Friday, December 30, 2011

Why I Cook?

Cooking for me is less about the need and more about the want. As much as it's focused around the food my goal is to keep a tradition alive. One that is focused around connection. Keeping alive the tradition that a meal - whether its bowls filled with soup or an Easter feast - is more than just eating. Food is simply the tool to bring us together to grow closer as family and friends and just be in the moment.

This started with my grandparents and was passed down to my parents and now to a bunch of cousins who know how to cook a great meal. Although we're busy with our everyday lives, and some of us live far away, we keep the tradition alive. There are texts of meals cooked, conversations around new restaurants and if given the choice our next meal would all be together.

Our goal is to remember our grandparents - one who's been gone for quite some time and our Yiaya that recently left. And to pass on the importance of family and connection through a simple meal.
It's making sure to slow down, sit with your loved ones and enjoy every moment - no matter what that meal might be.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

An Oldie but a Goodie - and It's Chocolate

I have standard cookie recipes that I use time and time again because they are easy, fail-proof and really just taste so darn good. Chocolate crinkle cookies are one of these little gems that I bake every holiday season and seem to be a staple at many cookie swaps over the years. They are full of chocolate, look like they are topped with snow and moist and delicious inside.

Although you have to freeze the dough for at least an hour, I enjoy the idea of breaking up the baking process. (Allows me to throw in another last minute recipe like muffins while I'm waiting!) And although there are many variations and recipes, I always go with one that includes cocoa powder. I find the flavor to be more true chocolate than using semisweet chips. Don't these look like heaven???

Chocolate Crinkles - adopted from Good Housekeeping Cookies
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa (I used Hershey's special dark)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter (at room temperature)
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 Tbsp light corn syrup - I simply omitted this
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
2 large eggs (at room temperature)
2  tsp vanilla
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Stir together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt

In another bowl beat butter, sugar, corn syrup on medium speed until well combined. Add the flour mixture in batches and mix until combined. Cover dough and refrigerate at least 1 hour

Preheat oven to 350 F

Place powdered sugar in small bowl. Shape cookies into 1 inch balls and roll in powdered sugar
Place cookies on ungreased cookie sheet and bake about 8 minutes or until cookies are set.
Cool on a wire rack

Yum Yum or as my niece says Mum Mum!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Chocolate + Espresso = Cookie Heaven

If I could be any type of angel, I'd choose to be a "cookie angel." Luckily, I was granted that wish a week ago and the results were....well, delicious!

During my stint as an angel I wanted to try something new and something chocolatey. However, I was short on time and really not looking for something too difficult. Yet again, Giada came to the rescue with her Double Chocolate & Espresso Cookies. (Trust me, creating a login for her site is WORTH it!)
How cute and chocolatey are these cookies!
I love when recipes call for chocolate and any type of coffee ingredient. Many times it's not to create a coffee flavor, but simply to enhance the chocolate taste - and who doesn't want that. These cookies were that much better since they used chocolate covered espresso beans and had a mild coffee undertone. Not to mention they were extremely simple and quick to make. Check out the recipe here!

And now for the "Good Cookie" winner - Maggie from "Kitchen Coo" - thanks to everyone who participated to support this great cause!

I think we'll extend cookie as I've got some more yummy recipes to share!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Cookie Giveaway (quick run)!!!

It's a first here on Food Beautiful but to keep the cookie baking coming this week we have our first giveaway (yeah!). And what's better than that??? The fact that this giveaway is to drive awareness for OXO's Cookies for Kids' Cancer Program.

It's cookie week here and to support all your holiday baking OXO has given me a "Good Cookie" spatula to test out and one to give away to a lucky winner. I love things that are cute and for a cause! The spatula is perfect for lifting those hot cookies off the tray onto a cooling rack. I also like to leave it on my counter so people think I've been baking all day...feel free to steal that trick.

Cute, right? Now let's talk about the amazing cause. Cookies for Kids' Cancer was born to help fight pediatric cancer through local bake sales. This year OXO will donate up to $100,000 to support research for new therapies - THANK YOU OXO. Visit to share some virtual cookies, find out how to host a bake sale or to find a retailer for the "Good Cookie" spatulas.

Don't you think this little tool could help you whip up one of these beauties???

Simply leave a comment on this post with your favorite childhood cookie. I'll pick a winner on Thursday - and actually try to recreate that cookie recipe this weekend.

And for an extra entry, simply follow @foodbeautyful and RT the following to pass on awareness for this great cause. "RT Support Cookies' for Kids and enter the @foodbeautyful Giveaway"

Good Luck to All!!!

And if you don't win, definitely purchase one for yourself and a couple as gifts on Amazon - remember 50% of the profits benefit pediatric cancer awareness!

Special Delivery: Cookies!

It's the start of cookie week here on Food Beautiful - who's excited??!!

I may now love cookies more than ever - especially when they are mailed to you from a secret cookie baker! These past couple of weeks I (along with many other great food bloggers) have been busy participating in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.
Sign up to participate next year!
Started on a premise from Love & Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen, the idea was to spread a little holiday cookie cheer throughout the blogger world. And boy did it spread! Each participant was given three bloggers' names and was charged with baking and sending a dozen cookies to each. And in return??? Three secret bloggers would send you some delicious creations of their own. Why didn't anyone start this idea sooner!

After much deliberation I went with a not-so-classic holiday cookie, but one that I thought would be easy to make and easy to transport. Giada De Laurentiis' Lemon Ricotta Cookies (recipe below) was the base of the idea and then I got a little creative. Half of the cookies I kept to the recipe and added lemon glaze, but since I'm a chocolate lover at heart, the other half received a dip in chocolate ganache (yum!). It's a little fun play on the traditional black and white cookies when all packed up.
yuummmm pretty cookies!
The other important part of the challenge was packing and transporting. After many years of sending cookies I've found that some general rules apply:
  • if cookies break easily on their own, they might not be the best for shipping
  • pack cookies individually (or a couple together) to ensure they last longer and have less chance of breaking
  • seal the cookies in a bag, even if using a tin or tupperware to transport
  • assume they are all going to break so provide extra packing protection
  • try to ship so they will arrive at their destination within 3 days
I packed a lemon and chocolate cookie in small cellophane bags with a twist tie. Then I placed each of these yummy bundles in a fancy take-out container (found at most craft stores) filled with green shredded paper. This was then packaged in a box and off they went!

Just think over 22,000 cookies were traveling around with this swap - how happy that makes me. And a special thanks to my secret cookie bakers below! Would love to have the recipes for all 3 of these wonderful cookies:

  • Chocolate Coconut Cookies from A Chronic a lover of coconut I enjoyed the balance of chocolate and sweet coconut these bundles provided
  • Greek Almond Anise Cookies from The Corner Kitchen...these were perfect childhood favorites that after a long week at work reminded me of home
  • Chocolate Mint Cookies from Table for Two...classic turned up - these had a bold chocolate flavor with green mint chips, definite yum
Here's the recipe for the ones I made!

Lemon Ricotta Cookies adopted from Giada De Laurentiis
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs (at room temp)
1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese (at room temp)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 lemon, zested

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 lemon, zested

4oz chocolate (I used bittersweet)
1/3 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

For the Cookies
In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a large bowl combine the butter and the sugar. Using an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon the dough (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.

For the Glaze
Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours.

For the Ganache
Place a bowl over a saucepan of slight simmering water (only about 1 inch deep). Make sure the bowl isn't touching the water. Add the chocolate and cream and stir until the chocolate is melted and shiny. Remove bowl from pan and dip half of each cookie into the chocolate. Let the ganache harden for a couple of hours.
cookie heaven!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Easy Cheesy Pasta Pleasey

Well isn't that a fun title :) It's the little things that amuse me.

I'm dying to tell you all about some secret cookies, but I'm sworn to secrecy until next week!!! Trust me, it's worth the wait.

In the meantime, I give you an easy pasta dish that is reminiscent of Italy but oh so easy for a weeknight treat. With few ingredients (those that I normally have on hand) this pasta is for pepper lovers who adore dishes that feel indulgent but can really become a weekly staple.

Fusilli with Pecorino Romano and Black Pepper courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis uses a handful of ingredients that really come together to make a comforting yet light pasta dish. This dish is definitely for black pepper lovers, but if you're like me you'll savor every bite. And I love the addition of spinach and lemon to freshen up the recipe. Love, love, love this simple yet satisfying dish!
I think I want to eat this every night!


Fusilli with Pecorino Romano and Black Pepper -  Giada De Laurentiis


Kosher salt
1 pound fusilli pasta

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
5 cups baby spinach leaves (5 ounces)
Freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese (6 ounces)
1 cup mascarpone cheese (8 ounces), at room temperature


Cook pasta, stirring occasionally, until tender but still firm to the bite, 8 to 10 minutes. Reserve 3/4 cup of the cooking liquid, then drain the pasta. 

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Remove the garlic and discard. Add the spinach and 2 teaspoons pepper, and cook until the spinach has wilted, about 1 minute. 

Remove the skillet from the heat and add the pasta. Add the Pecorino Romano cheese and 2 teaspoons each salt and pepper, and toss until coated. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the reserved cooking liquid and the mascarpone cheese until smooth. Pour over the pasta and toss until coated. Season with salt.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Guest Post for the Fishes

This one is for my love of fish (especially oysters)! A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend the Culinary Guild of New England's (CGNE) Feast of the Seven Fishes. A mixture of great wine, fresh fish and the wonderful Chef Jeremy Sewall of ICOB. It was pretty much a perfect night of tasting, learning and pure enjoyment.

Quick go over and read the write-up on how to create your own Feast of the Seven Fishes this holiday season along with some great seafood tips from Chef Sewall.