Dark Chocolate Toffee

Dark Chocolate ToffeeCookie Palooza
It’s Cookie Palooza this weekend. For those of you who may be confused, Cookie Palooza is the weekend that my daughter and I make an insane amount of holiday cookies and other treats to give to our family and friends. This year my sister is joining in on the fun so I am expecting any number of crazy shenanigans and a whole lotta sprinkles. (Don’t worry. My sister and her family have been in our pod since Day 1).

There will be Gingerbread Men with scarves (my sister), there will be Macarons (my daughter) and there will be Toffee and Caramels (me) as well as an explosion of other cookies from Swedish Ginger Cookies to home made Cranberry Orange Biscotti  (I like the dried cranberries and some grated orange peel to make them more festive.)

Cookie Palooza could not happen if I didn’t have decent cookie sheets. Of course, everyone’s definition of decent will be different. Some bakers prefer the double-layer cookie sheets that allow the air in the pocket between to heat up. Others like the heavy duty rimless sheets that allow your cookies to slide right off. Personally, I like my heavy duty half sheet pans they’re just so versatile. You can make drop cookies or bar cookies and of course, you can make an excellent dinner. At an average of $20 for a quality cookie sheet, they also make a useful and cost-conscious holiday gift for your favorite baker. And if you really want to treat them, pre-cut parchment sheets can be life changing.

While my family has already enjoyed the first batch of our traditional ginger cookies, (You can’t trim the tree without ginger cookies.) what they are really waiting for is the toffee I make every year. It’s melt-in-your-mouth happiness and must be kept under lock and key if you want to have it around for more than an afternoon.

With the latest stay at home order in full swing, now is the perfect time to plan a Cookie Palooza of your own…

Dark Chocolate Toffee Recipe
Yields 24 pieces
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

This toffee is a lot like a Heath Bar—both tasty candy and delicious crumbled over ice cream and other desserts. Read more…

The Cheese Plate

The Cheese PlateThankful
Thanksgiving is a day dedicated to celebrating the blessings in our lives. It is not about tangible gifts but rather the gifts that cannot be seen. Thanksgiving is about spending quality time with friends and family to appreciate all that is good and to reconnect while seated at a table for a feast to remind ourselves what is the most precious.

The circumstances surrounding this year’s celebration have not changed the basic premise of the holiday. We will still celebrate and give thanks for all that we have but this year we celebrate friends, family, and the other blessings in our lives by not getting together. We are showing how much we care about the families we were born into and the families we choose by staying safe at home so that next year we can all come together to gather around the same table in good health.

This reality is not what we would choose, nor what we would prefer, but it is the right thing to do. So whether you’re a party of four, or two, or one for turkey this year, take heart that your are not alone. We are all in this together and together we will all get through it. So raise a glass to toast those whom you are missing at your table and to the hope that at this time next year, we will all be together around the table again.

A very Happy Thanksgiving to all of you from your family at Piedmont Grocery.

The Cheese Plate
A cheese plate is an easy appetizer to throw together and with some simple rules of thumb, you can create one that is delicious and varied. Cheese plates can be artful, with lots of room for improvisation. Read more…

Focaccia-Style Sheet Pan Pizza

Focaccia-Style Sheet Pan PizzaSmoke Adjustment
Normally, when the temperatures get toasty, I do a lot of grilling. Grilling outside means that the house stays cooler inside. I had planned to write about cooking pizzas on the grill for this week but, circumstances being what they are, grilling isn’t an option.

Once again the Golden State is dealing with horrific fires that have burned thousands of acres, destroyed homes, and taken lives. And, all of that on top of an ongoing pandemic. It’s emotionally and physically exhausting. Not to mention devastating to those who are experiencing it first hand. The air quality just does not lend itself to outside pizza making.  But, I’m still in the mood to make some pizza. So, I have been looking for alternative ways to get my cheese and carb fix.

I found this recipe for Focaccia-Style Sheet Pan Pizza in a recent copy of Milk Street magazine. While it does qualify as pizza, it is not your typical neighborhood delivery type pie. It’s actually got a crust more like focaccia. (Okay, my mouth just started watering at the mention of focaccia…) The dough for this crust is pretty wet, so the trick to making this sheet pan pizza is to not use fresh mozzarella and to top it with ingredients that do not have a lot of moisture to keep the top from getting too soggy. You can try regular pizza sauce—but use it sparingly. Lightly brushing it on with a pastry brush would be ideal. This is what I have had to do because the original recipe called for sliced up cherry tomatoes on top and that is a no go for a few people in my household. You just want enough to give it some tomato flavor without wetting it down. Also, if you want a little more bang for your buck, you can chop up some fresh rosemary to add to the crust dough to give it some tasty fresh flavor.

Focaccia-Style Sheet Pan Pizza Recipe
Yields 4 to 6 servings
Adapted from 177 Milk Street Read more…

Tomato Explosion

Tomato Explosion For the past week, despite the best efforts of my chicken and the ground squirrels, I have been experiencing a tomato explosion in my garden. Home grown tomatoes are one of summer’s best things. But, as much as I am thrilled to have them, I am running out of ways to eat them.

My favorite way to eat tomatoes is semi bruschetta style or what some may call tartine. I fry a slice crusty bread in olive oil until it is golden brown on both sides. Then I lay alternating slices of tomato and fresh mozzarella on the bread and sprinkle with chopped fresh basil. Finish it off with a little salt and some fresh pepper and you have the best lunch in the world. But even the best lunch can’t be eaten every day.

I’ve also sliced my tomatoes up and served them on a platter alongside some ripe avocado slices with a drizzle of Italian dressing for an easy dinner side dish that goes well with anything coming off of the grill on a hot night. Of course there have been many sandwiches made with thick tomato slices adorning them. And so on…

I could make a tomato tart. But, I feel like exposing these beauties to heat would be a travesty. I have posted a number of tomato recipes on the blog over the years so I figured I would go back and take a spin through the archives. (I have also been doing this with the back issues of magazines that I have saved. It’s made coming up with dinner ideas a bit easier. And, it’s helped jump start my cooking brain again..) I was pleasantly surprised to see a number of tomato recipes that I haven’t made in a while. It’s like what’s old is new again and the Tomato, Chile, Melon Salad is calling my name!

I am slowly making my way through them all and the good news is my tomato pile is getting more manageable but the green ones still on the vine tell me that there are more coming…if the squirrels don’t get them first.

Here’s my list of recipes. Read more…