Moose Munch Shortbread Cookies and a Trip to Harry & David

*alternate post title: Why I've gained 10 pounds in two weeks.*
This is a long "picture-heavy" post, but bear with me...I think you're gonna like it. 

Along with several other bloggers, I was invited to visit the Harry & David headquarters in Medford, Oregon. 

A. After seeing their catalogs for years, I've always secretly hoped that someone would send me a Harry & David gift basket (it never happened), so I was curious and knew this was a place I needed to visit.

B. Take a look at these other bloggers in attendance:  hello, bloggy rock stars!!!  (I'm not sure how I got thrown in with this bunch...they are the coolest.) I couldn't pass up seeing some familiar faces again AND meeting some bloggers I've been jonesing to meet for years now.
{back row: RebeccaKristenJenna, Lori, Heidi and moi.  
front row: Maria, SandyRachelJessica, and Amy  photo credit: Sandy}

Here's my big takeaway from the trip... 
...the people at Harry & David LOVE food.  Love.  I had no idea that in the Rogue Valley of Oregon, Harry & David has over 700,000 pear trees.
They are famous for their Royal Riviera Pear; it's a Comice.  They don't grow it because it's the easiest to grow (it's not); they grow it because they feel they are the best.

I was so very impressed with their approach to growing, innovative pest management, and how they treat their harvesters by providing daily meals, medical care, and housing. 

Harry & David has a 3rd generation chocolatier who has been with the company for over 30 years...yes, as a matter of fact, his name IS Charlie.  The recipes are developed and made right there on site. May I recommend the coffee truffles?
This is a good place to talk about these Moose Munch Cookies.  They consist of a buttery, thick shortbread cookie, spread with a luscious, bittersweet chocolate glaze, and topped with a generous sprinkle of Harry & David's Moose Munch. 

{Moose Munch is a delectable caramel popcorn (made with slabs of butter...I saw it), mixed with cashews and almonds and enrobed in chocolate.  Yep.  I used the Dark Chocolate variety here.}

Moose Munch Cookies 
{makes 15-18}

for the cookies:
3 & 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 pound (3 sticks) salted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or extract)

for the topping:
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips, such as Ghiradelli
2 TBSP unsalted butter
Moose Munch

Whisk together the flour and salt.  Set aside.

Beat together the butter and sugars using an electric mixer until creamy.  Mix in the vanilla bean paste.  Add the the flour mixture in 3 additions, beating on low, just until combined.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, pressing the dough together and refrigerate 30 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 350.  Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Roll the chilled dough on a floured surface to 1/2" thick.  Cut with a 2 & 1/2" cutter and place the cut-outs on a cookie sheet.  Freeze for 10-15 minutes to prevent spreading.

Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden on the edges.  Remove immediately to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.

To make the glaze, place the chocolate chips and butter in a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Stir until melted.
Dollop the melted chocolate onto the cooled cookies and spread with an offset spatula.  Sprinkle on the Moose Munch.

The chocolate will set after several minutes, but will not harden completely.

Optional:  if you're feeling festive, break out your gold disco dust (you have gold disco dust, right?) and add just a touch to the completed cookies. 

Can I show you just a few more peeks from the trip?

{Travel day: sparkly shoes, big airplane and tiny airplane rides with Rachel proved to be very memorable, Ashland Springs Hotel...gorgeous.}

Sandy & her darling hubby Paul hosted dinner at their home our first night.  Sandy has a long relationship with Harry & David...her mom and aunts all worked there.
Sandy may call herself the Reluctant Entertainer, but she sure pulls off entertaining with a calm, relaxed demeanor and knows how to put everyone at ease.  From the setting, to the food, to the conversation, the night was perfection.  Her lovely daughter even provided music.

Harry & David treated us like royalty...snacks in the fields overlooking the orchards, dinner at a vineyard, wine and cheese tasting.  Yes, I could get used to this.  (Somehow, my yogurt for lunch doesn't cut it anymore.)

Aaaand, hanging out with these ladies wasn't too shabby, either.
{from top: Jenna, Maria, Jessica...Jessica (me) and bottom: Jenna, (me), Rebecca, Lori, Rachel, Maria, Rachel, Heidi}
(photo credit, bottom 3:, Jenna, Lori & Kristen)

I was even able to hang out with a few of my fellow red-faced runners!
{Amy, Kristen, Lori, (me)}

Let's look at those gorgeous pears one more time.
 Thank you, Harry & David.  You have a customer for life.

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