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Back to Snacking in the Kitchen
I remember when my family moved to our first house. We were just a few years into our adventures in the United States, still adjusting to the culture and traditions of our new country. I must have been fourteen years old. There was a knock on the door. A couple, middle aged, was standing at the door, holding a plate of cookies. “Welcome to the neighborhood!” they said.
Fast forward many years. The Artist and I moved into our home. A few weeks later, there was a knock on the door and another plate of cookies, with sprinkles.
Turns out that while we were on vacation, our neighbors moved away and we came back to a new family living next door to us. They mowed a strip of our grass and asked if it was ok to use our driveway to move in their piano. We exchanged a few words and our names. I found out I have a Russian accent, as if I didn’t know that already.
And then, I baked a batch of Chocolate Chip, Coconut, Cherry and Oatmeal Cookies to take next door for our neighbors. The tradition continues!
As a major side note, this was the first time I used my generous and beautiful birthday gift from some of my dear girlfriends – thank you!
For the cookies, prepare a batch of chocolate chip cookies according to the 12 ounce chocolate chip bag. Mix in 1/2 cup of each: shredded coconut, dried cherries, and oatmeal. Bake according to directions.
The extra cookies went to work with me and the Artist to share with coworkers.
Want to share your favorite tradition or custom?
Valentine’s Day is probably the one holiday you should stay home, perhaps other than Mother’s Day and New Year’s Eve. Avoid the crowded, overpriced restaurants, the lines, the reservations, the desire to impress, and cook yourself.
This year marked the second Valentine’s Day celebration with the Artist. Simple, delicious, and elegant. I roasted a boneless leg of lamb, marinated in parsley, garlic and olive oil.
And of course, we had to have potatoes! Lucky for us, we were shooting a video for Irish Potato and Chive Casserole at Allrecipes.com that day and there was plenty to take home. Creamy Yukon gold potatoes loaded with sour cream, cream cheese and of course, butter. Sprinkled with chopped chives and smoked paprika, these potatoes were a hit!
Dessert came in a form of a cake, once again courtesy of working at Allrecipes.com. I prepared and styled this double-layered Perfect St. Patrick’s Day Cake with Guinness beer, Irish cream liquor and bittersweet chocolate.
Share the love!
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. You couldn’t miss it even if you tried. Pink, red, hearts, teddy bears and frilly white objects are everywhere. It is like they were blown confetti, spilling uncontrolled around.
Just in time for the love holiday, I had to decorate sugar cookies at work for Allrecipes.com video production team. This was one of my first videos taking charge and we baked Pope’s Valentine’s Cookies in various heart sizes. A little bit of colored frosting went over the top and then we went to town writing sweet sayings and decorating with heart and sugar sprinkles.
I hope you Valentine is sweet. I will post the video link once it is available.
Risen dough, studded with plump cranberries
To make the turkey, pinch pieces of challah roll and lightly roll to shape. Place the body, head, feet, and feather pieces together on a parchment lined baking sheet. For the face, insert extra cranberries to form eyes and mouth.
With a sharp knife, cut slits through the ends of the feathers.
Lightly brush the entire bird with an egg wash and liberally sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Adults and kids loved this bird! You’ll find the recipe I used here.
Alas, the crumble is long gone. I baked it as a last-minute dessert for my brother Misha, to celebrate his birthday. I think he liked it!
Are you ready to crumble? 🙂
2 pears, cored and chopped into 1/2″
1/2 cup cranberries
2 tablespoons plus 3/4 cup all purpose flour
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
Pinch of salt
Pinch of ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly butter a 12-inch round pie pan.
2. Combine apples, pears, cranberries and 2 tablespoons of the flour and spread evenly in the pie pan.
3. Combine remaining 3/4 cup flour, sugars, walnuts, salt, cinnamon, lemon zest, lemon juice and butter in a bowl and mix together well with your hands, breaking up the butter with your fingers. Make sure the butter doesn’t break down completely. Sprinkle the mixture on top of the fruit.
4. Cover the pie pan with with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for additional 20 minutes more, or until golden on top and fruit is soft and bubbling.
Hungry for more crumble? Check out Apple, Pear and Berry Crumble with Walnut, Oatmeal Coconut Topping and Peach and Apricot Crumble with Almonds and Crystallized Ginger
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The cookie swaps are happening across America! They are in the neighbor’s home, at a friend’s apartment, and even at work! Today at Allrecipes.com we held our own cookie swap and quite a few of us participated. I loved sampling a selection of delectable, chewy, crisp, sweet, and irresistible cookies.
My contribution? Chocolate Shortbread Cookies with Almonds, Ginger and Clementine Zest
These cookies came to life based on a Chocolate Shortbread Cookies by Ghirardelli. This basic, straight forward recipe got a makeover with the help of my friend Dana, a fellow graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. Following a lovely dinner at home, I suggested Dana helps me bake the cookies, and she was more than eager to help. Thank you! We added freshly grated ginger and clementine zest to the dough and studded with toasted almonds. Rather than baking these as separate cookies, we pressed the dough into a baking sheet, baked it whole and then cut it in shape. Happy holidays!
Chocolate Shortbread Cookies with Almonds, Ginger and Clementine Zest
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ginger, grated
2 teaspoons clementine zest
1/4 teaspoons sea salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup slivered or chopped almonds, toasted and cooled
1. Cream together butter, sugar, ginger, zest and salt until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
2. Sift together flour and cocoa. This ensures the two are well incorporated and are lump-free.
3. Combine butter mixture with flour and cocoa until no streaks of flour remain.
4. Fold in almonds.
5. Press the dough evenly into a parchment lined 9×13 baking dish and refrigerate for 30 minutes. This allows the butter to set up so the cookies do not melt in the oven.
6. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
7. Bake until the dough is almost set, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly, transfer with parchment paper to a cutting board and cut to desired size and shape.
The cookies will keep in air-tight container. You can dress these with confectioners’ sugar or unsweetened cocoa and serve with sliced clementines.
Have you ever been seduced by a piece of dessert? I’m sure the answer is “yes” for many of us. In case you are one of the unfortunate people who have not experience this seduction – here is your chance! This Nutella Banana Chocolate Seduction Tart has a little bit of everything – chocolate, cookie crust, fruit, and nuts! And lots of butter and sugar. Be still, my heart.
About four years ago when I was making a critical decision of leaving my life in Dallas to attend the Culinary Institute of America, I got a call from my mom. She told me a story about Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa who went from working at the White House to running a specialty food store. “Are you telling me to follow my dreams, mom?” I asked, thinking she was using Ina as an inspiration. She wasn’t, she was just sharing.
Fast forward to my decision to attend the school and years of emotional, physical, and financial struggles, most of which have been overcome with hard work, support and a little bit of luck.
My mom called me last week, informing me that Ina will be speaking at the Seattle’s Benaroya Hall. “Would you want to go?” she asked. I bought two tickets and we went. I haven’t seen my mom so happy in a long time.
Ina’s visit came in the middle of the Jewish New Year. In honor of Ina and the New Year, I decided to bake Ina’s Plum Cake “Tatin”. Unfortunately, the store was out of plums, so I bought a bag of pluots instead. Pluots are a hybrid of plums and apricots. If you haven’t tasted one before, you’re in for a treat! I made quite a few changes to the original recipe and the family loved it! The Pluot Cake was a perfect sweet ending to a New Year dinner.*
Pluot New Year Cake
7 tablespoons softened butter, divided
8-10 pluots, halved and pitted
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup sour cream
zest of 1 large lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a 12-inch tart pan with one tablespoon of butter.
2. Arrange pluots cut side up inside the pan.
3. Beat together six tablespoons of butter with sugar, until light and fluffy. Beat one egg at a time until well incorporated.
4. Add sour cream, lemon zest and vanilla.
5. Sift together flour, baking powder and kosher salt and slowly incorporate into the butter mixture.
6. Spread the batter over the pluots and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until golden and the batter is set.
7. Cool the cake slightly and serve warm or at room temperature, spooning the pluots out on individual plates.
Alterations to the original recipe
-I used a 12-inch tart instead of a 9-inch
-I skipped the step of making caramel (less total sugar, one less step, and still delicious)
-I placed the pluots cut side up and did not invert the final cake
-I used large eggs instead of extra large (that’s what I had on hand)
-I increased lemon zest from 1/2 teaspoon to a zest of a whole lemon
-I used both white and light brown sugar
Have you ever cooked or assembled food with just two items that seemed so far from one another that you would have never ever thought they would create harmonious magic for your tasting buds?
I can’t remember the last time I played that game in the kitchen. Perhaps I should schedule play dates with my friend Priya more often for inspiration. On the night of our play date, she showed up with a pint of a fantastic vanilla bean ice cream. I don’t even remember what I cooked for dinner, but it must have been quiet filling, because we almost forgot about the ice cream.
When it was time to cool down I pulled out the carton of vanilla ice cream from the freezer and scooped it into our bowls. And then I stopped. I wanted something more. Chocolate sauce wouldn’t do and I didn’t have any berries on hand. I was craving for something tart and sweet at the same time. And then I reached into my refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of Pomegranate Molasses. I drizzled it over the ice cream and we ate. It was fantastic.
There were a few spoons of ice cream left in the container when Priya went home. I drizzled a bit more right inside the container and finished it.
6. Transfer the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
7. Bake in the preheated oven for 55-60 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of the banana bread comes out clean.
8. Cool the banana bread on a cooling rack, remove from the pan, slice and serve!
Hungry for challah? Then holler! I just shared a few creations that I made from a batch of challah dough, and wanted to give you a more in-depth look at these Rolled Date, Golden Raisin, and Almond Challah Rolls. Think of them as a cross between ruggelach and cinnamon rolls.
These are fun to make, sweet and sticky to eat, and freeze very well! Feel free to play around with the filling ingredients, using your favorite dried fruit and nuts.
3 cups challah dough
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/3 cup chopped dates
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup chopped almonds
1 tablespoon half and half
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray.
2. Roll the challah dough on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle.
3. Spread the sugar, dates, raisins, and almonds in the center of the dough, lengthwise.
4. Roll the dough around the filling, tightly and pinch together the ends.
5. Cut the roll into 12 portions, about 1 1/2 inches wide. Place into the prepared muffin tin and rest for 30 minutes.
A few years ago, I wrote a simple post for Mother’s Day that turned this blog of mine upside down. That recipe for Sausage and Broccoli Egg Muffins brought thousands of you to my site and fed thousands of hungry mouths.
Every Mother’s Day that follows, I try to create a new recipe that will bring joy to my mom and live up to the popularity of that initial post. I can’t guarantee the latter, but the former is definitely true!
This year, I whipped up Boozy Sour Cherry Tiramisu ~ my adaptation of one of Italy’s most popular dessert. You will find mascarpone and ladyfingers in my version, but the coffee is replaced with delicious sour cheerry juice, that’s not so sour! Won’t you give this one a try? And if you are looking for more tiramisu recipes, check one made by MangoTomato with pomegranate! But if cherries are more to your liking, you will also want to make Sour Cherry Crustless Cheesecakes ~ baked inside your muffin tin!
1 pint whipping cream
16 ounces mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup cherry liqueur (I used the bottle of Ginja I brought from Portugal)
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
24-ounce jar pitted sour cherries
2 cups sour cherry juice
3 packs Italian ladyfingers
1. Beat together whipping cream, mascarpone cheese, cherry liqueur and powdered sugar in a large bowl, until stiff peaks form.
2. Drain cherry juice from the jar of cherries and combine with the other two cups of juice. Quickly dip ladyfingers into sour cherry juice and line them on the bottom of the 9×13 glass dish.
3. Spread the first layer of ladyfingers with 1/3 of the mascarpone and sprinkle with 1/3 of the sour cherries.
4. Repeat with two more layers of ladyfingers and mascarpone, leaving the cherries off the last layer. Cover the Boozy Sour Cherry Tiramisu with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
The cake gets better as it sits and the layers of ladyfingers absorb the rich, boozy, sweet mascarpone cream. Enjoy a slice (or two) with a cup of tea or a shot of cherry liqueur!
What did you make this year for Mother’s Day?
No offense, but when it comes to coffee, I prefer to stay away from the mega blockbusters of coffee shops (yes, I’m talking about you, Starbucks). On a recent visit to Capitol Hill, I met with my friend Priya at Arabica Lounge for a cup of coffee and something sweet.
The place was buzzing with the smell of freshly ground coffee beans, and cherry blossoms stuck in glass jars adorned beyond-gorgeous wood tables. I wanted to pull out my laptop, or grab a book and settle in for an hour or two. Short on time, I waited on Priya to arrive, ordered a “cup” of coffee and a chocolate cookie. A word of advice ~ if you are serving a naturally gluten free item, like this delicious flourless chocolate cookie, perhaps you should call it a Flourless Chocolate Cookie instead of Gluten Free Chocolate Cookie. Thoughts?
The experience at Arabica Lounge left me amused and caffeinated. Let’s discuss the amusing parts first. My coffee was served in a glass jar, rather than a cup. I suppose that gives it a more rustic, down-to-earth feeling, but I would have preferred a cup with a handle and a thinner rim to sip the coffee.
Instead of a register to take the payment, the Lounge used an automated, touch-screen computer for credit cards. Everything was touch-screen and automated. I had to ask for the receipt to be printed. Adding a tip was almost forced, since your server waited for you to add it in before printing the receipt.
I loved the community table at the center of the cafe. While sitting at the table with Priya, the gentleman across from us, seemingly of European decent, struck up a conversation with us and suggested a few cocktail lounges/bars to visit in the area. Priya – we still need to go!
The array of baked goods in the display case was quite appetizing. I decided to go for a Gluten Free Chocolate Cookie, which I think should be renamed to a Flourless Chocolate Cookie. The cookie was thin, dense, and chocolaty rich. It reminded me of the cookies sold at the Apple Pie Bakery at the Culinary Institute of America. The top was lightly crackled. I could’ve had eaten another one, but shared the one I had with Priya, instead.
Next time you are in the area, skip the overpopulated, big-name corporate coffee shops, and stop at Arabica Lounge instead.
1550 E Olive Way
(between Denny Way and Summit Ave)
Seattle, WA 98102
Neighborhood: Capitol Hill
Last week I celebrated my birthday! (Thank you). While I didn’t get a pony, or a kangaroo for that matter, I did get to celebrate my birthday with family and friends. What could be sweeter, except for a slice of my mom’s Honey Cake with Sour Cream Frosting and Toasted Walnuts? Not much. The cake was exactly what I wanted for my special day. In fact, I was sure to request the cake on more than several occasions, weeks before my actual birthday.
The cake: layers of honey cake spread with sweet and tangy whipped sour cream and sprinkled with toasted walnuts. The cake stood tall and proud. Since the birthday celebration took place in the evening, the lighting did the cake very little justice. I used this light deficiency as an excuse to ask for an extra slice of cake to take home and photograph. I was a very happy girl the next morning!
Thank you to my mom for baking this special cake for me and for beautiful sunflowers (scroll down to see those sunny beauties!). I hope one day to get the recipe for this cake and bake it for my own daughter.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
6. Whisk together sugar, oil, coffee, egg, and vanilla until smooth.
7. Combine flour mixture with the oil and sugar mixture, and buttermilk, alternating between dry and wet ingredients. Do not overmix.
8. Scoop the cupcake batter halfway up each paper liner.
10. Bake cupcakes in the oven for 22-25 minutes. Remove and cool in the muffin pan for 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes and finish cooling completely on a cooling rack.
11. Cover each cupcake with a dollop of frosting and spread evenly over the top.
12. Sprinkle the cupcakes with toasted coconut.
The cupcakes were a sweet delight! I really believe that adding coffee enriched the overall flavor and highlighted the chocolate. My father, who is not a fan of coconut, said he loved the cupcakes and wasn’t bothered by the coconut. I bet toasting coconut was a key to getting rid of the raw flavor.
Anja was one happy birthday girl and my brother took all the credit! Why am I not surprised? 🙂
The stars have aligned. Instead of pulling out yet another bill or a credit card application from the mailbox, I pulled out a “150 Best Cupcake Recipes” cookbook by Julie Hasson. It happened to be my grandfather’s birthday this week, so to celebrate, I decided to bake him a batch of cupcakes (and save a few for myself and friends).
Picking out a flavor was challenging: the book has an impressive array of 150 recipes ranging from simple to gourmet. The book is organized by section (chocolate, fruit, nuts, adults only, kids’ corner, spice it up, new twists, vegan, and frostings, glazes and fillings) and also has decorating tips and techniques.
Paging through the book, I stopped on a color photo of a Raspberry Vanilla Cupcake. Scanning through the recipe, I decided to make a few adjustments and use a variation of the book’s Cream Cheese Frosting recipe. A quick trip to the store and I was ready to bake Vanilla Raspberry “Surprise” Cupcakes with Raspberry Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting.
You can use your favorite jam to substitute for raspberry. If you do choose to follow the recipe, I suggest using a seedless raspberry jam. Feel free to garnish the cupcakes with fresh raspberries, especially if you are baking these in the summer.
For the Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
For the Frosting
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
pinch of salt
2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam
zest of 1 lemon
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan with cupcake paper liners.
2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
3. Whisk together sugar, oil, and vanilla until smooth.
4. Combine flour mixture, milk, and sugar and oil mixture in intervals, mixing until smooth.
5. Scoop cupcake batter into the bottom of each paper liner, about two tablespoons.
6. Drop a spoonful of raspberry jam and cover with the remaining cupcake batter.
7. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the tops of the cupcakes are golden brown.
8. Cool cupcakes on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove from the muffin pan and cool completely.
9. Beat together cream cheese, butter, and salt until creamy.
10. Beat in confectioner’s sugar to the cream cheese mixture on low speed, adding a little bit of sugar at a time.
11. Increase speed and beat in raspberry jam and lemon zest until fluffy.
12. Pipe frosting on top of cooled cupcakes.
13. Eat immediately or refrigerate until ready. Remove from refrigerator and allow to stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before eating. Garnish with fresh raspberries.
The cupcakes were a success with the grandparents and the rest of the family.
My “surprise” element of raspberry jam inside the cupcake needs some work. I envisioned the jam staying suspended in the center of the cupcake, but, unfortunately, it sunk to the bottom. Apparently, my brother was not disappointed, and instead, loved this happy accident. His response to the cupcake was: “Whoa! There was like a surprise on the bottom!“
Next time, in addition to figuring out how to keep raspberry jam in the center of the cupcake, I would also add lemon zest and perhaps even lemon oil to the cupcake batter, and use more lemon in the frosting.