The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2013 – Walnut Bars

Today is Cookie Swap reveal day!

Leave it to me, the typically Millennial internet-obsessed 20-something, to participate in a virtual/Internet-based cookie swap before ever participating in a real life one! I chose a good one, however: this year, the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap raised over $13,000 (via entry fees, donations, and matching donations from sponsors) to be donated to Cookies for Kids Cancer. That is one seriously awesome cookie swap.

Those bloggers who participated had to bake 3 dozen cookies – each dozen going to one of 3 different food bloggers around the country. I was SERIOUSLY impressed by every batch of cookies I received! Each one was better than the last. But more on that later 🙂

My “cookies” went to Maria at Maria of the Best, Lauren at Have Fork, Will Eat, and Samantha at Haute Pepper Bites. I hope they enjoyed their goodies… take a look at my contribution to the cookie swap!

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My cookies weren’t cookies, per se, but rather bars! Walnut Bars, to be exact. These bars can be found in my family’s home every winter without fail. My parents have a walnut tree that produces pounds upon pounds of walnuts in the fall, and this recipe is one of our favorites for using them all up!

The pecan pie-like filling is a perfect complement to the buttery shortbread crust…I was happy to be sending these to Maria, Lauren & Samantha, because whenever they’re around me I end up eating them up super fast 😉 Walnut Bars for breakfast, anyone?!

Walnut Bars
makes 24-36 bars, depending on size

Shortbread Cookie Crust:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flour
2 sticks (1 cup) butter or margarine, softened

Walnut Filling:
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups Karo syrup (corn syrup)…light is OK!
2 1/2 cups roughly chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cookie crust: Spray or grease 10x15x1in baking dish. Beat together the sugar, flour, salt and butter until mix becomes crumbly. Press into pan. Bake 20 to 30 minutes, or until starting to brown.

Meanwhile, prepare walnut filling. Beat eggs, corn syrup, sugar, butter and vanilla until blended. Stir in walnuts. Once the shortbread cookie crust is finished, evenly pour the mixture over tje hot crust. Bake an additional 25 minutes, or until the filling is firm around the edges and set in the middle.

Let cool and cut into bars/squares/whatever shapes your heart desires!

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Now, for the delicious goodies I received… I’m going to use photos from the recipes’ creators, because my iPhone pictures seriously don’t do justice to how amazing these cookies were. Be sure to click through and get the recipes on their blogs! I am DEFINITELY making all 3 this month!

Cherry Almond Thumbprint Cookies from Sarah at Strawberry Plum

These had a great almond flavor and PERFECT texture. Plus, I need to find out where to get that sour cherry jam!

Peppermint Biscotti from Lynn at Turnips 2 Tangerines

Peppermint biscotti?! GENIUS! I can never say no to the peppermint+chocolate combo!

Triple-Ginger Chocolate Chunk Cookies from Deb at Cooking on the Front Burner

I can’t decide what I liked more about these…the zingy ginger flavor, or the huge chocolate chunks?!

Thank you ladies for some delicious cookies! I can’t wait to give them to my friends and family this month over the holidays.

Have you ever participated in a cookie swap?

What is your go-to cookie to make during the holidays?

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Grandma’s Apple Crumble {aka Apple Pan Dowdy}

When I was a kid, I detested cooked fruit.

That’s right: No pies, no jellies or jams…if the fruit was heated — or even HAD been heated at some point, and later cooled — I was not down.

Fortunately, my mom is a chocoholic like me, so while I was growing up, she and I saw eye to eye on baked goods. Ice cream cake, cupcakes, and chocolate cake all the way on our birthdays! And the fellas (my dad and brother) went along with it…if they knew what was good for them 😉

I still tend to turn down fruit pies and some cobblers in favor of their chocolate-filled and cream-topped counterparts, but one cooked fruit has penetrated my weird taste buds and is here to stay: apple.

Cooked apples, caramelized and covered in cinnamon, are absolutely delicious, as I’ve come to discover. When I lived in France, one of my favorite restaurants in Lyon served an apple crumble with jelly beans on the side that I made sure all of my visitors tried. But no one is better at the art of cookin’ up sweet sweet apples than my Grandma Mary. For years, I turned down servings of her deliciously sweet homemade applesauce because “ewww cooked fruit“, while my brother and cousins (all 4 of them boys) gobbled it up like candy. My dad and his sisters rave about her Apple Pandowdy – a baked apple crumble that she’s famous for.

The day my grandpa passed away, my dad and I went to my grandparents’ house to spend time with his family, and especially with my grandma. I made pumpkin bread, and my grandma hailed my baking skills (a true compliment from the master baker herself!). A couple of days later, we came back with my mom and brother, and my grandma sent me home with this recipe, and a bag of apples from her tree.

Tomorrow, we will be saying goodbye to my Papa. But today, I’m celebrating my grandma. A counselor for much of her life, my grandma is never without wise words of advice. Now that her companion of 62 years is gone, I wish I could give her the same comforting wisdom that she has given me throughout the years. Instead, my own rendition of her Apple Pandowdy will just have to do. It’s the least I can do; a gift from her only granddaughter, who always turned down her famous applesauce. 🙂

I only hope that I did it justice!

I call it an apple crumble because, being a newbie to this whole baked fruit thing, I’m not really sure what else to classify it as. But apparently, “Pan Dowdy” is an actual thing: a layer of sweet and cinnamony fruit topped with a crunchy, brown sugary, oat crust. Kind of like an upside down pie. Whatever you want to call it, it is delicious.

Grandma’s Apple Pan Dowdy
Serves 6-8

for the apples
4 cups diced apples (I used green ones from Grandma’s tree!)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp cinnamon

for the crumble topping
3/4 cup quick oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup flour (I used about 1/4 cup whole wheat cause I ran out of all purpose. Shh, our little secret!)
1/2 cup shortening (I used butter), cut into cubes

Use butter or cooking spray to grease a round or square cake pan (I believe mine was aboooout 8 inches in diameter). Mix together apple ingredients and place in pan. Next, cut together the crumble ingredients with a fork until all of the butter is pea-sized or smaller (I finished crumbling it all together with my {clean} fingers). Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve warm!

Apples, sugar, and cinnamon. Mmmmmmm.

In case you were wondering, RENT makes for an excellent baking sing-a-long soundtrack.

Please try this recipe. Take a break from your diet. Save a piece for yourself and give the rest to your coworkers and friends. For Pete’s sake, just make this delicious thing and eat it with no regrets!

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