Frosted Sugar Cookie Bars

These soft sugar cookie bars were one of the most popular recipes this week on The New York Times’ website. They described them as “worth the hype” and, with their cheerful frosting and sprinkles, as “happiness in a 9-by-13 pan.” 🙂

Thanks to cream cheese in the dough, they are soft and tender- similar to Lofthouse cookies, my daughter’s favorite cookie. I made them to celebrate the release of my daughter’s middle school musical. Despite the limitations caused by Covid, the school was able to successfully stage their annual musical in a movie format instead of live performances- great. She had a lot of fun participating in the show.

This recipe was adapted from American Girl Cookies, via The New York Times, contributed by Margaux Laskey. I baked the dough in a rimmed sheet pan and used Meyer lemon juice in the frosting. I love bar desserts! They would be a crowd-pleaser served for Valentine’s Day, a birthday, or just as a special treat.

Yield: 20 cookies

For the Cookie Base:

  • 1 cup/225 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 2 3/4 cups/350 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 (8 ounce/225 gram) package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups/300 grams granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • lemon zest, optional (or Meyer lemon zest)

For the Frosting:

  • 6 tablespoons/85 grams unsalted butter (3/4 stick), at room temperature
  • 2 cups/245 grams confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk or heavy cream, plus more as needed (I used whole milk)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed (I used Meyer lemon juice)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, plus more as needed
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • a drop or two of gel food coloring, optional
  • assorted sprinkles, for decorating, optional

To Make the Cookie Base:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Lightly butter (or coat with cooking oil spray) a 9-by-13-inch baking pan or rimmed sheet pan. Line the pan with parchment paper, running it up the two long sides of the pan and letting it extend past the rim by about 2 inches.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.
  4. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and cream cheese on medium speed until well blended, about 1 minute.
  5. Add the granulated sugar and beat until smooth, about 1 minute.
  6. Add the egg, vanilla, and lemon zest, if using, and beat on low speed until well combined, about 1 minute.
  7. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing on low speed just until blended, about 1 minute.
  8. Using a spatula, scrape the dough into the prepared baking pan. Using damp fingers or a greased offset spatula, spread the dough into an even layer.
  9. Bake just until the edges are starting to turn light golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the middle has moist crumbs, 20 to 25 minutes. (Do not overbake! The bars should be quite moist, and almost slightly underbaked in the middle.)
  10. Remove the pan from the oven and set it on a wire rack. Let cool completely. When fully cooled, remove the bars from the pan using the overhanging parchment paper.

To Make the Frosting:

  1. Place the 6 tablespoons of softened butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute.
  2. Add 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, beating on low speed until fully combined, then repeat with remaining 1 cup confectioners’ sugar.
  3. Add the 1 tablespoon milk or heavy cream, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, the vanilla, salt and food coloring, if using, and beat on medium speed until the frosting is light and fluffy, scraping down the sides halfway through, about 4 minutes. Add more milk if needed to thin out the mixture. Add lemon juice and vanilla to taste.
  4. Using a spatula, spread the frosting on top, then decorate with sprinkles, if using. Cut into 20 bars and serve.

Note: I stored the leftover cookies in the refrigerator and we actually preferred them chilled.

Vanilla Pear Sour

This festive seasonal cocktail was absolutely fabulous. My husband and I enjoyed it prior to our quiet Thanksgiving feast this year.

This recipe was adapted from Jamie Oliver via francoiselaprune.com. I poached thin slices of pear so that I could use them as a garnish. I may poach even larger slices next time. We preferred it with a little bit less alcohol so I noted a range in the recipe below.

The delicious pear syrup can be made in advance, making this perfect for Thanksgiving or a party. We used the leftover syrup to make more cocktails! 😉 It could also be drizzled over ice cream.

Yield: Makes one drink (plus additional Vanilla Pear Syrup)

For the Vanilla Pear Syrup: (makes enough syrup for approximately 10 drinks)

  • 1 Bartlett pear, cut in half or quartered, cored, & cut into thin slices
  • 200 g (7.1 ounces, 1 cup) granulated sugar
  • 200 ml (7 ounces, scant 1 cup) water
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped

For the Cocktail:

  • 30ml (1 ounce, 2 T) Vanilla Pear Syrup
  • 30ml (1 ounce, 2 T) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 44 to 50ml (1.5 to 1.75 ounces) vodka
  • ice cubes
  • poached pear slices, for garnish
  1. Add the pear slices, sugar, water, vanilla seeds with vanilla bean pod to a small saucepan. Simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Let the poaching liquid infuse and cool down for another 30 minutes.
  3. Strain through a fine wire mesh strainer, reserving the poached pear slices for garnish. Keep pear syrup in a jar in the refrigerator; it will keep for 5 days.
  4. Combine the lemon juice, vodka and 30ml of the vanilla pear syrup into a cocktail shaker. Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass with ice.
  5. Garnish with a thin pear slice (or two).

Note: This cocktail was also wonderful with Meyer lemon juice. (I used the juice of my very first lemon from my Meyer lemon tree!) 🙂

The New York Sour

My husband really enjoys making cocktails (for me!) but rarely drinks one himself. This wine-spiked whiskey sour was especially great because he and I both enjoyed one. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Mary-Frances Heck. We used an Italian Barbera and agave nectar instead of simple syrup. Nice.

Yield: 1 cocktail

  • 2 ounces rye or bourbon whiskey
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 ounce simple syrup or 3/4 ounce agave nectar
  • 1/2 ounce fruity red wine (such as Shiraz or Malbec)
  1. Combine whiskey, lemon juice, and simple syrup/agave nectar in a cocktail shaker.
  2. Fill shaker with ice, cover and shake until outside of shaker is frosty, about 30 seconds.
  3. Strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice.
  4. Gently pour wine over the back of a spoon held just above the drink’s surface so wine floats on top.
  5. Serve.

Pork Cutlets with Arugula & Jammy Tomatoes

This is another wonderful dish that showcased my CSA greens. Arugula is my favorite item to receive in my weekly share. I supplemented my CSA arugula with Trader Joe’s wild arugula to make this salad.

This light Italian dish was adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food. I modified the proportions, method, and plating. Delicious!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 3 T fresh lemon juice, plus wedges for serving (2 lemons)
  • 9 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 boneless pork chops (about 2 pounds total), cut in half horizontally to make six 5 to 6-ounce chops, fat trimmed
  • 6 T all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3/4 pound arugula, thick stems trimmed
  • shaved Parmesan, for serving
  1. Make the Dressing: In a small bowl, combine lemon juice and 6 tablespoons of oil. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. One at a time, place pork chops between two large pieces of plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet or the bottom of a small heavy pan, pound until 1/4 inch thick.
  3. On a plate, combine flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
  4. Coat each cutlet with flour mixture, shaking off excess. Set aside.
  5. In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high. (I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet.)
  6. Add tomatoes, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove tomatoes and season with salt and pepper; set aside.
  7. In same skillet, heat another tablespoon of oil over medium-high. Add 3 cutlets; cook until browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn over; cook until opaque throughout, about 30 seconds more.
  8. Transfer to a plate; cover loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm.
  9. Repeat with remaining 3 cutlets, using another tablespoon of oil.
  10. Toss arugula with the dressing, using as much as desired. (I had extra dressing.)
  11. Place arugula on a platter and top with cutlets, sautéed tomatoes, and shaved Parmesan. Garnish with lemon wedges, if desired.

Double Mustard Sheet-Pan Chicken with Potatoes and Greens

I have a couple sheet-pan dinners to share. Cooking an entire meal on one sheet pan may be the ultimate method for easy back to school dinners. Love it.

This dish uses Dijon mustard in the marinade and whole grain mustard in the dressing. Perfect for all of the mustard chicken fans in my house.

This recipe was adapted from epicurious.com, contributed by Anna Stockwell. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, reduced the oil, and substituted my beautiful CSA arugula for the frisée. We ate it with Ritzy Summer-Squash Casserole. Great.

Yield: 6 servings

For the Chicken Marinade & Potatoes:

  • 2 T Dijon mustard
  • 2 T honey
  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 8 to 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs or 4 whole chicken legs (thigh and drumstick; about 2 lbs total), patted dry (I used 9 boneless, skinless chicken thighs)
  • 2 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 to 1 1/2 lbs baby Yukon Gold potatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 4 rosemary sprigs

For the Dressing & To Serve:

  • 1 large garlic clove, finely grated
  • 3 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 tsp whole grain mustard
  • 4 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 6 to 8 cups arugula, 1 small head of frisée, or 1/2 small head of escarole, trimmed, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves
  1. Place a rack in top third of oven; preheat to 375°F, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Whisk Dijon mustard, 2 T honey, and 1 T olive oil in a medium bowl to combine.
  3. Season chicken on all sides with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Transfer to bowl with honey mustard and toss to coat. (I marinated the chicken for 4 hours in the refrigerator.)
  4. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss potatoes with remaining 2 T olive oil, 1 tsp salt, and remaining 1/2 tsp pepper.
  5. Arrange chicken, “skin side” down, in the center of the sheet pan; discard excess marinade.
  6. Arrange potatoes around outside of pan in an even layer, then turn cut side down (this will help them brown better). Arrange rosemary over potatoes.
  7. Roast until chicken, flipping over to “skin side” up after 15 minutes, and potatoes are golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken registers 165°F, 20 to 25 minutes for boneless, skinless thighs or up to 30–40 minutes for bone-in meat.
  8. Meanwhile, make the dressing. Whisk garlic, lemon juice, whole grain mustard, olive oil, honey, and salt in a small bowl. Adjust seasoning, to taste.
  9. Divide greens and parsley among plates, drizzle with dressing, then top with chicken and potatoes. Drizzle additional dressing over chicken and potatoes. Garnish with chopped parsley, as desired.

Do Ahead: Chicken can be marinated 8 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

Nectarine & Blueberry Tart

I especially loved this beautiful tart because in addition to being delicious, it is made with a flaky and buttery press-in crust and a cheesecake-like no-bake filling. Nice shortcuts! I topped it with my favorite summer fruit- white nectarines. The original recipe uses peaches which would also be fabulous.

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. The chilled temperature and brightness from lemon zest made it very refreshing.

Yield: One 9 or 10-inch tart, about 8 to 10 servings

  • 1 stick plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F, preferably on convection.
  2. Beat butter with confectioners’ sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  3. Reduce speed to medium-low; add flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt and beat until just combined and crumbly (do not overmix).
  4. Press evenly into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch square tart pan or a 9- or 10-inch round tart pan, with a removable bottom.
  5. Dock bottom at 1-inch intervals with the tines of a fork. Freeze 15 minutes.
  6. Place on rimmed baking sheet or pizza tin, and bake until golden brown and set, 23 to 33 minutes. Let cool completely. (Crust can be kept at room temperature, wrapped in plastic, for up to 3 days.)
  7. Beat together cream cheese, lemon zest, 1 tablespoon juice, and 1/4 cup granulated sugar on medium-high speed until creamy.
  8. With mixer running, slowly add cream and beat until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. (You should have about 2 cups.)
  9. Spread mixture into crust; refrigerate 1 to 2 hours.
  10. Meanwhile, using a vegetable peeler, peel peaches/nectarines, if desired; cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges. (I left the peels intact.)
  11. Transfer to a bowl and stir in berries and remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  12. Just before serving, spoon macerated fruit over tart and drizzle some of juice from bowl over it. (I used all of the juice!)
  13. Sprinkle with mint, if desired, and serve.

Farro & Arugula Salad with Herbs

I made this wonderful salad for my birthday dinner celebration at home. This salad was not only published by Melissa Clark in The New York Times, Ina Garten also shared it in her book, Cook Like a Pro. What endorsements!

The original recipe is from Charlie Bird in NYC. It is a signature dish on the menu. The New York Times article stated,

 “There are two essential steps to a stellar farro salad. The first is cooking the farro with enough salt and aromatics so that it delicious before you combine it with the rest of the ingredients. The second is to use very good olive oil in the dressing. This farro salad, from the restaurant Charlie Bird in SoHo, hits both these marks. The chef Ryan Hardy cooks the farro in apple cider seasoned with bay leaves and plenty of salt, which renders it good enough to eat on its own. But it’s even better after he adds loads of olive oil, plus pistachio nuts and Parmesan cheese to make it even richer. Then, before serving, he folds in fresh vegetables to brighten it up: juicy tomatoes, radishes, arugula and plenty of herbs. There are many farro salads of this ilk out there. This is one of the best.”

I had to make it- it sounded incredible! It was loaded with so many of my favorite ingredients.

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I increased the amount of arugula in the salad and served it over a bed of arugula. It was for my birthday. 😉 I also incorporated my CSA cilantro and modified the proportions in the dressing. Next time, I would reduce the amount of salt in the farro, noted below.

I served it with rotisserie chicken to make it a complete meal for my crowd. Happy Birthday to me. 🙂

Yield: Serves 6 for lunch/side dish or 4 as a main course

  • 1 cup farro (I used Trader Joe’s 10 minute farro)
  • 1 cup apple cider or unfiltered apple juice
  • 1 to 2 tsp coarse salt, more as needed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 T fresh lemon juice
  • 70 grams Parmesan cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler (about 1/2 cup), divided
  • 70 grams chopped pistachio nuts (1/2 cup) (I used salt & pepper pistachios)
  • 2 cups (2 large handfuls) arugula leaves, plus more for serving, as desired
  • 1 cup parsley or basil leaves, torn or chiffonade
  • 1 cup mint or cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced radishes (I used my CSA French breakfast radishes)
  • Maldon or other flaky sea salt, for finishing
  1. In a medium saucepan, bring farro, apple cider, salt, bay leaves and 1 cup water to a simmer.
  2. Simmer until farro is tender and liquid evaporates, about 20 to 30 minutes. If all the liquid evaporates before the farro is done, add a little more water. (If using regular pearled farro, increase the water to 2 cups.)
  3. Let farro cool, then discard bay leaves.
  4. In a salad bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt.
  5. Add farro, 2/3 of the shaved cheese and pistachio nuts. Mix well. (This salad base will keep for up to 4 hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator (bring to room temperature before serving.)
  6. Just before serving, fold in arugula, herbs, tomatoes, radish and flaky salt to taste.
  7. Garnish with remaining shaved cheese.
  8. Serve over additional arugula, if desired.

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