The Kitchen Sink

For the love of food, life and everything in between.

Month: December, 2012

Kumquat Coconut Mini Tea Cakes

Pleasures that are in themselves innocent lose their power of pleasing if they become the sole or main object of pursuit.

 William Edward Hartpole Lecky

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There’s something so wonderfully brooding about the winter sky. It is a mixture of grays and blues that I fantasize about. It floats in through window panes casting a perfect muted light on whatever it may fall upon.

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I don’t recall where I was or what I was doing when I developed an awareness of light but it is an awareness I am thankful for. For the vast majority of beauty in life is missed in the every day hustle and bustle and the tick tock of our little worlds.

For Christmas I was given a second pair of eyes. They are not in the form of Ray Ban frames but rather a Nikon D5100. I happily bid farewell to my point-and-shoot and accepted my new identify as a shutterbug.

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I also became the proud owner of a 5 Quart Artisan Kitchen Aid mixer. Life has changed as I know it folks. I invite you to join me as I embark on kitchen adventures like never before. Perhaps you may also spot my new ultra-cute muffin tin as well.

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The text read “I got you kumquats.” I hurried home from work through Friday rush hour with great anticipation to meet a new face. Rather, a new carton of Florida Sunshine, in the form of Kumquats. As the sweet and sour gem of the citrus family, these little suckers come ready to eat, rind and all.  Although most satisfying on their very own, I was just itching to blend them into a fabulous tea cake.

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I invited some of Kumquat’s close relatives to the party as well.

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It was a raging good time.

Kumquat Coconut Mini Tea Cakes

Makes about 16

Adapted from NPR.org and Baking:From my Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

For the batter:

1 cup shredded, sweetened coconut, toasted

2 cups, unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

1 cup canned, unsweetened coconut milk, stirred well

1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

4 large eggs

2 1/4 cup white sugar

1/2 cup de-seeded kumquats, rind included, minced until pulpy

1 TBSP each orange and lemon juice

1 TBSP each orange and lemon zest

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the Icing:

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp each fresh orange juice and lemon juice

1 TBSP milk

1/4 cup shredded, sweetened coconut, toasted

2-3 kumquats, thinly sliced and de-seeded

Preheat oven to 350F with a rack in the center. Coat muffin tins with cooking spray or butter.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl.

Pour the coconut milk and butter into a small sauce pan and heat until melted. Remove from heat but keep warm.

Using a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachement, beat the eggs, sugar, minced kumquat, orange juice, lemon juice, orange zest and lemon zest at medium-low speed for 3 minutes. On low speed, add in the vanilla until combined. Keeping at low speed, spoon in the dry ingredients scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the cup of tasted coconut, mixing until blended then slowly add the milk and butter mixture until combined. Stop mixing and stir a few times with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Meanwhile, using a hand whisk, mix the confectioner’s sugar with lemon and orange juice, adding drops of milk as needed to create a consistency suitable for drizzling.

Once cupcakes are cool enough to be removed form the tin, transfer to a cooling rack placed over a sheet of wax paper. Using a spoon, drizzle the icing over the cakes, then sprinkle with toasted coconut and place a slice of kumquat on top for garnish.

Note about toasting coconut: place the coconut in a dry skillet over medium heat and gently stir until coconut is slightly golden brown about two minutes. Coconut will burn quickly so this step will require close supervision.

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Almond Joy Biscotti

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Some of my favorite gifts to give and receive are homemade ones and
some of my favorite homemade gifts come in the form of food. There’s
an element of creativity and thoughtfullness but also practicality.

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Prior to the holidays, I spent a good deal of time pouring through the
many sugar and butter laden pages of my latest edition of Fine Cooking
Magazine, the cookie edition. Leave it to me to think beyond cookies
and to float off into thoughts of New Year’s resolutions. After all,
Christmas is the season for cookie swaps and “last suppers” only for
January 1st to mark the begining or rather, the restart of the dieting
frenzy that manages to be forgotton come the end of the year by most
who set out with high ambitions. I question that perhaps it’s my profession or maybe narrow-mindedness that has led me to believe one of the most common New Year’s resolutions has to do with food and weight loss. However, I took a quick peak at USA.gov’s list of the most popular resolutions and wouldn’t you know that a third of them had to do with food, weight loss, or diet. I applaud USA.gov for providing a link to the Weight Control Information Network – an information service of the NIDDK.

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This got me thinking about how I could put together some of my own
thoughts about resolutions and food and lifestyle. It’s been said
before but I will say it once more because it is something I believe;
the best form of a diet is one that is attainable, sustainable (for
life), and realistic for the individual. For some, no sweets means no
sweets ever again and this brings them weight loss/maintenance success
and happiness. For others it brings on feelings of guilt at a slip-up
and deprivation which ultimately leads to failure. And for some,
moderation works best. I happen to be part of the moderation mindset.
This is why I am a dietitian who posts many, many recipes involving
sweets. If I am going to indulge, I may as well try to make it the
best experience it can be, delicious and satisfying. Hence my love for
preparing food for others.
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Biscotti is one of those baked goods I have always wished that I
enjoyed. The packaging is elegant, the idea of a cup of good coffee,
good converstaion, and a fancy piece of biscotti sounds fantastic. But
the dry, tooth-breaking abilities of biscotti have always turned me off
to the idea. It was not until Fine Cooking magazine devoted nearly 10
pages to them that I finally decided to bake my own batch. It’s
suprising that it took me this long to go ahead with this idea as I am
usually quick to think “I can make that myself” with an ultimate goal
of upstaging the storemade product.
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The relationship that exists between coconut, almonds, and chocolate
is reminiscent of Almond Joy ice cream, my ultimate summertime treat.
I knew I couldn’t go wrong with the flavors so success was already on
my side. Though slightly sweet and crunchy, but lacking a great deal of
moisture, once dipped in coffee or tea, a piece of this biscotti is
sure to satisfy your tastebuds without making you feel as though you
need to consume the whole batch. They practically advocate moderation
if you ask me.

The recipe for the Biscotti can be found here.

Birch Votives

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“The winter loves me,” he retorted, and then, disliking the whimsical sound of that, he added, “I mean as much as we can say a season can love. What I mean is, I love winter and when you really love something, then it loves you back, in whatever way it has to love.”

John Knowles

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I lied when I said I was done with my Christmas gift preparation. Not intentionally of course. With just two shopping days left, I can be found down in the basement finishing up some homemade presents. This year I’ve found a great deal of inspiration and assistance from good old Mother Nature herself. I came across this idea on another blog site and decided to recreate these Birch Votives for friends & family, and a few for myself too. I’ve decided to share the step-by-step process for anyone who would like to make a set for themselves to keep create a glow in their own home and welcome the official start of winter.

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Begin by finding a few fallen limbs of birch. I certainly wouldn’t advocate cutting anything that hasn’t already fallen. For anyone who lives on the upper half of the Eastern seaboard, Superstorm Sandy provided quite a few fallen limbs to choose from.

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Cut only was you need, leaving only your footprints behind and return home to slice the discs to your desired height.

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For some variety I suggest cutting from different parts on the fallen trunk or branches or cutting from several different ones. Saw into individual disks using a sawsall (reciprocating saw). Once cut to desired length, sand the ends so they are smooth and can stand without wobbling.

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Using a 1 1/2 inch spade bit drill a hole just deep enough so that a tea-light will fit flush with the edge of the disk. Sand the surface once more to clean up any bumps of the surface and brush away any sawdust that was left behind.

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Light & enjoy, that’s all there is to it my friends!

Spiced Eggnog

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It’s full steam ahead as far as the holiday season is concerned. I’m not in a panic for reasons one would think, for my Christmas shopping has been complete for days now. I managed to conveniently spread out my shopping in a way that I was able to enjoy it while simultaneously dodging the crowds, the stress, and the drudgery often associated with this unrelenting task.

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Rather reluctantly though, I realize that no amount of Christmas gifting preparedness can bring the snow to the balmy shores of Connecticut that I currently reside on. The mornings are dense with fog, moths flutter about the front light as though it is July, and I wonder when I will learn to not be bothered by the things I cannot control. I feel as though I am five again, waiting for the white Christmas that rarely comes. I turn the heat down low, turn up the volume dial on the CD player and let Bing Crosby’s voice transport me to the snow covered Vermont hills of a wonderful time, so long ago.

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Even if we cannot have a white Christmas, I can make it feel like Christmas (enter various hand made gifts and holiday crafts here) and I can certainly make it taste like Christmas. For any local readers, you may have caught the front page of the Daybreak section this morning. Incredible, Edible, Eggnog. Bingo.

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Three recipes were provided and a nice little column on the food safety aspect of it all. I took a pinch of  the “Holiday Eggnog” recipe and a bit of guidance from “Chai Eggnog” to successfully craft my very own spiced eggnog. In true dietitian fashion, I used 1% milk instead of whole, and light cream instead of heavy. I assure you, the results are terrific. Cheers my friends!

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Spiced Eggnog

Serves about 4

1 1/2 cups 1% milk

1/2 cup light cream

1 cinnamon stick, smashed using the side of a butter knife

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

5 whole cloves

1/4 tsp ground ginger

2 large pasteurized* eggs

1/4 white sugar

brand or rum for flavoring if desired

grated nutmeg for garnish

Combine the milk, cinnamon, vanilla, cloves, ginger and a generous pinch of salt in a small saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium heat until it beings to simmer. Remove from heat and let stand for 15 minutes.

Strain the mixture through a sieve, discarding the solids. Wipe out the saucepan and return the milk mixture to medium heat. Meanwhile, beat the eggs with the sugar in a medium bowl for 2 minutes. Add the heated milk to the eggs in a stream, whisking gently. Return the egg-milk mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 4 to 6 minutes, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Do not let simmer or the eggs will scramble!

Quickly add the light cream to stop the cooking process and transfer the mixture to a pitcher. Chill for at least 2 hours. Serve in chilled glasses, or over ice, adding a dash of brandy or rum if desired and top with a sprinkle of grated nutmeg.

*Pasteurized eggs are commercially pasteurized using a low heat process that destroys Salmonella while maintaining the appearance and nutritional integrity of the egg. Other options include cooking the eggs, milk to an internal temperature of 160 F and allowing it to cool completely prior to carrying out the rest of the recipe. One last option is to use an egg substitute but I don’t have information for an appropriate amount. You might be thinking…that the addition of alcohol will make the eggnog safe. My advice: don’t count on it.

Smoky Sweet Potato Burgers

An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.

Henry David Thoreau

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I am fortunate because writing has always come easily to me. I write for pleasure, I write to unwind, I write for no one but myself. I don’t write to accomplish anything in particular and I rarely write with purpose, but in the end I always seem to end up with a nice little package of words that I figuratively tie up in some twine and present to you, readers, as my gift. If I thought about who would be reading this or what they might think I would likely abandon the words for fear of rejection or criticism. That is why I write for me and at best, maybe one or two will enjoy it as well.

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Colds are a cruel thing. Stealing energy and wreaking havoc on joints and sinuses alike. Colds creep up like a chill in the morning and knock you down with sneezes and coughs until you’re up to your ears in wadded up tissues, your only defense, that wall of tissues. And with that, a tingling in your nose sends the whole pile reeling and you’re back to square one and a bottle of NyQuil. This past week I’ve been fighting off a very stubborn cold, I say this like it’s unique but I think stubbornness might just be a prerequisite for all colds in the making.

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As an aside, I assure you I wake up every morning, put two feet on the ground and breathe a sigh of relief (be it a congested one as of late) for my health and happiness. One of the most cruel things about my run-in with cold season is my muted sense of smell and therefore taste. This time of year has so many nostalgic and magical scents to offer and at the moment I am missing out. Once I was through the thick of it though, the days where simple tasks were even difficult and bed time came shortly after the sun went down – this time of year thats about five o’clock – I was able to fight back. I had had enough of carrying around multiple beverages for hydration, a box of tissues, and hand sanitizer. I was ready to pack these items to-go, bundle up in knitted goodness and head into the woods. An attempt at ignoring my cold after a few days of letting it take me over felt pretty good.

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And once I felt as though I was truly on the outs with it, I decided to head back to kitchen, with a recipe full of flavor even my muted tastebuds couldn’t ignore.

This burger is certainly not your average beef patty, in fact there isn’t any beef in sight. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good steak now and again, but this was a nice alternative. Full of fiber with additions like beans, whole wheat flour and bread crumbs, and nestled amongst a whole wheat bun this burger can make you feel good about eating it too.

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I never knew what all the hype was about with smoked paprika but this burger will have you adding it to your spice rack if it isn’t already a welcomed guest.

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The recipe can be found here. I modified it slightly, using only have the garlic but otherwise I found this recipe quite satisfying.

Here’s to health & hearty meals!

Honey Granola

Everything you do right now ripples outward and affects everyone. Your posture can shine your heart or transmit anxiety. Your breath can radiate love or muddy the room in depression. Your glance can awaken joy. Your words can inspire freedom. Your every act can open hearts and minds. 

David Deida

Having grown up in Connecticut, the recent tragedy has struck many  notes of sorrow within me. To begin to try and understand how a person could act in such a way is impossible, as the front page of our newspaper read, “unthinkable.” My heart goes out to each and every person and family and child who was a victim to this unthinkable massacre. As one radio station reported, the tentacles of this story reach far and they are wide. Everyone deals with shock and situations such as this in a variety of ways. Sometimes, I don’t want to find the positive in it because I fear it doesn’t exist. I feel uncomfortable discussing it because I am an outsider. I was not there. I do not live in that town. I did not attend that school. I don’t know someone who was killed. But I can learn from it as we all can. I can continue to remind myself that we must find joy even in the most mundane of times, in the smallest acts or gifts or sights and sounds. For we never know when we will not have the opportunity to do so anymore. I can only control my own thoughts, actions, and attitudes.

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On my drive to work yesterday morning I caught glimpse of four shooting stars, and witnessed the most beautiful burning sunrise sprawled over the Fall River skyline. My commute may be long and far, but I wouldn’t dare complain. We could all complain about something or another but for those who choose not to the reward is great. A happier outlook, a friendlier demeanor. The world feels as though it is falling apart at the seams with fiscal cliffs, global warming, and childhoods stolen by a disturbed young man. It’s hard to see the beauty sometimes.

But it does exist. Right now it just might take a little more effort to see it. I will keep all of those families in my thoughts and in my heart but I can’t stop living my own life either. Sometimes food is what makes me happiest and I was most fortunate to receive something comparable to edible liquid gold. Honey from the bee’s of upstate New York. The most rewarding tastes sometimes come from flavors that I have introduced to one another myself. Coconut and toasted almonds, brown sugar, honey and oats. Let me tell you, they’ve really hit it off. 

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Honey Granola

2 cups Old Fashioned Rolled Oats

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup unsweetened flaked coconut

1/3 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp salt

3 TBSP plus 1 tsp vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 325 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl toss oats with cinnamon and salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk honey, oil, brown sugar, and vanilla until combined. Pour the honey mixture over the oats and using your clean hands make fists with the mixture until all the oats are coated in the mixture. Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet, spreading out evenly. 

Bake for 10 minutes and then remove from oven and use a spatula to lift and separate the granola. Bake for 5 more minutes minutes then remove from oven and sprinkle almonds and coconut over mixture. Return to the oven to bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely before packaging.

Roasted Root Vegetables with Meyer Lemon

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 This time of year I tend to get a little restless. Not because I’m not busy enough and not because I haven’t stretched out my limbs in awhile, but because I haven’t stepped outside. Not the kind of stepping that one does to get the mail, or the kind that one does to plug in the Christmas lights, but the kind where you walk through the woods just because you can.

Not because you need the exercise (although that’s a perk), and not because you are traveling towards a destination. The kind of stepping where each foot placement is purposeful and you find yourself with an overwhelming sense of alertness and tranquility for everything around you. Everything that can look like nothing to someone who doesn’t understand.

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I’m not a tree-hugger by any means, and up until yesterday I’d never even made my own granola (ironic I realize). I just know where to find peace and my peace happens to be stepping over moss covered rocks and grounds saturated by leaves and dirt.

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The tail end of fall and at the heels of winter just so happens to be my favorite time for venturing, beneath barren branches. For one thing, the ability to veer off trails proves much easier without so much snagging on thorns and bushes. The deer are easier to spot even if they are still just a blur of white and beige, heard and gone as quickly as they came into sight. And the patches of emerging life in the form of moss and ferns look more like emeralds than anything else.

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The way the ancient roots snarl along the trails like angry limbs serves as inspiration for dinner. Roasted root vegetables. The starring guest – meyer lemons. If you have not been so fortunate as to taste this unique mix of a sweet orange, tart lemon, and a bouquet of flowers, you should drop whatever you are doing and find your way to the nearest produce section. In the dimmest of days these small spheres of sunshine find their way onto grocery store displays. Their rind is thin and their juice is sweet, tart, and floral all rolled into one. They are the perfect accompaniment to sweet and tender carrots, parsnips, and turnips (or rutabagas if you so choose). A bit of rosemary, garlic, cumin, and olive oil brings everything together and provides warmth after an afternoon spent traipsing through the woods.

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Tips for choosing Meyer lemons:

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Look for a deep gold color – a pale yellow color will yield a less sweet fruit.

Use them as you would regular lemons – a versatile addition to most recipes that brings a sweeter, more floral aroma to the table.

Choose those that feel a bit heavy for their size – with a firm but forgiving outer surface.

Roasted Root Vegetables with Meyer Lemon

Serves 4 to 6

1 lb carrots, washed and peeled. Cut crosswise into 3 inch sections and then cut in half lengthwise, about 1/2 inch thick

1 lb parnsips, peeled, trimmed and cut crosswise into 3 inch sections and then cut in half lengthwise, about 1/2 inch thick, cores removed

1 lb medium purple top turnips (2 or 3) or 1 large rutabaga, scrubbed, peeled, trimmed and cut into 3/4 inch thick wedges – turnips or rutabagas will cook slightly faster than parsnips and carrots, hence the larger cut.

1 Meyer lemon, top and bottom removed, cut lengthwise in half and then sliced crosswise into 1/8 inch thick slices, seeds removed.

1/4 cup olive oil

1 TBSP chopped, fresh rosemary

2 tsp minced garlic

1/2 tsp ground cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 F and position a rack in the center of the oven. Line a rimmed baking sheet with heavy duty aluminum  foil.

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and toss to coat vegetables. Spread in an even layer on to the baking sheet and roast, turning vegetables once during baking. Roast for 35-45 minutes, season to taste salt and pepper and serve.

Christmas Cookies

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What exactly would Christmas be if not for cookies? Well for one thing, it probably would mean less people running to the nearest gym come January 2nd. For me, and for many others I am guessing, Christmas cookies are about more than sweetness, flour, and sugar. As they should be. 

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A plate left for Santa, a cookie exchange for friends, a mother-daughter moment in the kitchen. The feeling of home.There is something so personal about cookies, a perfect gift, a small homemade gesture with endless possibilities for decorating and packaging. 

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Iced sugar cookies, though bright and festive, were never really my calling. The icing was too sweet and my frustration with imperfection came too soon. Chocolate chip cookies are tried and true but never seemed like the quint essential holiday cookie. As in previous posts, I have already shared my memories of ginger snaps, a perfect paring to holiday tea.

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It seems as though any cookie can really weave its way into the spread of holiday traditions. This year I decided to continue to experiment with various recipes. Utilizing some of my favorite tricks of the trade.

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Allow for Rest – Allowing the cookies to rest on the baking sheet for a few minutes prior to transferring them to a cooling rack allows the cookies to set. This greatly reduces your chances of crumbling cookies.

Cool the Sheet – By popping the cookie sheets into the freezer for about five minutes in between batches will prevent cookies from spreading (beginning to cook) prior to the sheet going back into the oven. 

Refrigerate the Dough – Depending on the dough – sugar snap, peanut butter and some sugar cookies in particular – will benefit from an hour or so of refrigeration prior to baking. This time allows for the dough to become more uniform and proves easier to handle come scooping time. 

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So far, two reports of successful cookie experimentation include peanut butter cookies which include my favorite peanut butter of all time – Peanut Butter & Co. White Chocolate. This recipe from was adapted from the Joy of Cooking’s master recipe (14 in 1). The other is a delicate, but candy like, Macadamia Lace Cookie, a recipe found in the Cookie Edition of Fine Cooking magazine. The recipe can be found here

Joy of Cooking’s Master Cookie Recipe (14 in 1)

Makes about 3-4 dozen

In a medium bowl, beat on medium speed until very fluffy and well blended:

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar, processed in the food processor for 30 seconds, or superfine sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2/3 cup peanut butter

Tip: spray the measuring cup with non-stick cooking spray to allow for easy removal of the peanut butter

Add and beat until well blended: 1 large egg yolk

Add and beat until well combined: 1 large egg, 2 tsp vanilla

Reduce the speed to low and beat in just until combined: 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour OR 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour & 1 cup whole wheat flour

Divide the dough in half and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour. Preheat oven to 375 F and position a rack in the upper third of the oven. Remove one half of the dough from the refrigerator and scoop dough into 1-tablespoon balls, place the dough balls onto parchment lined baking sheets, space about two inches apart. Using the bottom of a smooth glass, lightly coated in flour, flatten each dough ball and use the tongs of a fork to make a criss-cross pattern. Bake until golden brown about 12 minutes.

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Bruleed Bananas

Autumn brought us burning ambers, oranges, and reds in the form of foliage and sunsets. Winter brings us lively and curious cardinals, stark charcoal colored skies and the shortest day of the year. Sometimes it’s hard to see the beauty in winter when trudging from car to store and work to home, dangers of black ice and frigid slushy puddles act as annoyances and sheer inconvenience. But beyond the grocery store and winter farmer’s market doors lie the fruits of the winter season, which must not be forgotten.

I’ve always enjoyed the idea of fruit for dessert. Especially in the dark and cold winter months when the pink and orange hues of a grapefruit are all one needs to remember that warmer days will come again. And pomegranate seeds shine like rubies once harvested from their flesh, pairing nicely with dark chocolate. I will be the first to admit however, bananas are not one of the fruits that first comes to mind for holiday dessert.

Enter here, the winter edition of Fine Cooking magazine. It was as if Christmas had come early, page after page of the most savory and sweet dishes utilizing the freshest ingredients. I quickly became overwhelmed, I wanted to make every entree and dessert that lined the glossy pages. I chose one of the most intriguing, bruleed bananas. Reminiscent of Banana’s Foster, this recipe evoked memories of dinners at a good friend’s house when his mother would whip up this dessert, border-lining on magical, at a mere moment’s notice. The flavors were rich and warming all at the same time.

This recipe for bruleed bananas, similar to Bananas Foster, sounds complex, and particularly fancy, but in fact, requires little culinary skill and will be sure to amaze your taste buds and dinner guests alike. 

Vanilla Greek yogurt adds a bit of tartness and creaminess, and allows for the sweetness of caramelized brown sugar to take center stage. By taking the extra step to toast the walnuts ahead of time, the layers of flavor in this dessert become complex and restaurant-worthy.

Bruleed Bananas

Serves 2

1 ripe banana, split in half lengthwise

1-2 TBSP dark brown sugar

1-2 TBSP chopped walnuts, lightly toasted

4 oz non fat vanilla Greek yogurt

The toasting of the walnuts can be done ahead of time if needed. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Chop the walnuts and spread evenly on a baking sheet. Cook for about 8 minutes and allow to cool before transferring to an air tight container.

Start by moving an oven rack to the highest position, just beneath the broiler. Turn the broiler on and wrap a broiling pan tightly with aluminum foil. Peel and slice the banana in half lengthwise and place on foil lined pan, cut side up. Sprinkle with dark brown sugar and cook for about 2 minutes or until the sugar is bubbling but not burnt. Remove from oven, transfer to serving plates, add a dollop or two of greek yogurt and sprinkle with toasted walnuts. Serve immediately. 

Cinnamon Buns

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Children love to talk about Christmas. Or maybe it was just my third grade class. But as we sat on the bleachers in the music room anxiously awaiting our turn to share our favorite Christmas tradition it became quite clear, there is something so very special about the morning of Christmas. The day, I realize, means many different things for many different people, and for some people it means absolutely nothing at all. 

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I’m a big supporter of traditions. They can be started at any time, they bring a sense of belonging especially if the tradition is shared with others, and they act as the dots for which to connect a line through years of holidays and gatherings and memories. 

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Traditions can become extinct and fade away over time. Sometimes just the thought of tradition is too painful to bear and other times the tradition feels different when a loved one passes but is carried out in his or her honor. Traditions are dynamic, they can be started at any time and can be implemented or tweaked whenever the individual deems it appropriate or feasible. A milestone like that of a holiday can serve as a reminder to bake up a batch of Grandma’s cookies or have the whole family headed up the muddy hill, saws in hand to harvest the most perfectly unperfect balsam fir tree.

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The term “letting the branches fall” can signify a time to sweep away the fallen needles and construct a wreath with the discarded branches. For others it’s a time to have some spiced eggnog with friends and family. For those who have an artificial tree this terminology may be completely foreign. 

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The tradition of baking cinnamon buns for Christmas morning is not uncommon as I learned that day in the third grade. However, it is uncommon in our household and it’s something I’ve always wanted to partake in. One year I tried waffles, another year pancakes, and some years the tried and true eggs and toast. But nothing has stuck, nothing has made it onto the landscape of our Christmas morning. 

It’s never the wrong time to introduce tradition, but traditions require maintenance otherwise they wouldn’t be so reliable. In preparation for the start of a new tradition, I made up a batch cinnamon buns.

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A cup of whole wheat flour allows for a nutty flavor and a crispy outer texture that preludes the soft and moist interior you except to find in a cinnamon bun.

Cinnamon Buns

Makes 12-18

Adapted from Food.com & Recipe Girl

For the filling you will need:

4 TBSP unsalted butter, room temp

1 TBSP ground cinnamon

1 cup packed brown sugar (dark or light works – or a mix of both)

For the dough you will need:

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup unbleached all purpose flour

3 TBSP unsalted butter, room temp, cut into small cubes

1 tsp salt

1 TBSP baking powder

2 TBSP granulated sugar

3/4 cup skim milk

1 egg, beaten

 For the frosting you will need:

2 ounces cream cheese, room temp

2/3 cup powdered sugar

3 TBSP skim milk – more to thin to a glaze if desired.

 

Preheat oven to 400F. Using butter or cooking spray, grease the muffin tin. Mix all ingredients for the filling in a small bowl, using a for to combine. In a large bowl whisk flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Use a pastry blender (or two knives) to cut the butter into the mixture. Add the egg and milk and mix until combined. 

 

Lightly flour your cleaned work surface and roll the dough into a rectangle, about 1/4 inch thickness. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture on top, leaving a 1/2 inch edge. Roll into a log and cut into slices, size depending on how large or small you want the buns and how many you wish to make.

 

Add a little bit of the cinnamon sugar mixture to the bottom of the tins before placing the buns in for extra goodness. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

 

Prepare the glaze by putting all ingredients in a medium bowl and mixing with a handheld mixer. Additional milk can be used to thin out the glaze. Additional powdered sugar can thicken it to a frosting. Drizzle or spread atop the buns and serve warm.