Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Shortbread Pecan Bars

This past Thanksgiving, my brother-in-law wanted to contribute something to the feast. He ended up making these pecan bars, even though he doesn't like pecans. At first I was a little worried about what he was going to create in the kitchen since I've never witnessed his baking skills before. I still wasn't too sure what the outcome would be while he was in the kitchen, but once these came out of the oven I couldn't wait for them to cool down. As he was cutting the bars and discarding the uneven edges, I was there as the trusty scavenger, ready to eat each rejected edge as it was cut off.

These bars were so good that everyone aside from the anti-pecan people (cough, Brian, cough) thought they were great. We had a few leftover the next 2 days and they were still great then. Do not attempt to heat these up, it'll just make the pecans melt apart. I tried to warm one up and realized that it just made a huge (but still delicious) mess. These bars make a great dessert to bring along to someone's house or party since they're pretty durable and won't fall apart/over in the car. If you love pecan pies, but want to try making them in a new way, this bar is the way to go.

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Raspberry Vacherin

If you're looking for a stunning dessert to make for your next dinner party, this one is a winner. It's definitely the most impressive looking dessert that I have under my belt. I had some egg whites in the freezer, and my mom requested a chocolatey dessert, so I began searching for a recipe to combine the two. My mom has a great cookbook filled with all kinds of chocolate dessert recipes. I have read through the book on many occasions, but had never made any of the recipes until now. Although this dessert takes some precision and patience, it is definitely worth your time. I got more compliments on this dessert than any other I have made before. People couldn't believe it was homemade. They might need some convincing to cut into it since it looks so pretty, but once they try it, your guests will be hooked.

I didn't fully read through the recipe before I got to work on the meringues. The one suggestion I have is to bake the meringues in the evening and allow them to cool in your fridge overnight, or make them in the morning. The cooling process took longer than expected and I ended up hogging the oven when other things were in need of baking. Also, do not assemble this more than a couple hours before you serve it. If this desserts sits too long, it will get soggy. I put mine together just before the dinner guests arrived and it was still perfectly crispy when dessert was served. When I snacked on the tiny slice left over the next day, I found that the crunch was gone. This recipe is delicious the way it was written. I left the top of my dessert plain, but you could drizzle some melted chocolate on top if you want.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Mushroom Lasagna

If you want to indulge in a delicious, rich meal, make this lasagna. This is a meal I will only make on occasion since it's full of butter, something I try to use minimally or for baking. It's also a messy meal to make, using 5 big dishes/pots. But once you try your first bite of this, you'll realize it was worth the effort (and calories). This lasagna is the perfect comfort food to make on a cold evening. And trust me, although 3 pound of mushrooms sounds like a lot, you could use even more if you want. They lose lots of volume once you cook them.

When I first made this lasagna I tried to skip a step and use no-boil lasagna noodles. Turns out this was a bad idea. The no boil noodles require more liquid around them in the baking process to soften, which doesn't happen with the b├ęchamel sauce. Put in the extra effort of boiling lasagna noodles and save yourself the let down of slightly crunchy noodles. This lasagna can be made ahead of time and can be frozen if you want. Leftovers on day 2 were just as good as day one.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Holiday Chocolate Drops

When it comes to making holiday desserts, Christmas definitely has better options than Hanukkah. No way am I going to deep-fry jelly doughnuts. Just the thought of a pot of hot oil makes me cringe. Of course there are other cute desserts like sugar cookies in the shapes of dreidels or menoras, but I still think Christmas wins the award for the largest variety of holiday desserts. These cookies are pretty simple and easy, and look very festive with crushed peppermint candies. You can make them a day before you serve them as well, just keep them in an airtight container.

You can really make these cookies any time of the year. I love the festive color combination in this variation, but the options of how to tweak these are seemingly endless. I made these three ways- plain, with a chocolate ganache, and with crushed peppermints. Out of the variations I have tried so far, the peppermint topped chocolate drop is my favorite. If I had hard caramel candies around, I'm sure they would also go great on these. You can also press pecan or walnut halves into the cookies right as they come out of the oven. Click the Baker's Chocolate link below for even more ideas on how to top these cookies.

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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Tuna Tartare with Avocado

I remember being grossed out by anything with the word "tartare" in it when I was younger. I refused believe that raw meat or fish could be good on its own. I loved sushi, but the rice and seaweed covered the raw fish, making it slightly less obvious, and for a long time I stuck to veggie rolls. When I was visiting my mom and dad quite a few years ago, my mom made this as a little happy hour snack and I ended up loving it. I remember not wanting any dinner afterwards since my snack turned into a meal.

I love the addition of avocado in this recipe. It not only adds flavor, but it seems to almost bind the flavors to the tuna. If you like tuna and can find fresh seafood, I definitely recommend this recipe. It's my favorite tuna tartare, even when I compare it to ones I have had at restaurants. Make sure you eat this all the day you make it since it will not stay fresh overnight. Also, serve this with any cracker you enjoy that isn't too flimsy.

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Strawberry Bowle

Bowle is a sparkling wine drink that makes a beautiful beverage for any special occasion. It's sort of like a sparkling wine punch and is served out of a large punch bowl. My mom often makes bowle as a pre Thanksgiving dinner drink, which nobody is ever opposed to. Although it would be ideal to make this in the summer when strawberries are in season, it makes a great festive drink for the holidays or New Year's Eve. The wine I used in this bowle was a Chenin Blanc, but you could also use Riesling or something similar. The amount of sugar you add to the strawberries depends on your preference. If you want a sweet drink add a little more, especially since the strawberries available this time of the year are not very sweet on their own.

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