Dec 2015 -, Prize Winning Recipes, Bethlehem Menu, Art Institute

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Make Your Spirit Brighter


Cookie Recipes from Prize Winning USA Cooks/Bakers

These Cooks Are Big Prize Winners!  Full of Passion, Talent, and Creativity!  You probably recognized their names and have used their recipes in your own kitchen. These are people who have helped to reflect changes in the culinary field and provide insight as to what US cooks are doing with food in their own kitchens for many years.  They create recipes that you enjoy serving to your family and most likely adapted as your own.  Their recipes reflect their favorites and dazzle judges with new textures, colors, shapes, and forms.

However, they do even more. These are people, who go above and beyond what is expected.  They make this world a better place for all of us. They happily are gifting us with their favorite cookies, ones they might include on their own holiday cookie platters.  We thank them so much for sharing the exciting world of cooking with all of us.


Patricia Harmon – Raspberry-Filled Burnt Almond Torte  Cookies

Burnt Almond Torte Cookies

Elegant Cookies That Are Party Perfect

About the Recipe from Pat: I have always been fond of a burnt almond torte made by several bakeries in the area so that inspired me to try a cookie. They were so delicious.

These cookies get a double-dose of almond flavor with a crunchy almond topping and almond extract in the frosting. Seedless raspberry jam adds an extra hit of tang and sweetness. The recipe was selected as a winning finalist in Cooks Country Holiday Cookies 2014.

pdf Copy of Recipe Raspberry-Filled Burnt Almond Torte  Cookies


Lisa Keys – Smokin’ Spice Dark Chocolate Cookies

Lisa Keyes Cookie

Give Your Chocolate Cookies a Spicy Twist

About the Recipe from Lisa:  I love the layers of complimentary flavors and textures of these cookies, and they are so delicious with a cold glass of milk or a fine port.  I sure love to bake.

Note:  Lisa’s recipes are excellent, and one of her best recipes was the cookie she baked in memory of her son. She became a Food Network Chopped Champion baking that one as a dessert. Read more about Lisa on:

pdf for Copy of Recipe Smokin’ Spice Dark Chocolate Cookies


Julie DeMatteo – Tutu’s Super-Crispy Sugar Cookies


A Crispy Cookies That’s Buttery Delicious

About the Recipe from Julie: – It is so buttery & delicious – one of my favorites.

Note: She also shared a great story about this recipe that she found in a magazine:“A woman who traveled to Hawaii every year would buy a bag of these cookies from an old woman, who would sell them til she ran out.  She asked for the recipe & the old woman obliged, but made her promise not to share it for 25 years.”

pdf for Copy of Recipe Tutu’s Super-Crispy Sugar Cookies


Lori McLain – Date Walnut Pinwheel Cookies


Date Nut Pinwheel Cookies

About the Recipe from Lori: This pinwheel cookie recipe reminds me of my Grandma baking cookies during the holidays when I was growing up in Portland, Indiana!  She would use whatever nuts were around. We had a black walnut tree, so she used a lot of those!
I made up this easy version out of a pie crust and they came out great. They were originally published as Date-Walnut Pinwheels in Simple & Delicious and in Taste of Home Simple and Easy book.  I keep the ingredients on hand, and it is easy to make a batch up when someone drops in!

Note: Leave it to Lori to create a two in one recipe.  After making the recipe, I turned some of them over, revealing a caramelized flat cookie.  I also mixed up a lemon glaze – about ½ cup confectioners’ sugar mixed with 1 to 2 teaspoons lemon juice. Then I drizzled some glaze over the cookies.  Three cheers to you, Lori!

pdf Copy of Recipe Date Walnut Pinwheel Cookies


Priscilla Yee – Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies

Priscilla Yee Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies 2

Sandwich Cookies Stuffed with Soft Peppermint Buttercream

About the Recipe from Priscilla: I love peppermint with chocolate at Christmas time and this pretty cookie is one I like to include in my cookie trays.  I found the recipe about 10 years ago in Bon Appetit and it is still one of my favorites.

Peppermint buttercream is sandwiched between homemade chocolate cookies; then the sandwiches are rolled in crushed candy canes.

pdf for Copy of Recipe Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies


Janice Elder – Lemony Sage and Basil-Flecked Cookies


Party Perfect ! An Herb Flavored Cookie to Serve with Wine.

About the Recipe from Janice:  This is a rather unusual herb-enhanced cookie that won a grand prize in Freixenet contest, a trip for Larry and me to Sonoma in 2008.

Our trip was wonderful, filled with champagne and wine tastings, cooking classes, great meals, and enjoying the many charms of the Sonoma wine country. We still fondly remember this wonderful trip.

pdf for Copy of Recipe – Lemony Sage and Basil-Flecked Cookies


Loanne Chiu – Olive Wedding Cookies

Olive Wedding Cookies 3

Buttery Wedding Cookies Turn Healthy!

About the Recipe from Loanne: In 2003, I won the grand prize in a Colavita Better than Butter Contest with my Olive Wedding Cookie. The prize was a weeklong gourmet tour of Italy, unforgettable! It is a healthy cookie and will not break the calorie bank during the holiday season.

pdf for Copy of Recipe Olive Wedding Cookies


Brett Youmans – Triple Chocolate Red Velvet-Peppermint Crinkle Cookies


Who Doesn’t Love Red Velvet ?

About the Recipe from Brett: Three kinds of chocolate makes these cookies super special and the espresso powder helps to pump up the depth of flavor but without a coffee taste.  Speaking of taste, I know some of you might leave out the peppermint flavoring when you make these and that’s totally fine.  Omitting it won’t affect the outcome but, if you like those little thin chocolate mint cookies the Girl Scouts sell, you’re gonna love these even more.  Perfect with a cold glass of milk, I bet you can’t eat just one!
They’re incredibly easy to make and you can make the dough in advance so the cookies are ready to bake when you are.   This creation won me a spot in the Barnes & Noble Cookie Cookbook this year. For More Information See his website:
Link to Brett Youmans Website

For More Information about the cookbook and other cookie recipes 

Also: The hardback Barnes & Noble Cookie Cookbook is filled with lots of excellent cookie recipes and features recipes from the Barnes & Noble Cookie Bake-Off. It’s on sale on the Barnes & Noble website!

pdf for Copy of Recipe Triple Chocolate Red Velvet-Peppermint Crinkle Cookies


Edwina Gadsby – Whipped Peppermint Shortbread


Whip Up a New Shortbread Cookie for the Holidays!

About the Recipe from Edwina:  This is one of my favorite holiday cookie recipes.  The buttery whipped shortbread cookie with its touch of cool peppermint reminds me of old-fashioned butter mints and are melt-in-your-mouth delicious!

Cookies are my favorite thing to bake and I love experimenting: the flavor combinations and variations are endless.

pdf for Copy of Recipe Whipped Peppermint Shortbread




Cranberry  Nut Biscotti Cookies

About the Recipe from Shirley: We have always loved the pistachios cranberry combo, and they are delicious in these cookies. These are traditional biscotti cookies that harden as they cool, which makes them great partners for wine or hot coffee.

A Precious Recipe Story:  Some recipes are just more than cookies, and this is one of them. It was the first cookie that my husband Alex and I made together.  A long time ago, Alex, who never baked anything, decided that he wanted to make biscotti cookies like his mother used to make. I helped him find a recipe in a December 1995  Good Housekeeping magazine, and made some changes, like substituting pistachios for the hazelnuts. He loved them so much and yes, we still bake them together every year.

pdf for Copy of Recipe for Cranberry Nut Biscotti Cookies




“Under a stained-glass window depicting the angel’s joyful tidings of Jesus’s birth, candles flickered and a Christmas tree twinkled with red lights as the worshipers joined in singing traditional Christmas songs in Arabic.”  Welcome to Bethlehem, a Holy Land recognized as a birthplace of Jesus and the home of the Church of the Nativity.

It is said that shepherds still keep watch over their flocks, but those fields are smaller today. The city now has busy streets and honking taxis, but the bells still ring out on Sundays. Christmas remains an important religious festival in the region and is celebrated by Christians and Muslims alike. Although traditions vary across the region, it is a day to spend time with your family and loved ones.

As I searched the Internet to learn about the city of Bethlehem, I found Isam Kaisi, who is an owner/chef of a restaurant in Toronto, Canada, who shared his feelings about the holiday and growing up in Bethlehem. He explained that the family gathers around whole roasted lamb for dinner. His story about the foods that are served helped me to prepare our Bethlehem menu and encouraged me to use sumac, pure olive oil, and roasted pine nuts in the recipes.  I fell in love with the aromas and wonderful tastes of the dishes we prepared.

I also found that many tourists love to visit the city and usually stay with a Christian family.  In fact, the experience of spending Christmas with a Palestinian family in Bethlehem makes the trip even more meaningful to them. I really enjoyed seeing the pictures of Bethlehem that were taken at Christmas.

Christmas is a time of celebration and reunion. Therefore, it is a common practice among Holy Land Christian communities to visit members of their families and neighbors during this festive period. Guests are expected to admire the attractive Christmas decorations and the mghrara, which is a cave representing the Nativity scene that contains olive wood figures of the Holy Family, Magi, and shepherds.  Usually, the hostess will have a bowl of freshly baked holiday cookies, such as mamoul or ghraibeh.


Bethlehem Christmas Menu

Appetizer Platter:  Assorted Appetizers – Dried Stick Raisins, Figs, dates, olives, goat cheese, pistachios, almond walnuts.
Soup: Mid Eastern Lentil Soup
Bread: Hand Held Flat Breads or Matzah Unleavened Bread
Salad: Sumac Supper Salad
Vegetables: Roasted Winter Root Vegetables
Main Courses: Balsamic Sumac Seasoned Lamb Shanks or Musakhan Supper,
Dessert: The Holy Land Cake
‘                 ‘Ghraybeh (Meltaway Butter Cookies)


Mid Eastern Lentil Soup


Mid Eastern Lentil Soup

The rich vegetable broth is filled with fiber rich lentils that absorb the wonderful flavors of far Eastern spices.  The bonus is that the soup is high in nutritional value and easy to prepare. Serve hot with chopped green parsley and a dollop of plain yogurt.  As expected, the flavors blend if prepared ahead of time. Great to just warm up before serving.

pdf for Copy of Recipe for Mid Eastern Lentil Soup


Hand Held Flat Bread


Typical Mid Eastern Oven Used for Cooking


Hand Held Flat Bread Made in Many Mid Eastern Kitchens

This is a recipe that you will just love.  They only rise once and cooks quickly.  You can save the breads and then only quick warm them for later serving.  They have a light fluffy texture and anything you wrap up in them is delicious.

pdf for Copy of Recipe for Hand Held Flat Breads


Sumac Supper Salad


Sumac Supper Salad

A fresh light salad with lemon light sumac dressing. If you don’t have sumac, substitute cuin and grated lemon for the seasoning.  Feel free to add or subtract ingredients using your favorite salad additions.

pdf for Copy of Recipe for Sumac Supper Salad


Roasted Winter Root Vegetables


Roasted Winter Root Vegetables

Roasted root vegetables with their caramelized flavor are the perfect side to serve with any winter supper.  Add the blush of golden beets and soft melting roasted garlic for an over-the-top delicious taste.

pdf for Copy of Recipe for Roasted Winter Root Vegetables



Roasted Shredded Lamb

Roasted Shredded Lamb as used in the Musakhan Supper below.


Musakhan Supper


Flatbread with Sumac Seasoned Salad and Shredded Lamb with Roasted Winter Root Vegetables as a Side Dish

A Family Communal Dinner from Bethlehem
Inspired by:  Isam Kaisi born in Bethlehem, an executive chef, Toronto, Canada

About the Recipe:  The dish is simple to make and ingredients are easily obtainable in Bethlehem.  Olive oil, sumac and pine nuts are grown locally and frequently found in many other dishes.  It has a lemony sumac flavor, sweetness of caramelized onions, and a buttery flavor of pine nuts.

About Sumac: Sumac is an essential spice in Middle Eastern cooking with a dark red burgundy color. The dried berry ground sumac has a tart sour lemon taste.

A Note from Isam:  Musakhan means “something that is heated.” It’s a communal dish in Bethlehem, cooked at family homecomings   At Christmas, some families gather around a whole roasted lamb.  This recipe is usually made with chicken, but could be prepared with shredded turkey or lamb.

pdf for Copy of Recipe for Musakhan Supper


Balsamic Sumac Seasoned Lamb Shanks


Balsamic Sumac Seasoned Lamb Shanks

Give yourself a head start by cooking the lamb shanks with the vegetables in a sous-vide for 16 hours.  Oh so, easy!  Then just make a quick, balsamic red wine sauce to pour over the lamb and vegetables. Add a simple fresh rosemary sprig for garnish. It’s doing gourmet, easy style.  The lamb is so tender, flavorful, and a perfect comfort food.

For More Information:  See:

pdf for Recipe for Balsamic Sumac Seasoned Lamb Shanks


The Holy Land Cake



The original recipe was a West Jerusalem Palestinian Christian family favorite that was baked for decades.

It inspired me to recreate this cake, highlighting the journey of the 3 Kings and adding flavors of golden oranges, sweet balsamic tang, and smoky almonds to the recipe.  The finished cake has the added flavor of snappy ginger cookies.

A Word about the Herbs:  They are best known through the story of the Three Wise Men (Magi) delivering gold, frankincense, and myrrh for the baby Jesus; myrrh was also used to anoint Jesus’ body after the crucifixion. These herbs, valued like gold, were mentioned repeatedly in the Old Testament, in instructions to Moses about making incense and anointing oil, and in the Song of Solomon.

St. Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia (now in Turkey) was a 4th-century miracle-worker, known also for the healing myrrh that flowed from his sacred relics

pdf for Copy of Recipe for THE HOLY CAKE


GHRAYBEH (Meltaway Butter Cookies)


GHRAYBEH (Meltaway Butter Cookies)

About the Recipe: This is a Middle Eastern shortbread sweet cookie. The original recipe used semolina and pistachio nuts.  I like the flavor of smoky salted almonds with the buttery light orange dough.  They are very easy to make.

Inspired by:

pdf for Copy of Recipe for GHRAYBEH (Meltaway Butter Cookies)


Christmas at the Chicago Art Institute


Chicago Art Institute – Entrance Off of Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL


The Grand Staircase at the Chicago Art Institute Decorated in Holiday Splendor


Imagination, inspiration, and joy are waiting for you at Chicago’s Art Institute.

There are 44 new masterpieces in the New Contemporary, and my favorites are back, the magnificent Neapolitan Crèche and tiny treasures that are located in the Thorne Miniature Rooms.  You can see the English Great Hall of the Tudor period with a wassailing bowl, Yule log, and costuming for that period’s singing-dancing revelers.

The Virginia Entrance Hall has mistletoe, a wreath, and garland. A French Provincial Bedroom has tiny shoes, lined up before the fireplace, a crèche, and puzzle. You will also find the New Orleans, New Mexico, and the Pennsylvania Dutch rooms that are filled with regional treats of the season. Enjoy!


The Art Institute Creche on Display During Holiday Season


The Neapolitan Creche at the Chicago Art Institute – As few as ten exist in the world and three are in the US – New York, Chicago, & Pittsburgh. One of the few in the world outside Naples, Italy


Explanation of the Creche at the Chicago Art institute


The Thorne Miniature Rooms
at The Chicago Art Institute 



Thorne Rooms – English Drawing Room with Christmas Tree Added for Holidays


Thorne Miniature Rooms – English Bedroom


Thorne Room Miniatures – French Library – 1930’s


English Great Hall –  1550 – 1603


Virginia Dining Room – 1758