Thursday, February 5, 2015

Heart-Shaped Chocolate Cutout Cookies

You don't need a sweetheart to like making (and eating) Valentine's Day-themed treats. I was on the lookout for a chocolatey cutout cookie recipe, and found one on  Not only is this an easy recipe to follow, but you can make the dough ahead of time.

Chocolate Cutout Cookies 

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4    cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/8    tsp. salt (if you use unsalted butter, increase salt to 1/4 tsp.)
3/4    cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1       egg

Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt together.   Set aside.  In a medium bowl, cream the butter with the sugar until smooth.  Beat in egg until light and fluffy.  Gradually mix in the dry ingredients.

Divide dough into two balls. Flatten each and wrap in plastic wrap then refrigerate for 2 hours. (If you want to wait until the next day to rollout and bake, set the chilled dough out for 20 minutes to let it partially soften.)

Cutting out the dough on a floured pastry cloth.

Preheat oven to 375.  On a lightly floured surface (I like to use a pastry cloth that I dust with flour), roll one of the dough balls out to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes and place on parchment-lined cookie sheets 1 inch apart. Gather up scraps, re-flour your pastry cloth, rollout and cut again. Repeat with other dough ball.

Cutouts on cookie sheets, ready for baking.

Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes. Allow cookies to remain on cookie sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool.  Store in airtight container.

Could these BE any cuter? 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Winter Salads and Snacks

Who doesn't love pears? (Did you know they have more fiber than apples?) And winter is the best season for finding nice ones of various varieties.  Plus, they're so versatile.

I have a delicious recipe for a salad that includes pears and a Dijon-vinaigrette that I adapted to work with items I had on hand, and my ersatz version was just as good.

Oven-dried pear slices, I recently discovered, are a nice cracker alternative that can be paired (peared?!) with soft cheeses. Both recipes follow. Enjoy!

Winter Romaine Salad With Pear
2 Romaine hearts, washed, dried, and torn into bite-sized pieces
1/2 Bartlett pear (or more to taste)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds or 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
Freshly ground black pepper (coarse grind)
1/3 cup shaved Parmesan or crumbled Chevre
1/3 cup lemon vinaigrette (substitute lemon olive oil for regular; use balsamic in lieu of other vinegar)

Winter salad with pear.

Toss all ingredients gently, then dress with vinaigrette. Add more black pepper to taste. 

Note: Pears brown quickly, so add them last just before you add the dressing and serve.

Crisp-Dried Pear Slices and Soft Cheese Appetizer
Dried pear slices with soft cheese make a nice appetizer.  
Thinly slice firm pears lengthwise (stem, seeds, and all) with a sharp knife and place in a single layer on parchment-lined baking sheets.  Bake in a preheated 225 degree oven for 1.5 hours. Flip slices and continue baking until darkened slightly and edges have curled, about 1 to 1.5 hours more. They should still be pliable.  Transfer to a wire rack and let stand until cool and crisp. Store at room temperature in an air-tight container up to 1 week.

Nice with store-bought or homemade Boursin or with room temperature Chevre.  And wine, of course.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Beauty of Fall

Eucalyptus wreath.
My house smells really yummy right now, between the crisp fall air, fallen leaves, simmering soup, and a eucalyptus wreath I have hanging on the inside of my front door.

The Eastern Shore has its own brand of beauty at this time of year. I snapped this shot of a group of egrets perched in the brush alongside a small canal on the Chincoteague refuge. They look like big Christmas tree ornaments to me.

Egrets in the trees, Chincoteague.

Not far away is a woodland trail that winds through scrubby pines and marsh. There's a small offshoot called the Bivalve Trail that I'd never walked before.  I'm guessing it got its name from the path's crushed clam shells.

The Bivalve Trail.

At the end of the Bivalve Trail was an inlet with its own little beach, complete with raccoon evidence, a horseshoe imprint, and all manner of driftwood.

At least I think those are raccoon prints.

Let's not forget we're where the famous Chincoteague ponies roam. Unless that's a horseshoe crab imprint.

This beauty was just too big for me to carry home for my hearth.

Enjoy the season!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fall Pears and Other Delights

Pyracantha climbs up my foundation.
Don't you just love the yummy colors of fall -- oranges, yellows, crimson reds. The pyracantha berries are out in full force.

I've harvested some of the last of my orange zinnias, and popped them into a little vessel with some garlic chive blossoms. (Nevermind that I didn't intend to grow garlic chives; I meant to get regular chives,)  But the blossoms are nice, nonetheless.

Zinnias and garlic chives blossoms.

I bought a bag of pears at Trader Joe's, and as luck would have it, they all ripened at the exact same minute.  I love a good pear, but there are only so many I can eat within a couple of days.

So I looked for a couple of recipes that could make use of the ripe fruits. I found two winners: a pear chutney recipe (below) and a pear cake recipe from the Food Network.

The chutney recipe is from Martha Stewart. It's chunkier than your average chutney, but full of flavor and a lovely condiment to accompany pork and chicken. Maybe also good on a grilled jarlsberg cheese sandwich!

Martha's Pear Chutney (with my minor modifications)

1/2 cup pecans, broken into pieces (I used walnuts)
  • 1/3 cup raisins
    1/4 cup balsamic vinegar 
    2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter 3 medium shallots, thinly sliced (or sweet onion)1 tablespoon sugar 3 large Bosc or Bartlett pears (about 2 pounds), peeled and dicedSalt and freshly ground black pepper 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread nuts on a baking sheet, and toast until lightly browned and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool.
Chutney simmering in skillet.
  1. In a small saucepan, combine raisins with 2 tablespoons vinegar and 2 tablespoons water. Place over medium-high heat until simmering. Simmer until raisins have plumped, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and set aside. 

  2. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add shallots, and saute until lightly browned and transparent, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar and continue to cook until golden brown. Add pears and reserved raisins in their liquid; cook until pears are tender. 

  3. Add remaining 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in rosemary  and reserved toasted nuts. Serve warm, or dish into jars with tight lids and freeze for later use.

  4. Have a splendid autumn.