Hello all! It’s been a bit of time since I’ve been posting consistently and I fear that’s only going to get a bit worse. Oh well. I’ll figure this thing out eventually.
Anyways, happy holidays to all and to all a good night! Something like that, too, I suppose.
So in between baking, shopping, work, and preparing for travel, I’ve been going a bit crazy. Who’da thunk, huh? But I figured for this post, I wanted to work on something that reminds me of the holidays with a bit of a twist.
I always love pies, I mean, come on, who doesn’t? But I recently had the most amazing chocolate pie, compliments of my boyfriend’s mom. It was this rich, Hershey chocolate no-bake pie. And the recipe (I do believe!) can be found here.
I made a few changes. First, I used a regular milk chocolate Hershey’s bar and added about 10 extra Hershey kisses for more of the chocolate richness. I used mini marshmallows instead of large, and then I added cinnamon and vanilla for the flavor. Here’s my adaption!
1 8-ounce milk-chocolate Hershey’s bar & 10 hershey kisses
2 cups mini marshmallows
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 tbsp plus 2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 9-inch pie crust
Over a double-boiler, heat the milk and marshmallows until they start to form a paste and the marshmallows get smaller.
Add in the chocolate and 1 1/2 tbsp of ground cinnamon and mix together thoroughly until fully melted in with no clumps.
In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream with the 2 tsp cinnamon and 1 tsp vanilla extract until soft peaks form and it is thick.
Wait for the chocolate mixture to cool to at least room temperature and then fold in the cream mixture.
Pour into a pre-baked or ready-made pie crust and refrigerate for 4 hours or until it begins to solidify and voila! You’re done!
I have been very excited to try my hand at palmiers (elephant ears) ever since I watched an episode of the Barefoot Contessa a few weeks ago where she made savory palmiers using pesto and goat cheese (Umm hell yes. Sign me up.)
That episode got me thinking; why couldn’t I do that with a homemade jam or jelly??
Now, in the meantime, I have been infusing bourbon with chai spices and a pinch of vanilla extract. I had been waiting for the right moment to try out an apple-bourbon jam and I was even thinking about giving some out for the holidays (I think I missed the bar this year!).
Let me just say, about the bourbon that had been infusing: Holy wowza. I mean, that smell, though. I could have drank that straight from the jar. (Not saying I still didn’t). The smell was a beautiful marrying of the spicy chai and the boozy bourbon.
I made the jam over the stovetop and it turned out to be just enough for the amount of palmiers I wanted to make. I basically sautéed two apples and then reduced water and the chai bourbon with cinnamon and sugar. Super easy and this jam can be multi-purpose!
For the Jam:
2 large apples (I used Honeycrisp)
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1 cup chai-spiced bourbon**
3-4 tbsp granulated sugar
1-2 tbsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup water
1 tbsp cornstarch
**I simply poured and divided bourbon into 2 mason jars with 2 tablespoons loose chai spices and 1 tsp vanilla. I sealed jars for 3 weeks and only used one jar for this recipe.
For the Dough:
2 pre-packaged puff pastry
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Peel and cut the apples into small chunks and soften in a medium saucepan over medium heat until soft.
Add in lemon zest and 1/2 cup of the chai bourbon and reduce for 5-7 minutes.
Stir in water, cornstarch, sugar and cinnamon until jam begins to thicken and add the remainder of the spiced bourbon and then remove from heat and let cool for 20 minutes.
Thaw out puff pastry dough and roll out onto a sugared surface, ensuring the surface is covered in sugar (this helps with caramelization).
Spread the jam mixture onto the dough and from either side, roll inwards until both sides touch.
Freeze the rolls for about 20-30 minutes (freezing them helps when cutting so the jam isn’t a complete mess)
Cut into 1/8-1/4 inch slices and place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or spray.
Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until dough is golden brown.
Umm. I think this is the best thing I’ve ever made. No, really. This is that good. I like chocolate mousse. I don’t love it, but I like it just the same. I think, again, I just need tons of flavor in anything I make or enjoy. So for me, I prefer a richer, darker chocolate mousse. And this peppermint mocha mousse does just the trick!
A few weeks ago, I had gotten this idea for a festive, December-y, winter-y dessert. Now, I had never tried my hand at making my own mousse before, but I figured that it’s always fun to try something new and if it doesn’t work the first time, always consult a cooking guide book or ask an expert. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but this mousse was pretty damn good on the first try. And just in time for the holidays, amiright?!
I think you’re going to love this peppermint chocolate mousse just as much as I do!
Ingredients: (Yields 6 individual servings)
8 ounces 60% or more cacao chocolate. (I used Ghirardelli)
2 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
2 tbsp water
3 tbsp cold-brewed coffee (or just coffee leftover from the morning!)
1 tbsp coffee grinds or instant espresso
2 eggs, separated
2 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Finely chop the chocolate into 1/4 inch strips on a cutting board.
Using a double-boiler (or a medium pot with a medium frying pan), bring the bottom pot to a boil. In a separate mixing bowl, whip egg yolks with 1 tsp sugar. Place egg white in a separate bowl.
Place the chocolate, peppermint extract, water, coffee, and grinds in the frying pan and let the heat from the boiling pot melt the chocolate all while stirring to prevent clumps.
Once chocolate and ingredients are smooth, remove from heat and pour into a medium mixing bowl with whipped egg yolks and and 1 tsp sugar.
Whip egg whites until they are foamy and form peaks, about 5-7 minutes, and then fold into the chocolate mixture.
Whip the heavy cream in a separate bowl until it thickens and forms soft peaks. Fold the heavy cream into the chocolate mixture and immediately pour into small ramekin dishes or small glass cups and refrigerate for 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
Two lighter side dishes to add to your Thanksgiving feast that won’t make you feel like you are going to explode and are healthy additions!
My family LOVES side dishes. My dad is Polish and Czech and my mom is Syrian and Lebanese, so I suppose you could say it’s really in my blood to enjoy some really tasty side dishes (tabouleh or haluski, anyone?). I’ll definitely be posting some family and heritage-inspired dishes shortly after the holidays. Because, believe it or not, I’ve actually got quite a lot of new recipes and holiday treats that I am dying to try out and share with you all! I’m not gonna lie, I have recipes planned out from right around now until the New Year. Yikes!
Anyyywho, my family typically goes to my aunt Kathy’s home for Thanksgiving and holidays in general. Kathy and her husband Mark always make a delicious turkey and have fantastic staples: Dinner rolls, tabouleh, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc. It’s usually a potluck of sorts, but Kathy and Mark always make the main dishes. One of the new additions that my aunt Frieda started bringing is a Ritz-Velveeta vegetable casserole. This quickly became one of my favorites. It’s ridiculously easy to make and super flavorful. It also adds a nice texture to steamed or boiled veggies. Now, this recipe is actually available online, and you can find it here. (One thing that you will notice if you’re a new follower, or simply didn’t know, was that I like to create all my recipes on my own. Sure, I get inspiration for flavor combinations, but the exact measurements and creations are all my own. That said, I most certainly will ALWAYS give credit where credit is due for recipes that are not my own.)
Now, with that Ritz recipe in mind, I of course like to tweak it a little bit. I prefer to use fresh vegetables and boil them beforehand. I also add dried herbs to the Ritz-butter crumble to add more of a rich flavor, and then I like to crumble dried Ritz just for added texture at the end.
Boil all vegetables in a large saucepan over high heat until cooked, about 15 minutes.
Strain vegetables and then shock in a large bowl filled with ice. (Essentially blanching & shocking). Next, lay veggies on a paper towel to dry.
Melt the butter and mix in the Italian seasoning and crush 1 sleeve of the Ritz crackers in the mixture to form a crumble/paste.
In a baking dish, first layer the vegetables, then the cheese, and the crumble on top.
Bake for 20-25 minutes and finish by crumbling the 2nd sleeve of Ritz on top for added texture.
This recipe serves 6-8 people
This is such a simple and delicious side dish for Thanksgiving, especially if you’ve got picky eaters or kids. It’s a great way to get them to eat some veggies, and nothing is fried!
The next side dish, which is a Rachael original (see what I did there?) , is inspired by the mediterranean tabouleh salad. I love the fresh vegetables and spices all mixed together with the citrus tang. I thought to myself, hmm, I’m going to add a sweet and festive take on something similar!
So that’s how I came up with the Quinoa Harvest Salad: Quinoa, cranberries, kale, pomegranate, cucumber, feta cheese, and finished off with a lemon-orange vinaigrette. I really like the nuttiness of the quinoa when toasted beforehand and I really cannot get enough of the cranberry-orange combo. This is a perfect way to utilize some of the fall flavors in a healthy side dish that your family and friends will love for Thanksgiving! And it’s pretty yummy, if I do say so myself. So here it is:
For the salad:
1 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups kale
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 large cucumber, finely chopped
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup Feta cheese
Walnuts, to garnish
For the Lemon-Orange Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp orange juice
Zest of one lemon and half and orange
2 1/2 tbsp sugar
Salt & pepper, to taste
Salad (Serves 4-6 people)
Cook quinoa according to package (usually 2 parts water to the amount of quinoa, it will definitely expand). Boil for roughly 15 minutes. ** (I prefer to toast the quinoa in the saucepan before adding water to get a nice brown color and get the nutty flavor really prevalent).
When quinoa is done, layer on a dry baking sheet to cool.
Trim kale and boil until cooked, about 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, mix in cooled quinoa, kale, chopped cucumber, cranberries, pomegranates, feta, and walnuts. Toss with the lemon-orange vinaigrette and voila! There you go.
Vinaigrette (Yields 3/4 cup dressing)
In a small bowl, mix the red wine vinegar with the EVOO. Zest in the lemon and orange.
Stir in lemon juice and orange juice.
Add in sugar, salt & pepper to taste and whisk everything thoroughly.
I really wanted to emphasize that these are both dishes that will make your tummy happy but not make you explode! Both have lots of flavor and will really add a nice touch to your holiday dishes. And they’re not loaded with carbs or fried! Bonus. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope you enjoy the day with your friends and family and have lots to be thankful for. 🙂
Everyone has their own opinion about pumpkin. I personally love it, but only for a short while every year. Usually, particularly lately, I’ve been pumpkin-ed out before Thanksgiving. It’s just been an overload everywhere, plus, I think I tend to get really excited early Fall to start cooking and baking with pumpkin again. I think that the American culture has recently become OBSESSED with it ever since the whole pumpkin spice latte became a major hit a few years ago. And I mean OBSESSED. I seriously cannot remember there ever being pumpkin flavored crackers, cereal, yogurt, granola, or even chips (what?) before in the stores until maybe two or three years ago. Alas, I wanted to have one final pumpkin ‘hoorah!’ before the season was over.
I was inspired at work…of course…because all I do is think about food. I’m only half-serious. But anyways, yes, I was inspired to combine the rich flavor of pumpkin with the warming and spicy flavor of a Mexican chocolate. I’ve been watching a lot of Bobby Flay and Food Network Challenges lately, which always seem to speak to me because there’s always an episode about flavor combinations (YES, Puuuuhleassse!) and Bobby definitely tends to cook on the spicier side. That’s where my idea for the chipotle came into account. I wanted the flavor of the chocolate and chipotle to really compliment and infuse with the the pumpkin and all it’s cinnamon-y goodness.
Ingredients for the scones:
2 1/4 cups flour
1/3-1/2 cup brown sugar*
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 tbsp very cold butter, cubed
* If you are making these without the chocolate glaze, I would recommend using 1/2 cup brown sugar for full sweetness. I prefer a little less sweet when using the glaze.
Ingredients for the Chipotle Chocolate Glaze:
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2-1 tsp chipotle chili powder*
* For more heat, use a full teaspoon. I like mine a bit more subtle with the 1/3 tsp.
For the Pumpkin Scones:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and spray two medium nonstick cookie sheets with nonstick spray.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients: Flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg and stir until well-mixed.
In a smaller mixing bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients (except butter!): Canned pumpkin, heavy cream, the egg, and vanilla.
Cut in the butter to the dry mixture with a pastry blender.
Combine the wet ingredients with the dry and fold until dough forms.
Knead dough on a floured surface and cut into two halves.
One half at a time, press dough into a small saucepan to form a circle, then cut into 8 slices.
Place scones on the baking sheets and bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake for 10-12 minutes.
This recipe yields approx. 16 scones.
For the Chipotle Chocolate Glaze:
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and whisk together over medium heat.
Bring mixture to a boil for 5 minutes and continue to whisk until the chocolate is smooth.
Remove from heat and continue to whisk, then immediately pour over scones.
These little guys are just as good as they sound. And look, in my opinion. 🙂
I figured that I could use the leftover sweet potatoes from last night’s dinner– see Sweet Potato, Kale & Ground Turkey Hash –to make a yummy dessert. Sometimes, usually during the workday, (or odd hours of the evening) I get thoughts about flavors that work well together, or recipes that I want to create. This was definitely one of those cases. I ended up trying a new, flaky and delicious pie dough recipe–see The most delectable pie dough — and I used a muffin tin to bake these adorable mini pies!
For the pie dough, please refer again to the link above.
Recipe for the Sweet Potato Pie Filling:
2 medium sweet potatoes, boiled, peeled, and mashed
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup condensed milk
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
I combined the smashed and peeled sweet potatoes in a large mixing bowl with the sugar and melted butter.
Next, I mixed in the eggs, and evaporated milk on a low mixing speed with a hand-held mixer.
While mixing, I added the spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, along with the salt and vanilla to the mixture. You want to make sure to mix very well as the sweet potatoes could still have chunks from when you had mashed them.
For the Pecan Topping:
1 1/4 cup halved pecans
2 tbsp. butter, softened
2 tbsp. brown sugar
In my Ninja Blender (or a food processor of any kind) I blended the ingredients by pulsing for several seconds.
I rolled the dough out and cut to fit into individual muffin tins. I then spooned the Sweet Potato mixture into the dough cups followed by spooning the Pecan mixture right on top.
Bake the mixture at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Then reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for 20 minutes or until a toothpick is removed without any liquid from cups.
This recipe yields roughly 16-20 muffin cups or one whole Sweet Potato Pie. Enjoy!
Finding the right pie dough can be a challenge. Some are too flaky, some turn out too soggy, and even others can be dry. My grandma always made the absolute BEST pie crusts. (I mean, whose grandma didn’t?!) But the problem herein lies that we did not obtain all of her recipes before she passed away.
Regardless, I am on the quest to find the perfect dough, and I’m not just talking texture. I’m talking flavor. Some of the recipes I’ve tried on Pinterest lately have turned out too buttery or tend to get soggier than usual…but that could just be because I live in Pittsburgh. Kidding. (But not really). Anyways, my dearest friend and roommate, Kylie, graciously shared her grandma’s recipe with me which tastes OUTRAGEOUS. Now, I have adapted this recipe, however, the dough still will end up being a but on the drier side and breakable. This is OKAY. In order to get the rich, buttery flavor, one must simply look past the flakiness and realize that the end result will be freakin’ worth it!
Pie Dough Recipe (Used for savory and sweet pies and quiches).
1 3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup crisco, chilled
1/3 cup unsalted butter or margarine, chilled
1 tsp. salt
4-5 tbsp. ice cold water.
Yields 1 9-inch pie crust. (To save you some time and math, this recipe doubled for a top crust would be 3 1/2 cups flour, 2/3 cup crisco, 2/3 cup butter, 2 tsp. salt, and 8-10 tbsp. water).
To make pie dough:
Sift flour and salt into medium-large bowl.
Cut in butter and crisco using either a pastry blender or two forks, until the butter and crisco form pea-sized chunks.
Next, add ice cold water slowly, starting to form into a round dough-ball with your hands at this point. Wrap dough in plastic wrap to chill for 30 minutes and then roll out onto floured surface.