Orange Sage Cheese Spread

Orange mixed with sage is one of my favorite winter flavor combinations. It is particularly good in this cheese spread. If it is available, I use Laura Chenel’s chèvre for the creamiest texture and best flavor. The spread can be served on crostini or with crackers. It is delicious on bagels and terrific with cured salmon on rye or pumpernickel. Double the recipe if you are feeding a crowd.

Orange Sage Cheese Spread
4 oz. goat cheese, room temperature
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
zest of 1 orange
juice of half a large orange
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor combine cheeses, butter, orange zest, and juice. Pulse until mixture is creamy and smooth. Scrape down the processor bowl with a spatula, then add remaining ingredients. Pulse until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Place in a serving bowl and chill until ready to serve. Serves 6-8.


Posted in Appetizers, Breakfast, Christmas, Thanksgiving | 2 Comments

Mediterranean Chicken with Lemon and Olives

This Mediterranean chicken recipe is a comforting cold weather dish. I use green Lucques olives, but feel free to mix green and black olives if you prefer. You can also add capers. Serve it along side potatoes, rice or couscous drizzled with pan juices. The chicken tastes best the day after you make it as the flavors have time to mature.

Mediterranean Chicken with Lemon and Olives
1/4 cup olive oil
8 bone-in chicken thighs with skin
salt and pepper
garlic powder
onion powder
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/3 cup chopped celery (1 rib)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup white wine
Strips of lemon zest from 1 large lemon (use a peeler)
juice of half a large lemon or more to taste
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
12 green olives (I use unpitted Lucques)
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large frying pan on medium high heat. Season the chicken thighs on both sides with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Place in hot oil. Sear chicken on both sides then remove to an oiled 7-quart Dutch oven. To the same frying pan add onions, celery and garlic. Sauté 2 minutes then add white wine, cook 2 minutes, scraping up the browned bits. Add lemon zest strips and juice. Add chicken stock and more salt and pepper to taste. Cook 1 minute. Pour this mixture over the seared chicken. Sprinkle chicken with thyme and oregano. Cover with a lid and bake for 45 minutes. Add olives and a bit more salt if needed. Cover and bake 20-30 minutes longer until the juices run clear and chicken is tender. Remove from oven and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with pan juices. Serves 6.


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Vanilla Bean Tapioca Pudding (Dairy-free)

January is usually a quiet month at our house. I’ve eaten too many cookies and chocolates in December so I try to give my body a rest and enjoy simple salads, vegetables, soup, and fruit. I do a bit of bread baking, too. When I need something sweet this dairy-free vanilla bean tapioca pudding is the perfect comfort food. It is delicious eaten plain, or sometimes, if I am feeling indulgent, I will top it with slightly runny cherry, blueberry, or apricot jam. 

Vanilla Bean Tapioca Pudding (Dairy-free)

1-1/3 cups vanilla granulated sugar
6 Tablespoons Minute Tapioca
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups almond milk
1 (14 oz.) can coconut milk
5 large eggs
1 (3-inch) long cinnamon stick
zest of half a large lemon
1 vanilla bean

In a 4-quart stockpot combine sugar, tapioca, salt, almond and coconut milks, eggs, cinnamon stick, and lemon zest. Beat with a whisk until well mixed. Split the vanilla bean and scrape seeds into the milk mixture. Add the pod and whisk to distribute vanilla bean seeds evenly. Let sit 5 minutes. Turn the heat to medium and, whisking often, bring the mixture to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, whisking constantly, then remove from heat. Pour pudding into an 8-cup serving bowl or into individual cups. At this point you can eat it warm, or cover the pudding surface directly with plastic wrap and chill 4 hours. Remove the vanilla bean pod when ready to serve. Serves 8.


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Sweet Potato Scones

During the winter months we often have baked sweet potatoes with dinner. I usually bake one or two extra to have for lunches and baking. This scone recipe is a great way to use leftover sweet potatoes. The scones make a lovely breakfast on a cold, snowy morning. They are gently spiced and the sweet potato keeps them moist.  The dough comes together easily in the food processor. 

Sweet Potato Scones
2 cups flour
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, diced
2/3 cup baked and cooled mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup + 1 Tablespoon heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. In a food processor combine flour, sugars, baking powder, salt, and spices. Pulse to mix. Add butter and pulse to the size of peas. Add mashed sweet potato and pulse to mix. Add 1 cup heavy cream and pulse until dough begins to form a ball. Turn dough out onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Gently bring it together to form a round disc about 3/4-1 inch thick. Brush the top with the remaining 1 tablespoon of cream. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar then slice into 8 triangular pieces. Bake 30-35 minutes until fully baked in the center. Transfer to a rack. Let sit 5 minutes to cool slightly, then serve. Serves 4-6.


Posted in Breads, Breakfast, Thanksgiving, Vegetables | Leave a comment

Apple and Fennel Salad

This refreshing salad is a welcome, light relief after all the heavy holiday eating. I like to shave the apples and fennel for a fine texture. I keep the recipe simple with just oil and vinegar so I can clearly taste the sweetness of the apples, but feel free to add herbs or nuts if you prefer more contrast.

Apple and Fennel Salad
5 small golden delicious apples, peeled and cored
2 fennel bulbs, stalk removed and cored
juice of half a lemon
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or more to taste
2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
salt to taste

In a food processor, or using a mandolin, with the thinnest slicing blade, shave the apples and the fennel. Place shaved apples and fennel in a bowl and add lemon juice, olive oil, and vinegar. Stir. Add a bit of salt, then taste. Adjust the amount of vinegar and salt to your taste. Chill until ready to serve. Serves 6-8.


Posted in Christmas, Fruit, Salads, Thanksgiving, Vegetables, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Baked Clam Dip

Baked clam dip is a classic and timeless appetizer. It is good with crackers or sliced baguettes.  I even like it as a pizza topping. It is a nice start to an Italian Christmas Eve fish dinner or any holiday gathering.

Baked Clam Dip
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup chopped onions
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 (6.5 oz.) cans chopped clams with juice
zest and juice of 1/2 medium lemon
1/4 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parley
2-3 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (optional)
1 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 4-cup baking dish. In a frying pan on medium heat melt the butter. Add onions and sauté 3-4 minutes until softened. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes until soft. Spoon sautéed onion and garlic into a medium bowl. Add clams with all of the clam juice, lemon zest and juice, parsley, cheese and oregano if using. Mix well. Add breadcrumbs and mix. Taste then add salt and pepper as needed. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 15-20 minutes until puffed and golden. Serve warm with bread or crackers. Serves 6-8.


Posted in Appetizers, Christmas, Easter, Fish and Seafood, Thanksgiving | Leave a comment

Coconut Macaroons

These are very easy coconut cookies. I like to use unsweetened fine coconut for this recipe that you can purchase at most Indian grocery stores. The recipe is adapted from one my mother-in-law gave me.

Coconut Macaroons
2-3/4 cups fine unsweetened grated coconut
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
4 large egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 drops coconut extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl mix together coconut, sugar, flour, and salt. Add the remaining ingredients. Use a fork to stir it all together until well mixed. Roll into marble-size balls. (You may want to flour your hands because the dough can be sticky.) Place around 35 balls per baking sheet, then bake 17-18 minutes until set and light golden around the edges. Let cookies sit on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely. Makes 95 cookies.


Posted in Christmas, Cookies, Dairy-free, Desserts, Easter | 1 Comment

Swedish Christmas Cardamom Cookies

These delicious Swedish Christmas Cardamom cookies are often part of our holiday cookie assortment. They can be rolled into a log and sliced or shaped into balls. The recipe is adapted from the  Food Network.

Swedish Christmas Cardamom Cookies
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup vanilla confectioners sugar
1 large egg
zest of 1/2 large lemon or orange
2 teaspoons freshly ground cardamom
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
colored sugar sprinkles

In a mixing bowl beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. It should take 3-4 minutes. Add egg, lemon zest, cardamom and extracts. Mix well, scraping down the bowl to incorporate all ingredients. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt. Slowly add flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Divide dough in half and form two logs. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill 2-3 hours until logs are firm. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. Unwrap logs and coat with sprinkles then slice into 1/4 inch thick slices or just slice plain logs and top with sprinkles before baking. You should get about 32 slices per log. Place slices on baking sheet. Bake for 9-10 minutes until  set and slightly firm to the touch. Cool on rack. Makes 65 cookies.


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Apricot Pistachio Biscotti

If you are an apricot lover, you will love these biscotti. I could eat the whole batch by myself. To enhance the apricot flavor I use specialty apricot flavorings and I recognize that many readers may not have access to those ingredients. You can easily substitute with two Tablespoons of apricot jam.

Apricot Pistachio Biscotti
3 cups flour
1-2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
zest of 1 medium orange
3 large whole eggs
3 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons Torinese brand apricot brandy imitation flavoring or 2 Tablespoons apricot jam
1 teaspoon apricot essence (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 drop almond extract
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1 cup chopped unsalted pistachios

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and zest. Mix well. Set aside. In a mixing bowl beat together eggs, flavorings or jam and extracts. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture. Scrape down the bowl to mix well. Add dried apricots and nuts. It will be a thick dough, you may want to use your hands to evenly distribute the apricots and nuts. If the dough is sticky, flour your hands. Divide dough into three. Form each section into a 10×2 log. Place two logs on one baking sheet and the third log on the second baking sheet. Flatten the tops slightly. Bake for 30 minutes until light golden, rotating the pan half way through baking. Remove from oven and let logs sit for 5 minutes on the baking sheet. Place logs on a cutting board and slice on the diagonal. You should get about 15 slices per log. Return sliced biscotti to the baking sheet and bake for 10 more minutes or longer if you prefer them crispy. Cool on rack. Makes 45 small biscotti.



Posted in Christmas, Cookies, Dairy-free, Desserts, Easter, Fruit, Thanksgiving | 4 Comments

Gingerbread Cake

This is my favorite gingerbread cake recipe. It has a streusel topping with some turbinado sugar mixed in so you get a little crunch with your spice cake. It is flavorful, moist and a great dessert for a holiday gathering.  The recipe is adapted from Beatrice Ojakangas’ Great Holiday Baking Book.

Gingerbread Cake
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 Tablespoons turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup molasses
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a metal 9×13 pan and line with parchment paper. In a mixing bowl beat butter and sugar until well mixed, about 2 minutes. In a separate bowl combine flour with spices and salt. Add flour mixture to the butter and sugar. It will look like crumb topping. Remove 1/2 cup of the crumbly mixture to a small bowl and add turbinado sugar to it. This will be the streusel topping. Set it aside. Return to the cake mixture and add to it baking soda, yogurt, molasses and eggs. Mix until well combined. The batter will be thick. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread with a spatula. Sprinkle the top of the cake batter with the reserved crumb and turbinado sugar mixture. Bake for 25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes clean. Cool on rack. Serves 12.


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