Mocha Pound Cake

Mocha Pound CakeLet Them Eat Cake
There you sit. You have your turkey and gravy. You have your stuffing and your mountain of mashed potatoes. The cranberry sauce sings its siren song to you from the middle of the table. Your mouth is watering in anticipation of the feeding frenzy that is about to commence. (Step aside Joey Chestnut.)

The little voice inside your head reminds you to save room for dessert. But, you know that dessert consists mainly of pies. You are not really a fan of pumpkin pie or any kind of pie. The accompanying vanilla ice cream is always good but lacks a certain wow factor. What do you do? Leave room for the ice cream or go big on the yams?

To me, the Thanksgiving feast isn’t complete unless there is a pecan pie at the end of it. Some have the same intense feelings towards pumpkin pie. For my dad, it’s a mince pie. One of my relatives, though, is the ice cream guy. The reason? He just doesn’t like pie. Any pie. (I know. Freak of nature.) It got me thinking about what would be an appropriate cake for Thanksgiving.

My daughter suggested a carrot cake which makes a lot of sense given the spices. But, she was adamant that there be no raisins. (There is a serious raisin aversion amongst my children). I figured anything harvest-y would work well. A spicy cake with hazelnut frosting is very autumnal, or even this Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting would be lovely.

But, what about getting away from the flavors of pumpkin and other pies? You could just go crazy with a double chocolate cake. You can never go wrong with a chocolate cake. This Mocha Pound Cake recipe works particularly well for a couple of reasons. It is a bundt cake which makes it easy especially when oven space is at a premium. And, it contains coffee which is always necessary to battle the snoozies after you have stuffed yourself…

Mocha Pound Cake Recipe
Adapted from King Arthur Baking Read more…

Nutella Panna Cotta with Frangelico Whipped Cream

Nutella Panna Cotta with Frangelico Whipped CreamPod People
My sister invited my family over for dinner about a week ago for no real reason except to be able to talk to someone who doesn’t live within the walls of her home. We’ve done this a lot over the past few months. We are a pod.

Much like many people these days, coming up with something to make for dinner is a bit of a challenge. Even devout cooks like my sister and I are fairly tired of preparing three meals a day. Cooking fatigue is real, my friends. After some heavy thinking (and since it’s a family favorite) she decided to go with paella for dinner. I was put in charge of dessert.

You would think deciding on a dessert would be easy, you would be wrong. Because we were having Spanish cuisine, I wanted to make something chocolate-y because when I think of Spain I think of Spanish hot chocolate and churros. However, I had no desire to fry up churros. I also did not want to do the usual cake because I didn’t want to turn on the oven and make the house hotter. I wanted something different.

I came across this recipe for Panna Cotta and knew it would be the perfect choice. Panna Cotta is an Italian dessert of sweetened cream that uses gelatin for thickening so it can be molded. It is essentially a custard without the eggs. The recipe I found uses Nutella as the base—and you just can’t go wrong with the flavor of chocolate and hazelnuts. It was a hit all around and the perfect ending to a tasty meal.

Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to make this. The Panna Cotta needs as much time as you can give it to set. Topped with plain, sweetened whipped cream, this dessert is so good. Adding a little booze to your whipped cream takes it to an even higher level. I chose to use Frangelico to keep the flavors consistent, but Cointreau would also work well with the chocolate.

Nutella Panna Cotta with Frangelico Whipped Cream
Yields 6 servings
Adapted from NY Times Cooking
Read more…

Two Easy Appetizers for Entertaining

Two Easy Appetizers for EntertainingThe Meal Before The Meal
While there are some who like to eat outside of the box, for the most part, we all eat the same stuff on Thanksgiving. There aren’t too many surprises from table to table. If there is one thing about Thanksgiving that varies widely, it is when we eat the feast. Turkey timing can pose some significant problems if you are trying to keep your sanity and still have room for the meal. Let me explain.

Those who eat their Thanksgiving meals in the evening have the easiest time of it. You can get up, eat a regular breakfast, do whatever you need to get done until it’s time for a reasonable lunch, and then you coast into the dinner hour for the main event.

For those of us who eat in the early afternoon, it’s a challenge to balance the need for sustenance and making sure there is enough room come meal time—all while the scent of roasting turkey taunts you from the kitchen. The struggle is real.

The truly blessed are the ones who have multiple stops on the turkey train. They have the early meal with family and/or friends at one house then head out to round two at another friend’s/family’s house, thus avoiding the problem altogether. And if there is pie at both stops, you, my friends, are the winners of turkey day.

The solution, obviously, is to have some snacks to keep you going until it’s time to dig in. But, the last thing you want to do is add more to the list of things that need to be cooked and/or prepped. Also, you don’t want it to be too filling.

A veggie platter is great ‘cause it’s easy and light but sometimes you just need a little bit more—probably because the kids have stuck all of the olives from the platter on their fingers. (And, sometimes it’s not just the kids.)

The following two easy appetizer recipes can get you through those hours ‘till Thanksgiving. They are no-cook, easy-to-assemble tidbits that require ingredients you can just throw in the cart when you pick up your turkey. It’s also a great way to entertain the teenagers who are soooooo bored! ‘cause they can assemble the appetizers themselves and leave you to the other stuff.

With both of these recipes, you can adjust the quantities for the size of your crowd. Check out these recipes for Cranberry Walnut Bread with Brie and Sliced Fruit and Endive with Dill and Smoked Salmon.

No matter what hour you choose to dig in here’s wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Two Easy Appetizers for Entertaining
Cranberry Walnut Bread with Brie and Sliced Fruit
This one is super easy.

Acme Cranberry Walnut Bread
Softened Brie Cheese
Pink Lady Apples or D’Anjou Pears

Grab a loaf of Acme Cranberry Walnut Bread and slice it thinly into single serving sized pieces. Smear your favorite brie on the slices and top with thinly sliced pink lady apples or D’Anjou pears.

Endive with Dill and Smoked Salmon

Several Heads of endive
Piedmont Grocery’s Dill Dip
Smoked Salmon
Optional: Capers

Separate the endive lives from the head, and swipe the leaves with a spoonful of our Piedmont Grocery Dill Dip. Top each with a piece of smoked salmon and three or four capers (if using) for a tasty and gluten-free snack.

Caviar with Blini

Caviar with BliniChampagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams

New Year’s Eve brings Caviar to my mind. I am not alone in this. There is a glitz and glamour factor that just screams for something high-end and decadent. Search any cooking website for New Year’s Eve dishes, and you will inevitably be shown a caviar tidbit.

This year caviar is even more popular—or maybe we are just more comfortable spending the extra money. I’ve seen it everywhere, and we have been selling more here at the store. Also, there are more varieties of caviar available, including caviar substitutes like vegan caviar made from seaweed. And then there is snail caviar. (Um, no. Just…no.)

The culture around serving caviar makes the intense wine enthusiast look normal by comparison. Special plates, special spoons, temperature controls. The process is, well, fussy but sort of cool in a I just want to be James Bond for one night kind of way. It is also necessary. Improper serving can make even the best caviar not taste very good.

To be honest, It took me a number of tries to actually like caviar. Sure, I faked it a few times ’cause I wanted to hang with the cool foodie kids. But then I got a taste of The Good Stuff and knew what the hubbub was about. The Good Stuff isn’t fishy, and it pops in your mouth, and a little goes a long way—which is a good thing because it isn’t cheap.

I suggest if you are going to shell out the money for some good caviar, (and you should even just once) serve it simply. Toast points or more traditional Blini topped with caviar and sour cream or crème fraiche is the way to go. For a caviar dip or caviar pie, you are better off using the less expensive product.

No matter which way you go, if you take the plunge, feel free to stop by our Wine and Spirits counter and ask for help. Dennis and Chris can help you make the right buying decision…

Caviar with Blini
Adapted from Saveur
Makes 40 Blini Read more…