A Valentine’s treat for all.

February 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

Valentine’s Day is here. And I know you have a special someone in your life. We all do. Whether this person is a romantic partner or not, we all have a someone

A someone that is always there. A someone that we call when we get good news. A someone we call when we get bad news. And even a someone to call when we buy a bag of Doritos after a long day of work that makes the whole day worth it, and you know only this someone can appreciate that as much as you. 

So today, whether your special someone is your boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, partner, best friend, mother, or grandmother — remind them what they mean to you. And not just today, but every day. Let today be a reminder that we should always be telling someone we love them. Life is short. It’s complicated, and its tough. We will get our hearts broken. We will be hurt. But we will also be loved. Tremendously. And for that, we should rejoice.

So I made some treats for you. Make these for your special someone. Because nothing says I love you like chocolate. And a little labor of love means so much more than a hokey hallmark card.

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Candied Orange Peels Dipped in Chocolate

Makes about 60-70 peels

3 large oranges

1 1/4 cup sugar

1 cup water

4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate

First thing’s first. Peel your orange. Try to keep the rind in-tact as much as possible. And don’t worry about the pith (that’s the white bitter part we normally don’t like to eat). We will take care of that in a bit. Dice your peels into thin long strips. Set aside. Meanwhile, bring three medium-large pots of water to a boil. Add the orange peels and boil 3-4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set in the second pot. Repeat this process in each of the three boiling pots. This gets the bitterness out of the orange peels for candy-making. If you don’t have three pots, just strain them, rinse the pot, and fill back up with water and bring to a boil. Once they’re done in the final boil, strain and set aside. Meanwhile, wash your pot out with soap and water, and add the sugar and 1 cup of water. Simmer, and wait until the sugar has dissolved. Add your orange peels and simmer for 1 – 1 1/2 hours. Until the peels are soft and translucent. Get out a wire wrack for cooling, and place onto of a baking tray. When the peels are done, let them dry out for at least 1 hour. Toss in sugar once they begin to dry. 

Meanwhile, melt your chocolate in a double-boiler on your stove, or in the micro (my favorite way). Set aside. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Once orange peels are cooled and hardened, dip half in the chocolate and set onto the tray to cool. Try not to devour them all before they dry. Place in bags, and spread the love to your friends and family. 

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Polenta Cookies. And a big cup of coffee.

February 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

Are you about as sick of this polar vortex crap as I am? Look, I can handle winter, I was born in the frozen tundra of upstate, NY — but I’ve just about had it. I am typing this as I watch the weather forecast for the next week. Snow, rain, cold, a “break for a day” then more snow, rain, and cold. Someone get me out of here.

Good thing I have 32 official days left before I leave the country for 2 months. There is a light at the end of this tunnel. If you are one of the few people that actually read this blog, and know me in my personal life, then you know I will be leaving on March 7th for a pretty transformative experience. Traveling to Southeast Asia & Europe. Coming back when the bank account runs dry, and my cravings for an American meal just can’t stand any longer. I’ve tried to be healthy in the meantime, but like I said, this polar vortex crap has gotten the best of me. It’s time for some cookies to go with that big of coffee in the morning. I need it. I deserve it. And so do you.

These cookies are a northern Italian treat, and a refreshing twist on a standard shortbread cookie. Super easy. Easy enough to make, and devour 3-4 in one sitting with your morning cup of Joe. I love how the crunchy polenta plays with the soft cookie. I added orange marmalade for fun. I’m nothing if not a improvisor. Feel free to sub-in your favorite jam or preserve that’s sitting in your fridge feeling lonely. This is a great simple treat to whip up in a hurry. And to have for breakfast. Especially for breakfast.

So pour yourself a cup of coffee. And have a cookie. We have all earned it.

Polenta Cookies with Orange Marmalade

Cookies

Yields 30-38 cookies

Ingredients:

12 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup yellow cornmeal, ground

2 egg yolks

Zest of 1 lemon

Salt

Orange marmalade, will need roughly 1/4 cup for filling

This dough comes together in no-time. Simply bring the butter to room temp, and mix in a bowl with a stand or hand-mixer with flour, cornmeal, salt, zest, and sugar. Lastly, add in the egg yolks and pinch of salt to balance it out. Refrigerate until hardened a bit, up to 1 hour or overnight. Preheat oven to 350F. Roll into small balls of roughly 1 tablespoon, and poke a little indentation in the middle to fill with marmalade. Spoon in roughly 1/4 tsp – careful not to poke through the bottom, these cookies spread a bit and are super-thin. Bake for 10-15 minutes until just browned on the edges. Let cool and set on a wire rack for cooling. Buon appetito.

A New Year. And a Kale & Butternut Squash Tart with a Cauliflower Crust.

January 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

I’ve never been one for resolutions. It seems the more you make them, the more they get broken. And who’s to say they have to start on Jan 1? My goals for 2014 were laid out long before my NYE festivities. And I pretty much rang in 2014 the same way I spent 2013… friends + alcohol + a sprinkling of a few bad decisions. Sorry, Mom.

My goals in this culinary world are still going strong. I am lucky enough to have a pretty kick-ass job, and I am preparing to go on a 2 + month long journey through this world. South East Asia. Europe. The Mediterranean. And anywhere else I can go before my bank account runs dry. So, in the meantime, home-cooked, healthy meals are an absolute necessity.

Enter this recipe. I have a few mini tart shells that I love cooking dinner in. Make a big pot of something, divide it into the shells, and reheat them all week. Voila! Lunch and dinner are served (not to mention, in perfect portion control). I used some inspiration from this Food52 recipe, and a fellow blogger’s idea to create a crust out of cauliflower. Hello, gluten-free, healthy, and insanely good meal, I cannot wait to devour you. Feel free to use a large tart shell if that’s all you have, or even a springform pan. Swap the filling and add meats, more veggies, or whatever you have handy. Make your resolutions easier on yourself, after all, its the little things in life that make it all worth while. 

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Kale & Butternut Squash Tart with a Cauliflower Crust

Yields 8 small tarts, or 1 large tart

Ingredients:

Crust:

1 medium cauliflower head

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup almond flour/ground almonds

1 egg

Salt & pepper to taste

Filling:

Olive oil

2 cups diced butternut squash

2 garlic cloves

1 12 – 16 oz. bag of kale, diced and rinsed

Salt & pepper

1/3 cup nonfat Greek yogurt

 

Begin by making the crust. Preheat your oven to 400F, and butter or spray your tart shells liberal (this is a sticky one, so be careful). Get out your food processor, and dice up your cauliflower. Remove the stems, you will only want the florets for this. You may need to grind them up in batches, as not to overload the processor. Then, add the parmesan, egg, almond flour, salt and pepper to taste. Divide evenly and spread in a thin layer among the shells using your hands or a spoon or off-set spatula. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden and set. Let cool, and make the filling.

In a large sauté pan, heat 1-2 Tbsp olive oil on medium high heat. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, no longer than 1-2 minutes. Don’t burn! Add the kale, in batches if necessary, and wilt down. Season liberally with salt & pepper. Add in the diced butternut squash, and cover with a lid. Cook for a remaining 5-10 minutes, just until the butternut squash begins to soften. Remove from heat, and mix in the nonfat Greek yogurt. Feel free to substitute sour cream, or even ricotta cheese if that’s all you’ve got handy. Fill your tart shells evenly with the kale + squash mixture. Bake another 5 minutes, until just set. Remove, cool, eat-up. 

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Almond-Grape Cake. Gluten Free. And still delish.

December 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

Now, let me preface this by saying I am not a gluten free expert. I don’t have a sensitivity to gluten and am in no way, shape, or form, able to give a ton of advice on how to bake with alternative flours. But, the fab folks at Food52 have a great article on it. If that’s your sort of thing, check it out.

I recently moved out of a building I lived in for 3 years. And in NYC, it might as well have been 20. I was also lucky enough to live next door to some amazing people, and I was also double-y (is that even a word?) lucky to have made a life long friend out of one special gal. My guinea pig and recipe tester many nights, she recently had to cut gluten out of her diet. But, I wouldn’t let this stop me from making her a fab cake.

It is the holidays, after all. And what better way to show people you care than by making them something a little extra special? Use their favorite ingredients. Something that says “I know this is what you love, so I am giving you just a little bit of love. In the form of a cake.”

Because, sometimes, it’s the little things in life that matters. Or really, most of the time.

OK, sorry, sappy time over. Time to eat some cake.

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Almond-Grape Cake.

Adapted from Food52

Ingredients:

4 large eggs

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp pure almond extract

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 1/2 cups almond flour

1/2 cup brown rice flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

zest of 1 orange

1/2 cup halved red, seedless grapes

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, using your hand held beaters, or stand mixer with whisk attachment, whip the eggs and sugar together until it has doubled in volume, and is pale in color & light and fluffy. Add the almond extract, whip for another minute. Add the room temp butter, whip for another minute more until it is all incorporated. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl sift together the almond flour, brown rice flour, baking powder, salt, and orange zest. Slowly add in the flours to the egg/butter mixture in batches, folding with a spatula or large spoon — as to not deflate the eggs. Take as much time as you need. Pour the batter into your greased 8 or 9 inch cake pan, and stud with the halved grapes. Bake for roughly 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean and it is browned around the edges.

A birthday. Some great friends. And Red Velvet Cookies.

December 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

If you know me at all, then you know I can’t celebrate so much as a Friday night without a homemade baked something-or-other. And some wine. Definitely some wine.

So when it came time to celebrate a birthday for one of my oldest, and very bestest friends (FYI, girls will always use that word when describing friends, whether we are 5 or 50), in NYC — dessert had to be made. One of her fave flavors is red velvet, with that classic cream cheese frosting. I thought cake was a bit much for 4 girls at dinner — who are we kidding, we would never devour a whole cake after eating a big spread of guacamole & tequila.

Cookies were the easy answer.

Then, this invention happened. If a whoopie pie fell in love with a cookie, this is what you’d get. A little bit cake-y. A lot of bit moist. And every bit delicious.

When you want your loved ones to feel your love this holiday season. Or simply want to impress your co-workers with a killer cookie at your annual cookie swap. You make these. What I love about this recipe is that it’s super adaptable. Swap out the red velvet for a PB&J cookie — add 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter to the batter, and skip the cocoa powder & food coloring. Add your favorite jam instead of frosting, and voila — PB&J whoopie pie deliciousness.

Get creative here, this one’s a keeper.

Red Velvet Sandwich Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

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Makes 13 sandwiches, or 26 cookies

Ingredients:

For the cookies:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temp

1 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup cocoa powder

3-4 Tbsp. buttermilk

2 Tbsp red food coloring

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

4 oz. cream cheese, at room temp

4 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temp

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Begin by preheating your oven to 375F, and lining a cookie tray with either a silpat, or sprayed parchment paper. These cookies are moist, so they will stick otherwise! In the bowl of your stand mixer, or bowl with hand held mixer, cream the room temperature butter & sugar together until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add your vanilla extract and 1 egg, beat until just combined.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl whisk together your dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder. Add in 3 small batches to your butter/sugar mixture and beat on low until combined. Thin out in between mixes with the buttermilk. Last, add your red food coloring to desired coloring (may need more if you like them deeper).

Use a small ice cream scoop, or a large heaping Tablespoon to spoon onto cookie tray. These spread out considerably, so be sure to leave at least 1 1/2 inches in between cookies as they bake. Bake for 8-10 minutes, these don’t take long! Let cool while you whip up frosting.

Make the frosting. Start by making sure your butter and cream cheese are at room temp. Otherwise, this will take you years, and give your bicep a serious workout! Cream together butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and powdered sugar to desired consistency. This will make enough to put about 1 Tablespoon of frosting in between two cookies. Frost. Devour. Try to share. Sharing is caring.

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Salted Caramel Apple, Pear & Cranberry Pie

November 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

Sorry I’m not sorry. This just had to be done. All these fall fruits. All these pie recipes all over the interwebs. Like I said, sorry I’m not sorry.

Also inspiring this pie was some serious recipe testing I did for Food52. After a weekend spent testing pies for their latest contest, I just knew I had to get in the kitchen and whip up my own. Inspired by this seriously-delish Hazelnut Praline Dutch Apple Pie recipe, I just had to get my pie-on. 

Enter Salted Caramel Apple, Pear & Cranberry Pie. Cook the fruits down in cinnamon-spiced-sugar-goodness, save the juice and make a caramel out of it. Drizzle. Bake. Eat while standing over the counter at 10am the next morning because that’s how good this is.

What kind of pies are you making this holiday season?

Salted Caramel Apple, Pear & Cranberry Pie

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Serves 6

Ingredients:

For the crust:

1 cup all-purpose flour

8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold, cut into chunks

1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. granulated sugar

5-6 Tbsp. ice-cold water

For the filling:

2 large Honeycrisp apples

2 large Bartlett pears

1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 tsp. all-spice

For the caramel:

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1/4 cup light brown sugar

4 Tbsp. heavy cream

1/2 tsp. salt

Begin by making the crust a couple hours in advance. In your food processor, or a large bowl with a pastry cutter (or ready & willing hands), pulse the flour, butter, salt, and sugar together until small pebble-sized dough forms. Add the ice water 1 Tbsp. at a time until dough forms — do not over mix! Form into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap for at least 2 hours, can do up to 1 day in advance if needed. 

Make the filling. Dice apple & pears into 1-inch chunks, and throw into a medium pot with the cranberries. Add sugar, brown sugar, and spices and cook on medium-low heat until cranberries have burst and apples & pears are soft — roughly 10 minutes. Keep an eye on it, every stove is different. You just want them soft, have their juices released. In the meantime, get out a large heat-proof bowl and your strainer/fine mesh sieve. When fruits are done, remove from heat, and strain out the juice from the filling, set the filling aside, and return the juices to the pot. Back on medium-low heat, add the caramel filling ingredients: butter, sugar, heavy cream, and salt. Stir occasionally and let bubble/cook/boil/caramelize for at least 2 minutes — until sugar dissolves and it becomes a thick syrup. When done, turn off heat & assemble your pie.

Assembly: Preheat your oven to 375F. Grab your 8 or 9 inch pie plate, and spray with nonstick spray. Tip: place it back in the fridge to help the spray set until ready to line with dough. Take the pie dough out of the fridge, flour your counter-top, and slice your dough in half. Knead one half a few times and roll it out. Place on the bottom of your pie pan, and make sure you roll enough out to go up all sides. Trim off remaining pieces if necessary. Pinch it onto the ends. Add your fruit filling. Drizzle with the caramel. Set aside. Roll out the last ball of dough, and place on top of your pie — either in a special create-your-own lattice, a full slab of dough, or none at all! I went with none — I like my fruit juicy and visible. If desired, brush the top dough with a little milk & sprinkle with sugar for flare, and sweetness.

Place pie plate on a large cookie tray to catch any juice that overflows during baking. Bake for anywhere from 35-45 minutes, until the caramel bubbles, and dough is browned. Make fresh whipped cream if you feel daring.

Pumpkin Pie Snickerdoodle Cookies.

November 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

This time of year, pumpkin seems to show up in just about every recipe. Every article. Every supermarket. Pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin. Don’t get me wrong, I love pumpkin pie, but enough already. There’s so much more potential in this little can of pureed orange-goodness, which is also good for you (bonus!), that we should explore it a bit further.

This week I have been exploring all-things-canned pumpkin. Pumpkin Risotto. Pumpkin Muffins. And today — Pumpkin Pie Snickerdoodle Cookies. Snickerdoodles in and of themselves are simply the best – cinnamon & sugar. ‘Nuff said. Now it’s time it got a pumpkin makeover.

Grab that extra can of pumpkin puree that you know will sit in your pantry until next Thanksgiving — its time we stop wasting food, and giving it a bit more attention. And also — eat cookies.

Pumpkin Pie Snickerdoodle Cookies

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Makes about 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp.

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 large egg

1 cup pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix)

3 cups whole wheat flour (or all-purpose if that’s what you have)

3 tsp. cream of tartar

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

pinch all-spice

1/4 tsp salt

For topping:

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375F. Line your cookie tray(s) with parchment paper & spray with nonstick spray. In your large bowl of stand mixer, or large bowl with hand-mixer, whip the butter & sugars together until light and fluffy. About 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla extract, pumpkin puree, and mix until just combined – do not overbeat. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, spices, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in 3 batches, just until incorporated. May need to mix by hand with a spatula, to get everything combined — the batter is thick and doughy. In a small bowl, mix topping ingredients – sugar & cinnamon, and set aside. Using a small ice cream scoop, or large tablespoon, form dough into small balls and roll in the cinnamon/sugar topping. Place onto the cookie tray, press down lightly with hand, and keep at least 1 inch apart. Bake for 10-13 minutes or until browned and fluffy.

 

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