Sunday, December 4, 2016

Christmas Crispy Treats

If you have ever been a guest in my home, you know I follow the age old Jewish tradition of feeding you. Offering up some of the many chocolates and candies I keep on display and hidden in my pantry is part of the program.  When I ask friends if they would like a piece of candy, the typical response is, “Oh, I don’t eat candy.” I admit it.  No one enjoys a good piece of candy as much as I do. But friends….don’t tell me that I am the only one in America eating the 7.3 million tons of chocolate consumed in the United States each year.  Whether you are a closet candy lover or out, you will love what my niece Elizabeth introduced me to.
Last Christmas, Elizabeth brought her then boyfriend and now fiancé Wade, along with her confection called “Christmas Crack.”  I renamed it Christmas Crispy Treats for obvious reasons, but it really is as addictive as crack. You and your holiday guests just won’t be able to get enough of this stuff.  It was too late in the season to post the recipe on my blog last year, but I kept it close and vowed to share it in plenty of time for my followers to make it for the holidays. 

A few of my other candy favorites posted over the years are Bacon Candy, Sweet and Spicy Chocolate Truffles, Chocolate Salami, Peanut Clusters and White Chocolate Bark.

§     2 pounds white chocolate bark, melted
§     1 16 ounce jar of peanut butter (I used extra crunchy)
§     2 cups salted peanuts
§     4 cups Rice Krispies
§     4 cups mini marshmallows

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, allowing the paper to hang over the sides.  Using a sharp knife, chop the chocolates as finely as possible to help melt the chocolate quickly and evenly. Place the chopped chocolate pieces into a dry, glass or other heat proof bowl.  In a medium size pot, place approximately 1”- 2” of water and bring to a simmer.  Place the bowl over the simmering water.  Don't let the top bowl containing the chopped chocolate pieces touch the water. The steam and the heat from the pot will do all the work. Stir with a spatula until the chocolate is softened.  If the bowl is too hot, hold it with a potholder while stabilizing over the pot.  When the chocolate is nearly melted, remove from heat.

Tip: Melt the chocolate in the microwave at 50 – 70 percent power, stirring with a rubber spatula every 30 seconds until smooth and creamy.  Depending on how finely you chopped the chocolate, this process should take between 1 - 3 minutes total.  
Stir in the entire jar of peanut butter until well mixed. 
Add peanuts and mix. 
Pour in the cereal folding gently the whole time until all combined. Then pour in the mini marshmallows and gently fold in.
Turn the mixture onto the prepared sheet and press flat to form an even layer.  Set aside to cool.
When completely cooled, cut into small pieces and serve.  For a printer friendly copy of this recipe, go to Christmas Crispy Treats. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Pumpkin Risotto with Goat Cheese and Dried Cranberries

I don’t remember pumpkin being as popular as it has become in the past few years.  While I could always count on pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread hitting the grocery store shelves at the sight of the first leaf falling, it wasn’t until the introduction of the iconic Pumpkin Spice Latte at our favorite coffee shop, that I jumped on the bandwagon and began creating what has become my favorite sweet and savory pumpkin recipes. 

I wish I could say that I make Pumpkin Risotto with Goat Cheese and Dried Cranberries because I want to impress my vegetarian and gluten free friends, but the truth is that I am neither vegetarian nor gluten free yet I absolutely love this rich and creamy dish, perfect for an elegant weeknight meal or a vegetarian offering at my Thanksgiving Dinner table.  If you like pumpkin as much as I do, try some of my earlier posts….Pumpkin Soup, Pumpkin Mousse, and Pumpkin Spice Cookies.  

§     4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
§     1 cup canned pumpkin puree
§     4 tablespoons unsalted butter
§     1 shallot, minced
§     1 teaspoon kosher salt
§     1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
§     1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
§     1/2 cup dry white wine
§     1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
§     1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
§     1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
§     1 cup crumbled goat cheese
§     1/2 cup Dried Cranberries
§     1/2 cup slivered almonds (optional)

Although it is simple to make, Risotto does require you to devote 20 minutes of your undivided attention.  When cooking long grain rice, you are discouraged from stirring the rice while cooking because the starches will release and the rice will end up a sticky mess.  With Risotto, you want the starch to release which is what makes the dish creamy.  That is why we use starchy Arborio Rice and continuously stir during the cooking process.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the stock and pumpkin over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to low. Cover and keep warm. 

In a large saucepan, sauté minced shallot in 2 teaspoons butter. Add salt and cook until tender but not brown. 

Add the rice and sauté for one minute, until all of the rice is coated in butter.  Add the white wine and stir continuously until the mixture begins to simmer.

Add 1 cup of the simmering broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes.

Continue cooking the rice adding 1 cup of broth at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of the broth to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender and the mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, half of the parsley, nutmeg and fresh thyme. 

Pour into serving bowl and top with remaining parsley, goat cheese and dried cranberries.  Serve immediately.  For added crunch, sprinkle with slivered almonds (optional) .

For a printer friendly copy of this recipe, go to Pumpkin Risotto with Goat Cheese and Dried Cranberries.  Enjoy! 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Cranberry Soufflé Salad

When someone in a family gets married, the family naturally expands.  We have been very lucky that our nieces and nephews have chosen spouses from families we are happy to invite into ours.  When our niece, Lauren married Neal, his parents, Brian and Kim were welcomed with open arms.  Last Thanksgiving Kim brought Cranberry Soufflé Salad, a congealed Jell-O salad to dinner.  I have to admit, I have never been a fan of Jell-O or congealed salad, but I couldn’t get enough of this dish.  Of course, Kim freely shared the recipe and I chuckled when I saw a photocopy of the original recipe that was included with the Tupperware Jell-O mold she purchased in the 80’s. 

Although I haven’t felt the need to buy a Jell-O mold, that doesn't stop me from making this delicious sweet-tart side that is a welcomed addition at my dinner table.


§     2 1/2 cups orange juice
§     1 – 14 ounce can of whole cranberry sauce
§     1 – 6 ounce package raspberry flavored gelatin
§     1 1/2 cups whipping cream


In a saucepan combine 1 1/4 cups of orange juice, cranberry sauce and gelatin.

Cook and stir over medium heat until the gelatin dissolves.

Remove from heat and stir in the remaining orange juice.

Transfer to a mixing bowl and chill until partially set (consistency of unbeaten egg whites).

In a small mixing bowl beat whipping cream to soft peaks.  Fold into the gelatin mixture.

Fold into the gelatin mixture. 

Pour into individual ramekins or a serving bowl and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours or until set. 

If you are using a Jell-O mold, the directions suggest that you unmold the salad by immersing the mold into warm water for 20 to 30 seconds and invert onto a serving plate.  For a printer friendly copy of this recipe, go to Cranberry Soufflé Salad. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Few things make me happier than when I see canned pumpkin appear on the end cap at my grocery store.  To me that means fall in here.  This is a new recipe so I tested it quite a few times before including it in My Most Requested Recipes.  Over the past month, anyone who entered my home was greeted with a cookie offering in return for an honest review.  What I found interesting was although I stored them in the refrigerator, after sitting on the counter for a few minutes they were as fresh as the day I baked them, and even those who were not pumpkin fans loved these cookies.  Pumpkin Spice Cookies have a soft, cakelike consistency so no one will blame you if you put the frosting in the center, sandwich two and call it Pumpkin Spice Whoopi Pie.

With the holidays fast approaching, there are several recipes I previously posted you may want to add to your fall lineup.  If you typically serve soup at the beginning of a meal or a side to a luncheon salad or sandwich, try the “Pumpkin Soup“ or “Autumn Squash Soup.“  Instead of mashed potatoes or candied yams, try Mashed Sweet Potatoes or better yet Praline Sweet Potatoes which can be made a day in advance.  Actually, the Praline Sweet Potatoes taste better the next day.  Corn is always on my fall menu and Corn Soufflé is one of the most requested.  Although my Corn Muffins  are lightly sweetened, even the diehard southerners who would never eat cornbread with sugar find themselves coming back for another.  Finally, Pumpkin Mousse is a perfect light ending to any heavy fall dinner.


§     1/2 cup softened butter
§     1 cup sugar
§     2 room temperature eggs
§     1 cup of canned pumpkin
§     2 cups all-purpose flour
§     4 teaspoons baking powder
§     1 teaspoon salt
§     3 teaspoons cinnamon
§     1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
§     1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Cream Cheese Frosting

§     1/2 cup softened butter
§     1 –  8 ounce block of cream cheese
§     3 tablespoons vanilla
§     4 cups confectioners’ sugar
§     2 teaspoon cinnamon


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the remaining wet ingredients, eggs and pumpkin.  In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients, flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in 3 stages, combining well in between each addition.  Add the chopped walnuts and mix.

Using a small ice cream scoop for consistently sized cookies, spoon scoopfuls of batter onto a cookie sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes.

For the frosting, beat together the softened cream cheese, softened butter, vanilla and cinnamon.  Slowly add the confectioners’ sugar, one cup at a time, mixing in between each addition. 

When cookies are completely cooled, frost them with the cream cheese frosting.  You can ice each cookie using a knife or spatula.  I find it much quicker to pipe the icing using a pastry bag.

For a printer friendly copy of this recipe, go to Pumpkin Spice Cookies. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Classic Italian Tomato Bruschetta

We plant two tomato plants in our herb garden each summer, knowing we will be able to consume the number of fruits they will produce.  For the past five summers, every other day or so I would pull one or two bright red, vine ripened tomatoes ready to cut up into a salad or slice onto a tomato sandwich.  This year our tomato plants have grown to seven feet tall and each is producing two to three huge, bright red and juicy tomatoes daily. 

At one point, when I was overwhelmed with beautiful, ripe tomatoes, I sliced them onto a cookie sheet…actually it was several cookie sheets….drizzled them with olive oil and salt and baked them in a very hot oven for 30 – 40 minutes.  This created a thick, chunky and very rich paste that I kept in the refrigerator for over a month, scooping out several spoonfuls at a time to add richness to almost every savory dish I made.  When I was down to 1 cup of this mixture, I added it to the large pot of tomato soup I made last weekend and must admit….it was the best batch of soup to date.

Today, I’m making Classic Italian Tomato Bruschetta.  The word bruschetta actually refers to the preparation of the bread….sliced, toasted and seasoned with olive oil and garlic.  It isn’t always topped with tomatoes, but this is my favorite.


§     1 Baguette, cut into 1/2" thick slices
§     2 tablespoons olive oil
§     1 whole clove garlic

Tomato Mixture
     3 – 4 vine ripened, bright red tomatoes
§     1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced
§     2 tablespoons olive oil
§     2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (optional)
§     1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
§     1/2 teaspoon black pepper (optional)
§     6 – 8 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
§     2 tablespoons olive oil


To prepare the baguette, you can place the sliced bread on a broiler pan and lightly char the bread on each side under a hot broiler.  Watch carefully not to burn the bread.

I prefer to grill the bread on top of the stove. 

When lightly browned on both sides, rub each toasted slice with the cut end of a clove of raw garlic and drizzle or brush lightly with olive oil.  Don’t skip the step of rubbing the fresh garlic on the grilled bread.  It is so delicious and makes a big difference in creating the perfect bite.

The quality of this recipe completely depends on the quality of the tomatoes.  Get the ripest, juiciest tomatoes you can find.  If you cannot get tomatoes from a garden or farmers’ market, another option would be to use canned San Marzano Tomatoes from Italy.

Basil is one of those herbs I always have on hand.  During the spring, summer and fall, I have it in my garden.  During the summer when the plants are full, I chiffonade the leaves and freeze them in ice cube trays in chicken stock, olive oil and water.  If you don’t grow basil, when you go to the grocery store you can find it in small plastic bags in the produce department, but if you look around, grocery stores also sell small, fresh basil plants which is close to the same price as the bag but bigger and lasts longer. 

To chiffonade the basil, stack the basil leaves in a neat pile so they are curling upward.  This makes them easier to roll. 

Roll the basil leaves tightly like a cigar.  Using a sharp knife, slice the leaves into thin, evenly sized strips.

Prepare the tomato mixture at least one hour ahead of time so that all of the delicious flavors marry and blend nicely.  Chop the tomatoes, drain lightly and place into a bowl. 

Add minced garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Drizzle with red wine vinegar (optional).  Some people add balsamic vinegar to their bruschetta, however red wine vinegar is traditional and I prefer it because it doesn’t overpower the tomatoes.  Sprinkle with freshly chiffonade basil and toss lightly.

To serve, give the tomato mixture a final stir and then spoon generously over the slices of bread toasts or set it out in a bowl surrounded by bread toasts. 

For a printer friendly copy of this recipe, go to Classic Italian Tomato Bruschetta. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Polenta with Corn and Roasted Tomatoes

I just returned from the Global DMC Partners Connection in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, where I spent a week with friends and colleagues, many of whom are blog followers.  Trish from Las Vegas, a friend and follower, asked me to post a summer this one is for you, Trish.  With the abundance of tomatoes, sweet corn and basil found in stores, gardens and farm stands all summer, this is a dish I make often.

Whether you choose chicken broth for a more savory flavor or milk for that creamy texture, I feel confident this will become one of your go to summer favorites.

§  1 pound tomatoes (I like to use Cherry or Campari tomatoes

§  2 – 3  tablespoons olive oil

§  2 cups water or chicken broth

§  2 ears of fresh corn

§  1/2 cup coarse corn meal or polenta

§  1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

§  1/2 stick softened butter

§  fresh basil leaves

§  kosher salt

If using water, I suggest finishing off the polenta with 1/2 cup of whole milk or half and half to make it creamy.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil.  Slice tomatoes and spread out onto the sheet pan.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.

Roast in hot oven until browned.

Remove the corn off the cob. 

In a medium saucepan, heat chicken broth, 1 teaspoon of salt and corn cobs and bring to a boil.  I add the corn cobs and let the broth sit for a while to extract more corn flavor, but if you are in a rush, you can skip this step.

Over medium heat, slowly whisk in coarse corn meal while stirring constantly.  Cook until the polenta thickens.  This will take about 15 minutes.

Stir in the fresh corn, saving some for garnish.  Add grated Parmesan cheese and butter and remove from heat.

Top polenta with roasted tomatoes, reserved corn and fresh basil and serve immediately.  For a printer friendly copy of this recipe, go to Polenta with Corn and Roasted Tomatoes. Enjoy!

This recipe serves 4 people. You can double the recipe as I have done in the photographs.