Friday, December 23, 2011

Peppermint Bark

This peppermint bark is fabulous!  I used a good chocolate and made it a bit thicker, so it didn't quite fill the jelly roll pan.  I found the recipe on my friend Cristine's blog,  and as always, a great recipe!  Don't pay lots of money for the stuff in stores...  seriously easy to make!  Enjoy!

  • 12 oz bitter sweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 12 oz white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tsp Peppermint extract
  • 6 oz peppermint candies
Line a 13 x 9 baking pan with foil( use non stick foil), make sure you let the sides overhang so you can pull the bark out when its done.
In a heavy duty zip lock bag, crush the peppermints.
In a double boiler, melt the dark chocolate, peppermint extract and whipping cream and stir until smooth. Pour the dark chocolate into the baking pan and evenly smooth out.
Place in the fridge for about 15 minutes to firm.
In a double boiler, melt the white chocolate and stir until smooth.
Remove the dark chocolate from the fridge and with a paper towel, blot off and moisture that has accumulated on the top. Pour the white chocolate over the dark chocolate.
Sprinkle the peppermint candies over the white chocolate.
Place in fridge to firm for about 1 hour. Remove and cut to your desired shape and size.
Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Friday, December 9, 2011

White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread Cookies

I first saw these cookie on pinterest.  Can I just say, I love pinterest!  Then, looking at the bhg website, where the recipe was originally found, I saw they got 4 out of 5 stars, which did not impress me.  But some people raved about them.  I read the reviews and made a few adjustments based on the bad reviews.
I am not a huge shortbread fan, but these cookies are delicious.  The almond flavor and the white chocolate/cherry combination is really fantastic.  They are buttery and just the right amount of sweet.  My kids, who all are not fans of maraschino cherries, all ate these and were surprised that they liked them so much.  But, I was not surprised.  I don't think my kids have ever met a cookie they didn't like. ;-) One note:  Do no skip the kneading step.  Makes it all a lot easier, and doesn't take but a minute.

 adapted from:

  • 1/2 cup maraschino cherries, drained and finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup cold butter
  • 2 tsp cherry juice
  • 1 pkg ghirardelli white chocolate chips, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 2 teaspoons shortening
  • White nonpareils, sprinkles and/or red edible glitter (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Dice cherries.
 In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in drained cherries and 4 ounces (2/3 cup) of the chopped chocolate (I ran a knife through the white chocolate chips. Stir in almond extract and, if desired, food coloring. Knead mixture until it forms a smooth ball.
Shape dough into 3/4-inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Using the bottom of a drinking glass dipped in sugar, flatten balls to 1-1/2-inch rounds.
Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 13 minutes or until centers are set. Cool for 1 minute on cookie sheet. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.
In a small saucepan, combine remaining 8 ounces white chocolate and the shortening. Cook and stir over low heat until melted. Dip half of each cookie into chocolate, allowing excess to drip off. If desired, roll dipped edge in nonpareils and/or edible glitter. Place cookies on waxed paper until chocolate is set. Makes about 60.

Chocolate Turtle Cookies

These cookies are just so pretty, that I had to make them and didn't much care how they tasted.  But chocolate, pecans and caramel. . .  how can that possibly be bad?  These cookies are just like the title says: turtles.  I doubled the recipe and got 4-5 dozen cookies.  I made them quite small, as I wanted the caramel to be a significant part of the cookie.  I did not need the extra egg white as well.  They are a delightful little cookie that are as tasty as they look!



yield 2-2 1/2 dz.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, separated, plus possibly 1 egg white
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, chopped fine
  • 14 soft caramel candies
  •  2 TBSP heavy cream
  • 3/4-1 cup chocolate chips
  • 2 tsp shortening, add more if needed to make drizzly


Combine flour, cocoa, and salt in a small bowl. With electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg yolk, milk, and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture until just combined. Refrigerate dough until firm, at least 1 hour.
 Adjust oven rack to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat liners.
Whisk egg white(s) in another bowl until frothy. Place pecans in another bowl. One at a time, roll dough into 3/4-inch balls, dip in egg whites, then roll in pecans. Place balls 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Using teaspoon measure or your thumb, make indentation in center of each ball. Chill any remaining dough while cookies are baking.
  Bake until set, 10 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking.
Meanwhile, microwave caramels and cream in bowl, stirring occasionally, until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Once cookies are removed from oven, gently press existing indentations with teaspoon measure, or your fingers. Fill each with 1/2 to 1 teaspoon caramel mixture. I used a spoon and carefully drizzled it in the centers.  Cool 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool completely.  Melt the chips and shortening in the microwave in 30 second increments, mixing after each, until smooth and drizzly.  Drizzle with a whisk or spoon over the cookies.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lentil Soup

I made this soup a few weeks ago and left my husband to take pictures and they made the soup look kinda gross.  But there is no real way to get a good shot, because it is just not pretty. It is such a shame, because this is a delicious soup!
I love soups because they take a little prep and then you can just kinda leave them to stew about and get all delicious.  This soup is pretty simple and I love the heartiness of it.  The secret is to puree a little bit of it, to make it a bit more creamy.   As a soup, I don't think you could get much more nutrient packed or figure friendly.  So, go ahead and get the second bowl, because you are sure to want one!  Bonus:  all done in one pot, so easy clean up!


  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 white potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 32 oz. low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 3 cups water (I just refill the broth container 3/4 of the way w/ water)
  • 1 bag lentils, rinsed and picked over (I used mixed lentils)
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 TBSP Parsely- more if fresh
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • opt. 1/2 tsp each onion powder and garlic powder
For variation- add 1 cup dry pasta and cook until cooked.  Or add some chopped spinach to put it over into the superfood category!


In a large stock pot, add oil and heat over medium high heat.  Add carrots, onion and celery and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Add potatoes and garlic and cook an additional 3-5 minutes, stirring more often to prevent sticking.  Add broth and water and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add lentils, garbanzo beans and tomatoes, reduce heat to med. and cover and let simmer 30-40 minutes.  Take hand blender and puree in pulses about 3-4 times.  Season to taste.  Reduce heat to low to med low and let simmer at least another 10 minutes or until ready to eat.  (I let mine sit another 30 minutes).  Can serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a good sprinkle of Parmesan cheese with some crusty bread.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sophie's Sweet Bread (with Raisins)

This is a bread my grandmother used to make and give to her loved ones around Christmas time.  It was a labor of love for her, in which she started early in the morning and finished late at night.  This bread is very light in the center and is fabulous right out of the oven or toasted with some butter is my favorite way to eat it.  It did not take me all day to make.  It actually only took me 6 hours, and would've taken less, but it wasn't rising because my house was too cold.  I put it near the oven and it started to rise wonderfully.  I love this bread with the raisins, but they can be omitted easily.  She made 6-7 loaves, and I made the recipe for 2 loaves and adapted the directions a bit to be more user friendly.
My Aunt Mary got me this recipe and I am grateful to be able to make it!  A great recipe from Grandma... we miss you Bessie!

from my Grandmother, Thanks Aunt Mary!

  • 1 cup warm water 
  • 1 packet of yeast (2 1/2 tsp)
  • 1/2 TBSP salt
  • 1/4 cup+ 1 TBSP sugar
  • 1/4 cup+1 TBSP canola oil
  • 1/3 cup + 1 TBSP evaporated milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 5-6 cups flour

In a glass measuring cup, place water with 1 TBSP sugar and yeast.  Let sit without mixing for 10 minutes.  If it doesn't foam, get new yeast.  Meanwhile, in a stand mixer with paddle attachment, mix remaining sugar, salt, oil, eggs, egg yolks, and evaporated milk.  Add yeast/water mix and 2 cups of flour.  Mix for a minute on med. high until smooth, scraping dough down the sides.  Add a cup of flour at a time until dough begins to pull away from the sides.   Dough will still be a bit tacky/sticky.  Change to kneading attachment and knead for 5 minutes, adding raisins for last minute if using them. 
Turn down onto floured surface and knead lightly a few more times working a bit more flour in if needed to prevent from sticking.  Grease a bowl and place down in it.  Cover with a towel and put in a warm place to rise until doubled in size (mine took like 3 hours because my house was cool).  Punch down dough and grease 2 bread pans.  Divide dough in half and place dough in each pan and  cover with a towel.  Let rise until rising up over the top in a nice dome shape. 
Bake @ 350 for 40-50 minutes, until golden brown on top.  Remove from oven and rub butter over the tops.  Turn out onto a rack or cutting board to cool and serve warm or toasted with butter.

Chicken Gnocchi Soup (Like Olive Garden's)

I can't really say if this is like Olive Garden's, because I have never had Olive Garden's, but this soup ranks up there with the best I've ever had.  The gnocchi's are like little pillows of heaven and the soup creaminess and the richness of flavor all combined for something I think I could live on for the rest of my life.  I wanted to seriously dive in and swim around it this soup.  And the bread to sop it up...  ugh!. . .almost put me over the edge. 

The other bonus, this soup is SO quick and easy.  A few pointers:  I baked some chicken breasts drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with sea salt and Trader Joe's 21 season salute @ 350 for about 30 minutes, or until cooked through (I used 1 and a half large breasts).  And I used Trader Joe's whole wheat gnocchi which was divine!  I WILL (sorry to yell) be making this again and again.

adapted from

  • 1 cup chicken breasts, baked and diced (you can use a rotisserie chicken)
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 2-3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 can evaporated 2% milk
  • 1 1/2 cups (ish) skim milk
  • 3-4 cups chicken broth (depending how creamy you want it)
  • 1/3 cup cream
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 cup carrots, finely shredded
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup fresh spinach, coarsely chopped (or 1/4 block frozen)
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon parsley
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound potato gnocchi, you can buy this in the gourmet section of many supermarkets

Saute the onion, and celery in the butter and olive oil over medium heat, sprinkle with some salt.  Cook until the onion becomes translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two.  Add the flour and make a roux. Let the butter and flour mixture cook for about a minute before adding evaporated milk and skim not boil, but let heat until thickens, then add carrots and chicken.
Cook gnocchi according to package directions. Once the mixture becomes thick, add the chicken broth. Once the mixture thickens again, add the cooked gnocchi, spinach, and seasoning; simmer until soup is heated through.  Serve topped with lots of Parmesan and with bread.