Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cranberry Walnut White Chocolate Chip Cookies and The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

This was my first time participating in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap and I was so excited to stumble across it! Not only is it a fun way to get into the holiday spirit and connect with new foodies, but it supports an amazing cause! I have been a supporter of Cookies for Kids Cancer for a couple of years so I was ecstatic to see that this event contributed to the Be a Good Cookie movement. I have thrown a bake sale in the past, and it is such an easy and cooperative way to donate to a cause that needs all the support and exposure we can share. If you are looking for a charity to donate to this Holiday season (and beyond), please consider Cookies for Kids Cancer. Thanks to Oxo for the surprise gift and for being such a great partner in the fight against pediatric cancers.

Many thanks to Lindsay of Love and Olive Oil and Julie at The Little Kitchen  for organizing such a fun event! All of your hard work is much appreciated!

I was so excited to get baking for the swap but I had to decide what to make. I wanted something new, something seasonal and something everyone would like (hopefully). Since I wanted to make a new cookie recipe for the swap and because one of the guidelines was that it couldn't be a recipe you had posted to your blog in the past, I had to come up with something totally new. My Cookie Swap Special has in my opinion, some of the season's best flavors.

In addition to the Cranberry Walnut White Chocolate Chip cookies, I also made and sent our family's favorite holiday cookie. We have been making them for as long as I can remember and I wanted to share something that was special for our homemade holidays but I can't share the recipe. So I went with the best of both worlds, half a dozen of each.


2 Sticks Softened Butter
3/4 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Ollive Oil
2 Eggs
2 Teaspoons Vanilla
1 Tablespoon Milk
2-3 Teaspoons Orange Zest
3 3/4 Cups Cake Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Chopped Walnuts
3/4- 1 Cup Dried Cranberries (I used Craisins with Cherry Juice)

Additional 1/2 cup of sugar in a small bowl for topping the cookies.

In a large bowl, mix the sugars and wet ingredients. Add the eggs one at a time. Then add the orange zest and distribute evenly. I went slightly light on the zest as I didn't want it to overpower the cookie flavor, but if you want more orange flavor, just up the amount of zest.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt and stir with a fork or whisk.

Add the dry ingredients in three parts to the wet and mix well. When evenly distributed, add the walnuts, white chocolate chips and the craisins.

If the dough seems too wet, add a bit more of the cake flour until it is firm enough to hold shape but isn't hard. It will be a softer, wetter dough anyway so make sure to refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 350

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Scoop even amounts of the cookie dough onto the baking sheet. I like to use an ice cream scoop. It will give you nice, even, rounded scoops.

With the extra sugar, dip a pint glass in the dish and then push down on the cookies to flatten. Re-dip in sugar after each cookie. 

Bake 10-13 minutes or until lightly golden around the edges. I like cookies on the lighter, chewier side so if you don't feel free to cook them longer until they are crispy, crunchy. Let sit on cookie sheet for a few minutes to set, then move to a cooling rack. Cool completely before packing them away. 

In return for the three packages I sent out, I received cookies from three lovely ladies. These foodies made some delectable treats! They were all different and original and I was so happy with each package. Thanks, ladies!

From Ausra, of Vaikai ir Vanile I received these delightful tea cookies, she made each one to look like a tea bag. They were adorable and so delicious! I love that they were dipped in chocolate and I was impressed that she took the time to make individual tea tags for each cookie, it was such a cute touch! These are great with a complimentary cup of tea!

The Swiss Chocolate Almond Cookies from Laura of Mainline Feast were scrumptious! She made these with Toblerone chunks with salted almonds. She was sweet enough to put a few Toblerone bites in the package as well. I love salty sweet, so these were right up my alley!

And last but certainly not least, I was gifted some Mint Chocolate Chip cookies from Allison at Creative Crops. These crisp minty cookies were sweet and refreshing, they'd be great as an after dinner treat with some coffee.

All of the cookies were a hit here in our house! Hylton made a few trips to the kitchen to sneak them when I wasn't looking. Thank you, ladies for all of your homemade deliciousness! They were all fantastic. 

If you are a food blogger and interested in signing up for updates, or if you would like to participate next year, go here

Happy Holi-dishing!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

November Foodie Penpal

This month's foodie penpal package was sent to me by Gigi. This was the most thoughtful package! Gigi and I exchanged emails and she asked about my food likes, interests, and pets. I have two sweet dogs and she was so kind to include treats for them too!! I was so touched to see that. She really went the extra mile with this package of goodies! I loved every bit of it! 

I love plantain chips and dug into these as soon as I took the picture. Delicious, salty and crispy!

This looks amazing and I can't wait to make it! I might wait until closer to Christmas to try this chocolate-minty loaf for a cozy weekend treat. It'll go great with some homemade hot cocoa. 

My husband is very excited to try some pumpkin pancakes from this tasty mix! Maybe we will make brunch or brinner (breakfast for dinner) some night soon and have these with some spiced mascarpone topping. Yum!

Mushrooms are one of my favorite things! I can't wait to use this Mushroom Medley. 

My boys loved these treats!!! I was so excited for them to get a treat in the pen pal package. I had purchased these for them once before when I made a stop at Trader Joes on a roadtrip. I have since run out so I was so pleased to see these! 

I love Luna bars and haven't tried this flavor yet. It looks delish!

I haven't had a chance to use That Green Sauce yet but it looks great! I'm thinking it would be great on a wrap or sandwich. 

I loved the boysenberry dried fruit bar! I just wish there were a Trader Joe's nearby so I could stock up!


Gigi included a very sweet note as well as some catalogs, one of which was from the company where she works. In it was a recipe her Mom used for Thanksgiving stuffing. It was such a sweet touch.

Thank you so much Gigi for being so thoughtful. I really appreciated all the special touches!

The Lean Green Bean

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Autumn Spiced Mimsie (Mimosa)


This is a great drink to serve at brunch or during hors d'oeuvres, mouth watering any time of day! I revamped the traditional mimosa to suit the season.  Serve an Autumn Spice Mimsie as the perfect way to add a splash of autumn flavor to your Thanksgiving meal, or the morning after. 


Champagne or Sparkling Wine of your choice (I use extra dry or brut and rose' works great, too)
Fresh Apple Cider
Sliced Organic Apples
Pumpkin Pie Spice
Pure Maple Syrup

In a small pitcher, mix about two cups of the apple cider, a couple of teaspoons or so of the maple syrup, 1/2 teaspoon (or a few shakes) of the pumpkin pie spice. Taste and adjust to suit your taste. 

Fill the champagne glass 1/2-3/4 of the way. Then pour apple cider mixture over then garnish with apple slice. You can change the quantities of champagne versus apple cider mix according to your taste. The quantities of this mix will yield about two bottles worth of the mimosas. 


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pumpkin Beer Bread

In a season when you find all things pumpkin, I try to take advantage as often as I can. I love pumpkin in almost any way, in ravioli, roasted, in pie, breads, and of course in beer! If you haven't had a pumpkin ale, you must try one! There are tons of different brands available in the autumn- Blue Moon and Shock Top are just a couple of options. I can only have one or two, but the flavor is just fantastic.

I crave pumpkin bread and the comforting spice flavor during autumn so I thought one day, when I opened the fridge and saw the pumpkin beer calling my name, how delicious it would be to combine the fabulous ingredients into one awesome treat!

 This bread is perfect for sharing, or not. I usually double it and give a couple of loaves away as thank you's or hostess gifts, which is ok with Mr.V, as long as I leave him his own personal loaf. Yes, I'm serious.

1 (15 oz.) Can of Pumpkin
4 Eggs
1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
2/3 Cup (lightly overflowing) Pumpkin Beer
1 1/2 Cup White Sugar
1 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
3 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 Teaspoons Baking Soda
1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
2 Teaspoons Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Nutmeg
1/2 Teaspoon Cloves
1/2 Teaspoon Ginger
1/4 Cup Raw Sugar (for topping)

These quantities will yield two loaves. (If you double the batch, use one whole 12oz. beer in the batter.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour 2 loaf pans.

In a large bowl mix together the pumpkin, eggs, oils, beer and sugars until well blended. In a medium bowl, sift the dry ingredients, grate nutmeg, then stir with a fork. Add the dry mixture gradually into the wet ingredients, about a cup at a time.

How fun is this scraper that I found at Sur la table ?? I love it! 

Blend until well incorporated but do not over mix. You can use a wooden spoon, stand mixer or a hand mixer. I went with a hand mixer and spatula since I doubled the batch, it was easier to contain in a larger bowl.

Taste the batter and see if it has enough of the spice flavor you like. I sometime dash a bit extra of Pumpkin Pie Spice in at the end.

Pour batter into the two pans and sprinkle top with raw sugar. The sugar is totally optional. I use it to get a sweet little crust on the bread. If you prefer a totally moist bread, skip it. If you don't have raw sugar you could use white sugar.

Bake for 45-55 minutes, checking with a toothpick or skewer after 45 minutes. I prefer a very moist bread so I take it out just as it has set and the skewer is no longer wet.

I try to remove it from the baking pans as soon as possible to stop the cooking and let it cool.

Happy Dishing!

Adapted from thee Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread

Monday, November 19, 2012

Polenta with Sausage, Spinach, White Beans and Mushrooms

 I grew up in Massachusetts, a New Englander at heart, but I have spent a great deal of time in the south. Whether it's North Florida or South Carolina there is a lot about the South and southern cuisine that I love, especially grits. Grits weren't introduced to me until I went to college in Tallahassee, FL (GO 'NOLES!). I was hesitant at first, but I found it to be a quite delectable and versatile dish. I am a savory grits girl, melt some butter and cheese on 'em and I'm in heaven.  

Polenta is a lot like grits- similar in consistency and texture. I love smooth, creamy, savory polenta so I married it with some of my favorite flavors to create a delicious union. This is a great one dish dinner. It is filling and well rounded. 

1 Bag Organic Baby Spinach
5-6 Mild Italian Sausage. (I use pork sausage but you can substitute chicken if you prefer)
1/2 Large Vidalia Onion Sliced
1 Package Mushrooms
1 Clove Garlic - minced
1 can Cannelini of Great Northern Beans
Olive Oil
1 Cup Parmesan Cheese- Freshly Grated
Salt & Pepper

I like to use Bob's Red Mill  Polenta (I love their products!). For the most part, I follow the directions on the package with a few exceptions. I use a mix of chicken broth and water and substitute olive oil for the butter.

I would urge you to follow the directions as listed on the polenta you purchase. You want to make sure it cooks thoroughly. Make enough for four servings. 

Cook your polenta until it is smooth and creamy. It should still have some texture and bite to the grains but you don't want it to be gritty. When it is ready, swirl another drizzle of olive oil and a dusting of the freshly grated Parmesan.

Preheat the oven to 350. While the polenta is cooking, you should cook your sausage. I chose to bake mine, but you could always grill or saute.

In a baking dish, drizzle olive oil then sprinkle sliced onions in the pan. Place the sausage on top of the onions and bake in oven until done. About 30 minutes. Roll them over half way through so that they cook evenly. Make sure sausage is thoroughly cooked.

Over medium heat, saute your mushrooms in a large pan with olive oil, making sure not to crowd them. Add the minced garlic, and be careful not to let it burn. When they are starting to caramelize, add the spinach. Let the spinach wilt and stir into the mushrooms. 

Then add the white beans, leave them there just long enough for them to heat through. They are soft and can become mushy easily, so stir very carefully.  

When the sausage is done, cut it into 1" pieces. I don't include the onions in the meal but you could always try it if you'd like.

To plate, using a ladle scoop a portion onto a plate or a shallow bowl. Then add a layer of the veggies, then the sausage and top with the freshly shaved cheese. I use a lot of cheese, a lot. I can't get enough of the stuff, but I try to exert some cheese self-control and sprinkle just enough for a dusting, over every inch. But you be the judge on how much Parmesan you'd like. 

As a substitution, you can make this with kale which I frequently do. I really enjoy it both ways. The spinach is a little lighter in texture and flavor- but both are tasty! You would follow the same instructions for the kale, it would just need to cook a few minutes longer and would have a firmer texture. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Roasted Squash and Garlic Soup

In most parts of the country, autumn has set in and the cool weather puts a bit of chill in your bones. Here in Florida, we have to improvise and just indulge in autumn eats. 

I frequently get squash in my Organic Buying Club during the fall months and I've tried all different ways of preparing it. I have made variations of soup in the past, on several occasions, but this time decided to try something with a little twist. It's a hearty, super flavorful soup made of just a few ingredients. 


1 Large Kabocha Squash or similar (You could use 2 medium acorn squash)
8 Cloves of Garlic
Freshly Grated Nutmeg
Olive Oil
1- 1 1/2 Cups Almond Milk
1/2 Cup Shaved Almonds

Preheat the oven to 350.

Line a baking pan with foil and lightly grease with olive oil. 

Half the squash and scoop out the seeds. Rub the flesh of the squash with olive oil. Place the garlic cloves in clusters in the middle of the pan. Place the squash over the garlic cloves, so there is a dome that will roast the garlic flavor and lend it's essence to the flesh of the squash. I love the double duty you get out of cooking the squash and garlic this way.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the meat of the squash becomes soft and the shell is tender if you push on it. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before handling. If you need to, hold the squash in an oven mitt while scooping into the food processor.

Scoop out the meat of the squash and put into a food processor. If you don't have a food processor, you can use a hand blender, it will just take longer. Grate the nutmeg into the squash and drop in two of the peeled cloves of the roasted garlic. Add salt to taste.

You can use the garlic cloves as garnish if you'd like, or just set them aside. I used two cloves in the soup, I would suggest starting there and then tasting as you. You don't want the garlic to overpower the soup, it should be an accent flavor. 

Gradually pour the almond milk into the squash. Add until you have reached the desired consistency. I like mine to be a bit thick, not watery. 

If it has cooled too much, you can move the soup to a stove top pot to reheat evenly.

After you have blended the soup, on medium heat, toast some shaved almonds in a skillet.  Keep a close eye that they don't burn. You want them to heat evenly and become a rich golden color. This is of course an optional step, but it adds a bit of unexpected texture and delicious nutty flavor.

I kept the leftover roasted garlic, of course. You can do so many things with this, don't throw it away. If you wanted you can make a paste out of it for topping almost anything, or you can mix it into butter to make a delicious spread.

This recipe will yield four starter portions or  about three meal sized portions.