Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chocolate Gingerbread Bars

You're all super sick of sweets, right? Personally, after baking for a week straight, I am done. But, with the craziness of the holidays, I wasn't able to get all my posts up as quickly as I would have liked. So, this one will be here, for those who may want to indulge again before New Years...and, if not, there's always next year. I actually have more sweets coming, as today is my DH's birthday & I made some unbelievable cupcakes...more on that soon!
But, as of New Years, it's a new leaf. It's savory. It's heathy...and some unhealthy. But, it definitely a break from the sweets!
Like the Mexican Wedding Cakes, I saw this recipe in the recent Martha Stewart "Holiday Cookies" issue. When it comes to holiday baking, Martha's got it down. Every year, I turn to her recipes when I decide what cookies to choose. I actually had at least a half a dozen types dog-eared for this year, but never got to them all.
I made her Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies last year & I liked them so much, I thought I would give these bars a try. They have a very similar taste. The gingerbread flavor is intense...which I love. Plus, they're studded with oozy bits of chocolate. Gotta love that!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas 2010!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas & a wonderful 2011!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mexican Wedding Cakes

Growing up my Grandmother made these cookies every Christmas. They were always one of my most favorite. A few years back, I made a Hawaiian version of Mexican Wedding Cakes. This year, I decided to make them the traditional way. I used a recipe found in the recent issue of Martha Stewart's "Holiday Cookies". There are thousands of different recipes out there, many different names too. Some call them butterballs, or polvorones, or Russian tea cakes, or pecan snowball cookies, and many more...
I like this version, because it uses cinnamon, which is not typical in most recipes I've seen. Making them couldn't be easier. Everything gets mixed up in the food bowls, no mixer. The dough is very forgiving & easy to work with. It can also be made ahead of time & baked off as you need it...or, you can bake the cookies & store them in an airtight container for up to a week. Perfect during the craze of the holidays.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Some Things I Just Love...

It seems every year the holiday season flies by quicker & quicker. Here's an array of special items, or ideas I've found around the interweb recently. Maybe some gift ideas for you last minute shoppers out there? I'm just about done!

a. Chef's pencil set found on Etsy {via Cup of Jo}...a cute gift for the cook in your life.

b. I love these stocking stuffers from Garnet Hill. They would be great for an advent calendar too! {maybe next year?}

c. I love this retro toy collection from Restoration Hardware! Everything from a slinky, to sip & swirl straws, to a 3D drawing pad {which my sister got the Bozos a few years ago & they loved} & more!

d. I saw some cute mason jar snowglobes earlier in the season & waited too long to get one...they sold out like hotcakes. Then I saw this DYI project & love it!! Gift cards can be a bit impersonal I think {yet highly coveted by many}...something like this is a great way to give them.

e. Anthropologie makes these great monogrammed mugs...or, you can visit Design Mom to find out how to make your own! I think they would be perfect teacher gifts.

f. I have mentioned Divine Twine here before...{love the stuff}. But, you can find even more to love over at their main site, Whisker Graphics. They have adorable cards, labels & stickers too! Perfect for gifting that holiday baking you've been slaving over.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Roasted Tomatoes with Pesto

Trying to squeeze in the time to cook is a challenge at the moment. Something quick & easy is about all I can handle. One of my favorite weeknight dinners is a hamburger {no bun} on a plate, with a thick slice of tomato & some pesto. So simple, yet easy & delicious.
When I saw this recipe in Ina's new cookbook, I thought, Yum!...that would make an awesome hamburger topper! So, this week, that is exactly what I did.
I was able to find a nice, ripe tomato, because "UglyRipes" are available in my area. But, if you can't find one, it's not that big of a deal, as the tomatoes get roasted anyway. Just find the best looking one you can.
For this recipe you can use store bought pesto {as I did}, or homemade.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Holiday Baking Round-Up...

For those of you out there who bake for the holidays...most of you seem to be in full swing! I have yet to start. If you're like me & need to get going on it, here's some inspiration for you. A collection of everything "Holiday Baking" from The Parsley Thief over the years. Enjoy!
a. Saltine Toffee, b. Almond Shortbread Stars, c. Coconut Cream-Filled Macaroons, d. Rum Balls, e. Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, f. Spiced Cardamom Snowflakes, g. Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies, h. Lime Meltaways, i. Tate's Chocolate Chip Cookies, j. Butterscotch Pudding, k. Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies, l. Date Nut Spice Bread, m. Hawaiian Wedding Cookies, n. Guinness Stout Ginger Cake, o. Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars, p. Crinkle Cookies, q. Pecan Linzer Cookies with Cherry Filling, r. Spice Sugar Cookies, s. Sugar Cookies {not pictured}
More to come over the month of December...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Chicken Cashew Curry

I keep my enormous Le Creuset pot in the basement, because I don't have room for it in my kitchen. It had collected quite a bit of dust, just sitting there all spring & summer. This is my first cold weather recipe this winter & it couldn't have been more perfect. With this delicious curry, there is no need to order Indian takeout. In fact, it's probably the best chicken curry I've ever tasted...amazing!
I found it in the top-rated section of Epicurious. If you are ever struggling to come up with something to make for dinner, or a party, that's the place to look! How could you go wrong with something rated by 550 people? This four star recipe is just another confirmation of that fact. You won't be sorry you made it & if you love it as much as I did, it will go into your regular recipe rotation.
The Bozos even loved it! It took some convincing to get my 8 year old to give it a taste. But, afterwards, he called his little brother into the kitchen, saying, "You have to try this!! It looks really gross, but it's really good!" He's right. It does look a bit less than appealing, given the muddy color the curry powder gives the dish. But, don't let that deter you.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pecan Linzer Cookies with Cherry Filling

Stephanie J. of the gorgeous online magazine N.E.E.T. contacted me looking for a contribution to their December issue...which is also their 5th anniversary issue! Of course, I was thrilled to make something for them! I wanted to do some sort of cookie, because cookies are my thing this time of year. In fact, in the coming weeks I won't be doing much else, but baking!
The article is about cooking with fruit, so I thought a jam filled cookie would be perfect. I love how pretty these Linzer cookies came out. They are made using ground pecans, which compliment the buttery, shortbread texture very well...and, the cherry jam is perfect here. But, you can use any flavor jam you wish.
If you want to make them ahead of time, you can cut the shapes out, bake them, then freeze once cooled. Let them thaw at room temperature for about 15 minutes, before filling with jam & dusting with powdered sugar.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Lake Placid

I'm signing off until next week, as we are in Lake Placid, NY for a hockey tournament. The home of the 1932 & 1980 Olympic Winter Games. It's so beautiful here & we are having a blast! More when we return...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Roasted Vegetable Frittata

If you are feeling like most people out there, after a huge Thanksgiving feast, you'll welcome some healthy meal ideas. I saw this recipe in Ina Garten's new cookbook & I've been dying to try it. I love the idea of using roasted vegetables in a frittata. It's something I have never seen before, yet so brilliant...gotta love Ina!
I've made frittatas & quiche with just about everything under the sun...yet, for some reason it never occurred to me to use roasted veggies!
I am a big vegetable fan & of all ways to prepare them, roasting is my favorite. I love that they get all caramelized...releasing their sugars & their flavor intensifies.
Hence, the reason I knew I would love this! I was so right. It's delicious! Even DH, who is not the hugest "baked egg" concoction fan, loved it.
I have adapted the original recipe quite a bit. As usual, I cut way back on Ina's recommended fat & salt quantities. It can easily be adapted to your taste, or what you have available on hand...any vegetable that is well suited for roasting would work.
This will be a go to recipe for me, when I am looking for something light & easy for weeknight dinners.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pecans

One last Thanksgiving worthy recipe before the biggest eating day of the year is here. If you've never been a fan of brussels sprouts, you must try these! This dish is very similar to the roasted brussels sprouts recipe I posted here a few years ago. But, this one has pecans added. So, so good! I had them prepared with pecans for the first time by my step-mother & after that my "old" roasted brussels sprouts recipe became this one.
I have always liked brussels sprouts. But, I remember as a kid, I was pretty much the only one who liked them. It seems that most people grew up having them boiled to death...wet, soggy, little orbs. Nowadays, it seems they are everywhere in the foodie world...people taking brussels sprouts to a whole new level...shredded in slaws, pan-fried with bacon, even deep fried {as I saw recently on the Food Network}. I happen to love them like this the best. It's so simple to make & your guests will be blown away that they actually loved brussels sprouts!

Cranberry Pomegranate Sauce

This year we are having a Thanksgiving potluck dinner at my brother-in-law's house. I am bringing several of which is cranberry sauce. Of course, I wanted to make the real stuff {although DH loves the canned jelly variety}. I saw this recipe & loved the idea of combining the flavors of cranberry & pomegranate. It also calls for the use of Meyer lemons, which happen to be in season now.
I adapted the recipe a bit...mostly, just the addition of some extra sugar. The tartness of the cranberries & lemons need it. Making your own cranberry sauce this year couldn't be easier...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Recipe Ideas...

The past week or so I've been thinking of adding some Thanksgiving appropriate posts to the sidebar, or somewhere on my homepage. I wanted them to be easy to access when people are in the planning stages of their holiday menus. But, I was having trouble getting it all to fit & work the way I wanted. Then, while visiting a blogger friend's site {Hi Winnie!}, I noticed she had done a round-up type of post, showcasing everything she had that would be Thanksgiving friendly. I thought...that's what I was looking for!
So, here are some recipes from over the past several years, which would work well for your Thanksgiving feast. Some are traditional, some are not. Some would be great as side dishes, some as a main course option for any vegetarians out there. Then, of course, some desserts!

Fall Bruschetta,
Roasted Shrimp Cocktail, Grilled Baba Ghanoush, Mini Crab Cakes, Harvest Pumpkin Soup & Crudités with Ranch Dip

Main Course & Sides:
Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Chestnut Stuffing with Leeks & Apples, Shallot & Goat Cheese Tart, Ham & Asparagus Strata, Garlic Roasted Cauliflower, Buttermilk Biscuits, Roasted Caprese Salad, Warm Orzo Salad with Beets & Greens, Fennel & Orange Salad, Creamed Spinach, Wheat Berry, Date & Walnut Salad, Yukon Gold & Sweet Potato Gratin,
Arugula Salad with Lemon-Parmesan Dressing,
Bulgur Salad with Wilted Chard & Green Olives & Caesar Salad

Guinness Stout Ginger Cake, Apple Crisp, Pumpkin Purée {to make your Pumpkin Pie from scratch}, Rustic Apple Crostata, Red Wine Cake & Pineapple Upside Down Cake

I hope to cram in a few final recipes this week...
Have a great Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Chestnut Stuffing with Leeks & Apples

When I was a kid, my grandmother would serve roasted chestnuts after dinner this time of year. They frequently capped off all of our special gatherings...especially Thanksgiving & Christmas. I think I was probably the only kid who actually liked them. My husband's family has the same tradition & to this day I still love 'em.
I made this stuffing for the first time last year. I chose this recipe because we were hosting Thanksgiving & one of our guests was a vegetarian {but, really I just liked the idea of having a stuffing with chestnuts in it!}. If you love chestnuts, you will love this recipe...if not, not so much. But, the other leading flavors...the leeks & tart apples make it worth a try.
I halved the recipe here, but it can easily be doubled, if you're serving a large crowd.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Garlic Roasted Cauliflower

I am love, love, loving the new cookbook from the Barefoot Contessa, called How Easy is That? That woman, in my opinion, is genius! Every single page, in every single one of her cookbooks, is filled with stuff I'd love to make. I love her no frills, basic style.
This is the first recipe I made out of the new cookbook. This Fall, I am trying to lose a few, rather than pack on the winter layer. I have been eating tons of veggies...something that's not as easy to do come winter time, when all the farmer's markets are gone & the garden is barren. This recipe takes boring old cauliflower to a new level. It's packed with flavor, yet very healthy.
I have adapted her original recipe slightly. For the most part, cutting way back on the oil & salt. Something I tend to do with all of Ina Garten's recipes...she can be a bit heavy handed with the fat & salt!
I have this one, and all of her cookbooks listed in the kitchen tools section above, for those interested in checking them out.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Baked Pasta & Mini Meatballs

This is the perfect cold weather, family meal. It's easy to make it ahead, store it & heat it up when you're in a pinch...trying to come up with something quick to make for dinner. Something that the whole family will eat. This recipe is my spin on the classic Baked Ziti. I added some mini meatballs, because I knew my kids would go nuts for them.
It deviates from my traditional meatball recipe, because I have added some ground pork to these. I thought it would keep the meatballs moist, since they are getting fried, simmered & then baked. It worked.
The sauce is a version of the Tomato Sauce with Onions & Butter I made recently, from Marcella Hazan. So good! I'm a seriously hooked on that stuff. I added a bit of garlic & pureed the sauce through a food mill...the smoother texture goes over better with my kids. But, you can easily leave it chunky...or, even use a good quality jarred sauce to save time.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Some Things I Just Love...

Some recent finds on the internet that I just love...

a. I've owned the keyring I have now for about 10 years. It's worn out to the point that on several occasions my keys have fallen off...thankfully, when I've been aware of it. I love the mixture of leather & metal in this one from Sundance...the initial monogram...and especially love the screw closure. No more lost keys.

b. I'm in organization mode lately. I hate having headphone cords tangled up in my purse. I love this creative & lovely looking iPod case. It's made of felted wool with a leather closure that doubles as a headphone wrangler. Love this.

c. How cute are these Superhero shoes!? They fit any sized kids shoe & can be ordered in custom sizes for bigger folks. They also come in tons of colors & textures. Check out all the cool stuff on SmallFly's Etsy page!

d. I am constantly in search of a simple, efficient way to organize our busy schedule. I love this clipboard calendar from Fibers & Twigs. You order the very reasonably priced PDF online, print & hang from a clipboard in any convenient spot. I've been using it for a few months now & love it!

e. Every year, I say I'm going to get going on everything Christmas early enough that I won't be nuts come holiday time. But, yet, I never do. I am slowly, but surely getting in the holiday mindset & these little ceramic dove ornaments caught my eye. I love how simple & delicate they are. I think they'd make such a sweet gift.

f. More organization! I love these magnetic strips from Three by Three. The possibilities are endless. Inside kitchen cabinet doors, on a wall in your kitchen, or office. I use them for hanging all the reminders I need in my life, recipe cards, photos, memos, name it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hot Artichoke Dip with Tarragon

Artichoke dip has been a favorite with my family for years. We have it most often at my father's house, as an appetizer, served with Triscuit crackers. This recipe varies slightly from my family's method, because it has the addition of tarragon & sour cream.
Changing up the ingredient list might be considered sacrilege to some of the parties involved. But, one of the only herbs in my garden that has managed to survive these colder days, has been tarragon. I have tons of it! So, when I needed an easy appetizer for a recent party & saw this version, using tarragon, I went for it.
It met mixed reviews here. I happen to love tarragon, so I enjoyed it very much...while, DH, was left wondering why I would mess with the original?
Either way, it's an optional addition. Not a big fan of tarragon? You can easily leave it out. With, or without it, this recipe is one of the simplest, yet most delicious "throw together" appetizers I know.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Hope you all have a fantastic, spooky & safe Halloween!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Harvest Pumpkin Soup

When I made pumpkin purée last week, this was one of my intended uses for it. There are loads of recipes for pumpkin soup out there. But, I was drawn to this one in particular because it calls for homemade purée {which, I had plenty of}, and because it uses the inside of the pumpkin {the seeds & fibers} to make your own "pumpkin stock". I love that idea.
I reserved the seeds & fibers from my LI cheese pumpkin for the stock.
If you've never had pumpkin tastes very similar to a creamed butternut squash soup. This soup also uses turnips, potatoes & parsnips...which, add flavor, but also help thicken the soup. It requires a bit more effort, making the homemade stock & all...but, I think it was worth it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fall Bruschetta

I recently discovered a great local website about food, called CT Bites. It's been around for awhile, but somehow it took me way too long to find it. Now that I have, I've been checking it out daily...finding tons of tips & great food finds in my area...Fairfield County, CT. Recently, they had a post with some recipes from Nicole Straight, a chef, who runs cooking classes around these parts.
One of the recipes was for this Fall Bruschetta, which I immediately knew I wanted to try. I ended up making it for some friends who came by after our Pumpkin Picking afternoon last week. I especially loved that everything could be made ahead of time...something that has become a requirement in my super busy weekend schedule...which, sometimes includes jamming 4-6 hockey games into 2 days.
I adapted a couple of things...mainly, just adding measurements to some of the ingredients. I also added some ricotta cheese as a base to the bruschetta, partly to make it a bit more hardy...but, also because I thought it would taste really good with it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pumpkin Purée

Even though this recipe is super basic, with pumpkin season in full swing, I thought I would share it.
I bought a big Long Island Cheese Pumpkin when we went apple picking last week. I had heard that they were great to cook with & had been wanting to get one. I'm so glad I did!
Last year, I used sugar pumpkins {a.k.a. pie pumpkins} for baking. But, after cooking up the cheese pumpkin, I have concluded that it's my new favorite.
This variety of pumpkin is actually from the moschata squash family...also home to the butternut squash {you can see they share the same tan skin color}. It's native to Long Island {actually, all of the Northeastern U.S.} & Puerto Rico...hence, that part of the name. The "cheese" part comes from it's short, wide shape which resembles a wheel of cheddar cheese. There are many varieties of cheese pumpkins out there...the Long Island variety is just one of them.
Once prized as the best pumpkins to use for making pumpkin pie filling, they fell out of fashion, due to their odd shape, which made conveyor belt travel difficult. But, nowadays, they have enjoyed a resurgence & are considered an "heirloom" pumpkin. Once you cut one open you can see why they are so prized. They have an amazing bright orange flesh, which is very dense & not at all stringy, like a typical Jack-o-Lantern pumpkin is. Because of their unique texture, the purée you get from them is a smooth as velvet. I was so wishing I had a baby around to feed some to!
They also have a higher sugar & nutrient content than most pumpkins...and, of course, the bright orange color means they're loaded with beta-carotene.
So, now that I've blabbed about the history of this pumpkin, I'll show you what I did with it...and, there will be lots more to come! I hope to use this purée in pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie & more.