Tag Archives: Holidays

Onion Cheddar Beer Bread

One of the hardest parts about moving halfway across the country is making new friends in a strange city. Luckily, the Internet makes it relatively easy to find social groups, volunteer organizations, and more. Within a few weeks of moving to Austin, I started exploring the Austin MeetUp website, where I found several local women’s social groups that appeared to be filled with people I could definitely get along with. Through events these groups have sponsored, I’ve been able to explore Austin while meeting lots of funny, smart, and awesome people who have the potential to become a great group of friends.

Onion Cheddar Bread - cookie swap table

Setting the table before the guests arrive.

I’ve begun to enjoy the people in one group in particular over the past few weeks and wanted to give back by hosting my own MeetUp event for ladies in the group. I decided to host a small Christmas cookie swap for those who were interested as a chance to hang out while also getting a fun collection of holiday treats to enjoy over the coming weeks. As the host, I wanted to make sure I had some salty snacks to compliment the sweets we’d be sampling as well as a little mulled wine for everyone. With so much already on my to do list, I needed make a swap treat that had minimal steps and took little time to bake. Spending hours preparing baking sheet after sheet of cookies seemed like too daunting a task when the floor still needed to be mopped.

Onion Cheddar Bread - finished onion cheese bread

The clear choice for my dilemma was mini-loaves of quick bread. With 3 loaves of bread baked per recipe batch, it would be easy to quadruple the recipe and make the required 12 loaves of bread for the ladies to take home aftewards. I even had 12 cardboard mini loaf pans in the closet waiting to be used! It was fate. A few test runs later, I perfected this super easy, 9-ingredient, savory quick bread. It is perfect with a little butter  or cream cheese served on the side of a smooth tomato soup.

Onion Cheddar Beer Bread
(1) 9-inch loaf bread or (3) mini 4-inch loaves

1 large yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 ounces white cheddar cheese
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
12 ounce bottle nut brown ale or porter

1)     Preheat oven to 375ºF. Grease and flour a 9-inch loaf pan or 3 mini 4-inch loaf pans.

2)     Add olive oil to large heavy bottomed skillet over low-medium heat. Add diced onion and cook slowly to caramelize. While the onion is cooking, shred or roughly chop the cheddar cheese. When the onion has just begun to caramelize, about 10 minutes, remove from heat and let cool so that it doesn’t melt the cheese.

Onion Cheddar Bread - cook the onions

3)     Whisk together flours, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Stir in onions and cheddar until evenly distributed.

Onion Cheddar Bread - whisk dry ingredients

Onion Cheddar Bread - add chredded cheese

Onion Cheddar Bread - stir in onions

4)     Slowly add beer, stirring to fully combine. The final batter will be thick and you will need to spoon it into baking dish. Bake for 50 minutes for a large loaf or 30 minutes for smaller loafs. Remove from oven and cool completely before storing, airtight, in the fridge.

Onion Cheddar Bread - add the beer

Onion Cheddar Bread - add the beer 1

Onion Cheddar Bread - add the beer 2

Roasted Garlic Jelly for Foodie Fun

Garlic Jelly Jar 1It’s the holidays and we are down to less than one week until Christmas Day. Yikes! If you are anything like me, you probably either a) have not started on your gift list (not me this year, yay!) or b) are stressing over those last few gifts…you know, for the folks that have all they [think] they want sans the winning multi-million dollar lottery ticket.  My office buddy and I are kind of in that last boat together  this year.  What to get for those last few names still on our lists while simultaneously trying to overcome the dread of having to brave the frantic shopping town centers.  Enter the realm of Do It Yourself (DIY)! Now don’t panic if you are thinking about how empty the craft store shelves are by now, because you likely won’t need anything too seasonal for this idea…because you’ll be doing most of your shopping at the grocery store!

A fun, food themed gift basket or goodie bag is always a hit with my circle of friends. You may recall the Vanilla Salt I shared with you two years ago. That yearGarlic Jelly Cheese Bread 2 I also made Thai-Chili Sugar, and Mulling Spice packets. Last year I made the delicious Roasted Garlic Jelly I am sharing with you today. This year…well I can’t quite tell you the exact details since some of the receivers are reading this…but it involves some fun baskets. For example one friend, who recently moved her family in with her new honey’s family, is going to get a package of family friendly fun things they can make with the kiddos. Another is getting complimentary recipes and pre-made mixes to go with items I bought her off of her Christmas wish list. My dad is getting a basket of NCIS DVDs tucked alongside jars of homemade pop-corn seasoning, cute popcorn themed bowls, and popcorn kernels.

Feeling less panicked now?

So back to this Roasted Garlic Jelly.

Garlic Jelly Cheese Tray 2Almost everyone makes this face when I say “garlic jelly”.  I think Emilie is the only one that didn’t raise an eyebrow.  Yes, yes, it sounds weird, but trust me this stuff is quite delicious. Have you ever had a clove of roasted garlic? Don’t you remember how it’s pungent flavor mellowed out and took on some caramelized sweetness?  I think you see where I am going with this now. Roasted garlic jelly is different, but it’s still a sweet jelly with just the faintest bit of tang (that would be the vinegar) and aroma of delicious, roasted garlic. This juxtaposition is precisely what will make this such a fun gift for your friends and family.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Roasted Garlic Jelly

Fills 6-8, 4 ounce jelly jars. Recipe from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.


  • 3  heads garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 ounces pouches liquid pectin (typically two packages)


  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit.
  2. Slice off the tops of  the garlic heads to expose the cloves. Place each head on a small square of aluminum foil.Garlic Jelly Expose Cloves
  3. Over each head, pour olive oil and balsamic vinegar, approximately a tablespoon each per garlic head.Garlic Jelly balsamic
  4. Wrap the foil squares loosely around the garlic heads and roast in oven for 45 minutes.
  5. Let garlic heads sit until  cool enough to handle. Unwrap from foil and  squeeze each head to push out the softened cloves  into a medium saucepan. Discard skins.
    Garlic Jelly roasted garlic heads     Garlic Jelly roasted garlic cloves
  6. In a the same pan, add the wine, water, white balsamic vinegar and peppercorns to the roasted garlic.  Over medium heat (gentle now!) bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to boil gently for 5 minutes.Garlic Jelly Making Garlic Juice
  7. Cover sauce pan and remove from heat. Let the mixture steep for 15 minutes.
  8. Line a mesh strainer with several layers of cheesecloth or a large,  dampened coffee filter.  Place strainer over a deep bowl.
    Garlic Jelly Strain Garlic Juice 1            Garlic Jelly Strain Garlic Juice 2
  9. Pour garlic mixture through the lined strainer into the bowl.  Let drip, undisturbed, for about 30 minutes.  You should end up with about 1 2/3 cups garlic juice. If you end up with less, add up to 1/4 cup dry wine or water.
  10. As garlic “juice” is draining,  prepare canner, jars, and lids by bringing a large pot of water to a boil and boiling your jars and lids for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, but keep jars in hot water until ready to jar for up to an hour. Any longer and you will need to re-sterilize.Green Tomato Preserves Sanitzing Jars
  11. Transfer garlic juice to a large saucepan and stir in lemon juice and sugar.Garlic Jelly adding sugar
  12. Over high heat, stirring constantly, bring to a full rolling boil.
  13. Stir in pectin and return to a boil. Boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute then remove from heat and quickly skim off foam.
    Garlic Jelly adding liquid pectin    Garlic Jelly skimming
  14. Quickly pour hot jelly into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. (This jelly sets quickly!)
  15. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight.
  16. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes.Garlic Jelly hot water bath
  17. Once processed, remove from  canner.  As they cool, you’ll hear the lids “pop” as the jars seal.  To test whether the jar has sealed, press your finger against the middle of the lid.  If it springs up, it has not sealed.
  18.  Allow the jars to cool before storing.

Serving suggestions:

  • Serve as a cheese and fruit tray condiment
  • Use as a savory/sweet glaze on pork or chicken
  • Stir a tablespoon or two into risotto
  • Spread on toast (with bacon!)

Garlic Jelly Cheese Tray

Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting – The Best Way to That Tangy Cream Cheese Flavor

Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting 1

‘Tis the season for cream cheese frosting!  No, scratch that. Cream cheese frosting is in season all year ’round. However, once we begin donning our sweaters and coats as the holiday season goes into full swing, so too begins the season of never ending, delicious baked goods fresh from our piping hot ovens that we devour without abandon until the dawn of New Year’s Day. Who hasn’t salivated over a cream cheese stuffed pumpkin muffin or a wonderfully spicy slice of gingerbread loaf topped with cream cheese frosting? Not to mention perennial favorites also slathered in tangy cream cheese deliciousness, such as Red Velvet, Carrot, and (one of my favorites) Hummingbird cake. Yes, let the baking bonanza begin!

The very first frosting I ever made from scratch was cream cheese frosting. Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting 5 You’ve heard me tell you before how, growing up, food came out of a box, can, or jar.  Imagine my surprise as I watched a bar of softened cream cheese and a bag of powdered sugar whip up into a creamy, rich frosting for our (box mix) Christmas gingerbread loaf.  My sister and I were totally fascinated.  Now that I think about it, that was probably that point when I was bitten by the cooking bug.  No longer would frozen chicken nuggets, mashed potatoes from a box…or a tub of frosting…suffice.

Since that long ago Christmas, I’ve come to desire more than just the taste of sugar.  I think that just happens as you grow older (For example, I can’t bare the Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting 6sweetness of milk chocolate anymore. It literally hurts my teeth lol). You may have noticed from some of my cupcake posts that I shy away from American style buttercream, which is based on powdered sugar for structure.  Instead, I often go for Italian or Swiss style buttercream, which utilize meringued egg whites and less sugar.  Oh, the lovely layers of flavor! That’s why when I came across cooked cream cheese frosting in my research for a cupcake inspired by an experience at my grandmother’s grave site (not as morbid as it sounds, I promise) I had to share it with you all.

If you are a cream cheese frosting fan, I promise you will adore the frosting you get out of this technique.  It preserves so much more of that distinctive tangy flavor, plus that luscious creaminess.  Excited yet? I hope so!

Happy holidays, everyone!

Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting 4

Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting


Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting_Ingredients

  • 16 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • optional: 1/4 cup powdered sugar


  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk to combine the flour, sugar, cornstarch, and salt.Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting_sugar and flour
  2. Whisk milk into the flour mixture.Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting_adding milk
  3. Place saucepan over medium heat. Continue to whisk flour mixture to create a smooth paste.Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting_paste
  4. Bring flour mixture to a gentle simmer. Continue stirring.  Allow to cook until a thick, sticky pudding like consistency is met. Do not leave the stove during this time; the sugar will quickly burn. (Lesson learned: a little caramelization is salvageable).Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting_paste simmering
  5. Scrape flour mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer, or into a large bowl if using a hand mixer.Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting_paste into mixer
  6. Whip on high for about 10 minutes or until the cooked flour mixture has cooled. (Warning: if the flour mixture is too warm, the final frosting may turn out too soft to hold its shape. Read about the Battle of Buttercream Hill here.)
  7. Lower mixer speed to medium high and add vanilla extract.
  8. Add butter, whipping until incorporated.Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting_add butter
  9. Whip in the softened cream cheese one bar at a time.Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting_adding creamed cheese
  10. Return mixer speed to high and whip frosting until thick and fluffy.  If frosting is too soft, add the optional 1/4 cup of powdered sugar to give the frosting more structure.
    Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting_whipped frosting Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting_powdered sugar for structure
  11. Chill before use for easier work-ability. The frosting will keep its shape at room temperature, but its definitely more messy to work with!Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting 2 Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting 3


Let’s Get Crafty: Wine Cork Christmas Wreath

It’s the weekend after Thanksgiving, and while many people are out battling each other over the latest and greatest children’s toy, I am decorating for Christmas. Growing up, the third Friday in November was always about setting up the Christmas tree, decking the mantel with garland and stockings, and hanging Christmas lights along the roof.  The third Friday of November was the start of Christmas season.

Wine Cork Wreath - finished up close

This year, I’m really excited to hang my first Christmas wreath on the front door. I know, how is it possible I’ve never had a Christmas Wreath?! As someone who loves adding meaningful personal details when decorating, I’ve always shied away from store bought wreathes so I’ve never had one for our front door. This year, though, as I was unpacking all of our moving boxes, I realized I had a lot of wine corks, and what better way to create a personalized wreath than to use wine corks from all the bottles of wine I’ve shared with friends and family.

Wine Cork Wreath - finished full doorAfter a little research, and dozens of wine cork wreath tutorials, I finally settled on a DIY tutorial from Save-on-Crafts as my base inspiration.  By adding some Christmas-like berries and a greenery center piece, I was able to take the simple wreath to the next level.

This is a simple, inexpensive craft that cost me about $15 in supplies – not including all the wine I had to drink. If you want to make your own wreath this year, but are short on corks, make friends with your local bartenders and ask them to hold corks for you and ask wineries or grocery store tasting booths (like at Trader Joe’s) if they have any they can save for you.

How To Make Your Own Wine Cork Christmas Wreath

12-inch straw wreath form
floral wire or string
approximately 200 wine corks*
5-6 sprigs of faux berries
greenery and decorations for center piece
hot glue gun
high-temp glue sticks, at least 8

First, sort through your corks and set aside any that have special meaning for you. For example, I made sure to set aside at least one cork from each Virginia and Texas winery I’ve visited as well as any corks I found particularly pretty or touching. These will be the top level of your wreath and the corks people will see when they look at the cork. Any corks you have lots of or aren’t inspiring can form the bottom, hidden layer.

Next, tie a string or floral wire to the wreath for hanging the finished
product. I tied two peices of floral wire around the wreath, about 2 inches apart, and then connected them with a third wire, which would support the wreath.

Wine Cork Wreath - attach the wire


Start by gluing the corks along the inside of the wreath form in a straight line. You will almost certainly come to a point near the end where the corks will not line up as you’d likeand you will have repress the OCD and just make it work. I happened to have a few abnormally short corks and I squeezed one of those into that space, you could also trim another cork smaller, or just lay them out slightly askew. 

Wine Cork Wreath - starting the 1st layer

Remember to leave the back of the wreath empty so that it will lie flat against the wall or door.

Wine Cork Wreath - wonky corks

Continue with the first layer of corks, lining them up flat against the wreath until it is mostly covered. You want to line these up as closely as possible to minimize areas of visible straw.

Wine Cork Wreath - completed first layer

Begin layering the second level of corks, arranging to cover gaps in the first layer of corks. This is where you get to start being artistic with your arrangement.

Wine Cork Wreath - starting the 2ndlater

While creating the second layer of corks, you should start arranging small bunches of berries throughout the layer. I used inexpensive styrofoam berry picks from Michael’s Christmas collection, but the exact type of berries used is totally up to you and what you feel most comfortable using.

Wine Cork Wreath - 2nd layer 60%

At this point you are going to start wanting to think about what and where you want the wreath’s center piece. I decided to place mine slightly above center on the right side of the wreath.

I began by arranging the main piece of the greenery – a Christmas pick with a red bird I bought at Michael’s Craft – and attaching it with floral wire and a little hot glue. I then cut small branches from basic greenery picks and used those to fill in the center piece.

Wine Cork Christmas Wreath - centerpiece up close


Once the center piece was arranged the way I wanted, I finished attached the last of my wine corks and berries. I let it sit for a few days and then double checked my corks to make sure they were all secure. Then it is ready to hang on your front door or anywhere else you might like to put it!

Holiday Gifts for Little Foodies

Growing up, one of my top 5 toys was the play kitchen my sisters and I shared. It was a homemade 2-piece set – simple plywood boxes built with doors and painted to look like a refrigerator and stove-topped oven. It wasn’t fancy like the Little Tykes plastic kitchens my friends had, with their attached phones and ironing boards, but it was spacious and more realistic, so I was happy.  We filled it with tons of plastic foods from apples to unidentifiable uniformly brown “meat” products and those awesome Fisher Price milk and juice bottles. It provided endless hours of fun, and while I don’t remember exactly when we got rid of it, that play kitchen is one of my clearest childhood memories.

It was with these childhood memories fresh in my head that I started Christmas shopping for nieces and nephews. After picking out some cool toys for the older ones, I started looking for a soft fruit and veggie sets designed for my niece who is under 2 and I quickly became overwhelmed by the totally awesome and amazing play food toys that are now available. While I may not be in the market for a brand new play kitchen and all of its associated accessories, I had so much fun exploring, I thought I’d turn it into a post for those of you who may have a few burgeoning chefs and foodies in need of their own kitchen set up.

Play kitchens for purchase1)Little Tykes Super Chef Kitchen ($80)  // 2)Kid Kraft Uptown Kitchen($144)   3)2 Step Life Kitchen($93)  // 4)Hape Playfully Delicious Gourmet Kitchen ($87)

DIY Play Kitchens1) Giggleberry Creations DIY Entertainment Center Play Kitchen // 2) DIY Pottery Barn Knock-Off Play Kitchen  // 3) DIY Play Kitchen from Nightstand  4) Play Kitchen From Ikea Parts

Once you have picked out the perfect play kitchen, its time to stock it. The basics for the perfect play kitchen fall under 2 categories. First you need a few basics for cooking up and serving fun and imagination. The 3 sets below are each a great price and will ensure every little chef has everything they need.

Toy dishes1)Children’s Stainless Steel Cookware Set($23) // 2)Toysmith Cooking Utensils ($11) // 3)Kidoozie Dish Drainer Set ($18)

Once you have dishes and silverware, your lil’ chef will need something to cook up and serve. I think its important to start with a amazing basics with multiple uses to stock the toy fridge and pantry. The Melissa and Doug 4 Food Groups play set, number 1 below, is a good all around starter set. If you want a more substantial starting place for you fledgling foodie, I encourage getting separate produce, meat, and bread sets. Really well curated bread sets were the hardest to find. While the sandwich set is a bit more specialized that I was going for, the collection of bakery items was the best out there.

Play Food Starters1)Melissa and Doug Food Groups Play Set – Wooden ($20) // 2)Ikea Duktig 14-Piece Vegetable Set ($8) & Ikea Duktig 9-Piece Fruit Set ($8) // 3) PlanToys Plan Activity Large Scale Meat Set ($16) // 4) Melissa and Doug Felt Food – Sandwich Set ($17)

If your favorite youngster has a well established play kitchen with dishes, produce, and more, you may be at a loss for what to buy. Don’t worry, there are tons of specialty toys for the little foodie who already has it all.

Fun Kitchen Toys for the Establish Kitchen

1)  Fisher-Price Servin’ Surprises Ice Cream Party Set ($19) // 2)  Homemade Felt Sushi Platter // 3)  Melissa & Doug Felt Cookie Decorating Set ($19)             4)  Homemade Felt Cheez-It Crackers // 5)  Hape Playfully Delicious Pasta Set   ($19)  //   6)  Homemade Felt Poptart Tutorial

Holiday Gifts under $30

Sure, Christmas decorations and wrapping paper sets have been on store shelves for a month already, but in my family, the tradition has been to put up the Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. That makes today the official start of the Christmas season as far as I am concerned. This year, Ruth and I thought we’d share some of our favorite gift options in case you need a little inspiration.

We are kicking off this series today with some great under $30 items. This list is really great for any price-capped Secret Santa exchanges you may have coming up, or for a small gift to give on one of Hanukkah’s 8 nights.

Christmas Gifts Under $30 - Kitchen Gadgets

1) Three Tier Stacking Salt Box by Rachel Ray ($25)  // 2) Wine Pearls ($25)  3) Ad-N-Art Flavor It Glass Water Bottle ($14)

1)     I think we can all agree that holiday gifts should not be useful and enjoyable, but not overly practical – unless of course someone actually asks you to buy them a vacuum for for the Christmas, vacuums are never gifts. Many people would see something like this beautiful acacia salt box or the BlissHome Nigella Lawson Salt Pig ($29) as unnecessary or extravagant, which makes it the perfect gift for the cook in your life. It is beautiful and once they start using it, they will fall in love with how convenient it is,  just like Ruth fell in love with hers.

2)    These wine pearls, much like whiskey stones ($20) are a great way to keep your beverage chilled while keeping it from watering down. I like these pearls because the smooth unique design is perfect for delicate wine glasses because it creates an elegant presentation in the bottom of your glass while not scratching the surface. If you are shopping for a wine novice, this wine accessory kit ($24) is a good option for helping them foster their burgeoning love of vino . It includes a foil cutter, cork screw, bottle collar, stopper, and more.

3)  We should all be drinking more water, and with this nifty glass bottle with built in fruit infuser, there is no reason not to! It come in a variety of colors from grey to red and you can even pick up 2 yellow or blue ones from Overstock.com for $35 in case you want one for yourself. For the hostess in your life who always always has a pitcher of water on her perfectly set table, this  infusing pitcher ($25) had both the basket for holding fruit and re-freezable ice tube to keep the water cold.

Kitchen Gifts Under 30- Gourmet Samples

1) Peet’s Major Dickinson Coffee and Tea Sampler ($30) // 2) Fancy Mayo Trio from Empire Mayo ($21) // 3) 6-bottle mini wine sampler ($25)

1)     I was first introduced to Peet’s Coffee a decade ago, when I visited my friend in San Francisco for a week. For years after that, she would send me freshly roasted Major Dickinson’s Blend – my favorite – every year for Christmas. I can now get Peet’s coffee at the grocery store, but it is never as good as the freshly roasted beans I used to receive. Coffee from a local roaster makes, such as M.E. Swing Co. in D.C., also make great gifts.

2)     Artisanal or local specialty foods always make a great gift, whether from your city or not. A sampler of gourmet mayos like these form Empire Mayo are a perfect gift for sandwich lovers, while an olive oil dipping set ($22) for those who love great bread or haven’t experience great olive oil yet. Pickles from Gordy’s Pickle Jar, a D.C. favorite, can be ordered for $10 and are a really delicious gift.

3)     I have not tried the Tasting Room’s personalized wine bottle service, but I love the idea of it. The company is a membership club for wine lovers that sends subscribers bottles of wine based on their individual wine profile. To put together the profile, the Tasting Room sends you 6 mini-bottles of wine, that you then rate online. Your opinion of each bottle of wine is used to assemble your wine profile. For just $25, you can gift the 6 bottle sampler and the wine profile to a friend, and if they love it, they can then chose to subscribe to the service.

Kitchen Gifts Under 30- Kitchen Decor

1) Bamboo & Acrylic Folding Cookbook Stand ($17) // 2) Kitchen conversion print ($18) // State Themed Dish Towels ($15)

1)     When gifting a cookbook stand, look for one that can fold flat when not in use, to protect precious counter space. I selected the bamboo & acrylic one featured here because I love that the acrylic panel holds the pages still while protecting the pages from accidental splatter.  This  Joseph Joseph Folding Cookbook Stand ($30) folds up like a book and stores neatly right next to the cookbooks.

2)     Kitchen prints and artwork are great gifts, especially for friends or family who are still new to being out on their own and setting up their own kitchen. When buying decor like this, be sure you have an idea of the receiver’s aesthetic, otherwise it may fall flat. If they have a less modern tastes, this classy seasonal fruit and vegetable poster ($18) may be more to their liking.

3)     I first saw these fabulous state themed kitchen towels at Hill’s Kitchen here in D.C. and immediately snatched up several for family and friends who are a bit obsessed with their home states. If state themed towels don’t meet your needs their are other fun and beautiful dish towels, such as this cocktail themed one from Uncommon Goods for $14. BONUS: a pretty dish towel can be used as creative gift wrapping for another foodie themed gift.


Purple Cauliflower and Potato Gratin – Cheesy Goodness On A Snowed In Day

Purple Cauliflower Potato Gratin 3I am debating whether to change the title of this post to Purple Cauliflower and Potato Gratin – Deliciously Cheesy But Not Quite Worth My Finger.  Or maybe I should post about sharp blade based kitchen accidents instead? Yikes! You see, this past Wednesday, our area was hit by the “snowquester”, the last (only?) big snow of the season.  It was predicted to be as big as “snowmageddon” that hit back in 2010 (now that was a snow storm!). Not even close, but still enough to keep me in for the day.  What a day to make something super creamy and cheesy, right? I decided I wanted a potato gratin and (inspired by my soon to come furlough notice)  decided I would toss in some not quite fresh but not yet spoiled purple cauliflower.  What a pretty color contrast!

Unfortunately another color almost got mixed in: red.  Even with caution, Purple Cauliflower Potato Gratin 6kitchen accidents happen.  Mandolin slicers are perfect for getting uniform potato slices. They are also quite wicked when they come in contact with your finger(s)! Ow, is an understatement to say the least.  Luckily I only lost a little chunk off the tip of my index finger.  After a few hours of applied pressure, though, I was able to finish my giant dish of cheesy, creamy comfort food for dinner.

Like I said, this dish is pretty darn delicious…but it’s not worth your finger! Have a care, my friends!

Purple Cauliflower and Potato Gratin

Serves 6-8

Purple Cauliflower Potato Gratin Ingredients

  • 1 head  purple cauliflower cut into florets, appx 1 pound
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and sliced into thin rounds, appx 2 pounds
  • 1 shallot, diced or minced finely
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups divided shredded cheese, such as extra-sharp Cheddar, Parmesan, or Gruyere
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus additional for greasing dish
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit.  Grease baking dish with olive oil and set aside.
  2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat.  Sauté shallot and garlic until fragrant.Purple Cauliflower Potato Gratin Garlic and Shallots
  3. Add potatoes.  Cook potatoes for about 3-4 minutes, then flip and cook another 3-4 minutes.  This step helps get the potatoes cooking and infuses them with flavor. Remove from pan and set aside.Purple Cauliflower Potato Gratin Cooking Potatoes
  4. If needed, add additional butter to the pan. When melted, add cauliflower florets and cook until begin to brown. Remove from pan and set aside.Purple Cauliflower Potato Gratin Adding Cauliflower
  5.  Melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat then whisk in flour.  Cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes. Purple Cauliflower Potato Gratin Making Roux
  6. Slowly whisk milk with the roux. Bring to a low boil then reduce heat. Allow to sauce to simmer and thicken, about 8 minutes. Purple Cauliflower Potato Gratin Adding Milk to Roux
  7. When sauce has thickened, season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Begin to whisk in 1 ½ cups grated cheese, continuing until cheese is melted. Remove from heat.
  8. Purple Cauliflower Potato Gratin Cheese Sauce Cover bottom of baking dish with some of the cheese sauce.  Layer potatoes, followed by cauliflower, and  grated cheese. Repeat until all ingredients have been utilized.  
    Purple Cauliflower Potato Gratin Adding Cheese Sauce to Dish  Purple Cauliflower Potato Gratin Layering Gratin
  9. In a small bowl, mix bread crumbs with parsley, 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Season the  breadcrumb topping with salt and pepper. Sprinkle over the cauliflower and potatoes and bake until golden brown and bubbling, 25-30 minutes.Purple Cauliflower Potato Gratin Cheesy Melty Dish

Valentine’s Day Treats – Chocolate Cookies with Cherry Icing

Why yes, this is the second Valentine’s Day chocolate recipe in a row here on Cork and Spoon, but if there is any time of year to enjoy a few decadent chocolate treats, its this week, am I right? Ruth’s molten lava cakes from Friday are great for an intimate romantic dinner, but they don’t work very well as a treat for a crowd, whether a child’s party or as a way to win over co-workers. That’s where these adorable dark chocolate heart shaped cookies, care of Martha Stewart, with my own cherry royal icing, come in to play.

decorate the cookies 2

The cookies are a simple recipe with minimal ingredients, although they require 3 cups of confectioners sugar, combined with the 4 cups of sugar used in the royal icing, you will definitely want to make sure you have at least 2 bags lying around. I also used Hershey’s  dark cocoa powder instead of regular cocoa powder, as the recipe calls for. So if you don’t have the dark cocoa lying around, feel free to substitute regular.

organic cherry syrupRoyal icing, as I have mentioned before, is perfect for these types of cookies because it hardens to a shiny lovely surface, perfect for stacking in tupperware and transporting. This version is made by substituting organic cherry juice concentrate for some of the water in the traditional royal icing recipe. Because of the syrup’s dark red color, you almost certainly have to add a little gel food coloring to your icing, otherwise it turns into a funny rust color. I recommend the burgundy or true red gel coloring, as the light pink doesn’t have enough oomph to fully cover the muddiness in the cherry flavored icing.

** Sorry pictures are scarce in today’s post, I got carried away with the baking and decorating that the picture taking sort of got forgotten. I promise to be better next time!

Dark Chocolate Cutout Cookies

3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¼ cups unsweetened dark cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon salt
3 cups flour, plus more for surface

1)     Using a wooden spoon, mix the butter and powdered sugar together until well combined. Add vanilla and eggs and mix together well.

2)     Add the cocoa powder and salt and and stir well. Add flour a cup at a time stirring well between to combine.

cookie dough

3)     Store dough in an air tight container and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour.

4)     Working with half of the dough at a time, roll it out to ¼-inch thickness and use cookie cutters to make desired shapes. Place cut cookies in freezer for 15 minutes.

5)     Place frozen cookie shapes on a clean cookie sheet and bake for 14 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 350°F. Half way through the baking time, rotate cookie sheets and tap each sheet firmly to remove any bubbles forming in the dough. (For this step, I lifted each sheet and dropped it from a height of an inch or 2 to remove the bubbles).

baked cookies

6)     Remove from oven and cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Cook completely before decorating.

cool the cookies

Cherry Royal Icing

4 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons meringue powder
3 tablespoons cherry juice concentrate
2 tablespoons water
gel food coloring
additional water as needed

1)     Combine sifted sugar and meringue powder in a medium sized bowl.

2)     Using a wooden spoon mix together sugar mix and cherry concentrate. Add additional water a tablespoon at a time until you reach a consistency thick enough to be piped onto the cookies and still hold its shape. Add enough food coloring to reach desired hue.

3)     Using a squeeze bottle with a small opening or a piping bag fitted with a small round piping tip, outline each cookie with the thick icing. Let set for 30 minutes to an hour.

decorate the cookies 1

4)     Thin icing with additional water, adding it a little bit at a time. You want the icing to drip easily off of the spoon. Fill the cookie shapes with icing, using a toothpick or chopstick to help spread the icing all around. Let rest uncovered for an hour or until the icing hardens and cookies can be stacked on top of each other.

Molten Lava Lovers Cake – A Perfect Valentine’s Day Dessert

Molten Lava Lovers Cake Cut 4Quick, what’s the difference between a Lava Cake, a Molten cake, and a Pudding Cake? 15 seconds, go! What, not ready for a quiz today? Eh, it’s okay. It is Friday after all.  I’ll go ahead and give you the answers…or what my answers are.  There is no difference between a Lava or Molten Cake.  Sometimes you may see the names combined as Molten Lava cake.  They are typically chocolate cakes, to include white chocolate,  with a liquidy, runny or oozing center that pours out like lava from a volcano when you dig in. Pudding Cakes are different and come and two forms: a pudding centered cake or a pudding bottom cake.  Unlike Lava/Molten cakes, they do not have a center that pours or oozes out.   Pudding  Cakes have jiggly insides or bottoms; they’re a little more solidified. Think  Jell-O Pudding cup topped by or enclosed by cake. Non chocolate “lava” cakes are often really pudding cakes.

Now for those of you who have been following Emilie and me for awhile, you may remember my little obsession with Archer brand frozen lava cakes last June during my residence course out at Patuxent River Naval Air Station.  Those little babies were just too easy to heat up and devour during late night brief
building and exam studying.  I think I may have practiced several presentations with my mouth full of lava cake lol.  Anyway, ever since last summer, I’ve been Molten Lava Lovers Cake Cut 7dying to try and make my own.

Emilie’s and my “New Year” dinner was the perfect opportunity.  After all, we were going for a  let’s go a bit budget crazy decadent.  As you saw, we made a pretty fancy feast…one I think would be a great menu should you and your Valentine decide to stay in next Thursday.

S0, you already have our crab souffle and endive salad recipes. Now here is your dessert!  I definitely recommend making the entire recipe rather than halving it just because it is hard to divide three eggs and the results just don’t come out quite the same (still yummy, though!).  Keep the extra cakes you don’t eat in the fridge unbaked and covered for up to a week.

Molten Lava Lovers Cake Cut 8

Dark Chocolate Molten Lava Cake

serves 4

Molten Lava Lovers Cake Ingredients

  • 1 stick butter + 1 tablespoon for custard cups
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour + 1 tablespoon for custard cups
  • 6 ounces dark or bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • pinch sea salt salt
(If halving recipe, use 2 eggs)
  1. Pre-heat oven to 425° Fahrenheit
  2. In a small bowl, whisk cocoa powder with 1 tablespoon of flour and set aside.Molten Lava Lovers Cake Whisking cocoa and flour for cups
  3. Chop chocolate into chunks or shavings. Set aside.Molten Lava Lovers Cake Chopped Chocolate
  4. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium low heat.  Be sure to keep an eye on it to prevent accidental burning.  Once melted, reduce heat to low.Molten Lava Lovers Cake Butter Melting
  5. Use about 1 tablespoon of melted butter to brush the inside of four oven safe custard cups. Molten Lava Lovers Cake Brushing Butter Custard Cups
  6. Divide cocoa powder among the custard cups and give each one a thin dusting.  Discard any access and set custard cups aside.Molten Lava Lovers Cake Cocoa Flour Dusting
  7. Add chopped chocolate to the remaining melted butter and stir until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat to prevent chocolate from burning or breaking (and to keep from scrambling eggs later on!)Molten Lava Lovers Cake Adding Chocolat to Melted Butter
  8. In a medium bowl, beat eggs and sugar together along  with a pinch of salt.Molten Lava Lovers Cake Blending Egg and Sugar
  9. Fold cooled melted chocolate into the egg mixture until fully incorporated and then fold in the flour to form the final batter.Molten Lava Lovers Cake Adding Chocolate to Eggs
  10. Divide matter among the four custard cups. The cakes will not rise significantly, so do not worry about how close the batter may come to the edge.
  11. Place filled custard cups on a baking sheet and bake in oven for 12-15 minutes.  The outside should be set and inside should be full of melty chocolate.  If you bake  the cakes too long you’ll end up with a pudding cake or a fully cooked cake without any “lava” inside. (They will still taste delicious, though!)
  12. When finished baking, remove from oven and allow to cool 5-8 minutes.
  13. Invert a plate over each custard cup when ready to serve. Be sure to use oven mitts if cups are still hot. Carefully flip custard cup and plate at the same time so that the custard cup is now inverted on the plate. Molten Lava Lovers Cake Inverting Plate Over Cake
  14. Lift custard cup. Cake should slip out on its own.Molten Lava Lovers Cake Released
  15. Serve warm. Garnish with mint, berries, caramel, vanilla ice cream, etc…and red wine!Molten Lava Lovers Cake Uncut 1


Creamed Bok Choy an Asian Twist to a Holiday Dish

Creamed Bok Choy 5I hope everyone had a lovely holiday.  I’m sure everyone was extra nice and got some nice goodies instead of lumps of coal. Right? Hehehe! Who’s ready for the new year?

So, I’ve had a few requests to share the holiday dishes I was able to give a little Asian spin.   Today, I will be sharing my twist on creamed spinach: creamed baby bok choy.  You know how I love my bok choy! It’s one of Creamed Bok Choy 4my favorite veggies. Unfortunately,  I was unable to actually get this dish on our Christmas table due to time constraints, what with the boys having to get on the road and all, but I did make it to go with all the leftovers I’m making my way through this week.  Oh my, so so sooooo good, better than creamed spinach in my opinion with the more delicate flavor of the baby bok choy versus the more intense flavor of spinach. I went ahead and used heavy cream, but I definitely want to try this with coconut milk or almond milk   What do you guys think?

If you give this creamed baby bok choy a go, let me know how you liked it! I’ll give you the run down on the rest of my family’s Asian fusion Christmas dinner soon.

Creamed Bok Choy 7

Creamed Baby Bok Choy

serves 4

Creamed Bok Choy Ingredients

  • 1 pound baby “shang hai” bok choy, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic, about 2 large cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon scallions, thinly sliced whites only, about 3 small or 2 large scallions
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  •  ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat oil in a large pan. Add garlic and scallions and cook until fragrant.
  2. Add sliced bok choy and stir fry for about a minute or two. Creamed Bok Choy Cooking GreensYou may need to add the bok choy in batches, adding more bok choy as earlier batches begin to wilt and create more room in the pan.
  3. Add chicken stock to skillet and bring to a low boil. Reduce Creamed Bok Choy Adding Brothheat to medium and cover, simmering until bok choy is tender, approximately 3-4 minutes.
  4. Once bok choy is tender, slowly whisk in heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper (I used my vanilla salt.) and bring to a gentle boil.  Reduce heat and cover. Simmer for another 2-3 minutes.
  5. Remove lid and sprinkle flour into the creamed bok choy. Creamed Bok Choy Checking CreaminessWhisk until incorporated.  Re-cover pan and continue to simmer until mixture is creamy about another 2-3 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat. Season with additional salt and pepper before serving  if needed.

Creamed Bok Choy 6