Lemon-Rosemary Cut Out Cookies

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find holidays exhausting, and I can’t deal with the over-the-top decorations.  Pinterest is currently reeking of Valentine’s Day.  Everything is red and pink, dipped in chocolate and covered in bright sprinkles.  That’s fun, but sometimes it’s overwhelming.

For me, Valentine’s Day should be unique to you and your special someone.  This Valentine’s Day, skip the red velvet dark chocolate dipped strawberries covered in pink, red and white (<— not an actual thing), and give these a try.

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They’re different, interesting and tasty.  I don’t know about you but I love rosemary and lemon together. Perfect for Valentine’s Day, in my opinion.

And let me just go ahead and say… If you have a tea party, because every once in a while we need to relive our childhood and have full blown tea parties, I’m going to request that you make these cookies. lemonrosemarycookies1

Lemon-Rosemary Cut Out Cookies

adapted from AllRecipes

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all purpose)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
white chocolate chip, sprinkles, royal icing, etc. for decorating

Beat together butter and shortening until fluffy, about a minute.  Add sugar and beat for another 2 minutes.  Add egg and beat another minute.  Add lemon zest and rosemary and beat for 1 minute.  Add flour, baking powder and salt.  Beat until combined.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (about 1-2 hours).

Pre-heat oven to 350F.  Roll out dough on a clean floured surface.  Cut to desired shapes. I used small hearts and medium sized hearts, to keep with the Valentine’s day theme, but you can use whatever shape you like.  Lay on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly golden on edges.  The baking time will vary depending on the size of the cookie.  Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

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Once the cookies have cooled, you can serve them as is, or decorate them.  I chose to dip mine in white chocolate and cover them in white sparkling sprinkles.  If you do, just microwave some white chocolate chips, add a bit of oil to get it runnier, then dip and place on parchment paper to harden for a few hours.  Alternatively, you can get your royal icing skillz on and decorate that way.  I gave that a whirl too, but still not pleased with my decorating skills so no pictures of that. lemonrosemarycookies4

You might be thinking: Rosemary in a cookie? Are you nuts?  But it works.  I promise.  Go ahead, take a chance and make these for Valentine’s Day or a tea party.

How do you feel about putting herbs in your sweets?  I’m a big fan of raspberry and sage together!

 

P.S. Don’t forget to enter the Dark Chocolate Dreams Giveaway.  Head over to Facebook and enter by clicking the “Giveaway” tab on my page.

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Coconut Cream Pie but Better

I’m not completely sure what the difference is between a pie and a tart, other than the shape of the pan.  For all intents and purposes, what follows is a pie disguised as a tart.

Thus, it is a much fancier (almost French seeming, hey, it’s Bastille Day!) version of coconut cream pie.

Okay, let’s be honest.  I’ve never eaten coconut cream pie.  I don’t think I’ve ever even seen one in person.  That was until I made my version of what I think coconut cream pie should be like.

I have no idea if this is what coconut cream pie should taste like, but here’s my creation.  Karla’s new and improved version with rich chocolate whipped cream for topping.

I’m going to go ahead and call it a winner.

Coconut Cream Pie with Chocolate Whipped Cream

1 package of graham crackers
6 tbsp butter
3 cup finely shredded coconut
1 1/2 cup milk
1 (14oz) can sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
1/4 cup corn starch
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 + 2 tbsp cup powdered sugar
3 tbsp cocoa powder

For the crust:

Crush graham crackers and combine with 1 cup of coconut.  Melt butter and pour over graham cracker mixture, toss to combine.  Press into a pie or tart pan.  Refrigerate.

For Custard Filling:

In a saucepan, combine the milk, sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, vanilla and salt.  Heat, stirring constantly, until nearly boiling.  Take some of the warm milk mixture and combine in a small bowl with the corn starch, stir until smooth.  Pour in the corn starch mixture and the 2 cups of coconut.  Continue to stir until thick (not too thick though!).  Put in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap.  Lay the plastic wrap directly on the custard.  Refrigerate until completely cooled, like so:

Once your custard is cool, fill the tart crust with the creamy filling.

Then make your whipped topping.

For the topping, sift together the powdered sugar and cocoa powder.  Using a mixer start to whip cream, gradually add in cocoa powder and sugar.  Whip until the cream holds firm peaks.

Lay it on there, or nicely use a piping bag.

Either way, it doesn’t really matter.  Even the worst spreading will be covered up with some divine toasted coconut.  Lay your coconut on a baking sheet or on a piece of foil and stick it in the oven or toaster oven for a few minutes.  Turn it every so often and watch out because it can easily burn.  Allow the toasted coconut to completely cool and sprinkle as much or as little as you’d like onto your beautiful tart!

Serve, enjoy and feel fancy while you eat it.

Cena di Domenica

Let me start by saying that this title might be grammatically incorrect.  Surprisingly, being in Italy has yielded little opportunity to learn Italian.  However, I might leave fluent in French.  Today I spent the majority of the day reading reports in French, who knew I still can read it… but google translate helps… On to Sunday… Domenica!

A new tradition has started.  Well, at least, I hope it’ll catch on.  Inspired by the Biscotti Queen and her family, the grad students and I have decided to start a Sunday Dinner tradition.

My roommate and I both love to cook.  So it sorta works out.  Plus, he’s Sicilian and doesn’t fool around.

Now this wasn’t your average Sunday Dinner.  It started around 3:00pm and ended around 8:00pm, and it was amazing.

It started with an unorthodox, antipasti.  Not meats.  Instead, cream puffs.

Nancy and I love sugar and she stopped at a bakery before arriving.  They were amazing! Some were filled with lemon cream and others with a chocolate cream.

To die for.  So while Nancy and I munched on cream puffs and waited for the others to arrive, Joe started making primo piatto.

Once Lis, Kyla and her friend Giuseppe arrived.  We were ready.

Spaghetti ai Frutti di Mare

Delicious!

After some sitting and chatting, I made secondo piatto.  It ended up being some strange version of saltimbocca. Thinly pounded chicken breast, rolled with prosciutto and sage, cooked in a butter wine sauce.

Not bad.  For contorno, rosemary roasted potatoes.

 

Nancy and Lis both brought dessert.  However, I only remembered to photograph what Nancy brought (other than the cream puffs):

Some sort of delicious crostata! I was pleased.

After dessert and coffee, we were sufficiently full and basically ready for the night to be over.

Next time, I want to make primo and leave the meat making to someone who knows what he’s doing.

Food and the Pope

This weekend was full of food.  All delicious of course.

Friday night dinner with Nancy and my apartmentmate, Joe.

I had Rigatoni al Agnello

and Artichokes

I ate meat.  It was delicious.  I don’t really feel bad.  I have no intention of turning into a carnivore but I love lamb.  And honestly, when in Rome…

Then the next day, Nancy

Kyla

and I walked around Trastevere.  It was lovely!  Great view!

Along the way we stopped for lunch.

Pomodori e mozzarella

In America we have ketchup and mustard in packets on every table.  In Italy, they have olive oil and balsamic vinegar in packets.

A much better choice if you ask me.

Later that night, we had a gathering at our apartment.

Lots of cheese!  and wine…

Delicious!

Then this morning, Nancy and I headed to the Vatican with the intention of going to the Vatican Museum (since it’s free the last Sunday of every month).

Instead, we hung out with the Pope

There he is!

After some more walking around and lunch, I headed home and took a nap.   I woke up with a sore throat.

Please don’t let me get sick!  My internship needs to start ASAP!

Discovering Indoor Exercise and Roasted Vegetables

As much as I hate to admit this, being at my parent’s house was driving me crazy.  For some reason, being there makes me the most sedentary person on the planet.

Example: I watched every episode (5 1/2 season) of How I Met Your Mother in the nearly 3 weeks I was home.  Hilarious show! But that’s wayyyy too much TV.

The truth is, I feel better when I’m more active.  I like walking places and working out.  It just makes me feel better about myself.

So now that I’m in Ithaca, I’m trying to find ways to feel better about myself and my health… despite this:

I won’t lie.  The weather here can be terrible.  I walked to meet up with some friends and my toes were numb even though I was wearing tights, thick socks and snow boots.

But to keep myself moving, I present to you, my home gym:

Real state of the art, right?

Lately I’ve taken to doing circuits while watching episodes of last season’s The Biggest Loser.

Circuit 1: 25 Step ups
Circuit 2: 20 crunches
Circuit 3: 25 jumping jacks
Circuit 4: 20 bicycle crunches
Circuit 5: 25 bunny hops (back and forth over my computer charger)
Repeat

Not the most exciting work out ever but definitely better than sitting and doing nothing.  I’ve also recently discovered ExerciseTV online!

I made another discovery.  It’ll revolutionize lunch (or dinner… for me, at least).  Okay so I didn’t really discover it.  Rather, it’s new to me.

Roasted Broccoli

Who knew it could be so delicious.

What you need:

  • Broccoli, Carrots, Onions, etc.
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • baking sheet
  • oven preheated to 400F

Combine broccoli, other vegetables, olive oil, balsamic vinergar, salt and pepper.  Put it all on a baking sheet like such:

Roast at 400F for about 25 minutes.

Makes a wonderful side dish.  I’m so pleased!  Last night I went and bought more broccoli just so I could have it again.

Definitely recommend it if you haven’t tried it.

Off to try to get some work done, or at least move myself a bit.  Have a wonderful day!

Cakes and Rum Balls

I left Ithaca where it was a chilly 10F for California, where countless friends and family members had been bragging about the warm weather.

The second I landed, the weather turned rainy and cold.  It’s been raining for 5 days straight.  I have the worst luck.

So since I’ve been stuck at home, I worked on the never ending report! made a cake (among other things).

Okay really I made 2 cakes.  Both were mistakes.  My brother asked me to make a cake for a party he’s going to.  For some reason I thought his party was on Monday December 20th.  Nope, it’s on Thursday December 23rd.

Clearly a cake made on December 19th would be no good by the 23rd.  So instead, I took one to a party, and another was made for family friends.

Chocolate cake filled with chocolate mousse and frosted with raspberry whipped cream.

I didn’t try it, but I can only imagine it’s good.

Facebook wall confirmed.

Great!

Now, you know everyone favorite part of making layer cakes… leveling off the top?

Well I had a lot of leveled off cake tops after making 2 layer cakes.  So instead of stuffing my face, which ordinarily is my favorite thing to do.  I decided to make something exciting.

Chocolate Rum Balls

1 1/2 cups crumbled chocolate cake
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
2 tbsp dark rum
1 tbsp honey
Extra powdered sugar, cocoa powder, or melted chocolate

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.

Any good Guatemalan household has Guatemalan Rum…

Use your hands to form it all into a mass.  Break off pieces and roll into one inch little balls.

Then you can roll them in powdered sugar, cocoa powder or dip them in melted chocolate.  Refrigerate for a few hours and serve!

My brother gave one to my niece; she wasn’t a fan.

Me on the other hand… I’ve eaten about 5 today… Clearly I hated them.

Now I need to figure out what cake to actually make for my brother’s gathering.

In the meantime…

 

Fall Cake

It feels like fall.  That’s probably because it is.

Lately, we’ve had daytime highs of 43F.  To most Californians that would sound like winter.

Most mornings it’s below 30F.  Most Californians (including my former self) don’t even know what that feels like.

Regardless of what fall looks and feels like, I generally have a vague idea of how fall tastes.

At work, there is a cake called the Fall Collection.  I’ve never tasted it in it’s full glory, but I’ve tried pretty much all the component parts: Gingerbread Cake, Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake, Caramel Pecans and Vanilla Buttercream.

Sounds like fall.

I was inspired to recreate it.

I won’t lie.  This was sort of a process.  It pretty much requires two days since the cheesecake has to cool completely and set.

BUT totally worth it.

Start with the cheesecake.  I used good ol’ Paula Deen’s recipe for Pumpkin Cheesecake.  I’m not 100% pleased with the recipe, I think it could use a little more spice.  But definitely not bad for my first try at cheesecake.

I didn’t have a springform pan, so I greased and floured two round 9″ baking pan and lined the bottom with wax paper to keep it from sticking.  After baking and letting it set overnight in the fridge, I used a knife along the edge of the pan and turned the pan over.  The cheesecake slipped out pretty easily.

The next step was the gingerbread cake.  Using this Food Network recipe, but adding extra crystallized ginger.  Great flavor, but would like it to be a little less dry (or maybe I just overbaked it a bit).

While your gingerbread cake is cooling, start making the caramel.  I’ve never had my caramel turn out right.  This time it did!  It was great!  Thanks to Yummy Supper!

Toast the pecans and mix it with the caramel.

Then the layering can start.

Start with the gingerbread cake.  Put it on a plate, remove some of the cake to make a little well for the caramel pecans.  This will keep it from overflowing.

Next, place the pumpkin cheesecake layer.  My cheesecake had a little bit of a well in it naturally (mistake maybe?), the well allowed me to pour more caramel pecans in there and keep them from flowing out.

However, if you, unlike me, make perfect cheesecake that is flat on top, you can create a barrier with buttercream that will keep your caramel from flowing all over the place.  Which leads to the next step, frosting.

Make traditional vanilla buttercream with butter, powdered sugar, milk and vanilla extract.  Frost the cake all around.

Lay it on there thick, because we could all use a little more buttercream in our lives.