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Red Curry-Glazed Salmon and Bok Choy and Pineapple Slaw [#seafood, #recipes, #quickanddecadent]

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Red Curry-Glazed Salmon

by Real Simple

Red Curry-Glazed Salmon and Bok Choy and Pineapple SlawSang An

Read Reviews or Write Your Own
Serves 4| Hands-On Time: 10m | Total Time: 15m

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Heat broiler. Place the salmon on a foil-lined broilerproof baking sheet. In a small bowl, mix together the curry paste, oil, sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Dividing evenly, brush the salmon with the curry paste mixture.
  2. Broil until the salmon is opaque throughout, 5 to 7 minutes

Bok Choy and Pineapple Slaw

Read Reviews or Write Your Own
Serves 4| Hands-On Time: 15m | Total Time: 30m

Ingredients

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, toss the bok choy, pineapple, and cilantro with the oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Let sit 15 minutes before serving.

Tags: #seafood, #recipes, #quickanddecadent

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How a Fateful Change of Heart Led Rohan Marley To Become an International Fair Trade Coffee Mogul via [Marley Coffee and Jamaica Observer]]

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Did you know we have a coffee farm??

posted by Rohan Marley via Hot In The Marley Coffee Blog

https://i1.wp.com/www.examiner.com/images/blog/EXID9907/images/marleycoffee.jpg

“I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world” George Washington

All Marley Coffees are certified organic and shade-grown on bio-diverse land without pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers or other additives. While some coffee producers slash and burn their fields, so the sun can fully penetrate their crop, and they can increase their coffee yield, Marley Coffee’s shade-grown farming method preserves the habitats of dozens of species.

In addition to being a model for sustainable agricultural practices, Marley Coffee takes exceptionally good care of its workers. Marley farm workers are paid twice the average wage. And, a percentage of Marley Coffee sales goes to the Kicks for Cause Foundation, which aims to provide the children of farm workers with playable soccer fields and camps.

The names of the gourmet coffee blends play off the names of Bob Marley songs:
•    One Love
•    Jammin Java
•    Lively Up!
•    Mystic Morning
•    Simmer Down (decaffeinated)

Our 52-acre Blue Mountain Coffee farm is located near Chepstowe, Portland in the Blue Mountain region of Jamaica. Rohan Marley, chairman and founder of Marley Coffee, purchased the farm over ten years ago. Rohan was casually introduced to this magnificent piece of land by a good friend, and immediately fell in love, purchasing it on the spot.

Rohan cooling off in the river

It was the calm, clear river that initially drew Rohan to the property, as he would travel there nearly every day for an exhilarating dive off the 30 ft. cliff and a refreshing swim, but he soon became curious about what else the property had to offer.  It didn’t take long to realize that amidst all of the delicious fruits, grew the esteemed Blue Mountain Coffee.

From that day forward, Rohan has been focused on organically cultivating this land to produce the best possible organic Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee the world has to offer. Below are a few pictures from our beloved farm. Enjoy!!

Yep, that’s all coffee!!

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STAY TUNED!!

ONE LOVE!

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Marley Coffee set to stir it up

BY AL EDWARDS via Jamaiican Observer

THE venture into coffee production by Rohan Marley, son of reggae icon Bob Marley, appears to be paying dividends as his company seeks to give the Marley Coffee brand a global presence.

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Speaking with Caribbean Business Report from the Bob Marley Museum where he has an operational base, Rohan Marley recounted the early years and how he broke into the coffee business.

Back in 1998 a Rastafarian friend of Marley’s called him in New Jersey where he was living at the time, and offered to show him a 52-acre property in Portland, Jamaica, that would prove a worthy investment. His interest piqued and valuing his friend’s judgement he jumped on a flight to Jamaica to check it out.

The breathtaking Blue Mountains

“Although my father started out as a farmer and talked about getting back into it, I had no inclination to follow in his footsteps. To be honest, I didn’t think I had any aptitude for it and it didn’t interest me but I must say my initial impression of the property was favourable,” said Marley.

“I remember hearing this rumbling sound and was told that it was a river that ran through it. That made it for me, but I was apprehensive. I thought this must be some bandooloo business because there is no way anyone would give up this beautiful piece of land. Anyway, I got my chequebook out and sealed the deal right there and then,” said Marley.

Beginnings

Most of Bob Marley’s progeny have gone into the entertainment business and have had some success there. Rohan chose instead to go into business ventures. He studied sociology at the University of Miami and was a linebacker for the university’s football team, Hurricanes.

He would later go on to play professionally for the Canadian Football League’s Ottawa Rough Riders. Today, he still has an athletic physique and can still strut his stuff on the gridiron.

Marley realised that with his newly acquired title came a once-working coffee farm. After taking over the property he was told that the workers were not to be trusted and that praedial larceny was the order of the day. Marley quickly assessed that it would do him no good if he was viewed in the same way as the previous owner and set about discovering what “a gwaan.”


Delicious pineapple and coconuts on the farm

“They told me that they picked the fuit and vegetables and used them to feed the community and that was regarded as theft. I said if we are going to have a good relationship, things would have to change. I instructed them that from now on, what was on the trees was to be used to feed the community and that a new sheriff was in town. I would not have a problem with them eating what came from the farm. I had to motivate them and encourage them to become self-sufficient,” he said.

Rohan enjoying some fresh “jelly” (coconut water)

“With a farm came a community of workers but it was not profitable. I decided to try and turn it around. The first decision I took, and still stand by today, was to be go organic, — no pesticides. In 2000, we established a company and set up offices here on Hope Road at the Marley Museum,” he explained.

He contacted the Coffee Board in order to find out just how an organic coffee farm could become a viable business and what would be needed to satisfy regulations. It proved extremely difficult to get the required licence and he spent years just reaping coffee berries and being unable to process them. He solicited the assistance of his good friend, Balram Vaswani, who would prove instrumental in shaping and leading the company and setting it on a path for growth.

Marley had a fortuitous meeting with a coffee processor who told him to bring what he had reaped and that he could get him ready for the market. The young Marley was not prepared to send his coffee to the Coffee Board for a measly $2,405 a box. Why? Because the coffee is sold in the United States for US$50 per pound. The way Marley saw it, the powers that be are making money off the coffee farmers, hand over fist.

“Man, I’m not that smart but I’m not that dumb. The Coffee Board was not offering a worthwhile deal so I thought best to process it myself.

I bought the necessary machinery, humidifiers, the works. The guy who offered to process my coffee didn’t work out, and I was left with containers consisting of 132 pounds per bag of coffee sitting in my house waiting for somebody to take me to the next level. Hardly the right start for a fledgling business.”

He went back to the United States and then on to Ethiopia to find himself, spiritually. His hiatus there saw him encountering coffee on the African continent and that period would serve to deepen his knowledge of the crop. In 2009, he looked to Vaswani to turn the company around and come on board full-time as CEO. Vaswani saw the potential and dutifully obliged, setting his sights on acquiring that elusive licence and ramping up the company’s marketing arm, while at the same time identifying potential markets. Eleven years after Marley secured the farm in Portland and set out to be a coffee farmer, Vaswani successfully managed to land not only the Coffee Board licence but also a dealer’s licence, as well. Marley Coffee Limited was on its way.

Taking off

“What that meant was that we could register our trademark as a genuine Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee,” Vaswani explained. “The dealer’s licence means that we can buy coffee from other suppliers to meet demand. Today, we can meet any contract and can supply coffee at will. I looked at all the coffee brands and organisations, including Mavis Bank’s Jablum. What we wanted to establish was a distinct brand with the Marley vibe that would command respect. I think people would have to agree that today, respect is due.”

Vaswani was particularly impressed with the Sharp family’s coffee operation, moreso its marketing savvy. He saw an alliance there that could take Marley Coffee to the next level.

Rohan checking out the coffee during harvest season

“Balram came up with a fantastic business plan and took the time to acquaint himself with a number of coffee traders he introduced me to,” explained Marley. “From there our fortunes changed and we were on the crest of a wave. His business acumen has really made the difference. The Sharps came on board and both Jason and Richard (Sharp) brought so much to the table. They both were behind the idea of producing an exportable Blue Mountain coffee. The idea is to get Blue Mountain coffee into places it has never been before. To us, it is not just about exporting to Japan. The European and United States markets are still largely untapped and we see great potential there. Already, Marley Coffee can be found in 23 locations in Whole Foods stores throughout California and we have formed a great relationship with them. They have been very gracious in giving us fantastic exposure.”

Rohan making his way around the farm

The co-branding of the Marley name with Jamaica’s most notable premium agricultural product is a formidable mix, and selling it to export markets has gone down well, so far. Rohan and Vaswani have already come up with a number of different brands and price points that include “Buffalo Soldier”, “Mystic Morning”, “Lively Up!”, “Simmer Down”, “One Love”, and “Lion’s Blend Jammin Java”, which is a line they have created for bulk-buying by restaurants, hotels, educational institutions and corporations with a notable catering arm.

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There is even an Ethiopian coffee line. A 340 g/12-ounce bag of Jamaica Blue Mountain Marley Coffee will set you back about US$20.00, which is competitively priced compared to other offerings out there on the market.

The Marley brand

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Bob Marley, who died almost 30 years ago is challenging both Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson for the title of richest deceased celebrity. Toronto-based private equity firm Hilco Consumer Capital has struck a management deal with the Marley Estate, which is expected to generate worldwide annual sales in excess of US$1 billion by 2012. This is all the more remarkable considering Jamaica’s total GDP is US$12 billion.

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According to Fortune Magazine, the Marley name has already generated US$650 million in pirated merchandise. Mickey Goodman, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, says: “Bob Marley is a strong global brand. He enjoys a high level of awareness and people feel positive about his music.”

Bob Marley’s children are intent on seeing that his legacy remains intact and that future generations will remain financially comfortable. Aware of the potency of the brand, The House of Marley has been formed for the purpose of operating all products and services bearing Jamaica’s most famous son’s name and image. Only last November, action sports label Billabong signed a deal with Marley & Co to collaborate on the Billabong X Bob Marley Collection. The line consists of boardshorts, T-shirts, tank tops and selected accessories. The Billabong X Bob Marley collection is made using premium recycled and organic materials, supporting environmentally safe products.

“Working with the Marley family to interpret their vision of their father onto our garments has been inspiring,” notes Billabong Design Director Rob McCaty. “Cedella and Ziggy (Marley) have provided great insight to make this collaboration a success.”

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The Marley Collection is prominently

featured in all Billabong

shop windows throughout the world.

Bob Marley may well be looking down with pride at the entrepreneurial savvy displayed by his children who have taken what he has created and managed to “Catch a Fire” in different arenas. They certainly haven’t sat on their laurels and relied solely on record royalties flowing in.

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Bringing in the Champ, Lennox Lewis

The Caribbean market has not escaped Marley Coffee’s attention and here they have elicited the help of Brew Brothers, which is run by the Dadlani family.

“The Dadlani family represent the Cartier brand in Jamaica,” said Vaswani. “They know how to represent and position a brand. We want our coffee to be presented in the same way as a luxury item is. To that end, we are not driven by price but rather by quality. We are now in the Caves, Tryall, Round Hill and Good Hope. We want to create a number of different price points while at the same time not sacrificing quality. We have plans for our bags to be stitched and made in Trench Town so people in that community can earn an income.

“Right now, 80 per cent of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is exported to Japan. We want to go the opposite direction and then look at the Japanese market, when it is ready for us. We want to enter that market properly and do so with experience in place of other substantial markets,” explained Vaswani.

Former boxing heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, who has a residence in Jamaica, has come on board as a shareholder in Marley Coffee and is excited about its potential and the progress made thus far. He will serve as an ambassador of the brand.

“Lennox Lewis is one of the best heavyweight champions the world has ever seen,” said Vaswani. “He moved back to Jamaica and wanted to put his name and presence behind a Jamaican company. He chose Marley Coffee and he is wholeheartedly behind it and is an important shareholder. Marley Coffee is comprised of Rohan Marley and the Marley family, Lennox Lewis, myself, the Sharp family (Jason and Richard), and Shane Whittle.”

Listing on the OTC Stock Exchange

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Last year, Rohan Marley listed Jammin Java on the US OTC Stock Exchange, coming in at an initial share price of 15 cents. Today, the share price stands at US$1.54 and Jammin Java coffee boasts a market cap of US$104 million. There are now plans to open two coffee shops — one at the Bob Marley Museum on Hope Road in Kingston, the other in Austria. The shops should be open to the public sometime next year. The idea is to have one location per country rather than attempting to emulate the Starbucks model.

https://i2.wp.com/www.hotstocked.com/articles-img/icon/3Jammin_Java.jpg

http://ichart.finance.yahoo.com/t?s=JAMN.OB&lang=en-US&region=US&width=300&height=180 

“We want to create the entire coffee-making experience for our customers. We are working with the Scharf family (who have over 1,000 coffee shops across Europe) where they have created a simulator which will enable people to come into our shops and see the coffee being picked and the farm at work. We also want to introduce streaming and video conferencing. Bob Marley’s Facebook page has 23 million friends and so the power of social networking cannot be ignored.

“The next stage for Marley Coffee is to launch our distribution network in Jamaica. We will hit the streets with all our SKUs and look to build relationships. We have recently completed a distribution deal to take Marley Coffee into the UK and Ireland. Who knows, we may even list on the Jamaica Stock Exchange some time soon,” said Marley.

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How to make Breakfast at Tiffany’s Inspired Tea Cupcakes via [bittenand smitten]

Tea at Tiffany’s

 

These yummy cupcakes might have been a little too decadent for breakfast and so I decided to have Tea at Tiffany’s instead :) I’d been dreaming about making some chocolate cupcakes with this beautiful blue-coloured frosting – this is another way of giving yourself an awesome Robin-Blue treat at a fraction of the cost! You may not be able to wear it around your neck but it’ll sure make you feel like a million bucks! [I just had an idea to make a cupcake ring!! hmmm… maybe next time :) ]

I don’t know about you but I absolutely LOVE cupcakes with cream cheese frosting cos it’s a little tangy and sweet at the same time unlike buttercream that’s just WAY to sweet sometimes. Also cream cheese frosting sounds healthier than buttercream frosting. note: it only SOUNDS healthier. I had a little mishap during baking and 2 of my cupcakes ‘boiled’ over its casing but it was no biggie – the cupcake’s still goooood. These would have been quite good for a Halloween theme – give the cupcake a design and maybe fill the spillage with RED icing – a bleeding cupcake. Well that’s for another time :)

Let’s see how these little gems are made:

Chocolate Soy Cupcakes with Robin Blue Cream Cheese Frosting

Equipment
Mixer with paddle attachment
2 large mixing bowls
2 medium bowls
Spatula
Sieve
Weighing Scale¹
Measuring Cups
Measuring Spoons
Ice Cream Scoop
Cupcake/ Souffle Cases (I used the souffle cases which won’t flatten out during baking. If these are not available use regular cupcake cases and use a muffin tray instead of a baking tray)
Baking Tray
1 large disposable piping bag
1 closed star piping tip


Ingredients

Chocolate Cupcakes
1½ cups plain flour
½ cup cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
A generous pinch of salt
120g unsalted butter
1⅓ cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 egg (lightly beaten)
1 cup soy milk³ (You can use regular milk, but I used soy milk cos I’m lactose intolerant :) )

Robin Blue Cream Cheese Frosting
227g cream cheese (1 block of Philadelphia cream cheese – it does seem like Philadelphia’s got a monopoly in the cream cheese market)
120g unsalted butter, at room temp
3 – 3¾ cups of icing sugar (sifted)
½ tsp of lemon zest
1-2 tsp of lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla essence
7 – 8 drops of sky blue paste food colouring
Some tiny white sugar flowers (for decoration)

Makes 12 cupcakes

Method
For Chocolate Cupcakes:
1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
2. Place souffle cases on baking tray/ Line muffin tray with cupcake cases.
3. Sift plain flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
4. Beat butter and caster sugar in the mixer using paddle attachment until light and creamy.
5. Beat in eggs and vanilla essence until well combined.
6. Next, alternate additions of the flour mixture and milk to the butter mixture ending with the flour mixture. Gently fold in the last addition of flour mixture using a spatula.
7. Using an ice cream scoop², scoop the cupcake mixture into the souffle cases/ cases in the muffin tray. Filing only ½ the souffle cases or cupcake cases (or you might have the same ‘boiled-over’ situation that i mentioned above.
8. Bake for 25 minutes or until a skewer stuck in the cupcake comes out clean.
9. Set aside to cool and decorate as desired.

For Robin Blue Cream Cheese Frosting:
1. Beat the cream cheese and butter until well combined.
2. Add the icing sugar (add 3 cups first and taste as you go along, add more if needed) and beat until well combined. [The mixture will look slightly translucent.]
3. Add the vanilla essence, lemon zest and lemon juice (taste as you go along, add more if needed) and mix well.
4. Add the sky blue paste colouring drop by drop and mix with a spatula after each drop until desired colour is achieved.4

To Decorate:
1. Prepare piping bag by cutting off the tip of the piping bag and push the piping bag through the opening.
2. Twist the bag several times at the end of the tip to prevent frosting from oozing out of the bag when you first add it to the bag.
3. Drape the piping bag over a glass (with the piping tip inside the glass).
4. Place all the frosting in the piping bag.
5. Pipe the frosting onto the cupcake, starting from the edge of the cupcake and swirling the frosting all around to the middle of the cupcake.
6. Finish off with a sprinkling of white sugar flowers.


Note:

¹ A pastry chef once told me she measures all her ingredients on a weighing scale and I thought she was crazy. But now, I totally understand what she means – in baking you need to be absolutely precise with your measurements and a weighing scale helps you achieve that precision.
² It’s a good idea to use an ice cream scoop, so you can measure the amount of batter you use by ‘scoops’.
³ The soy milk doesn’t quite affect the taste of the cupcakes – it’s still just as moist and rich :)
4 If the frosting looks a little too fluid after mixing, place the frosting in the fridge for about 15 minutes to give it some structure.

via [bittenandsmitten]


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Last-Minute Edible Gift Ideas via [huffingtonpost]

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From our friends at Food52.com, whose weekly recipe contests we’ve been featuring on HuffPost Food, comes this clever collection of recipes that can be whipped up in the waning days of Holiday gift-giving.

Salted Pumpkin Caramels

By cheese1227

Photo: Sarah Shatz

Amanda & Merrill’s Notes:

Cheese1227’s caramels really evoke the essence of fall, and her approach is elegant not heavy-handed. The earthiness of pumpkin, softened with cream, permeates each chewy bite, followed by a whisper of spice, and the delicate crunch of fleur de sel is a clever detail, offsetting the sweetness of the candy. The toasted pepitas are addictive even on their own (make sure to save some for the bottom of the baking dish!); they give each of the finished caramels a beautifully lacquered, dusty green cap. – A&M

I recently made the fetching brown butter pumpkin layer cake featured on the cover of the latest issue of Fine Cooking. That batter just cried out to be sampled. It tasted as I imagined pumpkin caramels would. Seeing as serving raw cake batter is frowned upon these days, I had to come up with a safer alternative to this wonderful taste profile. – cheese1227

Makes 64, 1-inch caramels
  • 2/3 cup unsalted pepitos
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cups light corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup good maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in chunks
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon fleur de sel
  1. Dry toast the pepitos in a skillet until they start to pop.
  2. Line the bottom and the sides of an 8-in square glass pan with parchment. Butter the parchment on the sides of the pan. Evenly spread out the toasted pepitos on the bottom of the pan, on top of the parchment.
  3. In a saucepan, combine heavy cream, pumpkin puree and spices. Get this mixture quite warm, but not boiling. Set aside.
  4. In a second heavy bottomed pan, with sides at least 4 inches high, combine the sugar, both syrups and water. Stir until the sugars are melted, Then let it boil until it reaches 244 degrees (the soft ball point on a candy thermometer). Then very carefully add the cream and pumpkin mixture, and slowly bring this mixture to 240 degrees as registered on a on a candy thermometer. This can take awhile — like 30 minutes — but don’t leave the kitchen, watch it carefully and stir it more frequently once it hits 230 degrees to keep it from burning at the bottom of the pan.
  5. As soon as it reaches the 240, pull it off the heat and stir in the butter and lemon juice. Stir vigorously so that butter is fully incorporated.
  6. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Let cool 30 minutes and sprinkle the salt over the top. Let the caramels fully set (at least 2 hours) before using a hot knife to cut them into 1-inch squares and wrapping them individually in waxed paper.

Secret Cookies

By Veronica, posted about 1 year ago

Photo: Sarah Shatz

This recipe has truly been kept a “Secret” for 30 years but now is the time to release it. It was given to me by an elderly lady who had been given it by an even more elderly Swedish lady. The proviso: “After I’m ‘gone’, you may give out the recipe.” The same proviso was given to me…so, here it is. Be sure to use salted butter!

Makes About 80 cookies
  • 3/4 pounds salted butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • Red, green or multi-colored sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar. Add the yolks and vanilla, mixing well. Add the flour and combine thoroughly.
  2. Use mounded teaspoonfuls and make balls of dough with your hands. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet, then flatten the dough with the bottom of a patterned glass dipped in colored sugar (don’t mix the red and green!).
  3. Bake for about 10 minutes (watch carefully as they burn easily), until the cookies are lightly golden just around the edges. Let the cookies rest on the baking sheets for a minute or two and then gently transfer to baking racks to cool — they’re fragile.

Cocoa Pear Crisps

By Rivka

Photo: Sarah Shatz

Amanda & Merrill’s Notes:

These pear crisps aren’t the most obvious “Open House Dish,” until you taste them, and then all becomes clear: you don’t want to be eating big baked dishes at an open house. You want somewhat light, intensely flavored food that can be eaten out of hand. The flavor of these delicous pears, which are seasoned with cocoa and spices, concentrates as they bake, and you end up with a chip that’s warped and brown, like a fossilized pear. Don’t bake them too long — you want crisp edges and slightly chewy centers. Then pile them into a bowl, and make sure you tell your guests they’re edible! They’ll love you forever. – A&M

I developed these pear chips for an iron chef competition a couple years back. The secret ingredient was cocoa, my fridge was near-empty save for a couple of pears, and I had an hour. I used galangal, which is a bit spicy like ginger, but also delightfully fruity. The result was unexpectedly delicious, the perfect thing to have out on a table during an open house. – Rivka

Makes about 60 crisps
  • 3 very firm pears
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoons powdered galangal, optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (if not using galangal, increase this to 1 teaspoon)
  • 3/4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  1. Preheat oven to 275°F. Halve each pear and use a melon baller to scoop out the core (including the stem).
  2. Set a mandoline to the 1/8-inch setting, and slice each pear half into about 10 very thin slices. Occasionally, the 1/8-inch setting will cause the pears to mush or crumble. In this case, the 1/4-inch setting will work, though the crisps will need an extra 15 minutes or so in the oven.
  3. Mix sugar and spices in small bowl. Place pear slices on rack set over baking sheet. Alternatively, place slices on silpat-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops with spiced sugar. Bake until almost dry, about 1 hour, turning the slices over and the sheets around half way through to ensure even baking. Cool on rack or sheet. Store airtight up to 2 days.

Gin Fruit

By amanda

Photo: Sarah Shatz

Most years, in early December, my mother starts making a jar of gin fruit for the holidays. Her recipe is mindlessly simple — layer your favorite dried fruits with some spices, cover with booze. Then all there is to do is wait a week. I think it’s ok to sneak a few tastes before then, don’t you? My mother pointed out that you may need to replenish the gin after a day or two, as the fruit soaks up the alcohol. And the fruit is best consumed within a few weeks, before the fruit’s sugars begin turning the booze to syrup. I’d suggest passing it alongside a cheese course, spooning it over ice cream or cake (with some of the macerating liquid!), or adding it toward the end of cooking roast pork.

Serves about 1 quart
  • 1 cup dried figs
  • 1 cup plump prunes
  • 1 cup dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 2 teaspoons raw sugar
  • 8 cloves
  • 8 long strips clementine peel
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • About 375 ml gin
  1. In a large bowl, combine the dried fruit.
  2. To a lidded 1-quart glass jar, add 1/4 of the fruit. Add 1/4 of the sugar, cloves and clementine peel. Repeat 3 more times. Push the cinnamon stick into the center of the fruit. Pour over enough gin to just cover the fruit. Seal the jar with a lid. Let sit for a week before eating, replenishing the gin as needed.

Chocolate Swirl Cinnamon Marshmallows

By notlazy.rustic.

Photo: Sarah Shatz

Amanda & Merrill’s Notes:

If you’ve never made marshmallows you should try these — we had a ball with this recipe! You pour hot sugar syrup into gelatin and then let the mixer work its magic, whipping up the marshmallow until it fluffs and gets bouncy. Once the marshmallow is shaped and set, you snip it into whatever size or shape marshmallows you want. For a child’s treat, notlazy.rustic.’s marshmallows have an adult touch — they’re scented with chocolate and cinnamon, and not too much of either. You’ll probably eat all of them plain, but you might also try dropping a few into hot chocolate. – A&M

I fell in love with making homemade marshmallows a couple years ago. It took only one batch to realize how easy they are to make and that most people are very surprised to learn marshmallows can be made at home (one of many reasons I like giving them as gifts). After finding a no-fail recipe in Gourmet, I’ve felt much more comfortable tweaking elements to create my own. These are perfect for the winter – a vanilla-infused marshmallow that’s been swirled with chocolate and sealed in a cinnamon-cocoa powder coat. For the chocolate, I like to go dark (here, I used a bar with 75% cacao to offset the sweetness of the rest of the square). – notlazy.rustic.

Serves 1 9×9 square

chocolate swirl marshmallow:

  • 2.5 ounces dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 1 cup water, divided
  • 3 packets (.25 ounces each) unflavored gelatin
  • 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 large pinch kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

cocoa powder-cinnamon coating:

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  1. Lightly grease a 9×9-inch metal baking pan with cooking spray or oil; set aside.
  2. In mini food processor, chop chocolate 45 seconds, or until the chocolate is the size of tiny pebbles; you could also use a knife or spice grinder for this. Set aside.
  3. Place 1/2 cup water in bowl of electric mixer; sprinkle gelatin over water, distributing well. Let stand while you prepare the syrup.
  4. In medium saucepot, combine remaining water, sugar, corn syrup and salt; cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar has dissolved. Increase heat to medium; bring to a boil without stirring. Add candy thermometer; cook, without stirring, but brushing down sides with a pastry brush dipped in cold water, until the mixture registers 240˚F (soft-ball stage). Let sit 1 minute.
  5. Turn electric mixer on, on low speed. Carefully pour hot sugar mixture in a stream into mixer bowl; once the mixture is incorporated, gradually increase speed to high. Beat 12-14 minutes, or until mixture is opaque and very thick. Turn mixer off. Add vanilla extract; beat 30 seconds. Add chopped chocolate and beat 15-20 seconds more, or until just melted and swirled through, but not completely combined.
  6. Immediately transfer marshmallow to the greased pan (use a greased spatula to transfer any that sticks to the bowl). Lightly wet your hands and smooth top of marshmallow. Set aside, uncovered, until firm (about 2 hours).
  7. Meanwhile, in bowl, whisk together confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder and ground cinnamon.
  8. Using scissors dipped in confectioners’ sugar mixture, cut marshmallow into squares, tossing in powder and dusting off excess as you go. (They will be incredibly sticky, but as soon as you toss them in the sugar-cocoa powder mixture, they will be easy to package.) Package in an airtight box or plastic gift bag that is tied very well.

Oaxacan Cinnamon Chocolate Macaroons

By robinbeth, posted 9 months ago

Photo: Sarah Shatz

Amanda & Merrill’s Notes:

If Laduree had a location in Mexico, this would be their signature treat. Perfectly crisp and airy, with just the right amount of lift, robinbeth’s macaroons are gently spiced with cinnamon and tinted the lightest shade of brown with just a touch of cocoa powder. The rich, sweet ganache, made of melted Mexican chocolate, butter and a dash of cream, echoes the spice of the cookies and the sugar crystals crunch pleasantly between your teeth. Intimidated by French-style macarons? This is the perfect recipe for your first attempt. – A&M

In the Mexican city of Oaxaca, almonds are ground into a rough paste with cacao, cinnamon, and sugar and hardened into thin fingers of chocolate. The distinctive mixture is used in the city’s famous mole sauces and melted into rich hot chocolate which the Oaxacans drink more regularly than coffee. The warm, spicy smell of toasted cacao, cinnamon and almonds fills the city, as crowded storefront grinders are endlessly turning and the mercado stalls are crowded with vendors selling secret family recipes. The Oaxacan trio of cinnamon, chocolate, and almonds is so lovely, that I was inspired to make macaroons with the same flavors. Put on a Lila Downs album, and enjoy these delicious cookies with a cup of Oaxacan hot chocolate or a glass of Mezcal, the region’s smoky alcohol made from roasted agave hearts.

Serves 40 1.5 inch cookies or 20 sandwiches

Macaroon Ingredients:

  • 100 grams egg whites (about 3 eggs, left at room temperature for 24 hours)
  • 50 grams granulated sugar
  • 125 grams almond flour (Bob’s Red Mill, made from ground blanched almonds)
  • 175 grams confectioners sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3 teaspoons cocoa powder or raw cacao
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch cream of tartar

Ganache Ingredients:

  • 150 grams Mexican chocolate (can be found in most supermarkets, gourmet shops, or ordered online)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  1. Measure egg whites and allow to sit at room temperature for 24 hours in a covered bowl. Aging the whites helps them thin and will create a better textured macaroon.
  2. Line two cookie pans with parchment paper and trace 1.5 inch circles on the paper, keeping the circles about one inch apart. Preheat your oven to 300 F.
  3. Pulse the almond flour, confectioners sugar, cinnamon and cocoa in a food processor until it is a finely mixed powder. Sift into a large bowl.
  4. Put egg whites in stainless steel bowl and beat on low with a hand mixer until frothy. Add salt and cream of tartar, and slowly mix in the granulated sugar. Once the sugar is all incorporated, increase mixer speed to medium and beat until meringue forms stiff peaks. The meringue should look glossy and remain in place when the bowl is tipped on its side.
  5. Using a silicone spatula, fold the almond and sugar mixture into the egg whites one-third at a time. You do not have to be gentle, instead use brisk strokes to fold the mixture together completely, this will help reduce the air in the meringue and keep the macaroons from being too puffy.
  6. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag or a ziplock. If using a ziplock, cut off a 1/4 inch tip from the corner. Pipe the mixture in a spiral to fill each 1.5 inch circle on the parchment paper. Allow the unbaked cookies to sit out for 30 minutes, until the cookies have a matte texture and are no longer sticky.
  7. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Allow to cool and then peel very gently off the parchment paper.
  8. Make ganache while the cookies cool. Melt chocolate in double boiler. Whisk in heavy cream and butter and stir mixture over gently boiling water until it is smooth and shiny.
  9. When the cookies and filling are cool, spread or pipe the ganache on the flat side of one macaroon and create a sandwich with a second one.
  10. Eat.

White Chocolate Snowflakes

By merrill, posted 11 months ago

Photo: Sarah Shatz

When I was young, my mother made lots of different kinds of cookies in the weeks leading up to Christmas. These “snowflakes” (which technically aren’t really cookies, but no matter) were among my favorites because they were simple enough that my sister and I could actually help my mother make them. We often filled tins with these to take to our teachers before school let out for Christmas vacation. I’ve never been a huge fan of the bland sweetness of white chocolate, but when it’s combined with something salty — like pretzels, or the salted peanuts in these snowflakes — I can be swayed. Really, these snowflakes are just Rice Krispies treats for grownups. Of course, if you don’t like white chocolate, or Rice Krispies, you can experiment with milk or dark chocolate or use different types of cereal (I think Cheerios would be pretty good). Best of all, the snowflakes take all of 15 minutes to make, leaving you with plenty of time to write cards or wrap presents or do whatever else you don’t have enough time to do.

Makes about 40 snowflakes
  • 1 pound white chocolate, chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups Rice Krispies
  • 1 cup salted roasted peanuts
  1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, stirring until smooth. Stir in the Rice Krispies and the peanuts, coating the dry ingredients evenly in the chocolate.
  2. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls of the mixture in little mounds onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper or parchment (no need to space them apart too much as you won’t be baking them, so they won’t spread). Refrigerate uncovered until the chocolate hardens, at least 30 minutes, before eating. Once they’ve hardened, store the snowflakes in the refrigerator in a sealed container so the chocolate doesn’t melt.

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Chewy Sugar Cookies #2

By mrslarkin, posted 8 months ago

Photo: Sarah Shatz

Amanda & Merrill’s Notes:

Mrslarkin’s classic sugar cookie makes use of three sugars: granulated, light brown and turbinado. The granulated gives the cookie a foundation of sweetness, the light brown adds caramel notes and the turbinado’s in there for a little snap. They’re crisp and buttery on the edges and chewy through the center. Perfect for dunking and ice cream sandwiches, we think! Note, if baking them on a dark, non-stick baking sheet, reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees (this is a good general rule for all baking). – A&M

One of the things I like best about this sugar cookie is that it’s not tooth-achingly sweet. It’s got a nice proportion of crunch-to-chew. And it’s so sparkly from the turbinado sugar! The inspiration behind this cookie came from the New York Times’ chocolate chip cookie recipe, printed March 1, 2000, one of the best chewy cookies I’ve ever tasted. – mrslarkin

Serves about 2 dozen
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose unbleached flour (I use King Arthur)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup turbinado, or course sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 2 large sheet pans with parchment paper.
  2. Cream butter and sugars for 1 minute. Scrape sides of bowl. Continue beating for another minute. Scrape bowl again.
  3. Add vanilla. Beat for 1 minute. Scrape sides of bowl.
  4. Add egg. Beat for 1 minute. Scrape sides of bowl.
  5. Add flour, salt and baking soda. Beat 1 minute. Scrape sides of bowl and beat for another minute.
  6. Place course sugar in small, shallow bowl. Using a small cookie/ice cream scoop (mine is 1 ½“ in diameter), scoop balls of dough and drop a few at a time in the course sugar and gently roll around. Place balls of dough on parchment, leaving about 1 ½“ space around each. My pans fit 12 cookies very comfortably.
  7. Do not press the balls down. This will ensure a chewy middle.
  8. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, turning and reversing pans midway through baking. Resist the urge to bake your cookies longer, or they won’t be chewy. The tops don’t get much color, but the bottoms will be nicely golden.
  9. Place pans on cooling racks. When cool, store cookies in air-tight containers.

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Figgy Pudding Butter Cookies

By Helenthenanny, posted about 1 year ago

Photo: Sarah Shatz

Amanda & Merrill’s Notes:

Like mince pies in cookie form, these delicate biscuits melt in your mouth, leaving a hit of sweet figs and a whisper of brandy on your tongue. Helenthenanny’s rich, sophisticated cookies are not only delicious to eat but also lovely to look at, drizzled as they are with a spiced brandy glaze. Make sure to squeeze as much liquid as possible from the softened figs, and do not be alarmed if the dough seems wet before you chill it — it will firm up in the fridge. – A&M

My little invention smells and tastes just like the holidays! I got this idea from the traditional ingredients in figgy pudding. These little butter cookies are studded with chunks of soft fig, orange zest, cinnamon, and nutmeg, AND they get a generous drizzle of brandy-sugar glaze. The aroma from making these delicious cookies fills your house with holiday cheer, and the buttery goodness will fill your belly too!

Serves 3 dozen small cookies

For the Cookies:

  • 1 tablespoon orange zest (from one orange)
  • 8-10 large dried Turkish or Caliymirna Figs (the light brown ones)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cups (or 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cups Confectioners sugar
  • 1 large egg

For the Brandy-Sugar Glaze:

  • 1 1/2 cup Confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons Brandy
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  1. Sift together flour, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon in a bowl and set it aside.
  2. Dice figs into small chunks and put them in a saucepan with the milk. Heat on low, stirring occasionally for about 15.
  3. Put 1 1/2 sicks of softened butter in the bowl of the electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on med-high until the butter is fluffy, about two minutes.
  4. Sift 3/4 cup of confectioners sugar into the fluffy butter and mix until smooth.
  5. Add in one egg and reduce speed to low.
  6. Add in flour mixture and mix until just combined.
  7. Strain the figs from the milk. Add them, along with the orange zest, to the dough. Fold in until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  8. After the dough has cooled, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough until it is 1/8 inch thick. Using a 2 inch round cookie cutter, cut out the cookies and place them on a parchment lined cookie sheet, spaced one inch apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.
  9. While the cookies are baking, combine all the ingredients for the Brandy-Sugar Glaze in a saucepan on med-low heat, and stir often, until the sauce comes together. After the cookies have cooled, use a fork to drizzle the warm glaze on them.
  10. Please enjoy and have the happiest of holidays!

Mom’s Flapjacks

By Londonfoodieny

Photo: Melanie.Einzig

Amanda & Merrill’s Notes:

Probably not the sort of flapjacks you have in mind, these are what all granola bars aspire to be. Chewy, crispy and rich with butter, these oatmeal squares (or wedges, like ours) are made with golden syrup (the British answer to maple syrup, only milder), rolled oats, and a variety of seeds (pumpkin, sesame and sunflower). Londonfoodieny’s flapjacks couldn’t be easier to throw together (melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup, stir in the dry ingredients, spread in a pan and bake), but the rewards are great. Because of all the butter and sugar, the edges of the flapjacks crisp to a lovely golden brown, and if you cook them properly, the centers remain slightly chewy. We used a non-stick pan — otherwise, make sure to use parchment, or you’ll be scraping out the hardened sugar for days. – A&M

Serves 9-20 depending on greediness
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • heaped 1/3 cups golden syrup
  • 4 1/4 cups 1 minute oats
  • 1 heaping tablespoon flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 handfuls pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • scant 1/4 cups sesame seeds
  1. Heat the oven to 350F/180C/Gas 4. If you have a fan or convection oven reduce the temperature and cooking time but ideally turn the fan off. Line a 20 x 30 cm baking tin with greaseproof paper (parchment paper)
  2. In a large pan, heat together the butter, sugar and golden syrup over a gentle heat, stirring until the butter has melted. Tip in the flour, oats, salt and seeds and stir to combine.
  3. Tip your pan and spread evenly without pressing down too hard. Bake in the oven for roughly 20-25 minutes or until lightly golden (they will be slightly darker at the edges). Cut them, whilst still in the pan, straight from the oven and then leave to cool and set in the pan.

Ruggelach

By deensiebat, posted about 1 year ago

Photo: Sarah Shatz

Amanda & Merrill’s Notes:

If you’ve ever made pizza, you can make rugelach, because all rugelach is, really, is dough rolled into a circle and spread with toppings. Pizza gets baked at this point whereas rugelach gets sliced and rolled into croissant-like shaped before going into the oven. Deensiebat’s rugelach is a cinch because you can make the soft, pliant dough in a food processor, then it’s just a matter of rolling it out, spreading it with apricot jam, walnuts and cinnamon sugar, and forming slices into crescents. The rugelach comes out tender and not too sweet, and while baking, some of the apricot juices seep out and caramelize on the parchment paper, giving the finished rugelach a candied edge. – A&M

Came from my New-York-born-but-Yiddish-inflected grandma, which I adapted.

Serves 64 small cookies

Dough:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 pound cold butter, cut in Tbsp-sized cubes
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Filling:

  • 1 1/3 cup apricot jam
  • 1 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup cinnamon-sugar (1/4 cup sugar + 2 tsp cinnamon)
  1. In a bowl or a food processor, mix together the flour, salt and sugar until combined. Add the butter, and pulse in the food processor or cut with a pastry cutter (or two knives) until it is reduced to bits that are about half the size of a pea. If using a food processor, dump the contents into a bowl at this point. Stir the vanilla into the sour cream. Using a spoon, and then your hands when needed, knead the sour cream and vanilla into the flour mixture until it is well incorporated, and the dough holds together when you squeeze it. Stop as soon as this is possible — do not over-mix. Shape the dough into four chubby disks, cover with plastic and allow to relax in the refrigerator for at least one hour (overnight is fine too).
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Take a disk of dough out of the refrigerator, and place on a floured countertop or pastry mat. Roll out to a 12″ circle, trimming off the ends if needed. This dough is much softer than a traditional pastry crust, so you shouldn’t need to let it warm up before rolling. Spread 1/3 cup apricot jam over the round of dough, and sprinkle with 1/3 cup nuts and 1 Tbsp cinnamon-sugar. Taking a chef’s knife or pizza cutter, divide the dough evenly into 16 wedges. Starting from the wide base of each wedge, roll towards the center to form a crescent. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or silicone liner, making sure that the tip of the crescent is pinned underneath to prevent the cookie from unrolling. Bake until the filling is bubbling and the crust is just beginning to color, about 30 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool, being careful of the hot jam. Best enjoyed the day they are made (any leftovers are best kept in the freezer).

Tipsy Maple Corn

By thirschfeld

Photo: Sarah Shatz

Amanda & Merrill’s Notes:

We were initially seduced by “tipsy” in the title, but once we tried thirschfeld’s recipe, we fell in love with much more than the Jack-Daniels-infused syrup. There are the peanuts (we used dry roasted) and the tiny dots of pancetta — neither of which stoops to merely accessorizing the corn. The nuts give the treat heft, the pancetta salt and richness. The most important step is the oven-crisping. Be careful not to burn the edges and don’t worry if the popcorn isn’t totally crisp when you take it out of the oven — it will continue to firm up as it cools. We loved this as a Halloween treat, but it would be just as delicious paired with a good movie. – A&M

Cracker Jacks were invented to be served at the 1893 Worlds Fair in Chicago. Since then there have been about as many variations as boxes sold. Not one to let that stop me I jumped right in and came up with my own version. The pancetta is key for the right salty sweet combo so make sure you add all of it. And do you see what we have to deal with around here during our photo shoots. The drive by grab and go while I am looking through the view finder. – thirschfeld

Makes 2 quarts
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons bacon grease, or non flavored vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1/3 cup Jack Daniels
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup peanuts
  • 3 pieces pancetta, baked until crispy and minced
  1. Place the bacon grease in a 3 quart dutch oven with a lid. Add the kernels and place the covered pot over high heat. Once the popping begins, gently shake the pot to keep the kernels from burning. Once it is done remove the lid and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In another small pot add the Jack Daniels and heat it to burn off the alcohol and reduce it by half. Add the syrup and butter and heat until the butter is melted. Season with fresh ground pepper to taste.
  3. Place the popcorn, peanuts and the pancetta into a large mixing bowl. You want to sprinkle a little of the syrup over the corn a little at a time. You want to stir as you do this. Take your time otherwise the corn will saturate with syrup and collapse and just be gooey.
  4. Once it is coated put it on a sheet tray and spread it out. Then place it in the oven and back in for 20 to 40 minutes. Sometimes it takes longer to crisp that others so just check it and stir it around about every ten minutes.

Candied Ginger Sables

By food52

Photo: food52

This recipe was a finalist in one of our test rounds. The category was for “Favorite Holiday Cookie” and the recipe was created by our friend Teresa Parker. These rich little biscuits make for a festive twist on the classic French rendition of shortbread (sablé means “sandy” in French and refers to the crumbly texture). Brown sugar lends a mellow caramel quality, and we love the chewy morsels of candied ginger that creep up on you with a fiesty little kick towards the end of each bite. Teresa thought to simplify — and modernize — the original recipe for cut-out cookies, which came from Gourmet (June, 1992), by shaping the dough into a log and slicing it into neat discs. It may seem like a minor alteration, but it dramatically decreases the time from mixer to mouth!

Makes about 60 cookies
  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cups finely chopped candied ginger
  • Confectioners’ sugar
  1. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter, brown sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the ground ginger and salt. Add these to the butter mixture and beat on low speed until the ingredients are just combined. Add the candied ginger and beat for a few more seconds to incorporate.
  2. Divide the dough in half and gently roll into two slim cylinders of about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the cylinders tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  3. When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350°F. At this point, if the cylinders have slumped or flattened at all, re-roll them a bit to make them perfectly round. Cut the dough into 1/4-inch slices and arrange them an inch apart on baking sheets (use parchment paper if your baking sheets are dark). Bake the cookies until they are light golden around the edges, about 15 minutes. Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheets and then transfer the cookies to a rack to cool completely. Dust lightly with confectioners’ sugar.

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Fig and Blue Cheese Savouries

By TheRunawaySpoon, posted 23 days ago

Photo: Sarah Shatz

Amanda & Merrill’s Notes:

These delicate, crumbly little thumbprints are the perfect combination of sweet and savory, as their names suggests — they’re like a great cheese plate all wrapped into one crunchy little morsel. TheRunawaySpoon’s simple food processor dough yields tender, buttery coins flecked with blue cheese and black pepper. A good quality fig jam is crucial here; if you can’t find it, quince or pear jam would also work well. – A&M

If you are like me, you always offer to bring something when invited to someone’s house. I mean the offer, I always love an opportunity to cook for people, but sometimes it’s hard to come up with a quick idea on the fly. And when it’s one of those roaming parties – not a seated affair – choosing a dish that doesn’t have to be kept hot or cold or require and special equipment adds to the challenge. I tend to fall back on the same recipes, but I recently wanted to add one to my repertoire – after all, it gets to be the same people at parties, right? These little Fig and Blue Cheese bites are easy but very elegant, and the surprising tart and tangy with sweet combination is a real treat. – TheRunawaySpoon

Makes about 3 dozen
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
  • Ground black pepper
  • Fig preserves, about 3 Tablespoons
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place the flour, butter, blue cheese and a few grinds of black pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the dough just comes together and starts to form a ball.
  3. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times to pull the dough together. Roll out to 1/8 inch thick with a floured rolling pin. Cut rounds out of the dough with a floured 1-inch cutter and transfer the rounds to the parchment-lined baking sheet.
  4. Using the back or a round half-teaspoon measure or your knuckle, make an indention in the top of each dough round. Spoon about ¼ teaspoon of fig preserves into each indention, using your finger to push the preserves as best as possible into the indentions.
  5. Bake the savories for 10 – 14 minutes, until the preserves are bubbling and the pastry is light golden on the bottom.
  6. Let cool on the baking sheet for at least 10 minutes, the remove to a wire rack to cool.
  7. You’ll find fig preserves at the grocery – it may be shelved with the “fancy” jams and jellies. You can make these a day ahead and keep them in two layers separated by waxed paper in an airtight container.

Gingered Cranberry Fig Chutney

By Oui, Chef

Photo: Sarah Shatz

Amanda & Merrill’s Notes:

This chutney is perfect for those looking for something zippy and less sweet than a typical cranberry sauce. It combines the elements of a great chutney (mustard seeds, spices, vinegar, sugar) with other carefully selected ingredients (among them cranberries, dried figs, fresh ginger, red pepper flakes, fresh thyme and toasted hazelnuts); the result is a sophisticated, jewel-toned “cranberry sauce” with just the right ratio of sour to sweet that’s just as well-suited to roast pork or beef as it is to Thanksgiving turkey. Be careful not to cook the chutney for too long — you want it luscious and thick, not sticky. – A&M

I’ve never been much of a fan of straight-up cranberry sauce, in fact, the jellied kind makes me want to gag. I much prefer a condiment like this, that is more than just cranberries and a lot of sugar. This chutney gets it’s sweetness not just from sugar, but from raisins, some OJ and dried black mission figs. The cider vinegar and lemon juice lend a sparkling acid note, and the ginger and red pepper flakes bring heat. I finished it with some chopped, toasted hazelnuts to add an earthy crunch, and some freshly minced thyme for a hint of herbal complexity. I love the way it turned out, I’ll definitely reserve a spot for it on my Thanksgiving table.

Serves 6-8
  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries
  • 1/4 cup yellow onion, minced
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts, skinless, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 8 dried black mission figs, cut into eighths
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely minced
  1. Add all the ingredients, with the exception of the chopped hazelnuts and fresh thyme, to a heavy bottomed pan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to bring the mix to a simmer, and cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occassionally, until the chutney thickens some. Remove from the heat, stir in the nuts and fresh thyme and let cool slightly before serving.

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Salted Almonds

By lauren, posted about 1 year ago

Photo: Sarah Shatz

Amanda & Merrill’s Notes:

This is more a concept than a prototypical recipe — which is one of the reasons we like it so much. By adding a mere suspicion of sugar to her recipe for roasted salted almonds, Lauren has come up with an unusual variation on a traditional technique. Similar recipes usually call for no sugar at all, or for a larger amount of brown sugar, but this strikes a balance. The amount of sugar is just enough to soften the saltiness without actually making the nuts taste sweet. We couldn’t stop eating them, and we’re pretty sure you won’t be able to either. Try the same technique with peanuts, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts — whatever you have on hand. – A&M

Perfect at cocktail hour, along with a stiff drink

Serves 6 to 8
  • 1 pound whole almonds, shelled
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Toss the almonds in the olive oil, salt, and sugar until well coated. Bake for ten minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Ancho Chili-Cinnamon Chocolate Bark

By wanderash, posted about 1 year ago

Photo: Sarah Shatz

Amanda & Merrill’s Notes:

Neither of us had ever made chocolate bark before we tried this recipe, and wanderash’s version happens to be a great introduction. Waves of smooth dark chocolate are spiced with smoky ancho, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper, and studded with dried cherries, cashews and pistachios. The finished product looks lovely, packs easily and takes a total of about 20 minutes to put together. We think it makes a great holiday gift. – A&M

This is a tasty treat to spice up your fiesta or light up a lucky recipients tired holiday palate. I often make this easy dessert when I have friends coming for dinner who love wine. I know that we will sit at the table well after the meal is over and continue talking and drinking for hours. I serve this on one plate and put it in the middle of the table. It is a casual dessert, so easy to make and great with a good cabernet. I first wrapped this up a few years ago while thinking of an edible present that would not be tossed aside amongst the mountains of Christmas sugar. With so many sweets out there this subtle spicy and salty chocolate makes a great gift. Use good chocolate when making this; it will make all of the difference. And of course feel free to substitute your favorite nuts and fruits.

Serves about 3 gifts
  • 1 large ancho chili
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 3 cloves
  • 2″ cinnamon stick
  • 2/3 cups pistachio
  • 2/3 cups cashews, very lightly crushed
  • 12 ounces dark bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • kosher salt, or sea salt
  1. To make the spice mix, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Place first 5 ingredients on a baking sheet and place in oven. Toast until fragrant or about 10 min.
  2. Remove steams and majority of seeds from the anchos. Place all spices in a spice grinder or coffee grinder and pulverize. You may need to grind spices in batches.
  3. Toast the nuts by placing them on the baking sheet and put in the oven. Check after 10 minutes. When done, remove from oven and let cool.
  4. Place ¾ of the chocolate in a bowl and slowly melt the chocolate, either in the microwave checking and stirring it every 25 seconds or over a double broiler on the stovetop.
  5. When all of the chocolate is melted, take it off of the heat and add in the remaining chocolate, stir until it is completely melted.
  6. Add one to two teaspoons of the spice mix. Add one at a time and taste; add more if you want it to be spicier. I like a subtle spice flavor, it keeps those eating it wondering what the secret spice could be.
  7. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. Spread out the nuts and cherries, reserving a few of the nuts to decorate the top.
  8. Sprinkle salt over the nuts and cherries.
  9. Pour the chocolate onto the pan, covering the nuts and cherries in an even layer. Add remaining nuts to the top of chocolate and press them into the chocolate.
  10. Put in fridge and allow to cool for 45 min. Break into pieces and keep in a sealed container in the fridge.

Exotic and Spicy Ideas for a LAVISH Upscale Holiday Cocktail Party via [more.com]

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Sparkling cocktails, created by Kim Haasarud, Maria Hunt, and Gina Chersevani, and killer apps, created by Monica Bhide, make your holiday party elegant and effortlessly effervescent.

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Photo: Kenji Aoki

Petal Power: Hibiscus Royale

A single crimson blossom soaked in syrup gives this bubbly cocktail its drama queen status. The grace note: a lacing of elderflower liqueur.

Makes 1 drink

1 hibiscus flower in syrup (from an 8.8-ounce, 11-flower jar of Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup)*

1 teaspoon hibiscus syrup

4 ounces sparkling rosé, chilled

1 tablespoon St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur

Place the hibiscus flower and syrup in a Champagne flute or tall white-wine glass. Slowly add the sparkling rosé, and top off with the elderflower liqueur.

This drink is from Kim Haasarud, author of 101 Champagne Cocktails.

*Available at wildhibiscus.com or gourmet grocery stores.

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Photo: Kenji Aoki

Spoon Fed: Mango Salsa with Calamari Rings

Asian soupspoons let your cocktail party repertoire venture beyond traditional finger foods. Here each spoon serves a mouthful of fruity salsa tweaked with jicama, cumin and cilantro and topped with sautéed calamari rings.

Makes 20 appetizers

Salsa

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 small ripe mango, peeled and finely diced

1 small red onion, peeled and finely diced

½ small jicama, peeled and finely diced

2 tablespoons minced cilantro, plus extra for garnish

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt

Calamari

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ pound calamari rings, about ½ inch thick

Salt and pepper

20 Asian soupspoons

1. To make the salsa: Place a small skillet over medium heat. Add the cumin. Dry-roast for about 30 seconds, shaking spice frequently until fragrant. Remove from heat immediately. Grind in a spice grinder. Combine the cumin and remaining salsa ingredients, except salt, in a bowl. Mix well. Add salt to taste. Cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve. Salsa can be prepared up to 6 hours in advance.

2. To make the calamari: Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add the oil. When it shimmers, add the calamari rings. Sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, until the calamari are just cooked through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Divide the salsa evenly among the soup­spoons. Top each with calamari. Pour any juice over the rings. Garnish with minced cilantro.

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Photo: Kenji Aoki

Leaf Bed: Endive with Citrus Salad

Each sturdy, bite-size endive leaf holds a spoonful of sliced blood orange and sliced grapefruit. Red radishes deliver crunch and a peppery tang. The salad’s fresh, bright flavors come together in a lemony dressing spiced with jalapeño and mint.

Makes 24 appetizers

1 small grapefruit

1 small blood or navel orange

2 small red radishes, trimmed and diced

1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

2 tablespoons finely chopped mint leaves

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon honey

24 large, sturdy endive leaves

1. Supreme the citrus: Remove the grapefruit and orange peels. With a small sharp paring knife, segment the fruit, leaving behind the inner membrane. Cut each segment into 6 pieces, and place in a bowl.

2. Add the remaining ingredients except the honey and endive. Mix well. Cover, and refrigerate for about 2 hours to allow the flavors to blend. Before serving, allow the mixture to come to room temperature. Drain off the juice. Warm the honey slightly (for a few seconds in the microwave) so that it’s runny, and stir it into the salad. Taste, and adjust the salt.

3. Arrange the endive leaves on a platter. Using a teaspoon, evenly divide the salad among the leaves. (Each leaf should get a generous teaspoonful.)

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Photo: Kenji Aoki

Fire and Ice: Berry-Chile Fizz

Jalapeño pepper muddled with mint and sugar kicks up the heat in this spicy mojito. Stir in fresh lime juice, a (very) generous shot of rum, ice and club soda, and you won’t care whether it’s hot or cold outside.

Makes 1 drink

3 fresh mint sprigs

1 slice fresh jalapeño pepper

1½ tablespoons sugar

1 lime, halved

2 ounces light rum

Club soda, chilled

Cranberries for garnish

In a pint glass, muddle 2 of the mint sprigs, the jalapeño and sugar. Squeeze both halves of the lime into the glass, leaving a slice in the mixture. Add the rum, stir, and fill with ice. Top off with the club soda, and garnish with a mint sprig and a few whole cranberries.

This is from Kara Newman, author of Spice & Ice.

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Photo: Kenji Aoki

Peas O’Cake: Wonton Crunch

It doesn’t get much easier, or more delicious, than this: Mash peas with parsley, spices and ricotta, then fold into ready-made wonton wrappers. Bake. Devour.

Makes 24 appetizers

1 cup cooked peas

¼ cup ricotta cheese

1 jalapeño pepper, minced

1 tablespoon minced parsley

1 tablespoon chopped scallion

½ teaspoon minced ginger

Salt

24 wonton wrappers

1 egg white, lightly beaten

Cooking spray

1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. Lightly mash the peas. Add the ricotta, jalapeño, parsley, scallion and ginger, and mix well. Add salt to taste, about ¼ teaspoon.

3. Lay out the wonton wrappers on a work surface. Place 1 rounded teaspoon of the pea filling in the center of each. Lightly brush the edges of the wrappers with egg white. Fold over to form a triangle (or if using round wrappers, a half-moon). Press the edges with the tines of a fork, gently, to secure the seam so the filling does not fall out. Place the wontons in a single layer on the baking sheet. Spray them lightly with cooking spray. Bake for 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the wontons, and bake on the other side for another 3 to 4 minutes until they are crisp and golden brown.

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Photo: Kenji Aoki

Pom de Nuit: Ginger Bubbly

The earthy rhizome inspires and transforms this festive potion. A splash of pomegranate juice supplies the blush. Make it with candied ginger and ginger liqueur and top with Champagne. Drink, drink and be merry.

Makes 1 drink

1 ounce Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur

Sugar for rimming, preferably sanding sugar*

1 slice candied ginger, for garnish

1 ounce pomegranate juice

4 ounces brut Champagne or sparkling wine, chilled

Rim a Champagne flute by dipping the edge in the ginger liqueur and then in the sugar. Place a sliced coin of candied ginger at the bottom of the flute. Add the ginger liqueur and pomegranate juice to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until well chilled. Strain into the prepared flute. Top off with the Champagne or sparkling wine.

*This large-grain sugar can be found at baking-supply stores.

This is from Maria Hunt, author of The Bubbly Bar.

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Photo: Kenji Aoki

Sea Treat: Ginger and Honey Shrimp

This grilled app is easy to make, but the flavors are complex, thanks to a rich marinade of fresh ginger, chile flakes, honey, garlic and lemon.

Makes about 24 appetizers

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
½ to 1 teaspoon red chile flakes

½ tablespoon lemon juice

½ teaspoon minced garlic

1 pound large shrimp, peeled, with tails on

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Salt and pepper

1. In a large bowl, combine the honey, ginger, chile flakes, lemon juice and garlic. Mix well. Add the shrimp; toss to coat. Cover, and refrigerate for an hour.

2. Set a grill pan over high heat. Add the oil and shrimp. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, then flip over. It should take just another minute for the shrimp to turn pink and be fully cooked (but not overcooked). Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Photo: Kenji Aoki

Pink Shot: Roasted-Beet Soup

The hit in this soup-served-in-a-shot-glass comes from the unexpected beet, coriander and coconut milk combo. You can prepare the mix ahead of time and garnish it at the last minute with chopped chives and toasted coconut flakes.

Makes 16 shot-glass appetizers

½ teaspoon white pepper, plus more for seasoning

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning

1 tablespoon ground coriander

2 medium red beets, trimmed, scrubbed, peeled and halved (about 1 pound)

1½ to 2 cups chicken broth

½ cup coconut milk

Finely chopped chives or toasted unsweetened coconut flakes for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Combine ½ teaspoon white pepper, the oil, 1 teaspoon salt and the coriander in a large bowl. Add the beets, and mix well to coat. Place the beets and marinade on a large piece of aluminum foil. Wrap tightly to keep steam from escaping.

2. Place the foil packet on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake for about 50 minutes or until the beets are soft and cooked through. Allow to cool to room temperature. Unwrap, and scrape the beets and marinade into a blender. Add the broth. Puree until smooth. Taste, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Soup can be made ahead up to this point and reheated.

3. Pour into 16 small heatproof glasses. Swirl ½ tablespoon of the coconut milk into each glass. Garnish with chives, coconut flakes or both.


Comfort Food Haute Cuisine from Alex Hitz, Perfect for Christmas! via [dailytruffle]

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Comfort Food Haute Cuisine from Alex Hitz, Perfect for Thanksgiving & Christmas

by: Our little Truffle Hunters –

Here at the Truffle, we enter that time of year when we must make decisions about where to go on each various up-coming holidays. Between divorce and re-marriage and birth family and new family, and the growing tradition for Jewish Angelenos to celebrate Christmas, it has become all the more daunting to make plans.

But regardless if you are the host or if you are a guest, we have an idea to make your holidays a little more comforting this year …

May we direct your attention to The Beverly Hills Kitchen a high-end line of southern-style comfort food you can buy online for all these occasions. The meals are a perfect fit for the holidays and include items like ham biscuits, lemon bars, bread pudding, brownies, potato pie, beef bourguinon, and more.

So who is the brains behind this welcomed addition to the Beverly Hills status quo? A new friend to the Truffle, Alex Hitz, whose name we repeatedly heard for years, always in connection to his fried chicken dinner parties for fancy friends.

So who goes? Everyone from Nancy Reagan, the former First Lady, to Wendy Stark, daughter of Ray Stark (who now has a cafe named after him at LACMA) and West Coast editor of Vanity Fair to Frank Bowling, the international Ambassador for the Montage Beverly Hills. There are two major dinners every year; one the night before the Oscars and the other at the end of each summer (the photos below are all from his most recent fete in summer 2010).

I first met Alex at a book signing he hosted for his friend Susan Fales-Hills to celebrate her new book “One Flight Up”. When I told my mother about his 20 ft high ceilings in his marble kitchen, the uniformed staff and white table clothes – along with the bacon wrapped figs and macaroni and cheese, she remarked that this town hasn’t seen such a personality behind comfort food since Maude Chasen closed her restaurant (now Bristol Farms) who use to be famous for serving mashed potatoes and chili alongside the most elegant of cuisine.

Alex learned to cook from his mother’s cook, Dorothy, while growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, and from his classical training at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Alex cooks everything himself for his dinner parties, and even designed his whole kitchen from scratch; he says the only thing he regrets is not installing commercial equipment.

Alex owned a restaurant in Georgia before moving to Los Angeles where he came to produce films. He is also the beneficiary to some Coca Cola shares wisely purchased by his grandfather before Coke was Coke. But most of all, he is a recipient of good breeding, taste and a lot of know-how; which is why we at The Daily Truffle are so excited he will be including the do’s & dont’s of serving and party etiquette in his cooking show, currently in the works.

1. How many parties do you have a year?

2 major parties – one in the summer and one the night before the Oscars and then 2 more along with several 8-to-10 people dinners throughout the year for birthdays or guests in from out of town

2. What do you serve at your parties?

Southern comfort food: fried chicken, grits, cole slaw, ham biscuits, lemon bars.

3. What is a good entertaining tip?

Keep a schedule and stick to it.

4. Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. Anytime I had 3 days off at school, my mother would take take us [my brother and me] to our vacation house in France.

5. Where did you go to school?

Washington & Lee, University College London, and the Sorbonne in France for culture and civilization. And the Cordon Bleu in Paris later. I also went to Avon Old Farms in Connecticut for boarding school.

6. Where do you live now?

I spend half the year in New York, half in Los Angeles, and one month in Atlanta.

7. Where did you first learn to cook?

From my mother’s cook Dorothy.

8. I love your kitchen; did you build it?

I designed my whole house including the kitchen! My one regret is not putting in commercial equipment.

9. What is your background?

I was a restaurant partner in Atlanta.

10. What is Beverly Hills Kitchen?

A line of southern meals you can buy to entertain at home.www.thebeverlyhillskitchen.com



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Are You ALONE for The Holidays? What’s Your Story…… via [heartbreakrecoverykitchen]

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No, we’re not the first to solicit very, very, very short stories. Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway wrote a 6-word short story when challenged, in a bar, of course. His story: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

We’re going to be a little more generous with our word count, increasing it to 10 words (or less if you’re feeling concise). And we’re focusing solely on heartbreak, whether it’s due to a lost love, a lost job, a lost pet, or a less-harrowing misfortune or pratfall (like the time my freshly baked chocolate cake skittered off its pedestal and across the kitchen floor. I would have invoked the five-second rule if it hadn’t broken into many very untidy pieces).

We also want to provide solutions for others who might find themselves wallowing in a deep blue funk. So offer up a remedy or a recipe that helped you heal your broken heart or made you feel a smidge better.

Here’s one of mine:

Our eyes met. Our hearts fused. Then he looked away.

My remedy?

I cried, then headed for the kitchen to create these cookies.

They’re Lime-Sugar Cookies Dipped in Dark Chocolate. The ties are made from Fruit Roll-Ups, carefully cut into shape with a paring knife. I used a scalloped cookie cutter to take the “bite” out of each head. Eyes are M&Ms. On some of the boys, I used a straw to create an “O” shape for the mouth. It adds a surprised expression to his face. On others, I simply used red frosting to pipe a sad expression. Then I dipped the lower half of each boy into melted dark chocolate with a smidge of shortening added for sheen.

What’s your story … in 10 words or less? Be sure to provide a remedy or recipe that helped take the edge off.

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Responses to “What’s Your Story?”

She swallowed the worst news of her life—using champagne.

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This is not my original recipe, but for the life of me, I can’t remember where I found it. I keep it in the freezer, and just “dig out” a serving of the slush when I need a true lift. It’s great in very hot weather. Good for Derby parties, too, because it’s not too heavy and not too sweet.

Bourbon Slush

1 12 oz can frozen orange juice – thawed

1 12 oz can frozen lemonade – thawed

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups bourbon (we like Jim Beam)

2 cups boiling water with 4 tea bags steeped in it for 5 minutes (remove tea bags)

7 cups boiling water

Mix all ingredients in a plastic gallon bowl type container.

Place in freezer for 48 hours to ensure that it is completely frozen.

Scoop out with ice cream scoop or large spoon into glasses.

Michelle

She finally nabbed his heart with a chocolate cake.

My 92-year old grandmother wrote a beautiful journal about how SHE courted my grandfather. In those days the women didn’t pursue the men but my grandmother knew a good deal when she saw it. She finally nabbed his heart with a chocolate cake. In her journal she wrote, “So to all my darling granddaughters, if you want to win the heart of the man you love, bake him a chocolate cake.” I tried it on my boyfriend who is now my husband of 20 + years. Never underestimate the power of cake.

—Staci

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A tale of heartbreak and woe ends happily with potato.

Peruvian potato torte, that is. Recipe: http://cursivemechanics.ca/2010/07/15/salvation-in-a-potato/

Salvation in a Potato

by Jodi ~

Causa limeña: savoury Peruvian potato torte

In my autobiography, April 2006 through July 2006 will be known as “The Dark Period.”

I don’t remember what I ate during The Dark Period. More than that, I don’t remember eating at all. It did wonders for my figure. Oh, that glorious warm summer morning when I slid into a black pencil skirt that had been hanging patiently in my closet for several seasons. The well-tailored darts sheathed my hips with nary a ripple, and the pink blouse with the primly buttoned short sleeves I wore with it finally fit without pinching my triceps.

It was a hollow victory, though, in what was such a bleak time, a stretch of months through which I drifted with a heart that had practically stopped beating and feet that shuffled along reluctantly, without direction. I wore sunglasses whenever I was in public, as tears dripped from my eyes unpredictably, and often. When people spoke to me I was forced to ask them to repeat themselves twice, sometimes three times, as my brain was too full of grief to let anything else penetrate.

The weighty sadness I carried with me everywhere both numbed me and made me cringe with sensitivity. One moment I would be staring out the window of the GO train that carried me to and from work, watching the scenery whip by in a blur as I struggled to feel the arm that was clearly connected to my body, to raise my hand from where it lay, helpless, palm-side-up, on the seat beside me. The next I would sense acutely every hair on my head, the point where each strand burst from my scalp feeling like it had been poked open with the prick of a white-hot pin.

Through it all food barely registered in my conscious mind as a daily requirement. The Dark Period is perhaps the only period in recent memory when some part of my brain has not been turning over the possibilities — of ingredients, menus, spots to meet friends for dinner or drinks, locations from which to food-gather. The smell of coffee turned my stomach. I’d feel hungry only to drop whatever was in my hand as the nausea rose after the first bite. As time wore on it occurred to me that I had not turned on the stove in weeks, and then those weeks turned into months. I panicked. Eyes wide with fear, I asked the unthinkable question to a friend who had met me one Sunday afternoon to see how I was doing.

“What if I never want to cook again?”

My dear and wise friend, who knows me only too well — her birthday is the day after mine; we often joke that we share a brain — gave my arm a gentle pat and me a tender smile.

“Give it time, Jo. It will come,” she said. Of course she was talking about more than just my desire to cook.

Naturally, she was right, and as summer let its hair down the tension of The Dark Period began to ease. I started to feel at home again instead of an awkward intruder in my own living space. Conversation sputtered back to life and began to echo familiar rhythms. There was occasional laughter. And suddenly, one afternoon, like a bolt out of the blue it arrived: the inclination to cook.

Never mind that it was far too hot to do anything elaborate in the kitchen — the weather certainly wasn’t going to stop me after such an extended dry spell. Instead, I did one of the things I do best. I pulled a bunch of cookbooks from my shelf, leafed through their pages, and let my imagination wander. A grain salad, I thought, might be just the thing for getting reacquainted with my kitchen. But a grain salad seemed so practical and wholesome when I wanted something a little indulgent. A frozen dessert? No. Too frosty and aloof when I wanted something comforting. So when I stumbled upon a recipe for a traditional Peruvian savoury torte, served chilled, I knew it was perfect. Smooth mashed potatoes, rich layers of egg and olives, a tiny nip of heat from green chiles. I committed myself into causa limeña’s hands.

My kitchen welcomed me as if I had never been gone. My knives fit comfortably in my grip. When I reached into cupboards by rote for pots and bowls, it felt as if they fairly leapt into my reaching hands. The sound of peppercorns being crushed in the grinder was music to my ears. My taste buds jumped to attention when called upon to test levels of flavour. At the end of it all, it was time to sit down to eat. The torte?

It was cold. It was tangy. It was filling. It was tasty. It was good for me.

I had found salvation in a potato.

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Red wine simmering atop gas stove, unattended. Overflow! Giant flames.

I nearly set my apartment on fire making this Coq Au Vin recipe, wasting an entire bottle of wine in the process. My remedy: a tight-fitting lid to snuff out the flames, and a glass of wine poured from a back-up bottle to calm my nerves.

Recipe: http://www.americastestkitchen.com/recipes/detail.php?docid=7827

Modern Coq au Vin

Why this recipe works: Although conventional recipes for coq au vin take upwards of three hours to prepare, we felt that this rustic dish shouldn’t be so time-consuming. After all, it’s basically a chicken fricassee. We wanted to create a dish with tender, juicy chicken infused with the flavors of red wine, onions, mushrooms, and bacon in under two hours.

We decided to use chicken parts; this way, we could pick the parts we liked best. If using a mix of dark and white meat, we found it’s essential to start the dark before the white, so that all the meat finishes cooking at the same time and nothing is overcooked or undercooked. To thicken the stewing liquid, we sprinkled flour over the sautéed vegetables and whisked in butter toward the end of cooking; the butter also provided a nice richness in the sauce. Chicken broth added a savory note to the sauce and gave it some body; an entire bottle of red wine provided a great base of flavor. Tomato paste was a fuss-free way to add extra depth and body to the sauce, while a sprinkling of crisp, salty bacon rounded out the acidity of the wine.

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 1 bottle fruity, smooth, medium-bodied red wine
  • 10 sprigs fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 tbs minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 oz bacon, diced
  • 2 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs , trimmed of excess fat and cut in half
  • 5 tbs unsalted butter
  • 24 frozen pearl onions , thawed, drained, and patted dry (about 1 cup)
  • 8 oz pkg cremini mushrooms , wiped clean, stems trimmed, quartered
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbs tomato paste
  • 2 tbs all-purpose flour
  • Salt and pepper

A medium-bodied, fruity red wine such as Pinot Noir or Rhône Valley Grenache is best for this recipe. Avoid bold, heavily oaked red wine varietals like Cabernet and light-bodied wines like Beaujolais. To use fresh pearl onions, trim the root and stem end of each onion and discard. Boil for 1 minute, shock in ice water, then peel a thin strip from root to stem. Remove any remaining outer skin (it’s like peeling off a jacket). If neither frozen nor fresh pearl onions are available, substitute one large onion cut into 1/2-inch pieces. (Do not use jarred pearl onions, which will turn mushy and disintegrate into the sauce.) Serve the stew with egg noodles or mashed potatoes.

Jeanne

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Returned to memory-packed restaurant in Arles. Now a Häagen Daz.

“Le Criquet” in Arles was the sweetest restaurant in the world–the old man served, and his wife cooked…they were surrogate grandma and grandpa to the tableful of young backpackers who crowded in for the 55-franc ($8) menus.

I offer my version of Blanquette de Porc in their honor:
http://chezbonnefemme.com/blanquettedeporc.aspx

Blanquette de Porc
Photograph by Richard Swearinger
Blanquette de veau, a veal stew with a luscious wine-laced sauce, is classic Bonne Femme fare. While I enjoy it made with veal in France, at home, I substitute pork blade steak–a cut from the shoulder. Not only is it so much easier to find, but it’s a rich, bold, comforting cut of meat that feels right at home in this classic stew. It’s also a more foolproof cut of meat; while veal can be tricky and dry out if cooked too quickly, pork shoulder is much more forgiving. 

For me, this is perfect Sunday night food–great for one of those autumn or winter weekends you just don’t want to end. Invite a couple friends over, open some wine (I like a good white Burgundy with this) and eke out as much pleasure from the evening as you can. As always with rich, meaty dishes, a garlicky green salad will go well with this. For dessert, a few hunks of cheese alongside bread and some high-quality honey or preserves will do just fine.

 

Makes 6 servings 

3 – 3 1/2 pounds pork blade steak (also called pork steak)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, peeled and quartered

2 cloves

1 large carrot, cut in half crosswise, then each half cut into quarters

1 celery rib including leaves, cut into 3-inch pieces

2 cups dry white wine

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 bouquet garni*

n

4 carrots, cut into 1/4 x 2 inch sticks

1/2 16-ounce bag pearl onions

6 ounces fresh tiny button mushrooms (or use larger mushrooms, halved or quartered), stems

trimmed

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

n

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Hot parsleyed noodles, for serving

 

1. Pat pork dry with paper towels. Cut pork off the bone into 1 to 2 inch pieces, trimming most of the fat away as you go. Season pork to taste with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or a braiser over medium to medium-high heat. Cook the pork, half at a time, in hot oil for 5 to 7 minutes per batch, turning as needed to brown evenly. Drain any fat and return all meat to the pot. Stud two of the onion quarters with the cloves; add the onion quarters, carrot, celery, wine, broth, and bouquet garni to the pot. Bring to boiling; reduce heat, and simmer, covered, about 45 minutes or until pork is tender.

2. About 15 minutes toward the end of the cooking time for the pork, prepare the vegetables: In a large saucepan, bring the four cut carrots, the frozen pearl onions, and 1/4 cup lightly salted water to boiling; cover and simmer over medium heat for 4 minutes or until just tender. Drain and remove vegetables to a colander. In the same saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Cook and stir the button mushrooms in the butter for 2 to 3 minutes or until tender and light brown. Return onions and carrots to the pot; set aside and cover to keep warm.

3. Drain the pork, reserving the cooking stock. Wipe out any residue in Dutch oven. Place pork in a bowl and cover with foil to keep warm; discard other solids, including the cloves and bouquet garni. Skim fat from the cooking stock; pour through a fine-mesh sieve back into the Dutch oven. Bring to boiling and boil until reduced to 2 cups.

4. Work the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and the flour together to form a paste. Drop into cooking stock, half a time, cooking and stirring with a wire whisk after each addition until well integrated. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly; cook and stir 1 minute more; add the cream, stirring with a wire whisk to combine.

5. Return meat to Dutch oven; add vegetables and lemon juice. Cook and stir very gently to heat through. Serve with hot parsleyed noodles or baked rice.

* Note: For a bouquet garni, using kitchen string tie together 3 sprigs fresh thyme, 5 sprigs parsley, and one bay leaf (or tuck these into an bouquet garni cheesecloth spice bag). Or use a purchased bouquet garni.

chezbonnefemme

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My lovely listener lost, I talk to God and ghost.

One of the hardest things about losing a spouse is not having that person to share good news with or just the details of your day. So many times, I found myself thinking “I can’t wait to tell Jim this” before catching myself.
Now, if you see me out for a walk or driving in the car and I seem to be talking to myself, I’m probably talking to Jim, or to God. Or I might just be talking to myself!

Anne

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The Aussie said my apple pie almost made him stay.

The remedy didn’t come upon me right away. Most don’t. But after weeks and weeks of heartrending aching, I thought, I’m going to make that apple pie even better. And it continues to evolve. But not for him. For me.

Renee

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Eating pupus while laughing not advised! Flying fish everywhere.

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Amy

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