Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chocolate Chocolate Chunk Peppermint Cookies

The name is long, friends. And so is the taste. It kind of swirls around in your mouth like hot cocoa that's been swizzled with a peppermint stick. However, my spell check is not a fan, of the name at least. In the world of computerized grammar, chocolate and chocolate are not meant to go together apparently. But in my world, and in my kitchen, they go together just fine. In fact, chocolate + chocolate = utter and total bliss. Am I right, ladies? Add in a splash of peppermint extract and a topping of crunchy candy canes, and we've got ourselves a cookie that would give any sweet Girl Scout a run for her money!

I found a jar of Peppermint Snow at my local Williams Sonoma store. You may think it's a bit silly to pay $10 for something you can make yourself for a fraction of that cost, but your kitchen table may thank you (I've dented mine by pounding candies on it), and the jar contains just pure, evenly crushed candies...no powdered stuff, like I get when I make it myself. The other thing you should know is that a little goes a long way. I'm pretty sure that one jar will get me through the whole season, depending on how much peppermint bark I end up making.

So back to the cookies, I had made a huge batch earlier in the month and froze the rest in a giant, well-wrapped log (which I took a photo of, but was fully inappropriate looking so I spared you). It's so easy to bake cookies when you have them ready to slice from the freezer. And it's nice also to bake off smaller batches at a time, that way nobody is tempted to just keep eating cookies all day. Ahem. These rich cookies are perfect for giving out to the neighbors or for your annual cookie exchange. Or for dipping into your seventh cup of coffee (that you've topped with whipped cream for good measure).

Chocolate Chocolate Chunk Peppermint Cookies

Printable Recipe

Chocolate, chocolate chips and peppermint? You can’t go wrong with these delectable cookies! Eat them straight out of the oven with a tall glass of milk. They’re exactly the kind of cookie that Santa would want on his plate, don't you think?

Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes
Yield: 3 dozen cookies


1 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chunks (or chips)
Small handful of crushed peppermint candies, or peppermint snow


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Place butter and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl (or the bowl of your stand mixer) and beat together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and peppermint extract.

3. In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to the butter mixture and beat until combined.

4. Stir in the chocolate chunks until evenly mixed.

5. Drop dough in 2 tablespoon portions (about 1/8 of a cup) 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Sprinkle crushed peppermint over the top of each cookie.

6. Bake for 6-9 minutes, or until cookies are set on the edges. Carefully remove from baking sheet using a wide spatula and cool on wire racks.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cranberries in the Snow

The holidays are here, whether we are ready or not. Thanksgiving Day marks the end of "fall" and many people jump both feet into Christmastime the day afterward, like so many children into piles of autumn leaves (which are still blowing freely around my neighborhood). Admittedly, I too am eager to make the transition, clearing my mantle of gourds and pilgrims and really dusting (for the first time since September, if you must know).

This Thanksgiving I tried out a new cranberry sauce recipe that I was hoping could make the transition to Christmas with the rest of us, using up the very last of my Annie's Crannies. It was everything I'd hoped for--simple, sweet-tart and positively lovely. Sure, I love cranberry-orange relish, and cranberry chutney too, but on this day, I really wanted to highlight the flavor of the cranberry alone.

What I love about this sauce, besides the amazing burst of cranberry flavor, is that it is baked, freeing up one of my burners. And as you know, stove-top space is at a premium during the holidays. The cranberries are simply sprinkled, smothered rather, with sugar (is it just me or have you found that the cranberries are especially tart this year?), then baked for awhile until their crimson juices run and the cranberries have softened like jellies. Mmmmm, tastes like Christmas, indeed!

Christmas Cranberries
Printable Recipe

The cranberry stands alone in all her ruby-red glory in this simple recipe, adapted from here. Baked instead of simmered in the saucepan, this sauce tastes wonderful with roasts of all sorts, or even over ice cream. Try stirring some of this into your favorite orange marmalade to create a pink-hued marvel to spread over scones...or give as a gift.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
Yield: about 1 half-pint of sauce


3 cups of fresh cranberries (frozen would work too, but you may need to increase the baking time)
1 cup of granulated sugar


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Place cranberries in a 8x8 inch square baking dish and sprinkle with sugar. Do not stir.

3. Bake cranberries for 35 minutes, stirring twice during baking. Remove from dish into a bowl, cover and refrigerate.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

All Set!

Wishing you a day filled with family, friends, and gratitude.
Also great food. And drink.
We have much to be thankful for, don't we?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cranberry Cocktail

I just hate it when a recipe I love gets bad reviews (especially recipes I've written). Jeesh. People need to get a grip and stop being so harsh...and learn how to cook for goodness sake. And if you modify a recipe, adding or subtracting or, god forbid, substituting ingredients then you can't really say whether the recipe as it was written was good or not, can you? Do these people actually have taste buds? Or common sense? I think not. And I'm pretty sure that most reviewers haven't passed third grade grammar either. I assure you that the Barefoot Contessa did not RUIN your dinner party because the cooking time she stated in the recipe was too long. Perhaps you just need to calibrate your oven...and not drink so much wine.

It's tough going sometimes...

That said, constructive criticism is always helpful. Like, I made the recipe as you said, but the crust is too crumbly...or the cake is too tough. Or... In Australia I can't find x ingredient. I substituted y and it didn't turn out very well. What do you suggest? Or... Your recipe calls for 2 egg whites. Should one of those be a yolk? Yes, these are the types of helpful suggestions and questions that make me (and I imagine other folks who make recipes) want to fix the problem.

Which brings me to today's recipe (which is not originally mine, by the way). Though it gets mixed reviews on the Epicurious website, I think it makes a fabulously flavored syrup, perfect for mixing with vodka. Sure, you can top it with club soda if you find it a little thick, as did some of the reviewers. But I like to mix it in a shaker, one part syrup with two parts vodka and strain it into sugar-rimmed martini glasses for a gorgeously hued holiday cocktail. We enjoy this on Thanksgiving, and again on Christmas. Strain it into a nice bottle, and it makes a wonderful gift as well. Be sure to attach the martini recipe.

Garnet Martini Syrup

We enjoy this gorgeously-hued cocktail on Thanksgiving, and again on Christmas. Strain it into a nice bottle, and it makes a wonderful gift as well. Be sure to attach the martini recipe.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Yield: makes about 16 martinis


6 cups of fresh or frozen cranberries
4 1/2 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary


1. Bring all ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes until a glossy syrup has formed. It will thicken as it cools.

2. Strain through a fine sieve into a pitcher and chill for at least 3 hours or up to a couple of weeks.

3. To make one martini, shake 1 part syrup with 2 parts vodka with a handful of ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into a martini glass (with a sugared rim, if you'd like) and top with a splash of club soda if desired. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary and serve immediately.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010: The Menu

This year, Thanksgiving has crept up on me like so many holidays do. I knew it was coming, I've been posting about it for weeks, after all. But for some reason, in my head, it seemed like that far-off holiday, the thing that is coming sometime way in the future. Well ready or not, it's here. And in my family Thanksgiving is the jumping off point into crazy-town, filled with birthdays, parties, decorating, food and CHRISTMAS. Don't get me wrong, I love, love, love the holidays, but I think I need another week, please.

Here's my menu with necessary ingredients, subject to change, of course. I've included links to recipes where available. I find it helpful to write it down so I can review it for a few days and figure out who is bringing what and see what I still need to shop for. We will be serving 10 adults and 6 or 7 kids. Thanksgiving is definitely a group effort around here--and that's certainly another thing for which I can be truly thankful!

Thanksgiving 2010

The Menu


o Mushroom Turnovers: Jessica

o Baked Brie: Jim and Jody

o Crudités: Mom

o Butternut Squash Soup: Jenny

o Champagne: Me

o Garnet Martinis: Me

o Cranberries, sugar, rosemary for syrup


o Salad: Kale and Apple Salad with Walnuts and Pancetta: Me

o Turkey and Gravy (Brined): Fried (Ron) and Roasted (Me)

o Stock

o Aromatics (onion, celery, herbs)

o Mashed Potatoes: Me

o Cream

o Butter

o Stuffing (La Brea Bread): Me

o Onion

o Celery

o Sage Breakfast Sausage

o Apple (granny smith)

o Haricot Vert: Me

o Corn Casserole: Mom

o Cranberry Chutney: Me

o Cranberry Relish: Me

o Rolls: Crescent Style (Trader Joes)

o Wine Selection: Chris


o Pumpkin Pie: Lindsey

o New England Rum Pie: Mom

o Pecan Pie and/or Cranberry Frangipane: Jessica

o Coffee (decaf): Me

o Whipped cream: Me

Friday, November 19, 2010

Heart of the Homework

Most afternoons we find ourselves in the kitchen together, snacking, chatting, cooking and completing homework. My kids prefer to do their homework at the kitchen table, rather than at their desks in their bedrooms. I'd like to think they want to be close to me, but they probably just want to be close to the pantry. But for whatever reason, here we converge just about every day.

At the beginning of the school year, I put together this homework caddy, so that they would have all of the supplies they need for their homework and school projects at hand. It helps them be more independent, and it helps me because my meal preparation is less interrupted by constant badgering...MOM! Where is the [fill in the school supply here]?

I found a silverware caddy with a nice antique finish at Home Goods that fits my pint size mason jars perfectly. There is also room for larger containers that hold everything from rulers to glue guns. Yes glue guns. I don't know about your kids, but mine get an outrageous amount of projects to be completed at home. Everything is neatly labeled, so the kids can even clean up after themselves. In theory. Ahem.

Gotta have all sorts of glue....

Some watercolors tucked in the side....Time to replace, I think!

Must have magic erasers...they truly are magic.

One jar for scissors and other tools, one for colored pencils, one for pens, and one for freshly sharpened pencils. In the back I have a large container for glue, one for rulers and angles, tape and erasers, and I've also tucked in a much-used stapler. I also usually have white index cards (but we just ran out) so that the kids can make flash cards or vocabulary cards as needed. And if your kids ever get "bored" a great activity for them is to make sure all the colored and regular pencils are sharpened.

On the wall next to the kitchen table, we have some "wall pockets," one for each child and one for me. This is where they store extra paper (plain, graph and lined) as well as their homework folders. I'd show you a picture of those, but they are an over-flowing disaster. Guess what I'm doing today?

How do you organize your homework area?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Oh My, Cranberry Pie

We had a little chat the other day my facebook page (do you like me yet?) about whether a food processor or stand mixer gets more use. I rattled off some nonsense about how my kitchen is too small to drag out my appliances (I store them in the garage) and about how I'm too lazy to wash them anyway so I just use my knives for chopping and my hand mixer for mixing. However, since that conversation I have used my food processor about 4 times and my stand mixer zero times, so I guess my food processor wins (and I am a liar).

It's cranberry season folks, and while it's not entirely impossible to chop cranberries with a knife (have you ever tried to herd a pile of bouncy balls with a broom?), it is an exercise in frustration to be sure. Which is why my food processor comes out again and again during this time of year.

Anywho, this week on Pioneer Woman, Ree is baking pies in preparation for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. Today she featured a Nantucket Cranberry Pie. Why on earth haven't I heard of this before? I love Nantucket. I love cranberries. I love pie. And let me tell you that after I baked this one up, I learned that Nantucket+cranberries=one fantastic pie...or cake....or cobbler or whatever. It is too easy and too good. Make it for Thanksgiving...or just make it for dessert tonight. And make the entire thing in...you guessed it...your food processor.

Nantucket Cranberry Pie

This recipe is so easy to make, and so easy to eat. The tart cranberry underbelly is spiked with walnuts then topped with a glorious almond-scented butter batter that turns golden and crunchy when baked in the oven. I've adapted it from Laurie Colwin's recipe that originally appeared in Gourmet Magazine in November of 1993.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 55 minutes
Yield: serves 6-8


2 heaping cups of fresh or frozen whole cranberries
1 scant cup of walnuts or pecans
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
Zest from one orange
1 cup flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon almond extract


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a deep dish pie plate or 8 inch cake pan and set aside.

2. Place cranberries in the bowl of your food processor fitted with the steel-blade attachment, and pulse until they are chopped. Pour into the pie plate.

3. Place walnuts into your food processor and pulse until they are finely chopped (but not a paste) and pour over the cranberries.

4. Sprinkle the cranberries and walnuts with the orange zest and 1/2 cup of sugar.

5. Rinse the bowl of your food processor and return it to the base. Add the rest of the sugar, the flour, eggs, butter and almond extract. Run the food processor just until the mixture is evenly mixed.

6. Pour the batter over the cranberry and walnut mixture, and sprinkle the top with additional sugar if desired. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Turkey Time!

Do not fear the turkey, my friends! It's not as hard as you think. In fact, roasting a turkey is one of the simplest holiday meals to prepare (except for the dishes...ugh). Sure, you've read all about brining versus dry brining, roasting versus frying, stuffing versus...well, not stuffing. But truth be told, you can make your turkey prep as complicated, or as simple as you like. I'm not going to lie to you--I do prefer a dry brined bird. But last Friday, just for kicks, I roasted a turkey the old fashioned way, dotted with butter and sprinkled with (dry) herbs. It was about as plain and simple as you can get. And you know what? It was delicious, and juicy, and wonderful...without all the fuss.

Here is how I did it. You should try it too!

First, toss some onions, carrots and celery in the bottom of your roasting pan and lay the rack on top of them.

Then, remove the ugly bag of gizzards from the neck cavity and the hacked-off neck from the body cavity. To keep my turkey's dignity intact, I refrained from photographing this part. It's not pretty. I personally, save the neck and use it to make the turkey stock, but I toss the bag of goodies away because I think gizzards are nasty, even my dog won't touch them. If you love gizzards, then by all means cook them with the neck in the stock and chop them up for the gravy. Anyway, I had some rice on hand so I stuffed it into the neck cavity to help the breast look fuller and prettier. You don't have to do this step but I learned it from Martha and I think it's a nice, easy touch.

Then pull that extra skin up over the rice (or just over the cavity) and "sew it closed with a skewer.

Flip the turkey onto it's back and turn the wings so that they are up and under the breast like this....

It may crack a bit, but don't worry, you are not hurting the turkey. It's already dead. Then pat it dry with a paper towel.

I like to squeeze a little fresh lemon or orange juice over the top of my bird.

Then I stuff it inside the cavity, along with some more onions and celery (and fresh thyme and sage if I have it...I didn't).

Then I dot the entire surfaced of the turkey with softened butter. For a big turkey, you may need about a stick. This is not health food...it's a holiday turkey. Turkey needs butter.

Then I sprinkled the entire bird, inside and out with dried sage...

And dried thyme...

And salt and pepper....to taste, of course.

This is what it looks like when all is said and done.

Finally I put some stock in the bottom of the pan...about 1 cup. I will add more stock periodically as it roasts to make sure that there is plenty of gravy and plenty of juice to baste the turkey with.

And that's all there is to it. I roasted this bird at 350 degrees for about 2 1/2 hours. Do you have this book? It tells you exactly how long to cook just about anything and it is a fantastic resource to have. Your turkey will be done when the breast reads 165 degrees and the thigh reads 175-180 degrees. I like to baste my turkey about every 30 minutes with the pan juices and I add a little more stock to the bottom of the pan as necessary to keep the veggies from burning and the juices flowing.

Fear not....this is the year you will master the turkey. And if not, well, there's always next year.

Happy cooking!