I love making edible gifts for the holidays. So much so that I partnered with Popover to make a post all about my gifting style and what sort of treats I like to make and give during the holidays. Also, I recently discovered a heat embosser that made these pretty stamps (pictured above) all shiny and gold and full of life! You will get addicted and you will start crafting for no reason. But trust me, it’s a good thing and people will welcome it. Head on over to Popover to see more photos and get links to some of my favorite recipes! Happy Holidays!
It’s that time of year, so I’m just rolling with it. Yes, I’m still eating my fruits and vegetables, but in the dessert department, I have kind of thrown caution to the wind. Because I don’t feel like depriving myself during this fun, jolly time of year. I’m not a huge fan of white chocolate, so my peppermint bark is just solid chocolate. There are only 3 ingredients and it comes together in no time. I highly recommend it for a holiday party or just to nibble at home in your pajamas. There is something so satisfying about melting chocolate and swirling it around. And the peppermint candies and marshmallows make it feel so festive! You can box this up all pretty, put some ribbon on it, maybe a bow, and call it a day. Boom. Hope you enjoy! Have a great weekend!
Chocolate Peppermint & Marshmallow Bark
12 oz semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
20 round peppermint candies
1 cup mini marshmallows
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Crush the peppermint candies any way you would like. I chopped mine with a sharp knife. Set aside.
3. Put chocolate chips in a large microwave-safe bowl. Heat for 30 seconds at a time and stir in between. I did 3 rounds of 30 seconds. Stir until the chocolate chips are melted and then smooth out onto the parchment paper in a thin layer.
4. Sprinkle marshmallows and crushed peppermint candy on top of melted chocolate. Place in freezer for 30 minutes. Remove from freezer, break apart by hand and enjoy!
When I was in college my best friend Jenny and I would look forward to the days when fresh challah was being sold on campus. We would each buy one and devour them throughout the day, often resulting in stomach aches, but wonderful nonetheless. I fell in love with this new bread that I had never had before. But I also thought I would never be able to replicate it in my own kitchen. I was so intimidated by it. The braiding, potential fillings (chocolate, fruit etc.) and that whole yeast thing I had yet to conquer. Honestly, I am quite jealous of people who grow up knowing these types of recipes like the back of their hand because their grandma or mother taught them from a young age. So many fears to conquer in one recipe: yeast, double rise and braiding.I am on a mission to teach myself more, to push myself more and be more patient in the kitchen. Thus, we have notes on my testing different challah recipes and what I have learned so far.
1. Be Patient. Wait for the yeast to activate properly (when it gets foamy on top when activated with warm water). If you don’t see it bubbling or foaming, try again and check that your yeast is in date.
2. Start with a simple braid. I did many simple braids of challah before I moved onto a 6 or 8 strand one.
3. Trust the amount of time you need to knead. At first, I didn’t do it for the full time and my challah wasn’t as light and airy as it could have been. The next time around, the texture was SO much better after I adhered to the correct knead time.
4. If your “ropes” or strands of challah shorten or shrink after rolling them out, let them rest a little bit longer before you continue.
5. Check the center of your challah, especially on a big braided beauty (like pictured above) because it might brown quickly and look done, but the center will still be doughy. If it gets too brown before the challah is done baking, place a piece of tinfoil over the bread and continue to bake.
6. Don’t skip the egg wash before baking. This is what gives it the beautiful color!
The pictures of the challah above come from Smitten Kitchen’s recipe on Fig, Olive Oil and Sea Salt Challah that can be found here. Just prepare yourself that it will disappear within minutes!
Just to prove that I actually do eat salads at work in between the buttery scones and chocolate….
Most of the time I just put olive oil and balsamic vinegar on my salads and call it a day. But I also see the benefit in making different salad dressings and not getting bored. This week I had a lot of leftover garlic, so I wanted to use it up before it went bad. I was also craving a healthy, crunchy and filling salad that day.
Roasted Garlic Dressing + Lentil Salad
For the dressing:
2 whole heads of garlic, tops cut off to expose each clove
1/2 cup + a few teaspoons of olive oil, separated
salt & pepper
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup water
2 Tbs of apple cider vinegar
For the salad:
2 cups cooked lentils (I like to cheat and buy cooked lentils at Trader Joe’s)
1 1/2 cups raw broccoli florets, chopped
1 cup raw shredded carrots
1/3 cup roasted garlic dressing + more depending on how heavily dressed you like it
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle a teaspoon of olive oil over the cut tops of the garlic and rub it into each clove, keeping the whole head intact. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper on top and wrap each head in a piece of tinfoil, completely covering it. Place them on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, until tender. Allow to cool and pull out each clove with a fork or knife and set aside. Discard all the garlic skins.
2. In a blender put the water, 1/2 cup of olive oil, juice of 1 lemon, pinch of salt and pepper, apple cider vinegar and all of the garlic cloves. Blend until creamy. About 30 seconds- 1 minute. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
3. If you want to make the salad, toss the lentils, broccoli and carrots in a large bowl with the dressing. I like to eat this salad as is or over a bed of mixed greens with a side of grilled bread :).
I woke up Saturday morning and felt like I just had to bake something. But it wasn’t the type of thing where I wanted to look through cookbooks, go to the grocery store to get exactly what I needed, then return home and start baking. I just wanted to do something right away. So I went to the kitchen, opened my cabinets and realized I had spices, espresso, flour, sugar and milk. Immediately, I thought of the flavors of one of my favorite drinks, the Dirty Chai Latte. If you have never had this drink before, you are missing out! It is a Chai Tea Latte with a shot or two of espresso and it is amazinnggggggggg. So I suggest you do two things: go get a Dirty Chai Latte AND make these Dirty Chai Scones to go with it. Trust me, it is a perfect weekend plan and these scones make an excellent weekday breakfast.
Dirty Chai Scones: makes 8 big scones
3 cups all-purpose flour (you can sub 1 cup of AP flour for whole wheat flour if you desire)
1/3 cup cane sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 cup milk (I have used both 2% dairy milk and almond milk, both work great)
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/2 cup cane sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp nutmeg
dash of allspice
2 tsp ground instant espresso
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl mix the flour, cane sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Cut the butter into the flour mixture until the butter resembles the size of peas (I use my hands to break the butter into the flour).
2. Next add the milk slowly and mix with a fork until the dough comes together. Pour the mixture onto a lightly floured work surface and knead a few times until the dough completely comes together. Flour your work surface again and flour the top of your dough. Roll out the dough to a 16 by 10 rectangle. If you are having trouble with the dough being sticky, sprinkle a little more flour on top and bottom.
3. In a small bowl mix the melted butter, cane sugar, spices and espresso. It will be a little bit chunky. Spread this mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1 inch border at the far end of your dough. You are going to be rolling the larger side of the dough. Tightly roll your dough towards the border and press firmly down on the border to seal the edges. Cut into two inch pieces, which should give you 8 pieces.
4. Place the scone pieces on the baking sheet, flatten out a bit with a gentle push from your fingers and sprinkle the top with a little cane sugar. Bake for 12-15 minutes until the tops are lightly golden brown. Let cool on a wire wrack on the baking sheet. Enjoy warm. Scones keep refrigerated for a few days in the fridge and are good if they are reheated in the microwave for 30-45 seconds.
I’m on a Halloween sugar high. Whoops! I made an indecent amount of dessert today for the office. But we had kids come by to trick or treat and I can admit, I got jealous. Kids get to have all the fun. SO….. I remedied the situation by making a ton of popcorn balls, rice krispy treats and dirt chocolate pudding cups with oreos and gummy worms. Oh and some spiked apple cider! I feel better. Less envious of the kids and more content with warm apple cider and chocolate pudding in my belly. Now I’m just waiting for the evening festivities! Daniel is dressing up as Freddie Mercury and I waited until the last minute to come up with something, so my co-worker fashioned me a mask and black beanie so I can be a burglar. My mom asked me this morning if I was excited for tonight, whether I had a costume and if it was one of those “sexy costumes you wear in your 20s because you can get away with it (kind of) costume”. I laughed pretty hard. Truth is, I have no desire to go in some skin tight or skin baring-going to be freezing all night costume. I would rather be bundled up, warm and cozy. Just saying. So this pear recipe came out of need to make something for clients at work, but I had minimal ingredients on hand and decided to improvise a recipe. It turned out pretty well and I for one, am kind of obsessed with these pears. They are light and delicate while offering so much flavor.It is definitely the kind of dessert I would make for a dinner party and would be great for the upcoming holidays! I hope you take as much enjoyment in making these as I did. Happy Halloween!!!
Earl Grey Poached Pears w/ Whiskey Pecans & Maple Whipped Cream: serves 6
For the pears:
2 cups 2% milk
3 cups water
1 cinnamon stick
4 earl grey tea bags, label or paper removed
3 medium Bartlett or d’anjou pears, cut in half, do not remove core yet.
For the pecans:
2 tbs butter
1 ½ shots whiskey
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tbs maple syrup
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
For the whipped cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tbs maple syrup
Pinch of cinnamon
- Bring milk, water, tea bags and cinnamon stick to a simmer over medium low heat (do not allow to boil) in a large saucepan. Place pears cut side down and make sure they are mostly submerged in liquid (if not, add more water and milk in equal proportions). Keep at a simmer, cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out easily and pears are tender.
- While the pears are cooking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside. Melt the butter, brown sugar and whiskey together over medium heat. Stir frequently as it begins to caramelize. Lower the heat and cook for a few more minutes. Turn off the heat and put the pecans in the pan, making sure to coat them well. Dump the pecans onto the baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool and break apart nuts if they are stuck together.
- Remove the pears from the liquid and place on a plate lined with parchment paper. Put the pears in the freezer for 15 minutes to cool down. Remove from freezer and take out the core (leave the stem) and make sure to keep the sides of the pear in tact. Return to freezer for a few more minutes.
- To make the whipped cream, pour cream in a large bowl and use a whisk attachment of either a hand mixer or stand mixer. Mix on high until the cream begins to thicken, then add maple syrup and cinnamon. Continue to mix until the cream is thick and stiff peaks form when you pull the whisk attachment out of the cream.
- To assemble: remove pears from freezer and place on a serving plate, dollop a big spoonful of whipped cream in the center of the pear, place a few pecans on top and on the sides and sprinkle with cinnamon.
My fridge was bare this weekend. I opened it on Saturday morning looking for something for breakfast and found a very sad and mostly empty fridge. The few items I was staring at were: almond milk, cold green tea, bananas that needed to be used that day, peanut butter and spinach. So I thought why not throw it all into a blender because I am desperate for food and can’t fathom going out of the house yet. Imagine my surprise when it actually tasted good! I have already made this smoothie two more times, so I think it is worth sharing. You might find it odd and you might want to omit the peanut butter and that’s ok.
Green Tea Smoothie: serves 1
1/2 cup almond milk
3/4 cup cold green tea (I used Trader Joe’s brewed unsweetened green tea)
1 banana cut into chunks (preferably frozen)
1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder (I use pea protein powder)
1 big handful spinach
1 tbs natural peanut butter (optional)
few drops stevia liquid or 1 tsp of honey
2 ice cubes
1. Throw everything in blender and blend well (at least 1 minute).