Category: seasonal

Milano cookie Easter bunnies!

(This was originally written for a contributor post on eighteen25, go take a look and see! And look for more posts by me over there soon.)

Hey guys and gals. I’m sorry for the lack of blog posts. I went almost an entire month without posting ANYTHING. I really am sorry. I know I’m lame- life is busy and it’s getting warmer. No excuse, I know, but today’s post is a super duper adorable one that I think you’re really going to LOVE.

BUNNIES!

Easter bunny Milano cookies!

I’m insane, I know. You’re thinking, “Really?!” But yes. You’re probably also thinking “Why didn’t I think of that!?”

I had this idea a while ago, and I never actually implemented it. But I wanted to for so long that this year I finally had to. I really didn’t know what to use, how to do it, etc. But it all came together and I had everything I needed in my house.

Easter bunny cookies!

What you need:

  • Milano cookies
  • White chocolate or white Candy Melts (I used Baker’s white chocolate)
  • sprinkles for eyes/nose
  • black food coloring (optional)
  • paper for ears

Originally, I planned on using Oreos covered in white chocolate, and just make bunny faces. But I bought a package of Milano cookies for the first time in forever and I realized… they’re BUNNY SHAPED. Well, not really. But kinda.

Easter bunny cookies.

I also used the new banana Milanos, which I think are really good. You can use any kind you want, obviously. Mint. Raspberry. Plain. Whatever.

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Red currant cupcakes.

This is probably the first and last time you’ll see red currants on this blog.

Red currants.

Enjoy it.

See… they don’t grow locally. And they’re usually imported, and they’re usually pricey. Like $5.99 for 6 ounces pricey. Mmm hmm. And they’re not for everybody. They’re not like apples or oranges that everyone loves. They’re kind of a niche product. Most Americans don’t even know what a red currant tastes like, let alone have they seen one.

I’m telling you. My whole life and I’ve seen fresh currants TWICE in a market. TWICE.

Red currant cupcakes.

But that’s why they’re perfect for Valentine’s Day. Because they’re hard to find, they cost a pretty penny, and they’re just pretty. They have these perfectly round, translucent little orbs on the cutest little vines. They’re very delicate, too, and you realize when working with them just how hard it must be to pick them without crushing them. Which I’m sure only adds to the price.

I stretched out 12 ounces of red currants to make two 8-oz. jars of red currant jelly and then I used a bit of that jelly to fill some cupcakes. And I had to top them with fresh red currants too. I mean… if we’re gonna be decadent and floss a little bit… *pops collar*

Red currant jelly.

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The key to key lime marmalade.

Marmalade is probably the quintessential winter canning item. Everyone who “cans” or “preserves” is getting their hands on amazing winter citrus fruit: blood oranges, lemons, limes, oranges of all kinds, Meyer lemons, etc. So what else is there to make but marmalade? Or curd. But curd isn’t as … let’s say, universal, as marmalade.

Key lime marmalade.

Actually, marmalade isn’t very universal. Unless you live in Great Britain or Ireland, it’s kind of polarizing. You either love it or despise it. You either “get it” or you don’t. Curd is probably way more accepted than marmalade. You can use curd as the filling for a tart and no one would ever know it was originally curd.

In my family, there are both these kinds of marmalade people. I don’t much like marmalade myself. I avoid it. My nana liked it, but on the tart side – and not with a lot of rind or peel. My mom likes it sweeter with a lot of peel for texture. My dad doesn’t like it at all. Once you get to love it, you get to understand it. Or once you start making it, in my case. Then you can see how to use it in more ways than just on toast or English muffins. Like for example, melted slightly on pound cake, as a glaze for pork or chicken, swirled into a vodka cocktail, etc.

Key lime marmalade.

I’ve made marmalade a bunch of times and each time I’ve had a different experience. Most of the time I’ve used my basic marmalade formula. Sometimes it’s taken a few days for it to “set”, other times it’s set so firmly right away that in order to use it it needed to be softened (thanks to the insanely pectin-y lemons I used). I’ve made some marmalade that never fully set too, and was always a little liquid-ish. Some of them I’ve re-cooked and processed, others I’ve just marketed as “citrus syrup- great on ice cream.” But regardless- it’s always been fairly simple. It’s just a loooooong process.

This time, I made key lime marmalade. Key limes are tiny little adorable -and sweet (yet more acidic too, if that makes sense)- limes that are most commonly used in pies. I have never made lime marmalade before, so that’s what you see here. But for your purposes, any citrus fruit will do.

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Christmas jam, Amish style.

We’re getting so close to Christmas! Have you gotten all of your shopping done yet? Do you know what you’re giving every single person? If not, I have a suggestion- Amish Christmas jam.

Amish Christmas jam!

Before I say anything else, let me say this: this jam, when cooking, smells like the realistic, better, fresher version of a Christmas candle. You know, those candles that are called, like, “Home for the Holidays” or “Christmas berry wreath.” The scent of sweetness, cranberry, orange, and cinnamon… mixed with something else. Something sweet, juicy and berry-like. You know what that is?

Strawberry.

Yep. Strawberry. Wait, what’s that? Everyone’s favorite spring berry, making an appearance in this Christmas jam? Yes! And you wouldn’t believe how good it smells!

There are a lot of variations of Amish Christmas jam. Some have raspberries and blackberries with cranberries. Some have strawberries, like this one. Some even have pineapple or regular apples. I don’t know the origins of it, or if it’s really an Amish thing (I mean, beyond the fact it’s always being sold at Amish country gift shops), but it certainly is delicious.

Amish Christmas jam.

This particular recipe is low-sugar. The entire thing only requires 2 cups of it! Most Amish Christmas jam recipes require twice as much (or more). In this recipe, the fruit itself takes center stage. However, because it’s low-sugar, it uses Pomona’s Pectin, which is a two-step pectin specifically used in low/no-sugar canning recipes that can be intimidating to some people. Don’t be intimidated! It’s very, very easy.

And I would even venture to say a canning newbie could make this recipe very easily.

Amish Christmas jam.

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Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes with brandy icing and sugared cranberries.

Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes with sugared cranberries.

So, hey guys… I made some mini-bundt gingerbread cakes. Cutest little things. And add to them some cute little sparkly sugared cranberries. Ugh. Forget it. Are visions of sugarplums- or sugared cranberries- dancing in your head? It’s Christmastime, folks! I know! So exciting. It’s such a busy time of year, I know, but I hope you all take some time to spend with your families and friends. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle and forget that not only are we all human- but what’s important.

Beautiful things don’t always have to be complicated. Simple is beautiful too. And I promise you that these little mini gingerbread bundts are simple. Don’t be scared by the sugared cranberries!

Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes with sugared cranberries.

Gingerbread is so Christmas, it’s practically mandatory. If you let a holiday season go by without making gingerbread, it’s almost sacrilegious. I decided to up the ante and add another holiday favorite: cranberries. And let’s not forget brandy, another holiday staple.

So yeah. Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes. They’re so beautiful… and also just plain adorable. But SIMPLE. Just a few ingredients, a little bit of mixing and tossing and whisking and voila. Gorgeous little cakes to serve after a holiday meal. And they’ll make you feel all Martha Stewart-y.

Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes with sugared cranberries.

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Cranberry walnut corn muffins.

It’s December already. Can you believe it? Time really flew by this year, it seems. Every year seems to go by faster and faster, actually, the older I get. It really seems just like yesterday I was gardeningcanning peaches. And now Thanksgiving is over and we’re sprinting toward a new year. I can’t believe my Christmas tree will be up by the end of next week!

Cranberry walnut corn muffins.

The day I first made these was the day after the horrific Paris restaurant & nightclub attacks, back in November. I felt like I needed to bake something, as I usually do when bad things happen. As someone whose husband has been in Paris (and all over Europe), performing in nightclubs and bars similar to Bataclan many times… it’s even harder. I can put myself in that situation very easily. I know what it’s like to know someone you love is many miles away and you’re waiting for the call when the show is over. For some, that call didn’t come.  These bad things seemingly happen a lot in today’s world- and for me, when they do, it’s comforting to come into my little kitchen and make something warm and delicious.

And you know how it is- you have like, three random ingredients you need to use, and you want to moosh ’em all together and make something. So that’s how these were born. I found a recipe I liked, and added walnuts to it. These are basically a one-bowl wonder.

They’re also kind of a go-between of sweet and savory, tart and sweet. Great warm with butter and just as great as a side to a meal. They do make a wonderful breakfast, too, though.

Cranberry walnut corn muffins.

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Apple-cranberry pie.

(This was originally written for a contributor post on eighteen25, go take a look and see! And look for more posts by me over there soon.)

Apples for apple-cranberry pie.

Peeling apples for apple-cranberry pie.

As a food blogger and someone who just loves to eat in general, there are a few things I hear from people a lot. One is usually something like “How do you stay so skinny?” Now in my mind I am far from skinny, but also do people assume I eat every single thing I make in it’s entirety? And two, which really bothers me: “I don’t have time to do all that!”

Yes, yes you do.

Apple-cranberry pie; like apple pie with cranberry sauce!

I’m busy too. Trust me. I have a lot going on in my life. But it’s a matter of priority. Some people will always choose to drive through a fast food restaurant, others will make homemade hamburgers. That’s just the way it is. Some people won’t ever try to do it, so they won’t realize how it really doesn’t take 6 hours and it isn’t all that difficult. However, if I want something, I want to make sure its the best it can be. Sometimes, yes, I use shortcuts like frozen pie crust, and that’s okay. That is TOTALLY OKAY. But Jay can sniff out a frozen crust from a mile away- and he prefers homemade. So if I know I’m making a pie ahead of time (and not at 3 a.m. when I can’t sleep), I try to put aside extra time to make a homemade pie crust. Especially if it’s for a holiday dinner.

This pie was new for me, and I wanted to share it with you because it’s a great Thanksgiving pie. And Christmas pie, too, really. It’s like cranberry sauce and apple pie rolled into one. It’s dessert and a side dish. It’s totally unexpected. And it’s also adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, which I happen to trust immensely when it comes to recipes.

Apple-cranberry pie.

I hope you’ll try it this year for the holidays. Maybe you’ll come to love it so much, you’ll never buy a frozen crust or store-bought pie ever again. And yes… I continue my tradition of being horrible at folding pie crust.

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