Christmas Cookie Tradition

P1050371What’s better than baking Pecan shortbread cookies? Baking them with a friend.

Jenna is someone special in my life. I wanted to give her a gift that she’d really enjoy. Since her love language isn’t opening gifts, but is spending time together, I invited her to my home for a cookie baking marathon.

In a little under four hours, we baked three kinds of cookies, totaling 6 dozen of our all time favorites.

Before she arrived, I anticipated how much fun we’d have. I wanted our afternoon to have the kind of touches that minister to the heart. A fire crackled in the kitchen wood stove. Christmas music played from a little stereo. To complete the ambience, I plugged in the twinkling clear lights that drape over the turquoise buffet. It’s gorgeous, retro and is a focal point in my home.

P1050378When Jenna arrived, I immediately learned that Christmas music wasn’t eliciting fond memories of holidays past. Her crinkled nose and frown, a look of disgust and boredom, clued me into what she didn’t want to hear.

She let me in on her experience. I discovered that she usually loves the time tested songs that remind us of Christ’s brith, but she had listened to Christmas music at work ad nauseam where her boss has had it going all day, every day, since October. Okay, scrap the holiday tunes.

We put on some of her favorite Christian hits, and we sang, chatted up a storm, measured ingredients, creamed butter, blended, mixed, and scooped dough onto cookie trays–trays that are patinated from decades of use.

Many dozens of  happy cookie marathons were orchestrated on these trays with my children. All are now grown and married. The trays, darkened by years of use, remind me of the hours we spent making cookies during a lot of Christmases. Now counting thirty. That’s a lot of love and that’s a lot of butter.

What did Jenna and I bake?

Jenna’s favorite…snickerdoodles.

My family’s favorite…chocolate chip, coconut, walnut cookies.

And soon to be a new favorite…Amazing Pecan Shortbread cookies.

P1050375I’ve included the recipe for you and I hope you’ll give it a whirl. Maybe you’ll even use it in your own cookie baking marathon.

How’d I come up with this recipe? I transformed the traditional pecan cookie by adding almond extract and updating it with healthy ingredient choices. This new version is delicious.

These are five thumbs up, high fives, five stars all the way. I can hardly wait to serve them to my kids Christmas morning. They’re going to love them.

Amazing Pecan Shortbread Cookies 


  • 1 1/2 cup pecans, chopped 
  • 2 1/2 cups Kamut flour (I  like baking with Kamut flour, which is an ancient and more wholesome flour. It’s lighter than whole wheat, is loaded with nutrients, including selenium. If you prefer the whiter variety, substitute for 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour.)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, room temperature. (Salted butter means that I didn’t need to add salt. But if you like measuring salt and sprinkling it into your mix, use saltless butter and add 1/2 tsp salt.)
  • 3/4 cup honey (Or 1/2 cup white sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar.)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Turning these ingredients into amazing Pecan Shortbread cookies is quick and easy.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake at 10-12 minutes. I live at an altitude of almost 5,000 feet and baked them in my old GE double oven for 12 minutes. They were very slightly browned on the bottoms and soft in the middle. Cool before transferring them from your trays to containers. For baking ahead, they do great served from the freezer.

  1. In a large bowl, pulverize butter using an electric mixer for 1 minute or until thoroughly creamed. Add sweetener (honey OR sugar), eggs and almond extract. Beat on high speed until light and fluffy.
  2. In another bowl, mix thoroughly together the flour and baking soda.
  3. Pour in flour mixture, and add the chopped pecans to the buttery mixture. Beat on medium speed just until combined.
  4. Cover dough and refrigerate for 3 hours or more. You can store dough in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  5. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  6. I usually oil my pans. But you can use parchment paper or silicon baking mats. I find that oiling them takes all of 2 minutes and clean up is easy.
  7. When the dough’s well chilled, scoop out dough with a spoon (about 1 tablespoon) and roll into balls. Using the back of a spoon, press an indentation into the tops and press a pecan half into the indention. (TIP: If you don’t have time to chill the dough, it won’t form into balls. Follow the same instructions, forming the dough into your spoon and plopping them onto your trays. This is what Jenna and I did. And they turned out great!)
  8. Bake on the center racks of your preheated oven, 10-12 minutes. Cool them completely before removing. Store in a sealed container or freeze. 

Merry Christmas!

Pamela Koefoed

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Muffin Top

bu-chi-dessert-publicdomainpicturesWe had to go to the city today. To remodel homes older than 1980, Vern was required by the state of Oregon to take a lead-based paint certification course. I went along to keep him company on the hundred-mile drive.

Sticking to a “diet” while traveling is tough at best. How do you find something on a restaurant menu that isn’t fried, baked, or sautĂ©ed in unhealthy oil or drenched in cheese, seasoned with bacon, or blended with cream?

Knowing this, we opted to take our own lunches. Vern made avocado and cheese sandwiches on healthy bread for himself. But he had no idea of where to begin with a lunch for me. I didn’t want the mayo, or the cheese, or the bread.

Until this morning, the idea of brown bagging a lunch sounded adventurous. We could park anywhere, choose a spot with a view of the snow dusted mountains, and enjoy our meal without restaurant noise. It would be just the two of us and our food, just the way we like it.

All I could come up with, however, was a salad. A plain, ordinary green salad. I threw lettuce, spinach and tomatoes together, plopped the mixture into a quart sized mason jar, and hurried out the door.

After finding a view spot, we parked the car, and we pulled out our lunches. The very second that Vern bit into his sandwich, the aroma from the cheese–it’s one of my favorites with little bits of spicy peppers throughout it–filed our car’s interior with a mouth watering, tanginess. My poor salad, lay limp at the bottom of the jar; the romaine and spinach leaves had wilted and shrunk to half their original size. I ate it without complaint.

Having an afternoon without demands on my attention was a gift from God. I could do anything–shop, visit interesting sights, anything. I left Vern at the college and headed for a newly opened coffee house. For the next two-hours, I lost myself in writing, The experience, a tonic for my soul, produced a rush of deep contentment and euphoria. It was pure bliss.

Every now and then, I paused and rested my hand, and searched my mind for a particular verb or for a better way to express a concept. Across from me, a bakery window with three shelves of pastries caught my glance. After wondering what sort of goodies were available, I pulled my eyes back to my project and resumed writing.

Then I paused, stared at the “forbidden fruit,” and pondered my latest sentence. Could a strong verb replace the adjective? Could my latest concept be made more concise?

“Can I get you something?” A young waitress said, breaking my concentration. “Would you like something else?” She smiled down at my empty tea glass.

For the next few moments, I learned about each of the sweet delicacies on those shelves. The owner made everything from scratch, the waitress told me. There were donuts filled with cream, donuts with a sprinkling of crisp bacon, fritters the size of dinner plates, and freshly baked muffins.

“These are muffin tops,” she pointed at the little cakes. “They aren’t deep fat fried,” she said. (Less cholesterol, I reasoned.) And since they’re only one-fourth the size of the average muffin, they have only one-fourth the calories of the average muffin. (I rationalized some more.) They’re apple cinnamon. Apples are good for just about everything. And cinnamon will even out my blood sugar.

I rolled it around and around in my mind until I knew what I must do. The waitress, an excellent salesperson, obviously wanted me to buy something from the window, and how could I disappoint her?

She and the muffin top won.