Oatmeal Walnut Thumbprint Cookies

These cookies hold so many special memories for me. My mom originally cut this recipe out of a Family Circle magazine over 20 years ago and it’s been a staple on our Christmas baking list ever since. The original recipe called for butter-flavoured vegetable shortening, but I prefer to use the real stuff – butter!

The base is a crispy oatmeal cookie, coated in chopped walnuts and topped with a dollop of jam. They truly are a perfect holiday treat. Any flavour of jam works, so choose your favourite – this year I used some homemade raspberry and marmalade jam.

I usually make most of my holiday baking well before Christmas and keep it in the freezer.  That way I can pull out small amounts at a time, and the rest stays safely in the freezer.  To store these cookies, simple arrange in a single layer between wax or parchment paper and freeze in airtight containers or freezer bags. They are ready to eat straight out of the freezer and are delicious dunked in a hot cup of coffee or tea.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Oatmeal Walnut Thumbprint Cookie

Makes 3 dozen

1 1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cup all purpose flour
2 1/2 cup oatmeal (rolled or quick oats)
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup finely  chopped walnuts
2/3 cup jam

Directions:

1. Preheat over to 375F
2. Cream together butter and sugar, then beat in egg and vanilla.
3. In a medium bowl combined flour, oatmeal and salt. Mix into wet ingredients until well incorporated.
4. Form dough into 1″ balls and roll in chopped nuts.  Place 2″ apart on an un-greased cookie sheet.
5. Using your thumb make an indent in the centre of each ball of dough, fill 3/4 of the way with jam – I used 1/2 teaspoon of jam per cookie.
6. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, or until edges are brown. Allow to cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Barley “Risotto” with Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese

Beet Barley Risotto {Breaking Bland Eats}

To help kick off the holiday season I thought I’d share this festively coloured beet “risotto”. This isn’t a traditional risotto, since it’s made with barley instead of arborio rice, but the result is a deliciously creamy dish with roasted beets and tangy goat cheese. The barley adds a wonderful nuttiness and it’s almost impossible to overcook, so no need to worry about a mushy risotto!

When shopping for beets, I like to pick bunches with the green leaves still attached. It’s like getting two vegetables for the price of one, what a deal! Those leafy greens wilt down beautifully and can be added to anything from pasta dishes to soups or stews. I often prepare the greens as a side dish, sautéed in a little olive oil, garlic, and finished with a squeeze of lemon juice and a good pinch of salt.

You can roast the beets in a 400F oven for 45-60 minutes, or if you are pressed for time you can achieve similar results in the microwave.  Simply place the beets in a microwave safe dish with a few tablespoons of water, ensuring you poke a few holes in the beets so they don’t explode, cover, and cook for 5-15 minutes depending on the number and size of your beets.

Now time to start my holiday baking, stay tuned for recipes!

Barley “Risotto” with Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese     Serves 4-6, Recipe created by Kirsten

1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup of pearl barley
6-7 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
2 medium beets, with greens attached
¼ cup of goat cheese
¼ cup of parsley (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Prepare beets:
– Remove the beetroot from the leaves. Wash the leaves and roughly chop, set aside.
– Scrub beetroots and roast in a 400F oven for 45-60 minutes or covered in the microwave (see directions above).
– Allow beets to cool slightly before peeling and dicing into 1/4 inch cubes, set aside. Tip: if you don’t want to stain your hands I recommend using disposable kitchen gloves for this job.

Make the risotto:
– Bring stock to a boil in a medium pot and keep warm over low heat on a back burner.
– Meanwhile in a large heavy bottomed pot sauté butter, oil, and onions over medium-high heat until translucent, about 3 minutes.
– Add garlic and barley and stir for another 5 minutes or until barley become lightly toasted and brown.
– Slowly add hot stock, about ½-3/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly until all the liquid has been absorbed.
– Repeat this step with remaining stock until barley has absorbed all the stock, about 30 minutes. If it seems too dry you can add more water or stock to get to your desired consistency.
– Add roasted beets, beet greens, and goat cheese. Cook for 5-8 minutes, until barley is cooked and beet greens are wilted.
– Season with salt and pepper, and before serving stir in parsley.

Note:  You can substitute kale or spinach for the beet greens.