Cardamom and pistachio meltaways (and a healthier option!)

These cookie are GOOD, y'all. Sorry, I've been watching a marathon of Fixer Upper while writing, which is really the only logical reason for this Yankee to use the word "y'all." Anyway, I've called these cookies "meltaways," but they're the treat of 1000 names: Snowballs, Butterballs, Russian tea cakes, Mexican wedding cookies, meltaways, you name it. At their core, these are egg-free, simple cookies that are a little crumbly, very buttery, and subtly sweet. Adding in cardamom and pistachio just makes them a tiny bit more interesting.

I tested this recipe more than was technically necessary (not sorry). But it felt like there were many possible variations that would radically change the final product, so here are a few lessons:

1) Buy already roasted and shelled pistachios, if you can. Trader Joe's calls them "nutmeats" which is just awful. But your fingertips will thank you.
2) Use unsalted nuts even though you're adding salt to the batter.
3) The amount of cardamom in the recipe is for a new or newish bottle. If you can smell the cardamom when you open the bottle, use the amount listed. If you have to really stick your nose close to the spice to smell it, increase the amount to taste. I used the dregs of a VERY old bottle of cardamom in my initial recipe and I had to more than double the amount used to get the taste I wanted. Then I tried with a brand new bottle and 1/2 tsp was more than enough. So, get friendly with your spices to judge for yourself.

One unfortunate side effect of all this cookie testing was that I ate cookies for breakfast more than once. Not exactly the meal of champions. But there is a healthier way to enjoy this combo: Cardamom, pistachio, and honey yogurt.

Cardamom, pistachio, and honey yogurt

1/2 cup yogurt
1-2 tsp honey
1 Tbsp crushed pistachios, divided
pinch cardamom

Yield: 1 portion

Combine yogurt and honey to taste. Stir in 2 tsp crushed pistachios and a pinch of cardamom. Sprinkle 1 tsp crushed pistachios on top. Serve with blackberries (optional). A note about the appropriateness of this for little guys: Obviously, the honey makes this a food for one-year-olds and older, but you could substitute some pear or apple puree for a younger baby. M would have gagged on the pistachio crumbles when he was in the puree phase, so I attempted to make pistachio butter from inspiration I found here and here. Thanks to the Cuisenart recall, our large food processor is out of commission until we get the replacement blade and the little one wasn't cutting it. I'll definitely try this once we have the right tools again.

Cardamom and pistachio meltaways

Adapted from Bon Appetit
1 cup roasted, shelled pistachios
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
6 Tbsp powdered sugar, divided   
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp cardamom
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ tsp lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 350. Grind the pistachios in a food processor or spice grinder to desired consistency and set aside. Or just put them in a bag and whack them with something heavy. (The holidays are stressful, no judgment.)

Cream the butter and 2 Tbsp of sugar (whip on high for 3-4 minutes until the butter gets a little lighter, increases slightly in volume, and is shiny). Add the vanilla and beat for 1 more minute. Add the flour, cardamom, salt, lemon zest, and pistachios and beat on low until just combined.

Scoop 1 Tbsp of dough at a time, roll into a ball, and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with all of the batter. Bake for 7 minutes, rotate the pan, and bake for 7 more minutes, until the cookies start browning on the bottom and form tiny cracks on top (but too much cracking means dry cookies, so be careful not to overbake).

Let cool completely. Place the remaining 4 Tbsp of powdered sugar in a bowl and roll the cooled cookies in the sugar, one at a time. Leave out for a few hours before storing: This helped keep the sugar from dissolving into the cookies, I found.

Yield: 15 cookies.