Gingersnaps

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I have a note to myself on my Gingersnap recipe in my recipe box that reads, “This is the best recipe!  I made this for the first time in 1997 when we went to Whistler and for each Christmas since.  The aroma is fabulous.  Everyone loves these.”    I remember that trip with my family.  I love how memories are made around food.  These smell amazing and they are delightfully good right out of the oven.

Ingredients
2 C. flour
1 T. ground ginger
2 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. salt
3/4 C. white vegetable shortening (Crisco)
1 C. sugar
1 egg
1/4 C. molasses
Sugar for rolling.

DirectionsDSC_0233
Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Do not grease cookie sheets.

In a bowl, combine flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt.  Set aside

In an electric mixer, beat shortening and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg and molasses.  Gradually stir in flour mixture.

Roll dough into 1 1/2 in dough balls and roll in sugar until completely coated.  Place cookies at least two inches away from each other on the cookie sheet.

Bake between 9 to 11 minutes until lightly browned and somewhat cracked looking.

These cookies are great with coffee, cocoa or tea.  Store in airtight containers and enjoy all winter long.

Dinner Club – February 2013

SBE 065February 2013 Dinner Club

Our February dinner club was held at Tiffany’s.  Her theme of choice was romance movies.  She asked all the participants to taylor their portion of the meal around their favorite romance movie.  If you haven’t read my blog about Dinner Club and how it works, check it out.  Since Tiffany was hosting, she had the entree.  Her movie was “Love Actually” and she chose to do penne in a red vodka cream sauce.  It goes without saying that the menu was amazing so keep reading.

Dinner Club Romance Media
Dinner Club Romance Media

Dinner Club Themes, Menu and Media

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Tiffany – “Love Actually” – Entree – You Won’t Be Single For Long Vodka Cream Sauce

Tracy – “Gidget Goes to Rome” – Appetizer –  Three Way Bruchetta

Kelly – “Mama Mia” – Side – Mediterranean Orzo, Feta, and Tomato Salad With Marjoram Vinaigrette

Jeni – “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” – Beverage – Champagne Bar

Stephanie – “Four Weddings and a Funeral” – Salad – Winterfruit Salad

Trisha – “Downton Abbey” – Dessert – Lemon Bar Cake Cookies

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Yes, I’m fully aware that Downton Abbey is not a movie, but a television miniseries on PBS.  I was reminded over and over again that evening by multiple people, but in my defense, I love it as if it were a movie and I don’t always run with the pack, therefore making it perfectly acceptable and after all, it’s Dinner Club, so all is forgiven.

Bruchetta Three Ways

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What’s better than having bruchetta three ways?  When your lover makes fresh french rolls the morning of Dinner Club day and you get to spoil all the girls with it!  Who needs store bought with that kind of man at home!

Ingredients

1 french baggette, preferably made by your lover, cut into half inch slices on the bias

1 T Olive Oil

1 clove garlic halved

Directions:  preheat your oven to 475 degrees.  Place baggette slices on a cookie sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and rub with halved garlic.  Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes watching closely so they don’t burn.  Remove from oven and arrange on a tray.  Serve with three sauces.  You can make these as you see them below or come up with  your own.  Personally, the tomato and the goat cheese are my favorite and they are really great together.

Tomato Topping:

2 diced roma tomatoes, seeds discarded

1 bunch fresh basil leaf, chiffonade

1 t. balsamic vinegar

freshly cracked black pepper

Directions:  Combine all ingredients into a mixing bowl and gently mix.  Serve on toasted baguette slices.

SBE 136

Goat Cheese and Onion Topping:

1 8oz pkg of goat cheese

1/4 C. of thick sour cream

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 T. finely chopped chives

1/2 t. garlic powder

Directions:  Combine all ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix until blended and smooth.  Serve on toasted baguette slices.

SBE 055

Drunken Fig Jam courtesy Epicurious.com

2 lemons

4 pounds ripe fresh figs (preferably black), stemmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 9 cups)

4 cups sugar

3/4 cup brandy or Cognac

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Using vegetable peeler, remove peel from lemons (yellow part only) in long strips. Cut peel into matchstick-size strips (about 3 tablespoons).

Combine lemon peel, figs, sugar, brandy, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt in heavy large deep saucepan; let stand at room temperature 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Bring fig mixture to boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium; continue to boil until jam thickens and is reduced to 6 cups, stirring frequently and occasionally mashing mixture with potato masher to crush large fig pieces, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from heat.

Ladle mixture into 6 hot clean 1/2-pint glass canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch space at top of jars. Remove any air bubbles. Wipe jar threads and rims with clean damp cloth. Cover with hot lids; apply screw bands. Process jars in pot of boiling water 10 minutes. Cool jars completely. Store in cool dark place up to 1 year.

You Won’t Be Single For Long Vodka Cream Sauce adapted by Food Network

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Ingredients

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, once around the pan in a slow stream

1 tablespoon butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 shallots, minced

1 cup vodka

1 cup chicken stock

1 can crushed tomatoes (32 ounces)

Coarse salt and pepper

16 ounces pasta, such as penne rigate

1/2 cup heavy cream

20 leaves fresh basil, shredded or torn

Crusty bread, for passing

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Directions

Heat a large skillet over moderate heat. Add oil, butter, garlic, and shallots. Gently saute shallots for 3 to 5 minutes to develop their sweetness. Add vodka to the pan, 3 turns around the pan in a steady stream will equal about 1 cup. Reduce vodka by half, this will take 2 or 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes. Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

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While sauce simmers, cook pasta in salted boiling water until cooked to al dente (with a bite to it). While pasta cooks, prepare your salad or other side dishes.

Stir cream into sauce. When sauce returns to a bubble, remove it from heat. Drain pasta. Toss hot pasta with sauce and basil leaves. Pass pasta with crusty bread.

Orzo, Feta, and Tomato Salad With Marjoram Vinaigrette adapted from Bon Appetit

SBE 107

Ingredients

1 pound orzo

1/4 C. fresh lemon juice

6 t finely chopped fresh marjoram

4 t Dijon mustard

1 t grated lemon peel

1/2 C. olive oil

1 1/2 C. crumbled feta cheese

3 green onions, thinly sliced

1 C. pitted Kalamata olives, quartered

24 oz. cherry tomatoes, stemmed, halved

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Directions

Cook orzo in a pot of boiling, salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occassionally.  Drain.  Rinse pasta under cold water until cool.  Drain well.  Transfer pasta to larger bowl.

Whisk lemon juice, 5 t. marjoram, mustard and lemon peel in a small bowl.  Whisk in olive oil.  Set aside 2 T. vinaigrette.  Add remaining vinaigrette, cheese, onions and olives to orzo; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Cover and let stand 2 hours to allow flavors to develop.  Toss tomatoes with reserved vinaigrette.  Toss into salad and add remaining marjoram.  Serve cold.

Winter Fruit Salad with Lemon Poppyseed Dressing

SBE 104

Ingredients

1/2 C. white sugar

1/2 C. lemon juice

2 t. diced onion

1 t. Dijon-style prepared mustard

1/2 t. salt

2/3 C. vegetable oil

1 t. poppy seeds

1 head butter leaf lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces

4 oz. shredded Swiss cheese

1 C. cashews

1/4 C. dried cranberries

1 apple, peeled, cored and diced

1 pear, peeled, cored and sliced

SBE 103

Directions

In a blender or food processor, combine sugar, lemon juice, onion, mustard, and salt. Process until well blended. With machine still running, add oil in a slow, steady stream until mixture is thick and smooth. Add poppy seeds, and process just a few seconds more to mix.

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In a large serving bowl, toss together the romaine lettuce, shredded Swiss cheese, cashews, dried cranberries, apple, and pear. Pour dressing over salad just before serving, and toss to coat.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s Champagne Bar

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This is such a wonderful idea.  If you have a number of guests over, grab a few bottles of your favorite champagne, mixers and your gorgeous glassware and have a ball mixing up your favorite champagne cocktails.  Don’t forget the must have cute napkins and drink stirrers.  With a champagne bar, everyone makes their own special version!

SBE 112

Ingredients

1 1/2 oz. orange vodka

1 1/2 oz. lemon juice

1 1/2 oz. orange juice

2 bar spoons Apricot preserves

Champagne

Directions

Combine ingredients in a martini shaker with ice and serve chilled in your favorite glassware!  Too many of these and we would have really had breakfast at Tiffany’s!

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As you can see, our champagne bar had the following ingredients, but you can use virtually anything.  Be creative and taylor your bar to a specific holiday or celebration.  Here are some other ingredients you may wish to use to stock your champagne bar:

Peach puree

Mango puree

Orange Juice

Lemon Juice

sugar cubes

Bitters

Triple Sec

Simple syrup

Raspberry puree

Strawberries, raspberries, cut pineapple and marischino cherries for garnish

SBE 114

Downton Abbey Lemon Bar Cake Cookies

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Makes 18 to 20

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 9 x 13 glass Pyrex.

Crust:

2 C. all-purpose flour

½ C. powdered sugar

1 C. butter (you can mix ½ cup butter and ½ cup shortening as an alternative to all butter)

1 tsp. grated Meyer lemon peel

Dash salt

Mix ingredients together with your hands until crumbly and press into the greased 9×13 Pyrex dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 22 minutes until lightly browned.  Remove from oven and let cool before adding filling.

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Filling:

4 eggs

1 C. all-purpose flour

1 ¼ C. granulated sugar

1 t. baking powder

Dash salt

¼ C. freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 t. lemon peel

1 t. lemon extract (optional)

Add all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and beat with a wire whisk until combined.  Pour into 9×13 over cooled cookie base and put in oven at 350 for 25 minutes or until center is cooked through.  Remove from oven and cool on counter.

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Icing:

1 C. powdered sugar

8 oz. cream cheese softened

¼ C. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Mix sugar and cream cheese until smooth.  Add lemon juice until desired consistency.  Pour over lemon bar cake.  Let icing set for about an hour before cutting lemon bars.    When you cut, they will look a bit rustic.

Serving Tip:  Serve inside large white paper muffin cups or on top of sweet little decorative doilies covering a cake stand.

SBE 024

A St. Patrick’s Day Celebration

A History Lesson:  St. Patrick is the most recognized patron saint of Ireland, a British Roman, formerly captured and brought to Ireland as a slave, he escaped and later returned to Ireland as a Christian Bishop spreading the good word.  Today, we recognize St. Patrick’s Day as a celebration of Irish culture and probably one of the most celebrated of all the saint’s days in the world.  It is a day of commemorating Christianity coming to Ireland and is marked by feasts, the wearing of green and a lively excuse to party!

My family, having Irish decent, most notably by the names of McIntee and Murphy, join me in a dinner celebration every St. Patrick’s Day.  After years of serving the traditional corned beef and cabbage, I am trying to mix it up, stretch my culinary skills, and keep it interesting.  St. Patrick’s Day isn’t just about soda bread like all the cooking magazines like to push at you.  I’ve read too many articles about traditional Irish soda bread usually portraying some elderly, apron-wearing, Irish woman who lost her smile standing in her lonely kitchen with a sad bowl in front of her that looks to be bread dough.  C’mon.  Not interesting!  What is interesting is exploring the culinary world around you.

This St. Patrick’s day I took a trip to a local restaurant in Bellingham, Washington known interestingly enough as “Man Pies“.  No kidding.  This is the place where they sell pasties, which looked lovely and meat pies which strongly resemble shepherd’s pie.  Bryce (pictured above), the fellow I met who works behind the counter, proudly informed me that it took them two weeks to prepare the beef for the corned beef pie. 

For my Irish family gathering, I bought six personal meat pies for dinner and he talked me into dessert too.  One mini lapin cherry almond Frangipagne, a mini cherry almond pie, a slice of chocolate buttercream layer cake, a slice of vanilla buttercream layer cake, and a mini shortbread apple pie.  What can I say,  I love dessert.  I also love to cook, but sometimes, you just have to go out and explore the world around you because it just might fill you with delight, inspiration and you get to meet new people who love food and culture as much as you do.  Dinner was served AND devoured!

Four Lemon Tart

Four Lemon Tart
A year ago, I bought a tart pan as a gift for someone and tucked it away and forgot about it.  It always happens that when you are looking for something else, you find something you forgot you had.  I have no idea who the tart pan was intended for, but I made this lemon tart for Easter dessert with it, so I guess it’s mine now!
Much like always, I reviewed and researched several tart recipes that included lemons or some other variation of fruit and assorted toppings and decided that this version seemed like the strongest candidate for a light dessert after a big dinner.  It came out perfect and after rushing around preparing for this dinner, I thought, forget the glazed spiral sliced ham, where’s the dessert!? In my opinion, you could serve this any time of year and it would be amazing.  Who doesn’t love lemon desserts?
Four Lemon Tart
Ingredients
1/2 C. (1 stick) butter, melted
2 T. finely grated lemon zest, divided
cooking spray
1 3/4 C. flour
1 1/4 C. sugar, divided
dash salt
6 large eggs
1 C. fresh squeezed lemon juice from four lemons
1/2 C. heavy whipping cream
1/2 C. confectioner’s sugar for dusting
Preparation
This recipe will require an 11 inch tart pan.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt your butter and pour into a mixing bowl.  Mix in 1 tablespoon of the lemon zest.  Let this mixture stand for about five minutes and using the cooking spray, prepare your tart pan.
Add flour, 1/3 cup of the sugar and salt to a medium bowl and stir together.  Slowly add the butter mixture and stir until combined and dough resembles course pea size pieces and you can squeeze it between your thumb and index finger and it sticks together.  Turn dough out onto prepared tart pan and using the bottom of a tumbler or by hand, flatten dough onto bottom and shape up the sides of the pan.  Make sure to smooth and flatten the edge at the edge of the pan so it looks neat when it comes out of the oven.  Bake for 18 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool on rack.
Add the remaining sugar and lemon zest to your food processor and blend until the zest is finely ground.  In another mixing bowl, add eggs and sugar/zest mixture, lemon juice and salt and whisk until smooth.
Add whipping cream to a mixing bowl and using electic mixer whip cream until soft peaks form.  Fold the whipping cream into the egg mixture until just blended.
Place your cooled tart pan in the center of a cookie sheet and pour the batter into your tart pan.  Place tart in the oven and bake for 30 minutes and the filling is set in the center.  The edges may become a light golden brown.  Remove the tart carefully from the oven and rest until tart is cooled completely.  It is important to know not to touch the top of the tart despite how tempted you are to do so.  The top of the tart is sticky and it will adhere to your finger leaving an unsightly divit on the top that will be noticable despite how much confectioners sugar you use trying to cover it.
After the tart has cooled and just prior to serving, you can place the tart on a cake stand and sift confectioners sugar over the top, or slice tart in wedges individually and sift the sugar over the top after it’s plated.
Leave me a comment and tell me how much you love it!

Bananas Foster

Bananas Foster

Bananas Foster is a dessert made of bananas, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, dark rum and banana liqueur.  These ingredients are cooked down, ignited and poured over vanilla ice cream.  When the hot caramel-like sauce hits cold icecream, a small crisp caramel crust is created.  Originating from New Orleans, Louisiana in 1951 and named after Richard Foster, a crime commissioner, it remains a popular dessert today.
Enough about that.  I first had this somewhere around 2001 or 2002.  Tina, who had drawn the dessert card, brought it to Dinner Club at my house and I remember standing in my kitchen wondering what in the world is she making and what is she going to do with that lighter??  Confident in her culinary skill with bananas and recipe in hand she was waving it around and telling everyone how great it was and how much they were going to love it.   I admit to thinking my friend must’ve gone bizerk if she was igniting anything in my tiny, little, table-for-one kitchen, but she was right.  We all loved it.  I’m trying to remember exactly what the Dinner Club theme was that night, but it really doesn’t matter.  Whether you are cooking this dessert up in celebration of Mardi Gras or looking for a warm dessert to create a happy ending to a fall or winter meal, you will just have to try this.  Yes, I know.  There’s four tablespoons of butter.  Get over it.  We’re really cooking here!
Bananas Foster
Ingredients
4 T. butter
1/2 C. brown sugar
2 bananas sliced
1/2 t. cinnamon
1 T. banana liqueur
1/4 C. dark rum
Directions
In a skillet, add the butter and brown sugar over medium heat and stir often until butter is melted.  Add cinnamon and stir until combined.  Add bananas and cook until carmelized on both sides.  *Carefully remove pan from heat, add banana liqueur and rum and use a long lighter to ignite.  Return to the heat to burn off the alcohol.  Stir one last time and pour over vanilla ice cream.  Let set for a moment and serve.  Bananas Foster is such a special treat!
*Cook’s Tip:  Alcohol is extremely flammable.  Use caution when igniting your sauce. Be sure to hold the pan away from you and others and do not lean over it.  Now read the Cook’s Tip over again and take it seriously.  No goofing around.

Chocolate Souffle’ Cake

Chocolate Souffle’ Cake
A couple things happened this week.  I got a new camera so I can take better pictures of all the food on my blog and I’m having a blast learning about it.  Second, a quest for better health led me straight to a Chocolate Souffle’ Cake at the same time I was planning a menu for a good friends birthday.  It happens to be a very funny story. 
The weather has still been pretty chilly and rainy around here which doesn’t do much to improve my low motivation for working out these days.  I have been asking friends to walk trails and run with me, but I think their motivation is actually a lot lower than mine!  Somehow the world became a spooky place to do trail running on your own, so I like to go with others, only others aren’t going.  So now I have high motivation and high commitment and everyone I know has neither.  Time to turn to Plan B which is running on the treadmill.  I like my treadmill, but it’s boring. I’m sure there’s some way to improve the treadmill experience.  In order to alleviate the boredom of running a 5K and staring at the wall, I moved the treadmill in front of the window and put a TV in front of it.  The problem is that the TV is the old kind with the VHS tape deck built right in and the fact that I’m too much of a dufus to fix the TV to get a signal on any other channel other than channel five.  For the record, I really don’t watch that much TV, so figuring out the remote control seems a waste of time.  Putting my high motivation, high commitment to good use, I dug around in some boxes to find an old movie to watch and you’ll never believe what I found.  A VHS tape of Food Network from ten years ago!  Back in 2001, I didn’t have cable, so my sister would record hours and hours of Food Network and give me the tapes to watch at home.  It was hilarious to see Emeril Lagasse and Martha Stewart back then, not to mention all the cool Food Network shows that were on before reality television became the rave.  What ever happened to Cowboy Kitchen and Jacques Torres (and his chocolate for that matter?)  Now that’s entertainment.  That was the best 5k I ever did run.
The recording had to have taken place around this time of year because Martha (pre-jail) was making her Chocolate Souffle’ Cake as I was panting along in front of her.  What a great idea for the dessert portion of the birthday dinner I was making for my friend.  Mine ended up looking as great as hers, so here is her recipe, but be warned…I added a little more chocolate and vanilla!  Sorry Miss Martha, I think it made for a better tasting chocolate souffle’ cake!

Chocolate Souffle’ Cake (with vanilla!)
Based on Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Souffle’ Cake

Ingredients
Olive Oil Spray
1 C. plus 2 T. granulated sugar, divided
3/4 C. butter
8 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped (use best quality chocolate)
1 t. vanilla extract
3 egg yolks
1 egg
6 egg whites
Cocoa powder for dusting
Directions
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Using spray, grease a 9 inch springform pan and dust with the 2 T. of granulated sugar. 
Over medium heat, melt butter and chocolate together in a double boiler over simmering water and stir occassionally with a heat proof rubber spatula until all the butter has melted.  Add vanilla and stir.  Remove from heat and set aside.
With an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add the egg yolks and 1/2 C. sugar and blend at high speed until pale yellow and thick, about 4 to 5 minutes.  Set aside. 
Using a very clean and dry mixing bowl attached to electric mixer and using whisk attachment, whisk egg whites and remaining 1/2 C. sugar until thick and batter forms soft peaks when you lift the whisk.  This step should take about three minutes.  Set aside.
Add a very small portion of the chocolate mixture to the egg yolk mixture and stir to combine.  This is called “tempering” so you don’t make scrambled egg chocolate souffle’ cake.  You are bringing up the heat slowly in order to combine the hot ingredients, stir it and cool it down.  Slowly add the remaining chocolate mixture while stirring the combined mixture until it comes together.  Using a rubber spatula, add the big foamy egg whites all at once to your combined chocolate and egg yolk mixture and fold it into the batter, gently.  Repeat folding until just combined.  You want your cake to be nice and fluffy and overmixing will flatten your glorious cake prematurely.  We don’t want that!
Pour batter into prepared springform pan and cook for 60 minutes.  Your cake is going to do what all souffle’s are supposed to do and rise in the oven.  After it’s done cooking, remove from oven and place on counter to cool.  The cake will flatten and this is okay.  Don’t panic.  It is supposed to look rustic, rough and have cracks.  When it’s cool, dust with cocoa and place on a beautiful pedistal stand.  It’s going to be perfect and taste like a dream.  The birthday girl said, “It just melts in your mouth.  I love it”.  And you will too!!

Roasted Hazelnut Chocolate Caramel Shortbread

Roasted Hazelnut Chocolate Caramel Shortbread

This recipe was actually made for our December Dinner Club at Stephanie’s house.  These beautiful cookie bars were made by my friend and Dinner Club member, Kathy for our annual cookie exchange.  Immediately after dinner, we each bring to the table the “cookie” we secretly made for the exchange.  This is a time for ooohs and aaaahs.  When this cookie debuted, there was much excitement.  This is not the original recipe she used which is listed at http://www.eatwisconsincheese.com/, but I used hazelnuts instead of almonds, two different extracts and more cinnamon. 
So, how does this recipe fit into February?  If you are looking to impress (as we all were when we saw these) your sweetie pie will  think you went to a ton of work making them.  Wrapped in cute little cupcake wrappers, they look like they just came from a bakery.  No kidding.  For February,  I suggest putting a little candy heart on top of each that says exactly how you feel about them.  It could be “BABY DOLL”, “I LOVE YOU” or “LETS BOOGIE”!

Roasted Hazelnut Chocolate Caramel Shortbread

Ingredients

Shortbread:
1/2 C. roasted hazelnuts
1 1/2 C. flour
1/2 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1 1/4 sticks of butter
1/2 C. light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate Caramel:
2. C. chocolate chips
1 1/2 C. sugar
1/4 C. light corn syrup
1/4 C. water
3/4 stick of butter
1 C. heavy cream
1/2 t. salt
1 T. sea salt or flavored salt found in specialty stores

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Tracy & Stephanie
Dinner Club – December 2010
Shortbread:  Get out a 9×9 inch pan and cover bottom with parchment paper or foil inside the pan.  Butter the interior right on top of the parchment.  Using your cuisinart, process hazelnuts until fine.  In a separate bowl, whisk together ground hazelnuts, flour, salt and cinnamon and set aside.
In a mixer, beat butter, brown sugar and extracts together until light.  Add the flour mixture from above and work it in until a dough forms.  Remove dough from bowl and press it evenly into the bottom of a prepared pan.  Bake until golden, about 28 minutes.
Chocolate Caramel:  Place chocolate chips in a heat proof bowl.  In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup and water.  Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes until mixture is thick.  Remove from heat and immediatly pour over chocolate.  Add butter, heavy cream and salt and stir until combined.  Return saucepan to heat and simmer, stirring until smooth.  Simmer about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and pour mixture over shortbread.  Cool overnight in refrigerator.
Before serving, sprinkle with sea salt.  To remove from pan, grab sides of parchment and carefully lift it from the pan.  Set on cool surface and use a hot knife blade to cut bars.  You can do this by dipping knife end in very hot water and wiping dry right before cutting.  These bars can be stored in the refrigerator for a week.

Enjoy!

La Tarte de Crème de chocolat / Chocolate Cream Pie

La Tarte de Crème de chocolat or
Chocolate Cream Pie
God gave the angels wings and gave the humans chocolate.
– Author Unknown


Ooooh luscious.  I love chocolate.  Chocolate cream pie should be creamy, you know?  Smooth, cold and thick.   The taste needs to be rich and bold and stand up to a knife.  With cream pies, most people think “light and fluffy”.  After all, it’s a cream pie, not a cheesecake.  I like them rich and dense, regardless.  I’m here to tell you that if you’re using an instant pudding to make your cream pies, you are missing out.  Take your time and do it like your grandma used to do it.  Chocolate cream pie doesn’t get any better than this.


La Tarte de Crème de chocolat
 Ingredients
Crust
8 oz chocolate wafer cookies, crushed
4 1/2 T. melted butter
2 T. sugar

Filling
1 C. milk
1 C. cream
1/2 C. Sugar
3 egg yolks
1/4 C. cornstarch
1/4 t. salt
8 oz. chocolate chips
1/4 C. unsweetened cocoa

Whipped Cream
3/4 C. heavy whipped cream
1 t. vanilla extract
2 T. sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, mix the cookie crumbs with the butter and sugar and pour into prepared glass pie plate.  Press crust to bottom and sides of the pie plate until uniform and smooth.  Place in oven and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 8 minutes.  Remove from oven and place on counter to cool.
In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and 1/4 C. of sugar together.  Add the salt and mix until combined.  In a separate saucepan over medium heat add milk and remaining 1/4 C. sugar and heat until bubbly stirring occassionally.   Turn off heat.  Slowly add a spoonful of the milk mixture to the egg mixture to temper your eggs and stir.  You are bringing your egg mixture up to temperature.  Pouring too much hot milk liquid too fast into your egg mixture will result in scrambling your eggs.  Again, add another spoonful of the hot milk mixture to the eggs and stir.  Finally, add you egg mixture into the saucepan with the milk and stir swiftly until combined.  Add chocolate chips and cocoa powder and mix well. Pour mixture into your prepared cookie crust and spread to edges, smoothing with a rubber spatula.  Place a piece of cling wrap directly on surface of chocolate mixture.  Refrigerate for at least three hours to set. 
To prepare your whipping cream, pour heavy cream into a bowl, add vanilla and sugar and beat until soft peaks form.  If you want thicker whipped cream, beat until desired consistentcy.  When you remove pie from the fridge, spoon out whipped cream and spread on top, mounding it in the middle and garnish with chocolate shavings, or drizzled chocolate topping or fresh raspberries.  Bon Appetit!

The Thief Cookie

The Thief Cookie
I received a gift of inspiration this holiday season from a special friend of mine.  She is the kind of friend everyone should have.  We didn’t always know each other well until about a year ago, but since then, she and I have come to have the deepest of respect and appreciation for one another.  Her thoughtfulness and quick wit charms me.  She has laughter in her eyes, a terrific smile and a great attitude.  You gotta love that kind of character. 

She gave me a gift in a jar that was the same jar I had given to her this summer when I made pickles.  She said to me, “You never return a jar without something home made in it.”  See?  I told you she was thoughtful!  What great advice.  In the jar was a cookie mix with instructions that said to basically add the wet ingredients, mix and bake.  My four year old looked upon the mix like magic in a jar which must be pried open and mixed up immediately.  Make haste!!

Too timid to ask my wonderfully thoughtful and very wise friend for the recipe, I went to work disecting the ingredients and came up with this recipe.  I’ve now made them three times since the original jar cookie.  Every time I take them from the oven and let them cool on a rack on the kitchen counter, I wonder off to do some laundry or pick up some toys and put them away and I come back to the kitchen and some are missing.  You won’t be able to let these cool on the counter before someone is in to them.  It’s crazy how fast they disappear and then you have eager guilty faces (usually smeared with crumbs and chocolate) asking you to make more.  Just be sure you get one…or six.

Ingredients
1 C. shortening
2 eggs
3/4 C. sugar
3/4 C. brown sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 3/4 C. flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 C. quick cooking oats
3/4 C. sweetened coconut
8 oz. chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a standing mixer, cream together shortening, eggs, sugars and vanilla.  Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and mix to combine.  Slowly add dry ingredients (except chocolate chips) to the mixing bowl and gently combine on low speed.  Pull mixing bowl from stand and using a rubber spatula, fold in chocolate chips.  Roll cookie dough into one inch balls and place on cookie sheet.  Bake for 9 minutes or until slightly golden brown.  Remove from oven and place on cooling rack in empty kitchen and don’t take your eyes off them  until they are cool enough to handle and store.  Hide them from everyone until devoured.  Enjoy!

Rocky Road Fudge

Rocky Road Fudge
This recipe reminds me of my mother.  She loved anything that had the name “Rocky Road” in it.  To be honest, I was looking for a fudge recipe to use this holiday season.  My mother used to make it, but I don’t have her recipe and she has been gone for eleven years now.  Thank goodness for friends because hours after I mentioned that I was interested in making fudge this year for Christmas, my friend produced a few recipes for me to try.  This one was a winner. 
I love marshmallows, but the original recipe called for way more than I thought appropriate for equal proportions.  When you make this, add as many or as little as you want.  Mix it up and use mint, orange or peppermint extract.  It isn’t even December and I have made this three times and if there was any left I would be eating it right now!  Maybe I should make some more, just in case.  As much as I love eating it, it is great to give as a gift.  Which I did just yesterday!

Ingredients
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 t. vanilla
4 oz chopped walnuts or pecans
2 cups small marshmallows
Directions
In a microwave safe bowl, add chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk.  Microwave on high for 30 seconds.  Stir well.  If the ingredients are not yet completely melted, microwave for an additional 15 seconds.  Stir well.  Stir in vanilla, walnuts and marshmallows.  Spread in your prepared pan and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Remove wax paper from pan and cut into desired sized squares.  Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.