Category Archives: Desserts

Dinner Menu: Valentine’s Day Dishes

Since Valentine’s Day falls on a Friday this year, I thought it was a good time to repeat my annual holiday menu. I prefer this to going out to a crowded restaurant. Easy to fix, but looks and tastes quite elegant. From 2010:

JeffreyW shoots a cornish game hen, served with broccoli and rice

JeffreyW shoots a cornish game hen, served with broccoli and rice

Every year around this time, one of my local grocers offers Cornish Game Hens in packages where they are cut in half. I decided I needed to do something with this idea, so the Valentine’s menu was born. When they are cut in half, it reduced cooking time enough for the recipe to be workable on a week night. Since Valentine’s falls on a Sunday this year, using whole game hens seems reasonable, too. Longer cooking time, but worth it. In case you’re feeling really ambitious, click here for JeffreyW’s wonderful stuffing recipe.  And if you’re looking for a more elegant dessert for Valentine’s Day try this recipe for Raspberry-Chocolate Cupcakes in Raspberry Sauce.

On the board tonight:

  1. Cornish Game Hens w/Stuffing
  2. Buttered Peas and Carrots
  3. Tossed Salad
  4. Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

Cornish game hen

Cornish Game Hens

  • 2 pkgs. stuffing mix
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • ½ cup boiling water or chicken broth
  • 4 Cornish game hens, cut in half *
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 tsp crushed rosemary
  • 2 tsp sage
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper

9×13 glass baking dish

Add stuffing mix, 2 tbsp melted butter and boiling water to baking dish, stir & spread evenly over bottom of baking dish. Lay hens cut side down over stuffing (it’s a tight fit, but you should be able to get all 8 halves in the 13×9 pan). Melt remaining butter, add spices and mix well. Brush some over hens and continue to baste every 10-15 minutes while baking. Bake at 350 to 375° until internal temperature is 175 ° about 45 minutes. Remove, cover loosely with foil and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.  Serves 4

*Hens will have to thawed completely and you’ll need a sharp knife to cut them in half. You can check with your butcher to see if they’ll cut them for you. If you don’t want to cut them in half, cook them whole and allow 1 hour 10 minutes cooking time.

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

Preheat oven to 375°

  • ¾ cup chunky peanut butter
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1 ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ¾ cup flour
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • 13-16 oz bag Hershey’s Kisses

2 bowls and baking sheet

Combine peanut butter, butter, sugar, milk and vanilla in bowl. Beat with mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add egg, beat until blended. In small bowl, combine flour, salt & soda. Add to creamed mixture at low-speed until just blended (don’t over mix). Scrape sides and bottom and make sure all flour is mixed. Drop by heaping teaspoon full onto baking sheet, unwrap kisses and press 1 into each cookie. Bake for 7-8 minutes. Remove to racks and cool.

Shopping List:

  • 2 pkgs. stuffing mix
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 4 Cornish game hens, cut in half if possible
  • chunky peanut butter
  • 1 ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • 13-16 oz bag Hershey’s Kisses
  • 1 egg
  • 16 oz bag frozen peas and carrots
  • Tossed salad ingredients

Also: rosemary, sage, crushed garlic, salt, pepper, milk, flour, baking soda, chicken broth

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Friday Night Recipe Exchange: Sweet Treats

Coconut Lemon Cake c2011 W4DS

Coconut Lemon Cake

Something about frigid temps makes me crave sweets. So when I was thinking about tonight’s recipes, that is what I was drawn to and lemon themed recipes rose to the top. I suppose because it brings with it a reminder of warmer climates. Which is where I am headed later in the month. Beach weather. I’ll be the pale, wind swept one by the eucalyptus tree.

One of my favorite tangy, sweet desserts is Sour Cream Lemon Poppyseeed Cake, yum, recipe here.

Sliced Lemon Poppy Seed

Since next week bring with it the ultimate date night, I thought it would be a good idea to include some special sweets: Valentine’s Day Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies, recipe here and Valentine’s Chocolates, recipes here.

Which is a good time to let you know there will be no recipe exchange next Friday. Do you have Valentine’s plans? Do you go out or stay home and cook? Or do you ignore it all together? (You should probably make sure your romantic partner is on board with that, if that’s your plan. Right?) And during these cold, cold days, what do you like to cook?

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Let’s not leave JeffreyW out of the mix, he and Mrs. J spent the cold week giving their kitchen a work out and this is one of the recipes that fortified them. Peanut Butter Granola Bars, click here.

And finally, tonight’s featured recipe (pictured at top):

Lemon Coconut Layer Cake

I have a friend who loves coconut cream pie.  I’m not a big fan, so I’ve never made one.  But when I saw a photo of a coconut-lemon cake, I thought she might like it, so I gave it a whirl.  The original cake was 6-layers, I just couldn’t fathom that, so I reduced it to a 4-layer cake.  Layering is easier to do if you use pie pans instead of cake pans.  This eliminates the need to cut each cake in half to achieve thin, even layers.  This cake works best if made the night before.  Refrigerate so the lemon filling stays firm. And shredded coconut covers any number of baking sins.

Coconut Cake:

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups sifted flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 13 oz coconut milk
  • 3 eggs, separated

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 9-inch pie pans

Cream the butter in a mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until very light, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the egg yolks, blending well.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and add to the creamed mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the coconut milk, and beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Add the vanilla and beat to thoroughly combine.

In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff, and then gently fold into the cake batter. Divide evenly and pour into the pans, spreading to the edges. Bake until a toothpick inserted into one of the cakes comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool 15 minutes. Loosen and invert onto racks to cool completely.

Lemon cream filling:

  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Combine the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, water, lemon juice, lemon zest and butter in the top of a double boiler set over, but not touching, boiling water. Cook, stirring, until thick and creamy, about 5 or 6 minutes.  Cool thoroughly before spreading on the cake layers.

Okay, so all the recipes for lemon filling wanted a double-boiler.  I started with one, but after 5 minutes of stirring and not thickening, I changed over to a saucepan and whisked it for 5 minutes while it boiled and thickened and had no issues with it burning or sticking.  High altitude may have been the reason for my original troubles.  Water boils at a lower temperature here, so the double boiler may not have offered enough heat to thicken the sauce.

Butter Cream Frosting:

  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  ¼ cup coconut milk
  • 2 cups shredded coconut

With a mixer, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.

Add vanilla and milk and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.

To assemble: Place first layer on cake plate, bottom side up, spread with a third of the lemon filling, sprinkle with coconut, place next layer, bottom side up, repeat and again with the third layer.  Place fourth layer, top side up.  Frost and garnish with more shredded coconut.

That’s it for this week. On Monday the full dinner menu and shopping list will post and it will be a Valentine’s dinner if you need ideas. Happy Valentine’s Day! – TaMara

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Christmas Music: 12 Pains of Christmas, Bob Rivers

It’s just not Christmas until I hear this song. I’m in the kitchen baking more cookies. Lots of cooking left to do for tomorrow’s dinner. House is clean (-ish) and I’ll have to get some actual office work done tonight, but it’s all falling together.

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Friday Recipe Exchange: Christmas Eve Party

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Once again I am hosting Christmas Eve dinner. I try and keep the menu simple because I have a small kitchen and I like to spend time with my guests. I’m actually doing much of what I did last year, because it worked so well.  The menu will serve as tonight’s recipe exchange.  Thanks to JeffreyW for making lasagna this week so that I had an awesome photo to use tonight.

Christmas Eve Menu:

Appetizers –  Herbed Tomato Crostini (recipe here), vegetable tray

Main Event – Spinach Lasagna (recipe here), Salad, Cheesy Garlic Bread

Dessert - Truffles (featured recipe below), Peanut Butter Cookies (recipe here) and everyone’s favorite, a Sundae Bar

With the exception of the garlic bread, because I’m using gluten free noodles, the entire evening is gluten free and vegetarian. Everyone should be happy.

Dinner is at 6 pm, bring the wine.

That takes care of Christmas Eve, but what about Christmas day? How does this sound:

German Pancakes with Walnut Syrup (both recipes here) for breakfast and a Roast, Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Glazed Carrots for dinner (all those recipes are here and tips for perfect mashed potatoes are here).

How are your holiday plans coming along? Do you have a crowd coming? Share your favorite holiday recipes in the comments, I’d love to see what you prepare.

Now about those truffles. This was the first time I’d made them, though I’d thought about it for a while. How hard could it be? It’s basically ganache, right? That was very simple to make. The pain was making the actual truffles, a bit of work and very messy. But I think it was worth it and I’m sure the guests will enjoy them.

Truffles

Here’s the basic recipe, I then added pieces of walnut to the center of some, hazelnut to others and rolled them in either crushed walnut or hazelnut. The rest are rolled in either dark cocoa and powdered sugar. The powdered sugar kind of melted into them, so I’ll probably dust them quickly right before I serve them.

Chocolate Truffles

  • 1/2 pound good bittersweet chocolate (I use 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate)
  • 1/2 pound good semisweet chocolate
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp Grand Marnier, (optional)
  • 1 tbsp prepared coffee
  • 1/2 tsp good vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar
  • Cocoa powder (I used dark)
  • Nuts, whole and finely chopped (optional)

baking sheet, parchment paper

Heat the cream in a double boiler until it’s hot, not boiling, and then add chocolate chips. Whisk together until fully melted, then remove from heat.  Whisk in the optional Grand Marnier, coffee, and vanilla. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour.

Spoon a dollop of the chocolate mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, until firm. Roll each dollop of chocolate in your hands to roughly make a round ball. Roll in powdered’ sugar, cocoa powder, or both.

Makes about 48.

These will keep refrigerated for weeks, but serve at room temperature.

cropped-flower_poinsettia_d2.jpg

Holiday Cookies: Peanut Butter (Bonus – Gluten Free)

Peanutbutter cookie 6

UPDATED: I changed up a few ingredients when I made the second batch. Changes are in blue. The second batch I also threw some whole peanuts in and omitted the chocolate chips.

Peanut Butter Cookies

(makes 18)

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 egg

baking sheet

Cream ingredients together and drop by spoonful onto a baking sheet. Dip a fork in sugar and press down dough. Bake at 300 degree F for 10-13 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool ON the baking sheet.

I added chocolate chips to a few after I flattened them on the baking sheet. They were good, but it did make the cookie more fragile and they broke apart as I transferred them to the plate.

Friday Recipe Exchange: Holiday Cookies

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Photo of Mrs. J’s great cookies by JeffreyW

A friend asked me if I would like to spend the afternoon baking holiday cookies with her for a charity exchange. I was happy to, the colder it gets, the more I enjoy baking. She asked me if I had any good cookie recipes. I tried not to laugh. I picked out three of my favorites and realized it would be a great idea for this week’s recipe exchange.

My very favorite this time of year are Citrus Drops, because with all the sweets, the buttery tartness is welcome. Click here for the recipe.

Next up are my Fruit Pie Cookies, an idea that came to me when I had leftover pie filling and a mini-muffin tin. They are delicious, pretty, but a bit time consuming to make. Recipe is here.

And the always fun, M & M Cookies, a hit with kids of all ages. Click here.

That just scratches the surface, for all the cookie recipes on the blog (there are 78 of them), you’ll find them here, there are some gluten free options, too.

What’s on the weekend menu? What’s your favorite cookie for the holidays? Do you make cookie trays to give as gifts? Share your favorite recipes in the comments.

Tonight’s featured recipe is one that I loved when I was a kid. My best friend and I would make them when we had sleepovers. Perfect for cold New England days. It took me a while to find the recipe again.  Easy and elegant.

Lace Cookies2b

Looking for another cookie to add to the cookie tray you give as gifts? These are very pretty. You can add chocolate drizzle to really make them look festive (I’d melt semi-sweet or cacao chocolate chips for the drizzle).

Easy to make, pretty to look at.

Coconut Lace Cookies

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup regular oats
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • ½ cup shredded coconut
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 3 tbsp water
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 2 tbsp light corn syrup

baking sheet, bowl

Combine flour, oats, sugar, coconut, & baking soda in bowl, mix well. Add water, butter & syrup and stir well. Drop by teaspoon onto baking sheet. Bake at 325° for 12 minutes until almost set, remove to rack to completely cool. Makes 2 dozen.

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Thanksgiving Files: Mrs. J’s Sweet Potato Pumpkin Pie

I thought I sneak one of JeffreyW’s recipes in the mix, from last Thanksgiving:

Mrs J was set on making pumpkin pies and ran across this recipe that added sweet potatoes and toasted, sugared pecans.  It turned out very well, I think.

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Gluten Free Pumpkin Cake

Pumpkin Cake1

I ordered a DSLR camera today, on a whim. Probably mostly because I was stressed, coffee and sleep deprived. I’ve been looking for one, this was a great price and had good ratings, so I suppose it wasn’t a totally bad decision.

Harley is home and getting better…he’s just not himself yet, so I’m still guarded on his prognosis.

There was no time to put together a recipe exchange today, between work issues and worrying about the cat, but I did have the cake recipe in the back of my head and figured I should post it.

I was staring at a can of pumpkin, thinking I should make another batch of pumpkin bars, when instead it seemed time to try a recipe that had been bouncing around in my head for a while. Taking the basics for the gluten free torte that I’ve made with different flavors (chocolatefruit, clementinechocolate-raspberry) I wondered if pumpkin would work or if the moisture content would be too high to create a good cake.

In the end, it is more like the Clementine cake than the chocolate cakes, moister and denser. But the flavor was excellent and while it won’t replace pumpkin bars for me, if you need gluten free, it’s a nice alternative.

Pumpkin Torte

  • 15 oz can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp of pumpkin spice
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven at 375 degrees. Butter a 10-inch springform baking.

In a blender or with a mixer, beat eggs well. Add sugar, blending until the mixture turns thick and pale yellow. Add pumpkin and melted, cooled butter, blending slowly until combined. Add spices, mixing well and then add the baking powder, mix until just combined. Pour into springform pan, tap pan on the counter to release air bubbles. 

Bake for 40 minutes, turn oven down to 350 degrees, then cover with foil and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.  I always bake on a baking sheet to avoid any spillage. Cool on rack until completely cooled. Serves 12 small portions

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Perfect Apple Crisp Revisited

Apple Crisp1

Sorry I went AWOL for longer than I anticipated. I’ll try to get back to a regular schedule next week. I was swamped with work the moment I stepped off the plane. But it was a great vacation, beautiful weather and good friends, so I’m not complaining.

On my last day there, we went apple picking at a great little farm in Stow, MA. The apples were perfect, as was the day and the company. There was a nice variety of apples. For a while I’ve wanted to try an heirloom Delicious and I was not disappointed, it was sweet/tart and crisp, nothing like the modern ones you find in most places. We came back with 20 lbs of apples –  a nice mix of Macintosh, Cortland and Delicious, and a promise that I would make apple crisp before I left.

I was kind of tired after carrying the big bag all over the fields and not paying attention when I started the apple crisp, guess I was on auto-pilot and began making it the traditional way, completely forgetting how good it is when it is cooked in a cast iron skillet, as in the Perfect Apple Crisp recipe (here). Since there was no cast iron in the house and I’d already put apples, butter and sugar in the baking dish, I decided to try something. I put the apple mixture into a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes and then added the crisp topping and continued to bake for another 10-15 minutes until it was golden brown. This method worked as well as the cast iron method and I think is an option if you do not have a cast iron or oven proof skillet.

It was great; the apples were tender, juicy and sweet and the topping perfectly crisped. That took care of about a pound of apples. I wonder what they’re doing with the other nineteen.  ;-)

Boston AM

ETA: I didn’t take my camera with me, so the photos are from my Samsung Galaxy phone. I think it does a pretty good job.

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Someone Made All the Layers of Earth…with Cake

If only to prove I suck as a blogger and baker, I stumbled across this little baking adventure yesterday. I had to share. I was so impressed. What do you think?

From CakeCrumbs Live Journal:

ccearthcake12_zps55b3a685

A little while ago, my sister approached me with an idea. She’s doing an education degree, and her and her friends had to give a series of lessons on the geological sciences to a class of primary school kids. One of their lessons involved teaching the kids about the structure of the Earth. One of her friends came up with the idea of presenting a model of the Earth made out of cake. So my sister asked me if I could make a spherical cake with all the layers of the Earth inside it.

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To see how she achieved this feat, head over to her page and see her process at CakeCrumbs.

And for more of her amazing designs, wander around her blog for a while. I think this is one of my favorites.  Followed closely by this one. It’s amazing stuff. And if you’re in Melbourne, Australia, she’ll make you a cake to order.  Cool.

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