Christmas Cookies – Cherry Cordial Cream Cheese Cookies

Christmas Cookies – Cherry Cordial Cream Cheese Cookies

Need some simple, yummy Christmas cookies to make for your holiday cookie exchange? Or just to have on hand because, well, Christmas cookies are delicious? Sarah has an easy, tasty recipe to share with us today that will surely please a crowd.

In my experience, there are two kinds of people who bake. People who love to bake, and people who wish it wasn’t quite so… involved. The holiday season brings with it the anticipated (or dreaded) holiday parties and cookie exchanges. I, for one love any chance to be a little extra festive and fancy (and enjoy a few cocktails, clearly), but I also want an “easy” button.

Today’s recipe—Cherry Cordial Cream Cheese Cookies—is a little less involved than other Christmas cookies I’ve made, and the end result tastes great!

This recipe was a challenge for me, because I love to tweak things I already know, and I knew this recipe was good using lemon juice and lemon zest. I also had a dark red cherry liqueur on-hand. And it’s the Christmas season… I really wanted these to be pink cookies with green lime zest on top, but we don’t always get everything we want from Santa, either. The cherry flavor from the cherry liqueur is much more subtle than you think it will be in the finished product, and the dough soaks it right up, so feel free to use a heavy hand.

Cherry Cordial Cream Cheese Cookies

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • Cherry liqueur (approximately 5/8 to 3/4 cup)
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt

-Cream the butter, cream cheese, and sugar together. This will be a crumbly mixture with a clump of butter and cream cheese stuck to your mixer paddle. Don’t panic.

-Add the egg. Hooray for egg! This will give you something more akin to a standard cookie’s wet ingredient mixture.

-Add the cornstarch, baking soda, and salt.

-Add the flour and cherry liqueur alternately. Mix half a cup of flour into your wet mixture and turn your mixer on for a moment to combine. This will get crumbly. Stop your mixer and add 2 tablespoons of cherry liqueur, then turn your mixer back on to combine. Repeat until you’ve added 2 ½ cups of flour and then balanced it out with cherry liqueur.

-This is an opportunity to either chill your dough, or the start of the period of time where you need to work quickly. Use your hands to form balls of dough about ½ an inch to 1 inch in size (I am terrible at uniform cookie sizes), and space about an inch apart on a greased cookie sheet. I am a big fan of shortcuts in the kitchen, but my best tip today is to use the biggest baking sheet that will fit in your oven, so you’ll be making fewer batches of these bad boys.

-Bake 8-10 minutes at 350°.

These cookies beg for some sugar, and maybe some citrus, so you have two (easy!) options to finish them. The first is to top them with powdered sugar and lemon or lime zest. This takes seconds, looks nice, and adds a hit of sweetness. I used my zester to sift the powdered sugar, since I don’t own a sieve. Scoop a small spoonful onto the backside of your zester, holding it horizontally over your cookies. Tap the side of the zester lightly and voilà! Rinse your zester and grate some lemon (or lime—green for Christmas!) zest on top.

Your second option is to make a glaze. This is going to require some time to dry, and may make transporting the finished product more difficult. However, a glaze adds a massive hit of sugar, which is beneficial to a more muffin-y cookie. Mix half a tablespoon of milk with half a tablespoon of your flavoring of choice—lemon juice or cherry liqueur are good choices in this instance. Add confectioner’s sugar bit by bit until you have a dippable consistency (about ¾ of a cup). Dunk the tops of your (cooled!) cookies in the glaze and let dry on a rack or plate before storing (or snacking—or not, I can’t tell you how to live your best life!).

These Christmas cookies are not pink. They are not super sweet. They do not punch you in the face with bold cherry flavor. But they do have a very moist, dense consistency thanks to the cream cheese. And with a glaze or dusting of powdered sugar on top, they are a perfectly balanced bite that you and your cookie exchange participants will enjoy sharing while celebrating the holidays. Happy everything to you and yours!

How to Stress Less this Thanksgiving

How to Stress Less this Thanksgiving

Stress less this Thanksgiving with some great tips from Claire. My mom and brothers do pretty much everything for Thanksgiving in my family, so I couldn’t really stress less even if I tried. For those of you who take a more active role, keep these tips in mind to help yourself get through the day. Tell us what to do, Claire!

The world hasn’t ended quite yet, which means that Thanksgiving is still going to be just next week, if you can believe it. If you’re like me, you have been so worried about an uncertain future that you have all but forgotten about the upcoming holiday. In my case, that says a lot, because the holidays where I get to cook for people are kind of my favorite. In such a time, I think we can all use a little bit of help pulling together a successful Thanksgiving party.

After a week of hand-wringing, this is what I’ve come up with to help us all stress less.

  1. Put away the Halloween decorations that are still sitting around on your front porch. I know you’ve been distracted this week, but the skeleton is sending the wrong message to your guests, who are expecting your home to be a safe space. The corn stalks and decorative pumpkins can stay because they are generically autumnal and more harvest-oriented than the rubber rats and giant spider.
  1. Speaking of decorative pumpkins, now is the time to pick up some additional seasonal gourds. The few remaining pumpkin patches might even have some on sale. They make great centerpieces and look lovely and festive artfully arranged in a bowl on the front hall table. If you are making centerpieces for your table, though, keep them on the smaller side. You want to leave lots of space on the table for dishes, and you also don’t want to block anyone’s view across the table.

stress less

  1. Pick up the tablecloth from the dry-cleaners. Remember when you dropped it off there like 3 months ago? The cleaners don’t charge storage fees, but maybe they should.
  1. Invite friends and people you love. We can’t all be with our families at the holidays, and maybe we don’t all want to be. If you are hosting Thanksgiving, why not cast a net for friends who don’t have a nearby or welcoming family? This year especially, many people will be looking for something for which to be thankful, and a warm and welcoming table is a good start.
  1. Make mulled cider. If you start it in the morning, your house will smell like heaven all day. Aside from that, if you are preparing a Thanksgiving feast, you have a long day on your feet ahead of you. You definitely want to stay sober until you sit down at the table. Sipping on cider will help you stress less; it is satisfying and warming, but not alcoholic enough to incapacitate you before dinner starts.
  1. Pick out all of your serving dishes ahead of time. Make sure you haven’t accidentally double-booked your purple ceramic casserole dish like last year and then you don’t know what you’re going to serve the stuffing in. Hypothetically speaking, obviously.

Stress less

  1. You are going to be hecka busy with that bird and that gravy and that stuffing and those beans and potatoes. Allow yourself to stress less by finding a couple of people who are willing to wash dishes as you go , tend bar, and make an emergency last-minute run to the grocery store (don’t act like you’re not going to need one).
  1. You’re not kidding anyone with that green salad. No one will have room left on their plates for vegetables that haven’t been cooked in bacon fat or cream of mushroom soup, and you’re probably going to need the roughage the next day, so you might as well save yourself the time on Thursday.
  1. Empty out your fridge this weekend so you don’t have to sort through it after work on Tuesday to make room. Order a fresh bird today so you aren’t stuck next Thursday morning with a frozen bird that will never thaw in time. Figure out what you can make ahead of time, and get it done early.
  1. If you’re attending as a guest, ask your host what you can bring or do to help. If they don’t give you any direction, just bring a bottle of wine and start doing dishes. If you are bringing a side dish, also bring something attractive to serve it in.

I think a small amount of stress is pretty normal for hosting any kind of social gathering, but hosting this event should be fun. My way to stress less is to micro-manage and juggle the entire meal by myself, but maybe yours is to have a pot-luck! The worst reason to do a thing is because that’s the way your parents did it, so make your own traditions! And hold your loved ones close. Despite global warming, this is going to be a cold winter. Happy Thanksgiving.

Celebrating Presidents’ Day with Mary Todd Lincoln’s White Cake

Celebrating Presidents’ Day with Mary Todd Lincoln’s White Cake

Presidents’ Day is right around the corner, and we’ve got the best treat for you! Not that there’s ever a bad time for cake, but Presidents’ Day is the perfect excuse to whip up this masterpiece that Claire is about to share with us (we definitely trust Claire’s cake-making abilities).  It looks SO GOOD. Go ahead and veto any other dessert plans you’ve got for this long weekend, because Claire has issued an executive order to make Abe Lincoln’s favorite cake! Give us cake, Claire, or I’ll keep making terrible presidential puns!

It’s time for another installment of “What’s the Weather Like at Claire’s?” Well, I’ll tell you; it’s just beautiful. When my mom comes to visit, it always rains. She came out here for Christmas and stayed for a few weeks to escape the Michigan winter, so of course it rained the whole time. But now, she’s gone home, and the rain is gone with her, and spring has decided to come early. I don’t think we’re quite ready to see the rain go, but I’m never one to sniff at a sunny day. At the very least, we’ll have a nice few weeks of green everywhere before the summer hits and it all turns brown again. More importantly, though, while my mom was out here, she bought me my first Bundt pan! Even though I think Bundt cakes are pretty boring, I’ve been itching to use my pan since I got it, and I thought I’d share the experience with you.

Thanks to my job at the bank, I get to take advantage of bank holidays, and oddly enough, my new Bundt pan got me thinking about this next one. Even though I’m pretty sure Presidents’ Day is actually our nation’s commemoration of George Washington’s birth, I’ve always had a sweet spot for Abe Lincoln, and his birthday is coming up on the 12th, so I’m focusing on that one instead.

I’ve had this cake recipe bookmarked for a couple of years, and I can’t think of a more appropriate time to bust it out than Presidents’ Day.

The story behind this cake, as I understand it, is that Mary Todd baked it for Abraham during their courtship, and he liked it so much, she continued to make it for him throughout their marriage. The Lincoln Home Museum’s website claims that it was Honest Abe’s favorite dessert, but the origin story for the recipe varies depending on who tells it, which sort of suggests to me that it might not be true. Be that as it may, it is a charming story, and it has convinced me to make a cake that looks sort of boring on paper, but actually surprised me in real life, so I choose to believe in it.

Mary Todd Lincoln is often portrayed by historians as some kind of ball-busting, crazy she-devil, but the more I think about it, the more I assume that that’s only because she was a smart, go-getter of a lady in a time when it was very unpopular for ladies to be smart or go-getters. Other accounts depict her as a tender and loving wife, supportive of her husband from the rocky start to his legal career and through his war-torn presidency. While I baked, I imagined Mary Todd Lincoln in the kitchen at the White House, baking sweets for her sweet, and that idea is pretty charming too.

Mary Todd Lincoln’s White Cake

(Recipe from Lincoln’s Table by Donna D. McCreary, adapted by Janice Cooke Newman)

  • 1 cup of almond meal, packed and slightly heaping
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 6 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Confectionary sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a Bundt cake pan. Don’t be like me; tap out most of the flour so your cake doesn’t have a film over it when it comes out of the pan. Sift flour and baking powder 3 times. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until it is fluffy. Carefully add the flour mixture to the butter in three parts, alternating with the milk. Stir in almond meal and vanilla, and beat well. Your batter will be pretty thick at this point.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks, and then very gently fold them into the batter. Don’t rush this process and stir all the air out of the eggs. You want to fold until they are just incorporated, so the batter is light and airy. Pour it into your prepared pan and bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Presidents' Day Cake

Turn the cake out on a wire rack and cool. When it’s completely cool, sift confectionery sugar over the top to make it pretty. I served my cake with a small scoop of plain, sweet cream ice cream and rhubarb preserves, but cut fruit and cream or a simple glaze or icing would be lovely as well.

Presidents' Day Cake

This cake is exceptionally moist and flavorful. The crust on the outside makes for a great bite against the soft, gently sweet crumb inside. It was a much better cake than I expected, though I admit, I had set my expectations low. Like Mary Todd, I now think Bundt cakes have been falsely given a bum rap. This cake is a perfect food analogy for Mary Todd; a hard exterior, but tender and sweet inside. This Presidents’ Day, let’s forget about George Washington and instead think about Abe, taking a break from drafting the Emancipation Proclamation, lovingly holding his wife’s hand, and telling her, “Mary, this is your best cake yet!”

Presidents' Day Cake

 

Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup

Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup

Thanksgiving is just a week away! Are you ready? I’m always ready for my favorite holiday, and this last week of anticipation can be brutal. This year I’m trying to focus that energy into making some awesome side dishes to share with my family, and I know just the place to find the perfect recipes – our very own blog! I am thankful for our extremely talented guest bloggers who have shared so many amazing dishes over the past year. Everything I’m bringing to the table this Thanksgiving comes from one of our posts. I bet you can find some inspiration here, too!

Here is a collection of some of our most favorite recipes and tutorials for Thanksgiving. You’re sure to find something to be thankful for in this roundup of delightful dishes!

So, what are you bringing to the table this Thanksgiving? Did we inspire some great ideas? Let us know what you are thankful for this season and share with us your favorite Thanksgiving recipes.

All of us at Butcher Block Co. are thankful for you, our wonderfully supportive customers. Have a happy, relaxing Thanksgiving!

Favorite Pumpkin Recipes

Favorite Pumpkin Recipes

I really hope you’re not sick of pumpkin! I love pretty much all pumpkin-related food, so this is my favorite time of year. Last year we shared a pretty spectacular Chocolate-Pumpkin Bundt Cake (which you should seriously make right away), but I realized we had never done a pumpkin pie on the blog. The internet is pretty saturated with pumpkin pie recipes, though, so I’m doing something a little different (plus I am just really bad at making pies)! Since it’s October and the Fair is in town, I see no reason not to deep fry my pumpkin pie.

These Deep Fried Pumpkin Pie Bites are the perfect way to serve up some pumpkin pie flavor with a twist.

Notes:

  • While searching for my ravioli cutter to make these little treats, I remembered that I actually have a ravioli maker (see pictures below). I’ve had it for probably 12 years and had never taken it out of the box, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. I wouldn’t recommend this unless you have the smaller one. Mine makes ten 2” raviolis, and they were just a bit too big for this application. If you have the one that makes 1” or 1.5” raviolis, that will work much better. If you don’t have one at all, though, don’t worry! Just mark off your dough in 1.5” squares and put a dollop of filling in the middle of each; place another sheet of dough over the top and gently press down around each side of the filling; cut along the seams with a sharp knife and crimp the edges with a fork. Alternatively, do these however you want (round, square, with a cookie cutter or empanada press)! There’s not really a whole lot that can go wrong as long as you properly seal them.
  • I used premade pie dough because pie scares me, but feel free to make your own favorite recipe. You could even use an empanada or pizza-type dough – whatever you like. The trick is to roll it out thin enough that your pie bites will fry quickly without getting oil-logged. I’m not going to complain about how incredibly flaky mine were, but I probably should have rolled the dough out to about half its original thickness.
  • Refrigerate your pumpkin mixture while getting your dough ready. This will help it set up a bit so it is easier to work with.
  • Test your oil with a scrap of dough before you commit to putting the real thing in the pan! Your oil should react immediately with vigorous bubbling, but you don’t want it so hot that the dough burns before it finishes cooking.

Deep Fried Pumpkin Pie Bites

  • 1 15 oz. can pumpkin pie filling
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 1 recipe pie dough
  • Oil for frying (I used canola)
  • Whipped cream (prepared)
  • Cinnamon
  • Powdered sugar

Using a whisk or electric mixer, combine pumpkin and cream cheese until smooth. Mix in spices and sugars. Refrigerate while preparing the rest of your ingredients.

Pumpkin Pie Bites

Heat about a half inch of oil in a heavy-bottomed pan (a Dutch oven works perfectly for this) over medium to medium-high heat.

On a lightly floured surface, roll your pie dough to about half the thickness you would use for a full-size pie. Using your preferred ravioli-making method, assemble your filling and dough into 1.5” mini pies.

Pumpkin Pie Bites

Test your oil temperature and adjust accordingly. Fry your mini pies in batches, depending on the size of your pan. Do not overcrowd the pan! Flip the pies once the bottoms are golden brown. They’ll take 1-2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.

Pumpkin Pie Bites

While your pies are draining and cooling slightly, whip your cream however you like it (or use pre-made…I won’t tell!). Fold in cinnamon to taste.

Arrange your mini pumpkin pies on a serving tray and dust with powdered sugar. Serve with cinnamon-spiced whipped cream. Cry over the deliciousness.

Pumpkin Pie Bites

Printer friendly recipe: Pumpkin Pie Bites

Fall Baking: Stirring Up Memories

Fall Baking: Stirring Up Memories

It’s time to start gearing up for Fall Baking and I couldn’t be more excited! It’s still too hot here to use the oven, but all the local bakeries are breaking out their fall-themed goodies and it just makes me feel better about life. In a week or two I’ll be able to use my oven in the evenings, and I think I’m going to start my fall baking with these Oatmeal Lace Cookies that Claire is about to share with us. When I showed the photo to my son, he said, “I wish we lived at Claire’s house.” Me too, buddy, me too. Not only do these cookies look and sound fabulous, but Claire has managed to capture that fall feeling in her words. Let’s all cozy up to the fire and have Claire tell us a story.

My favorite season is fall. That might be an odd choice for a California girl, given the lack of seasonal change here, but it’s really just a holdover from growing up in Michigan. It’s not just because it means that my favorite holidays are around the corner. There’s something about autumn that just carries in the air in Michigan, and that feeling just gets infused in everything. When I first made the move out here, it was early spring. It was beautiful, and I spent the summer at the beach, so I barely missed my home state. By the time October rolled around, though, it was still beautiful and sunny and warm outside, and intense homesickness started to set in. I missed the crisp, cool air and the changing leaves. I missed wearing cute sweaters, and drinking fresh apple cider from the orchard up the road. I missed the fall.

One day that first California fall, I was walking home from work, lost in thought about apple pie and hay rides and colorful gourds. I was starting to feel a little bit overwhelmed by the thought that I might never see a real autumn again. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a gust of cool wind picked up behind me, and I heard the sound of dry leaves skittering across the pavement. The wind blew in a little spiral around me, sending my hair flying, and a shiver went through my body. It was like Mother Nature had seen me struggling, and sent me a hug. That sound, that breeze, just transported me back to autumnal Michigan, and I understood just how closely my memories are bound to my senses.

I decided that day that just because it was still 88 degrees outside didn’t mean that I couldn’t throw myself headlong into my favorite season inside. I went home and started my fall baking, and I made my own autumn.

Since then, I have never looked back. When my friends back home start posting pictures of themselves in hats and sweaters, and I feel that pang of jealousy, I just close the curtains to block out my next-door-neighbor’s palm trees, and I throw myself into reviving those autumnal memories. I have started on my Christmas knitting, so I can have the touch of wool on my hands. I’ve been planning out my Halloween costume, and giggling at the prospect of frightening my neighbors’ children. And, of course, I’ve broken out my fall baking supplies, to surround myself in sweet, autumnal aromas.

I’ve decided to start my fall baking slowly and simply this year, so I’m making an oatmeal lace cookie with a chocolate ginger drizzle. The golden color and crispy snap of a lace cookie is a delicious analogy for dry leaves, and the crystallized ginger on top gives these rich treats the perfect, autumnal kick. Of course, the best way to really enjoy a thing like this is to share it with loved ones, so I’ve also decided to get into the gift-giving season early this year. I’m packaging these up in cellophane and seasonal ribbons to give to my California friends. Maybe we’ll even share them over mulled cider.

Oatmeal Lace Cookies with Chocolate Ginger Drizzle

Ingredients: Fall Baking

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 2¼ cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 2¼ cups rolled oats
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 5 ounces dark chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, minced

Preheat your oven to 375º F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mats and set them aside. Heat the butter and brown sugar in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently with a wooden or silicon spoon, until the butter has melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in oats, flour, salt, egg, and vanilla.

Drop teaspoons-sized mounds of cookie batter onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving at least 2 inches between each cookie to allow them to spread. Do not give in to the temptation to make bigger mounds or to put more than six or eight on a sheet, or your cookies will all run together, and you won’t get those nice, crispy edges. Bake for 5 -7 minutes, watching closely to prevent them from over-baking. The cookies should be golden brown, with dark edges. Allow them to cool on the cookie sheet for about a minute before you move them onto racks to finish cooling.

Fall Baking

When all of the cookies have completely cooled, lay them out onto sheets of parchment paper. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Transfer the melted chocolate to a resealable plastic bag and snip the very tip off of one of the bottom corners to make a hole. Holding the bag about 5 inches above the cookies, drizzle the chocolate back and forth in a zigzag until the cookies are covered to your preference. While the chocolate is still soft, sprinkle the ginger over the cookies, and then allow them to set for a couple of hours.

Fall Baking

Any cookies that you don’t give away to friends should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry spot, but they’re so tasty, I doubt they’ll stick around for very long. Some of the ginger that doesn’t get stuck on a chocolate line will obviously fall off of the cookies, but I scoop those bits up and put them in the container with the cookies because the more ginger aromatics, the better. I want to open that Tupperware and feel transported! And then I want to just eat those ginger bits!

Fall Baking

Do you love fall baking? What seasonal traditions get you the most excited? What costume should I wear for Halloween?

Printer friendly recipe: Fall Baking – Oatmeal Lace Cookies

Chocolate Covered Strawberries – How Romantic!

Chocolate Covered Strawberries –
How Romantic!

I have lots of experience with chocolate fondue, but I can honestly say I have never made chocolate covered strawberries. Not certain why, but I decided for Valentine’s Day to step it up and be a bit more romantic. And my hubby, who “owns” our kitchen, wanted to help me, so we made this decadent dessert together. How romantic!

I don’t have a passion for cooking like most of you do, but I do have a passion for arts and crafts. So I approached this as if it were a craft project. And I loved it! It all started with a visit to a cake store. If you are a baker you know what I am talking about, but for the novice cookie and cake maker that I am, I had no idea this store even existed. It was truly like walking into the “Michaels” or “Hobby Lobby” of baking. And the best part – everything is edible! Doesn’t get much better than that. I purchased my very important oil-based pink food coloring and my toppings of pink/white/red nonpareils, red coarse sugar, and tiny multicolored valentine hearts.  Let the chocolate covered strawberry project begin.

There is no creative twist to this chocolate covered strawberry recipe – you can find them all over the internet. But I can share some things I learned while making them. And of course, I will share my finished masterpieces.

I’m hoping to inspire you to be romantic this Valentine’s Day and make some chocolate covered strawberries!
Heck, be romantic any day!

chocolate covered strawberries 5

Ingredients

  • 1-12 oz. bag Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1-12 oz. bag Ghirardelli white chocolate chips
  • 2 T Coconut Oil
  • Oil-based food coloring. Pink for decorating.
  • 2 pounds strawberries
  • Toppings: Almost anything goes. I did colored coarse sugar, nonpareils, candied hearts, crushed candy canes, and some dried pink chocolate flakes.

Recipe and Tips
Wash strawberries first, so they are dry by the time you start.

  • Tip – Don’t wash entire strawberry. Just dip the berry in water, not the leaves. This way the leaves won’t dry up. It is all about presentation with this dessert!
  • Tip – Don’t rush this step. Strawberries must be completely dry before dipping.
  • Tip – Like any good craft project, have a plan and get organized ahead of time. Divide strawberries out into groups to be dipped in chocolate only, white chocolate only, and multi chocolate.  Set up areas for dipping, toppings, and drying.

Melt chocolate either in a small fondue pot or in a small dish in the microwave with a little bit of coconut oil. I did 20 seconds at a time, then stirred and reheat. Don’t overcook. Much easier than a double boiler.

  • Tip – the coconut oil helped prevent the chocolate from setting up, and it gave it a nice glossy sheen.
  • Tip – to make pink chocolate, it takes only a couple drops of food coloring in the white chocolate! I put the pink chocolate in a small squeeze bottle so I could drizzle on my decoration.

Hold the stem of the berry and dip in chocolate, covering the berry almost to the stem. Nice to have some red strawberry showing.

  • Tip – Let excess chocolate drip off for about 1 minute. Touch to side of bowl to get it to release.
  • Tip – If you want to double dip two different chocolates, make certain the first chocolate is dry before you dip in the second colored chocolate.

Dip in toppings. Gently roll the berry in topping or turn it and set it in topping 4 or more times.

  • Tip – I found that “dipping” in toppings did not really work. If the chocolate is too wet, it pushed the chocolate out of shape, or left some chocolate in the toppings.

Place strawberries on parchment paper for drying.
You can store them in the refrigerator for a few days, or eat them immediately. If you put them in refrigerator, let them warm up about 30 minutes prior to eating. The chocolate is less likely to crumble off.  I was so proud of my chocolate covered strawberry “craft project” I took lots of pictures to share with you.  Enjoy.

chocolate covered strawberries 1

chocolate covered strawberries 2

chocolate covered strawberries 3 I found my inspiration on Pinterest at The Yummy Life. Thanks for giving me the courage to try this.

Printer friendly: Chocolate Covered Strawberries

 

Ring in the New Year with Champagne Lavender Baklava

Ring in the New Year with Champagne Lavender Baklava

As the new year approaches, it is time to start planning your celebration. Thankfully we’ve got Chef J around to supply us with the perfect recipe to accompany our champagne toasts: Champagne Lavender Baklava! This beautiful and delicious dish is a great way to say goodbye to 2014 and ring in the New Year in style!

The year is almost over! Hopefully it was all that you dreamed it would be — but if not, at least you get to try again. ‘Tis the season to reflect on the ups and downs of the previous twelve months and set new goals for the new year in an effort to create a better life and a better world. But mostly it’s the time to pop some corks and scream as a giant, glittery ball drops. Whether your New Year’s celebration is going to be decked out in tuxedos and little black dresses or pajamas and fuzzy slippers, there will probably be a hefty amount of gluttony …before signing up for that gym membership that you are totally going to use this year. Viva la resolution! So before we all start writing checks that we know we can’t cash, let’s enjoy the one last day to get away with – nay, embrace –  the social acceptance of overeating and public drunkenness (besides Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s Day, The Superbowl, Cinco de Mayo, President’s Day…)!

When I ring in the new year this season (in pajamas, of course) I will be doing so with hefty amounts of alcohol and sugar, so it’s the perfect excuse to make one of my favorite wine-based desserts.

Champagne Lavender Baklava is a delicious treat that is relatively easy to make and will surely stand out in a crowd this New Year’s Eve!

Champagne Lavender Baklava 

  • 1 package phyllo dough
  • 1½ cup sugar
  • 2 TBS lavender
  • ½ t cardamom
  • 8 oz. melted butter
  • 1½ cups finely chopped hazelnuts, toasted
  • 2 cups Champagne (or less expensive sparkling wine)

In a sauce pot mix 1 cup of sugar and the champagne and bring to a simmer.
Simmer for 15-20 minutes until syrup is thick. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a mortar and pestle, crush lavender and cardamom; throw it in a food processor with remaining cup of sugar and blend until fine.
Mix ½ cup of the sugar mixture with the hazelnuts and set aside.
In a buttered, high-sided pan or baking dish, begin layering sheets of phyllo dough and coating with melted butter.
Every two or three layers sprinkle liberally with the sugar/lavender/cardamom blend.
After using a third of the phyllo, sprinkle half of the hazelnuts on with the sugar. Do this again after using the next third of the dough.
Continue layering and sprinkling then give the top an extra coat of butter.
Cut baklava into the classic diamonds or triangles and bake at 350° for 35 – 45 minutes or until golden brown.
Pour the syrup over the hot baklava.
Let cool, loosely covered for at LEAST 24 hours.
Top with whipped cream or dip in coffee or cocoa.

Printer friendly recipe: Champagne Lavender Baklava

Cookie Swap! Impress with These Monster Cookies!

Cookie Swap! Impress with These Monster Cookies!

It’s officially Cookie Swap season! Sarah W. is back with a fantastic recipe  for Monster Cookies! Gather your friends and family for a fun night filled with sweet eats. These giant treats are perfect for a cookie swap. I’m going to keep mine all to myself, though! Teach us how to cookie, Sarah!

Cookie Swap

Are you having a good holiday season? Did you get invited to a cookie swap and just throw your arms up in the air with a big dramatic sigh because making cookies is THE WORST? Well stop worrying, and step away from the bakery section of your grocery store (although cookies made by Grandma Grocery Store are always a good backup. I have taken them out of the plastic package and put them in my own Tupperware containers to claim ownership in the past, and I am NOT ashamed).

I love to bake, truly. Stealing a swipe of batter from the beater, the whole house smells good, getting creative with a recipe and tweaking it to make it special — these are all things I love about being in the kitchen. But my lack of patience ends at the oven. My favorite things to make are cakes, brownies, bars. I am willing to spend an hour mixing things together in the right order for the right amount of time, but once that’s done, I would like to put ONE thing in the oven and be DONE.

I discovered my “cookie fatigue” moment comes when the third batch hits the oven, so this recipe is great because using two large cookie sheets at a time, it made two quick batches for me. If you check your peanut butter and mix-ins, these are also gluten-free — there’s no flour!

These Monster Cookies will impress everyone at your holiday Cookie Swap! Give them a try!

 

Ingredients (I quartered this recipe so it fits in a stand mixer – you’re welcome!):

  • 3 eggs
  • ½ lb brown sugar Cookie Swap
  • 1 c white sugar
  • ¼ tbsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ lb butter (1 stick)
  • ¾ lb peanut butter (approximately 1 heaping cup)
  • 4 ½ c oatmeal
  • ½ bag chocolate chips
  • ½ bag M&Ms (I used a combination of peanut butter and regular M&Ms — use your favorites!)

Yields 20-25 cookies

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Add the ingredients in order. I turned my mixer on after adding the peanut butter and mixed the ingredients well for a minute or so (Note: I made batches with both crunchy and creamy peanut butter, and the crunchy held the cookies together better.). Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl — this is a looser batter than standard cookie dough at this point.

Add the oatmeal, and make sure your mixer’s lid is locked down before you turn the mixer on. I swear these are called “Monster Cookies” because even with the lid locked, the machine bumps and moves like the dough’s trying to escape!

Add the chocolate chips and M&Ms after the oatmeal is thoroughly incorporated, and let your mixer run on low for a few minutes. Some of the M&Ms will break, and that’s ok.
Cookie Swap
Cookie Swap Using an ice cream scoop or large spoon (MONSTER cookies), space these about 6-8 per cookie sheet. The resulting cookies will be about the size of your hand. They don’t spread a great deal, so use the back of the scoop to press them down slightly. In this picture, the cookie on the bottom left is flattened “appropriately”, according to my husband, who made these with his mom every year growing up.

Bake for 12 minutes — no more, no less. Give them 2-5 minutes to cool on the cookie sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. My hand is in this picture to show the scale of these suckers.
Cookie Swap
These taste amazing warm, and are best served with a big glass of milk! Monster cookies are perfect to make with little kids because there are a lot of dry ingredients to dump in, the ice cream scoop is easier to manage than something small and fiddly, and they don’t have to be pretty. They might not be the prettiest cookies on the block, but they sure are some of the tastiest!

Holiday Recipes – Time to Party!

Holiday Recipes – Time to Party!

The holiday season is in full swing and that means it’s time for parties! We’ve got you covered with some great holiday recipes that will leave your guests merry and bright!

Whether you are planning a small cocktail affair or a full-fledged feast, we have holiday recipes to meet your needs.

Looking for a signature cocktail for your soiree? How about Pancake Shots or Boozy Apple Cider? Check out these and more here. holiday recipes

Did someone volunteer you to bring the cookies this year? Here is a customizable cookie dough recipe plus a special holiday recipe from Chef J’s family.

If you’re hosting the whole family for a special fancy dinner, try this amazing Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Mac and Cheese.

holiday recipe

And stay tuned for next week’s post for more holiday recipes!