First, a heartfelt note of appreciation to family, friends, readers and coworkers whose birthday wishes, get-well cards, flowers, food, cookies, and emails made entering a new decade in life a week after breaking my collarbone a time to remember. Though my left arm will be in a sling for six to eight weeks, it allows the fingers on my left hand to rest on my computer keys to keep up with my right hand by making each day filled with positive thoughts seasoned with plans, one including this column.

After an unusual September with nary a single favorite cookie recipe to arrive for after-school treats, a plate of delicious molasses cookies arrived one afternoon from Patti Magli Brickson for me to enjoy while recuperating. We became lifetime friends back in the mid-1950s as high school cheerleaders, Patti for Central, me for East. When I called to thank her for the best frosted molasses cookies I ever tasted and asked for the recipe, she laughed and told me it was a Betty Crocker boxed cookie mix available at every grocery store in town and frosting was from a ready-made container. After enjoying some incredible molasses cookies during my lifetime, these became the best ever because of the sentiment attached. Such is life at times.

The American Pecan Council had no idea that my birthday was celebrated in October, yet thought I might be interested in knowing that Starbucks was offering a Maple Pecan Latte, a new fall beverage that goes particularly well with their council’s “superb” pecan shortbread cookies.

Pecan cream cheese cookies

1 cup pecan pieces

½ cup pecan meal (See: Note)

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1¼ cups sugar

1½ tablespoons vanilla extract

In a large bowl, whisk together flour and salt; set aside. Using an electric mixer, blend together cream cheese and butter until well combined. Mix in sugar and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and gradually mix in the flour, then pecan pieces.

Roughly divide dough in half, wrap each portion in plastic wrap or parchment paper forming dough into a log about 2 inches wide, and freeze until firm, about 2 hours or overnight. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Unwrap one log, carefully roll it in pecan meal coating the outside well. Slice into ¼-inch rounds and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the middle is just set and the cookies are just starting to turn light brown on the edges. Cool cookies on wire racks. Work in batches until all the dough has been used. Store cookies in an airtight container.

Note: Pecan meal is available in some major grocery stores, or stores may order some for you.

Because fall marks the beginning of the harvest season for the American pecan, the buttery flavor of pecans pairs perfectly with many other festive fall favorites. Here is a make-ahead quick snack to package in resealable bags for a perfect grab and go-between classes, meetings, and sporting events. Chocolate glazed pecans tossed with dried tart cherries, yogurt-covered raisins, and a few pretzels add saltiness to this snack mix.

Chocolate cherry pecan snacks

1 large egg white

¼ cup light brown sugar

1½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon water

1½ cup pecan halves

1 cup dried tart cherries

1 cup small pretzels

Whisk together egg white, brown sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and salt until well blended. Add about 1 tablespoon water to thin mixture slightly. Fold in pecan halves until well coated. Spread mixture onto parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for about 15-20 minutes or until mixture is well set. Stir pecan mixture several times during baking. Allow pecans to cool completely and transfer to a bowl. Mix in dried cherries, pretzels and yogurt covered raisins.

A request arrived from “Sweetpea,” also known as Lusa, who asked for a Portuguese soup recipe that used kale. This recipe was found almost immediately and I hope it is what she had in mind. It was shared online by someone who claims by using Polish sausage instead of linguica, a garlicky Portuguese sausage, her fiancé could not get enough of this dish.

Easy Portuguese kale soup

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

16-ounce package kielbasa (Polish) sausage, diced

3 potatoes, cut into cubes

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon ground black pepper, or to taste

2 14.5 ounce cans chicken broth

1 cup water

15-ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

3 carrots, chopped

1 bunch kale, cut into thin ribbons

1 cup small elbow macaroni

6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, or to taste (optional)

Heat olive oil in a stock pot over medium heat.

Cook and stir onion and garlic in the hot oil until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add kielbasa; cook and stir until browned, about 5 minutes. Stir potatoes into kielbasa mixture, season with salt and pepper, and continue to cook until potatoes begin to brown, about 2 minutes.

Pour chicken broth and water into the stock pot; add kidney beans, carrots and kale. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir macaroni into the soup; continue cooking until macaroni is tender, yet firm to the bite, about 15 minutes more. When serving, top each bowl with 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese.

Even if strawberry shortcake isn’t on your list for a favorite fall dessert, the strawberry shortcake my mother used to make was a perfect dessert for any time of the year. Not with a cake-like texture, but instead thick biscuits that she’d cut in half for a double-decker shortcake, it was the best shortcake I’ve ever had. But unfortunately, I cannot find her recipe. For Karen Tyler, Sauk City, here is a “family-treasured biscuit” recipe recently found in the Taste of Home’s April/May magazine, shared by Conroe, Texas, resident Angela Lively.

Grandma’s old-fashioned strawberry shortcake

6 cups sliced fresh strawberries

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Shortcake

3 cups all-purpose flour

5 tablespoons sugar, divided

3 tablespoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

¾ cup cold butter, cubed

1 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

Topping

1½ cups heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine strawberries with sugar and vanilla; mash slightly. Let stand at least 30 minutes, tossing occasionally.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. For shortcake, whisk together flour, 4 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in butter until crumbly. Add buttermilk; stir just until combined. Drop batter by 1/3 cupfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheet. Brush with 2 tablespoons heavy cream; sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake 18-20 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely. For topping, beat heavy whipping cream until it begins to thicken. Add sugar and vanilla and beat until soft peaks form. To serve, cut biscuits in half; top with strawberries and whipped cream. Serve 8.

Note: Make sure the butter is cold, and cut it in until it’s about pea-size; as it melts during baking small air pockets are created, giving the biscuit its flakiness. Brushing the biscuit tops with cream helps the sugar stay in place.

Recent request: A pot pie recipe, possibly English, Pennsylvania Dutch or German, with no crust on top or bottom.

Contact the Cooks’ Exchange in care of the Wisconsin State Journal, P.O. Box 8058, Madison, WI, 53708 or by email at greenbush4@aol.com.

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