Category: no-bake

Orange rind & apple brandy cranberry sauce, and a remembrance of things past.

Orange rind and apple brandy cranberry sauce.

When I think of past Thanksgivings, there’s a blur in my mind. Particularly the childhood ones. I do remember some very clearly- like the year I was probably around 7, and I was making paper dolls on the living room floor after watching the parade. Or the year directly after that when I was creating some kind of model of Plimoth Plantation (purchased the previous summer while on vacation at Plimoth, obviously). Or the year I was about 14 and after dinner, we left the plates on the table & my father drove us in to see the Christmas windows in Manhattan. I even remember the knit hat and the vintage Levi’s I wore. And the year that I was maybe 18 or 19 and we had dinner at my aunt & uncle’s house, and there’s a picture of me floating around somewhere, an actual tangible photograph, of me wearing a lace apron & blue Doc Martens. And of course I remember last year at my in-laws house, when Jay and I cooked everything for both families all by ourselves. And the year before that, and the year before. But other years, they just blur together to create one large Thanksgiving. One large dinner. One pan of lasagna. One turkey. One memory comprised of all the memories.

And I cannot say I remember any one dish, really. I don’t remember any specific stand-out side dishes, except for the one year I made broccoli and cauliflower au gratin (and I’ve been craving it ever since). However this… this is a stand-out side dish if ever there was one.

Orange rind and apple brandy cranberry sauce.

Okay. So, Thanksgiving. If there is one thing I can convince you of concerning Thanksgiving, let it be that you DO NOT NEED TO BUY CRANBERRY SAUCE. I know I say a lot of things about how my recipes are “easy” and how you should be making your own pickles or what have you (and that is all 100% true) but cranberry sauce is THE EASIEST THING EVER. I am not lying to you. There is no need to buy stuff chock full of high fructose corn syrup and additives when it’s so easy to make your own. Plus, this time of year cranberries are everywhere, and they’re usually on sale. Stock up and make some homemade cranberry sauce now, enjoy it later.

Orange rind and apple brandy cranberry sauce.

It doesn’t have to be “canned” or processed either, I just prefer to do so because I make a couple of half-pints (or pints) and I would rather keep them in a cupboard than in the fridge, open. That way, throughout the entire season I have fresh cranberry sauce. From Thanksgiving to Christmas and throughout the winter. For all those roast chicken Sunday dinners, I can pop open a new jar. Cranberries cook themselves, really. And they have so much natural pectin that they just gel together like a dream. It’s a beginners dream sauce!

I used Black Dirt “Apple Jack” apple brandy in mine, because brandy reminds me of my Nana and apple brandy is the only kind I had on hand. But you could use a regular brandy too. Or bourbon, or whiskey. Or you can leave it out completely.

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I always feel like somebody’s watchin’ me…

Monster bark! Perfect easy no-bake Halloween treat.

… Even my chocolate!

Isn’t Halloween the best holiday ever? I mean, every holiday has its merits. Christmas is great. Thanksgiving is even awesome- all that food. But HALLOWEEN, YOU GUYS. This is the best time. When else is it acceptable, even expected, that your food either resemble body parts or have eyes? It’s only at Halloween, and it’s basically awesome.

Monster bark for Halloween!

I call this “Monster Bark.” You can call it chocolate bark, Halloween bark, whatever. It depends also on what candy you use on top. Mine has bloodshot eyes, so clearly it has to be monstrous. Yours can be totally different! People usually think of bark as a Christmas thing; peppermint bark. But there’s no reason why you can’t make it for any holiday or occasion.

First you need a bag of chocolate. I prefer to use real chocolate as my base, and if I want more color (i.e. Candy Melts) or other kinds of chocolate I add a little in by swirling it or layering. You can in theory do whatever you want, I just find sometimes the Candy Melts melt a little quicker, so using chocolate as a base helps keep it firm. I used Hershey’s Special Dark for the base of this, and I added a little bit of black food coloring to make it look a bit darker. You can use a mix of white, milk and dark chocolate, or use dark chocolate with orange and/or green Candy Melts swirled in. Or add some white. Use your imagination!

I obviously stuck with one color.

Monster bark for Halloween.

You can use a bag of chips melted, or two large bars of chocolate. Depending on the amount of people or the size of your pan, you can even double that.

Next, you’ll need sprinkles and candies. I went really simple, but you can go crazy. Mine has Wilton candy eyes, candy corn, Wilton orange + black sprinkles, and some green and pink round sprinkles as well as candy pearls. You can use regular old Halloween candy too, and pretzels, and nuts… whatever it is you love.

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Jack-O-Lantern pudding.


When I was little, Bewitched was one of my favorite TV shows. It used to be on in the early afternoons in syndication, on channel 11 or something. I’d rush home from school to try and catch it. I loved Samantha Stevens so much, and I wished I could just wiggle my nose and do magic like her and Tabitha. I even designed some Cupcake Rehab merchandise based on the show’s opening credits. It’s only fitting that I share this photo! Especially since I’m starting to think about what my jack-o-lantern this year will be. Previous years: Edgar Allan Poe, many varieties of cats, Sally from the Nightmare Before Christmas, Oogie Boogie and Jack Skellington (also from TNBC), pipe smoking pumpkins, regular jack-o-lanterns, witches on brooms and many more.

Jack-o-lanterns are kinda my thing.

So, today since we’re talking about jack-o-lanterns, I thought I’d post just a little a short and sweet little DIY/recipe post for you; in true Halloween-y fashion. These jack-o-lantern puddings are actually just pumpkin puddings in cute glasses that I DIY’ed. I mean, what are jack-o-lanterns made of? Pumpkins! Duh.

Jack-O-Lantern puddings! With a DIY for cute jack-o-lantern glasses.

You’ve probably seen this idea or something similar all over the Internet. But do you know how it’s done? Nope- I didn’t buy jack-o-lantern glasses.

And no, I didn’t use a Sharpie.

Jack-O-Lantern puddings! With a DIY for cute jack-o-lantern glasses.

I used black electrical tape.

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Quick maple whiskey pickled carrots.

Maple whiskey pickled carrots.

I have made pickled carrots before, a long time ago. Four years ago; when my food photography was atrocious and my canning skills were n00b level. I made an adapted version of Molly Wizenberg’s recipe from her book A Homemade Life, which was basically spicy pickled carrots with rosemary. They were good and very much enjoyed by everyone who ate them, but for some reason I never again made a pickled carrot.

Until now.

Maple whiskey pickled carrots.

I really don’t know why I never again pickled carrots, really. I always thought of it when I saw beautiful multicolor heirloom carrots at farmer’s markets. I literally would see them and think, “How gorgeous would those be, pickled up in a jar?” And then I’d promptly move on and never actually do it. I’d probably just eat them in a salad or soup and that would be that.

But I recently had this genius idea. While making Jay his whiskey sour/maple whiskey pickles for the zillionth time, I thought, “Hey wait a minute… maple glazed carrots… maple whiskey pickles… what about using this recipe for pickled carrots?!” He looked at me as if I was insane (a normal occurrence) and then nodded slowly and smiled and said, “Sure…” I think he was just humoring me.

And so of course I just had to try it out. I did not have any fancy colored carrots, unfortunately, just plain old skinny organic orange beta-carotene-filled “normal” ones. However, it really would be lovely to fill up a jar with a variety of colors and sizes of carrots for this. Excellent presentation.

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Fresh garden salsa (that you can enjoy in February).

Weighing tomatoes before making fresh garden salsa (canned!)

I got a new kitchen scale, dudes.

This is exciting for me. It took a long time to find one that was what I wanted. I didn’t want digital. I wanted an old-school analog one- vintage styled. Jay and I really wanted an actual vintage one, but we were worried about the calibration of a true vintage scale. We didn’t want to buy one then find out it needed to be overhauled. So then we got some gift cards for Williams-Sonoma (for either our wedding or a late-housewarming gift) and we found this one by Salter for Williams-Sonoma. SCORE!

So we ordered it and it came and it’s lovely. Just what I had in mind. Vintage look, but brand new.

Weighing tomatoes for some fresh garden salsa.

And I’ve got lots of tomatoes, all fresh from my backyard. Yep, the garden is still kickin’! Indigo Apples, Cosmonaut Volkov’s, Globe’s, Amish Paste’s and Super Sweet 100’s. They’ve all gotta be used, and one can only eat so many fresh. Or in a salad. So… naturally, everything I make preserve with tomatoes; i.e. tomato jam or sauce or salsa, I need to weigh them first. Conveniently.

And that leads me to our recipe today:

Canned fresh garden salsa- enjoy your garden in the middle of the winter!

I looooooove salsa. Oh man. I could eat salsa all day, every day. Green, red, I don’t care. Hot salsa, medium salsa, salsa with black beans and corn. I love it all. The only ones I will not eat are peach salsas or mango salsas. I’m a purist, see. Tomatoes & peppers only for me. With loads of cilantro. LOADS. I love it tossed into a fresh salad topped with tortilla strips, shredded cheese and sometimes grilled chicken. I also love it on chips, with guacamole. And who doesn’t love it on burritos?

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French custard cream (or Creme Patisserie) with fruit.

Creme Patisseries with fresh fruit.

I know, they’re beautiful, right? I’m calling these little things French custards, but they’re really Creme Patisseries. It’s essentially just pastry cream, but it’s delicious. I think really it’s a dessert in it’s own right. Why hide it as a filling- it’s perfection on it’s own with some fresh fruit.

That’s probably not what most folks would do with it… but I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel. Most people fill cakes or cupcakes or eclairs with it, or Napoleons maybe. But why not just fill up a little dish with it and top with fruit?

I can’t think of a reason. I mean, it’s usually the creamy part of a fruit tart anyway. Just cut out the middle man!

Creme Patisserie (pastry cream) with fruit.

It’s also very simple to make, which is why I made these look extra fancy with some fruit and mint leaves.

See, I grow strawberries. And the strawberries that I grow are a very very old kind that was first grown in gardens in the 12th century. They’re known as Alpine strawberries. And not only are they a very old variety, but they’re quite unique. The ones pictured here are fully grown at just 3/4″ long. That’s right- they do not become those giant monstrosities you see in the supermarket. These are a “wild” berry, they do not send off runners either, they stay bushy and compact and adorable.

They also have a unique flavor; as says:

[…] berries with an intensely concentrated flavor I can only describe as truly ambrosial. [And] their aroma and flavor are unmatched as garden berries.

And as written on this website:

Order strawberries in a deluxe Parisian restaurant and you’re likely to be served berries that are very small, very expensive, and also very delicious. Such fruits are not merely scaled-down or poorly grown versions of regular strawberries, but a completely different species—the near-wild alpine strawberry, Fragaria vesca.

Creme Patisserie with fresh fruit.

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Vanilla panna cotta with fresh cherry sauce.

Vanilla bean panna cotta with fresh sweet cherry sauce.

Don’t you just LOVE when desserts look like murder scenes?

Panna Cotta is one of the most perfect summertime desserts. Not only does it take about  5 ingredients, but it’s a dream to make, and you can make it ahead of time. Oh, and it requires only about 10 minutes on the stove! And it’s impressive to say. Panna cotta.

Panna cotta is kind of what would happen if Jell-O and vanilla pudding had a baby. It’s gelatinous, yet creamy. Almost flan-like. In Italian, “panna cotta” means “cooked cream,” and that’s essentially what it is. With sugar, vanilla, gelatin and yogurt. In Italy it’s traditionally eaten with chocolate sauce or fresh berries, or both. Some types of panna cotta can hold their shape when unmolded, this particular one is a crap shoot. If you leave it in longer than overnight, in a very cold spot in the fridge, you might be able to unmold it.

However- forget it if it’s a hot, humid day, or if your custard cups have an unusual shape. It ain’t gonna happen.

Vanilla bean panna cotta with fresh sweet cherry sauce.

The first time I made this recipe, my mother asked for it for her birthday. I made two types; the original Ina Garten recipe with balsamic strawberries, and some with just mini-chocolate chips mixed in before chilling it. Since then I’ve made it many times over- usually for her, since it’s one of her favorite things- and never really deviated from that.

But this year I made some fresh cherry sauce with all of those beautiful Rainier Fruit Company cherries I received, and I thought that would be a delicious variation to spoon on top.

And I was correct. And you should make it too, if you were smart like me and froze some of those gorgeous cherries.

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