Peppermint Chocolate Cocktail

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Earlier this year, for my husband’s birthday, I made a peppermint vodka to surprise him with a special cocktail. He loves peppermint. The peppermint vodka is from Katherine’s blog, Love in my Oven, one of my favorites.

The cocktail she presented using the peppermint vodka was a peppermint chocolate cocktail, using crème de cacao. When he tasted the cocktail, he said it tasted like Christmas, so I thought I’d share Katherine’s recipe before the holidays!

One thing she recommended was to rim the cocktail glass in crushed candy canes, which I thought was a wonderful idea! Except that I couldn’t get them to work, so I settled on pearl sugar.

Peppermint  Vodka

2 cups vodka
5 peppermint candy canes, broken in two
One drop of red food coloring, optional

In a clean jar, place the candy canes in the vodka and stir occasionally until they dissolve. Store in a dark place for up to 3 days, then use in the following cocktail, or create your own. I didn’t use the red food coloring just because I think the pink is really pretty!

Peppermint  Chocolate  Cocktail
Serves 1

4 ounces peppermint vodka
2 ounces clear crème de cacao

Combine the two ingredients and shake with a bit of crushed ice.

Strain and pour into a glass.

Rim with crushed candy canes if desired; let dry slightly before filling the glass with the cocktail. If you’re able to…

Make a small pitcher of this cocktail if you’re serving multiple purpose. The ratio of 2 to 1 is an easy one!

Raclette

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Raclette is not only the name of one of my favorite cheeses, but it is also a way to eat. I should say it could be a way to live, because if I could get away with it, I’d eat this way every day!

My family and I took an extended trip through Eastern France in 2002, and thankfully, we visited Chamonix. It’s a magical and picturesque town, situated at the base of the Alps. One evening we were wandering through town to pick out our dinner spot. And then I smelled it – that undeniable smell of warm, stinky cheese. I followed my nose to a restaurant with outside seating – all woodsy and cozy in the shadow of Mont Blanc. Then I noticed these contraptions on diners’ tables. This is when and where I discovered Raclette. The contraptions were similar to this one, screwed into the wooden tables.

Raclette is a cows’ milk cheese that comes from the Rhones-Alpes region of France which has an inherent viscosity. If you have noticed, hot cheeses can be thin and runny, or barely move at all – like rubber. Melted raclette is perfectly pourable, and extremely delicious.

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The verb “racler” in French means “to scrape.” So this is what you do when you raclette (verb): the raclette (noun) melts from a heat source, then you scrape the melted cheese onto your bread or potatoes. Originally, raclette was melted by an actual fire.

After returning home, you can bet I researched raclette, and lo and behold! There were electric raclette makers!!! Not as provincial as sitting around a fire waiting for your blob of melted cheese, but that’s ok. I’m talking about having the most fun you can imagine cooking yourself a dinner that revolves around cheese!!!

This electric raclette maker from Williams Sonoma, is very similar to the three I now own. They are really fun, because you can melt your cheese in the little dishes below, and grill meats and breads on the upper granite slab. Yes, I now own three raclette makers – I mean, the more people, the merrier!

I recently discovered the website Raclette Corner, and you can order not only raclette, but the raclette grills and melters. Sonja, the owner, is Swiss/German, and after moving to South Dakota, she missed raclette so much she started this business! I talked to her recently when she set me up with an expedited shipment of raclette when my original order fell though. What’s especially interesting on her site is the page that tells the history of raclette.

This is a photo of the Swiss raclette I received from Sonja. It’s called a half square, which I’d never heard of before. It was much easier to cut up than round wheel!

So here’s what to do if you want to have a Raclette night, my way. However, keep in mind that there is no “one” way to raclette.

Raclette Menu for 4

4 filet mignons
Olive oil
2-4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
Raclette, about 2 pounds
1 loaf of bread
Salad Greens
Salad toppings such as tomato, mushrooms, and hearts of palm, sliced beets
Vinaigrette of choice
2 large cooked potatoes, sliced into quarters, lengthwise
Cornichons
Pickled onions

Begin by slicing the filets about 1/4″ thick and place in a ziploc bag. Whisk together about 1/2 cup of olive oil with your preferred amount of garlic and salt. Add this mixture to the filet slices and let marinate overnight. Before racletting, bring the filets to room temperature.

To set your table to raclette, each person should have a small plate and a small bowl. The electric grill comes with the dishes for the cheese, plus little scrapers. Each person should have at least two cheese dishes, and one scraper.

I also recommend small wooden tongs to pick up the cheese, as well as for other goodies you’re going to have on the table.

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Cut up the Raclette (cheese) into about 2″ squares, about 3/8″ thick. Place on a plate and set on the table. It’s hard to estimate how much people will eat, but in my experience, it’s more than you’re think!

Slice the bread into 1/4″ slices; place in a bowl or basket and set on the table. I like to have some olive oil in a squeeze bottle to add to the top of the grill for toasting the bread. Even better if it’s garlic oil!

Divide the salad greens into four bowls. Divide the salad toppings between the salads. Put these bowls next to the plates already on the table.

Divide the quartered potatoes among the plates and have the vinaigrette on the table.

Place the cornichons and onions in a bowl on the table.

The electric raclette maker goes in the middle of the table. One raclette maker will easily work for four people at a square table.

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Turn on the raclette. Give it a good 15 minutes to heat up properly.

Place a piece of cheese in a dish to start the melting process. Place a piece or two of the marinated beef on the top to grill.

Add some vinaigrette to your salad, and help yourself to the cornichons and pickled onions. As the bread grills, place it on the plate. Using the scraper, scrape the cheese out of the dish and onto the bread.

Add the filets to your salad, or place on top of the cheese.

And make sure to put cheese on the potatoes!

Gingerbread Liqueur

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Well, it’s that time of year once again, with sugar plums dancing in my head. I love all of the flavors of the holidays, yet, not so much gingerbread. I don’t dislike it, it’s just not one of my top holiday flavors.

That is, until I discovered a recipe for gingerbread liqueur, on a now non-existent blog.

I guarantee that this liqueur will make your spirits merry!

Gingerbread Liqueur
Printable recipe below

1/2 cup chopped ginger
1 cinnamon stick
6 whole allspice slightly crushed
5 whole cloves
Fresh nutmeg
1/4 cup molasses
1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 cup vodka
1/2 cup brandy
1/2 cup spiced rum

Put everything in a clean jar.

I doubled the recipe, because I’ve made this before and I know how good it is!

Give the jar a good swirl to make sure the brown sugar and molasses are well stirred, then set the jar in a dark cool place for at least a week. When ready to use, strain into a clean bottle.

Since I’m so creative with cocktails, I add 1/2 & 1/2 to some of the liqueur and called it done.

If you really want to be fancy, add a rim of flavored or just pretty sugar. This was cranberry sugar, but I just did it for the photos!

I don’t let the liqueur sit longer than a week. I find that cloves and cinnamon sticks can lend bitterness if too much time passes.

And I found these adorable gingerbread cookies! Redundant, but cute!

I think the liqueur would be good not only with 1/2 & 1/2, but also with a splash of club soda. Next time, because it’s all gone!

 

 

Florentine Truffle Balls

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I love to share recipes. I’m not one of those who hides them away, not revealing the “secret” ingredient in my sauce or soup. Which is good, actually, since I have a blog!

But oddly enough, there is one recipe that I’ve held dear to my heart, and I have no idea why. It’s one I copied from one in my mother’s collection. The original recipe was an Italian cake – Segretto della Dama. And it was incredible, with the addition of an buttery coffee icing my mother made.

One day many years ago I decided to turn the cake recipe into rum balls. I made this twist specifically for a Chocolate and Champagne gala in my town. Being a local cateress, I was asked to participate, and ended up winning! They were a big hit.

Truffles, real ones, are made from chocolate and cream, and are best made by a true confectioner. They are named after the fungus known as truffles because of their physical similarity. Sort of lumpy brown spheres.

Rum balls, on the other hand, have a crushed cookie or cake mixed in with the other ingredients. They’re much less delicate and easier to make, but that doesn’t make them less yummy.

The reason I named this confectionery truffle balls because it’s like a rum ball and sort of looks like a truffle! I call them Florentine truffle balls is because my friend, a now retired florist, decorated my table at the Gala with floral fabric and a statue that was Tuscan-inspired. The recipe has Italian heritage, after all.

Normally, these truffle balls are made with ladyfingers – the soft kind – not Savoirdi biscuits, which are the only kind I can find locally, as well as on Amazon. This is a first for Amazon disappointing me.

I could have made ladyfingers from scratch, which I’ve done it before. And if I can do it, anyone can. Just use a baking dish; no need to pipe the batter into “fingers,” when you’re going to be crumbling them up. I’ve always used Julia Child’s recipe from Masters of Cooking.

Another option is to make your favorite pound cake and lighten it by folding a couple whipped egg whites into the batter before baking.

Even though it’s really not like me to take major shortcuts in the kitchen, I picked up a pound cake at the store to substitute for the ladyfingers. It’s a heavier texture than lady fingers, but it works, and has no specific flavor.

So here’s the recipe for my truffle balls. I think you’ll find them exquisite, in spite of the purchased pound cake! Since I know how good they are, I doubled the recipe!

Florentine Truffles
Makes about 2 dozen balls

1/2 cup of whole almonds, approximately 2 1/2 ounces
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
8 ounces ladyfingers or pound cake, broken up
1 tablespoon cognac, or to taste
4 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

First, toast the almonds in a skillet on the stove. Let them cool completely. Or, do this the day before. Place them in the food processor and process them until coarsely ground.

Add the chocolate chips and process until the chocolate is a similar texture to the almonds.

Add the pieces of pound cake and process again.

Add the tablespoon of cognac and sprinkle it into the food processor. If you want these to taste strongly of cognac, add more. I didn’t. Then add the butter and powdered sugar.

Process until a “dough” is formed.

Place the dough in a bowl, cover it, and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Meanwhile, sieve a mixture of 2 parts cocoa powder and 1 part powdered sugar in a small bowl. You will only need about a total of 3-4 tablespoons total for this batch of truffles.

Roll teaspoon-sized balls of the dough with your hands, or use a small cookie scoop, and them place them in the cocoa mixture.

Toss a few balls at a time in the cocoa mixture to coat completely, then place in a ziploc bag.

These truffle ball aren’t stable at room temperature for long because of the butter. I wouldn’t serve them at a party that lasted hours, unless I kept replenishing with chilled ones.

Also, these truffles freeze really well. I’ve made multiple batches of them for the holidays in previous years, and just pull them out of the freezer before guests come over. They’re a nice little treat.

What you taste when you eat one of these is buttery chocolatey goodness, along with some almond and cognac flavor. They’re quite lovely!

If you make these, be prepared to want to triple the recipe next time!

Create Your Own Chutney

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I truly love condiments, especially those seasonally-based, like chutneys. And, because I love to “play” in the kitchen and use whatever ingredients I have on hand or am in the mood to use, I wanted to show how easy it is to make your own chutney sans recipe.

It’s all about creating a chutney that you love, customizing the ingredients to your tastes, according to the seasons. Indulge. Chutneys are fabulous.

I have an actual recipe following this “primer” of chutney making below, but seriously once you make a chutney, you’ll see how creative you can be and how well they turn out. A recipe is not necessary.

Create Your Own Chutney

A chutney is about combining fruits – the sweet factor, and aromatics – the savory factor, and then adding seasoning and flavorings.

The sweet-savory ratio is important, however. I use about 2/3 fruit to 1/3 aromatics in my chutneys. You don’t want it all fruit, or it would be a jam.

I season the chutney according to my tastes and the time of year. There are spicy fall and winter chutneys, and there are light, vibrant chutneys you can make for spring and summer appearances as well. (Like my Strawberry Onion Chutney.) It’s all about seasonal ingredients.

Fruit:
You can use fresh fruit: apple, pear, mango, apricot, plum, cranberries, strawberries, peach, etc.
And you can use dried fruit: cranberries, cherries, figs, apricots, raisins, dates, blueberries, etc.
A combination of fresh and dried makes a nice consistency, like pear-dried fig, peach-raisin, apple-dried apricot. Using three fruits works really well, like apple-mango-dried cherry. Or cranberry-apple-date. You get the idea.

If you’re using dried fruits like raisins or cherries, you can soak them in port or fruit juice first to soften them and soak up the flavors, then use it all in the chutney-making process.

Aromatics:
I always use a combination of fresh onion, garlic, and sometimes shallots and fresh ginger. You definitely need onion; the rest is optional.

Sugar:
There is always a sweet component in chutney to balance the aromatics. If you’re using tart cranberries, you would definitely need more sugar than if you were using, say, ripe peaches or strawberries. You can use brown sugar, white sugar, turbinado sugar and so forth. Liquid forms of sugar don’t work well in chutney, because they’re too, well, liquid. A prepared chutney is soft, but not a pile of syrupy mush. But you can add a teaspoon of maple syrup or boiled cider.

Seasonings:
Except for salt, you don’t have to season a chutney at all, although I happen to love black pepper, white pepper, and cayenne.

For fall and winter chutneys, I like them full of flavor – especially when they’re going to be served alongside fairly bland meats. The choices are vast, depending what you want your chutney to taste like.

I, personally, love that what curry powder adds to a chutney. But separately, you can use cumin, cardamom, coriander, etc. A cinnamon stick adds flavor while the chutney is cooking, but ground cinnamon can be used as well. And nutmeg, cloves, and allspice are always yummy. Think of them in an apple-pear-dried fig chutney served with a pork loin. YUM.

Another fun ingredients are small pieces of crystallized ginger.

You can also add ground chile pepper, like ancho or even chipotle powders, to a chutney. And also adobo or adobo powder – especially if you’re making the chutney for a Southwestern-inspired meal.

Vinegar:
Any vinegar will work in a chutney. I love cider vinegar and red wine vinegar, but a white balsamic vinegar works well also. Nothing fancy is required.

Cranberry Apple Raisin Chutney

2 tablespoons grape seed oil
1 purple onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 12 ounce bag cranberries, rinsed, sorted
1 apple, peeled, cored, finely chopped
1 cup golden raisins, loosely packed
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cinnamon stick, optional
2 teaspoons vinegar

Add the oil to a hot stock pot and let it heat over medium. Add the onions and sauté for about 5 minutes, without allowing browning.

Give the garlic a stir into the onions, then add the cranberries, apple, and raisins. Stir together.

Allow to heat up, then add the sugar, cinnamon, curry powder, salt, and the cinnamon stick.

Stir well, then cover the pot, turn down the heat to a simmer, and let cook for at least 15 minutes. It will look like this.

Add a couple teaspoons of vinegar and stir in gently. Unless there’s excess liquid, remove the pot from the heat.

Let the chutney cool, remove the cinnamon stick, then store in sterilized jars.


It freezes well.

Not only does this chutney go beautifully with Thanksgiving turkey, but also with chicken and pork. Here I’ve served it with roasted pork and sweet potatoes.


As you can see, there’s a lot of leeway when creating a chutney. They can be simple or complicated from an ingredient standpoint, but they are very easy to prepare.

Chutney is also wonderful topping a baked Brie, and can be used in individual Brie and chutney bites.

Just remember to cook off any extra liquid over extremely low heat, and also don’t overstir. You want to see the beautiful pieces of fruit in your beautiful chutney!

Croissants Breakfast Boats

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happen to love Instagram, and I follow Cheesy, which probably isn’t surprising to those who know me well. Cheesy posts just that – photos of cheesiness!

And, one day I saw these – hollowed out croissants, baked with eggs, cheese, and bacon! At least I’m assuming that’s how they were prepared. I searched online and saw many similar recipes, but never found this photo.

Aren’t these boats beautiful? During the holidays, I typically have croissants on hand and save them for various purposes. To use as is, obviously, or for baked French toast or bread pudding. The Williams-Sonoma croissants are really nice to have on hand; you can bake one or a dozen at a time.

So here’s my version of croissants breakfast boats, and if anyone knows to whom to give credit for the photo of his/her boats, I’d appreciate it!

Croissants Breakfast Boats

4 baked croissants
1 small purple onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
Drizzle of olive oil
Salt
Pepper
6 eggs at room temperature
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Prepared diced bacon
A few green onions, sliced
Feta cheese, crumbled
Slices of black olives (optional)
Slices of sun-dried tomatoes (optional)
Coarsely ground black pepper (optional)
Cayenne pepper flakes (optional)

Turn each croissant on its side and slice a “hat” off of the top. Discard the hats, then using your fingers, pick out the dough until you have a nice boat. Try not to make any holes!

Place the prepped croissants on a jelly roll pan and preheat the oven to a roast setting.

Place the onion and red bell pepper on another jelly roll pan, drizzle with oil, and generously add salt and pepper.

Roast the veggies in the oven until caramelized, about 15 minutes. Remove the veggies from the oven and let them cool. Change the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs and cream with the salt and white pepper.

When you’re ready to bake the croissants boats, stir about 3/4 of the roasted veggies into the eggs and stir. Have all of the goodies prepped and ready.

Gently, using a ladle, pour the mixture into the croissants. The only reason I spilled was that I was pouring with my left hand so I could take a photo with my right!

Place in the oven and bake just until the eggs are firm, about 18 minutes; you don’t want rubbery eggs.

To serve, sprinkle with bacon, feta cheese, and chopped green onion, plus the leftover veggie mixture. Optionally, include the sun-dried tomatoes, olives, black pepper and cayenne pepper flakes. Or, keep them plain and offer the goodies on the side.

Instead of bacon you could use good ham or Prosciutto or sausage.

The options are endless for these breakfast boats!

The best part was finding out that I could pick up the breakfast boats and eat them like a sandwich!

But the prettiest these are is when you can see the beautiful yellow egg filling, so next time I might stir more of the goodies into the whisked eggs, and not worry about “toppings.”


And there will be a next time!

Cranberry Salsa

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Years ago I was visiting with my friend Dan, who is quite a foodie, and he asked me if I’d ever had cranberry salsa.

Cranberry salsa? I’ve never heard of such a thing! Where have I been? This just made me absolutely giddy. It’s always so exciting to come across something new and different.

Dan printed the recipe, and gave me a few suggestions on adaptations he’d made to it. But he promised me I’d absolutely love it with the turkey I’d be serving on Thanksgiving.

And I did. Here is that recipe. Thanks, Dan!

Cranberry Salsa

1- 12 ounce package cranberries
2 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup super-fine white sugar
1 bunch cilantro, leaves only, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

Place the cranberries in a colander. Remove any bad ones and give the rest a good rinse.

Then place the cranberries on a towel to dry.

Place the jalapenos, garlic and sugar in the food processor and pulse until you can’t see any large pieces.

Add the cranberries, cilantro, oil and lime juice and pulse all of the ingredients, without over-processing.

Pour the salsa into a bowl and fold in the sliced green onions. I’ve found that this is easier than using the food processor to chop up green onion.

Cranberry salsa is really good, and I serve it with tortilla chips or pita crisps.

You can refrigerate the salsa overnight, but serve it at room temperature.

And as a condiment, it’s spectacular with turkey.

I make turkey cutlets often, and the pairing is fabulous.

Whether served as an appetizer or as a condiment, you’ll enjoy the zing of the cranberries and jalapeño.

The original recipe called for 2 cups of sugar, but I can’t fathom adding more than the 1 cup of sugar I used. It’s perfect to me just the way it is.

Next time I might consider adding some toasted walnuts or pecans to the salsa at the last minute.

Also, ginger could be used along with the garlic. Or, crystallized ginger…

A Cookbook Gift

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Right after my daughter got married, in 2011, I did something that I’m very happy I did. I wrote a cookbook for her. Not just because she was married, or because she’d reached a certain age. It’s just that as she got older and busier, we didn’t really cook together much anymore, and I had so much I wanted to share.

I’m pretty much 99% self-taught, so I learned the hard way how to cook. I had no Grandma in the kitchen with me showing me the ropes, which is fine, but that’s what I mean about learning the hard way. I read recipes, and cooked. And I made mistakes.

When I made the decision to write the cookbook, I purchased a metal-ring binder kind of book. (There are many options on Amazon.com.”) It came with dividers, and pages I could put through my printer. I also used plastic-lined blank pages, so there was lots of room for pictures, drawings, and personal notes.

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A lot of the pictures I glued were pages I’d saved from Chefs Illustrated – they have the most beautifully illustrated tutorials, like on boning a chicken, for example. And I had copies of helpful reference charts, like how long it takes to steam different vegetables, or at what temperature to remove meat from the oven.

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I ended up being so happy with my “cookbook” that I made a duplicate for my younger daughter, and gave both girls the cookbooks at Christmas.
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Although I rarely cook the same thing twice, I still do have my favorite recipes, and these are in the cookbook. My favorite barbecue sauce, for example. Or a recipe for white sauce. I remember once thinking once that only chefs in fancy restaurants could make white sauce. How silly is that?!!!

My older daughter, who cooks often, has told me that she has referenced my cookbook quite often over the last few years. Of course, You Tube is available now for just about anything, but I think she likes having me “talking” her way through some helpful instructions.

I especially love that both of my daughters cook beans. They figured out how easy it is to cook a dollar’s worth of dried beans and make spectacular meals. I know adults who have never cooked beans from scratch! And, I credit my cookbook for encouraging this, because I simply showed how easy it is. It’s easier for young people to jump into cooking without any pre-conceived notions as to how difficult some of it might be. And honestly, as we all know, home cooking is quite straight forward and easy. It aint’ rocket science!

So I’m not writing this post to pat myself on my head. This is not a cookbook that I will be sharing with anyone else. I designed it just for my daughters, who both enjoy cooking and eating, so that they might not learn some things the hard way.

I wanted to pass this idea along to any of you who hadn’t thought about it, so you can gift your children a cookbook from your heart and soul. (Or anybody, really!)

Even if your children are young, it’s something you can plan for the future, gathering culinary tidbits here and there, maybe keeping track of the meal you made on every birthday and a photo to go along with the meal. Or a special section just on holiday menus that were enjoyed by all.

They grow up fast so plan ahead!

But I do know one thing. They will treasure your cookbook always.

Fruit and Chocolate

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I have a thing for the combination of dried fruits and chocolate, like dried apricots dipped in chocolate. Every holiday season I plan on dipping some variety of dried fruit or candied fruit in chocolate, but I know, in the end, I will be the only one who eats them.

photo from Windy City Sweets

Then I came across a recipe that combines chocolate and dried fruit – figs, to be specific – with nuts thrown in. And these bars seemed like something everyone would love.

The original recipe is in the book shown below, and it combines bittersweet chocolate, milk chocolate, macadamia nuts, and figs. Doesn’t that sound spectacular? I made the switch to hazelnuts just because I happen to have a lot left over from the holidays; plus they’re my favorite nut.

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I typically would have added different fruits to the mixture as well, but I held back, limiting it to the nuts and figs like in the actual recipe.

This batch was made last week, and what my husband didn’t eat went into a freezer bag. Maybe I’ll pull them out on Valentine’s Day. But what is funny, is that he wouldn’t eat a chocolate-dipped fig, yet he gobbled up these bars.

And that’s life cooking for people, isn’t it?!!

So here’s the recipe as printed in the cookbook.

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No-Bake Chocolate, Macadamia and Fig Slices

100 grams/6 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons clear honey
300 grams/10 ounces dark/bittersweet chocolate
100 grams/3 1/2 ounces milk chocolate
6 digestive or other sweetmeal biscuits/graham crackers
100 grams/2/3 cup shelled macadamia nuts
100 grams/2/3 cup ready-to-eat dried figs, chopped

Place the butter and chocolates in a double boiler and slowly begin melting the chocolate. I omitted the honey.

Meanwhile, grind the graham crackers, or whatever biscuit/cookie you’re using, in a food processor until smooth.

Measure out the hazelnuts, or whatever nut you’re using, as well as the figs. Add them to the graham crackers.

By now the chocolate should have begun melting. You want to be patient and wait until it’s smooth and shiny.

Mix together the chocolate and the goodies, then immediately spread into a foil-lined baking dish. The recipe suggested a 7″ square pan, I used a 5″ x 9″ rectangular pan. No greasing of the foil is necessary.

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Let the mixture cool, then cover the pan tightly and refrigerate for a few hours.

To serve, slice in the shape of biscotti, and top with a light dusting of cocoa.

As you can imagine, these are a wonderful chocolatey treat. I like their rustic appearance as well.

I enjoyed one with an afternoon coffee, though it was hard limiting myself to one.

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I wasn’t kidding when I said my husband finished off all of the bars that didn’t fit into the freezer bag, which I think totaled six. Well, he’s not on a diet.

verdict: These are fabulous. I’m really glad I omitted the honey. My only complaint is that these could be heavier on the dried fruit and nuts. Next time I’ll include dried cherries and apricots.

Cabbage Bundles

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This recipe for a lovely and tasty side dish is less about the cabbage, and way more about the filling. Over the years, I’ve made the bundles so many different ways, but today I’m using a creamy mixture of bacon, onions and mushrooms. I’ve also included leeks and peas before.

So try this out as an easy and pretty side dish, varying the filling ingredients to your liking. You can even make these a day ahead and reheat. That’s a handy thing to do when it’s holiday season.

Cabbage Bundles
Inspired by this recipe on Epicurious here

1 large green cabbage
6 thick slices of bacon, diced
2 onions, thinly sliced
12 ounces sliced mushrooms
Garlic pepper
Dried thyme
Salt
White sauce, approximately 1 1/2 cups

Core the cabbage, then place the whole cabbage in a large pot.

Add enough water to cover. Add a little salt, then bring the water to a boil. Cook the cabbage in the water for at least 7 minutes. Remove the cabbage to a colander and let it drain upside down.

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If you feel you’ve overcooked the cabbage, place it in ice water immediately for a minute, then let it drain.

When the cabbage has cooled off, peel off the outer leaves and let them dry; set aside.

Cook the bacon over medium heat until fully cooked, but not crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined plate; set aside.

Pour off some of the bacon grease if there’s too much in the skillet. But save it, of course.

Reduce the heat slightly, then add the onions and sauté them for about 5 minutes. You want them soft and only slightly caramelized.

Remove the onions to a bowl, then add a little more bacon grease or olive oil as needed, and sauté the mushrooms. Towards the end when they’re almost fully sautéed, add salt and seasoning like garlic pepper.

Just for fun, I added a little cognac to the mushrooms and flamed them for a minute. This step adds a little flavor, but it not necessary.

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Drain the mushrooms to get that wonderful mushroom jus, then combine the mushrooms and onions in a large bowl. Add the thyme. Save the jus for when you make the white sauce, if you like.

Add the white sauce and bacon to the cooled-off onions and mushrooms, then stir to combine gently. There’s your filling. It can be refrigerated overnight, if necessary.

To make the bundles, begin by lightly greasing a baking dish. Lay one cabbage leaf flat on your work surface, and top with filling. Don’t go overboard with the filling, or else it will all ooze out. Just a nice amount, that still allows you to comfortably roll and tuck the cabbage leaf around the filling. Also first trim off any really tough leaf ends before rolling.

Place the bundles smooth side up in the baking dish. Repeat.

Just before you want to serve, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush a little olive oil over the top of the bundles, and bake just until there’s a little color on the cabbage, or about 20 minutes. If you want more color, you can always slide the baking dish under the broiler for a minute.

Serve immediately.

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Alternatively, these can be baked one day, refrigerated, and then reheated on another day. They stay intact pretty well if you haven’t overfilled them!

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If you want a pretty decadent side dish, toss a little grated Parmesan on the bundles before the browning and heating step.

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These were delicious with pork loin, but would be equally wonderful with grilled white fish or roasted chicken.