November 26, 2014 12:00 PM

Melissa Gilbert never planned on writing a cookbook inspired by Little House on the Prairie. “Originally this was supposed to be a scrapbook,” says the actress, who played Laura Ingalls Wilder on the TV classic and released My Prairie Cookbook this year. “But every time I talked to my publishers, I was making dinner! They said, ‘Are they your recipes?’ I said yes, and I sent them in.” She developed her dishes over the years with the help of a few tough critics. “I raised four boys—they can be picky!” says Gilbert, 50. “I had to figure out a way to cook for everyone and hide things like zucchini in there.” Around the holidays, though, veggies take a backseat to treats, especially for her husband of two years, actor and director Timothy Busfield, 57. “Cowboy cookies are great anytime,” says Gilbert. “If Tim is working, I’ll make five dozen and take them to set so the crew has something to snack on.” This holiday season Gilbert will be cooking for a smaller crowd at home in Michigan, where Busfield lived when they met. “It’s just going to be the two of us, snuggling and watching old movies,” she says. “I’m so looking forward to it.”

MELISSA GILBERT’S COWBOY COOKIES

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

1 cup, plus 2 tbsp. shortening

1¼ cups firmly packed light brown sugar

1 cup sugar

6 tbsp. chunky-style peanut butter

3 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1½ cups uncooked rolled oats

1¼ cups bran flakes

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350º. Whisk first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl; set aside.

2. Beat shortening with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugars, beating well. Beat in peanut butter, eggs and vanilla just until combined. Add reserved flour mixture, oats and bran flakes; stir until blended. Stir in chocolate chips. (Note: Cover and chill dough 1 hour, if desired.)

3. Drop dough, using a 2-in. cookie scoop, 2-in. apart, onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake for 9 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets 5 minutes. Transfer to wire racks; cool completely.

Makes: 3 to 4 dozen Prep time: 55 minutes Cook time: 9 to 12 minutes, plus cooling

Stanley Tucci

QUINOA SALAD WITH FETA, POMEGRANATE & PISTACHIO

2 cups quinoa

3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1½ tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

6 tbsp. pomegranate seeds

3 tbsp. pistachios or pine nuts, toasted

3 green onions, chopped

4 oz. feta cheese, coarsely chopped

1 blood or navel orange, peeled and sliced into rounds (optional)

Extra-virgin olive oil

Pomegranate seeds

1. Soak quinoa in cold water to cover for 15 minutes. Drain and rinse thoroughly.

2. Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add quinoa; reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until germ separates from seed. Drain well.

3. Combine quinoa with olive oil and lemon juice in a large bowl; toss well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool completely.

4. Add pomegranate seeds, pistachios and green onions to quinoa mixture; toss gently. Spoon mixture onto serving platter; sprinkle with feta. Top with oranges, if desired. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

Makes: 4 to 6 servings Prep time: 55 minutes Cook time: 20 minutes

Fred Armisen & Carrie Brownstein

TORTILLA SOUP WITH CHICKEN

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 medium-size sweet onion, finely chopped

2 large poblano peppers, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped

2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. kosher salt

½ tsp. freshly ground pepper

2 (32-oz.) containers reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided

4 corn tortillas, cut into 1-in. strips

¼ cup cilantro leaves

4 cups shredded cooked chicken

1 cup canned hominy, rinsed and drained

Toppings: sour cream, tortilla chips, cilantro leaves

1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and next 5 ingredients; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until softened.

2. Add 6 cups broth and tortillas; cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer about 5 minutes or until vegetables and tortillas are very soft. Stir in cilantro. Remove from heat.

3. Puree 1/3 of soup in an electric blender until smooth; set aside in a large bowl. Repeat process with remaining soup.

4. Combine soup, chicken and hominy in Dutch oven. Stir in additional chicken broth, if desired. Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 6 minutes. Ladle soup into shallow bowls. Serve immediately with desired toppings.

Makes: 4 to 6 servings Prep time: 35 minutes Cook time: 25 minutes

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