Dawn's Gingerbread Bark

There are so many photos and recipes for barks around holiday time...any holiday. They're easy to make, fun to eat, your kids can help and they make great gifts. When I saw this bark on Dawn's Vanilla Sugar blog I was certain I'd never seen (or tasted) anything like it. She's so darn clever! I was half way there...gingersnaps in the pantry and I'd made some gingerbread cupcakes a couple weeks ago and froze them for the holidays. All I needed was some white chocolate.
My friends, this bark is totally scrumptious! Perfect balance of a crisp base, lovely white chocolate and soft gingerbread crumbs on top. Really, I had to give it away immediately so I didn't eat all of it!

Dawn's Gingerbread Bark
From Vanilla Sugar Blog

2 cups finely crushed gingerbread cookies (use a hard cookie) 
1 stick (8 ounces) unsalted butter, melted 
a few generous dashes of cinnamon 
a couple pinches of sea salt 
1 cup high quality white chocolate chips or chunks (Ghirardelli is good) 
1-2 tablespoons half & half or heavy cream 
½ - 1 cup of gingerbread cake crumbles (I used some gingerbread cupcakes I'd made)


For the crust: 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Mix the crushed gingerbread cookies with the melted butter, add the cinnamon and a couple pinches of sea salt. 
Using a 8 or 9 inch tart pan (one with a removable bottom is perfect), spray with nonstick spray. Place the crust mixture into the bottom and spread evenly in pan, making sure to get all the corners. 
Bake for 12-16 minutes or until crust is almost crisp. 
Remove from oven and let cool. 
Temper the white chocolate with the half & half until you have a nice white glossy ganache. Using a spatula, spread the ganache over the cookie crust evenly. 
Try not to let it go to the sides of pan if you can. While chocolate is still warm, sprinkle the top of the bark with the gingerbread crumbles. (Dawn used a lot less gingerbread than I did.)

Let set up at room temp for a bit, then transfer to fridge to harden.


Pear, Blue Cheese, and Walnut Rugelach

It's a day for giving thanks for our many blessings. 
I wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving filled with friends and family around the table.

"What we're really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets. I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving?" -- Erma Bombeck
Pears are absolutely delicious right now, so I decided my Thanksgiving post would be a recipe you could use anytime for the coming holidays. Perfect with a glass of wine, these are some of my favorite flavors: pears, blue cheese and walnuts.

Pear, Blue Cheese, and Walnut Rugelach
From Baking Moment

For the Pear Filling
4 bartlett pears 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter 
3 tablespoons light brown sugar 
pinch of kosher salt 

For the Dough: 
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened 
6 ounces cream cheese, softened 
4 ounces blue cheese, slightly softened 
2 tablespoons honey 
2 cups all-purpose flour 
¼ teaspoon kosher salt 

egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon heavy cream, milk, or water) 
1 cup walnut pieces, finely chopped 

To Make the Filling: 
Peel and core the pears. Shred with a box grater or food processor. Heat a small skillet on medium high heat with the butter. Add the pears, brown sugar, and salt and cook until slightly softened. Drain off any excess liquid and refrigerate until chilled. 

To Make the Dough: 
Cream the butter, cheeses, and honey in a large mixing bowl until smooth. Add the flour and salt and mix until combined. 
Divide the dough into 4 equal balls and refrigerate for one hour. Roll each ball to a thickness of 1/8 inch, and top with an even layer of pear filling. Cut into quarters, and then cut each quarter into thirds. Starting at the widest end of each triangle, roll gently towards the point and then shape into a crescent. 
Refrigerate for 30 minutes minimum. 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
Brush the rugelach with egg wash and top with chopped walnuts. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until golden brown. 

Can be served warm or at room temperature. 


Cornbread-Stuffed Cornish Game Hens with Corn Maque Choux

If you're not having a huge group at the Thanksgiving table, this recipe might fit the bill. Game hens in place of turkey have always been my answer when cooking for two or three. (Unless you love those turkey leftovers!) Here you have the individual servings everyone loves and  even a little stuffing, made with apples, cider and some cheese. The side dish of corn maque choux is divine...please try it even if you don't serve it with the game hens.

Cornbread-Stuffed Cornish Game Hens with Corn Maque Choux
By Bruce Aidells for Bon Appétit, October 2008


3 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 1/2 cups diced peeled cored Granny Smith or Golden Delicious apples
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups 1/2-inch cubes purchased cornbread or corn muffins (about 11 ounces)
1 large egg, beaten to blend
1/2 cup (packed) coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 2 ounces)
6 tablespoons (about) fresh apple cider or fresh apple juice

Game hens:
4 1 1/4- to 1 1/2-pound Cornish game hens, rinsed, patted dry
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 bacon slices, each halved crosswise

Corn Maque Choux recipe below.

For stuffing
Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and celery; sauté until beginning to color, about 5 minutes. Add apples; sauté until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Mix in sage, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; transfer to large bowl. Let stand until almost cool, about 10 minutes.

Mix cornbread into vegetables. Add egg and toss to blend. Mix in cheese, then enough apple cider by tablespoonfuls to form stuffing that is moist but not wet.

Game hens: 
Sprinkle cavity of each hen lightly with salt and pepper. Pack 1 cup stuffing into each (place any leftover stuffing into buttered ramekins and cover with foil). Skewer cavities closed with toothpicks or turkey lacers. Tuck wing tips under; tie legs together to hold shape. Mix sage, coarse salt, and pepper in small bowl; sprinkle over hens.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Place 2 hens in skillet. Sauté until brown, turning often with wooden spoons (to prevent tearing skin), about 10 minutes. Transfer to rimmed baking sheet, breast side up. Repeat with remaining hens. Drape 2 bacon strip halves over breast of each hen. Using kitchen string, tie bacon strips in place. (Place any ramekins of stuffing on baking sheet with hens.)

Place hens (and extra stuffing) in oven. Roast hens until cooked through and juices run clear when thigh is pierced, about 45 minutes. (Roast stuffing 30 minutes.) Cut strings off hens. Transfer hens to plates. Spoon maque choux around hens and serve with extra stuffing.

Corn Maque Choux

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from 3 medium ears of corn)
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon (or more) hot pepper sauce
1 green onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
Coarse kosher salt

Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add bell pepper; sauté until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add corn; sauté 2 minutes. Add cream, thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce. Simmer until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Mix in green onion, parsley, and basil. Season to taste with coarse salt, pepper, and more hot pepper sauce, if desired.


Pumpkin Pie Panna Cotta Verrine

Here's yet another fall pumpkin dessert. It's a pumpkin verrine and I do love these layers of flavor and they make such a pretty presentation. Again, the best part is you can make it the day before! I wouldn't put the crumble on until just before serving, but you can make that ahead too and just keep in a covered container. Don't want to make the pie part? Just go to your favorite market and buy one. (Costco makes a great one.) You could also use your leftover Thanksgiving pumpkin pie to make these verrines. I loved the tart smoothness of the panna cotta with the pie and the crunch of the crumble topping. Lovely combo for the holidays!

Pumpkin Pie Panna Cotta Verrine
Adapted from Jasmine Cuisine


For the panna cotta:
1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup half and half
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1 1/2 sheets of gelatin, previously rehydrated in cold water (I used 3/4 packet granules in a tablespoon cold water)
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons of Greek yogurt

For the pumpkin filling:
15 ounces  unsweetened pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 cup half and half
1 tablespoon dark rum
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of ground mace
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 pinch salt
1 pinch of pepper

For the spiced crumble:
scant 1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup of almond flour
50g cold butter into small cubes
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon of ground mace
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 pinch salt
1 pinch of pepper
1/2 cup chopped pecans

For the panna cotta:

Boil sugar, cream and vanilla in a small saucepan over high heat. Remove from heat, add the gelatine and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.  After the pause, stir in yogurt with a whisk, mixing well. 
Pour the cream into 6-8 pretty glasses up to a third of their height . Refrigerate and let set for at least 6 hours. 

Preheat oven to 325F. 

For the pumpkin:
In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, egg yolk, cream and rum whisk . Add brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, mace, cloves, salt and pepper and mix well. 
Divide the filling between 6-8 ramekins. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until filling is set. 
Cool completely on wire rack, then refrigerate at least 2 hours. 

For the spicy crumble:

Preheat oven to 400F. Place some parchment on a baking sheet.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, almonds, brown sugar, spices and butter and mix with a fork until coarse crumbs (texture of coarse sand). Add the chopped pecans. 

Spread the filling on the prepared baking sheet, not evenly, because you want clumps of different sizes. 

Bake 20 minutes (this was way too long...mine was well done in under 10 minutes) until the crumble is crisp and dark. Cool completely. Break up in uneven pieces.

To serve:
Remove the pumpkin filling ramekins with a spoon and place on the panna cotta packing well, taking care to leave a quarter empty glasses. Fill the glasses with the remaining crumble spices. 

Serve immediately or refrigerate until serving. 


Winter Squash and Goat Cheese Pockets

These are lovely savory little hand pies....perfect for appetizers and great for football-watching snacks. So many different ways to put them together, too. You can make the crust from scratch, or use packaged. You can make them small (one mouthful) or bigger...two bites. You can make them with any kind of squash: butternut, acorn, pumpkin, and you can even use canned pumpkin if you're in a pinch. (I used acorn squash) I like goat cheese, so did use that, which married nicely with the squash, but I suppose you could use any cheese you like. Super recipe for fall!

Winter Squash and Goat Cheese Pockets
Adapted from Give Me Flour

For the dough:
2 cups flour
1 and 1/3 stick of unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
black pepper
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons heavy cream

For the filling:

1 1/2 cups squash puree
1/2 small onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
salt and pepper

4 ounces goat cheese


For the dough:
Note: I made the dough in my food processor, pretty much followed how I usually make crust, but used this recipe.
Place flour, salt and butter in a big bowl. Work with your fingertips or with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  You want to keep some visible pieces of butter
Beat together egg and 3 tbsp of cream. Pour the mixture into the dry ingredients.
Using your fingertips, mix them smoothly by making circular movements. Don’t knead the dough. The dough should get together quickly and if it doesn’t happen, add one more tbsp of cream.
Don’t worry about spots, visible pieces of butter and stripes of cream; they are a good sign. Press to form a ball, cover with plastic film and keep on the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

For the filling:
If using canned pumpkin puree:
Sauté chopped onions and garlic in olive oil. Add all ingredients, mix well and let it cool completely before using.

If you are using fresh squash:
Cut squash in quarters, scoop seeds out and cut each quarter in half. In a big bowl, mix the slices with other ingredients. Arrange everything in a baking sheet and bake it for 30 min. or  until tender and the skin comes out easily.  Puree pulp and let it cool completely before using.
Preheat oven to 350F°. Cut the cheese in approximately 24 pieces. (I didn't make that many)

Place dough in a floured surface and roll it out into a 1/8 inch thin layer. Using a 4 inch round cookie cutter cut the dough into circles. Place the squash filling in the center of the circle, place a piece of cheese on top. Dip your finger in some water and spread it around the outer edge of the circle and then fold the dough over into a semicircle. Press the edges and arrange  in a baking sheet.  It makes approximately 24 pies. 
Note: I must have used a slightly bigger cutter as I didn't get nearly that many.
Brush with egg wash, sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake for 30 minutes or until golden in color.


Frozen Maple Mousse Pie

Keep this dessert in mind for the coming holidays, whether for family or for an upcoming dinner party. With the fall flavor of maple and a splash of gorgeous candied cranberries for a colorful garnish, this mousse is rich and has special occasion written all over it. The roasted pecan base adds yet another flavor and texture.
And you know me, I love that you can make it in advance and keep it ready to go in the freezer. I found it in Food and Wine's Great Fall Desserts slideshow; I picked out several to try in the future...check it out, there are some gems there.

This is one of those lick the spatula clean recipes, especially right after incorporating the hot maple mixture...oh my. You'll find it doesn't freeze as hard as ice cream, so it's a snap to slice.

Frozen Maple Mousse Pie
Kathleen Callahan via Food and Wine

For the crust:
 2 cups pecans (8 ounces)  
 3 tablespoons light brown sugar  
 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg  
 Pinch of salt  
 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened  

For the mousse: 
 1 cup pure maple syrup  
 2 large egg whites, at room temperature  
 Pinch of cream of tartar  
 Pinch of salt  
 1 1/2 cups chilled heavy cream  
 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract  

For the candied cranberries: 
 8 ounces fresh cranberries (2 cups)  
 1 1/4 cups sugar  
 3/4 cup water  

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes, until fragrant. Let cool completely.  

In a food processor, pulse the pecans, sugar, nutmeg and salt until the nuts are finely chopped. Add the butter and pulse to incorporate. Press the crumbs into a 9-inch springform pan in an even layer. Refrigerate until firm.  

In a medium saucepan, bring the maple syrup to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until slightly reduced and a candy thermometer inserted in the syrup registers 235°, about 8 minutes; be careful it doesn't boil over.  

In a standing electric mixer fitted with the whisk, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar and salt until firm peaks form. With the mixer at medium speed, drizzle the hot syrup onto the whites and beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and beat the meringue until cooled to room temperature, about 5 minutes.  

In a large bowl, beat the heavy cream with the vanilla until soft peaks form. Fold the meringue into the whipped cream until blended. Scrape the mousse into the crust and spread evenly. Freeze until firm, at least 8 hours but preferably overnight. 

Put the cranberries in a large heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour the syrup over the cranberries and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook undisturbed over very low heat until the syrup is rosy and the cranberries are tender but not broken down, about 45 minutes. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and let the cranberries cool completely. Refrigerate until chilled.  

Remove the ring from the springform pan. Cut the mousse pie into wedges and transfer to plates. Spoon the candied cranberries over the pie and serve.  

You can freeze it for up to 4 days and the cranberries can be in the fridge for the same amount of time. 


Ina First Fridays: Cranberry and Apple Cake

Our Ina First Friday group is coming to an end. Never fear, we'll all still be making Ina dishes, but we agree it's time to move on to new things. You can always go to our Ina Pinterest board and find recipes. As we make Ina recipes in the future, my hope is everyone will pin them there. I'm going to. It's been a fun experience, making new blog friends and seeing everyone's take on Ina Garten recipes. Ina is the greatest!

Ina labels this cake easy. Something we all like to read this time of year. The recipe was inspired by a cranberry pie from Sarah Chase's book Cold Weather Cooking. (I love Sarah's cookbooks and am going to look up her pie recipe ASAP!) The cake didn't take any time at all to prepare and I think everyone in the family will enjoy it. Ina used a 10" pie plate and I used a lovely Emile Henry ceramic pie dish my DIL gave me....somewhat smaller, but deeper. When I looked the recipe up online, every photo looked different. It all depended on size of your pie pan. My cake was a tad moist at the bottom, no doubt the result of using frozen cranberries. Use fresh if available. I was using up frozen cranberries from last year. Still, it was light and delicious. 

Easy Cranberry and Apple Cake
2010, Barefoot Contessa, How Easy Is That?

12 ounces fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked over for stems
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tablespoon grated orange zest (2 oranges)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/8 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Combine the cranberries, apple, brown sugar, orange zest, orange juice, and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs on medium-high speed for 2 minutes. With the mixer on medium, add 1 cup of the granulated sugar, the butter, vanilla, and sour cream and beat just until combined. On low speed, slowly add the flour and salt.

Pour the fruit mixture evenly into a 10-inch glass pie plate. Pour the batter over the fruit, covering it completely. Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar and 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon and sprinkle it over the batter. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean and the fruit is bubbling around the edges. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Ina Fridays participants:


Sweet Potato and Corn Fritters

Vegetable fritters are a favorite of  mine. Obviously, as I've already posted four (and maybe five by the time I post this): Faith's is my favorite (because I make it all the time) and then Ottolenghi's leek fritters, plus Donna Hay's (the closest to this recipe) ...and lastly, the one I've had an amazing number of hits on: Peter's Tomato Fritters.
What I like about Alicia's recipe is you can use up some things in your veggie bin. Well, that's the fun with most fritters, using up your veggie bits and pieces. 

I served these fritters with some sour cream but Alicia served them with a garlicky blue cheese dip of some sort. You can make them in round balls too. Anything goes.

Alicia Foodycat's Sweet Potato and Corn Fritters
From Alicia at Foodycat

3 sweet potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated
4 cobs of corn, kernels sliced off
1 onion, finely sliced
2 leeks, finely sliced
1 green pepper, chopped
small bunch of coriander, chopped
3 large eggs
2 cups self-raising flour, approx
salt, pepper and smoked paprika

Mix all the veg in a large bowl with the eggs and season with salt, pepper and a little smoked paprika, then add flour until it forms a pretty thick batter. (I didn't use nearly as much as the ingredient list indicates. Eye it as you're adding.
Heat 2" of oil in a deep saucepan, then press handfuls of the batter into balls and carefully drop into the oil. Cook for about 4 minutes on each side, in batches, draining well on kitchen paper.


Chicken Thighs in Apricot Port Mustard Glaze with Winter Squash Polenta

Yet another of Elle's wonderful recipes. It's a lovely way to remember her talent in the kitchen and if you haven't ever visited her blog, you should.
The flavors in the glaze are delicious; I'll be making this again. I used bone in thighs, just cooked them a bit longer.

Chicken Thighs in Apricot Port Mustard Glaze with Winter Squash Polenta
Adapted From 
 Elle's New England Kitchen

Serves 4.

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup apricot preserves
1/4 cup ruby port wine
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken thighs and sear on both sides for about 6–7 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the skillet, add to a plate, and set aside. Add the remaining oil to the pan and add the garlic. Sauté the garlic on medium heat for 1 minute. Mix together the preserves, port, and mustard and add to the garlic. Lower the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Add back the chicken, nestle the chicken in the sauce, and cook on low heat for 1–2 minutes.

Winter Squash Polenta

4 cups water
1 cup coarse polenta
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup thawed frozen winter squash puree ( I had some fresh acorn squash and used that)
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
Garnish: ¼ cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese

In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the polenta, salt and pepper and whisk on medium-low heat until the polenta is thickened and comes away from the sides of the pan, about 15 minutes. Add in the winter squash and maple syrup. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with the Parmesan cheese.


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