Three Berry Lovely Hostess Gifts

Chocolate-covered raspberries from Sweet Nothings.

One of the best things about summer is getting together with friends. With less carpools and craziness, it’s nice to hang out and catch up. I love that the day seems longer. Last night, we left a concert in our town’s park about 9pm and it was still light.

Summer invitations mean hostess gifts. Here are three berry-lovely ideas.

I found this adorable strawberry basket filled with chocolate-covered raspberries at Sweet Nothings, a chocolate shop in Summit, NJ. How easy is this to make yourself? All you need is a basket, filler “grass,” and candy or berries. How about making a berry mix? Wrap the mix in plastic wrap and nestle it inside the basket. Tie a bow and off you go!

Hand-thrown berry bowls filled with local berries.

Berry bowls aren’t just pretty, they’re practical since they are small colanders. I made the two ceramic bowls above, but I’ve seen them in several stores. How sweet would it be to give the hostess a berry bowl already filled? Want to make it even sweeter? Bring along whipped cream and (dare-I-say?) chocolate sauce.

Photo of Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries from bettycrocker.com.

I can’t believe I didn’t take a picture the last time I made Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries. Click here for a recipe. Know what’s fun about making these? Finishing up the leftover melted chocolate at home.

Berry-yummy!

Sources: Sweet Nothings  and bettycrocker.com

 

Snickerdoodle Cookies

Snickerdoodle Cookies

Bakers.

Summer Guests.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snickerdoodles Cookies

What’s my go-to indoor activity with kids? Baking, of course! When my friend and her daughters visited recently, this easy recipe was a hit. These Snickerdoodles are cake-y, light, and so yummy, we had to limit ourselves or we could have eaten the whole batch at once!

 Ingredients:

2 3/4 cups (385 grams) all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature (the Joy of Cooking recipe calls for 1 cup butter, but we thought it was too much)

1  1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated white sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Coating:

1/3 cup (66 grams) granulated white sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (190 degrees C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.

3.  With an electric mixer, beat together butter and sugar until smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each egg. Scrape down sides of bowl. Beat in vanilla extract.  Add flour mixture and beat until dough is smooth. If dough is soft, cover and refrigerate until firm enough to roll into balls.

4.  Shape dough into 1-inch (2.54 cm) round balls.

5.  Coating: In a large, shallow bowl, mix together sugar and cinnamon.

6. Roll balls of dough in the cinnamon/sugar mixture and place on prepared being sheets, about 2 inches (5 cm) apart.

7. Then, using the bottom of a glass, gently flatten each cookie to about 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) thick.

8. Bake cookies for approx. 8 – 10 minutes, or until they are light golden brown around the edges. Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool.

Yield: About 6 dozen cookies

Store cookies in an airtight container, at room temperature, for about 10-14 days.

Source: www.joyofbaking.com

 

Herbed Celery-Potato Salad

Small purple and yellow potatoes.

Herbed Celery-Potato Salad

Herbed Celery-Potato Salad

We hosted a Memorial Day bbq and, in addition to needing dessert ideas (the search resulted in Top Ten Patriotic Desserts), I needed a side dish. The Herbed Celery-Potato salad from a Martha Stewart Living magazine was easy and delicious.

Make ahead. Serve with lunch or dinner. Pack a picnic. Hon, it tastes like summer.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds peewee potatoes, scrubbed (I used both yellow and purple potatoes.)

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

5 teaspoons apple-cider vinegar

1 1/2 cups mixed fresh herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley and basil, chopped

2 scallions, chopped

1 stalk celery, finely diced (1/4 cup)

Directions:

1. In a medium saucepan, cover potatoes with 2-inches of cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat and season generously with salt; cook until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, 10-12 minutes. Drain. (Note: the purple potatoes needed less cooking time, so next time, I’ll remove them earlier than the yellow potatoes.)

2. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, halve and transfer to a large bowl.

3.  Add oil, vinegar, herbs, scallions, and celery. Toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

4.  Serve warm, room temperature, or chilled.

Tip: “Make ahead to let the flavors meld, and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If you’re using larger potatoes, boil them longer, and quarter or cut them into one-inch pieces after cooking.”

Serves: 6 (I think it serves more than that, but I guess it depends on how big a serving  people take.)

Source: Martha Stewart Living

 

Top Ten Patriotic Desserts

In preparation for the unofficial start to summer, here are the Top Ten Patriotic Desserts. Click on dessert names under the photos for links to each recipe.

Ever wonder how Memorial Day originated?

HISTORY OF MEMORIAL DAY care of History.com

Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars.

For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, but in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees and declared Memorial Day a federal holiday. The change went into effect in 1971.

Cities and towns across the United States host Memorial Day parades each year, often incorporating military personnel and members of veterans’ organizations. Some of the largest parades take place in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. Americans also observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials. On a less somber note, many people take weekend trips or throw parties and barbecues on the holiday.

Happy Holiday, hon!

Sources: insidebrucrewlife.com, tasteofhome.com, delish.commarthastewart.com, yummyhealthyeasy.com, familycircle.com, thououghlynourishedlife.com, history.com

 

Crispy Potato Cake (Galette De Pomme De Terre)

Crispy Potato Cake (Galette De Pomme De Terre)

Crispy Potato Cake (Galette De Pomme De Terre)

I made this delicious dish a long time ago and wanted to make it again many times, but I couldn’t find the recipe. (I didn’t trust myself to make it from memory). When I finally organized cut-outs from newspapers, chicken-scratched napkins, and a ton of loose recipes, I found it.  Yay!  It takes some patience, but it’s worth it.

Happy cooking, hon.

Layer potatoes in a spiral.

Slowly cook potatoes until well browned.

  Ingredients:

2 pounds (about 3 medium) potatoes, peeled and sliced very thinly

1 Tablespoon olive oil, or as needed

Freshly ground nutmeg

Freshly ground black pepper

1 Tablespoon minced fresh parsley

1 Tablespoon minced garlic

Salt

Fresh thyme leaves for garnish (optional)

Directions:

  1. Pat potatoes dry if very starchy or moist. In a sauté pan large enough to fit potato slices in just two layers, spread 1 tablespoon oil with and sprinkle with nutmeg and pepper to taste. Starting in center, arrange potato slices in a closely overlapping, attractive spiral. When pan is filled, repeat to make second layer.
  2. Place pan over medium heat and cover. Slowly cook potatoes until well browned on underside, about 15 minutes, occasionally shaking pan gently to avoid sticking. Wipe inside of lid as needed to keep it dry.
  3. Press potatoes down with a flat spatula and remove from heat. Place a larger platter over pan and flip it upside down, transferring potatoes to the platter. Check pan to make sure it is clean and has enough oil to keep potatoes from sticking.
  4. Slide galette, raw side down, back into pan, and return to medium heat. Cover and cook until browned, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare a persillade by combining parsley and garlic in a small bowl. To serve, slide galette onto a serving platter, season to taste with salt, and garnish with persillade or thyme.

Yield: 4 servings.

Source: “A Culinary Journey in Gascony” by Kate Hill

 

 

Baked French Toast with Oat Crumble Topping

Baked French Toast with Oat Crumble Topping

Gather ingredients.

Combine custard filling and bread crumbs.

 

 

 

 

Spread diced pears over bread crumb/custard mixture.

Sprinkle topping evenly.

Ready to eat.

Baked French Toast with Oat Crumble Topping

Breakfast in our house is usually a quick bowl of cereal or a smoothie, so when I made this recipe, it was for dinner. And why not? Breakfast for dinner has been a staple in our house ever since the triplets were little. Sometimes, the best meals are served with warm Vermont Maple Syrup.

Happy baking, hon.

Ingredients for the French Toast:

9 cups (455 grams) challah, brioche or other soft bread cut in 1-inch cubes, preferably day old (from a large, 1-pound loaf)

butter, for the baking dish

8 large eggs

1 1/2 cups (355 milliliters) whole milk

1/2 cup (118 milliliters) heavy cream or creme fraiche

1/4 cup (60 milliliters) honey

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

Ingredients for the Topping:

1/2 cup (63 grams) all-purpose flour

1/3 cup (30 grams) rolled oats (or use chopped nuts or sliced almonds)

1/3 cup (67 grams) light brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 cup (114 grams) cold, unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into cubes

1 large or 2 small pears, peeled or unpeeled as desired, cored and diced into 1/4-inch pieces

Ingredients for the Honey-Vanilla Syrup (Optional):

1/2 cup (118 milliliters) honey

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

Directions:

1.  Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Spread bread crumbs out and toast until lightly golden, 7 to 15 minutes. Let cool. (Tip-err on less time since oven is so hot.)

2.  Generously butter a 2-quart casserole or 9 by 13-inch baking dish and fill with bread crumbs.

3.  In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, cream, honey, vanilla, nutmeg, cardamom and salt until smooth. Pour over bread, tossing well. Press down on bread so it forms an even layer that is mostly submerged in custard. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and preferably overnight (or up to 48 hours ahead).

4.  Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

5.  Prepare the topping: In a large bowl, stir together flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. You can also pulse the topping ingredients together in a food processor if you’d rather. (The topping can be prepared up to 48 hours in advance; store covered in the refrigerator until needed.)

6. Spread diced pears, if using, evenly over the top of the bread, then cover with crumble mixture. Bake until golden and firm, 40 to 50 minutes. If you’d like a crunchier crust, broil for the final 1 to 2 minutes. Or leave the topping softer; it’s good both ways.

7. Meanwhile, prepare the syrup, if desired. In a small saucepan, combine honey and 1 to 2 tablespoons water, depending on how thick you want the syrup to be. Using a paring knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add seeds to the pot. Bring to a simmer, then turn off the heat and let the vanilla infuse for at least 10 minutes. (Syrup can be made up to 1 week ahead.) Serve the French toast warm with the honey-vanilla syrup, or maple syrup.

Yield: 12 servings

Source: Melissa Clark for The New York Times

 

 

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

Cinnamon Streusel Coffeecake

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

Gather dry ingredients.

Gather dry ingredients.

Beat butter and sugar

Beat butter and sugar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Add dry ingredients and sour cream a little at a time.

Add dry ingredients and sour cream to wet ingredients a little at a time.

Mix streusel ingredients.

Mix streusel ingredients.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pour half the batter into a bundt pan and cover with half the streusel mixture.

Pour half the batter into a bundt pan and cover with half the streusel mixture.

Cut a slice and enjoy!

Slice and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

I found this recipe in my Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking cookbook. It was so easy to follow, I made it twice in the same day! One coffee cake stayed at home and lots of mini coffee cakes were given out.

Happy baking, hon.

For the Streusel Filling:

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/3 cup (2 1/2 oz/75 g) firmly packed brown sugar

3/4 cup (3 oz/90 g) chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

 For the Batter:

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 oz/390 g) all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup (6 oz/185 g) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/4 cups (10 oz/315 g) granulated sugar

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups (12 oz/375 g) sour cream

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 10-inch (25 cm) tube pan or Bundt pan.

2.  To make the streusel filling, in a small bowl, combine butter, flour, brown sugar, nuts, and cinnamon. Using a pastry blender or fork, mix until crumbly. Set streusel aside.

3.  Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

4.  In a large bowl, with a mixer, beat together butter and granulated sugar on medium-low speed until creamy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir in vanilla. Add dry ingredients in 3 batches alternately with sour cream and mix on low speed just until batter is blended and almost smooth.

5.  Pour half of the batter into prepared pan and smooth surface with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle evenly with half the streusel filling. Cover with remaining batter and sprinkle with remaining streusel.

6. Bake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 40-45 minutes. (Cook less time if you make smaller coffee cakes. The small cakes I made were done in about 25 minutes.) Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out of pan and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

Tip:  For cakes, butter and eggs should be room temperature. They can be taken out about 2 hours before baking. If you cut the butter into small chunks it will warm up faster. To bring eggs to room temp more quickly, place them in a bowl of warm water.

Related Post: Cinnamon Chocolate Coffee Cake

I added mini chocolate chips to the mini coffee cakes because why not?

I added mini chocolate chips to the mini coffee cakes because why not?

Italian Stew with Winter Squash and Chickpeas

Italian Stew with Winter Squash and Chickpeas

Italian Stew with Winter Squash and Chickpeas

Winter puts me in the mood for hearty soups, and this one is practically a meal. Serve it as a soup or over quinoa, brown rice or polenta. Yum.

Happy cooking and stay warm, hon!

ITALIAN STEW with WINTER SQAUSH and CHICKPEAS

3 cups chopped onions

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 Tablespoons olive oil

6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed

1/2 teaspoon ground Coriander

1/2 teaspoon dried Thyme

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 cups water

2 cups diced peeled butternut squash (I substituted yellow squash)

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 cup diced carrots

1/2 cup diced bell peppers (optional)

5 cups chopped kale (see note)

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh basil

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

Directions:

  1. In a soup pot on medium-high heat, cook the onions and salt in the oil, stirring often, until very soft and beginning to caramelize, 12 to 15 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, coriander, thyme, and black pepper and stir for a minute. Stir in the water, squash, chickpeas, tomatoes, carrots, and bell peppers. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. Stir in the kale, cover, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until the greens are tender but still bright green. Stir in the basil and vinegar.

Note: About 1 pound of kale will yield 5 cups sorted (discard yellow or wilted leaves and large center stems), stemmed, and chopped kale.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings or about 8 cups

Puree of Bean and Vegetable Soup

Pureed Bean and Vegetable Soup

Puree of Bean and Vegetable Soup

Lucky me! One of my daughters made this thick and hearty soup and there was enough for me to have seconds…and thirds. She said that despite the many ingredients, it’s easy to make. Simple and delicious soup are perfect for a cold, winter’s day.

Keep warm, hon.

PURÉE of BEAN and VEGETABLE SOUP

Ingredients

1 (15-ounce) can white beans, drained

1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, drained

1 (15-ounce) can peas and carrots, drained

1 (15-ounce) can sweet corn niblets, drained

1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained

2 cups water

1 cup liquid non-dairy creamer

4 Tablespoons olive oil

3 Tablespoons vegetable soup mix or vegetable bouillon

4 frozen crushed garlic cubes or 4 medium garlic cloves

spices to taste (salt, pepper and whatever else you think will add to the flavor)

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and purée until smooth, taking care not to overload the blender. Blend in batches if necessary.
  2. Transfer mixture to a 6-quart stockpot, cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes or until heated through.
  3. Add spices and simmer for a few more minutes.
  4. Serve warm, or refrigerate overnight and serve cold as a bean dip.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Source: Quick and Kosher, Recipes From The Bride who Knew Nothing by Jamie Geller

Healthy, hearty and delicious bean and vegetable soup.

Healthy, hearty and delicious bean and vegetable soup.

 

DIY Chocolate Covered Pretzels

Wrapped and ready to give out.

Wrapped and ready to give out.

Go from this…

img_2057

to this…

img_2074

in four easy steps!

Four-Step Favors

Need a quick and easy idea for favors, goodie bags or stocking stuffers? These sweet-n-salty snacks are so yummy, my family couldn’t wait to eat the duds and broken pieces.

Chocolate Covered Pretzels

Ingredients:

pretzel logs

chocolate discs (click here to see Wilton’s Candy Melts)

sprinkles, cookies to crush and/or sparkly sugar

wax or parchment paper

Prep:

Pour sprinkles into pans with sides. I used several 9″ x 11″ dishes for different sprinkles. Line baking dishes with wax or parchment paper so finished pretzels can dry.

Directions:

  1. Melt chocolate discs in microwave according to package directions. I used several flavors and melted one flavor at a time. (Tip. I microwaved the discs a little less time than recommended and stirred to finish melting the discs. Over doing it in the microwave causes the chocolate to get “sandy” and then it’s not usable.)
  2. Spoon melted chocolate over half a pretzel log.
  3. Immediately either roll the chocolate part in the sprinkles or spoon the sprinkles on top of the chocolate. Rolling is more efficient, but the melted chocolate drips into the sprinkles and makes the sprinkles globby. I ended up spooning decorations on top of chocolate.
  4. Line pretzels up on baking dish to dry. Drizzle melted chocolate over the bare half of the pretzel.

After all the pretzels are decorated, refrigerate them until the chocolate has hardened. Since I made these at night, I refrigerated them overnight (although they’d probably be fine in an hour) and wrapped them the next morning.

Melt chocolate in microwave.

1. Melt chocolate discs in microwave.

Spoon chocolate over half of each pretzel, then spoon sprinkles over melted chocolate.

2. Spoon chocolate over half of each pretzel.  3. Spoon sprinkles over melted chocolate.

 

 

 

 

 

Line pretzel logs on a baking sheet. Crushed cookies and sugar were used as well as sprinkles.

4. Line pretzel logs on a baking sheet. Crushed cookies and sparkly sugar were used as well as sprinkles.

Drizzle melted chocolate over bare half of pretzels.

4 continued. Drizzle melted chocolate over bare half of pretzels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These were such a hit, I’ll definitely be making them again!

Happy Holidays, hon!