Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pesto Palmiers

Tomato-Pesto Palmiers3

Recently, we had a houseful of friends with us during the Thanksgiving weekend and I had an elaborate menu planned for the evening. I wanted to make something simple to serve as appetizers since I was simultaneously getting the main course ready. I always have puff pastry sheets in my freezer. They're perfect to have on hand especially when you're looking to feed a crowd with minimal effort. I used puff pastry to make 2 simple snacks- vegetable and cheese pinwheels and these savory pesto palmiers.

For the pinwheels, I got the filling ready ahead of time and kept it in the refrigerator till I was ready to make them.

For the palmiers, I just followed Ina Garten's recipe. I had a small amount of store bought pesto and some sun-dried tomatoes in oil that needed to be used up so that's what I used.

Pesto Palmiers


1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from a 17.3-ounce package), thawed according to package instructions

Flour (for rolling out the puff pastry)


Sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil


A handful of coarsely chopped walnuts

Powdered Pecorino Romano


On a floured surface, roll the puff pastry sheet out to a rectangle and thin it out a bit.

Pulse together the sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, cheese, pepper and walnuts a couple of times to get a coarse paste.

Spread the paste as evenly as possible over the pastry sheet. Roll up the longer sides of the rectangle towards the center so they meet somewhere in the middle. Tightly wrap using plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm.

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Slice the chilled log into 1/2- inch slices and place onto a greased baking sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes or until the palmiers are golden brown. Turn the palmiers over once halfway through baking process if required.

Serve hot. They taste best straight out of the oven.

Tomato-Pesto Palmiers1

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Carrot Cupcakes

Carrot muffin1

This is a Martha Stewart recipe with my modifications.


(For 18 cupcakes)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp cinnamon

A pinch of powdered cloves

½ tsp powdered cardamom


1 cup sugar

1/3 cup oil

¼ cup orange juice

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups grated carrots

¼ cup coarsely chopped walnuts


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with paper baking cups.

Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, powdered cloves, cardamom, and salt in a bowl and mix.

In a large bowl, mix the sugar, oil, orange juice, vanilla extract and eggs.

Combine the dry and wet ingredients. Stir in the grated carrots and walnuts and mix well.

Divide the batter among the muffin cups and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cupcakes are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

I skipped the cream cheese frosting in the original recipe and used nutella instead.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Homemade For The Holidays

I decided to gift homemade treats this year for the holidays and spent a good part of the day yesterday making a few things.

I made different variations of chocolate bark, 2 kinds of truffles, fudge, peanut clusters and the easiest of them all- chocolate-dipped marshmallows.

* Truffles- I made a few flavored with orange zest and used toasted hazelnuts and cocoa powder as toppings. I'd made balsamic truffles earlier and they were really good.

Orange truffles2

Orange truffles1

I got lots of ideas for bark from this month's issue of the Food Network Magazine. I made 3 kinds using different combinations of chocolate and toppings-

*Swirled Bark using white and dark chocolate melted separately, poured onto a baking sheet lined with foil, swirled together and then topped with toasted and coarsely chopped hazelnuts and dried apricot bits.

Swirled bark1

Swirled barkk2

*Milk Chocolate Bark using milk chocolate as the base layer, a small amount of white chocolate, melted and spread on top of it, and finished off with a sprinkling of chopped up dried cranberries.

White & milk choc bark1

White & milk choc bark2

*White Chocolate Peppermint Bark- I added a tsp of mint extract to the melted white chocolate before spreading it. Then, I added crushed candy canes on top.

Peppermint bark1

Peppermint bark2

*Peppermint Pistachio Fudge using this Mango Power Girl recipe that is an adaptation of a Nigella Lawson recipe. I used my microwave to make the fudge. I melted 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate and 8 oz. bitter-sweet chocolate chips in the microwave and then stirred in a 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk and microwaved again for 2 minutes or so. Finally, I added ¾- 1 cup of coarsely chopped pistachios and a teaspoon of mint extract. I poured the thick fudge in my largest baking dish and cooled it for a bit before refrigerating. A few hours later, I took the fudge out of the refrigerator and cut it up into bite-sized portions.

Pista-peppermint fudge1

Pista-peppermint fudge2

*Chocolate-dipped marshmallows inspired by what I saw here- I used crushed candy canes, toasted hazelnuts, slivered almonds, chopped up dry mango pieces and shredded coconut as toppings.



Peanut Clusters- I just melted some chocolate (any kind will do) and added some store- bought roasted peanuts to it. I spooned small amounts of the mixture into my mini muffin pan after lining each of the cups and kept it refrigerated for the mixture to set.

Peanut clusters1

I put together a few gift bags for my neighbors. Each bag had a few pieces each of the various goodies I’d made. I used these festive take-out boxes for delivering my edible gifts.

Gift box1

Happy Holidays, all!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cranberry Ricotta Loaf

Cranberry Ricotta Loaf4

I had a lot of cranberry sauce left over from Thanksgiving which I promptly froze till I figured out what to do with it. I pulled it out of the freezer recently when I had some leftover ricotta cheese. I decided to use both cheese and sauce in some kind of a cake. Loosely inspired by this recipe from Inside The Kaganoff Kitchen, I gathered my ingredients together and set about making the cake.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease and flour a loaf pan.

In a bowl mix together the following dry ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt

In another bowl, beat together these wet ingredients:

  • 8 oz ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 scant cup of sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Zest of a small lemon
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • A couple of splashes of milk (I did this to thin out the batter a bit)
  • ½ - ¾ cup cranberry sauce (I do not have a recipe for this- this was just something my husband had made for Thanksgiving)

Combine the dry and wet ingredients (except the cranberry sauce) together. Mix well. The batter will be a relatively thick one.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. I had enough batter for a loaf pan and a small heart-shaped pan.

Place half of the batter in the loaf pan. Add a layer of cranberry sauce followed by the rest of the batter. Then add the remaining sauce in small blobs all over the surface of the batter and run a knife through it to create swirls on top.

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out relatively clean.

Cool, slice and serve.

Cranberry Ricotta Loaf2