Tuesday, December 9, 2008

dark chocolate cherry muffins

dark chocolate cherry muffins

Sigh. I’ve been delaying writing about these muffins because it’s almost unfair to write about them without having these at your side with a tall, cold glass of milk – it kind of makes me wistful and hungry. Do I have your attention yet?

dark chocolate cherry muffinsdark chocolate cherry muffins
dark chocolate cherry muffinsdark chocolate cherry muffins

I don’t know how you like your chocolate, (and yes, I’m assuming that you actually like chocolate, because the alternative would just be crazy,) but I like mine dark, rich, with just a touch of bitter (and yes, we are still talking about chocolate). Well, if you are looking for a muffin to make that’s more like a cake and less like a muffin that packs an intense chocolate flavor with a surprising bite of cherries – this is for you. Because – and don’t say I didn’t warn you – this is one serious chocolate muffin.

dark chocolate cherry muffinsdark chocolate cherry muffins

And while this is a recipe that takes minutes to pull together, we ran into some technical difficulties when my friend and I discovered that our brown sugar turned into brown sugar rock and her husband had to come to the rescue and hammer the block into pieces then proceeding to pulverize it in the food processor. We are nothing if not dedicated.

dark chocolate cherry muffins

The dried cherries, I think, work better than fresh ones because they offer a slightly more concentrated tartness, but if you want to go the fresh route, those should work well also.

dark chocolate cherry muffins

And while the batter was baking in the oven, we decorated my friends’ Christmas tree, which smelled so amazing, I want one now. The reward for our hard work (because bedazzling a tree with ornaments is serious manual labor) was these muffins and I treated myself to a glass of milk. If only all hard work had such decadent pay-off.

dark chocolate cherry muffins

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

russian cabbage soup

Cabbage Soup

You probably want me to write about cookies and such, it being the holiday season. And trust me, I would much rather tell you about cookies, and I will. This month will be very much about cookies. I can’t even wait to begin, but first, I have to just share this recipe for Russian cabbage soup with you because even though this is the official cookie season (aka Christmas), man (or woman) cannot live by cookies alone. It’s cold outside and I bet you would just love something that will warm you up. Why not cabbage soup?

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

dark gingerbread pear cake

Dark Gingerbread Pear Cake

I don’t know what it is about gingerbread, but it’s the perfect cake for December and the holiday season. It has jubilation written all over it–just try and remain grumpy when you catch a whiff of gingerbread in the air! As the temperatures drop to freezing and below, the sharp ginger spice and the sweet, earthy pear undertones speak to me. Gingerbread smells of Christmas, and even though I am of the Hannukah persuasion, I bake gingerbread with abandon every holiday season, filling my apartment with warmth and a desire to curl up on my couch watching Sleepless in Seattle reruns on television, while eating cake with mugs of hot tea. Often I dream of Christmas trees and their smell. I so long for one.

cake mise

Pears and ginger strike me as dessert soul mates. And since we’re left with (not great) apples and citrus to pass he winter months, pears are particularly satisfying this time of year. I always have them on hand around this time to snack on, to pair with cheese, or to tuck into this cozy, homey, fragrant gingerbread.

make sure the pear is ripe, but not too ripe Dark Gingerbread Pear Cake
Dark Gingerbread Pear Cake Dark Gingerbread Pear Cake

When I spied this recipe in Gourmet magazine a few months ago, I immediately clipped it and waited for just the right (cold) moment to bake this cake. And so on Sunday when it was cold, rainy, and downright miserable outside, I set out to bake some gingerbread, and was amazed not only at just how quickly the whole thing came together, but also how good it tasted. Fresh ginger is key here, and while it’s a bit of a pain to peel and grate, it makes all the difference in the taste! I like to take large knobs of ginger, peel them, and pulverize them in my small food processor. I keep the jar of grated ginger on hand for whenever the mood strikes me – it tends to sit well for a week or so. This makes using ginger a total cinch.

Dark Gingerbread Pear Cake

Yo might have noticed: this is not the prettiest of cakes, but where it lacks in looks, it more than makes up for with flavor and taste. I had this with a cup of strong black tea (Assam is my choice) and would recommend that over a cup of coffee. I also extended the baking time for about 7 minutes as my cake pan was 8 inches and not 9. I had to make do with what I had at home and it worked out just fine.

Try as I may, the holiday season makes me want to go all out and get a tree (shh, I know it’s not part of Hanukkah!) and decorate and leave out milk and cookies for Santa. Dare anyone judge me?

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

turkey salad

turkey salad

Minutes after putting down my fork at the Thanksgiving dinner table, I decided that I had had enough of turkey for the rest of the year. It’s anti-climactic, really. I get all worked up for the turkey, slave over it, fuss and ooh and aah, and then – then I eat a few pieces, gorge on vegetarian sides and pig-out on dessert. The turkey, beloved by so many, and myself included, doesn’t get as much affection from me as you’d expect. Just as quickly as I fall in love with it, my interest cools. Can we say flighty food mind?

As unenthusiastic as I was about picking at cold turkey remains, or reheating it, or folding it into a casserole (because I really need to eat more heavy food after my Thanksgiving gluttony, as I undo the top button of my jeans), I get really excited for this salad. For one, it tastes healthy, and if I can delude myself into thinking I’m actually undoing the damage done, I’m a happy camper.

Secondly, and no less important, is that it’s just plain tasty. The crunch of the celery and the onion, combined with the slight sweetness of the apple and refreshing cool of the dill, makes this salad worth making, even if the though of turkey is killing your appetite. Because it doesn’t even remind you of turkey leftovers – it is simply a delicious salad that you happen to make because you have some leftover turkey in the fridge. My friends Paul and Sharon declared it a success and even volunteered their Canon to immortalize the moment as we made this salad at their place and I left my trusty Nikon at home. I’m sorry that this picture is not all that great, but we didn’t have a macro lens or a schnazzy flash to work with and we really did try. But trust me, this salad is a keeper for your post-holiday recipe clipping and requires very little work on your end, something truly valuable in the post-Thanksgiving food-induced coma.

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