One of My Favorite Food Blogs-Bakerella

Cupcake Lollipops by Bakerella.

As a Food Professional and Recipe Developer for national food magazines and corporate food clients, you could say I am pretty picky. So when I tell you that one of my all-time favorite food blogs that I absolutely love and look forward to is “Bakerella”, I mean it. Bakerella has a baking blog unlike no other. She enjoys baking and creating sweets for others to enjoy. In 2007 she took a cake decorating class, and since then she has been trying to improve her decorating skills, and oh, does, she have some incredible skills… I love her creativity, photography, style, and I can’t wait to see what she posts next. Check out her blog at http://bakerella.blogspot.com and recipe for Cupcake Pops above.

Cupcake Cake Bites by Bakerella.

Christmas Cookie Winner! Double Chocolate Chip Peppermint Cookies

img_0289

This recipe is so easy, and so fun to make. I saw a similar recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens Magazine, and my daughter, Leigh, begged me to make some. She made the orignal recipe all by herself, and we were all impressed. Since, as a Recipe Developer, I get paid to create recipes for a living, I decided I would try to rival her with this variation. Try them for yourself and let me know what you think. 

 

Super-Duper Chocolate Peppermint Kisses

Prep: 20 minutes

Bake: 8 minutes

Yield: 20 cookies

Ingredients

1 (161/2-ounce) package chocolate chip cookie dough

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 cup chocolate-flavored sprinkles

20 peppermint chocolate kisses, unwrapped (chocolate kisses may be substituted)

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet; set aside. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine cookie dough and cocoa powder. Seal bag; knead with your hands until dough is well mixed. Remove dough from bag.

2. Place chocolate sprinkles in a shallow dish or small bowl. Place milk in a shallow dish or small bowl. Shape dough into 1-inch balls, Dip balls in milk to moisten, then roll balls in chcolate sprinkles to coat. Place balls 2-inches apart on prepared cookie sheet.

3. Bake in a preheated oven about 8 minutes or until edges are firm. Immediately press a peppermint kiss into the center of each cookie. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool. 

To store: Place cookies between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Homemade Holiday Gifts-White and Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bark

img_0805

Every year, peppermint bark is a holiday hit! My friend and neighbor, Kathy, said she was searching for a wonderful peppermint bark recipe, and since one of my favorite parts of being a Food Consultant for magazines and Food companies is recipe development, I made it my mission to help Kathy out. This recipe is simple to prepare and tastes great. I crushed my candy canes in the food processor to save time and went a little overboard, so I ended up with peppermint snow (as my kids called it-and that’s just how they liked it, by the way). Feel free to chop them more or less, depending how you like it. I used Nestle white and semisweet morsels, but I recommend using a quality chocolate such as ghiradelli (you can also use dark chocolate, if you prefer). Be sure to refrigerate the bark and keep it stored in the refrigerator for optimal results. It will keep for up to 1 month.


Peppermint Bark

Prep: 5 minutes

Cook: 4 minutes

Yield: 2 pounds

Ingredients

1 (8-ounce) package candy cane

1 (12-ounce) package semisweet morsels or baking dark chocolate

1 teaspoon peppermint extract

Cooking spray

1 (12-ounce) package white chocolate morsels or baking white chocolate

Preparation

1. Place candy canes in a food processor and process until crushed or in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin.

2. Melt semisweet chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl 1 to 2 minutes on HIGH until melted, stirring once. Add peppermint extract, stirring well. Spread evenly on a large 12-x 16-inch baking sheet covered with parchment paper; spray with cooking spray. Place chocolate mixture in refrigerator for up to one hour to set.

3. Melt white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl 1 to 2 minutes on HIGH until melted, stirring once. Spread over semisweet chocolate and top evenly with crushed candy canes. Refrigerate 1 more hour or until set. Break into pieces and give as gifts.

The Top Ten Ways to Be a Food Consultant/Recipe Developer and Still Stay Trim and Fit

img_05371

Being a Food consultant and Recipe Developer is my profession (thank goodness), but there is no end in sight to shopping in the grocery store, being in the kitchen, tasting everything and being constantly surrounded by food, desserts and more food. Food clients react strange at first when they meet me, and most of my friends don’t really think I actually eat anything I cook. Honestly, I do try everything no matter how good or bad (and most things more than once). I have to since this is my job. My friend and running partner, Jennifer always asks me, “How is it that you can be around food all the time and still remain thin”, so I thought I’d offer up my top 10 ways (that seem to work for me) since holiday season is upon us.


The Top 10 Ways to Stay Trim and Fit:

1. Work out at least 45 minutes of cardio a day and for me, 6 times a week. (I know this is a stretch for some, but you’re not in the kitchen like I am.)

2. Try a hot yoga class-you’ll sweat it out!

3. Try wheatgrass-awesome detox

4. Eat often, but eat small meals

5. Indulge in almond butter instead of dessert

6. Work out with weights

7. When you’re cooking many different things, eat small bites…just try everything and don’t deprive yourself

8. Don’t own a scale

9. Eat Fage Greek strained yogurt for breakfast and/or a snack. It’s high in protein, low carb and fills you up. (I stir in fresh fruit, honey and cereal in mine.) 

10. If you cook enough and all the time like I do, you just won’t be that hungry anymore.

Homemade Christmas Gifts-White Chocolate, Pistachio and Cherry Bark

img_08181

Everyone loves white chocolate bark during the holidays, but this version has a twist with pistachios and dried cherries which gives it a sweet and salty taste with a crunch. This recipe is so easy and takes no time at all. Be sure to purchase already shelled pistachio nuts in the nut section of your local grocery store. You may also substitute sliced almonds for the pistachios and dried cranberries for the cherries (sometimes dried cherries are hard to find). If you give these as gifts, make sure you put a note on the gift tag to keep the bark refrigerated until ready to enjoy, but up to one month for best flavor.


Dried Cherry and Pistachio Bark

Feel free to double or triple this recipe.

Prep: 5 minutes

Cook: 1 minute

Yield: 11/2 pound

Ingredients

1 (12-ounce) package white chocolate morsels or any white chocolate

1 cup pistachio nuts, shells removed and toasted

1 cup dried cherries or cranberries

Preparation

1. Place white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl, covered with wax paper on HIGH 1 to 2 minutes or until melted, stirring once. Add pistachios and cherries, stirring well. Spread on large baking sheet covered with parchment paper.

2. Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm. Break bark into pieces. Store in a tightly sealed container in refrigerator up to 1 month. Pack in decorative boxes or tins lined with wax tissue paper or colored cellophane for gift giving.

Easiest Christmas Cookies Ever-Gingerbread Cookies

img_0597

These are the easiest gingerbread cookies ever. My daugther, Leigh, and son, Zachary made these all on their own. We used the Pillsbury slice and bake gingerbread cookie dough (found in your refrigerator section of your local grocery store), and everyone thought they were made from scratch. Purchase colored sprinkles, icing or decorator crystals for your kids to decorate, and they will have a blast.

img_0593

img_0594

What to Serve with Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner-Prosecco and Pinot Noir

img_0601

So many friends have called in the past few days and asked me, “What are you serving with Thanksgiving dinner?” I suggest serving Prosecco and Pinot Noir since holiday meals feature a diversity of flavors. There is no single wine modeled for a certain dish. The joy comes from trying new possibilities. Prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine. It’s not expensive, and it’s clean, crisp and easy to drink. Pinot is the perfect table wine for the holiday season because of its low tannins, good acidity, and fruit-forward flavors. Cheers and happy holidays!

Thanksgiving Appetizer-Brie with Cranberries and Walnuts

img_05781

With only hours left until Thanksgiving, I know everyone is busy trying to complete last minute tasks. To start Thanksgiving off right, I thought I would present one of the easiest appetizers that my family loves. The combination of caramel, walnuts, cranberries and golden raisins adds the perfect sweet, crunch and warm taste of fall. You can prepare this right before the guests arrive as it just takes minutes to prepare with absolutely no mess or cleanup. This appetizer is also a great idea for Christmas, New Years or anytime you entertain. Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Autumn Brie

Prep: 5 minutes

Cook: 7 minutes

Yield: 10 servings

Ingredients

1 (1/2 pound) Brie wedge

1/4 cup caramel Dip (I used T. Marzetti Caramel Dip)

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

3 tablespoons dried cranberries

2 tablespoons golden raisins

Gingersnaps or crackers

Preparation

1. Cut off top part of Brie; spread with caramel dip. Sprinkle walnuts, cranberries and raisins over top. 

2. Bake at 300F for 6 to 10 minutes or until Brie is just slightly warmed and starting to melt. Serve with gingersnaps or crackers.

Southern Thanksgiving Dessert-Pralines and Praline Bundt Cake

img_04271

img_0430

img_0426

I was working in New Orleans last week, and one of my closest food friends took me into a fabulous classic New Orleans candy shop where they were making Pralines, Fudge and other homemade confections. It’s “Southern Candy Makers“, and next time you head to New Orleans, put this stop on the top of your list. It inspired me to try a new recipe with pralines for Thanksgiving. It’s really simple to prepare and my kids loved it for breakfast, a snack, dessert and especially for Thanksgiving.

img_04912

Praline Bundt Cake

Prep: 25 minutes

Cook: 1 hour

Cool: 1 hour

Yield: 12 servings

Ingredients

1  cup  chopped pecans

1  cup  butter, softened

1  (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened

1  (16-oz.) package dark brown sugar

4  large eggs

2 1/2  cups  all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon  baking powder

1/2  teaspoon  baking soda

1/4  teaspoon  salt

1  (8-oz.) container sour cream

2  teaspoons  vanilla extract

Praline Icing

Preparation

1. Arrange 1 cup pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 5 to 7 minutes or until toasted. Cool on a wire rack 15 minutes or until completely cool. Reduce oven temperature to 325°.

2. Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add brown sugar, beating until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

3. Sift together 2 1/2 cups flour and next 3 ingredients. Add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat batter at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in toasted pecans and vanilla. Spoon batter into a greased and floured 12-cup Bundt pan.

4. Bake at 325° for 55 minutes to 1 hour or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack, and let cool 30 minutes or until completely cool.

5. Prepare Praline Icing, and spoon immediately over cake. Sprinkle top of cake with Sugared Pecans.

Praline Icing

Ingredients

1  cup  firmly packed light brown sugar

1/2  cup  butter

1/4  cup  milk

1  cup  powdered sugar, sifted

1  teaspoon  vanilla extract

Preparation

1. Bring first 3 ingredients to a boil in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly; boil 1 minute. Remove from heat; whisk in powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth. Stir gently 3 to 5 minutes or until mixture begins to cool and thickens slightly. Use immediately.

Southern Candy Makers has two locations on Decatur Street. See http://southerncandymakers.com

Recipe adapted from Southern Living Magazine see http://southernliving.com

Easy Chocolate Lava Cakes for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years

img_0568

I have always wanted to learn how to make Chocolate Lava (molten) Cakes, as it is one of my favorite desserts. I have been searching for a way to prepare these without a lot of effort, and I finally hit the jackpot with this recipe. These are simple to prepare, and you can even make the chocolate mixture at least 12 hours ahead of time. Pour the mixture into ramekins, cover and refrigerate. Be sure to bring to room temperature 30 minutes before baking. I also had a couple of baked and prepared ones left over, and I left them in the ramekins and reheated them in the microwave for 15 seconds, and they worked great! Try them on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years or just for a weeknight or weekend surprise. Serve with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or just with confectioners sugar.

 

Easy Chocolate Lava Cakes

Dark chocolate may be substituted for semisweet in this recipe.

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 15 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

4 ounces semisweet baking chocolate (I used Ghirardelli)

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup confectioners sugar

2 eggs

1 egg yolk

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 425F. Lightly grease 4 (8-ounce) ramekins (custard cups or souffle dishes). Place on a baking sheet.

2. MIcrowave chocolate and butter in a large microwaveable bowl on High 30 seconds or until butter is melted. Whisk until chocolate is completely melted. Whisk in vanilla and confectioners sugar until well blended. Whisk in eggs and yolk. Stir in flour and pour batter evenly into prepared custard cups.

2. Bake 13 minutes or until sides are firm but centers are soft. Let stand 1 minute. Carefully loosen edges with a knife. Invert cakes onto serving plates and sift powdered sugar over the top. Serve immediately.