Peppermint Cookie Candies

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When the flavors of chocolate and peppermint combine on the palate, you could have your eyes closed in June and think that it was Christmas time.  I suppose if you live in the Southern Hemisphere, that is what Christmas is like every year.  Whoa.  But I digress.  These little two-toned candies are easy to make and great for the sweets table or wrapped up as a sweet holiday gift.  Let the kids help crush the candy canes, then watch them smile as they enjoy their handiwork.


Goat Cheese Toasts with Garlic and Herbes de Provence

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You say you want a neat little crunchy, creamy, multi-faceted appetizer that goes well with just about any white wine?  The triangular treats pictured above make for a great lead-in to your main meal.  I use my tried and true white bread recipe brushed with olive oil for the toast.  If you do not have time for that, I recommend a good bakery style buttercrust bread to lend that essential base to the flavor profile.  Combine that with creamy goat cheese, garlic, and the aromatic wonder of Herbes de Provence for an appetizer that is sure to be toasted!


Sunday Dinner

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Green Salad with Bacon and Croutons

Malted Milk Shortbread Cookies

I apologize for the posts being a bit scarce this past week, but life has thrown me a few curve balls.  Sports, cupcake orders, and my daughter getting the stomach flu have really eaten up the time.  As a matter of fact, I have another cupcake order that I am working on today, which doesn't leave me room for Sunday dinner baking for my family.  Fortunately, I have a half batch of this cookie dough in the freezer from earlier this week to bake up for dessert tonight.

These malted milk shortbread cookies provide a nice little twist on the classic rolled out dough holiday cookie.  You might have inferred from previous a recipe post that I am a Whopper fan.  These crunchy little circles of yum deliver a malted milk/shortbread taste with a satisfying texture sure to delight any cookie lover.   


Beef Bourguignon

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What could be better on a cold winter day than a bowl of this?  Beef Bourguignon, a standout of the stew family has all you could want in a dish.  Savory beef and vegetables tackle hunger in any size while providing the comfort of familiar flavors.  Being that this is not your average stew, it is a bit time intensive, but the results are well worth it.  Much of the preparation can be done in advance.  And while it is being done, the house will smell like heaven.  Serve it with a thick slice of  country bread for a hearty meal that you and whoever else is lucky enough to eat it will savor.


Sunday Dinner

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Miniature Camembert, Walnut and Cranberry Pastries

Simple Salad

Caramel Sauce Cockaigne
Lightly Sweetened Whipped Crème Fraîche

When I pop one of these little beauties and begin to process the levels of texture and flavor, I get holiday food brain.  There are certain smells and tastes that just evoke the holiday season.  The combination of Camembert cheese, walnuts, dried cranberries, and a touch of fresh rosemary nestled between layers of flaky, buttery pastry certainly does some serious evoking.

One might think that these are time consuming and tedious to prepare, but they really aren't.  The pastry can be made and baked up to a day in advance and the rounds can be filled and kept at room temperature up to an hour before baking.  Warm them in the oven just as your guests arrive and serve them immediately with a sparkling beverage or even a hard cider for a nice pairing.

Sunday Dinner one year ago
Sunday Dinner two years ago


Rustic Chocolate and Hazelnut Tart

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Due to the technical difficulties, I was unable to share a recipe to this past Sunday dinner.  But I was still thinking about my little space in the internet world and managed to capture a picture of the sweet ending to our meal.  If you are a reader, you know that I love my tarts. This one would certainly qualify as a new love.  In fact, I have made it twice in the last couple of weeks.

Normally most of my tarts are baked in a tart pan, but this one is rolled out into an odd oval shape, giving it more of a rustic look (hence the name).  The filling is made with beaten egg whites into which melted chocolate has been folded.  This technique lends a slightly fudgy, almost meringue-like texture.  The original recipe called for walnuts or pecans (and those would be good options), but I adore the combination of chocolate and hazelnuts, so I use chopped hazelnuts and a little bit of Frangelico.  A dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream and a garnish of chocolate covered hazelnuts provides the finishing touch.


Salami and Arugula Pizza

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Now that you have my go-to recipes for homemade pizza dough and sauce, it's time to share with you my favorite pizza (or least one of them).  Meaty salami, fresh mozzarella, herbal basil and peppery arugula all come together for a remarkable flavor combination.  The salami is cut into matchsticks rather than circles for a better bite.  They are also quickly pan fried to remove some of the excess fat and to provide a slight crisp.  Fresh mozzarella is used instead of the standard processed version for a light and creamy texture.  Once baked to perfection, it is topped with a sprinkle of chopped basil and some baby arugula.

Speaking of baking a pizza-- this is a controversial issue.  And what I mean by that is-- What oven rack position to you place your baking stone on?  The answer-- It depends on your oven.  With my previous oven I had success with the upper middle position, but with my current oven I achieve the best results with the middle position. The bottom and outer edge of the crust should be nicely browned with a few charred spots.  If the top of the pizza bakes faster than the bottom, lower the baking rack before continuing with the second pizza.  It may take a couple of tries before you find what works best for you.  Bon Appétit magazine even came out with this method using the broiler element.


Homemade Pizza Sauce

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Continuing with the components for a great homemade pizza after a brief absence due to technical difficulty...

To achieve that pizza parlor taste (and smell), it is important to have a sauce that really delivers the flavor.  The keys to this homemade sauce are in the fresh garlic and the red wine vinegar.  The garlic delivers that parlor punch while the vinegar brightens up the somewhat flat and dull taste that can be found in canned tomatoes.  And speaking of canned tomatoes-- they all have different levels of saltiness, so adjust the flavor according to your own taste.  This sauce keeps well in the refrigerator for up to one week and it can be frozen for several months.  Plan ahead and stock your freezer with some homemade dough and sauce for a great tasting, crowd pleasing meal perfect for a busy weeknight.


Homemade Pizza Dough

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Make your own pizza dough.  Really, give it a try and see if you don't end up doing it again.  Pizza places are humming during the holidays due to the amount of cooking being done for parties and family gatherings.  And that's great.  There are a lot of good pizza places out there.  But being able to reach into the fridge or freezer for your own hand-crafted dough is something special.  Taking on the challenge of perfecting it can be a rewarding experience (obsession) you might never have expected.  

This dough is great for thin pizza that has a crisp crust and chewy pull (thank the high gluten flour for that one), but it is also a suitable dough for calzones, stromboli, pizza bites, or even a simple flat bread for the dinner table.       


Sunday Dinner

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Hot Cream Cheese Shrimp Dip

Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

The Sunday after Thanksgiving means one thing for sure at our table.  While the menu does change up a bit, the main course is a must-- Turkey and Sausage Gumbo.  It is my favorite way to use up those turkey leftovers.  I normally like to prepare a dessert to go along with the main course that is a nice segue into the upcoming holiday season.  I think the warm spices and cream cheese frosting in this cake will fill that role.

I grew up eating the spice cake and frosting from the box and tub and I will admit... I loved it!  But if you are a reader, you know that I try to steer clear of such grocery items and go homemade when time allows.  To bring out a really good spice, the ground spices are bloomed in browned butter and fresh ginger is used for more flavor.  Buttermilk is used for a tangy, tender batter and the whole cake is frosted with my go-to cream cheese frosting with just a touch of the reserved spice.


Turkey Cranberry Enchiladas

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I don't mind eating an endless parade of turkey sandwiches the weekend after Thanksgiving.  A good roll, mayonnaise, and some cranberry sauce compliment the left over bird just fine for me.  However, some people like a more creative way to re-purpose mounds of good turkey meat.  This recipe has flavor and creativity in spades.

Instead of using my spiced whole berry cranberry sauce, I like to use a simple and spiceless cranberry sauce in lieu of the canned version called for in the original recipe.  I also like to make my own salsa, but you can certainly use the salsa of your preference.  The black beans add more substance while the spices and chipotle in adobe add a good zing to create a balance of sweet and savory that is perfect for this time of year.  Serve it with a simple salad or, in this case, a side of sweet potato hash.

Other ways to use leftovers...

Turkey and Sweet Potato Croquettes with Cranberry Apple Salsa

Turkey and Sausage Gumbo

Turkey Chilaques (substitute turkey for the chicken)

Red Cabbage Slaw with Cranberry Vinaigrette

Sweet Potato Strips with Lime Salt


Make-Ahead Fluffy Dinner Rolls

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When dinner is at your house this year and you have ten different dishes to time right and prepare for, a make ahead recipe is much appreciated.  These rolls are a family favorite and simply cannot be replaced with a store bought substitute.  Mutiny (led by my 12 year old daughter, Emma) would ensue.  My mother normally makes them, but she is hundreds of miles away this Thanksgiving☹, so the duty falls on me.  That is where the make ahead part comes in and makes everything both easy and good.

These rolls are the perfect compliment to Thanksgiving dinner.  They are sturdy enough to sop up gravy, but tender enough to be a pat of butter's dream date.  They are also just the right size for late night and all weekend turkey sandwiches.


Brown Sugar Custard-Cranberry Tart

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Instead of sharing a recipe from our Sunday dinner tonight, I am taking this opportunity to share our dessert from last Sunday as well as some other desserts that might be welcome additions to your holiday dessert table.

This dessert is from the current issue of Food & Wine.  It is essentially a Frenchman's nod to an American tart.  The cranberries are first candied in a sugar and liquid mixture.  But rather than use water, I went for a little more flavor and used equal parts orange juice and Cognac (brandy can be used as well). The rest of the filling is a simple brown sugar custard that is poured into a pre-baked tart shell and baked until set.  I omitted the almond extract and went with a little vanilla and a touch of spice from cinnamon to compliment the orange juice and Cognac.  A dusting of confectioners' sugar and a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream cap off this tart that is literally bursting with flavor.

Other desserts you might enjoy for Thanksgiving...


Pumpkin Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

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I know many people are in a mad search for Thanksgiving recipes about this time, but I simply must share another pumpkin baked good before we all give thanks.  And thankful you will be when you give this recipe a go (Nice segue!). This is a simple-to-put-together cake batter (no stand mixer needed) swirled with a cream cheese filling and sprinkled with a sweet coconut pecan topping.  It is moist, creamy, and has a little crunch from the topping.  

In lieu of ground cinnamon in the batter, I like to use some pumpkin pie spice for a bit more essence.  I like the combo of pecans and coconut, but walnuts would also be a nice pairing.  Heavy on the pumpkin purée and light on the oil (only 1/4 cup), this makes for a nice breakfast treat that is easier on the waistline--something we all can appreciate with the upcoming holiday gluttony.  As good as it is room temperature or barely warm for breakfast, it is also good after dinner with a nice cup of tea.  *Secret*-- I have been known to sneak a slice or two cold from the refrigerator.  Only my dogs have known that... up 'til now.

Other pumpkin baked goods you might enjoy...

Pumpkin Yeast Bread (makes for a superb leftover turkey sandwich)

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Truffles (o.k. not a baked good, but certainly a must make)
Spiced Pumpkin Rice Crispy Treats (again not a baked good, but another must make)

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Herbs

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Brussels sprouts.  Ok, if you're still reading, you are probably not one who reflexively cringes at the thought of this polarizing vegetable.  I get it---they are not for everybody.  But if you or someone you like to cook for does enjoy partaking of the tender splendor that makes up the essence of the Brussels sprout, this recipe can become a go-to when a savory side dish is called for----Hmmm.  Oh yeah, Thanksgiving.....   

Unlike the more standard roasting or steaming of brussels sprouts, this recipe utilizes the braising technique.  They are browned in a little butter and oil and then slowly simmered with some good chicken stock (or turkey stock if it's on hand this time of year).  Combined with some bacon (always a good friend of a green vegetable☺), some shallots, and a few herbs, these edible buds are fork tender and quite possibly capable of winning over a few of those curled up noses at the table.

Other side dishes that might like to serve for your Thanksgiving spread...

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