Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Jewel Thumbprints

Christmas is only five days away, and I have so many more cookies I want to bake!  I got started last night with a recipe from my Grandma Jean for jewel thumbprint cookies.  These were always a holiday staple in my house as a kid, but I have not made them in years.  We always made them with red currant and green apple mint jelly and they looked so festive.  I didn't find any currant jelly (take note, Whole Foods!), so I went with concord grape jelly.  While they're not the classic red and green for Christmas, these little jewels are just as delicious in purple!  Thanks, mom, for sending the recipe!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


This year's Thanksgiving was packed with delicious food, friends, and lots of love! The star of dinner was the beautiful cider glazed turkey with amazingly dark crispy skin.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

This year, Dan and I are staying at home in our little apartment and having our newlywed friends, Justin and Kyle, over for football and a big turkey dinner.  I can’t wait to spend the day with them and hear about their recent honeymoon!  Though I will miss spending time with family this year, I am so thankful to be able to share the holiday with our great friends!

What will we be cooking for the big day, you ask?  Here is the full menu!

From My Kitchen

  • Cider Glazed Turkey with Lager Gravy – recipe from Michael Symon, featured in the November 2011 Food and Wine
  • Mashed Potatoes – classic with plenty of butter and cream!
  • Fresh Cranberry Sauce – spiked with brown sugar, cinnamon, orange peel, and red wine
  • Wayfare Tavern Popovers – last minute switch from Honey Buttermilk Rolls, when my dear sister @Stacyateit shared the recipe from Tyler Florence’s cookbook 
  • Arugula Salad with Toasted Almonds 
  • Classic Pumpkin Pie
  • Apple Cider Cream Pie – I saw this recipe in the November 2011 Food and Wine and couldn’t wait to try it!  We are bringing this pie to a friend’s house for dessert on Thursday night (that’s you, Matt and Jill!)

From Our Lovely Guests
  • Cornbread, Apple and Sausage Stuffing
  • Green Bean Casserole

  • Mulled Red Wine - inspired by autumn tastings at Veramar Vineyards
  • Old Fashioned Cocktails with Figgy Orange Bitters - also found in Food and Wine.  We had a little hiccup with the recipe, but @BTParsons was kind enough to share his expertise to help us out!

I’ll report back with pictures of the highlights!  What goodies are you making for the big day? What are you thankful for?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Honey Buttermilk Rolls

We are one week away from one of my favorite holidays, and I am stoked!  I love the menu planning, food shopping and the all-day cooking and baking.  I look forward to the smells of roasting turkey, fresh bread and apple pie!  This year will be a small celebration with a couple of close friends, and I can’t wait to share it with them.  The boys will be mixing drinks with homemade figgy-orange bitters, and I’ll be sipping mulled wine between oven rotations of the turkey, pies and stuffing. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cranberry Pecan Pumpkin Upside-Down Cake

This pumpkin recipe has been on my to-do list since last Thanksgiving.  Somehow, it didn’t end up on my menu last year, but I am so glad I finally tried it!  The recipe was featured in an article on Inside Scoop SF, suggesting we look beyond the basic pumpkin pie for delicious Thanksgiving desserts.  While I will never abandon a classic, creamy pumpkin pie, this is a scrumptious sweet treat that would surely be a welcomed addition to any Thanksgiving dessert spread!  The pecan caramel upside-down topping brings to mind chewy pecan bars, and the dried cranberries are a perfectly tart complement.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes

Thanks to a tweet by the Pioneer Woman earlier this week about a recipe from Recipe Girl, we had a deliciously sweet breakfast this morning.  

This recipe starts with a basic pancake batter, but while they are cook on the griddle, you swirl a sugary, cinnamon-y, buttery filling on top.  When you flip the pancake, the underside melts into the pancake and caramelizes as it finishes cooking.  


To top it all off, drizzle on a powdered sugar glaze, just as you would with a big thick cinnamon roll.  So delectable!  This recipe makes four fairly large pancakes, but as decadent as they are, that was plenty for just the two of us!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Blueberry Ricotta Coffee Cake

This morning I went to the farmers’ market in Old Town Alexandria in search of blueberries to use in this cake.  In addition to the peaches, figs, plums, potatoes, free range chicken and grass-fed beef, I brought home some beautiful West Virginia blueberries.  I knew they would pair wonderfully with ricotta into a moist coffee cake with a crunchy streusel topping.

This cake was really easy to put together and the ricotta gives it such a moist and rich texture.  You could swap different kinds of berries into the recipe depending on what you have on hand or what looks especially tasty that day.  I was tempted by some blackberries and raspberries at the market this morning that would be delightful in this cake.  Enjoy with coffee for breakfast, or as a yummy dessert!

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

More baking is sure to come soon, but for now, I thought I would share a few of my favorites!
My Sisters 

My Husband

Peanut Butter Cookies – I honestly haven’t found one I don’t like, but here are two great ones! 

Beauty and the Beast – It is the best movie of all time.  If not for The Silence of the Lambs, it would surely have an Academy Award for Best Picture.

  • I especially love the 2007 Xavier Chateauneuf du Pape, enjoyed on my 25th birthday at Restaurant Eve.  Sommelier (also General Manager and Liquid Savant) Todd Thrasher generously poured me an extra glass after I drank the tasting pour before my perfectly paired "Earth and Sky" course had arrived.  He then peeled the label off the bottle for me to take home.  I also love Todd Thrasher.
  •  This summer has been a three month love affair with dry rosé, from our Hilton Head Island vacation to Fourth of July barbeques.  My two favorites have been the Rosé of Merlot from the Winery at LaGrange in Haymarket, Virginia and the Spanish Marqués de Cáceres Rioja form Trader Joe’s.
Ice Cream {and frozen custard}
  • Dairy Godmother frozen custard in Del Ray. You must keep up on the flavor of the day so you don't miss something delicious like Coconut Cream or Toasted Almond!
  • Klavon’s in the Strip District in Pittsburgh.  I love this old fashioned ice cream parlor and their amaretto whipped cream! 
Bobby Flay
He can do no wrong.  Now that Bobby’s Burger Palace is open in DC, I’ll be making my way there for the Napa Burger and delicious shake!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

White Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have been making white chocolate chip cookies for almost as long as I can remember.  My mom had a cookbook called Top Secret Recipes, which contained a recipe for Mrs. Fields’ white chocolate chip cookies.  I made these cookies for family, friends, soccer teammates, and sorority sisters, always as a treat at Christmas, and usually with macadamia nuts.  The cookies were delicious, and while I tried a few different recipes over the years, I never strayed too far from this original.  That is, until I came across this recipe from Michelle at Brown Eyed Baker (originally from Baking Illustrated).  She wrote that these big, beautiful, bakery-quality cookies really took the cake.  And I have to agree! 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Joe-Joe Peanut Butter Bars

Confession: these treats involved zero baking on my part.  That means I didn't have to turn on the oven when it’s 98 degrees outside, and that they were really easy to make.  I saw this recipe on Tasty Kitchen (from Lauren’s Latest) a few weeks ago (on our 2 year wedding anniversary, to be exact!) and couldn’t wait to make them.  It is one of those recipes that combine the most wonderful flavors into one perfect mouth watering bite - the kind of thing that makes you want to dance around the kitchen after taking a bite.  Or maybe that is just me…

They are super simple to make.  First - the crust consists of pulverized vanilla sandwich cookies and melted butter.  The original recipe called for Golden Oreos, but I prefer the Vanilla Joe-Joe’s from Trader Joe’s.  If you have a food processor, this would probably work best for more uniform crumbles, but bashing them with a rolling pin worked out fine as well. 

Second - the filling requires melting together some peanut butter, white chocolate, and butter, then stirring in some powdered sugar and vanilla.  That’s it!  Once chilled, the bars have a delicious crunchy base with the smoothest, creamiest peanut buttery, white chocolate-y goodness you have ever tasted!  They disappeared very quickly around here, and I definitely plan to make them again!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Wonderful Weekend {Banana Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting}

What a wonderful weekend!  It started with a phone call from my Phi Mu sister Rachelle sharing the news that she and David are engaged, and ended with a call from my dad sharing the news of his engagement to Sherry!  I am so happy for all of them and excited for the celebrations to come! 

More weekend fun included a batch of cinnamon ice cream, pool-side Food & Wine magazine reading, a drink with Andrea and Gabe at the new Virtue Feed & Grain in Old Town Alexandria, and a quick cleaning of our apartment.  So maybe cleaning isn’t the most thrilling, but I sure felt good when it was done!

These banana cupcakes are perfect for a special celebration (like an engagement) or just for fun!  I made them last weekend to share with my in-laws in Pittsburgh and a few coworkers.  The recipe makes two dozen cupcakes, so there were plenty to go around!  I used a basic vanilla frosting, but they would also be delicious with a peanut butter frosting or the vanilla pastry cream that Michelle uses in the original recipe on Brown Eyed Baker

And don’t worry dad – I’ll make something banana-free for you!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Raspberry Cupcakes

After moving to our new apartment, travelling back and forth across the country a few times, and getting my new pink stand mixer, I am definitely back into the swing of baking goodies.  For my little sister Stacy’s graduation from San Francisco State University last month (I’m so proud of you!), I made white chocolate chip cookies with toasted walnuts.  The recipe, adapted from Michelle’s at Brown Eyed Baker, has become my new favorite white chocolate chip cookie recipe. 

Over Memorial Day weekend, Dan and I had a special guest over for dinner, and I made a batch of these tasty raspberry cupcakes for dessert.  They were a great end to our dinner of pork tenderloin, salad, roasted new potatoes, and bottle of Cabernet Franc from Veramar vineyards (one of my favorites).  I adapted the recipe for these cupcakes from one for classic yellow cupcakes in The Art of Soul of Baking, a book Stacy gave me for Christmas last year.  The book is full of little sticky tabs on the recipes I want to try, including the soufflé on the cover; but that will have to wait for another day.  In the meantime, enjoy these little beauties!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Cake Pops {or Balls}

I have wanted to make cake pops ever since I saw the adorable creations at Bakerella, and Easter seemed like the perfect opportunity to try something new.  The method is pretty simple – bake a cake, crumble it up, combine the cake crumbles with can of frosting, roll into balls, and dip in {white} chocolate.  For Easter, I envisioned little white chocolate covered cake “eggs” resting in a “nest” of toasted coconut.  They didn’t turn out quite as perfectly as I had hoped, but they are delicious and decadent.  Plus, they were a welcomed surprise for my in-laws in Pittsburgh.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Trail Mix Cookies

We are moving in a few weeks, and while thinking about packing, I realized that I had several miscellaneous ingredients in my baking cupboard.  A variety of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and chocolate chips had been stashed away for some future use.  Rather than packing them up for a move to a new cupboard, I decided that future use should be a delicious cookie.  You can call them Amnesty, Compost, or Kitchen Sink Cookies (as in “everything but…”), but I call these Trail Mix Cookies.  A perfect snack in cookie form! 

I based this recipe on one for oatmeal raisin cookies in Baking Boot Camp by Darra Goldstein, and added a mix of raisins, dates, sliced almonds, and pumpkin and sunflower seeds.  You can of course add whatever mix of add-ins you prefer or happen to have on hand.  About the cookbook – the author chronicles her-week long Baking and Pastry “Boot Camp” at the Culinary Institute of American in Hyde Park, New York and shares all of their boot camp recipes.  Wouldn't that boot camp be fun?

Feel free to use your mixer for these cookies.  I mixed by hand since my pink Kitchen Aid mixer met its match with a hardened chunk of dark brown sugar, and the paddle attachment now wobbles uncontrollably.  You can find me at Bed Bath and Beyond tonight making an exchange!  Did you know they will exchange your broken appliance for a new one, no questions asked?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cashew Nougats

Back in December, in the heart of Christmas cookie baking, I made a batch of Marcela Valladolid’s Polvorones.  They were classic Mexican Wedding Cookies – buttery and chock full of walnuts and coated in a thick layer of melt-in your mouth powdered sugar.  When Dan tasted them, he instantly thought of Archway Cashew Nougats, the tasty little treat in the red package only found at Christmas time.  We tried to find them online, but apparently, Archway went out of business, but the cookies are sometimes found at Walmart.  

To our (mostly Dan’s) dismay, we couldn’t find them, so I set out to make my own using the Polvorones recipe as a starting point, subbing in cashews for the walnuts.  I went through several iterations, experimenting with one or two tweaks each time - powdered sugar instead of granulated (granulated is better), shortening (non-hydrogenated) for a portion of the butter, and a bit of cornstarch with the flour for a more tender crumb.  Toasting the cashews also gave the cookies a wonderful nutty cashew flavor. 

I made some pretty good cookies, but then when we got to Pittsburgh for Christmas, there they were on the kitchen table – Archway Cashew Nougats, found at the Giant Eagle.  Dan probably polished off two packages of them that week, so I knew I had to perfect my recipe for post-holiday cookie enjoyment.  This weekend, I made another batch (to hold up my end of the March Madness bracket challenge) and they are delicious.  Here is my recipe - I hope you like them!

P.S. Today, my little sister, Stacy, got accepted for a Dietetic Internship at Napa State Hospital! I am so proud of her!    

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Happy Birthday, Missi!

I have been putting off my first blog post, waiting for something special to say.  Well it’s been long enough.   What better way to say happy birthday to my big sister than to share the deliciously spicy cookies I made for her birthday? 

In the past several years, birthdays between my sisters and I haven’t included many surprises.  Living so far away from one another, it’s just easier to ask exactly what they want.  This year, Missi told me that she wanted a new travel coffee mug.  I searched and searched and finally found a pretty silver one to keep her coffee hot all day long.  I thought I’d add a little surprise to the mix and send her a pound of Caravan Blend coffee from Misha’s, but I couldn’t keep that a surprise either.  Determined, I decided make a batch of cookies to send her in the birthday package, and miraculously, I was able to keep them a surprise!

I made David Lebovitz’s Nonfat Gingersnaps, for which the recipe is found on his wonderful blog and in his gorgeous cookbook Ready for Dessert.  They are soft chewy cookies, with lots of spice form all the cinnamon and ginger (ground and candied).  Sweetened with molasses and brown sugar, and moistened with applesauce, these are a tasty (4 points per cookie!) treat, worthy of the best big sister’s birthday!

Coming to Panda’s blog soon – cashew nougats!