Sunday, December 19, 2010

Need to gain a quick 5lbs? I can help!

I'm not gonna lie, I got this next recipe from an ad in a magazine. But it is absolutely my favorite thing. I've made it twice already and I'm going to make it at least one more time before the holidays are over. It's super easy to make. It's also very pretty. If you need to bring an impressive appetizer for a Christmas party, look no further. Without further ado, I present....

Baked Brie Surprise!!!  (I just invented that name, just now)

You will need:
1 box pastry sheets (2 in a box)
1 pint raspberries
some rosemary, chopped
1/3 cup toasted pecans (make sure they are peee-cans, not puh-cans.)
1/4 cup honey
a wheel of brie
1 egg

My apologies for limited pictures...

First, soak the raspberries in about 1/2 cup hot water for a minute or two, until softened. Drain completely and pat dry. *Note: The recipe actually called for cherries. But, I am allergic. So I did raspberries instead. Cherries might actually make a thicker mixture. So you might want to try them. Or blueberries, whatever. It's your life.
Mix with toasted pecans, honey and rosemary.

Lay 1 sheet pastry on lightly floured surface.  Carefully put mixture on center of pastry sheet.

Place brie on top, wrap like a present!

Carefully turn over, seam side down onto greased pan. This way all the goodies are on top when you cut into it. If you REALLY want to impress people, cut some circles from the second pastry sheet and form them into flowers. You could also cut shapes with Christmas cookie cutters.

Brush the outside with egg.

Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes. Let stand for about 30 minutes. Serve with crackers.

This recipe is perfect for experimenting with different fruits and nuts. Our friend Elizabeth made a variation with dried apricots, walnuts, cranberries and honey. You really can't go wrong with a big ol' hunk of cheese.

What are your favorite holiday party foods? Have you guys tried any of the recipes we've posted yet? If so, tell us how they turned out! 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Guest post: Baklava!

Hi friends! To switch things up a bit, I've asked my dear friend Madaline to share with you her family's baklava recipe. And she did! I've had a lesson in making these before. They're easy to make, deeelicious, and pretty too, which is important when bringing homemade treats to a holiday party. So, enjoy!  

Every Christmas my mom does something she doesn't do the rest of the entire year. She bakes. Her specialty is baklava. It is so good, people wait all year for it. It is even getting shipped to some big fans in San Diego. It's made a little differently than traditional Greek baklava, in that it's rolled and sliced instead of just layered. The result is perfect bite-size pieces, much more crisp and buttery than the traditional version. I have always helped my mom make it and I know how easy it is, but for this year's teacher Christmas party, I decided to give it a try on my own. Yes, I did still have to borrow my mom's awesome giant baking pan (that thing would never fit ANYWHERE in my kitchen, including the oven), but I am now confident that I can conquer baklava on my own, once a year.

The amount of ingredients will vary depending on how much you wanna make. 
 Box (or two) of Phyllo dough (the Athens brand is really good) 
1lb salted sweet cream butter 
2 1/2 cups sugar
bunch of cinnamon 
cinnamon sticks 
2 large bags of walnuts (or however much you need) (chopped) 

Preheat your oven to 375 

Put the chopped walnuts in a mixing bowl and add about 1/2 cup of 
sugar, and a bunch of cinnamon. The nuts should look nice and brown 
from the cinnamon (and taste really good).

melt the butter in the microwave, and lay out 2 sheets of phyllo.

with a pastry brush, spread butter all over the surface of the top 
sheet of phyllo.

take a big handful of nuts and sprinkle all over the buttered phyllo.

take another 2 sheets of phyllo and layer it on top of the first. 
Repeat the process with the butter and nuts. 

Make a total of 3 layers (6 sheets), then it's time to roll it up. 
Roll it pretty tight along the long end, and take the roll to a 
cutting board. 

Slice the roll into pieces about an inch thick, and lay in a buttered 
baking pan.

Repeat the process till all your ingredients are gone (or your pan is 

dump the rest of the butter all over the baklava, and bake for 30-45 
minutes, until golden and crispy. 

stir 2 cups sugar with 1 cup water in a small saucepan on med. heat. 
Add cinnamon sticks and a piece of lemon and stir till sugar 
dissolves, about 10 minutes. 

 When baklava is done baking, let cool a little, then pour the syrup 
all over the pan. 

 Let it cool completely, and you're Greek!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

It's the end of the world as we know it...

Yesterday, the mood struck to bake again. Surprise, surprise. I decided to go with what I had on hand instead of trekking to the store. What I found in my pantry was: cranberries, pecans, whole wheat flour, oats and such. It sounded good to me. I tossed it all together and voila, had some delicious tartly muffins.

Here's the recipe I threw together:

1 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. oats
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. brown sugar packed (add more if you want a little sweeter)
1 egg
1 c. yogurt
1 T. oil
1 T. apple sauce (you can just use 2 T. of either oil or apple sauce too)
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. almond extract
1/2 c. pecans
1/2 c to 1 c. fresh cranberries

I baked them at 375 for 20 to 25 minutes and it made 10 to 12 muffins.

So there's an easy, healthy and delicious muffin recipe for you. My friend Marilyn asked if this could be converted to make pancakes and I will be trying it out because it sounds delicious as pancakes too. I'll let you know how it goes.


It made 12 these size. Next time, I would make them larger.

Up close and personal. 

These muffins were baked to the tunes of REM and yes, I was shamelessly dancing in the kitchen. As you always should when you are waiting for things to finish baking. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


We are days away from Christmas people! DAYS. Well, I suppose we are always days away from Christmas but there are usually too many to count to be this excited. 10 to be exact! And just in time here is a post about pies. It's long overdue but who hasn't thought yet this season, "where did the time go?" I have, everyday since a week before Thanksgiving.

I made three kinds of pies for our Thanksgiving dinner. We had so many desserts that with our extra pumpkin pie, we took turns running out to our bus stop to offer to our hard working public transport employees a piece of cheer on their route. I know we appreciate them and all that they put up with on a daily basis. 

The three kinds of pies were: pumpkin, maple-bourbon pumpkin and bourbon pecan.

I'll start with the pumpkin recipe:

Oven at 350

8oz cream cheese (I used reduced fat and yes, no one knew) 
2 cans pumpkin (plain)
1/2 c. dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg +
2 egg yolks slightly beaten
1 c. half and half or heavy cream
1/4 c. (1/2 stick) of butter melted
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. ginger
1 pre-made (deep dish) crust (yes, I said pre-made) 

For maple-bourbon version add:
1 T. Grade B or REAL dark maple syrup
3 T. your favorite bourbon whiskey

This recipe ended up making enough for two pies, (I don't think I got the deep dish pie crusts) so I decided to get creative after pouring the first pie. With the second pie, I added maple and bourbon to it. Because everything is just that much better with maple and/or bourbon. So, to make the maple bourbon version just add 1 T. Maple syrup. And friends, when I say maple syrup, we are NOT talking about your Aunt Jemima. I mean super-awesome grade B, dark maple syrup from Vermont or the like. IT MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE. Sorry for yelling but it's important. Also, don't forget the bourbon. 3 T. of it. Don't go crazy with the bourbon 3 T. is enough. Anymore and you might need a Breathalyzer before leaving the table. 

Thank you grand dad and thank you Vermont.
Bake your pie crust for about ten minutes. Enough for it to dry out and start to get some color. Pour dry beans or pie weights into the pan before cooking so your crust won't puff up and get all wonky. Sometimes I will just prick the bottom and edges with a fork and that usually prevents it from puffing out too. 

For the filling, in a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese with a hand mixer Add pumpkin and beat until combined. Add the sugar and salt, and beat until combined. Add the eggs mixed with the yolks, half-and-half, and melted butter, and beat until combined. Finally, add the vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger, if using, and beat until incorporated. Add maple and bourbon if you so desire as well.
Pour the filling into the warm prepared pie crust and bake for 50 minutes, or until the center is set. Place the pie on a wire rack and cool to room temperature. 
All set, as they say up here. 
A word on a crack-less pie. You know what I mean, a pretty pie makes it more delicious, allegedly. Place your pie on the middle rack in the middle. So as to not be too close to the heat so it doesn't develop unsightly cracks on you. Cracks happen so don't be disappointed if they do, your pie is delicious regardless. 
Now for the peeeecan pie. No, I tend to say puh-con, it's true. I make an effort when it's pie to say peeecan and especially since I want to distinguish myself from all these northerners now. 
Pecan pie is so good and so easy to make. 7 or 8 ingredients really and one bowl. You can't get much better than that. 
Between trader Joe, grand dad and grand ma, we've got things covered!
Here's the recipe for the bourbon pecan pie:
Oven at 350

2 c. pecan halves and pieces
3/4 c. (dark, if you can find it) corn syrup
2 T. molasses (I added this because I couldn't find the dark corn syrup)
1/2 c. dark brown sugar (packed) 
4 T. unsalted butter melted
1 tsp. vanilla
3 large eggs
2 to 3 T. bourbon

Again, I used a pre-made crust. It was just easier for timing. I promise to do a homemade crust and post it too. 

Just mix everything in a bowl, nuts last and then pour into the pie crust. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. The middle will still jiggle slightly. That's ok. (More of us need to hear that right?) ;)


ready to enjoy.

I hope in this crunch time before your holiday festivities and dinners you are all enjoying the little things and feeling the love that this season is truly about. I know I am thankful for each of you!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Hey friends. I'm trying to keep up with this, I swear! But it's hard! Holidays are craziness.

I thought today I would talk about Christmas cookies. Next week, my sisters and I are throwing our 2nd Annual Cousin Christmas Cookie Bake-Off. Basically, we elf ourselves away in the kitchen all day with our little cousins Zach and Amanda, baking about 6 different types of cookies, which we then pack into festive little tins to give to their parents, grandparents, etc. Last year we were pretty ambitious. This year I'm thinking K.I.S.S. Keep it simple, stupid. Great advice, hurts my feelings every time.

white chocolate peppermint bark
gingerbread men
chocolate peanut butter balls
sugar cookie sandwiches

I'll post pictures and recipes from 2ACCCBO, which is next Thursday. And I'll try to give you a few ideas this week for holiday party appetizers. I meant to document our party this past Saturday, but I was working solo on this one and was busssssy. Everything turned out great, though. I did get a few pictures, which I will share.

What about you guys, you've been awfully quiet. Any thoughts?  What are your favorite Christmas treats?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

comfort food with a brain defect

I was very much unprepared for how cold it was outside today. I stepped out in my ballet flats with no socks and coat with no hat, gloves or scarf. Oh, and I wore a silk shirt with a tank top underneath. I looked and felt like a dumb Floridian. So when I walked into the house (actually, on the bus ride home), all I could think was: comfort food. To my delight, we have a ton of cheese left over from Thanksgiving (honestly, our cheese drawer is always full). Macaroni and Cheese! Perfect!

I have my mom's recipe, but I didn't really want to make a huge pan since we had enough trouble polishing off our T-day pan. So I halved the recipe, and also I didn't really follow it at all. Tonight was a prime example of a typical Mandi-in-the-kitchen frenzy. When an adult with ADHD cooks. It went something like this:

boil water
tear up 1/2 of the bread to make breadcrumbs
spend 5 minutes picking out a baking dish
take the milk out of the refrigerator
eat a handful of peanut M&Ms
tear up the rest of the bread for breadcrumbs
put the bread in the oven
play with the cat
add pasta to water
and so on...

Somehow, though, the dinner got made.

Half of the recipe meant about 1 1/2 c milk, 1T melted butter, eh... half a box of pasta and a 1/2 lb of cheese. I didn't feel like figuring out how much cheese equals 1/2 lb, so I just guessed or, "eyeballed" it. You guys, we're adults. Do we really need a recipe to tell us how much cheese goes into our macaroni and cheese? Just keep adding it until it looks cheesy enough for you.

I used Asiago, sharp cheddar and a little Pecorino.

the cheesez 
Pour drained noodles over a tablespoon of butter...

 Mix in the milk...

yes, I am aware that dry ingredients measure differently than wet. I do what I want!

This is two slices of whole grain bread, torn to pieces and baked until dry at 350 degrees.

heh heh

Not nearly enough cheese. I don't want to see noodles.

I decided last minute to mix some of the breadcrumbs into the mixture instead of just adding them on top. It's my prerogative.

There. Now go into the oven and make me proud.

25 minutes later...


food porn!

It's perfect. Just what I needed on this frigid day. Apparently, Alyssanne had the same idea because she searched baked macaroni and cheese on google today. This is why we are hetero life partners. Food ESP.

brought to you by:


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

You too, Tommy!

It's time to play my favorite game! That's right! The "we haven't been to the store in two weeks, now what's for dinner?" game! The answer is b) flatbread pizza. Duh. It's always b.

I went to the store just to buy the flatbread, nothing else. I did this on purpose, because it really is my favorite game. I didn't even have any herbs, which is risky, but I am up for the challenge.

My friend Elizabeth had never seen It's A Wonderful Life (?!), so she came over to string some cranberries and popcorn, rustle up some pizza, and get her Jimmy Stewart on (That wasn't supposed to sound dirty).

caramelized onions

hot Jimmy Dean

fancy pecorino
Pizza No.1: spinach, goat cheese, sliced apples and the most amazing balsamic vinegar evaaaarrrrrr.

Pizza No.2: Onions, sausage, pecorino. A really great combination, really.

Samuel Adams Winter Classics. I went for the Old Fezziwig, Elizabeth had the Holiday Porter. Both are so good.

Especially in a fancy glass.

It's about the aromatics, you see.

Oh, and if you can watch this movie without shedding a single tear, then your heart is probably two sizes too small.

Next time I'm going to give you a couple of holiday party favorites as requested by Jennifer and maybe something sweet from Sanne.

In the meantime, what's your favorite Christmas movie? And, I still really want to hear from you guys about holiday drinks!