My family and I just came back from visiting the Grand Canyon. It was one of the best trips we’ve ever taken, and if you have a chance – GO! While we were there I picked up a fun little cookbook called The Grand Canyon Cook Book, Southwestern recipes from Arizona’s natural wonder by Bruce and Bobbie Fisher. It features recipes from park rangers, hikers and Grand Canyon chefs. (Yes, there’s fantastic eating to be had at the Grand Canyon, especially at the El Tovar dining room. Check out their dinner menu!)
Piñon nuts versus pine nuts
I was especially intrigued that several of the recipes from the Grand Canyon Cook Book used piñon nuts. According to the New Mexico Piñon Nut Company, “Pine nuts from New Mexico called Pinon nuts are called Pinon or Piñon by law in New Mexico. Pinon nuts come specifically from the pine tree species: pinus edulis. They taste different from other varieties. The pinon pine tree is a two-needled pine which grows wild in high desert mountain areas of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. These edible nuts are not to be confused with the ‘single needle’ pine tree from Nevada.”
The pine nuts you get at the store (usually imported from China) are much cheaper than piñon nuts from New Mexico, which sell anywhere from $25-40. Pinon nuts are a hand-harvest, wild crop and the pines can only be picked once every three to seven years. That’s why you see cars pulled on the highway and people on the medians when it’s piñon season.
More on pine nuts from Wikipedia:
In Asia, two species are widely harvested, Korean Pine in northeast Asia (the most important species in international trade), and Chilgoza Pine in the western Himalaya. Four other species, Siberian Pine, Siberian Dwarf Pine, Chinese White Pine and Lacebark Pine are also used to a lesser extent.
Pine nuts produced in Europe mostly come from the Stone Pine, which has been cultivated for its nuts for over 6,000 years, and harvested from wild trees for far longer. The Swiss Pine is also used to a very small extent.
In North America, the main species are three of the pinyon pines, Colorado Pinyon, Single-leaf Pinyon, and Mexican Pinyon.
I’ve read that some people experience a metallic aftertaste when eating Chinese pine nuts, and that this has more to do with a genetic predisposition than the pine nuts themselves. However, pine nuts do go rancid quite easily, so keep yours in the refrigerator. Also, you should taste test before cooking with them to make sure they’re OK. I use pine nuts from Costco and have never had a problem.
Gluten Free Pine Nut Cookies
I’ve “healthed up” the original Piñon Nut Squares recipe from the Grand Canyon Cook Book by using brown rice and oat flours to make the cookies gluten free. I also used stevia instead of white sugar and coconut palm sugar instead of brown sugar.
My kids LOVED these!
Makes 30-33 cookies
- 1/4 cup Bob's Red Mill Organic Brown Rice Flour (gluten free)
- 1/2 cup Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Oat Flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (gluten free)
- 1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats (I used Quick Quaker Oats)
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup Stevia Extract in the Raw
- 1/3 cup Big Tree Farm’s Coconut Palm Sugar
- 1/2 cup softened buttery spread (I used Bestlife Spread)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3/4 whole cup pine nuts (or piñon nuts if you’re lucky to find them)
- 1/2 cup raisins
- Set oven for 375 degrees.
- Sift flours, salt, cinnamon and baking soda together.
- Mix oats into dry ingredients.
- In a large bowl, beat egg, both sugars, buttery spread and vanilla until the butter is well integrated.
- Mix in dry ingredients.
- Stir in pine nuts and raisins.
- Drop by the tablespoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet or one covered with a silicon baking mat. (I use Wilton Easy Flex™ Silicone Baking Mats.)
- Bake on the center rack of oven for 10 to 12 minutes until the pine nut cookies turn slightly golden.
- Serve with a glass of your favorite “milk” (soy, rice, coconut or cow’s milk) and don’t forget the napkins and plates. These cookies are very crumbly!
- Calories 69
- Calories from Fat 43
- Total Fat 4.8g
- Saturated Fat 0.8g
- Trans Fat 0.0g
- Cholesterol 6mg
- Sodium 78mg
- Total Carbohydrates 6.1g
- Dietary Fiber 0.6g
- Sugars 2.0g
- Protein 1.2g
Nutrition Grade C from CalorieCount
Weight Watchers POINTS = 2
I’ve loved meringue cookies since I was a kid. But now that I’m trying to watch my calories, I like them even more. Here’s a holiday treat created by Laurel Hudson, the culinary instructor at Wellspring Academies that will let you indulge without packing on the pounds. Even better, these are perfect for those who are avoiding gluten in their diets.
Peppermint Meringue Crisps
Yield: 18 cookies
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 egg whites
- Pinch salt
- ¼ tsp cream of tartar
- ½ cup Stevia in the Raw
- 1 sugar free candy cane
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp sugar
- Preheat the oven to 300 F.
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray lightly with Pam.
- Combine the egg whites, lemon juice, cream of tartar, salt, and sugar in a bowl.
- Using an electric mixer, whip the egg whites into a meringue, until the whites are thick and stand up in peaks.
- Add the stevia and vanilla and whip for 30 seconds.
- Drop by the spoonful onto pan, making 12 cookies.
- Crush the candy cane into small bits.
- Sprinkle the candy cane on top of the cookies.
- Bake 1 ½ hours, then turn the oven off and let the cookies sit in the oven while it is left partially open until the oven is cool.
- Remove the cookies from the tray and enjoy!
Nutritional Information: approx. 12 calories and 0g fat per cookie
Weight Watchers POINTS = 1 POINT for 5 cookies
Did you know that the first cookie dates all the way back to the 7th century in Persia? Seems that sugar was first cultivated there and then spread to the eastern Mediterranean. At the end of the 14th century, you could walk along the streets of Paris and buy little wafers, and cookie recipes began to show up in Renaissance era cookbooks. From there it was only a matter before cookies took over the world – well its sweet tooth that is.
That’s one of the fun things I learned about cookies at PopularCookieRecipes.com, a collection of popular cookie recipes from around the world – a website you should check out for basic, simple cookie recipes.
This time of year we don’t think about cookies much since we’re busy making pies and tarts from all the great fruit available in the summer. Still, cookies are classic and very portable – great for picnicking or taking to the beach for a snack.
Since I’m always on the lookout for eggfree dessert recipes, I thought I’d share PopularCookieRecipes.com recipe for shortbread cookies.
I think these cookies would be marvelous to dip into a little fruit preserves or maybe eat with a bowl of fresh berries and a tall glass of iced tea.
- 3/4 cup butter, softened
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix butter and sugar in large bowl.
- Stir in flour. If dough is crumbly, mix in an additional 1 to 2 tablespoons of softened butter.
- Roll dough to 1/2 inch thickness and cut dough with cookie cutters into desired shapes. The dough can even be cut with a knife into wedges or strips for interesting designs. Get creative and have fun!
- Bake about 20 minutes or until set.
- Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
PopularCookieRecipes.com bills itself as a collection of popular cookie recipes. Yet the selection is pretty limited now. Since it’s a new website, I look forward to seeing them expand their cookie recipe collection.
First the good. My sister sent me Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook. It’s the only cookbook I have with cuss words in it. Anthony manages to drop the f-bomb at least every third page and extols the virtues of eating organ meats, fat and marrow. Needless to say, I love it. Thanks Michele!
Then the bad. I’ve decided that Kraft’s 4-in-1 cookie recipe completely, utterly SUCKS! I think the problem is that there is too much fat from the cream cheese and butter, and not enough flour and eggs to keep the cookies together to roll out and bake successfully.
Finally the ugly. The Thumbprint Cookies I made today melted and are completely flat. The Pecan Bars never set (even though I over-cooked them) and are gushy. So I have weird-looking flat cookies and squishy bar cookies for my mom’s club cookie exchange tomorrow. I’m even too embarassed and pissed off to post a picture. So much time, money and food wasted. Oh well, at least they taste good.
Screw the friggin’ cookies. Christmas trifle anyone?
I tried making the Pinwheel Cookies again, and this batch turned out even worse looking that the first ones. The cookies were cracked and not round. And the swirls got all goofed up again. Storing them is impossible because they crumble. But they’re still delicious and the raw dough is addictive.
- A friend mentioned that you need to buy "real" butter from a dairy. She believes that the butter at the grocery store is full of oils that can affect the results of your cookie baking. She says her sister uses butter-flavored Crisco with good results, but she prefers butter.
- Forget the Pinwheel Cookies or the Sugar Cookie cutouts, since the dough has to be rolled out. Try making the Pecan Bars or the Thumbprint Cookies instead.
- If you ever have the jones for raw cookie dough, this is a perfect recipe – no raw, bacteria-laden eggs!
I just finished making the Pinwheel Cookies from Kraft’s recipe for 4-in-1 cookie dough. The dough was easy to make and absolutely delicious.
Another benefit of this recipe (versus a traditional sugar cookie recipe) is that it’s egg-free for those allergic to eggs, or people like me who like to nibble on raw cookie dough.
However, rolling out the dough was much harder than I thought, because it was too fragile to pick up once you rolled it out. The dough stretched out and ripped numerous times, and the rolls I made look pretty funky.
Then I remembered that Alton Brown’s did a Good Eats show on making sugar cookies. Even though I only caught the last five minutes of the The Cookie Clause last night, I remembered there were some good tips so I looked ’em up.
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and aren’t having too much of a problem dealing with all those leftovers. If you are, you may want to try out a couple of these ideas at iVillage by author, Holly Clegg. Or these recipes from PastryWhiz.com.
Anyway, I’m looking for a few good cookie recipes.
I’m having two cookie-related events this year. First is a fundraiser for Monkey Boy’s preschool, The Tiny Tim Center. They’ve asked parents to donate homemade cookies for their big Christmas Tree Festival luncheon and raffle.
The second event is a cookie exchange at my home with my mom’s club the day before we leave for vacation. (What was I thinking? Oh well, I guess we can take the cookies with us on the plane.)
Got any favorites? Email me your cookie recipes and I’ll post them at This Mama Cooks!
Dear friend Michelle D. emailed me with a common problem in Colorado. Baking at high altitude is a bitch. I used to bake bread all the time. But once I started living at a mile high plus I gave up on it after too many deflated, rubbery loaves. I also love to decorate cakes but leave the recipe up to Duncan Hines and follow their high altitude tips.
You are a high altitude cake bakin’ mama, so I have a question for you. How do you convert a cake recipe from let’s say a Bon Appetit magazine into a high altitude recipe? Is there a recommended amount of flour or sugar or something?
Thanks for all the advice!
Per High Altitude Baking: 200 Delicious Recipes & Tips for Great Cookies, Cakes, Breads & More : For People Living Between 3,500 & 10,000 Feet do the following for 3,500-6,500 feet:
Baking power – decrease each teaspoon used by 1/8 tsp.
Sugar – decrease each cup used by by 0-1 Tbsp.
Liquid – increase each cup used by 1-2 Tbsp.
If you are making an angel food or sponge cake, do not beat too much air into the eggs used in these cakes. Beat egg whites only until they form peaks that fall over, not until they are stiff and dry. Using less sugar, more flour and a higher baking temperature also helps strengthen the cell structures of these cakes.
Other tips – decrease the amount of leavening or increasing the baking temperature by 15-25 degrees F will help "set" the batter before the cells formed by leaving gasses expand too much.
Rich cakes may need less shortening, oil, butter or margarine (1-2 Tbsp. per cup used). On the other hand, the addition of an egg may help prevent a "too rich" cake from falling.
Hope this helps.