Tag Archives: cookies

“What do I make for my Cookie Exchange?” (AKA The Big Dessert Post) – 2011 Update

12 Dec

#1 question that is coming up right now:

“What should I make for my cookie exchange?”

(Funny story… I have never been to a cookie exchange. I do love the concept… trading recipes and eating cookies does sound particularly awesome.  Perhaps I shall host one next year!)

In honor of the holidays… here is a selection of options that I have blogged about in the past that are great for a cookie exchange (with some 2011 updates):


Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars/Cups (cups recipe at bottom of post)

Black and White Cookies

“O” Cookies

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cake Balls (they’re almost a cookie)

Homemade Crunchie Bars AKA Chocolate Covered Honeycomb (also not quite a cookie, but I think candy can count for an Exchange)

Chocolate Coffered Toffee with Salt (Candies for Cookies)

 

2011 Update:

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

 

Chestnut Cookies

 

Homemade Salted Caramels (this photo was done in a mold and topped with chocolate)

 

Faux Fudge:

 

Meringue Mini Pies

 

Not into cookies/candies but still need a good dessert?


Peach and Pear Crumble

Key Lime Pie

Pie Variation #1 (Apple, with detailed instructions on making pie crust)

Pie Variation #2 (Cranberry Apple Pie- Prepared Crust)

Berry Belt Cake

 

2011 additions:

Grandma’s Plum Torte

Pumpkin Cheesecake: (and how to water-bathe it)

Drunk ‘N Nutty Pie

Strawberry Shortcake

Confetti Cupcakes with Bailey’s Frosting

 

If anyone does use any of these recipes for an Exchange, just give them this blog URL and ask them to tell all their friends!  K? 🙂

I will continue to add to this post as I post more dessert recipes.  So bookmark it or find it in the “Best of the Best” tab on the title bar.

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White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

13 May

I have a folio filled with recipes from my Grandmother.  I also have my own folder of recipes from over the years.  When I don’t have a recipe on hand, however, my first stop is always AllRecipes.com.  I started using the site years and years ago, before user reviews were the “it” thing, and especially liked the feedback that was left from other bakers/cooks.  A recipe can be great, but sometimes it’s nice to know if it sometimes fails, or if there is too much nutmeg for people’s tastes, or if the cooking time was too much and should be checked on often.  I’ve always thought cooking and baking is better when it’s collaborative.  (I was recently invited to an AllRecipes.com PR event where they showed us some new tools, but more on that at another time.)

When my coworker asked for White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies, I definitely for a moment thought about opening up a package of my favorite Pepperidge Farm Tahoe cookies for fear that I would never be able to bake something that could taste as good as those.  But I like a challenge. I sorted through a number of recipes and decided on the one that had both white and brown sugar.  I also thought about what I liked most about the Pepperidge Farm cookies and, immediately, salt came to mind.  Macadamia nuts almost always come salty, so I had to think about whether I should add more salt or hope that the salt on the nuts was enough.  AllRecipes to the rescue! I read a few reviews that mentioned that it was too salty, so I decided adding more would NOT be a good idea.

But what is a good idea? How about taking pictures while trying to pour flour.  What you can see in this next shot is the camera being totally poofed with flour.  Oh well!

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I chopped up some delicious macadamia nuts while sampling some… for quality control purposes only, of course. (PS- Why are macadamia nuts SO DAMN GOOD?)

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Then the nuts and white chocolate went into the batter.  Quality control came out again, and turns out this batter with the nuts and white chocolate chips was just about perfection.

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Spooned onto the trusty Silpat. (If you do not have a Silpat, you are missing out. I use it for everything from cookies to roasting vegetables to toasting bread)

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Then onto the trusty 3-tier cookie rack they went.  They looked a bit under-baked (recipe said golden brown), but I had already left them in the oven for 5 minutes longer than the time, so I took them out and tried one.  Quality Control says “A+!”

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These were perfectly fluffy with a slight crisp on the outside, and the saltiness of the nuts was great in collaboration with the white chocolate chips.

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I ❤ you AllRecipes.com.

________________________
RECIPE BOX
________________________

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies III
(thank you AllRecipes.com) 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped white chocolate

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla and almond extracts. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; gradually stir into the creamed mixture. Mix in the macadamia nuts and white chocolate. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown.

Chestnut Cookies

7 Feb

As much as I love chestnuts, I don’t have a lot of recipes that contain them.  So when I found myself just snacking on a jar of them, I decided I’d research some cookies and found a recipe by Smitten Kitchen.  As it turns out, she adapted the recipe originally from Epicurious who posted the basis for them as “Mexican Wedding Cakes”.  This actually very much resembled these vanilla kipferl cookies that my great-grandmother used to make, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

I also was a bit ahead since I had chestnuts already in a jar. 

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 I never have luck roasting chestnuts… the ones that aren’t rotten are usually impossible to get out of the shell.   Much easier to buy them already done (even if they are crazy expensive).

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This recipe, luckily, is made for those maddening pieces of chestnuts because the first thing you do is chop them up…

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Then stick them in a food processor to pulverize them. (You can also do this by hand and then mix everything with a hand or stand mixer)

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Into a fine nutty crumb.

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To which you then add soften butter until you have a whipped delicious mound of buttery chestnut paste in your food processor.

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Then you add some freshly grated nutmeg (or the powdered if you don’t have a fresh nut on hand)

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And some powdered sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, salt, and flour.

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Which forms a lovely dough.

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That you then separate in half and wrap in plastic.  You can then put it into the fridge for at least an hour (mine wound up staying there for about half a day).  Why do you have to chill them?  Because otherwise you have a melty buttery mess on your hands… literally.

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Once the dough is chilled, you can remove one  ball of dough at a time and start rolling 2 teaspoon sized balls.

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Then you pop them in the oven for 14-17 minutes.  SmittenKitchen noted that they over-bake easily, so when after the 20 minute mark mine still hadn’t even started to brown… I got nervous.  I left them in for about another 3 minutes before calling it.  I rolled them over to see that they had just barely begun to brown on the bottom.  (And they weren’t too dry, but I could see how they could get there quickly… and my oven seems to always take just a little longer than recipes call for anyway).

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You then let them cool for about 5 minutes, and then toss them in a mixture of cinnamon and powdered sugar to coat them all the way around.

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Then they cool completely on a rack (okay… and you eat a few while they are warm).

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I actually kept hoping that they would get a little better as they cooled.  They were good, but not chestnutty enough for my taste (the sugar seemed to overpower the chestnut flavor) and actually wound up reminding me of Dunkin Donuts powdered sugar munchkins (not in a good way).  I think next time I will up the chestnut ratio and lower the flour ratio.  I also may try to coat them in a mixture of powdered & white sugar with the cinnamon. 

You can check out the original recipe here.

And for anyone keeping track… yes… I am addicted to chestnuts.  I think I shall call this the Winter of Obsessive Chestnut Nomming.

How NOT to make Meringue Cookies

20 Dec

I have been making meringues since before I could walk.  It is the first memory I have with my Grandmother and my first food memory.  She taught me how to peak egg whites into meringues and let me press the button on her Kitchenaid. 

This does not mean, however, that I do not occasionally completely FAIL meringues.

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I had just made an apple pie with shortening and, though I washed all my items, I think there was still too much grease on my hands and some of my utensils and it killed the meringues.

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Meringue pancakes anyone?

This FAIL post is to preview the theme of this week.  All meringues. All the time.  Why? Because what better dessert can you think of for Christmas than a sugary, white, delicious treat that is VERY impressive to make. 

And this week will feature my first video blogs on “how to make a meringue” in 3 parts. 

Happy Meringue Week!

Carbone- For Lunch

8 Nov

I have reviewed Carbone before, however, one of the highlights of working next to your apartment is getting to know the local restaurants even better.  Looking back at my review now, I’m really surprised by how underwhelmed we were there.  When I went for lunch with my coworkers, we had a great experience.  Everything felt very authentic and while not plated all fancy, was just easily delicious.

We started with fresh mozzarella with tomatoes and basil. The mozzarella was unbelievably fresh and delicious!

Everyone basically ordered a classic pasta dish. There was gnocchi..

And rigatoni…

And penne, with chicken.

One coworker got the calzone.

I went with a pappardelle special and it was DELICIOUS!

And we were served some great little cookies at the end.

Every single person raved about this meal.  It was really tasty, reasonably priced for midtown NY Italian, and everyone left completely satisfied.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

Lincoln Ristorante

3 Nov

When browsing for a great place to take Mike for his birthday, I was debating between an old NYC classic or something completely new.  And by completely new, I mean opened less than 2 weeks prior.  I decided to take the risk.

I had heard about Lincoln Ristorante across the foodie blogosphere as it was being opened by Jonathan Benno, the former Per Se chef.

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It is located in an absolutely beautiful location at Lincoln Center in a fully glass walled space with sloping wood ceilings.

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I loved the space.

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The entire kitchen is visible behind a glass wall as you walk into the dining room.

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You can even take a peak around the glass wall (making it more of a decoration and less like a fish bowl).

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It even looks out on the beautiful new Julliard School.

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I was even impressed with the candles which were plain on the outside but revealed a very pretty tree and bird design on the inside.  I want these!

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The bread that came out was 2 different variations of a flat bread that was crispy (and just so so) and some yummy, buttery breadsticks.

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The menu changes regularly, so I’ll give you a glance of the menu for the night we were there.

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I was sad that there wasn’t a tasting menu, but the a la carte options sounded great anyway.

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And we were very torn on what to order.

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But in the end, Mike decided he wanted to try the beef (which I had read explained as “if we are going to put steak on the menu, it had better be the best steak we can find.”)

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We were first served with a chick pea cake with a puree that I recall being delicious, but not delicious enough to commit to memory exactly what it was.

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We started with the foie gras, sweet bread, and rabbit terrine.  It was good, but honestly, this was my least favorite part of the meal. I expected it to be a bit more flavorful.  It tasted earthy, but lacking in depth.

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And then the steak came… it was presented to us beautifully until it was whisked away to be carved.

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And it came back perfectly plated for each of us.  It was probably the softest steak I have ever eaten.  You could probably have cut most of it with a butter knife.  And it had delicious char.  The cipollini onions were so sweet and so delicious.  A perfect pair for the meat.  The greens (which may have been spinach) were forgettable and obviously there just for color.  The marrow, however, was insanely delicious and  buttery.  Mike went so far as to describe it as “the creamiest cream you could ever cream.”  I promised him I would quote him on that and wrote it down.

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We ordered a side of gnocchi and it was the best gnocchi I have ever had.  It was pillowy and buttery and cheesy and everything you could want.

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The dessert menu came and and we opted to also do after-dinner drinks.

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I chose the amaretto, and it was the best damn amaretto I have ever had.  Commit this brand to memory if you like Amaretto:  Luxardo.  As someone who only usually drinks DiSaronno (which is good, don’t get me wrong), this was eye opening.  I will find this again and drink it forever.

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Here is where things get fuzzy.  I have no idea why I took a picture of a fork on a glass of water.  Perhaps I liked the vantage point with the glasses behind?  One can only wonder now.

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The birthday boy ordered the trio of gelati: milk chocolate, caramel, and fior di latte.  They were nice enough to light a candle, write a birthday message, and not sing.  Perfect.

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I chose the Monte Bianco.  The chestnut sorbetto just sounded too good to pass up.  When it came, it looked like a Tartufo.

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And it had a pretty center.  The chestnut was good, but I wanted more chestnut flavor.  I enjoyed it thoroughly, however, and eagerly cleaned my plate and wished I could pick it up and lick it.

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We received a final plate of mini cookies.  I was especially pleased as they served 2 of everything, so as to avoid any uncomfortable “who gets which cookie” scenarios.

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Overall, Lincoln was a fantastic choice and I’m so glad we went.  The food was fantastic and the atmosphere and appearance of the restaurant was some of the best I’ve ever seen.  The service was impeccable and I was especially impressed that they asked about food allergies when I made the reservation and paid close attention to it throughout the meal.  I was impressed with how reasonable the prices were, especially from the chef who came from Per Se (the still-out-of-reach restaurant in NY that I’m dying to try but cannot rationalize spending the $ for).  I highly recommend it for special occasions.  It was definitely in the top 10, if not top 5.

Total Nom Points: 9 out of 10

Culinary Walking Tour of Greenwich Village

20 Mar

For our 6 month anniversary, I gave Mike a gift certificate for us to take a Culinary Walking Tour of Greenwich Village.  Over 9 months later, we finally scheduled a date to go. 

Last Sunday we began our culinary adventure by meeting at Murray’s Cheese Shop on Bleecker Street.  I was excited to start this adventure with cheese, however, that had to wait for later in the day. 

Our guide was a perky wannabe Broadway star with terrible hair and a cute smile.  She talked a bit about the neighborhood, buildings, and history and then we went walking.

Our first tasting was at Famous Joe’s Pizza.  Our guide described it as being back to basics with fresh tomatoes, cheese, and crispy crust.  It was good, but not great.  As she said, very basic.


Our next stop was O & Co, a Meditteranean Food Merchant specializing in gourmet olive oils and balsmic vinegars.  One taste and I knew I had to come back to buy (the 20% discount for people on the Walking Tour that day was also incentive).  The balsamic tasted like candy! 




We talked a lot about the character of the area, the history, and the buildings.  This carriage house is not only huge, but happens to also be where they housed the cast of “The Next Food Network Star” for a season:

One of my favorite stops along the way was Palma.  It’s a more classic version of Meditteranean food that is more Italian/French.  The restaurant itself was charming with a nice patio out back, and I cannot wait to go back to try the fried artichokes that looked and smelled delicious as we passed through.  We were told they had great sangria, but when we stopped in after our tour, we were informed that they didn’t have it at the time.  Shame.  The coolest part about the restaurant, however, is that there is an urban farm house behind it where they host private parties.  We got to peak inside and I couldn’t help but dream of a day when I could set up a party for my friends in a place like that.  It’s not something you find everyday in NYC!



Our next stop was Faicco’s Italian Specialites (formerly Faicco’s Pork Shop… but I guess “pork shop” has less mass appeal).  We tried the risotto balls which were delicious (though not quite as good as the ones from CraftBar).  The place itself had beautiful cases of meat and prepared foods. 



We then walked down the street to Aphrodisia Herb Shoppe, which I think they said has been around since the 60s.  We were greated with the smell of spices and a cat who everyone took a moment to pet… before reading the sign on the other side of the store informing us that petting the cat was not advised.  While there, we tried some tea and I noticed that they had some special “sore throat” tea recipes.  As a fan of the mass market Throat Coat Tea from Traditional Medicinals, I regretted not buying some of this special tea while we were there.


We passed by one of my favorite NYC bars, The Blind Tiger.  We stopped in there afterwards for a drink as well, however, much to our dismay there was a private party going on and it was too packed.

The next tasting was around the middle point in the tour and allowed us 10 minutes to sit down and use the rest rooms.  We went to a modern Italian wine bar called Centro Vinoteca.  This happens to be the restaurant where Leah Cohen (of Top Chef Season 5 fame… the one who made out with Hosea) is chef.  They serve small plates called “piccolini” and quartinos of wine.  I’m not sure what the dish we sampled was called, however, it was a whole grain with squash, mushrooms, and some other delicious things prepared risotto style.  I really enjoyed it.  The menu also looked fantastic (and I want to go back to try the braised veal cheeks with cauliflower puree & artichokes) and this is where we wound up settling on for our post-tour drink.  I saw that they had a honey chestnut gelato on the menu that I just had to try.  It came with dark chocolate and creme de fresh gelato as well and we thoroughly enjoyed it while drinking my wine and Mike had a St. Germaine cocktail.  I enjoyed it so thoroughly, that I forgot to photograph it.


We passed by a really adorable court yard called “Grove Court” while walking around.  It used to be called “Mixed Ale Alley,” however, they changed it during prohibition.  Interestingly, it used to be a sign of wealth to live close to the street, so these beautiful houses pushed back off the road with these court yards were actually where the poor used to live.  I can only imagine how pricey these are now!

Our next stop and tasting was a place I have been wanting to go for a while: Milk & Cookies Bakery.  They specialize in the basics, but you can also select from a list of ingredients and custom create a recipe that they will bake for you (great for people without big kitchens or baking skills).  We tasted a chocolate chip, oats cookie that was still warm from the oven.  It was absolutely delicious.



At this point in the tour, we finally got to return to our original meeting spot: Murray’s Cheese.  We had a sampler of 3 cheeses, a cheese baked good that was delicious, and a hard salami.  All were delicious, and I was thrilled to see they offer a cheese class AND a cheese of the month club.  Their mac and cheese also looked amazing.


Our last stop was Rocco’s, a pastry shop specializing in Italian.  We tasted DELICIOUS canollis and then bought a humantashin to carry on our Purim tradition.  We enjoyed eating the humantashin on our way to the subway. 





All-in-all, an absolutely delicious and fun day!