Thursday, December 31, 2015

Tarte Soleil - Perfect New Year's appetizer!

French food is difficult to make.  Who has the time?

Psst...over here.  I made this beautiful Tarte Soleil in no time flat using store bought ingredients!  It was easy!  I saw the recipe on and was inspired.  The dough is store bought puff pastry and the filling options are waiting for you at your grocery/gourmet store olive bar!  Use your creativity: the options are limitless.  It could be sweet or savory - you choose!

SK recipe used a combination of sun-dried tomato tapenade and olive tapenade along with fresh herbs.  For mine, I bought Kalamata olive tapenade, roasted garlic, added some fresh thyme and oregano, and dotted it with goat cheese.  DELICIOUS! I am going to look like magic when I show up at my friends' NYE party with this in hand.  :)

Simply, thaw a package of puff pastry in the fridge overnight.  Lightly flour a Tovolo Pastry Mat and roll out one sheet to a 10" or 12" round.  I made mine a 10" round.  You don't want to use a knife on the silicone mat because you could cut it so I used the Nylon end of a Tovolo Scoop & Spread.  (Add yet another use for that kitchen miracle!) Take the round and place it on a piece of parchment paper just a little bigger than the round itself.  Roll the second sheet to the same size.

To assemble, spread the filling (you could do bruschetta, tapenade, cinnamon sugar, frangipane, nutella, jam, whatever you like) to just shy of the edge.  Using your finger, lightly dab the edge of the bottom dough with water and then carefully place the second round on top, gently sealing the two together at the water seam.  Then place a glass in the middle of the two doughs.  No need to push, it is just holding the middle together. Take the Nylon end of your Scoop & Spread and cut the dough from the glass to the edge at 3:00, 6:00, 9:00, and 12:00 o'clock.  Then cut each of those triangles in half and then half again to get 16 pieces.  Okay, now here's the tricky part.  Hold your finger at the top of the triangle near the edge of the glass so that you don't break the connection of the top of the triangle to the middle of the dough.  Take the outer edge and gently twist the dough.  I gave each triangle about 2 1/2 twists.  Remove the glass and add seeds or nuts for decoration. Then brush the whole thing with an egg wash made of one yolk and 1 teaspoon of water.  Bake it in a 350 degree oven for about 35 minutes and Voila!  This is perfect for an appetizer or even a brunch.

the original smitten kitchen recipe is:

I wish you all a very happy New Year and looking forward to more recipes, adventures in the kitchen, and lots of great food in 2016!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Winter Simplicity served hot or cold.

Hot chocolate.


Chocolate that has been melted into hot, foamy milk...


It has been around for thousands of years.  We have morphed into much more complicated forms by adding other flavors but 

at its simple best - it is good chocolate, melted into hot milk. 

Add whipped cream or marshmallows, crushed peppermints or cinnamon, make it thicker like the Parisians or thinner like the elementary schools, it is still a hug in a mug!  

But wait...

Let's add Ice Cream,

And Peppermint Candy Canes crushed into pieces,

And Hot Chocolate (that has been cooled),

And then add a little milk, blend it altogether into a decadent, frozen extravaganza!  

Lo and behold - the Hot Chocolate Milkshake!  (If you are feeling crazy, and I know you are - you could add a little peppermint schnapps or creme de cocoa, or a little vodka or all three!)  Dress it up with some marshmallow fluff or whipped cream.

We (Tovolo) are about to release new tiny cookie cutters that make tiny cookies that can sit on the top of a straw!  They are the cutest thing I have ever seen! They elevate a milkshake or make a simple glass of milk the ultimate Milk & Cookies! I made these out of leftover sugar cookie dough, added some sprinkles, and classed up my fabulous milkshake!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Holiday Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies are tradition.  They are as easy and delicious and I don't know why I don't bake them more often.  They are fun to bake with friends.  They are a perfect distraction/project for the little ones in your life.   You can use sugars or frosting or just eat them plain.  They keep really well.  You can freeze them. They make great gifts and really do not take that much time to make. 

Honestly, I get hung up with rolling them out but it never is the hassle I think it is going to be.  Getting a little salesman on you for a moment, the Tovolo Pastry Mat makes all the difference.  It keeps my counter clean and when I am done with the cookies, I just pick it up, take it to the sink, rinse, and voila - all clean! It also provides a really big work surface.  

Tovolo's Winter Wonderland Cookie Cutters are super easy to use as well and provides my non-decorating inner baker a template to add sparkly sugars or icing.  I have to say though, I think they are beautiful without any decoration.  

I have posted this recipe before but it is a foolproof sugar cookie recipe we use all the time for testing and baking with our cookie cutters.
We would love to see what you create with our cookie cutters!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Chewy Molasses Ginger Cookies with Theo Gingerbread Spice Bars!

A few days ago, our friends at Theo Chocolate, here in Seattle, posted that they were selling Gingerbread Cookies packed with chunks of their Gingerbread Spice Milk Chocolate bars in them.  In my opinion, Theo doesn't make very many mistakes but seriously?  Who puts milk chocolate, gingerbread spiced, chocolate pieces in molasses cookies?  GENIUSES that's who!  I present for your Holiday enjoyment my interpretation of a new classic.

First, let me talk about Theo's Gingerbread Spice bars.  They have been making them starting in September every year for the last few.  It is part of their Holiday Bar series.  I love Theo's milk chocolate because it is super creamy and luscious but is still 45% cacao.  It leaves this wonderful dusty cocoa finish in your mouth that lingers chocolate long after your last nibble.  The Gingerbread Spice added to the milk chocolate brings out the earthiness of the chocolate but adds a sweetness from the cinnamon that makes me think of Christmas morning.  I like it.

Let's chat about molasses ginger cookies.  I love molasses.  I am one of those people who can eat it off a spoon so the idea of milk chocolate coupled with molasses, kind of set my happy dance in motion.  These particular cookies have ginger, cinnamon, cardamon, cloves, and a dash of black pepper in them so they are spicy but not very sweet.  The addition of the chocolate is brilliant and creates a decadent and gooey texture.

These are really straight forward cookies but the addition of the chocolate really elevates them into something special.  I have no doubt these will become a Holiday tradition at my house!

I used Joy the Baker's Ginger Molasses Cookie Recipe as the base
I made mine smaller cookies since it is Holiday time and I eat ALOT of cookies so if they are a little smaller I feel a little less guilty. :) 

  1. 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  2. 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  3. 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  4. 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  5. 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  6. 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  7. big pinch of fresh ground black pepper
  8. 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
  9. 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  10. 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  11. 1 large egg
  12. 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  13. 1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
  14. 2 - 3oz. Theo Gingerbread Spice Milk Chocolate Bars, roughly chopped
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom cloves, pepper, and salt. Make sure no lumps remain.
  2. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and brown sugar on low speed. Beat for 3 to 5 minutes until light, fluffy, and creamy.
  3. Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the egg. Beat the egg into the mixture for 1 minute. Beat in the vanilla extract.
  4. Add the molasses and beat on low until thoroughly incorporated.
  5. Add the dry ingredients all at once and beat on low until just incorporated.
  6. Stop the mixer and add the chocolate chunks. Use a spatula to fold the chocolate chips into the dough.
  7. Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour before baking.
  8. Place racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  9. Scoop cookie dough by the heaping tablespoonful onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 2-inches of space between each cookie ball.  Tovolo Baking Mats are perfect for cookies!
  10. Bake for 12 minutes until just browned around the edges and the tops begin the crinkle. Remove from the oven and allow to rest on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool before storing. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Quiche me you Fool!

Quiche is a forgotten favorite.  December is all about cookies, desserts, and baked goods.  I was trying to think of the other foods that could be good Holiday options besides than the copious amounts of sugary foods that are the obvious post choices this time of year. 

I wanted to think of foods that would be good for entertaining or overnight guests.  Quick meal choices that could be prepared ahead and ready if someone showed up at your house unannounced (God forbid!)  Something cozy and comforting but yet had some redeeming qualities.  Quiche fits the bill on all fronts.  Quiche is great for breakfast, brunch, and dinner.  It can be frozen, reheated, or served at room temperature.  Quiche ingredients are almost always on hand - eggs, milk, cheese, with veggies and/or meat. You can even use leftovers! It takes little time to prepare and is absolutely delicious.  Quiche is good right out of the oven and two days later.  Perfection!

I admit I hadn't made quiche in a pretty long time.  Since I was trying to use quiche as a holiday alternative workhorse, I decided to buy the crust.  I am kind of a jerk when it comes to pie crust because I can honestly say I have never bought one.  I grew up thinking crusts were pretty easy to make and taste infinitely better. Well I was wrong.  The pre-made crust I bought was really good!  It was flaky and did not taste artificial at all.  I was quite impressed! There is still one in my freezer. I will definitely keep them on hand for just such a quiche opportunity. (Thank you Marie Callender.)

One of the best things about quiche is that you can use whatever you have in the fridge.  I had leftover cheese and a leek.  I went to the store and bought some gorgeous chanterelles and King Oyster mushrooms.  Living in the PNW, we are spoiled by our mushroom selection.  (See above photo)  I sauteed leeks with olive oil and butter.  When the leeks were sweated, I added chopped mushrooms and cooked them until soft but still had texture.  I added salt and pepper as well as some fresh thyme.  The crust was blind baked. I mixed the dairy ingredients as it cooled for a few minutes.  I shredded Gruyere and smoked Beecher's cheese - be still my heart.  I then added  1/2 the cheese to the pie crust, added the leeks and mushrooms, added the rest of the cheese (except for a sprinkling), and then poured in the egg mixture.  I topped it with the remaining sprinkle of cheese.  It is important to set the empty pie crust onto a cookie sheet or pan in case the liquid overflows.  I speak from a place of experience.  This also makes it much easier to insert the quiche into the oven as well.

There are endless combinations of ingredients that can be used in a quiche.  The key is to cook the ingredients first.  I found a great breakdown of basic quiche making on It gave ideal proportions of ingredients that you can use as a formula.

A truly well-made quiche is light and fluffy.  I forgot how luxurious it feels in your mouth.  If you haven't had a good quiche in a while do yourself and your Holiday guests a favor and make one or better yet, make two, and freeze one for an unexpected treat!   
Let us know what kind you made!  Happy Holidays!

Reposted from

Fool-Proof Quiche
Makes one 9-inch pie or about 8 servings

What You Need

9-inch pie crust
1-2 cups filling ingredients, like bacon, mushrooms, onions, and spinach
1-2 cups (3 oz - 6 oz) grated cheese, like Gruyere, Swiss, or Cheddar
3 large eggs
1 cup (8 oz) milk
1/2 cup (4 oz) cream
1 teaspoon salt
9-inch cake or pie pan - straight-sided is traditional, but a pan with sloped sides works fine
Bake the quiche at 350°F for 30 to 40 minutes, until the edges are set but the quiche still jiggles a little in the center. Cool for at least 20 minutes, but ideally overnight.
Quiche can be served cold, room temperature, or warmed. If serving warm, heat in a 300°F oven until just warm to the touch.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Don't like Cranberries? Think again!

Every year for the past 6, I have gone to very dear friends' house for Thanksgiving.  I would travel up to Seattle from Texas and stay for the long weekend.  It was a trip I always looked forward to.  Their house was always the right amount of cozy and relaxing, mixed into a fun adventure.

Our Thanksgiving day tradition is an eclectic collection of friends and friends of friends that need a place to go on Thanksgiving.  It always makes for an unexpected day filled with great food from people's childhoods.  I am headed over there on Thursday - very thankful.

One of my favorite foods on the table is my hostess' take on cranberry sauce - except really good! It is more of a chutney (without the vinegar component) and yea it is great on turkey, blah, blah, blah, but most importantly it is good with EVERYTHING else!  My favorite is on the morning after Thanksgiving to have it on toast with a little butter and then slather on the cranberry chutney.  I have made it as a cheesecake topping.  I have had it on grilled cheese.  I would put it on a bison burger - just thought of that, yum! It would be delicious on vanilla ice cream.  I have mashed it down and strained it into vodka for a festive martini!  This stuff is GOOOOD!

Best of all it is SO simple to make. It is a combination of apricot and cranberry so it has sweetness and tartness but just enough of each.  The cardamon compliments both fruits and adds a lovely warmth to the chutney.  It is a snap to make and don't limit yourself to Thanksgiving - it is great all times of year!  It would also make great holiday gifts!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Cranberry Sauce with Dried Apricots and Cardamom
8 whole green cardamom pods

1 3/4 cups canned apricot nectar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup honey
1 6-ounce package dried apricots, quartered
1 12-ounce bag cranberries
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

Coarsely crush cardamom in mortar with pestle or place in resealable plastic bag and crush with rolling pin; discard skins.

Bring next 5 ingredients and cardamom to boil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add apricots; cook 2 minutes. Add cranberries and cook until berries pop, stirring occasionally, about 9 minutes. Transfer to bowl. Mix in lemon peel. Cover and refrigerate overnight. (Can be made 1 week ahead. Keep refrigerated.) Serve cold or at room temperature.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Lazy Lunchtime

Late Fall is one of my favorite times of year.  It is when you start to see and hear from friends you don't see very often throughout the year.  The air gets colder.  Sweater weather is in full force.  Food becomes all about comfort (when is it not?) and just like old friends, cookies, pastries, and spiked beverages abound!  My problem is that I start to not eat as healthily as I do the rest of the year.  I get lazy in my mealtime routine because I bake more, snack on what I bake, and celebrate the season more than I should.

Yesterday, I decided to make a concerted effort to be more mindful of my meal choices and portions of said meal.  I also am slightly overwhelmed by the bounty of different squashes and greens that have been arriving in my CSA box the last few weeks.  I looked at the Butternut Squash on my counter and the collard greens in my produce drawer and decided to make individual lasagnas!

This idea will work with a plethora of different food combinations.  One of the tricks I use, is to cook the ingredients ahead of time so when I add them together and bake them with the noodles and cheese, I am not having figure out how I am getting greens to cook at the same time and temperature as squash.

I bought fresh pasta sheets at the grocery store. These are really convenient because you can cut them to be whatever width or shape you like.  I used a 3" biscuit cutter and cut out circles - 5 circles per individual muffin tin.  I used a Jumbo muffin tin - they measure about 3.5" diameter.  You can use the regular size but for lunch size portions the Jumbo ones are just right.

I seeded the squash and then cut it in quarters and lightly oiled, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and roasted in a 400 degree oven for about 40 - 45 minutes.  Cutting it in quarters speeds up the cooking time. While the squash is roasting, I washed the collard greens in my Tovolo Soak & Strain.  I then laid out the leaves on top of one another about 5 high, cut the stems off,  rolled them longways, and cut them about 1/2" thick. The technique is called chiffonade and not only does it make quick work of chopping greens and herbs, it makes beautiful ribbons of them.  I heated a pan with about 2 T of olive oil over medium heat and sauteed the greens with salt & pepper.  After about 4 or 5 minutes add about 1/4 cup of water to the pan and cover for another 5 minutes. This steams the collards the rest of the way and helps to make the leaves more tender.

Now for assembly for 6 individual cups:
6 oz, of Ricotta cheese - I use part skim
4 oz. Basil pesto - I bought some at the store - I know, shameful!
1 egg
Mix the ricotta, pesto, and egg together in a bowl.

4 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 winter squash, delicata, butternut, butterkin, cooked as above then diced 
1 bunch collard greens, cooked as above then diced

First lightly oil each cup with a little olive oil.  Then take one pasta circle and place it in the bottom of each cup.  You want the pasta circle to come up on the side a little, this helps hold it all together.  Add a dollop of the ricotta mixture onto the pasta circle and smush it down a little so it covers the circle.  Add a teaspoon of the collard greens.  Layer another pasta circle and a generous pinch of mozzarella followed by a few squash pieces.  Add another pasta circle and repeat. After the second layer of squash press the 5th pasta circle down lightly, add a little more ricotta mixture and a pinch of mozzarella - this will be the top.  Sprinkle with pepper.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes or until the top gets bubbly.

Let them cool and then place them into a freezer bag in a single layer so that they don't stick together while they freeze and pop them into your freezer.  When you need a quick dinner, lunch for work, or even a great little side dish they are ready and waiting for you!  I heat mine in the microwave and they come out really well.  

You can use red sauce, ground meat, caprese style - you are only limited by your creativity!