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Baking Cookies Dessert Holidays

What is Success?

January 14, 2022

2021 marked the first year I was able to host Christmas Day ever. I consider it my biggest success of the year, except for the fact that I drove my offspring insane with preparations. My mania had to be stopped in its tracks by my kids so we could take a moment, open our gifts to each other, and just enjoy. (Sorry kids, even moms have lessons to re-learn.)

But it was so gratifying to finally be able to have almost everyone over, even in my tiny apartment, after missing Christmas back here for so many years.

Tunnos can never stay out of the kitchen, even Keebler Elf sized kitchens like mine. Bernie jumped in and helped slice the ham and Bob helped with the gravy and cooked the beef again because once we cut into it, it looked like it could have walked down the street. (Thanks non-functional meat thermometer!) Mary thoroughly examined all the baked goods, and my sisters-in-law may have gotten to relax a little for the first Christmas Day in decades. Sounds like success to me.

Were my kids concerned about Covid? Yes. They have roommates and I totally understood them not wanting to make them sick. The windows were open and they work masks. Luckily, so far, none of the vaccinated celebrants at our get together have come down with the dreaded C word. I consider that a success too.

We finished up with a video of a family Thanksgiving from 1985 featuring my mom yelling, “Shut up! Then, without even a breath taken, launched into, “In the name of the father, the son and the holy spirit,” to say Grace. A few stuck around to watch Elf and then Christmas was over, far too soon…again. I’d have photos, but I lost my phone on Christmas Eve. (That was definitely not a success.)

I’m just about recovered. We really need an entire month off in December. One week to decorate, one to bake, one to celebrate, cook and eat, and one to bounce back. No, wait, make that five weeks, we need another one to put away all the decorations we just put out.

The holidays found me rediscovering the joy of creamy, delicious burrata. I had a leftover bit of it this week and mixed it with avocado, olive oil, salt and a little spicy Italian seasoning. The combination was absolute heaven! (Definite success.) Try it, it’s amazing!

I thought I was done baking, but my daughter, now back in Seattle, had requested some cookies I never got around to baking while she was here. Below is a fabulous Peanut Butter with Dark Chocolate Chunk recipe for you I got from Baking Illustrated.

They don’t tell you this, but the secret is to chill the dough overnight before baking because it gives them that slightly chewy center I love in a Peanut Butter Cookie. I will definitely make these again! I also used salted butter even though they don’t call for it and I sprinkled mine with salt when they were done. It makes all the difference. These cookies need that balance of salt to make them great.

Below, you’ll also find the recipe for my daughter’s favorite cookies, Salted Nut Bars. (Yes, I do happen to have an addiction to peanuts and salt.)Keep this for the next time you crave a peanut-laden cookie that’s almost like a candy bar. They are buttery, peanut deliciousness!

And another success was receiving a totally unexpected package from my old high school friend and blog reader, Chuck B. He sent me a package of spiced nuts that was delicious, and some chocolate chip cookies that were both healthy and yummy. Nothing warms your heart like getting a package that tells you someone is thinking of you. Thanks Chuck!

I hope you are pushing forward to make 2022 a meaningful year. Not every success is measured in money. Some are measured in the happiness you feel after witnessing a spectacular sunrise, taking a walk in nature, finishing a blog post, tweaking a cookie recipe, making a list and crossing things off, walking in a silent snowfall, hearing from an old friend, or having your whole family in your tiny apartment after forty years away.

I wish you the best New Year you could possibly dream of.

Sunrise in Harmony, Pennsylvania

If you don’t already follow this blog, please do. I’m working on getting a following large enough to get a publisher interested in publishing my book. So, please spread this blog around and follow, if you don’t already.

Best Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Yields1 Serving

 2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
 ½ tsp baking soda
 ½ tsp baking powder
 1 tsp salt
 1 cup butter (not unsalted)
 1 cup packed light brown sugar
 1 cup granulated sugar
 1 cup crunchy or extra crunchy peanut butter
 2 large eggs
 2 tsp vanilla
 1 cup salted peanuts (dry roasted or regular) ground in a food processor to resemble bread crumbs (about 14 pulses)
 1 cup dark chocolate chunks (I used Dove Dark chocolates)

1

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment or spray them with Pam spray.

2

Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set it aside.

3

Beat butter until creamy with an electric mixer. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy (about 3 minutes) stopping to scrape down the bowl. Beat in the peanut butter until fully incorporated, then the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla.

4

Stir the dry ingredients into the peanut butter mixture. Add the ground peanuts and stir gently until just incorporated. Then add the chocolate chunks. Cover in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight or until thoroughly chilled.

5

Take about two tablespoons of dough and roll it into a ball. Place the balls on a prepared baking sheet about 2 1/2 inches apart. Press the dough down with a fork in one direction, then another direction so you have the crosshatch design.

6

Bake at 350 until the cookies are puffed and slightly brown around the edges but not on top 11 minutes, rotating the baking sheet from front to back mid-bake. Remove the cookies from the oven after 11 minutes. They will not look done, but don't worry. Cool them and then transfer them to a foil lined tray or wire rack.

Ingredients

 2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
 ½ tsp baking soda
 ½ tsp baking powder
 1 tsp salt
 1 cup butter (not unsalted)
 1 cup packed light brown sugar
 1 cup granulated sugar
 1 cup crunchy or extra crunchy peanut butter
 2 large eggs
 2 tsp vanilla
 1 cup salted peanuts (dry roasted or regular) ground in a food processor to resemble bread crumbs (about 14 pulses)
 1 cup dark chocolate chunks (I used Dove Dark chocolates)

Directions

1

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment or spray them with Pam spray.

2

Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set it aside.

3

Beat butter until creamy with an electric mixer. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy (about 3 minutes) stopping to scrape down the bowl. Beat in the peanut butter until fully incorporated, then the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla.

4

Stir the dry ingredients into the peanut butter mixture. Add the ground peanuts and stir gently until just incorporated. Then add the chocolate chunks. Cover in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight or until thoroughly chilled.

5

Take about two tablespoons of dough and roll it into a ball. Place the balls on a prepared baking sheet about 2 1/2 inches apart. Press the dough down with a fork in one direction, then another direction so you have the crosshatch design.

6

Bake at 350 until the cookies are puffed and slightly brown around the edges but not on top 11 minutes, rotating the baking sheet from front to back mid-bake. Remove the cookies from the oven after 11 minutes. They will not look done, but don't worry. Cool them and then transfer them to a foil lined tray or wire rack.

Best Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Salted Nut Bars

Yields1 Serving

 1 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour
 ¾ cup packed brown sugar
 ½ tsp salt
 ½ cup softened butter (not unsalted)
 2 cups salted peanuts (or mixed nuts
 1 cup butterscotch chips
 ½ cup light corn syrup
 2 tbsp butter
 Additional sea salt for sprinkling

1

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Mix flour, brown sugar, and salt. Cut in 1/2 cup butter using a pastry cutter until evenly mixed.

2

Press evenly in the bottom of an ungreased rectangular pan 13x9x2 inches. Bake 15 minutes, cool slightly,

3

Sprinkle the nuts evenly over the baked crust. In a one quart saucepan, heat all the remaining ingredients over low heat, stirring until the chips are melted. Drizzle this butterscotch mixture evenly over the peanuts. Bake for 5 minutes at 325. Cut while still slightly warm. Makes about 32 bars.

4

Drizzle the butterscotch mixture evenly over the peanuts. Bake for 5 minutes at 325. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Cut while still slightly warm. Makes about 32 bars.

Ingredients

 1 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour
 ¾ cup packed brown sugar
 ½ tsp salt
 ½ cup softened butter (not unsalted)
 2 cups salted peanuts (or mixed nuts
 1 cup butterscotch chips
 ½ cup light corn syrup
 2 tbsp butter
 Additional sea salt for sprinkling

Directions

1

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Mix flour, brown sugar, and salt. Cut in 1/2 cup butter using a pastry cutter until evenly mixed.

2

Press evenly in the bottom of an ungreased rectangular pan 13x9x2 inches. Bake 15 minutes, cool slightly,

3

Sprinkle the nuts evenly over the baked crust. In a one quart saucepan, heat all the remaining ingredients over low heat, stirring until the chips are melted. Drizzle this butterscotch mixture evenly over the peanuts. Bake for 5 minutes at 325. Cut while still slightly warm. Makes about 32 bars.

4

Drizzle the butterscotch mixture evenly over the peanuts. Bake for 5 minutes at 325. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Cut while still slightly warm. Makes about 32 bars.

Salted Peanut Bars
  • Reply
    JoAnn Jones
    January 17, 2022 at 9:30 pm

    Happy New Year , Fran ! Sounds like you had a wonderful Christmas with the Tunno family at your apartment. Love reading your blogs, hearing about what your up to, and the many yummy recipes.
    All good here in Wildwood, not a fan of the cold weather, but so far bearable with sunny days and windy cloudy days, lots of variety 😉 Our family has escaped Covid so far , all of us vaccinated , praying at some point this horrible virus is under control and we can all return to life as it was before Covid !!
    Stay well and keep writing ❤️😊 PS , Bill & I are going to Florida for 10 days visiting Jane & Duke the middle of February, really looking forward to it !!!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      January 18, 2022 at 11:25 pm

      Awwww JoAnn, it really is nice to be back, even through this latest snowstorm. I forgot what a workout shoveling snow can be! Sheesh! But I’m happy to be back and thrilled you are all still healthy. Yes, I too can’t wait for it all to be under control. Enjoy Florida! Jane is promising me she’ll send me a recipe for the bread crumb cookies she loves. Have fun and give Bill my best! xoxoxo

  • Reply
    carolyn riley
    January 17, 2022 at 3:54 pm

    As one who loves having you back in Pa, (and who also gets to benefit firsthand from your amazing culinary skills) you my dear are most definitely a success. Everything you’re involved in from a writing perspective, all things cooking related you touch, your unconditional love & support for your family & friends, your outrageous voice-over and audio-visual talent just to name a few. You run the gamut girl…..

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      January 18, 2022 at 11:23 pm

      Carolyn, I must say you have taught me more than you will ever know about unconditional love. If I looked up giver in the dictionary, your photo would be there in lights. I am so happy to be back. Love you utterly.

  • Reply
    lafriday
    January 16, 2022 at 11:53 am

    Dearest Fran, you are the epitome of success in my eyes because you NEVER give up, and you always aim for the stars. Here is to 2022 and the realization of the yet-unmet dreams. I can’t wait for spring so we can get together far away from where we once successfully created opportunities/experiences for all the kids at Mark Keppel. Love you!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      January 18, 2022 at 11:21 pm

      Awwww Linda, now you’re making me all weepy. Yes to getting together and finally getting those stars we keep aiming for. Love you to pieces!

  • Reply
    Jane
    January 15, 2022 at 9:56 am

    Hi cousin Fran! Sounds like my Tunno cousins had a wonderful Christmas- – food and family is all that’s needed. We hosted here for Christmas Day, all 6 grandchildren from ages 16 years to 4 months together.
    Your peanut butter cookie with chocolate looks yummy…will try especially with dove chocolate!

    Hugs and best wishes in this new year
    Xoxo Jane & The Duke

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      January 15, 2022 at 3:16 pm

      Oh Jane, I’ve been such a bad cousin. I have so many phone calls to catch up on and you are at the top of the list. I was thrilled to get the message from you and Sarah (I think it was Sarah) in your car. I’m so happy you all got together, how wonderful. I can’t believe you have six grandchildren now! Enjoy these years and have a wonderful 2022. Give my best to Len and the whole family! I will be calling soon!

  • Reply
    Marianne
    January 14, 2022 at 5:55 pm

    Success for me is being able to read this wonderful blog and also being friends with you after being Milena’s teacher. I have fond memories of you reading to my class, meeting you for lunch with Sue, having you over for dinner before you moved, walking with you during the pandemic, and reading this wonderful blog. You always bring a smile to my face and a LOL when writing about family gatherings. Happy New Year, Fran. I will call you soon.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      January 15, 2022 at 3:13 pm

      Awww Marianne, it’s my pleasure and honor to have connected with you like we have. Milena loved being in your class and I loved reading to them! Thank you for always reading and taking the time to comment. Happy 2022! xoxox

  • Reply
    Emil Mitchell
    January 14, 2022 at 5:31 pm

    Happy New Year Ms Fran,
    It is pleasing to read your posts and try your recipes, both very good!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      January 15, 2022 at 2:59 pm

      Thank you Emil. I’m glad you’re enjoying them. The recipes are keepers. I only post the best recipes I come up with. Happy 2022 and thanks for always commenting!

  • Reply
    Cynthia
    January 14, 2022 at 4:04 pm

    It all sounds absolutely wonderful. So happy your new year is off to a brilliant start.

  • Reply
    Bruce Barker
    January 14, 2022 at 1:22 pm

    Hey, stop providing recipes for all my favorite treats. Trying to LOSE weight here. 🙂 Love ya, Fran!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      January 15, 2022 at 2:58 pm

      Oh Brucie, if you’re going to have a treat, these peanutty cookies are so worth falling off the wagon! Just sayin’

  • Reply
    Chas Madonio
    January 14, 2022 at 1:14 pm

    Happy New Year Frannie! Sounds like the family get together was a good time. Have you finished your book yet? I finished mine this week and it is now in the hands of my editor. Hoping to get it published in the not too distant future, but I know things always take longer than they should. Hope 2022 is a good year for you.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      January 15, 2022 at 2:58 pm

      Oh Chas, you put me to shame!!! I am so happy for you and proud of you for finishing your book. We must talk about that. Mine must be worked on a bit more before I send it out to potential publishers again. Take care and give my best to Nancy and the family!

  • Reply
    Julia A Shure
    January 14, 2022 at 12:43 pm

    Happy New Year, Fran! I’m glad you had a great Christmas. The cookies look delish.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      January 15, 2022 at 2:56 pm

      I hope you did too! Were the girls able to visit? Doesn’t one live in NYC? We must chat one of these days. Email me at heyfranla@gmail.com so we can exchange emails and phone numbers! I wish you and Marc the most fabulous 2022!

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