Archive for December, 2008

Peppermint Bark


10 oz. (1 bag) chocolate chips (dark, milk or semi-sweet)
5 oz. (1/2 bag) white chocolate chips
4 candy canes (crushed)


Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Place candy canes in a freezer bag and crush with a meat pounder or other heavy object. Melt dark chocolate (in the microwave or using a double boiler). Pour chocolate onto lined baking sheet, using a spatula to spread evenly. Melt white chocolate (either in microwave or double boiler). Spoon white chocolate over dark chocolate. Drag a toothpick from one end of the baking sheet to the other and then drag a toothpick across the baking sheet, creating a swirl pattern. Sprinkle crushed candy canes over the chocolate, making sure to press down the larger pieces into the chocolate. Set aside to cool (about 30 minutes). When the bark is set, use your hands to break apart into random pieces. Enjoy!


Read Full Post »

Pasta Fagioli

adapted from Giada De Laurentiis, Giada’s Family Dinners


4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 (14.5-ounce) cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup small pasta (I used Ditalini “little thimbles”)
Fresh ground black pepper
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil


Wrap the thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf in a piece of cheesecloth and secure closed with kitchen twine, or coarsely chop the herbs and add directly to soup. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, and garlic and sauté until the onion is tender, about 3 minutes. Add the broth, beans, and herbs. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to medium and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, about 10 minutes. If used, discard the sachet of herbs. Puree 1 cup of the bean mixture using an immersion blender until smooth. Before putting the puree back into the soup, add the macaroni and boil with the lid on until it is tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Return the puree to the remaining soup in the saucepan and stir well. Season the soup with ground black pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle with some Parmesan and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil just before serving.

Read Full Post »

Holiday Brunch

We hosted a Holiday Brunch for our friends this past weekend. We had a buffet brunch, including a champagne bar (mimosas and bellinis), and then our annual cookie exchange and secret santa gift exchange. It was a perfect afternoon celebrating the holidays with friends!

Champagne Bar
Egg Puff Casserole
French Toast Casserole
Spiral Glazed Ham
Citrus Fruit Salad (oranges, pineapple and pomegranate seeds)
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Assorted Donuts

Baked French Toast Casserole with Maple Syrup

adapted from Food Network TV, Paula Deen’s Home Cooking

1 loaf French bread (13 to 16 ounces) (I used Challah Bread)
8 large eggs 2 cups half-and-half 1 cup milk 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash salt
Praline Topping, recipe follows

Maple syrup


Slice French bread into 20 slices, 1-inch each. Arrange slices in a generously buttered 9 by 13-inch flat baking dish in 2 or 3 rows, overlapping the slices. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, half-and-half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and beat with a whisk until blended but not too bubbly. Either pour mixture over the bread slices, or dip each slice of bread into the egg mixture making sure all slices are covered evenly with the milk-egg mixture. I dipped each slice individually to ensure the dish wasn’t too soggy. Spoon some of the mixture in between the slices. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread Praline Topping evenly over the bread and in between each of the bread slices. Bake for 40 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden. Serve with maple syrup.

Praline Topping:

1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, 1 cup packed light brown sugar, 1 cup chopped pecans, 2 tablespoons light corn syrup, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and blend well.

Read Full Post »


adpated from Martha Stewart Living

I made these cookies for a holiday cookie exchange. They are simple and delicious! They are a German spice cookie, similar to gingerbread, that look like little snowballs. They taste like winter to me and go perfectly with a cup of milk or hot chocolate.

Makes 3 dozen

1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the confectioners’ sugar in a brown paper bag.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, pepper, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, and baking soda. Set aside. Place butter, brown sugar, and molasses in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture; beat until just combined. Pinch off dough in tablespoon amounts; roll into 1 1/4-inch balls. Arrange balls 1 1/2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. (Dough can be frozen at this point, covered tightly with plastic wrap, up to 1 month.)

Bake until cookies are golden and firm to the touch with slight cracking, about 15 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer sheets to a wire rack to cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Working in batches, place cookies in paper bag; shake until well coated. Let cool completely on wire rack. Store in an airtight container.

Read Full Post »

Chocolate Gingerbread

adapted from Martha Stewart

Each year my friends and I got together for a “Fall Pie Baking” night. This year we did it so late in the season I decided to forgo the pie altogether and make gingerbread. Gingerbread is my one of my favorite holiday desserts and I am always looking for the perfect recipe. This was good, but I found it to be a bit dry. The other recipe in this blog for Pear Gingerbread is a better gingerbread in my opinion. I cut them into bars- on the far right in the picture bellow.

(Makes 16)

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for pan
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line bottom with a strip of parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides; butter paper. Dust paper and sides of pan with cocoa; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together cocoa, flour, ginger, pumpkin-pie spice, and baking soda; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together butter, brown sugar, molasses, egg, and sour cream until smooth. Add flour mixture; stir just until moistened (do not overmix). Stir in chocolate chips. Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely. Using paper overhang, lift gingerbread from pan. Transfer to a cutting board, and cut into 16 squares. Before serving, dust bars with confectioners sugar, if desired. (To store, keep in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 3 days.)

Read Full Post »