Raspberry-Nut Christmas Bars

If you’re read my About page, you’ll know that I am a sucker for savory food.  Sweets, not so much.  But cookies are different – they’re not desserts; they’re in a category all their own.  I love cookies.

You can have cookies at any time of they day or night.  They feel like a little present to yourself.  They also make great presents for others.  Cookies inspire happiness.

These bar cookies are inspired by an old recipe from the now-defunct California Pistachio Commission.  I played around with the recipe and made a few changes, and now these bars are a must-have during at Christmas at Glover Gardens.  They’d be good any time of year, but we just make them for the holidays.

The appeal of these bars is their diversity: the nuts provide a salty crunch and the sweet, soft gooeyness of the raspberry jam perfectly compliments the crumbly, shortbread-like crust.

Depending on the size of the baking dish you use, the recipe makes about 30-40 bars.  You can use an 8×8, 9×9, or even 8×11 baking dish.  I like the 8×11 oblong because the bars are a little thinner.

Ingredients

  • ½ lb. butter (two sticks), softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2/3  – 1 cup raspberry preserves or jam (or any favorite jam or preserves)
  • IMG_12731 cup fancy mixed salted nuts, roughly chopped (I often use Planter’s Pistachio-Lovers Mix, which also includes almonds and cashews)

Cooking Instructions

Lightly grease a 9-inch square pan (or similarly-sized rectangular pan). Preheat oven to 325 F. Combine butter, sugar and egg in a mixer or large bowl; beat until blended. Stir in flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Divide the dough in half and  and use your hands to pat / spread one half over the bottom of the pan, setting the other half aside. Bake for 10 minutes and remove from oven.  The crust will still be soft at this point.

While the dough is baking, add the mixed nuts to the remaining dough and stir until blended. Heat the jam in a microwave-safe dish in the microwave and stir until it is warm enough to pour, then spread it over the hot crust.  (Use 2/3 cup if you are baking in a square pan, and 1 cup if you are baking in a larger, oblong pan.)

Use a spoon to drop the remaining dough in small amounts over the jam to cover. It is OK if small areas of jam “peek through,” as this will make for a beautiful presentation.  Return the bars to the oven and bake for about 35 more minutes (until the top is golden brown).  You can turn the broiler on for the last two minutes if you’d like a browner crust.

Remove from the oven, cool, and cut into squares.

Push the dough into the pan with your fingers to make the crust.  Playing with your food is fun!
Push the dough into the pan with your fingers to make the crust. Playing with your food is fun!
Spread the preserves smoothly over the (very soft) crust.
Spread the preserves smoothly over the (very soft) crust.
Start dropping the nut crust by spoonfuls over the raspberry preserves.
Start dropping the nut crust by spoonfuls over the raspberry preserves.
When you're finished, the raspberry filling will just peek through the top nut crust.
When you’re finished, the raspberry filling will just peek through the top nut crust.
The finished product has a lovely, golden-brown crust.
The finished product has a lovely, golden-brown crust.  I gave this batch a couple of minutes under the broiler at the end of its cooking time.
I like to serve these bars at holiday parties with decadent partners, like drams of Chambord (raspberry liqueur).
I like to serve these bars at holiday parties with decadent partners, like drams of Chambord (raspberry liqueur).

If you’re serving these bars in a dessert buffet, they can be cut in smaller, bite-size pieces.  But beware – they are addictive!

Copyright 2015, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Glover Gardens Comfort Cookies

Jumbo Comfort Cookies are a family favorite
Jumbo Comfort Cookies are a family favorite

Who doesn’t love a big, soft, goodie-packed cookie?  I found a great basic oatmeal cookie recipe on the Quaker Oats lid, and have been “doctoring it” for years with yummy additions like dried cranberries and chocolate chips.  It’s one of those recipes that changes almost every time I make it, but I’ve captured the essence of it here.

The Grill-Meister and I decided to call them “Comfort Cookies,” because they  evoke a feeling of home and hearth.

Comfort Cookies are sturdy and travel well.  In our family, they’ve been a staple on road trips, are a great Welcome Home! offering and have delighted many a Little Leaguer as the post-game snack. Friends of Glover Gardens have been the happy recipients of these cookies for many, many years.

No one can stop at just one Comfort Cookie
No one can stop at just one Comfort Cookie

Comfort Cookies

Makes 3 dozen jumbo cookies or 5 dozen regular.

Ingredients

1¾ cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
¾ tsp. salt
2 sticks of butter, softened
¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla
3 cups of dried oats/oatmeal (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
½ cup regular or golden raisins (I prefer golden)
1 cup dried cranberries or cherries
1¼ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
12 oz. package of semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ 12 oz. package of white chocolate chips (about ¾ cup)
½ 12 oz. package of peanut butter chips (about ¾ cup)

Assemble everything, and mix the dry ingredients first
Assemble everything, and mix the dry ingredients first

Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl and stir to mix well. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium speed of electric mixer until light and fluffy (or use a stand mixer). Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, mix well. Add oats, raisins, dried cranberries or cherries, nuts and chocolate and peanut butter chips. Stir until just blended.

Drop dough onto ungreased cookie sheets in your desired size: a rounded tablespoon will make cookies that are about 2 inches in diameter; about ¼ cup of dough will make a jumbo cookie. Bake 8 – 10 minutes for the smaller cookies or until light golden brown; jumbo cookies will require 12-14 minutes. Cool slightly on cookie sheets before removing to a wire rack.


These cookies are cousins of both Cowboy Cookies and Everything Cookies, but I like them just a bit better. They’ve got something for everyone and enough healthy ingredients and fiber that you don’t have to feel super-guilty about eating them. When my son was small, he would sometimes twist my arm to have them for breakfast, and with coffee, they make a nice breakfast treat for grownups. Good with milk, they also make a wonderful snack with a nightcap: try them with Frangelico or Kahlua.

Have a Comfort Cookie with a nightcap of Frangelico
Have a Comfort Cookie with a nightcap of Frangelico

 

Note: if you’re interested in the original recipe from the Quaker Oats box (before they changed it to make it healthier – and less yummy), another blogger has done a public service by posting it: click here.

Copyright 2015, Glover Gardens Cookbook