Italian Hazelnut Cookies (Baci di Dama)

Italian Hazelnut CookiesChristmas On The Couch
It is officially December…which means cookie season is here! I love cookie season. Planning the selection. The cookie-palooza day of baking and the packaging. The best part, of course, is the delivery. The look on people’s faces never gets old.

This year is going to look a little different.

While on vacation this past July, I injured my knee—which required surgery. So, I am on the couch for the foreseeable future. That means cookie-making is not in the cards. At least not for me. But, I refuse to go without.

So, I am enlisting the help of my resident sous chef. And, between the two of us, we should be able to make things happen. First up will be our traditional Swedish Gingers Cookies which we will be devouring while I micromanage the decorating of the tree. After that, we will have to see…as this year’s cookie lineup has yet to be determined.

The list will no doubt include traditional favorites like Classic Scottish Shortbread,  Chocolaty Caramel Thumbprints, and Red and White Pinwheel Cookies. We’ve been looking at books and websites for some new additions. But, one thing I know for certain is that last year’s star of the show will be back.

These little Italian Hazelnut Cookies require a bit more labor and attention than the average cookie. But, they are soooo worth it. They are a hazelnut lover’s dream! I swap chocolate ganache for Nutella to make the sandwiches. This both adds hazelnut flavor and makes things a bit easier. And, this year I am all about easier!

Italian Hazelnut Cookies Recipe (Baci di Dama)
Adapted from Americas Test Kitchen
Yields 32 small cookies

These tiny Italian hazelnut-chocolate sandwich cookies are made from a very rich, fragile dough that easily crumbles when you bite into them. Read more…

Fall Salad with Delicata Squash, Caramelized Apples, and Bacon

Fall Salad with Delicata Squash, Caramelized Apples, and Bacon

Eat Your Greens
As a kid, I always used to laugh at my mother’s and grandmother’s attempts at adding more veggies to the thanksgiving table. I mean, let’s be real. I was only there for the bird and the carbs. You can keep your green beans, thanks. The older I have gotten though, the more I look forward to something to help digest the potato and stuffing carb bomb.

The green beans are still an important part of our celebration. But, in recent years we’ve included various salads as well, such as this recipe for Persimmon, Asian Pear, and Toasted Almond Salad. Now, I am not the biggest salad person. Some people, like my sister, have salads with everything. That is not me. I kinda have to be in the mood for a salad. And, even then, using the word salad might be a bit of a stretch. I like additions to my salads. Chances are if I have made a salad, it is not just a bowl of greens. There will be a random mix of things like pieces of various fruits, cheese, nuts (usually spiced or candied), or cut-up cooked meats like chicken or even better, bacon.

On a recent trip to Oregon, while y’all were dealing with the “bomb cyclone” and 50 feet of rain, I had the opportunity to visit Powell’s, my favorite bookstore. If you have never been to Powell’s bookstore in Portland you are missing out. If you have, well then, you know. I could spend days in there and still want more. On this trip, I found a Portland Farmers Market cookbook that I have been working my way through since I returned.

Amongst the pages of beautiful Pacific Northwest offerings, I found this recipe for Fall Salad with Delicata Squash, Caramelized Apples, and Bacon. It would be the perfect addition as something green and a bit different for your Thanksgiving table.

Fall Salad with Delicata Squash, Caramelized Apples, and Bacon
Adapted from the Portland Farmers Market Cookbook
Yields 4 to 6 servings Read more…

Brined Pork Loin with Molasses-Mustard Glaze and Apple Butter

Brined Pork Loin with Molasses-Mustard GlazeFallin’ for Pork
Fall is when pork shines. My family eats pork pretty much year-round—either as pork chops, or in tacos, or whatever. But, when the calendar flips to fall, I start thinking about juicy pork roasts. (Turning the oven on in the middle of July when it is 102º outside is a non-starter.) Fall flavors like apple and cinnamon pair perfectly with the mild flavor of pork.

But, the challenge with pork roasts is that they can dry out if you cook them too long. To solve that problem and to introduce the flavors of the season to the pork, I like to throw any roasts or chops that we’re having for dinner in a brine.

Brining is easy and you don’t have to do it for long periods of time. Pork chops, for example, only need to be brined for 30 minutes to an hour depending on how thick they are. (Double cut chops can go as long as 2 hours.) Over-brining will cause the meat to be mushy which is never pleasant.

There are so many brines to pick from. But, I am partial to any that include apple juice or cider. The end result is just a bit sweeter but not super apple-y. One of my all-time favorite brines for pork is our recipe for Thick Pork Chops with Spiced Apples and Raisins. I use it 90% of the time, as it’s relatively quick and can be managed mid-week.

Sometimes though, you wanna go bigger.

This recipe for Brined Pork Loin with Molasses-Mustard Glaze and Apple Butter is not a quick weekday whip-up. It is better left for a lazy Sunday dinner with friends and family watching the leaves fall from the trees. Serve this with some roasted sweet potatoes and/or Brussel sprouts and maybe our Barley and Pine Nut Pilaf for the best representation of Fall on your plate…

Brined Pork Loin with Molasses-Mustard Glaze and Apple Butter Recipe
Recipe adapted from Bobby Flay and the Food Network
Yields 4 to 6 servings Read more…

Spicy Veggie Hash

Spicy Veggie HashHash It Out
When I was in elementary school, I learned that the month of March was all about shamrocks and leprechauns. As an adult, I know that there are a number of other things to associate with the month—like Daylight Saving Time, the first day of spring, International Women’s Day, and, of course, spring training.

Old habits die hard. So, of course when the calendar flips to March things like potatoes and corned beef pop in my head. I have to admit I have only learned to like corned beef as an adult. Growing up I wouldn’t touch it. Now I love it. but, I am not a fan of corned beef for breakfast.

Any diner worth it’s salt will have corned beef hash on the menu either as a regular item or as a weekend special. Personally, I can’t do it. That’s too much meat for me in the morning but I like the idea of it. The idea of corned beef hash is comfort food at its finest. I just can’t handle the reality.

When I found this recipe for Spicy Veggie Hash I was thrilled. It has all of the elements of a traditional diner hash without the cardiologist on standby after-effects. And, it has chilies. In my book, you can never go wrong adding chilies to anything…

Spicy Veggie Hash
Yields 4 to 6 servings
Adapted from The Breakfast Bible by Kate McMillan Read more…