Squash, polenta, and kale Caesar salad

 Squash, polenta, and kale Caesar salad | Me & The Moose. Adults and kids alike love this healthy and hearty salad. It combines roasted squash, crispy polenta croutons, roasted spiced almonds, dried cranberries, and a tahini Caesar dressing for a regular weeknight dinner or a special holiday occasion. #meandthemoose #thanksgivingsalad #salad #healthycaesar #delicatasquash #polentacroutons #glutenfree #dairyfree

There ought to be a place on the internet where parents can go to brag about the common and mostly harmless, but also spectacularly sudden and disgusting illnesses of childhood. Without going into detail (this is a FOOD blog, after all), instead of sleeping, we spent Saturday night showering, taking baths, doing laundry, and scrubbing carpets. No bueno.

Anyhoo, does your sleep schedule affect your diet? I’ve learned in my old age that getting less sleep leads me to terrible food choices. So obviously, I ate horribly this weekend and am feeling it today. But this salad is getting me back on track.

 Delicata Squash is easy to prepare because it doesn’t require peeling. #meandthemoose #delicatasquash #healthycaesar #salad #fallsalad #thanksgivingsalad #thanksgivingrecipes
 Delicata Squash is easy to prepare because it doesn’t require peeling. #meandthemoose #delicatasquash #healthycaesar #salad #fallsalad #thanksgivingsalad #thanksgivingrecipes
 Delicata Squash is easy to prepare because it doesn’t require peeling. #meandthemoose #delicatasquash #healthycaesar #salad #fallsalad #thanksgivingsalad #thanksgivingrecipes

Delicata squash is one of the stars of this show. It requires less prep since the peel is edible. Just split it in half, scoop out the seeds, and slice. After roasting, the squash is sweet and creamy and the peel gets slightly crunchy, so it’s also a nice textural balance if your littles aren’t into “slimy” foods.

The dressing is my favorite dairy-free Caesar that’s been lightened up by swapping out tahini for the oil. The garlic, anchovies, and lemon taste even brighter and the sesame adds a nutty note that complements the rest of the salad’s flavors.

We also have crispy crunchy gluten-free croutons that are made with a store-bought polenta log. I accidentally discovered that putting a pizza stone in the oven while roasting the polenta SIGNIFICANTLY reduced the cooking time. Huzzah!

 Squash, polenta, and kale Caesar salad | Me & The Moose. Adults and kids alike love this healthy and hearty salad. It combines roasted squash, crispy polenta croutons, roasted spiced almonds, dried cranberries, and a tahini Caesar dressing for a regular weeknight dinner or a special holiday occasion. #meandthemoose #thanksgivingsalad #salad #healthycaesar #delicatasquash #polentacroutons #glutenfree #dairyfree

The spiced, roasted nuts add even more crunch, which pairs nicely with the creaminess of the roasted squash. Toss on a few sweetened, dried cranberries and you have a harvest salad that hits all of the right salty and sweet notes. (A nutty cheese on top is entirely optional.)

I daresay this hearty pescatarian salad would be a welcome addition to your Thanksgiving table too.

A couple of notes:

  • I don’t salt the polenta before roasting. Most commercially made polenta has a fair amount of sodium in it already and you’ll be adding salt to the dressing and the squash.

  • While there are multiple steps to this salad, most of them can be completed simultaneously. You can also double the dressing recipe and it will keep well in a covered container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

  • Also, unlike dressed lettuce, which wilts quickly, kale only softens slightly and gets less bitter when left to sit with the dressing on, so make this salad ahead (or double the recipe) and eat it throughout the week.

  • A note about the size of this recipe: This recipe yields a main course for two adults and one child with either crusty bread or another protein on the side. If making this to last for the week or for a holiday meal, I would double or triple the recipe. All of its elements last on their own and are easy to toss into other meals.

 Squash, polenta, and kale Caesar salad | Me & The Moose. Adults and kids alike love this healthy and hearty salad. It combines roasted squash, crispy polenta croutons, roasted spiced almonds, dried cranberries, and a tahini Caesar dressing for a regular weeknight dinner or a special holiday occasion. #meandthemoose #thanksgivingsalad #salad #healthycaesar #delicatasquash #polentacroutons #glutenfree #dairyfree

Squash, polenta, and kale Caesar salad


2 small bundles of Lacinto (Tuscan) kale (about 6 cups)
Tahini Caesar dressing (recipe below)
Roasted almonds (recipe below)
1 log pre-made polenta, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 medium Delicata squash, halved, seeds scooped out, and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Dried cranberries, to taste
Nutty cheese, such as gruyere, gouda, or parmesan, to taste

Preheat the oven to 425.

Tear or chop the kale into small bites.

Make your dressing (see recipe below). Add about 1/2 of the dressing to the torn kale and mix well. Add more to taste or reserve the rest for serving later. Set aside.

Make the roasted almonds (see recipe below). Set aside.

Chop the polenta and toss with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Spread onto your roasting pan and cook for 20 minutes. Flip and toss the pieces with a spatula, return to the oven and cook for another 20 minutes.

Clean and prepare the Delicata squash. Toss with the remaining 1 Tbsp of oil. Spread on a baking tray and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 15-20 minutes or until the squash is soft.

  • I like to add the squash to the same oven as the polenta for the polenta’s last 20 minutes or so.

Add the squash, polenta, almonds, and cranberries to the salad. Feel free to use all or just some of the salad add-ins and reserve the leftovers for something else. Top with a few shavings of nutty cheese, if desired.

Yield: about 2 adult main-course salads and 1 child main-course salad; 4 side salads

Roasted almonds
½ cup raw almonds
½ tsp olive oil
½ tsp paprika
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp rosemary
¼ tsp Aleppo pepper
¼ tsp garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 425. Toss the almonds with olive oil. Mix the spices together and add to the almonds. Mix well. Spread on a foil or parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 4-6 minutes, until you can smell the spices and the nuts are crunchy. Check often to avoid burning.

Tahini Caesar dressing
2 Tbsp Primal Kitchen avocado mayonnaise
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2-3 whole anchovy fillets
2 medium cloves garlic
¼ cup tahini
¼ cup water (added 1 Tbsp at a time)
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the mayo, lemon juice, mustard, anchovies, garlic, tahini, and 2 Tbsp of water in a food processor and blend well. Add more water, 1 Tbsp at a time, until you’ve reached your desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.

  • Remember that the anchovies are salty, so taste before you add more!

 Squash, polenta, and kale Caesar salad | Me & The Moose. Adults and kids alike love this healthy and hearty salad. It combines roasted squash, crispy polenta croutons, roasted spiced almonds, dried cranberries, and a tahini Caesar dressing for a regular weeknight dinner or a special holiday occasion. #meandthemoose #thanksgivingsalad #salad #healthycaesar #delicatasquash #polentacroutons #glutenfree #dairyfree

Ice cream and candy Thankgiving dinner

 Ice cream and candy Thanksgiving pie | Me & The Moose. This genius way to use up leftover Halloween candy is also a hilarious make-ahead Thanksgiving dessert that will please the pickiest kids. #Thanksgivingrecipes #Thanksgiving #dessert #pumpkinpiealternative #icecream #leftoverHalloweencandy

I, for one, don’t need to see another mini candy bar for quite some time. However, I hate throwing food away (which makes parenting around mealtimes interesting when M declares himself full after four bites). So instead of dumping our excess candy, I’m repurposing it into a Thanksgiving dessert that is equal parts adorable and delicious.

Bonus: I promise you will live in the freezer, untouched, until Thanksgiving, which would certainly not happen if that candy stayed in its original form.

 Ice cream and candy Thanksgiving pie | Me & The Moose. This genius way to use up leftover Halloween candy is also a hilarious make-ahead Thanksgiving dessert that will please the pickiest kids. #Thanksgivingrecipes #Thanksgiving #dessert #pumpkinpiealternative #icecream #leftoverHalloweencandy

Ice cream and candy for dessert might seem odd after a heavy meal, but let me tell you: We had a store-bought version of this plate last year (from the UConn Dairy Bar) and my family tore through it like we hadn’t just eaten our weight in stuffing.

My version of this pie starts with a layer of salted caramel topped with chocolate chip ice cream and then hot fudge sauce.

I chopped up some mini Snickers for stuffing; green M&Ms are peas; vanilla ice cream covered in crushed toffee bars with a white chocolate, pretzel, and marshmallow “bone” become a turkey drumstick; vanilla ice cream with more caramel are mashed potatoes and gravy; raspberry sorbet is sliced to look like canned cranberry sauce; and candy corn is stuck together with white chocolate as a corn cob.

 Ice cream and candy Thanksgiving pie | Me & The Moose. This genius way to use up leftover Halloween candy is also a hilarious make-ahead Thanksgiving dessert that will please the pickiest kids. #Thanksgivingrecipes #Thanksgiving #dessert #pumpkinpiealternative #icecream #leftoverHalloweencandy

Extra bonus: There are many ways for kiddos to help make this pie: They can separate the green M&Ms, chop and smash the candy, unwrap the caramels, and pour and spread the caramel and ice cream layers. If they’re older, they could probably make the whole darn thing themselves.

 Ice cream and candy Thanksgiving pie | Me & The Moose. This genius way to use up leftover Halloween candy is also a hilarious make-ahead Thanksgiving dessert that will please the pickiest kids. #Thanksgivingrecipes #Thanksgiving #dessert #pumpkinpiealternative #icecream #leftoverHalloweencandy
 Ice cream and candy Thanksgiving pie | Me & The Moose. This genius way to use up leftover Halloween candy is also a hilarious make-ahead Thanksgiving dessert that will please the pickiest kids. #Thanksgivingrecipes #Thanksgiving #dessert #pumpkinpiealternative #icecream #leftoverHalloweencandy

And extra extra bonus: You can make this dessert now and be ready for Turkey day in three weeks.

Candy and ice cream Thanksgiving plate

10-inch graham cracker pie crust
12 oz chewy caramels, divided 
3 Tbsp heavy cream, divided
Flaky salt
1 pint chocolate ice cream
1 pint vanilla ice cream
1 small jar of hot fudge (about 12 oz)
1 pint raspberry sorbet (IN A PAPER, NOT PLASTIC, CONTAINER)
½ cup mini green m&ms
6-7 fun-sized snickers, chopped
12-15 fun-sized toffee bars (or 3 large ones), crushed
1 cup white chocolate chips, melted
1/2 large pretzel rod
1 large marshmallow, cut in half
Candy corn

Step 1: Caramel sauce, part 1
Combine 8 oz of unwrapped caramel candy with 2 Tbsp heavy cream in a bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Mix and microwave for 30 more seconds. Mix again. Microwave for 15 seconds bursts, stopping to mix the caramel and milk, until it’s completely melted. Spread over the graham cracker crust, sprinkle with sea salt and place in the freezer until set, about 10 minutes.

Step 2: Ice cream
Let the chocolate ice cream melt a bit for easier spreading. I left it out while I made and spread the caramel and it was soft enough to spread. Freeze until solid, about 2 hours or overnight.

Step 3: Hot (but cold) fudge
Once the ice cream layer has frozen solid, dump the entire jar of COLD fudge sauce on top and smooth it out all the way to the edges. (I made the mistake of heating the sauce a bit and it immediately melted the ice cream underneath.)

Step 4: White chocolate
Melt your white chocolate in a tall thinnish glass. Microwave for 30 seconds on high. Stop and mix. Microwave for another 30 seconds on high. Stop and mix. Microwave for 10 second bursts, stopping to mix until the chocolate is melted.

Step 5: Drumstick bone, part 1
Snap a large pretzel rod in half. Cut a large marshmallow in half. Dip the non-broken end of the pretzel rod into melted white chocolate and press one half of the marshmallow on either side of the rod and hold in place for 10 seconds. Place on a sheet of parchment paper and refridgerate until set, about 5 minutes.

Step 6: Corn cob
Pour a nickle-sized dollop of melted white chocolate on a piece of parchment paper. Place a circle of candy corn onto the chocolate with the white facing in and the yellow facing out. Try not to allow any space between the kernels. place another dollop of melted white chocolate on top of the white portion of candy and repeat. Continue until you have between 5 and 7 layers of corn kernels. Place in the fridge until set, about 10 minutes.

Step 7: Drumstick bone, part 2
Dip the set marshmallow and pretzel rod into the melted white chocolate (feel free to microwave for another 10 seconds if the chocolate feels thick) and let the excess chocolate drip off. Place back onto the parchment paper and spoon the melted chocolate over the rest of the pretzel rod, wiping away any excess on the sides. Place back in the refrigerator until set, about 10 minutes.

Step 8: Prep your candy
Chop the snickers, separate the green M&Ms, and crush the toffee.

Step 9: Sorbet
Slice the sorbet with a large serrated knife and put the slices back into the freezer.

Step 10: Caramel sauce, part 2
Place 4 oz of unwrapped caramel candy and 1 Tbsp of heavy cream into a bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. Stop and mix. Microwave for another 30 seconds, stop, and mix. Microwave in 15 second bursts, stopping to mix in between, until melted. Set aside.

Step 11: Assemble
Scoop 1/2 pint of vanilla ice cream onto the top of pie. Next to it, pour your M&Ms into a pile. Smoosh the cut up snickers in your hands a bit while piling them onto the top of the pie as well. Add the corn cob. Next, form the rest of the ice cream into an oval ball and roll it in the crushed toffee. Place it on the pie and add the pretzel bone. Place the sorbet slice in the middle. Lastly, using a spoon, shape the vanilla ice cream to look like mashed potatoes and make a dent in the middle. Pour some of the cooled caramel into the hole and immediately place the whole pie back into the freezer. Let freeze overnight and then transfer to a box or cover tightly with plastic wrap.

 Ice cream and candy Thanksgiving pie | Me & The Moose. This genius way to use up leftover Halloween candy is also a hilarious make-ahead Thanksgiving dessert that will please the pickiest kids. #Thanksgivingrecipes #Thanksgiving #dessert #pumpkinpiealternative #icecream #leftoverHalloweencandy
 Ice cream and candy Thanksgiving pie | Me & The Moose. This genius way to use up leftover Halloween candy is also a hilarious make-ahead Thanksgiving dessert that will please the pickiest kids. #Thanksgivingrecipes #Thanksgiving #dessert #pumpkinpiealternative #icecream #leftoverHalloweencandy


Salted honey and rosemary teiglach

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Teiglach! This sweet honeyed dessert reminds me so much of my childhood Rosh Hashanah dinners. It is a mountain of baked or fried dough balls that are combined with nuts, dried fruits, and sprinkles by a honey syrup. And though it looks complex, it is stupidly easy.

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Though teiglach, for me, tends to be specific to the Jewish Holidays, it’s a close cousin of the Italian struffoli, which is traditionally served for Christmas or Easter. So, you can feel good about serving this sticky treat for any occasion, really.

I added flaky sea salt and rosemary to my version because traditional teiglach is very sweet (hello, honey) and both of those ingredients tone down the sweetness. I also added almond extract to my dough, which makes for a more complex overall taste. The almond, rosemary, sea salt, and honey also play very well together.

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I baked the dough because a) it’s marginally easier; b) it’s marginally healthier; and c) I hate nothing more than smelling like fried oil. Don’t be afraid to overbake the dough balls slightly as this will help them to stay crunchy when they’re covered in honey.

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The only tricky part is making sure the honey syrup doesn't burn. I will admit that during recipe testing, I didn't turn the heat down fast enough and my honey almost boiled over. I used it anyway and it was completely fine.

One quick note: This is a relatively small batch of teiglach. So, if you're feeding a crowd for the holidays, I would double it.

 

Salted honey and rosemary teiglach

2 eggs, whisked
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp lemon zest (zest of 1 large lemon)
½ tsp almond extract
1 cup AP flour
½ Tbsp granulated sugar
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup toasted mixed nuts, roughly chopped
½ cup honey
2 Tbsp sugar
1 ½ tsp fresh rosemary, minced and divided
¾ tsp Sea salt, divided

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs and olive oil and whisk until well mixed and lightly bubbly. Add the lemon zest and almond extract and whisk again to combine.

Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt and mix just until all of the flour is incorporated. It will be a thick batter. 

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead 5-6 times, just until it feels a little springy and less sticky. Divide the dough in half and roll out each half into a long, thin snake, about ¾ of an inch thick. Chop the snake into ½-inch pieces. Roll each piece into a small ball. The balls should be between the size of a dime and a nickel. 

Bake at 350 for 20-23 minutes until the balls are lightly golden brown and hollow sounding. If you feel like they’re not browning, check the bottoms. If they're golden brown, the balls are done. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

While the balls are baking, roast the nuts in a toaster oven or stick them into the oven with the balls (on a separate sheet) until they start to smell nutty. Remove and let cool. Chop roughly, if desired.

Mince the rosemary and set aside ½ tsp. Combine the mixed nuts, 1 tsp of rosemary, and ½ tsp of flaky sea salt and mix well.

Once the balls are out of the oven, in a small saucepan, bring the honey and sugar to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Once the sugars starts boiling throughout (not just on the edges), reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Place the balls in a large bowl with the nuts, rosemary, and salt and stir. Pour the honey mixture over the cookies, nuts, and spices and mix well. This will take some elbow grease as the honey cools.

Pour the entire mixture into your serving bowl making a pyramid shape as your pour. If the honey is too warm and the mixture won’t form into a mound, let it cool for a few minutes and try again. Once you get the mixture into a mound, let cool completely in the fridge.

Bring back to room temperature for serving. Just before serving, top with the remaining ½ tsp of rosemary and ¼ tsp of flaky sea salt.

This dessert is best served the day it's made, but will keep well, covered with plastic wrap at room temperature, for up to two days.

Yield: Enough for 5-6 adults, depending on appetites and tolerance for sweet things

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Corn dog fritters

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Hey all- it's July 4th, which means you may be feeling somewhat festive (or, at least, someone close to you is feeling festive enough to throw a BBQ. One of my favorite things when we lived in NYC was that Shake Shack would serve the most amazing corn dogs only on Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day.

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We've tried to recreate them at home and it's sort of a gross process. The smell of frying oil sticks around in my hair long after the dogs have been consumed. And, they require SO MUCH OIL. I mean, I was theoretically aware of how much was required to properly fry something, but doing it yourself is...jarring. 

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So instead, I tossed some hotdogs into my favorite corn fritter recipe, made a few tweaks, and called it a day. These guys are delicious and require a comparatively scant two tablespoons of oil. Use avocado oil and it's even a good fat! And since I've used corn flour instead of wheat flour, these fritters are naturally gluten-free.

 

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A couple of notes:
- Swap out the milk for almond or coconut milk to make these dairy-free.
- Cooking times on these fritters or patties vary widely. I made them once and they browned in less than 3 minutes. If I'm impatient about heating the oil, it takes up to 7 minutes for a golden crust to form.
- We've been getting our eggs from a local farm, so the sizes range from small to ostrich. Not really, but some of the eggs are gigantic. One of the giant ones is sufficient for this recipe, but if yours are a regular uniform size, use two.
- If you can, use fresh corn cut from the cob. It tastes so much better.

 

Corn dog fritters

½ cup corn flour
¼ cup fine corn meal
½ tsp salt
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp Aleppo pepper, cayenne pepper, or ½ tsp paprika
2 tsp honey
¼ cup milk
1 extra large egg (or 2 large eggs)
1 cup corn kernels (1 large ear)
1 cup chopped hotdogs (2 large)
2 Tbsp avocado oil for frying

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the wet ingredients and mix well. Let sit for about 5 minutes to let the baking soda activate- this is about the time it takes to get the oil hot.

Heat the oil over a medium-low flame until very hot. Add about ¼ cup of the corn mixture (for large patties) or 1/8 cup of corn mixture (for small fritters) and let them brown on one side before flipping, about 2-4 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side until deep golden brown, again about 2-4 minutes.

Serve with ketchup, mustard, and whatever other dipping sauces you might like.

Yield: 6-7 large patties or 14-16 small fritters

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Almond cookies

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Easter and Passover fall during the same weekend this year, so why not bake a dessert that fits the bill for both? They're a little like a French Macaron, but with a lot less work. They're also a little merengue-y, but much less tricky and far quicker to bake.

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I first made these Chewy Almond Cookies for the holidays a few years ago. My mom loves a Linzer torte and my father-in-law loves anything with marzipan, but I needed something a bit simpler to add to the cookie tray. The original version called for store-bought almond paste, but it's expensive and sometimes hard to find, so these cookies sub in almond flour (NOT almond meal) and powdered sugar.

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Skipping the almond paste also makes these kosher for Passover because the paste uses some kind of gluten-derived syrup as a sweetener.

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I've fiddled with the technique a bit as well. Adding the egg whites to the food processor first and whizzing them until they're thick and white makes the cookies lighter, airier, and more chewy. You don't need to go for stiff peaks or even soft peaks, but just a frothy milky mixture.

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The only tricky part of this recipe is getting the texture of the batter right. Too thick, and it's hard to pipe, but too thin and the cookies spread out and get too crunchy. You want to be able to run a finger through the batter and the indentation stays put. (See the photo below.)

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The original recipe also calls for raspberry jam, which is delicious. But I used lemon curd here because it felt more springy. Also, it seemed like an apt use of the leftover egg yolks. However, I confess that I've never actually made my own lemon curd before and my first try was...not great. The taste was delicious, but it was entirely too runny. So, I bought some at the grocery store and called it a day. No shame.

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Almond Cookies

2 large eggs, white and yolk separated
1 cup almond meal
¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp almond extract
½ tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cardamom
¼ tsp salt
2 cups sliced almonds

Preheat the oven to 350.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Make 9 small piles of almonds roughly the size of a quarter. Set aside.

Add the egg whites to a food processor. Whiz on high speed until the whites look frothy and milky, about 1-2 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients and whiz to combine. The batter will likely form a ball. Keep processing until the ball smoothes back out. If the batter is too thick (stays in a ball after another minute of processing), separate another egg white and yolk and add ½ of the egg white to the batter and process again.

Add the batter to a large zip lock bag or a piping bag and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 1 day.

Once chilled, pipe about 2 Tbsp of batter in a circle over each pile of almonds. The batter will be thick, so feel free to use your fingers to help it out of the bag.  Don’t worry if the batter looks a little wonky because the cookies spread out while baking.

Top with more sliced almonds.

Bake for 5 minutes and rotate the pan. Bake for 5 minutes more. Be careful not to overbake these cookies. They’re done even when they look slightly raw in the middle. You want just a hint of color around the edges. Let cool for 5 minutes on the pan and move to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: 18-20 cookies

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