Sunday, December 27, 2015

Holly White Chocolate Dipped Gingersnaps

I made these cookies the other day for our work Christmas party and they were all devoured!  The original recipe just had red frosting for the holly berries, but I used Red Hots instead for some extra cinnamon flavor.  They were a bit time consuming to make, but I’m really happy with how they turned out.  Merry Christmas everybody!

Holly White Chocolate Dipped Gingersnaps (adapted from Cooking Classy)

  • 2-1/4 cups flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 t ground ginger
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t allspice
  • 1/4 t nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup + 3 T granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 t vanilla extract
  • Red Hots
  • 3 cups white chocolate chips
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 cup powdered sugar (or enough until icing gets to desired consistency)
  • 5-6 drops green food coloring

1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg for 20 seconds, set aside.

2.  In electric stand mixer, cream together butter, 1/2 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar until well blended. Mix in egg, then blend in molasses and vanilla. With mixer set on low speed, slowly add in dry ingredients and mix until combined.

3.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees during last 10 minutes of chilling.

3. Scoop dough out about 1-1/2 T at a time, shape into balls then roll in remaining 3 Tbsp granulated sugar. Transfer to parchment paper lined baking sheets, spacing cookies 2 inches apart and flattening them slightly.  Press in red hots off center to resemble holly berries. 

4. Bake in preheated oven 8 - 10 minutes. Cool on baking sheet several minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

5.  Boil water in a small saucepan.  Fit a glass bowl on top and melt the white chocolate chips in the bowl.  The double boiler method ensures that your chips don’t burn. 

6.  Dip half of the cookies into the white chocolate and let completely dry on parchment paper. 

7.  Once the white chocolate is completely dried, mix together the egg whites, powdered sugar, and green food coloring.  Use a toothpick to draw out leaves on the cookies to complete the holly decorations.  

Monday, December 21, 2015

Pine Cone Cheese Ball & Christmas Strawberries

We had our 4th annual Secret Santa Christmas party with our friends last night.  It was potluck style and we actually had a really awesome variety of food this year (it seems like lots of our potlucks end up being only desserts).  I made almond-coated cheese balls that looked like pinecones and dipped strawberries in white chocolate with festive sprinkles.  Both these recipes were really easy – so if you’re looking for something to bring to Christmas dinner, try one (or both!) of these out!

Pine Cone Cheese Ball (adapted from Chicabug)

  • 1 8-oz package cream cheese
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt (the original recipe called for mayonnaise, which I always substitute for yogurt in recipes)
  • 6 strips bacon
  • ¼ cup white cheddar cheese
  • 1 T chopped green onion
  • 1 t chopped dill weed
  • ½ t pepper
  • 1-1/4 cup whole almonds, toasted

1. Cook your bacon until crispy. 

2.  Combine the cream cheese and yogurt (you can use a food processor or blender, but I used my KitchenAid mixer…) Stir in the cooked bacon, cheddar cheese, green onion, dill, and pepper.  Cover and chill overnight. 

3. Shape the cheese into two pinecone shapes on a serving platter.  Starting at the narrow end, place toasted almonds into the cheese at a slight angle, forming rows.  Garnish with rosemary and serve with crackers.

Christmas Strawberries

  • Strawberries
  • White chocolate chips
  • Sprinkles


1. Wash strawberries and allow to dry completely.   

2.  I used a makeshift double boiler to melt the white chocolate chips evenly without burning.  Boil water in a small saucepan with a glass bowl fitted on top.  Add the chocolate to the bowl and stir until completely melted. 

3. Dip the strawberries into the white chocolate, then into sprinkles.  Let cool on a parchment paper lined sheet. 

You may want to make extra of these strawberries.  These were eaten almost immediately when we got to the party! 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

I’m lucky that my fiancé is so supportive of my food blog…although it does mean that he gets a lot of exciting meals and we have an excuse to try out new restaurants!  Lance cooks for us pretty regularly but he rarely follows a recipe.  I like to joke that most meals he makes have never been made with those exact ingredients in the history of mankind.  But his crazy concoctions made from whatever he finds in our fridge usually turn out great. 

So I was surprised when he found a recipe in the newspaper and decided to make it for us one night (and actually follow the instructions!)  He even photo-documented his steps for me so I can share it with you here on the blog.   

Some of my favorite foods are the ones you find in the fall – pumpkin, squash, apples, pears, sweet potatoes, kale, pomegranates...and anything that incorporates these ingredients I’m guaranteed to like.  This recipe was for roasted butternut squash soup.  It took a bit of time, but it was actually pretty simple.

And I’m sure for all of you up north, this would be a nice way to keep warm during the cool months!  (Not that we know much about that in Florida…)

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (adapted from Chowhound)

  • 4 pounds whole butternut squash (about 2 medium), halved lengthwise and seeds removed (you can bake the seeds with some salt, pepper & olive oil if you want to snack on them!)
·         2 T unsalted butter
  • 1 medium Granny Smith apple
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion
  • 8 fresh sage leaves
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds, for garnish

1. Heat the oven to 425°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

2. Place the squash pieces cut-side up on the baking sheet. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and brush all of it over the tops and insides of the squash halves. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast until knife tender, 50 minutes to 1 hour.

3. Meanwhile, peel, core, and cut the apple into medium dice. Cut the onion into medium dice.

4. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the apple, onion, and sage, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

5. When the squash is ready, set the baking sheet on a wire rack until the squash is cool enough to handle. Using a large spoon, scoop the flesh into the saucepan with the sautéed apples and onions; discard the skins.

6. Add the broth, water, and measured salt and pepper, stir to combine, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally and breaking up any large pieces of squash, until the flavors meld, about 15 minutes.

7. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream.

8. Using a blender, purée the soup in batches until smooth, removing the small cap (the pour lid) from the blender lid and covering the space with a kitchen towel (this allows steam to escape).

9. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve garnished with the pumpkin seeds.

Yellow Dog Eats – Gotha, FL

When we went to New Smyrna Beach earlier this year, we stumbled upon a really great restaurant called Yellow Dog Eats.  We ended up eating there twice in our couple day vacation we enjoyed it so much.  I said if it wasn’t all the way on the east coast of Florida I’d eat there all the time! 

It turns out there is a closer location – still not near enough to Tampa to have on a regular basis, but if we’re in the Orlando/Winter Park area, it’s worth the side trip.  It’s in a town called Gotha – a quaint little town just west of Orlando with a population of only 1,915.  It was actually the original location for YDE. 

The atmosphere is very laid back and casual.  The inside is covered in stickers, graffiti, and photos of customers’ dogs.  The sandwiches are incredible at a really good price.  I enjoyed it so much last time that I had their Baa Baa BLT again – with smoked pancetta, tomatoes, field greens, watercress, pecan smoked bacon, goat cheese, and orange Cointreau mayo served on multi grain bread.  It’s probably one of my all-time favorite sandwiches. 

The weather was nice so we dined on the patio, where loose chickens roam and clean up any scraps left behind.  Between the chickens and a stray cat, we had to keep a close eye on our food to make sure the wildlife didn’t make off with our meals!

I’d highly suggest checking this place out if you’re near either location.  Now just crossing my fingers that they make their way over to Tampa…

Yellow Dog Eats is located at 1236 Hempel Ave, Windermere, FL 34786.  They are open 11am – 9pm every day.