Cheese Toasts

I have shared this retro cheese toast recipe several times over the years but recently realized that I hadn't actually written out a "formal" recipe. I'm here to fix that!

Every 60s hostess had a cheese toast recipe in her recipe arsenal. My mother made these regularly and I remember her using a mix of leftover cheeses, as in whatever she had on hand. I always like to have sharp cheddar, gruyere and parmesan, but have made them with just about everything. The one pictured  above has fontina and jack in them too. My mother often added blue cheese but I find that too overpowering. The point is, just use your favorite cheeses and bits of this and that are just fine. You could elevate it by adding flaked crab, canned or fresh, but then you must serve it with champagne, just because!

Kids LOVE these. Just warning you in advance.

Retro Cheese Toasts

You will need 1 sliced baguette.

Start with 1 1/2 cups grated mixed favorite hard cheeses and mix in enough mayonnaise to make a spreadable mixture, I would guess about a half cup but I've never measured. It's an "add and stir until you get it right" mixture.

Mix in one, two, or more of these add ons:

chopped chives

thinly sliced green onions

finely chopped pimientos

finely chopped green or black olives

drained capers

a heaping spoon of pesto or chopped chutney

chopped, drained tomatoes

1 tsp of your favorite dried herb or a tablespoon of your favorite fresh, minced herb

1-2 tsp of curry

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

2 tsp prepared mustard

1 can drained crab or 1/2-1 C flaked fresh cooked crab or tiny bay shrimp

Spread mixture on bread slices.  Sprinkle with paprika, cracked black pepper or additional herbs if desired. At this point, cheese toasts can be flash frozen on a baking sheet. After a few hours in the freezer and they are frozen solid, place in freezer bags. They will keep nicely for up to a month and are very handy for the busy hostess. To bake: line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil for easy clean up. Place rack on top and place toasts on top of rack. Bake frozen toasts in a hot oven, 375 F for about 8 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and lightly browned in spots. Unfrozen slices take a little less time. Baking them on a rack is optional, but it crisps up the bottoms nicely. Makes about 3 dozen.



 a Norwegian Sugar Cookie. 

These are eaten as is without a fillling. Yield 3 dozen. Dough freezes well.

1 C butter, softened

1 C sugar

1 egg

1/2 tsp almond extract

2 C all-purpose flour

1 C almond flour (you can substitute with another cup of all-purpose flour)

1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 

Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Add egg and extract and mix.

Add flour and salt and mix to combine.

Form dough into balls and place in sandbakkel tins. Press with your thumb until dough is pressed up the side of the tin.

Bake for 10-12 minutes.

I spray my tins with cooking spray before pressing in dough. To remove: when the cookies are still warm, turn onto palm of hand and tap several times on top and sides of tin with a spoon. Cookie will slip out. If you sub out the almond flour, the cookies will be less crumbly but still very good with a distinct almond flavor.

Gingerbread House


Gingerbread Houses/Men

This makes a very tasty gingerbread that is sturdy enough for construction. 

Yield 24 large 8" men or 6 small houses.

Bring to a boil:

1 1/2 C shortening

1 1/2 C dark molasses (one 12 oz jar)

1 1/2 C sugar

3 T vinegar

When mixture comes to a boil, remove from heat and cool slightly.

Stir together in a counter type mixer such as Kitchenaid:

8 1/2 C flour (plus you'll use more for dusting when you roll out the dough)

1 1/2 t salt

1 1/2 t soda

1 1/2 t ginger

1 1/2 t cinnamon

Add warm wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix.

Add 3 eggs and mix.

Dough will be soft and slightly warm. Roll out on well floured board to 1/8" thick. Cut out shapes and carefully move to parchment lined cookie sheet. Gather up scraps and reroll.  As the dough cools, it becomes more difficult to roll. Zap the dough in the microwave to warm up a wee bit and continue. Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes, then rearrange pans switching them from top to bottom rack and bake for another 15 minutes.  This long baking time will make a sturdy cookie that is suitable for constructing a house. If you would like to make shapes that are softer for eating, halve the baking time.

I use Royal Icing, an edible "glue" to build houses and add candy:

3 egg whites

1 lb powdered sugar

1 t cream of tarter (optional)

Beat the above ingredients together with a hand or counter mixer until quite stiff. An alternative to using raw egg whites is meringue powder. Follow directions on container.

To use icing, make a cone out of heavy wax or parchment paper or use these wonderful disposable piping bags. I've had my box of 100 for at least a decade and they come in so handy a few times a year for a cooking project or a craft. Place the open cone in a tall glass, fill the cone with icing, twist the top shut and snip off a small opening at the tip. Build houses then let dry for a few hours before decorating with candy. Ask your guests to bring a bag of candy to share and have fun!

To make bases, cut out cardboard pieces and wrap with butcher paper or decorative wrap. 

My little three piece house cutter set is so old it's not available anymore, but I found plenty just like it here.

When I used to make dozens of houses and hundreds of gingerbread men, (literally!) I would start my baking in October. Undecorated, they store well in shirt boxes.

Almond Shortbread

Almond Shortbread

I love this variation of classic shortbread.

10 tablespoons butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar (plus 2 tablespoons)
1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond meal or almond flour
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Prepare an 8-9 inch square or round pan by spraying with cooking spray. If the pan does not have a removable bottom, cut a piece of parchment paper to fit pan and spray with cooking spray.

In a mixer bowl beat butter, 1/3 cup sugar, salt, vanilla and almond extracts until fluffy.  Mix in flours, then sliced almonds.  Press into a buttered and floured 8" round cake tin or 8" sq. pan and sprinkle with additional 2 tablespoons sugar.  Pierce all over with fork tines. Bake at 325 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until lightly browned.  Let cool on rack for 20 minutes. Remove from pan and while it is still warm,  cut into wedges or squares.  Yields 16 2" squares.

Click here for the basic shortbread recipe.

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Nectarine and Burrata Appetizer

This appetizer is just what summer entertaining means to me—easy,  beautiful and using the season's best produce. It just shouts SUMMER!

Medium chop two ripe nectarines and finely chop one seeded jalapeno pepper. Toss together with a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and a handful of chopped cilantro. Place on a plate with a good piece of burrata cheese, sprinkle with a half cup of toasted pistachio nuts and serve with crackers or sliced baguette.  Every bite was a combination of cool and sweet, spicy and salty, creamy and crunchy. Divine.

Stars Lemon Squares

Lemon Squares

When life gives you lemons, make lemon squares. This recipe is from Jeremy Tower when he owned the Stars Restaurants in San Francisco, Palo Alto, and Napa. These lemon bars are simply the best--firm but delicate, perfectly lemony and not overly sweet.

Stars Lemon Bars

1 1/2 C flour
1/2 C powdered sugar
6 oz (1 1/2 sticks) cold sweet butter

6 large eggs
3 C sugar
1 C plus 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 C flour
Powdered sugar for dusting.

To make crust:
Preheat oven to 325 F

Combine flour and powdered sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Using the paddle attachment, add the butter and mix on low speed until mixture is the size of small peas. Press the crust into the bottom of a 9"x13" pan. Bake the crust for about 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown.

To make the filling:
Decrease oven temperature to 300 F

Whisk together the eggs and sugar in a large bowl until smooth. Stir in the lemon juice and then the flour. Pour lemon filling on the top of the crust. Bake for 40 minutes, until the lemon filling is set. 

Allow to cool for one hour, slice into squares, and dust with powdered sugar.

Congo Bars

My girlfriend Charlotte brought these to a cookie exchange.  Not only were they delicious, but I loved the story behind it: Throughout my childhood my mother made these for our family and for church and school gatherings.  For years she would send them to the soldiers in Germany. They loved them because they were sturdy bar cookies and therefore always arrived fresh and unbroken. I now make them for my grandchildren.

3/4 C butter, at room temperature
1 lb. brown sugar
3 eggs
2 1/4 C flour
2 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 12 oz. package chocolate chips
1/2 C chopped nuts

Beat butter and sugar together.  Add the eggs, one at a time.  Add vanilla, dry ingredients and mix well.  Add chocolate chips and nuts.

Spread dough evenly in a  12"X18" rimmed pan and bake in a 350F oven for 30 minutes or until just lightly brown.  Cool and cut into squares.

(Image credit: Eat the Love)