Red Anjou Pear and Walnut Galette Dusted with Lavender Sugar


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For some reason I am just discovering the beauty of pears. I mean, I’ve always been aware of pears. They were just never really my first choice of fruit. And what I’m now (finally) discovering is that they are a wonderful Autumn fruit! Bosc pears, Bartlett pears, Concord pears and the ones I used in this galette – Red Anjou pears. Red Anjou pears are sweet and less acidic than their green counterparts. I also liked using the Red Anjous because I like the contrast of the color of the skin peeking out of the galette. And like Bosc pears, they hold up well when cooked. Bosc pears are probably my favorite as they are more woodsy and their sweetness is more like honey than sugar. Each has a distinct aroma and taste – so buy one of each and do your own taste-test!

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Cheesecake with Cranberry Port Compote


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I am generally not a dessert person. Often, when out to dinner, I opt for a second glass of wine over ordering dessert. If I’m going to spend the calories, I’d rather it be on wine. 🙂 But cheesecake has long been a weakness of mine. And this just may be the most perfect cheesecake I’ve ever tasted. Adapted from a couple of recipes I’ve researched, below is the final product after much trial and error.

Also, I’m dedicating this post to my sister Brenda… who two days before Christmas was madly searching stores for a cheesecake without toppings. When I said, “It’s too bad you don’t live closer, I’m making cheesecakes tomorrow.”  She replied, “Wait. You can make a cheesecake?”

Sometimes it’s hard to believe we come from the same womb.

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Muffin Mania


I went a little crazy this weekend… call it Easter-inspired or bad-weather-I’m-stuck-indoors-inspired… but I’ve been baking muffins. Lots and lots of muffins. Below are my four favorites: Tuscon Lemon Muffin (with my homemade ricotta and olive oil); Key Lime Zest Muffin; Dark Cocoa Muffin; and Bacon Cheddar & Jalapeno Corn Muffin. All four were adapted from this month’s Cooking Light Magazine, with small tweaks of my own.

Instead of doing four separate entries I’ll just list the recipe under each photo.

Tuscan Lemon Muffin
Ingredients
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup low-fat or part-skim ricotta (best with homemade)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest (roughly one large lemon)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (half of one large lemon)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2-3 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Items Needed
12 muffin cup liners
Cooking Spray
Non-stick muffin pan

Ready To Cook?
Preheat over to 375º
Combine first four ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl and create a well in the center. In a separate bowl combine ricotta and remaining ingredients through egg. Pour mixture into the well and stir gently just until moist.

Place muffin cup liners into pan and coat with cooking spray. Divide batter evenly between cups. Using a small ice cream scooper will help you evenly distribute batter and makes for a neater process. Sprinkle turbinado sugar over top of batter.

Bake at 375º for 16 minutes or until a wooden tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes.

Calories 186; Fat 6.2g; Protein 4g; Carb 29.5g; Fiber 0.6g; Chol 21mg; Iron 1mg; Sodium 160mg; Calc 81mg

Key Lime Zest Muffin

Ingredients
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup low-fat whipped cream cheese
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime zest (roughly three small-medium limes)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (roughly 2 limes)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2-3 tablespoons turbinado sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lime zest for topping

Items Needed
12 muffin cup liners
Cooking Spray
Non-stick muffin pan

Ready To Cook?
Preheat over to 375º
Combine first four ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl and create a well in the center. In a separate bowl combine cream cheese and remaining ingredients through egg. Pour mixture into the well and stir gently just until moist.

Place muffin cup liners into pan and coat with cooking spray. Divide batter evenly between cups. Using a small ice cream scooper will help you evenly distribute batter and makes for a neater process. Sprinkle (or directly zest using a plane) remaining lime zest and turbinado sugar over top of batter.

Bake at 375º for 16 minutes or until a wooden tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes.

Calories 186; Fat 6.2g; Protein 4g; Carb 29.5g; Fiber 0.6g; Chol 21mg; Iron 1mg; Sodium 160mg; Calc 81mg

Dark Cocoa Muffin

Ingredients
1 3/4 cup all=purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup dark chocolate mini-chips, divided

Items Needed
12 muffin cup liners
Cooking Spray
Non-stick muffin pan

Ready To Cook?
Preheat oven to 400º
Combine first six ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl stirring with a whisk. Create a well in the center of mixture. In a separate bowl combine remaining ingredients through egg. Pour mixture into the well and stir gently just until moist. Fold in chocolate chips until mixed evenly into batter.

Place muffin cup liners into pan and coat with cooking spray. Divide batter evenly between cups. Using a small ice cream scooper will help you evenly distribute batter and makes for a neater process. Sprinkle remaining and chocolate chips on top of batter.

Bake at 400º for 15 minutes or until a wooden tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes.

Calories 191; Fat 7.6g; Protein 3.1g; Carb 29g; Fiber 1.5g; Chol 15mg; Iron 1.5mg; Sodium 197mg; Calc 37mg

Bacon Cheddar & Jalapeno Corn Muffin

Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 center-cut bacon slices, cooked, drained and crumbled
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 `/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Items Needed
12 muffin cup liners
Cooking Spray
Non-stick muffin pan

Ready To Cook?
Preheat over to 375º
Combine first eight ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl stirring with a whisk. Create a well in the center of the bowl. In a separate bowl combine cream cheese and remaining ingredients through egg. Pour mixture into the well and stir gently just until moist.

Place muffin cup liners into pan and coat with cooking spray. Divide batter evenly between cups. Using a small ice cream scooper will help you evenly distribute batter and makes for a neater process.

Bake at 375º for 15 minutes or until a wooden tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm with a pat of butter.

Calories 160; Fat 7.9g; Protein 4.8g; Carb 17.7g; Fiber 0.9g; Chol 23mg; Iron 0.9mg; Sodium 299mg; Calc 89mg

Petite Butter Crust Galette filled with Dark Chocolate Ganache


These tasty little dessert galettes will amaze and impress your friends. They’re like having your own personal little chocolate pie… and who doesn’t want that? The laborious handmade buttery crust will give them that wow factor I’m always looking for… but feel free to try a pre-made crust if that’s too time consuming or intimidating. Be sure to include the egg and vanilla creamer wash and they will still be pretty delicious.

Ingredients:
Butter Crust
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
6 to 8 Tbsp ice water

Filling
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate
6 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Himalayan pink salt for dusting (Kosher sea salt is fine if you can’t find this)

Egg Wash
1 med egg yolk
2 tablespoons of non-dairy vanilla creamer

Preparation:
Crust
1 – Cut the sticks of butter into 1/2-inch cubes and place in the freezer for 15 minutes to an hour (the longer the better) so that they become thoroughly chilled.
2 – Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor; pulse to mix. Add butter and pulse 6 to 8 times, until mixture resembles coarse meal, with pea size pieces of butter. Add ice water 1 Tbsp at a time, pulsing until mixture just begins to clump together. If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it’s ready. If the dough doesn’t hold together, add a little more water and pulse again.
3 – Remove dough from machine and place in a mound on a clean surface. Gently shape into 2 discs. Knead the dough just enough to form the discs, do not over-knead. You should be able to see little bits of butter in the dough. These small chunks of butter are what will allow the resulting crust to be flaky. Sprinkle a little flour around the discs. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour, and up to 2 days.
4 – Remove crust disks from the refrigerator. Let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes in order to soften just enough to make rolling out a bit easier. Roll out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to a large circle; about 1/8 of an inch thick. As you roll out the dough, check if the dough is sticking to the surface below. If necessary, add a few sprinkles of flour under the dough to keep the dough from sticking. Using a 3 inch round cookie or dough cutter, cut out as many circles as you can get from the surface. Remove leftovers and gently kneed together and roll out again. Repeat until almost all the dough is used  Set is 3″ rounds, two inches apart on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet and cover with a wet paper town to keep moist.

Egg Wash
Whisk together the egg yolk and vanilla creamer. Set aside.

Filling
1 – Melt the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth, then remove from the heat and cool for 5 minutes. Whisk together the eggs, cream, sugar, and vanilla extract in a bowl. Whisk the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture until combined.
2 – Spoon the filing into the center of the dough round and swirl with the back of the spoon until you have an even layer, leaving 1/4-1/3 inch of dough showing.
3 – Pinch edges of exposed dough up until you form 5-6 points, creating a “bowl” for the chocolate.
4 – Use a pastry brush to wash over pie crust with the egg wash. Be sure to get the top edges.
5 – Take a small pinch of the Himalayan pink salt and spring over the chocolate.

Ready to Cook?
Place cookie sheets on a middle rack in a pre-heated 375 degree oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Ovens vary, so check your galettes at about 15 minutes to see how they are doing. The edges of the crust should golden brown. Wait 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

The Perfect Bite
As with any baked good – the perfect bite is always best right our of the oven. But caution… wait at least 5 minutes or you will scald the roof of your mouth. I may or may not know this first hand.

The Perfect Pairing
This may be the first mixed drink I have recommended. But I have a couple of reasons for suggesting pairing this dessert with a drink called a Presbyterian. Mainly, because these little galettes are a bit of religious experience. And I am, after all, a bourbon-drinking-Presbyterian. So, it’s fitting. But also, the rich dark chocolate, sprinkled with the Himalayan pink salt has an earthy sweetness that takes you buy surprise. As does the Presbyterian with its mix of ginger ale and bourbon… earthy sweetness in a highball.  A red wine would be good, but predictable. Try these two together and thank me later.

The Perfect Health
Hallelujah! Dark chocolate may contribute to improved cardiovascular health. Packed with natural antioxidants, dark chocolate and cocoa sit in the same good-for-you category as green tea and blueberries. Read more HERE.  Plus, my friend Tracy Utley claims it cures the common cold. And I, for one, believe her. She’s a mom of 4 boys, after all.

Crystallized Ginger Molasses Cookies


I’m so excited about these cookies.  I haven’t had them in years and have never made them before… so after some research and a few friends sending me their Mom’s favorite recipe and Aunt Sue’s Fail Proof Tips… I came up with what I think is the perfect Ginger Molasses Cookie. It’s perfect, because I like it. Because it made me exclaim, “Oh. My. Gosh!” when I took my first bite.

What makes them special and gives them that “wow” factor… is using the crystallized ginger (which I found at an Asian market), and grinding fresh cloves and nutmeg (versus using pre-ground spices from a jar). The freshness was unbelievable and I love getting a surprise little bite now and then of the spices.

They’re perfect because they’re perfect for me. It’s a rainy day and I’m under the weather and this is exactly what I needed.

You decide for you.

Ingredients
1 cup dark brown sugar
2.5 oz. vegetable oil (I use Smart Balance)
3.5 oz. molasses
1 large egg
2 tsp freshly ground cinnamon stick (use a plane or zester)
1 tsp freshly ground cloves (use a mortar and pestle or spice grinder)
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg (use a plane or zester)
1/2 tsp  ginger powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup roughly chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 cup granulated white sugar, for rolling cookies in

Ready To Cook?
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

In a stand mixer (or use a hand mixer), blend together on medium speed, the sugar, oil, molasses, spices, and salt for about 3 minutes.

*Grinding fresh spices will take these cookie from good to fabulous. It’s worth the extra time – I promise you!

Add in egg and mix on medium speed for another 2 minutes.

Add in baking soda and flour 1/2 a cup at a time. Mix on medium speed until all the flour is incorporated. Add the chopped ginger and mix until blended.

Roll the dough into about 1 inch balls, and drop into sugar. If dough is stiff, flatten each ball on the cookie sheet. I found it flattened fine on its own. Dough will be VERY sticky – so I use prep gloves powdered with flour.

Put into preheated oven for 13 minutes. Cool on the cookie sheet for 3 minutes before removing to rack to cool completely. Makes 16 regular-sized cookies, or 8 jumbo-sized ones.

The Perfect Bite
Of course, the perfect bite is when they’re hot fresh and gooey out of the oven! These cookies should stay soft but if they start to get hard, put a piece of sandwich bread in with the cookies (in a Zip Lock or Tupperware) for about 24 hours. The bread will come out like a crouton and your cookies will be soft again. Magic!

The Perfect Pairing
A glass of cold milk or a cup of steamy coffee is be the perfect thing to sip with these sweet and tangy treats.

The Perfect Health
Ginger has been used as a natural remedy for many ailments for centuries. Now, science is catching up and researchers around the world are finding that ginger works wonders in the treatment of everything from cancer to migraines. Here are ten health benefits of this powerful herb.