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St. Patty’s Day Grasshopper Pie

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Saint Patrick’s Day is just around the corner and boy are we excited!

I couldn’t be more proud of my Irish heritage. As a child, I remember interrogating my young classmates about their Kiss Me, I’m Irish pins, demanding to know if they were really Irish and then triumphantly proclaiming that I, in fact, was really Irish. Top that, second grader!

The existence of a holiday devoted to celebrating all things Irish has surely contributed to my bloated sense of Irish pride. I may be somewhat delusional, but I have a sneaking suspicion that all people wish they were at least a little Irish. My husband, who can not count Ireland amongst his countries of origin, tries to argue that he must be Irish, since he has Irish children. His persistence about inheriting an Irish background from our children, is further proof of my theory that all people wish they were Irish…at least on St. Patty’s Day!

We’ve got a few yummy things lined up for this year’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration. There will be corned beef and cabbage, of course, with boiled potatoes and carrots. The kids and I will also be baking fresh Irish soda bread with raisins, which we’ll lather with Irish butter. And for dessert, we’re having perfectly minty Grasshopper Pie! We’ll start with a chocolate cookie crust, which we’ll fill with a rich layer of dark chocolate peppermint pudding. Bright green whipped cream and crushed Grasshopper cookies will add the finishing touches.

Grasshopper Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 chocolate cookie pie crust
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 2 cups whipped cream or Cool Whip
  • Green food coloring
  • 5-6 Grasshopper or Thin Mint cookies, crushed

Directions

In a saucepan, mix together sugar, cornstarch, cocoa, and salt. Whisk in 1 cup of milk, stirring until combined. Whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup of milk and 1/2 cup of cream. Continue whisking over medium heat until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken, about 5 minutes. Whisking constantly, continue cooking for another minute or two. Be careful to whisk into the corners and along the sides of the pan. Remove from heat. Whisk in the chocolate chips and peppermint extract, stirring until fully melted. Pour the pudding into the pie shell. Refrigerate until cooled completely. Add a few drops of green food coloring to the whipped cream. Spread the whipped cream over the cooled pudding. Garnish with crushed cookies.

The Kids Cook Monday – Chocolate Coconut King Cake

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I’ve always felt a strong pull towards the city of New Orleans, as if in some long-forgotten past life, it were my home. The most likely explanation for this feeling comes from reading way too many Anne Rice novels during an impressionable period of my youth. I dreamed of the vampire Lestat in the way which girls today dream of  the infamous Edward. I so clearly imagined myself in Rice’s stories, that I began to believe I had a history with New Orleans. Whatever the case may be, the city calls to me. I’ve yet to visit New Orleans, but it’s high on my list.

In another time and place, I would have surely planned my New Orleans trip to correspond with the uproarious celebrations of Mardi Gras. But at this point in my life, as I sit here expecting my third child, I’d almost certainly plan my trip for any time of year except Mardi Gras. I’m just not sure there’s enough wild youth left in me to handle Mardi Gras. These days, I’d be much more inclined to find a dimly lit bar and sit back with a few drinks, listening to live jazz until the wee hours of the morn.

Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is traditionally celebrated on the day before Ash Wednesday; a sort of last hurrah before buckling down for Lenten preparations. Tomorrow, as I’m comfortably nestled on my couch, watching American Idol and eating Easter candy, the city of New Orleans will be buzzing with the grand excitement of Mardi Gras; parades, beads, music and wild partying.  It’s a time to celebrate, indulge, and let the good times roll!

If you were composing a list of foods associated with Mardi Gras, King Cake would surely top the list. King cakes have a long history as part of the Mardi Gras tradition in New Orleans. They are typically made from a ring of lightly-sweetened bread, similar to a brioche, which is then drizzled with a sweet glaze and decorated in the customary Mardi Gras colors of purple, green, and gold. Part of the king cake tradition involves placing a small plastic baby, said to represent the baby Jesus, into the cake. Other items, such as dried beans or nuts are often used as a substitute for the baby. The party guest to find the ‘baby’ is deemed the king.

Holidays make fantastic opportunities for getting kids involved in the kitchen. As with all cooking activities, young children develop early-learning skills in multiple areas. But when the cooking activity relates to a special holiday, it also becomes an opportunity to create a memorable experience which helps kids to connect with their newly learned knowledge of customs and traditions. Experiences like these create memories and help to develop curious lifelong learners.

As part of our Kids Cook Mondays series, my little helpers joined me in making a traditional king cake with a twist. We started with a basic king cake recipe, courtesy of Emeril Lagasse, the culinary king of New Orleans. Then, as Emeril would say, we kicked it up a notch, with a double filling of coconut cream cheese and chocolate. The kids helped to measure, mix, stir, and knead. As we worked, we talked about Mardi Gras and its relevance to Lent and our upcoming Easter preparations. We chatted about the history of king cakes and the tradition of the plastic baby in the cake. Then, once the cake was complete, we eagerly plunged our forks into the sweet slices of cake, curious to discover who would become our king for the day.

Chocolate Coconut King Cake
Adapted from Emeril’s King Cake


Ingredients

For the Cake

  • 1/2 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 packets dry active yeast
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon lemon peel
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup warm milk (105-115 degrees)
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled

For the Fillings:

  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup shredded coconut

For the Icing:

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Water (a few spoonfuls)
  • Colored sugars (green, purple, and gold)

Directions

Combine warm water, sugar and yeast. Stir until dissolved. Set aside for about 10 minutes. It will begin to bubble up, indicating that the yeast has been activated.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and lemon peel. Gradually stir in the egg yolks, milk, and melted butter. Stir in the yeast mixture until well-blended. If the dough becomes too thick to stir, knead the ingredients together with your hands. If the dough is too sticky to handle, add additional flour until it becomes more manageable.

Coat a large bowl with a bit of vegetable oil or melted butter. Place the dough into the prepared bowl and turn once or twice so that the top of the dough is lightly coated with oil. Cover with a towel and let the dough sit for about 1 1/2 hours.

Prepare the coconut filling by stirring together the softened cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and coconut. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Once the dough has rested and risen for 1 1/2 hours, split the dough in half. Roll each half into a log, about 30 inches long. Flatten each log into a long rectangle. Sprinkle the chocolate chips along the center of one of the rectangles. Spread the coconut mixture along the center of the other rectangle. Fold the rectangles in half along the long sides and pinch closed. Form into rounded logs. Twist the two logs together. Then, arrange the twisted logs into a circle and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover with a towel and allow to rest for 45 minutes. Then, bake for 30 minutes.

To prepare the icing, combine the powdered sugar and vanilla with just enough water to form a pourable glaze. Drizzle the glaze over the warm cake. Sprinkle with colored sugars.

Prior to serving, insert a nut or dried bean into the bottom of the cake. The guest to find the nut in their piece of cake is deemed king!

King of the Mardi Gras!

Chocolate Banana Monkey Bars

Children are filled with genius ideas if you listen closely. A few weeks ago, my son was staring longingly into our snow-filled, icicle-rimmed backyard, dreaming of warmer days. And then he exclaimed, Mommy, we should make some monkey bars! In retrospect, he was probably referring to building his own personal playground in our backyard. But, in the moment, as I moved about our kitchen preparing dinner, my mind interpreted his request into a recipe idea. Monkey Bars. Genius!

We paused for a moment to consider the foods which monkeys enjoy. Clearly, bananas were on the top of the list. Chocolate and peanuts decided to tag along for the ride. Our plan came together easily after that. We’d start with a peanut butter cookie crust, topped with our favorite, simple fudgey brownie, mixed with chunks of fresh banana and garnished with crunchy peanuts.

Your monkeys will go bananas for these tasty little treats! Mine sure did!

Chocolate Banana Monkey Bars

Ingredients

  • 15 peanut butter sandwich cookies, crushed
  • 4 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup bananas, chopped
  • 1/4 cup shelled peanuts, coarsely chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8×8 baking dish with cooking spray.

Combine the cookie crumbs with the melted butter, until well blended. Press the mixture into the bottom of the baking dish. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven.

In a saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the chocolate chips and butter until smooth, stirring constantly. Turn off the heat. Stir in the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt until dissolved. Stir in the flour. Add the eggs and stir until well blended. Stir in the chopped bananas. Spread the mixture over the peanut butter cookie crust. Sprinkle the chopped peanuts on top. Bake for about 35-45 minutes, until the brownies appear set and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out mostly clean. Cool before cutting into small squares.

A Sweet for your Sweetie: Chocolate Raspberry Torte

Years and years ago, I received a free sample pack of Make It Italian recipe cards in the mail. I never ordered the complete recipe card collection and most of those sample cards have long since disappeared, but one of those recipe cards has been well-loved and well-worn over the years; a recipe for a rich, delicious Chocolate Raspberry Torte.

I’ve made this torte many times over the years for guests and for our own enjoyment, with a few little adaptations. It’s always a treat; dense chocolatey cake, with a sweet raspberry filling and and rich, dark chocolate ganache. And when the time came to decide on a sweet, chocolatey treat to make for my sweeties on this Valentine’s Day, this torte came first and foremost to my mind.

So, whip out your baking supplies and whip up this sweet treat for the sweeties in your life!

P.S. I won’t tell a soul if you make it just for yourself instead! You deserve it!


Chocolate Raspberry Torte

Adapted from a Make It Italian recipe card

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • 6 Eggs, divided
  • 3/4 cup (plus 1 teaspoon) Sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) Butter, softened
  • 4 (1-ounce) squares Semisweet Baker’s Chocolate, melted
  • 3/4 cup Flour
  • 1/8 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1/8 cup Raspberry Liqueur (optional)

For the Filling

  • 1/2 cup Raspberry Jam

For the Ganache

  • 4 (1-ounce) squares Semisweet Baker’s Chocolate
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons Heavy Cream
  • Fresh Raspberries and Chopped Walnuts, for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour a 9 or 10″ round cake pan.

In a medium sized bowl, beat the egg whites with the teaspoon of sugar for several minutes until firm peaks form. Set aside.

Rinse the beaters. Then, in a separate bowl, beat together the sugar and softened butter until creamy. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, until well blended. Gradually beat in the melted chocolate, flour, cocoa powder, and liqueur until well blended.

Gently stir in 1/3 of the beaten egg whites, until well combined. Then, fold in the remaining beaten egg whites.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and bake for about an hour, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool completely. Then, halve the cake and spread the raspberry jam between the two layers.

To prepare the ganache, heat the cream just until boiling. Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir until smooth. Spread the ganache along the top and sides of the cake. Garnish with fresh raspberries and chopped walnuts. Chill in the refrigerator to set the ganache.

Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends!!

Peppermint Patty Cheesecake Bars

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For my grandfather’s 80th birthday, my sisters and I combined our talents in the kitchen to gift him with a membership to our very own Sweet Treats of the Month club. Each month during his 80th year of life, we presented him with various platters and tins of homemade cookies, candies, bars, muffins, and cakes. As my grandmother anxiously watched his waistline and blood pressure, my grandfather eagerly waited by the mailbox for his monthly deliveries. It worked out to be the perfect gift for a man who has just about everything he desires in life.

Turns out that my grandfather wasn’t the only one who thought a membership in the Sweet Treats of the Month club was a grand gift. As the holidays approached, my father made a not-so-subtle Christmas wish to be enrolled in that homemade goodies club. You can imagine his delight when Christmas brought him his first installment of goodies along with the notification of his enrollment in this very exclusive club.

This weekend, we’ll be traveling to see my parents and other family who we’ve yet to celebrate the holidays with. We’ll also be hand delivering my dad’s January installment of treats. The beautiful thing about this exclusive club is that it’s 100% customizable to the member’s tastes. This means that my dad’s year of treats will be heavily focused on dark chocolates, gingery goodies, oatmeal creations, and maybe even a few chocolate-drizzled macaroons.

So, I set out in search of the perfect recipe for the January installment of goodies. Then, as if in answer to my mission, a fellow food blogger, at Liv Life, recently posted a list of her top ten recipes for the year. Included in the list was a recipe for Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake Bars. They looked absolutely luscious and right up my dad’s alley. Her post led me to the original Food Network recipe for Chocolate Cheesecake Candy Cane Bars. After a few little modifications, aimed at running the minty flavor throughout the bars, and a substitution of peppermint patties for candy canes, I came up with these; Peppermint Patty Cheesecake Bars. Pretty sure my dad will be pleased!


Peppermint Patty Cheesecake Bars

Adapted from Food Network’s Chocolate Cheesecake Candy Cane Bars

Ingredients

For the Crust

  • 15 Chocolate Sandwich Cookies (mint-flavored, if available), crushed
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter, melted

For the Filling

  • 1 bar (8 ounces) Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup Sour Cream
  • 2/3 cup Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 8 ounces Semi-Sweet Chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon Peppermint Extract

For the Glaze

  • 4 ounces Bittersweet Chocolate, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 teaspoon Light Corn Syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons Sour Cream
  • 4-5 Peppermint Patty candies, chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8×8 baking dish with foil. Combine crushed cookies with melted butter. Press the cookie mixture into the bottom of the baking dish. Bake for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Using an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese, sour cream and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs and beat for another minute or two. Melt the chocolate slowly in the microwave or in a bowl set over a pot of boiling water, stirring frequently. Add the melted chocolate and the peppermint extract to the cream cheese mixture and mix until combined. Pour the filling over the prepared crust. Bake for 25-30 minutes until slightly puffed around the edges. The center will appear slightly loose. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 30 minutes.

To make the glaze, place bittersweet chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat for about 30 seconds at a time, stirring periodically, until completely melted. Stir in the sour cream. Spread the glaze over the cheesecake. Sprinkle with pieces of the peppermint patty candies.  Refrigerate overnight to thoroughly chill. Use the foil to lift the cheesecake from the baking dish and cut into small squares or bars.

Post Christmas Recovery and Recap

Well, the big day has passed. The carefully wrapped gifts have been enthusiastically unwrapped. The cookies, pies and festive dinners have been prepared and consumed, with minimal leftovers to speak of. New toys have been put through their paces and new clothes have been worn and washed. Our house guests and house pets have all made their way home and all that’s left is to launder the sheets and towels. It was a beautiful holiday filled with laughter, love, and smiles.

And now, things are gradually returning to normal. We’re slowly reclaiming the house from the holidays, sweeping up the pine tree needles, and finding places to stash the new toys. As much as I thrive on the Christmas festivities, I’m looking forward to a bit of normalcy. I’m ready to pack away the cookie sheets for a while and get back to our normal day-to-day cooking and routines.

I must admit, I’ve been feeling a bit of post-holiday indulgence remorse. I ate way too many cookies and slices of eggnog pie “for the baby”, which I’m pretty sure went straight to my hips instead. The measly remainder of holiday cookies have been officially exiled from the house and I’m looking forward to some light, nutritious meals for the sake of my hips. But speaking of the baby, we found out yesterday morning that we are expecting our third boy! Looks like my husband just formed himself a foursome for golf!

I’ll be whipping up some healthy new recipes soon. But first, here’s a quick recap of some of the goodies we enjoyed with our holiday guests.

We started on Christmas Eve Eve (does that make sense?) with a request from my brother-in-law for my Steak Bordelaise Pizza. I’ve shared this recipe for you before, back in my Pizza Dragons and Chairs of Stock post. I guess you can say this is one of my signature dishes. It’s sort of a steak dinner on a pizza crust. This is definitely not your run of the mill pizza. My pizza traditionalist father would be reluctant to call it a pizza at all, but we’re all big fans of the dish around here.

On Christmas Eve, I cooked up a Chicken Parmigiana dinner, complete with spaghetti and toasty hot garlic bread. I’ve been cooking Chicken Parmigiana on Christmas Eve in this house for many years now, long before my husband and I were married and long before this house was our house. I’ll give the Chicken Parm it’s own post with a proper recipe soon, but for now, you can take a look back at my recipe for Eggplant Parmigiana. My Chicken Parm follows the same basic recipe, only substituting breaded thin-cut or pounded chicken breasts for the eggplant. It’s a delicious meal that can be almost fully prepared ahead of time. It’s definitely a satisfying crowd pleaser!

On Christmas, we started with two easy appetizers of Fresh Mozzarella and Tomatoes with Basil Pesto on Baguette and Shrimp with Spicy Cocktail Sauce. You can find my recipe for Basil Pesto back in my Toasted Caprese Sandwich post. For the shrimp, simply boil large de-veined shrimp for a few minutes until they curl and turn bright pink. Or, take the easy route, as I do, and buy a large bag of frozen, peeled, tail-on shrimp and allow them to defrost in the fridge overnight. Make a quick, delicious cocktail sauce by combining about a cup of ketchup with a healthy dose of horseradish (a few heaping tablespoons), a splash of Worchestershire Sauce, splash of Lemon Juice, and splash of Tabasco.

Our Christmas dinner featured Roasted Beef Tenderloin with two sauces. I trimmed and tied a 5 1/2 pound beef tenderloin, rubbed it with olive oil, generously sprinkled with salt and pepper, and roasted in a 425 degrees oven for about 45 minutes. Smaller roasts will cook quicker. On the side, I served a Horseradish Cream Sauce (made with sour cream, a generous amount of horseradish, dash of white wine vinegar, salt and pepper) and a Red Wine Mushroom Sauce, which was simply an adaptation of the Bordelaise Sauce used on my Steak Bordelaise Pizza; a little less wine, slightly less reduced, with sauteed mushrooms added at the end.

On the side, we enjoyed my Cheddar Garlic Biscuits, Spicy Utica Greens, Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, and Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Walnuts. Every bit was enjoyed. The brussel sprouts even managed to surprise a few apprehensive diners. For dessert, we enjoyed massive platters of cookies and Chocolate Eggnog Pudding Pie. Overall, it was a simple meal to pull off for a large group, which gave me plenty of downtime to enjoy with the kids and our guests.

It was another truly wonderful Christmas season, topped off by the revelation of our third baby boy! We are so very thankful for all of our blessings. Stay tuned for new recipes, coming up soon!

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

The big day is finally upon us! The remainder of our holiday house guests and house pets arrived a few days ago and our home is now bustling with activity. The kids (and I) are overflowing with anticipation.

Yesterday evening, Santa made an early visit to my house, dressed as a Home Depot delivery man. He brought me the gift which every Gourmand Mom needs…an extra refrigerator for the garage. Skip the faux furs, glitzy clutch purses, and other sparkly bling that television advertisements will lead you to believe that every woman desires. All this girl wanted was a fridge.

I’ll be signing out for a few days to enjoy this most wonderful holiday with my family, but before I go, here’s one more cookie recipe to add to the collection. These cookies weren’t on the agenda for this year. They were a last minute addition, inspired by those Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies I’d baked and Martha Stewart. The chocolate cookie recipe, adapted from Hershey’s was so delicious, that it left me with the overwhelming urge to bake more chocolate cookies. Then, while flipping through Martha Stewart’s most recent cookie magazine, I ran across a recipe for Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies.

The idea was irresistible to me; chocolate cookies accented with a healthy dose of cinnamon and spicy cayenne pepper. It reminded me of a Chocolate Chile Cake I baked several months ago. I had to give these cookies a try. So, I took the Hershey’s cookie recipe and combined it with Martha’s spices to create these delicious Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies. The result is a chewy, rich chocolate cookie, which tastes of fudge on the first bite, but lingers with a kick of cayenne in the background. Definitely worth a try!

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Flour
  • 1/2 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 2 teaspoons Cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 sticks Butter, softened
  • 1 cup White Sugar
  • 3/4 cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Stir together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, beat together the butter and sugars until creamy. Add the eggs and vanilla extract to the butter/sugar mixture. Beat for another minute or two, until well blended. Gradually blend in the flour mixture. Roll the dough into small balls (about 1″ diameter) and place about 1 1/2″ apart on a baking sheet. Bake for 9-10 minutes. Cool for a couple minutes on the baking sheet before moving the cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies

If you ask my kids, you can’t have hot chocolate without marshmallows. So, for a fun little twist, I wrapped some of the spicy chocolate dough around mini marshmallows before rolling the balls. The marshmallows melted into the cookies and added a touch of extra gooeyness in the center!

Wishing you all a Very Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season!

Chocolate Eggnog Pudding Pie

This began as a culinary experiment. As the holidays approached, and coolers filled with eggnog began popping up in grocery stores, I began pondering potential uses for this thick, festive concoction. It occurred to me that I could probably adapt my Black Bottom Banana Cream Pie into a festive Eggnog Pudding Pie. Thing is, I’ve never tasted, nor even heard of eggnog pudding. Seemed to me that such a thing could be made with a few simple substitutions and adjustments, but would it even be any good??

Eggnog is a tricky thing. Some people love it. Some people hate it. And some people are like me. The idea of a cup of eggnog is initially quite appealing, but after a sip or two, I’ve had enough to last me until the following year. It’s just so rich. Would an eggnog pudding be intolerably rich? There was only one way to find out.

My theory about making the eggnog pudding proved correct. With a few little modifications, it came together as simply and easily as my vanilla pudding. And interestingly enough, I think the eggnog works better in pudding form than as a beverage. The flavor seems a bit more mellow and the texture makes more sense to my mouth than the part liquid/part smoothie sort of texture of an eggnog beverage. Combined with the rich chocolate crust and ganache and a bit of whipped cream, this pie makes a surprisingly delightful, festive and unique holiday dessert!

Chocolate Eggnog Pudding Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 Chocolate Cookie Pie Crust, homemade or store-bought

For the Ganache

  • 2 ounces Semi-Sweet Chocolate (2 squares of semi-sweet baking chocolate)
  • 3 Tablespoons Heavy Cream

For the Filling

  • 3 cups Prepared Eggnog
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup Cornstarch, divided
  • 2 Egg Yolks

For the Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup Heavy Cream
  • 2 Tbsp Sugar

Directions

For the Filling

Combine the eggnog, salt, vanilla extract, nutmeg, and half of the cornstarch in a saucepan. Stir. Cook over medium heat for about 5-6 minutes until the mixture just comes to a boil. Remove from heat. In a bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks with the remaining cornstarch. Slowly add about 1/4 cup of the hot eggnog mixture to the eggs and whisk to combine. Add another 1/4 cup of the hot eggnog mixture and whisk to combine. (This slow addition of the hot liquid tempers the egg yolks and prevents them from scrambling when added to the hot liquid.) Pour the egg mixture into the pot. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, whisking constantly. Cook for a few minutes until the mixture thickens. Pour the filling into a bowl. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly against the filling. Refrigerate for about an hour to cool. Meanwhile, prepare the ganache for the crust.

For the Ganache

Place the chocolate in a bowl. Heat the cream, until it just begins to boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate completely melts. Pour the warm ganache into the pie crust. Chill until set.

To Assemble the Pie

Spread the the cooled filling over the chilled ganache. Refrigerate until completely cool.

Beat the heavy cream with the sugar until thick. Top the pie with the whipped cream. Sprinkle with chocolate shavings or chocolate chips, if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Rainbow Cookies

So many family events and special occasions in my life have ended with a great big tray of Italian cookies. You know, those huge colorful platters of pink butter cookies, green butter cookies, butter cookies with cherries, butter cookies with sprinkles, butter cookies dipped in chocolate and butter cookies with jam. And mixed within all of those buttery sweets would be a handful of the premium cookies; the Florentines, the Pirouettes filled with chocolate, and my favorite of all, the Rainbow Cookies. I just love those sweet, little cakey confections.

I can still feel a bit of that panic I felt every time the cookie platter was placed on the table; waiting for the moment when it was appropriate to begin serving myself; worried that the prized gems of the cookie platter would be scooped up before I got my turn at the platter. As I pretended to be engaged in conversation, I watched that cookie platter with eagle eyes for the signal that dessert was officially served. Then, I’d swoop in and gobble up a few of those delectable Rainbow Cookies before anyone knew they were there. Even now, I still feel a possessive panic in the presence of those cookies.

My grocery store sells little plastic containers of Rainbow cookies for a king’s ransom. Every so often, I pick up a container and selfishly hoard them for myself. I just can’t seem to lose that fear that there won’t be enough for me. I’ve been meaning to try my hand at making these beloved cookies for ages and decided that this would finally be the year. After a few initial set-backs, including an epic battle against some Nut Lace cookies, another snow storm, and a broken glass bowl of melted butter on my kitchen floor, I finally managed to whip up a batch of these tasty goodies. The good news is that, as long as you slow down and don’t try to rush the process, these cookies are quite manageable to make and oh, so delicious!

When I began my search for a Rainbow Cookie recipe, I quickly discovered that nearly every source listed practically identical recipes. Apparently, the recipe is fairly standard. The variations were minor, basically addressing the quantity of butter, the length of time to let the layers chill, and the flavor of jam between the layers. I took the middle ground at each decision point and the cookies worked out perfectly.

Rainbow Cookies

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine’s Rainbow Cookies

Ingredients

  • 4 Eggs, separated
  • 1 8-ounce can Almond Paste
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 2 1/2 sticks Butter
  • 1 teaspoon Almond Extract
  • 2 cups Flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • Green Food Coloring
  • Red Food Coloring
  • 1 12-ounce jar Seedless Raspberry Jam
  • 12 ounces Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips
  • Chocolate Sprinkles (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease three 13×9 inch baking pans with vegetable shortening.* Line each baking pan with parchment paper, slightly extending the paper on two ends.** Grease the paper with vegetable shortening.

Place the four egg whites into a clean bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

Use a fork to break up the almond paste into smaller pieces. Combine the almond paste and sugar in a food processor and grind until no lumps appear.

Transfer the almond mixture to a large bowl. Add the butter and beat until well combined. Add the egg yolks and almond extract and beat until blended. Beat in the flour and salt. The dough will be quite thick.

Stir one third of the beaten egg whites into the dough. This will slightly lighten the mixture. Then, fold in the remaining egg whites until well blended.

Divide the dough into three equal portions. Use the food coloring to color one portion red and another portion green. The remaining portion will remain uncolored.

Use a spatula to spread each portion of dough into the three prepared baking pans.

Bake on the middle rack of your oven for 7-10 minutes, until the cakes are set and the edges just begin to turn golden.

While the cake is still hot, use a knife to loosen the edges. Then, carefully invert the cakes onto cooling racks. Cool completely.

Once cool, carefully move the green layer onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread 1/2 of the jam over the green layer. Place the white layer over the jam, then spread the remaining jam on top. Top with the red layer.

Place a piece of parchment paper over the top of the red layer. Then, weight down the layers with a cutting board or another baking sheet and refrigerate for about 5 hours.

Remove from the fridge and trim the edges to create an even rectangle.

Melt half of the chocolate and spread it over the pink layer. Scatter chocolate sprinkles into the melted chocolate, if desired. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, until the chocolate is firm. Then, flip the layers over, melt the remaining chocolate, and spread over the green layer. Refrigerate until the chocolate is firm.

To cut, allow the chocolate to come to room temperature. Then, cut into small rectangles or diamonds.

Makes about 4 dozen

*Baking all three layers at once will save you time. If you don’t have three baking pans, use disposable aluminum pans. This will also make your clean up easier!

**For safety reasons, do not allow too much extra paper to overhang the pans; just enough to help you lift and remove the cakes once they’re cooked.

Coconut Macaroons

I had big plans for yesterday’s cookie endeavors. First, I’d whip up some Nut Lace Cookies, then move onto the Rainbow Cookies, and finish with the Macaroons. For a chilly Sunday afternoon, it seemed like a reasonable to-do list. Well, the day didn’t go exactly as planned. I always seem to forget how finicky those Nut Lace Cookies can be. The recipe is deceptively simple, but the execution is ridden with potential for frustration. After fighting with the Nut Lace Cookies, there was no way I was about to embark on the Rainbow Cookie adventure. Thankfully, the Macaroons are a cinch to make. So, I jumped straight to the stress-free Macaroons and finished up the day with some Dark Chocolate Holiday Bark and Chocolate-Covered Spiders.

I love adding macaroons to my holiday cookie collection each year. They’re quick and easy to make and I’m pretty sure that everyone loves them. For the past few years, I’ve been using a recipe from the cookbook, The Great Big Cookie Book by Hilaire Walden. My only adaptation is in using parchment paper instead of the original recipe’s suggested wax paper. I’ve had issues in the past with wax paper sticking to the bottoms of the macaroons. And there’s nothing I hate more than having to pick off tiny bits of wax paper from the bottoms of my cookies! Using parchment paper completely eliminated this issue.

I like to drizzle the tops of my macaroons with melted semi-sweet chocolate. A disposable pastry bag, fitted with a small, round pastry tip works well for this task, but a plastic freezer bag with a tiny bit of the corner cut off would do the trick too. In the past, I’ve dipped half of the macaroon directly in chocolate, but found that amount of chocolate to be overwhelming on the macaroons, even for a chocoholic like myself. Just a little drizzle of chocolate over the top adds the perfect finishing touch.

Chocolate-Drizzled Coconut Macaroons

Adapted from the Macaroons in The Great Big Cookie Book by Hilaire Walden

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 7 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
  • 2 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Grease the paper with vegetable shortening. Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the coconut. Add the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. Stir until well combined. Drop rounded tablespoons of the mixture about an inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for about 20 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool.

Once cool, melt the chocolate chips in the microwave or over a double boiler. Carefully transfer the melted chocolate into a pastry bag fitted with a small, round pastry tip. Drizzle the chocolate over the macaroons. Refrigerate until the chocolate has set. Store in an airtight container.

Makes 6 dozen

As far as those Nut Lace Cookies go, I think I’m going to hold off on posting that recipe. I’ve got a couple ideas for simplifying the process that I’d like to try first. Stay tuned!

Also, coming up… Rainbow Cookies and Two Chocolately Treats – Dark Chocolate Holiday Bark and Chocolate-Covered Spiders!

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