Peanutty Squares, Chewy Almond Sugar Cookies and a Happy New Year

Happy New Year! Well, it's 2013 and I'm feeling great! This year we were invited to our friend Diana and Vin's house for dinner and to celebrate ringing in the new year. I had never been to a dinner party before and I didn't want to go empty handed. So I spent the day preparing food and desserts to bring along. I made Smoked London Broil in the slow cooker, Chex Peanutty Squares, and Chewy Almond Sugar Cookies.

My girlfriend Diana asked if we liked Penne a la Vodka so I assumed that is what she was cooking. Rich and I are meat people so I opted for slow cooking a big piece of beef using my Smoked Flank Steak recipe, although instead I used a large slab of London Broil. Because the London Broil was quite a bit thicker than the flank steaks I generally use, I cooked it for longer, a total of 8.5 hours. It was just as good as the flank, if not better. Moist and tender, falling apart to the touch.

I also brought a salad because I knew that Rich and I would want some kind of vegetable for dinner and the rest of the Italians attending probably would not eat it (or bring one). I was right.

For dessert I wanted to bake something from scratch but I also wanted to use items I had in my kitchen pantry. My family was visiting for the holidays and eat Corn Chex cereal for breakfast, so I had this huge box of Corn Chex. I went with this recipe by General Mills for Peanutty Squares. The only thing I changed was that I used Brown Rice Syrup instead of Corn Syrup (because that's what I had in my pantry), and I used Smart Balance Peanut Butter instead of a sugar-filled peanut butter because again, that's what I had in my pantry. They turned out amazing and were a hit at the party. Rich particularly loved them as well as Diana's husband Vin.

I also wanted to make some cookies - particularly a sugar cookie. I'm not one for hard cookies so I searched the internets for a chewy sugar cookie recipe. I came across this recipe from a blog called Confections from the Cody Kitchen and decided to give it a go. Let me just say that all the hard work paid off for these cookies. Chewy Almond Sugar Cookies are the best cookies I have ever made from scratch in my entire life. I could not stop eating them.

p.s. I made no substitutions and followed the recipe as is.

The recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of dough per cookie. I used 1 tablespoon of dough which made for a much larger cookie. Because of this I had to increase the time baked. If I were to make these again I would go with smaller cookies. I think they would have been easier to manage out of the oven. However, it takes much longer to portion out smaller cookies.

I also decided to roll mine in colored sugar instead of raw sugar that the recipe called for. Not for any reason other than to provide a more festive look to the cookie.

The first batch was slightly overcooked with a total of 19 minutes in the oven. The second batch turned out perfect at 15-16 minutes for the larger cookies.

These cookies are crunchy on the outside and slightly chewy on the inside with the perfect hint of almond. Warning: addictive behavior may follow suit.

What I learned from this year's celebration? Other people besides Rich actually like my cooking and baking, and that I can multitask for a dinner party successfully. Last night's dinner was a great start to a brand new year. I'm looking forward to seeing what comes up next.

Here's to a happy and healthy new year! I hope that you join me for 2013 and beyond!

What's your favorite recipe to bring to a dinner party?