dough into 1/8 inch. Transfer cookies to a parchment-lined large baking sheet, arranging them 1 inch apart.

Bake until edges are golden-brown, 12-15 minutes. While the cookies are still warm, slice the zested lime in half and squeeze the juice over the cookies.  The cookies will absorb the juice and give the cookies that great lime kick.  Cool on baking sheet and arrange with below directions.

Make Icing:

Put the whipped cream cheese in a small bowl and add 1 Tb of caramel sauce at a time.  Mixing to get a balance of caramel & cream cheese.  Then add some lime essence, just a splash.  You want to have a balance of the flavors.  Not too much of the lime, but enough to have it stand out.

Putting them together:

With a spoon, put about 1/2 teaspoon icing on each cookie & swirl around.  Drizzle caramel over the cookies with a fork or spoon.  Sprinkle with remaining chopped macadamia nut & lime zest.