Affogato

AffogatoAffogato ‘bout it
Valentine ’s Day is a pretty low key affair in my house. Not that I wouldn’t be thrilled if my main squeeze bucked tradition and went all out. It would be great and I would be completely surprised but I have learned after almost 20 years together that the old adage about aging dogs and new tricks is true. To be fair, I am not looking for a grotesque “Hallmark Store just threw up” type of display. I don’t need five dozen roses. I’m always up for a nice dinner (but you have to fight the crowds). I’d be totally happy with a book and an hour or two of uninterrupted silence and solitude. Throw in a hot bath and I’ve hit Nirvana…

However, one dude in my house is putting in some work this Valentine’s Day. One of my 14-year-old sons was very adamant about getting his girlfriend (Did I really just type that? Girlfriend? Yikes!) a gift and I have to give him credit, he did it because he wanted to not because he was pressured. AND, he did it all on his own with no help from me except for the use of my Amazon Prime account. He’s planning to present his gift and spend the evening with her on Thursday which means he will be missing out on our Annual Valentine’s Day Ice Cream Sundae fest. I sense he isn’t all that broken up about it. Can’t imagine why…

I’ve decided I’m gonna change things up and get a little crazy this year. The others can do their mountain of ice cream with sprinkles and fudge and nuts and whipped cream. This year I’m going to make one of my all-time favorite desserts, Affogato. If you’ve never heard of it, Affogato is basically vanilla gelato with a shot of espresso poured over it. It’s absolutely simple and incredibly tasty. It’s even better if you use a vanilla chocolate chip gelato and then sprinkle more chocolate chips on top…yum! Of course, you can use whatever gelato you want—coconut would be really good. Or maybe something boozy. You can never go wrong with boozy…especially with a little of your favorite poured on top…Bailey’s anyone?

A quick search online can yield a number of yummy Affogato possibilities…

Affogato
Yields 4 servings Read more…

Stuffed French Toast

Stuffed French ToastToast of Christmas
Like a lot of families, we celebrate the holidays in multiple houses. Christmas Eve is generally at my place (though my sister is hosting this year). Christmas morning has been at my place the last couple of years and will be again this year. For Christmas dinner, we are all scattered. This might seem kinda strange to you to have all the celebrations with the same family at different locations. I mean what’s with musical houses? The answer is that it is not always the same faces at each celebration.

Christmas Eve is with my family, my sister’s family, and my sister’s in-laws. Christmas morning is my family and my sister’s family. Christmas Dinner is my family and my in-laws. By doing it this way we make sure that everybody gets to see each other to celebrate and exchange gifts. It also allows for some side celebrations. Let me explain…

While my family is enjoying our traditional Ebelskiver on Christmas morning, my in-laws are kinda left to their own devices. So, for the last 10 years or so, my brother-in-law hosts breakfast for their side of the family at his place. It is a much smaller and definitely quieter affair that always features a decadent French toast along with great coffee and fruit. It also means that by the time they get to my house, everyone is stuffed and thus begins the annual debate over when we should eat dinner…

French toast is a great option for a crazy holiday morning because it takes very little time and effort to put together and there are so many options out there for jazzing it up a bit. My brother-in-law has what is apparently a secret recipe that involves poppy seeds. For me, I like any version that includes fruit and/or nuts. Then, of course, you can get really wacky and stuff it for extra decadence…

And for those elves who have stayed up all night assembling a bike or a toddler-size kitchen, there is always the overnight version to make life a little easier…this Ina recipe is one of my favorites.

For those who want to go all out, here is a recipe to consider for some out of this world Stuffed French Toast….

Stuffed French Toast
Adapted from Morning Food by Margaret Fox
Yields 6 servings
Read more…

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…

Mom’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

Mom's Pumpkin Chiffon PieLife of Pie
It’s crazy to think that Thanksgiving is only two weeks away. And, while today is a day to stop and give thanks that the political ads are done, it is also a day to start making plans.

For me, Thanksgiving is going to be different this year if for no other reason that I will be hosting it for the first time. It should be an adventure given that we will be a party of 16. Granted, I annually host Christmas Eve for 14 so two more people shouldn’t be that big of a deal and it’s not. The difference is what I will need to cook and if it will all fit in my oven. I expect I will be much like a game of Tetris. As of right now, I have ordered two 18 pound organic turkeys which should be plenty—we’re big on leftovers. However, if there is one area of concern from those who will be seated around the table, it is whether there will be enough pie.

Turkey is generally the centerpiece of any Thanksgiving meal and it is for us as well but the true star of Thanksgiving in our family is the pie and everyone has their favorite. This year, because we are blending three families for dinner, there is concern that there will not be enough pie and, of course, everyone is worried that their favorite will run out quickly which is why I will probably end up making 4 pies.

My Dad’s favorite is mince pie. This is the pie most likely to have leftovers because he is the only one who eats it but it’s tradition so we gotta have it. In my family of five, it’s all about the pecan pie. If there is no pecan pie there will be rioting in the streets. I’m thinking I will also do an apple pie because, why not? Last but not least, you can’t have Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie. We do pumpkin pie a little differently though.

Growing up my mother always made the pumpkin pie. But, it wasn’t your usual pumpkin pie. Mom made Pumpkin Chiffon Pie. If you have never heard of it, and most people haven’t, pumpkin chiffon is basically a lighter fluffier version. And, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without it. Since this is the first Thanksgiving without my Mom, there is no question that her pie will be there….

Mom always made this pie using a traditional pie crust but feel free to use a graham cracker crust if you prefer.

Mom’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
Yields one 9-inch pie  Read more…