Coconut Macaroons

Coconut Macaroons dipped in chocolateCookie Collection
This time of year is the season of constant dinner parties. In fact, I had a few friends over last night to talk about the upcoming baseball season and to eat drink and be merry. The food was great (and the wine was even better). But, having something sweet to end the meal and fuel the after-dinner conversation is essential. I have found that plates of assorted cookies are the perfect solution. The only challenge is coming up with a nice variety for the plate.

Some may say that forcing yourself to make a bunch of cookies isn’t a bad thing. And, it’s not. Though, having that many cookies lying around the house can be dangerous to your waistline!

It can be fun to come up with the perfect mix. Start with some ginger cookies. Add a few layer bars. Maybe chocolate crackle cookies. Definitely some shortbread. If you’re feeling crafty, make some stained glass cookies or some nutty rugelach. No matter what combination you decide to throw together, for me there almost always needs to be coconut macaroons on the plate.

I love coconut macaroons—and making them couldn’t be easier. Bonus! They are gluten-free for those friends who can’t eat gluten. I like to melt some bittersweet chocolate and either dip the macaroons or drizzle it on top for a little added holiday cheer.

Coconut Macaroons
Yields 20 to 22 cookies Read more…

Chocolate Ganache Truffles

Chocolate Ganache Truffels‘Tis The Season For Treats
I love this time of the holiday season. This is treat season. This is the time when I start planning what treats I am going to make to hand out to the people who mean a lot to me to thank them for services rendered or to thank them for just being a positive part of daily life.

So far my daughter and I have made our traditional Ginger Cookies.  (That first batch is always a sacred ceremony for everyone in my family.) Last weekend we made a batch of addictive and decadent caramels, a King Arthur Flour recipe, to hand out to a teacher who refers to them as holiday gold. We plan to continue the treat making this weekend with some more cookies. Shortbread? Check. Sugar cookies? Check? Gingerbread? Check. But I want to do something else a little special this year.

About 16 years ago I took a chocolate class to learn how to make truffles because I wanted to recreate the gorgeous treats that Joseph Schmidt was producing at that time. I quickly learned that tempering chocolate is no joke. It takes patience, and time, and passion for the art. While I had the passion, I was lacking in the other attributes. But, one of the recipes we made in that class is easy enough for anyone to do. I haven’t made many truffles since then. And, this year I wanted to make those basic ganache truffles. The biggest challenge was finding the recipe.

I have this drawer in my kitchen that holds all of my loose recipes that I have either printed off the internet or were part of a recipe packet from a class. I can’t tell you how many pages are in that drawer—but I can tell you that it is probably time to cull the heard. I can also tell you that the chocolate packet wasn’t in there and I sort of panicked because, after that many years, it’s not like I can call the place and get another one.

The elves took pity on me…I found it! My office is a revolving door of cookbooks and recipes. And, I happened across the chocolate packet while looking through a dessert binder I made after yet another cooking class. Yee Haw!

These truffles are so easy to make and you can choose to flavor them or not. (Adding a little espresso or Chambord liqueur can be a tasty thing)

Chocolate Ganache Truffles
Yields about 25 truffles Read more…

Green Beans with Hazelnut Gremolata

Green Beans with Hazelnut Gremolata It’s Not Easy Being Green
Whenever you hear people raving about their favorite Thanksgiving dishes, usually it is the stuffing. or the sweet potatoes, or even the homemade cranberry sauce. Rarely is it about the vegetables that are served as sides—or at least that has been my experience. Not going to lie, if there are some greens on my plate at Thanksgiving they are there solely out of guilt for the obscene amount of carbs and gravy that I have piled up on my grandmother’s Wedgewood plates.

Since I am hosting the big event this year I have been compelled to come up with a vegetable side. And, I am finding it challenging to locate a recipe that I am willing to make and would work well with the rest of the meal. True, I could do my favorite Spinach Gratin. But, I am concerned that the cream and cheese would be too rich with all of the other caloric goodness on the table.

Yes, I could do some Brussels sprouts but the truth is, I hate them. I have tried so hard to like them and occasionally will order them if offered when I am out enjoying a nice dinner just to see if a different recipe will do the trick but, alas, they are still gross. Even with bacon.

A kale salad is a possibility. But it seems too trendy and obvious in this time of kale obsession, though it looks like the obsession might be waning. Plus, in my family, salads hardly ever get eaten. Case in point, the salad my grandmother used to make every Thanksgiving (that no one ate, but had to be made because it was tradition). This Endive & Fuyu Persimmon Salad with Pecans is a good substitute and might actually be eaten…

So, I think I will end up going with tried and true green beans as a vegetable side this year. Most people like them and they are fairly easy to prepare in large quantities. I could steam and toss the beans in a little garlic butter. But, I may lose my mind and go a tiny bit fancier and make something like these Green Beans with Hazelnut Gremolata. When in doubt, I always reference Ina..

Green Beans with Hazelnut Gremolata
Yields 8 servings  Read more…

Pumpkin Pasta with Sage Butter

Pumpkin Pasta with Sage Butter

For The Times, They Are A-Changin’
Halloween was different this year. There were no parades. No morning rush to get the costume make-up done. No concerns about wearing a costume all day. In fact, the excitement about Halloween has been replaced, for some in my family, by high school soccer try-outs.

Sigh. Yep. We have reached the stage where the kids were handing out candy to trick-or-treaters instead of filling their own pillowcases.

We have one holdout, though. My twelve-year-old did go out trick or treating with her friends. She was dressed as a wedge of cheese that she constructed and painted all by herself complete with cheezy duct tape. This kid beats to her own—and I love it. I have no doubt that next year she will come up with an equally random costume idea and hit the streets to collect her chocolate.

This change means that dinner plans are different too. In fact, I actually put a little more work into it and made this recipe for Pumpkin Pasta with Sage Butter. It’s a great representation of the flavors of the season. And, the pumpkin is an obvious nod to Halloween. If you do not have a pasta machine it is just as easy to roll it out with a rolling pin.

To those of you who still headed out with your little ones, I hope you had fun and enjoyed these nights roaming the streets of your neighborhood with your kids. Because it’s true what they say…it all goes by so quickly!

Pumpkin Pasta with Sage Butter
Yields 6 servings Read more…

Spiced Pumpkin Scones with Cream Cheese Frosting

Spiced Pumpkin Scones with Cream Cheese FrostingSpice is Nice
The other day I was doing my grocery shopping, filling up my cart with the usual this and that, when I noticed something strange. I was purchasing the same general items…bagels, cereal, coffee creamer…but when I looked in the cart I froze. It had happened again….

As September turns in to October you notice that the air smells different—and it’s not just a change in the weather or the fog rolling back in. There is a hint of spicy sweetness in the air that tickles your nose and makes you long for cozy sweaters, falling leaves, and warm fires. For many, there are no adverse reactions to this autumnal aroma. But for others, like myself, you can find yourself making unexpected stops for a grande latte or worse, you notice that you have filled your shopping cart with multiple items with the same theme. You can try to fight it but resistance is futile.

My friends, it is the Revenge of the Pumpkin Spice. 😱

All kidding aside, I am one of those people who does like pumpkin spice (though I draw the line at candles and dog treats). My son’s love of The Spice is even worse.

If I have one complaint it is that some of the products’ flavor tastes way to fake. So, to combat the fake pumpkin spice, I load up on the organic canned pumpkin and make things like this recipe for Pumpkin Spice Scones or some straight up pumpkin bread. I have included the ingredients for my cream cheese frosting in case you wanna go crazy-decadent.

Happy Pumpkin Spice Season!

Spiced Pumpkin Scones with Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Yields 12 scones Read more…