Ina First Fridays: Dried Fruit Cookies

Welcome again to an Ina First Friday! (November already?!!)
This month is dessert....pretty convenient, right? Just when we're beginning to think about holiday entertaining. I'm reposting this recipe from 4 years ago because these cookies are rather unusual and will look marvelous on your holiday cookie tray. Yes, they really will, even though this old photo does not show them in the best light. LOL. They travel beautifully and freeze a dream. I've been making and gifting these gems for years and love that Ina used dried fruit instead of that appalling candied fruit. I do, however, make some changes to her recipe. I add cinnamon, nutmeg and some orange zest. Most of the time I macerate the fruit in rum or brandy instead of sherry. Your choice. These are c
risp little shortbread type cookies, chewy with the fruit.

Dried Fruit Cookies
Adapted from Ina Garten

1/2 pound dried figs 
1/4 pound raisins 
2 ounces dried red cherries
2 ounces dried apricots, coarsely chopped 
1 tablespoon honey 
2 tablespoons sherry, brandy or rum
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice 
Orange zest from 1/2 an orange
6 ounces chopped, toasted pecans 
Kosher salt 
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature 
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves 
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup superfine sugar 
1/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed 1 extra-large egg 
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour 

Method:Cut off the hard stems of the figs with scissors  and coarsely chop the figs. Combine the figs, raisins, cherries, apricots, honey, sherry (rum or brandy), lemon juice, orange rind, pecans, and a pinch of salt. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit overnight at room temperature. 

In an electric mixer cream the butter, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, superfine sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the egg and mix until incorporated. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt just until combined. 
Add the fruits and nuts, including any liquid in the bowl. Divide the dough in half and place each half on the long edge of a 12 by 18-inch piece of parchment or waxed paper. Roll each half into a log, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4-inch thick, making an 18-inch-long roll. Refrigerate the dough for several hours, or until firm. 

Preheat the oven to 350°. 
With a small, sharp knife, cut the logs into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place the slices 1/2-inch apart on parchment paper lined sheet pans and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly 


Candy Corn Cookies

These adorable cookies are pictured everywhere this time of year and I've always thought they were such a cute idea. Saw them on Pinterest again recently and the click took me to the Land O'Lakes page. I finally got around to making them last week and I must admit, holiday projects like this are great fun. I can see kids helping to make these and having a blast decorating.

You start with a basic cookie recipe...I used the one in the old Make It Now Bake It Later cookbook series from the 60's. Surprisingly, the Land O'Lakes recipe is exactly the same but for the added orange zest and juice, which, BTW, is a super idea and I used it. But one wonders which recipe came first? I vote for the Bake It Now recipe mainly because of its age and it has been my go-to Christmas cookie base since the kids were little. It makes a lovely cookie and the added orange via Land O'Lakes is a big plus. Worked out perfectly for these candy corn cookies......n
ot only do they look cute, they taste delicious. 

Candy Corn Cookies


1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Orange and yellow gel food color
Various Halloween sprinkles

Line bottom and sides of 9x5-inch loaf pan with waxed paper.

Beat the butter and sugar until creamed. Add egg, juice, zest and salt. Beat well. Add flour and baking soda and beat until combined.
The dough is quite soft at this point. Divide into thirds. Put two of them in small bowls and add the orange gel paste to one and the yellow gel paste to the other. To save your hands, mix until well blended and add color until it's what you want.

Take the remaining white dough and, in your hands, press it to the approximate shape of the pan, then press it evenly onto bottom of prepared pan. Following the same directions, place the orange dough on top, followed by the yellow. You'll find it easier if you try to shape the dough in your hands as best you can before pressing it over the other colors. Cover with plastic food wrap; refrigerate at least 2 hours until firm.

Heat oven to 375°F. 
Invert pan to remove dough and place on cutting board. Slice loaf crosswise into 1/4-inch slices using sharp knife. Trim edges if you need to. Then cut each slice into 6 wedges. Place 1-inch apart on parchment paper lined cookie sheets. Bake 7-10 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are very lightly browned. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets. Cool completely. To add the sprinkles, I brushed the end of the cookies with a slightly beaten organic egg white and then dipped them into sprinkles. (I noticed the Land O'Lakes recipe dipped warm cookies into colored sugars.)


Cranberry Curd Tartlets

Cranberry curd? Are you kidding me? Why didn't I think of that? Leave it to Martha Stewart to come up with a perfect little treat for the holidays, a surprise for guests, for a tea, even for Thanksgiving dessert.
Every once in a while I taste a new recipe, roll my eyes back and say OMG! This is one of those recipes. From the fabulous little pecan pastries to the extraordinary cranberry curd, these tartlets are perfection. And best thing yet...you can make everything ahead of time and put them all together at the last minute, or as Martha suggests, make it fun and let your guests put them together.
My mind is bursting with ideas for the cranberry curd, too. How about on a vanilla bean panna cotta? Over a pound or an angel food cake? Or whirled into some melted white chocolate to make bark? On toast? Sky's the limit. Oh, and I'm going to put those pecan shells to good use too.

Note: I've frozen both the shells (which I think will do well) and some curd, which ought to be fine. I've also kept some curd in the fridge, which ought to last a week or two. This recipe makes about 35-40 tarts. I think my little balls of pecan dough should have been smaller, but still, I wouldn't change the finished tartlet for anything. I mean, will you look at those babies? 

Cranberry Curd Tartlets
From Martha Stewart Living, November 2013

Ingredients for curd:
4 cups fresh or unthawed frozen cranberries (a 14.5 ounce package) I used fresh.
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup fresh orange juice
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 3/4 cups sugar
Pinch of coarse salt
3 large egg yolks plus 1 large whole egg
Whipped cream for serving

Ingredients for tartlets:
3/4 cup toasted pecan halves
1 cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Non-stick cooking spray

Method for making curd:
Place cranberries, orange juice and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cranberries burst and everything turns into mush. Takes about 15-20 minutes. (Although Martha Stewart says 35 minutes.) Press through a fine sieve, making sure you get all the pulp. Discard solids. You should have about 1 1/2 cups. Cook pulp in a saucepan with butter, sugar and salt until the butter melts. Beat the eggs together and temper the eggs with the hot cranberries, a tablespoon at a time, eventually pouring everything back in the saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Press through a fine sieve once again and then pour into a bowl and press plastic wrap directly onto the surface. Refrigerate until cold. Curd can be made 3 days ahead.

Method for making tartlets:
Process pecans in a food processor until finely ground. Beat mascarpone and butter in a mixer until well blended. Add flour, pecans and salt and mix just until dough comes together. 
Using a tablespoon, roll the dough into small balls. (Should make 30-35.) Refrigerate until firm.
Lightly spray mini muffin pans with nonstick cooking spray. Press each ball into the bottoms and up sides. I used the largish end of a wooden spoon. Refrigerate. (I stuck in the freezer for a while.)
Preheat oven to 350. Bake the pastry cups for 15 minutes and then remove from oven. You will see that they have puffed up a bit. Take the end of the wooden spoon and press the bottoms once again.
Put back in the oven for about 15 - 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Allow to cool completely before filling with cranberry curd. Top each with a dab of whipped cream. 
Pastry cups can also be made 3 days in advance and stored in an airtight container. 


Pumpkin Cheesecake Pillow Popovers

These little "pillows" were such fun to make and so plump and cute, you just can't resist them. My only regret was I wanted more pumpkin! I always tend to stuff too much filling in recipes like this, so was more cautious this time and avoided having the pumpkin filling seep out all over the pillows and the pan.
The original recipe pictured them with both caramel and ice cream (can you imagine?), but really, they only need
 a sprinkle of powdered sugar and cinnamon. However, I did drizzle some caramel just for the presentation. The recipe makes 39 pillows, but if you don’t need that many, just halve it or even quarter it, which is what I did.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Pillow Popovers
From Willow Bird Baking 

4 cans crescent rolls
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
5/8 cup sugar
1 egg
2 cups canned pumpkin
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
powdered sugar  and a little cinnamon mixed in for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray two mini muffin tins with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice, and beat to combine. Chill in the fridge while you prepare your dough.

Unroll one can of crescent baking sheet dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll it out to around 9 x 12 inches. You might have to seal the perforated edges by pinching them before rolling it out. This is not as easy as it looks, but you don't want it to separate. Cut it using a pizza cutter into 9 squares, roughly 3 x 4 inches each. Push the squares into wells of the mini muffin tins, skipping a well between each. Spoon a heaping spoonful of the pumpkin mixture into each well and pinch the corners of the dough together around it, twisting at the top to close. 

Bake for 10-14 minutes or until browned (let them get good and golden or they’ll still be doughy in the middle.) Remove from the oven and top with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Let them cool in the pan for around 5 minutes before serving.


Man-Pleasing Chicken

Well, I don't know about that title, but that's what it's called. It pleased me pretty well too. But when the recipe advises "line your dish with foil" please pay attention. What a mess I had...even soaking overnight didn't clean the pan and I finally resorted to an SOS pad, something I was amazed I even had in the house. Now that I've warned you, I've got to say this was both simple AND delicious. Such a snap to throw together and most of us have the 3 ingredients in the fridge or pantry. I'm going to show you a photo of the burned pan at the end...it's worth it's weight in gold re: reading and following instructions. (I noticed Witty in the City pulled the thighs from the pan and plated them for her photo. And I now know why. Crusted foil isn't very pretty either, but it's easier to clean up.)

Man Pleasing Chicken
From Witty in the City

1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs


Preheat oven to 450º
Line a baking pan with foil!
Mix the first three ingredients. Dry the thighs, salt and pepper them and add to the pan. Pour the sauce over them, turning so they're covered on both sides. Bake for 40 minutes or until thermometer reads 160. Baste once or twice.

Tip: I used the above sauce recipe for just 2 thighs and barely had enough to baste. I'd double the sauce ingredients if I was making 6.

                                                                                                        Burn baby, burn.



Amaretto Apple Streusel Cupcakes

This is a beautiful cupcake and it tastes as good as it looks....tender with a crunchy topping. Next time I'm going to add a bit more apple, but other than that, it was perfect. While the recipe was from Cooking Light,  I didn't use the lo-cal options, mainly because I didn't have them in my fridge. You'll find them included in parenthesis so you can watch your calories if you wish. 

Amaretto Apple Streusel Cupcakes
From Cooking Light, October 2009 

Ingredients for the cupcakes:
Cooking spray  
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour   
1/2 teaspoon  baking powder  
1/4 teaspoon  salt  
1/4 teaspoon  baking soda  
3/4 cup  granulated sugar  
1/4 cup  (2 ounces)  cream cheese, softened  (or use 1/3-less-fat cream cheese)
1/4 cup  butter, softened  
2 tablespoons  amaretto (or use 1/2 teaspoon almond extract)
1 teaspoon  vanilla extract  
1   large egg  
1/2 cup  sour cream  (reduced-fat sour cream)
1/4 cup milk  ( 2% reduced-fat milk)  
3/4 cup  finely chopped Gala apple  (I'd use 1 cup, if not more)
1 tablespoon  all-purpose flour  

Ingredients for the streusel:
2 tablespoons  all-purpose flour  
2 tablespoons  brown sugar  
1/4 teaspoon  ground cinnamon  
2 tablespoons  butter, chilled  
2 tablespoons  sliced almonds  

Ingredients for the glaze:
1 cup  powdered sugar  
4 teaspoons milk   (2% reduced-fat milk ) 

Preheat oven to 350°.
Place muffin cup liners in 12 muffin cups; coat with cooking spray.
Whisk 1 1/2 cups flour  with baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl.

In a larger bowl, mix granulated sugar, cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter and beat with a mixer at high speed until well 
blended. Add amaretto, vanilla, and egg to sugar mixture; beat until well blended.

Mix sour cream and 1/4 milk until smooth.  In another bowl, toss the apple and 1 tablespoon flour
 until apple is coated. (I didn't think this was enough apple. You could add 1/4 cup more.)

Add flour mixture and sour cream mixture alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat just until blended. Fold in apple mixture. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
To prepare the streusel, mix 2 tablespoons flour, brown sugar, and ground cinnamon in a small bowl. Cut in 2 tablespoons butter until mixture resembles coarse meal; stir in almonds.
Sprinkle streusel evenly over cupcakes. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center 
comes out clean. Cool in pan for 15 minutes on a wire rack, and remove the cupcakes from pan.
 To prepare glaze, combine powdered sugar and 4 teaspoons milk in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle glaze over cupcakes.


Louise's Pasta Party: Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce

If you follow Louise from Months of Edible Celebrations you'll know October 25th is World Pasta Day. Louise is celebrating with a giveaway, a new Pinterest Board and pasta recipe links from her blog buddies.
Now I've posted this dish before and while I rarely repost, this recipe is one of my favorite fall pasta dishes. I don't usually include photo-instructions either, but it's easier to fold these when you have a guide. You'll love these flavors...and it makes such a pretty presentation.

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

For the squash filling: 
1 butternut squash, approximately 2 pounds, cubed (about 3 cups) 
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons 
1 1/2 teaspoon herbs de Provence 
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste 
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste 
2 large shallots, chopped (about 1/2 cup) 
2 garlic cloves, chopped 
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese 
4 small amaretti cookies, crushed (about 1/3 cup) 
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 
1 package small wonton wrappers 

For the brown butter sauce: 
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks) 
2 tablespoons torn fresh sage leaves 
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped 
1/2 cup dried cranberries, or chopped dried cherries, or mixture of both 
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste 
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste 
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese 

To make the ravioli, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. On a foil-lined baking sheet toss together the butternut squash, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, herbs de Provence, salt, and pepper. Bake in the oven until soft and golden, about 25 minutes. 

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a small saute pan over medium heat. Cook the shallots and garlic until lightly golden, about 3 minutes. 
In a food processor, combine the butternut squash mixture, the shallot mixture, and the ricotta cheese and pulse a few times to blend. Add the crushed amaretti cookies, the nutmeg, and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pulse until smooth. The tortellini filling can be made one day ahead and refrigerated. 

To put together the ravioli, lay out 6 wonton skins, keeping the remaining skins inside the package or under a very lightly dampened paper towel. Place 1 tablespoon of squash mixture in the middle of each skin. 

Dip a pastry brush in a little water and wet the edges of the skin. Gently fold the square wrapper into a triangle, making sure the edges are securely closed and there are no air pockets inside. 

Dampen the two bottom corners of the longest side of the triangle and gently bring them together, pressing lightly to secure. Place the formed ravioli on a baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. 

Before laying out another 6 wonton sheets, be careful to dry the work surface. This will help keep ravioli from sticking to the baking sheet. Continue until all the butternut squash mixture is used. There should be approximately 36 ravioli. (The ravioli can be formed, frozen on the baking sheet, transferred to a tightly sealed plastic bag or container and stored for up to six months. To cook, simply toss the frozen ravioli into the salted boiling water and cook for 4 minutes.) 

To make the sauce and serve, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the sage, walnuts and cranberries and let cook until the butter starts to brown, about 3 minutes. Turn the heat off and season with salt, and pepper. 

Stir to combine. Then, gently place the ravioli in the boiling water and gently stir. When they begin to float they are done, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, gently spoon the ravioli onto a serving platter, Top with the brown butter sauce, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve. 


Chocolate Garam Masala Cookies

Oh yes....I had to try these! Very unusual, with flavors I've never tried together before. As most of you know: garam masala is a blend of spices common to Northern India, toasted and ground together. Everyone has their own favorite recipe and below, Gayle has listed the ingredients for the one she used in these cookies. I happened to have a jar already made up from Williams Sonoma, so used that. It's a lovely cookie with warm flavors and I discovered much to my surprise, garam masala goes very well with chocolate. Who knew?

Chocolate Garam Masala Cookies
From The Global Pastry Table by Gayle Gonzales

Ingredients for a Garam Masala Spice Mix:
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander...generous
scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Ingredients for the Cookie Dough:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala spice mix
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup sugar + 1/2 teaspoon garam masala for dipping the cookies

For the garam masala: blend all the spices together until mixed.
For the cookies: stir together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and 1 1/2 teaspoons of garam masala and salt
Beat the butter and sugar for 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla. Add flour mixture on low speed and mix just until it starts to form large clumps.
Remove from mixer and use rubber spatula to scrape bottom and side of bowl. Mix until well blended.
Divide dough into two equal portions and place each on parchment paper. Form two 8 1.2 inch by 1 1/2 inch logs WRap in parchment and refridgerate for at least 2 1/2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Line baking sheets with parchment. Mix 1/4 cup sugar with 1/2 teaspoon garam masala in a bowl. Cut dough into scant 1/2 inch slices and toss in sugar mixture to coat. Bake for 12 minutes. Cool on rack.


Ina First Fridays: Lobster Mac and Cheese

Welcome to Ina Fridays!
Everyone loves mac and cheese and Ina has several versions in her repertoire, each one a winner......one of my favorites is her mac and cheese for adults which she refers to as a "grown up" mac and cheese...it has Roquefort plus two other cheeses AND bacon!  I bet you've tried at least one of her recipes.
I turned to this one when my family was visiting last year....kind of a Florida-oriented mac and cheese, what with the lobster. (They really would have preferred a dinner of stone crabs. But.....$$$$$$!)
Everyone arrived hungry from their flight and started to dig in before I could take some decent photos. And then rather impatiently 
(you can see someone in the background in red) waited for me to snap just two. Not every good ones, either, as I didn't take the time to bring a piece of lobster to the front to show you! But you can trust me AND Ina...the lobster's in there and this is a great mac and cheese.

Lobster Mac and Cheese
2009, Ina Garten, All Rights Reserved


Kosher salt 
Vegetable oil 
1 pound cavatappi or elbow macaroni 
1 quart milk 
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided 
1/2 cup all-purpose flour 
12 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (4 cups) 
8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (2 cups) 
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 
1 1/2 pounds cooked lobster meat 
1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed) 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. In a large pot, melt 6 tablespoons of butter and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. Still whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt, the pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and lobster and stir well. Place the mixture in 6 to 8 individual gratin dishes.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the fresh bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.


Ina Fridays participants:

Nancy from mypicadillo.com  
Veronica from mycatholickitchen.com
Ansh from spiceroots.com  
Minnie from TheLady8home.com


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