Friday, 19 December 2014

Bacon Wrapped Dates

Goat cheese stuffed, bacon wrapped dates!
Hi Everyone. First off, I know i've been out of the loop and on radio silence since last Friday but I promise that I was not abducted by aliens or mythical creatures of yore (how cool would that be though?). The past weekend/week have been a non-stop slew of entertaining, obligations, and a crazy amount of work, all packed in right before I leave for Texas this afternoon. I've been away from my kitchen and re-discovering the instant foods aisle at my local Duane-Reade (cringing as I type this) but luckily, last night's party included real food and one of my absolute favorite party tricks made a surprise appearance.

Not only are these easy to make but there are endless ways to make them, depending on your taste AND they include bacon. What's not to love?

For the two variations discussed here, you will need: pitted Medjool dates, bacon (I prefer thick cut, applewood smoked), and either pecans or honey, depending on your preference.

For pecan stuffed dates:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Stuff half a pecan in each date, inserting in the whole created by the removal of the pit, and wrap in 1 or 1/2 piece of bacon, depending on what kind of bacon-to-date ratio you want. *Note - the bacon will shrink slightly as it cooks, so make sure it has a good overlap. Secure the bacon wraps with a toothpick, going cleanly through the date.

For honey glazed dates:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a basting brush and a bowl of honey, brush each date with a light coating of honey and wrap with 1 or 1/2 piece of bacon. Secure with a toothpick, going cleanly through the date, and see cooking directions below.

For both recipes:

Place the bacon wrapped dates 1/2 inch apart on a cooling rack or dripping pan over a shallow, rimmed pan (I make a shallow lipped pan of aluminum foil, place that on a baking sheet, and put the cooling rack over that). Place in the oven for 15 minutes, checking the dates around the 10 minute mark to make sure that they are cooking fully (may need to be turned) and not sitting in any bacon juice (hence, the need for an elevated cooking surface). After 15 minutes, keep cooking the dates until the bacon is at your preferred level of crispiness for up to another 5 minutes.

Let cool slightly and serve with the toothpicks still in them so people can pick them up.

Ps. I had these stuffed with goat cheese last night and would highly recommend doing that in place of the pecans if you're nut averse.


- 20 pitted Medjool dates (the size of this recipe is completely subjective/based on how many people you are serving but always plan to make double what you need as these will all be eaten in 5 seconds!)
- 1/2 lb bacon (preferably thick cut, applewood smoked)
- 1 c pecans or pecan pieces
- 1 c honey

- toothpicks
- basting brush
- cooling rack or drip pan

Serves 10-20

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Sundried Tomatoes and Baby Bella Mushrooms in a Dijon Beurre Blanc

I've had a tin of sundried tomatoes staring at me from the cupboard for over a month now. I keep meaning to use them, keep forgetting to, and they keep staring back in the most judgmental fashion. I haven't eaten much 'real' food lately due to the holiday rush, so last night, I finally broke down and pulled the tomato tin off the shelf, intent on cooking something instead of reaching for a handful of goldfish and a sugar cookie.

I decided to do a beurre blanc sauce and throw in some baby Portobello mushrooms that needed eating but I generally prefer them marinated in something prior to cooking and I can't stand a cold, coagulated beurre blanc, so that was out. Instead, I whipped up a marinade of dijon mustard, garlic, salt, pepper, dried rosemary, and a bit of water to liquify the mixture a tad. Mixing that with the mushrooms, I set it aside to chill in the fridge for an hour and a half, while I went for a run.

Once back in the kitchen, I put a pot of water on high heat, letting it come to a boil before adding half a package of fettucine. The I pulled the mushrooms out of the fridge, placed them in a pan over medium heat with a tablespoon of butter, and covered to let simmer for 3-4 minutes. Once the mushrooms start to soften, add 6 chopped, sundried tomatoes, another tablespoon of butter, and cover for another 2 minutes. The marinade will start cooking off around the 2 minute mark, which is where you add the sugar, another 2 tablespoons of butter, and 1/2 cup white wine vinegar. Mix and let simmer until the sugar is melted. At this point, you have a lovely Dijon Beurre Blanc sauce and can tweak depending on personal preference (more sugar, more vinegar?). Strain the cooked pasta (it will be done around the same time your sauce is), add to the sauce, and enjoy!


- 1/2 box fettucine
- 15-16 baby Portobello mushrooms
- 4-5 tbsp dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp garlic
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- splash of water
- 4 tbsp butter, unsalted
- 6 sun-dried tomatoes
- 1 tbsp sugar, granulated
- 1/3rd c white wine vinegar

Serves 2

Monday, 8 December 2014

Cranberry Orange and Vanilla Sugar Cookies

Yesterday, I played the game of what's in my pantry that I can turn into a cookie? I use this 'technique' to take stock of my baking supplies, use up any niggling leftovers, and justify not leaving the house for groceries when it's 20 degrees outside.

The ingredients I turned up were: cranberries, dried coconut flakes, and clementines. I figured that those made sense as a cookie, so I did some research and found this recipe, which I think is actually from a butter company (mildly hilarious). I loosely based my cookies off of this and the result was a delightfully light cookie with hints of orange, vanilla, and a tart cranberry bite to offset the sea of rich desserts popular right now.

To start: pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine butter, sugar, orange (or clementine) peel, and vanilla until smooth. Add in the egg, repeat, and set aside.

In a smaller bowl, mix flour, salt, and baking soda. Add this into the larger bowl in stages, mixing it in a little bit at a time. Lastly, add in the dried coconut and cranberries (*I always coat these in a light dusting of flour first to make sure they don't sink in the batter). If you're using an electric mixer, it will cut up the cranberries for you, otherwise chop roughly before adding. Once thoroughly combined, set aside.

Pour some sugar into a large bowl to roll the cookies in. I used a jar of vanilla flavored sugar that I made earlier, in this recipe to give them a lovely, floral finish.

Going back to the dough, roll out 1 inch cookies, coating them in the sugar, and place 1 inch apart on the baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, let cool, and enjoy!


- 3/4th c butter, unsalted
- 1 1/4th c granulated sugar
- 1/2 tbsp grated orange (or clementine) peel
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 c flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/8th tsp salt
- 1 c cranberries
- 1 c dried coconut flakes (if sweetened, use only 1 c sugar and 1 tsp vanilla)
- 3/4th c granulated sugar for coating

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes
Makes 24 cookies

Friday, 5 December 2014

Christmas Cookie Roundup

Every year, my family hosts a holiday party and every year, I get in either the day before or the day of; sometimes even 3 hours late FOR the party (only happened once fortunately). Most years, I also help out with the preparations/baking and while I am getting in the evening before this time, I still have to bake enough to feed a large number of people in under 24 hours.

Before you empathize and panic, i'll admit that this isn't nearly as high stress as it sounds, so long as you have a good set of recipes that are 1) simple and 2) still unique and decadent enough to wow even the most frost-bitten soul. With that in mind, i've rounded up my five favorite recipes of the season, all of which are nearly impossible to mess up and are suited to sate a wide variety of palates. Bon appetite and happy baking!


 These peanut butter blossoms from Saveur are a standby classic for me and while not everyone loves a peanut butter cookie, something I will never understand, the simple addition of a hershey kiss or a dollop of tempered chocolate reinvents them just enough to bridge the gap between 'eeew, peanut butter' and 'oooh chocolate!'

Annie's Eats never lets me down when i'm looking for an inventive take on a classic or a unique taste and presentation that blows everyone away without breaking the bank on ingredients. True to form, these creamy eggnog cookie bars do not disappoint. I know that not everyone loves eggnog, in fact I think you could split a room in half by asking that question but for those of us that do, this is a welcome respite from the overly decadent chocolate truffles, fudges, brownies, and cheesecakes that populate the season. It's like a blondie but with eggnog, which is like already having a perfect 10 on your Olympics figure skating routine and then getting an 11! You get the point now be adventurous and try them!

This breathtakingly beautiful white chocolate peppermint cookie with vanilla salt comes from Food52, another one of my favorite sites for a fun recipe with a slightly more sophisticated edge. Yes, we're all grown ups but does that mean we can't have fun smashing candy canes to bits and putting them in cookies? Of course not.

Ok, so these sugared cranberries aren't technically a dessert or baked good but just THINK of how beautiful they would look resting on the top of a dark chocolate fudge cake, iced in a thick, white buttercream. Alternatively, you can eat them like candy - "natural sour patch kids" as love & olive oil puts it. I've used these in scones and then frozen the leftovers to be defrosted and used in a creamy cheddar cheese dip two weeks later, so don't worry about what you're going to do with them, just try them!


Just looking at this raspberry chocolate bread pudding makes me want to curl up by the fire and sing Christmas carols while eating my weight in chocolate. Two Peas and Their Pod is one of my all time favorite blogs. They have an adorably mixed sense of style and whimsy that lends itself perfectly to surprises like this decadent bread pudding, balanced by bright, fresh raspberries. I'm thinking that this will be on the table Christmas morning in place of my traditional cinnamon rolls and just maybe, the raspberries will save us all from a food coma later in the afternoon.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Drinking Games and Puppy Chow

When my friend asked me if we could play a drinking game based on Love Actually, (on the pretense that I could use it to blog about) I said yes before she could finish the sentence. Of course, any good game needs a killer snack to balance out whatever libation is thematically appropriate.

To accompany the evening's lineup of cab-sauvs (my favorite), I pulled a childhood favorite out of the archives and made a simple but oh so tasty, giant bowl of puppy chow.

You know how much I love simple recipes and this one is more of the same:

Measure out 7 cups of rice chexs in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Melt butter, chocolate chips, and peanut butter together in a pot over medium heat, stirring constantly to avoid the chocolate burning or separating.

One melted, add to the large mixing bowl and gently fold with the chex until they are evenly coated. *The recipe will coat almost all of the cereal you've got but start out with 7 cups and add additional as needed.

Once mixed, set aside and prep a double layer of large ziploc bags with the tops folded back to stay clear of the chocolate-peanut butter goo. Scoop half of the rice chex mix into the double layered bag, top with 2 cups powdered sugar, seal, and shake until the chex are completely coated in the sugar.

Place in a clean serving bowl and repeat with the last half of the mixture.

Now you're done and ready to enjoy a childhood-esque sugar rush!

Ps.This was a great game, great snack, and we're planning to follow up with a Holiday version!


- 1/2 c butter, unsalted
- 1 c chocolate chips (mini-semisweet Gihrardelli will melt faster and be easier to work with)
- 1 c peanut butter (Jif creamy is my go to but any classic PB - no organic or natural - will work)
- 7 c Rice Chex 
- 4 c powdered sugar

- 1 large mixing bowl
- 1 pot
- 2 large Ziploc bags
- 1 soup ladle or large serving spoon

Monday, 1 December 2014

Cream Cheese, White Cheddar, Cranberry Dip

Standing on the subway platform for work this morning, I was struck by just how much I needed the Thanksgiving break as a chance to do absolutely nothing.

I read all of the new recipes for Christmas cookies and am super excited to take part in the season's baking frenzy but first? I needed to sit on the couch all day, watching Star Trek re-runs, eat chocolate-pecan pie for breakfast, and find out what it feels like to not go outside for over 24 hours because my boyfriend was nice enough to take out the dog. 

I plan to start my Christmas baking this weekend but there are leftovers (and LOTS of wine) to be worked through first. The winners and consequentially 'least leftovers available' from this past weekend are: pulled pork, chocolate-pecan pie, and the most surprising dish of Thanksgiving: melted cheesy-cranberry dip.

I've said previously that I am not the biggest fan of cranberries but now I realize that, that only applies to sweet dishes. This savory recipe on the other perfection.

This dish requires 4 things: cranberries, cream cheese, aged white cheddar, and a ramekin (or Italian pottery equivalent as was my case). Once you have those? Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, mix the cream cheese and shredded cheddar, fold in the cranberries, and place in the ramekin to bake. I'm not kidding, it's that easy.

Give the mix 30-40 minutes and take out when it is browned around the edges and starting to bubble. Serve hot with crostini and enjoy!

Lessons learned: always make at least a double batch because this will be gone in 5 minutes.


- 8 oz cream cheese
- 4 oz aged white cheddar, shredded
- 1 c cranberries 

- 1 ramekin