Category Archives: Holiday Eats

Christmas Love: Chocolate Chip Cookies

‘Tis the season to be Fa La La….as an old friend liked to say. ‘Tis the season to be baking as well, and the oven is already fired up and the cookie sheets are parchment lined. Every year my cookie list gets a little bit shorter which requires the recipe selection to be totally on point. Biscotti have to appear, as do Peanut Butter Blossoms. I have to save space for one or two new recipes which leaves only 2 more spaces (yes, I am limiting things to 6 recipes this year) for old standbys.

As long as I can remember baking, Chocolate Chip Cookies have been part of the holidays. My mother always made the original Toll House Cookie recipe. Legend (or truth) has it, that it originated at The Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts. Ruth Gains Wakefield is credited with creating it back in 1938 and it is a tried and true recipe that has stood the test of time.

It is a basic cookie dough that combines butter, white, and brown sugar with chocolate chips and quite often, nuts. It is wonderful just as it was written, but oh what delights can result from tweaking the recipe here and there. The variations I am sharing today are perfect examples.

Imagine, if you will, that basic cookie dough laced with candied cherries and orange peel, studded with toasted pecans and mini chocolate chips. Then imagine the addition of warm spices like cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg. Notes of fruitcake, but in the best way possible and a delightful chewiness that made my first grandson dub these his favorite cookie ever. 

Chocolate Chip Fruit Drop Cookies
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Servings
6 Dozen
Servings
6 Dozen
Chocolate Chip Fruit Drop Cookies
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Servings
6 Dozen
Servings
6 Dozen
Ingredients
Servings: Dozen
Instructions
  1. Whisk together the flour, soda, salt and spices. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until light and fluffy.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the vanilla and continue to beat until well combined.
  4. Add in the flour mixture a little at a time blending gently but well.
  5. Stir in the candied fruits, nuts, and chips.
  6. Drop by tablespoon on to a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes or until the edges just begin to brown.
  7. Remove from oven and allow to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store airtight.
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Variations are endless. Try pistachios and dried tart cherries or almonds and dried cranberries. There are so many varieties of chocolate chips now that simply swapping bittersweet or milk chocolate can create something magical.

You can even use White Chocolate Chips. Debbie Downer Alert: I realize that these ar not real white chocolate, but only a blend of milk, fat, and sugar marketed to imitate white chocolate. They worked well in this recipe, but if one wants to be totally a purist, a good quality real white chocolate bar could be chopped up and substituted. That being said, chopped chocolate would not lend itself to the “Pearl” analogy in the name of this recipe, but maybe you could call them “gems.”

In spite of the truth in labeling issue, these cookies were delicious. Cocoa gave them a rich chocolate flavor that was heightened by the addition of a bit of espresso powder, always a good idea when making anything chocolate.

Chocolate and Pearls Cookies
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Servings
4 Dozen
Servings
4 Dozen
Chocolate and Pearls Cookies
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Servings
4 Dozen
Servings
4 Dozen
Ingredients
Servings: Dozen
Instructions
  1. Combine the flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking soda and salt. whisk together to blend thoroughly.
  2. Cream butter in a large bowl. Add the sugars and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. add the vanilla and beat to blend.
  4. Gradually add the dry ingredients (a third at a time). gently blend. Fold in the chips.
  5. Spoon by scant tablespoons onto parchment lined baking sheets.
  6. bake at 350 degrees 8 - 10 minutes until the edges just begin to brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for 3 minutes.
  7. Remove to cooling racks and allow to cool completely. Store in an air tight container.
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Another wonderful thing about the chocolate chip family of doughs, they freeze beautifully. Good to know if your baking time is limited to small windows at random hours. Whatever your baking plans this holiday season, I hope that you include something with chocolate chips and other wonderful ingredients that bring out your own Fa La La.

Thanksgiving Memories of Not So Long Ago

Thanksgiving week is here. The planning is complete and implementation is about to begin. In recent years we have had a blended family Thanksgiving. Along with family, recipes get blended as well. I have been in charge of stuffing/dressing and gravy. Since both of these are near and dear to my heart, it’s an assignment that I welcome every year. I shared the whole process several years ago and the time seemed right to revisit the experience before I relive it this Thanksgiving.

Stuffing or in this case dressing, as it will not see the inside of a turkey, is many folks’ favorite part of the dinner. It certainly is mine. I make a dressing that has evolved over the years to become an homage to my time in California and my Italian heritage. I gave it the rather silly name of Mama D’s Cali-Itali Stuffing. This is a seriously hearty stuffing filled with Italian sausage and artichoke hearts. The bread is sourdough, next to rice-a-roni, the San Francisco Starch of choice. Artichoke hearts add flavor and as the recipe has evolved, I now use frozen (Trader Joe’s are the best) instead of canned. It also now gets baked in a bundt pan, because who doesn’t want a nice slice of stuffing.

Mama D's Cali-Itali Stuffing
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Use this for your holiday dinner. Make it your own by adjusting the flavors to your family's taste.
Servings
12
Servings
12
Mama D's Cali-Itali Stuffing
Print Recipe
Use this for your holiday dinner. Make it your own by adjusting the flavors to your family's taste.
Servings
12
Servings
12
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Crumble the sausage into the pan and cook until it is well browned. Turn and break apart as needed.
  2. Remove the sausage from the pan and drain on a paper towel. Pour off most of the drippings. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and add the onions and garlic. Saute stirring frequently until the onion is golden and the garlic is fragrant, 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add the artichokes and spinach to the pan and continue to cook for another 3 - 5 minutes. The artichokes should have a little color and the spinach should be wilted.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the toasted bread cubes, sausage, and the vegetables from the pan (include all the drippings, too). Toss to combine.
  5. Add the seasonings that you are using along with the cheese and toss again to combine.
  6. Pour in the eggs and blend well. Add the chicken stock. Use enough so that the stuffing is very moist, but not mushy. Taste and make any necessary adjustments to the seasonings. Add a little salt if you think it needs it.
  7. Grease a large rectangular baking dish. Add the stuffing and smooth out evenly. Do not pack it down. Cover with foil and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 35 - 40 minutes.
  8. Combine the remaining olive oil and the melted butter. Remove the stuffing from the oven. Take off the foil and drizzle the butter/olive oil mixture over the top. Return to the oven for another 15 - 20 minutes until the top of the stuffing is golden brown.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
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Every Thanksgiving table needs a boat of gravy. Since in our blended Thanksgiving someone else is making the turkey, I had to come up with a recipe that would be rich and tasty without the benefit if turkey drippings. This Garlic and Wine Gravy fills the bill. It is flavorful but has a lightness about it that makes it feel slightly less a guilty pleasure.

Garlic and Wine Turkey Gravy
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Servings
12
Servings
12
Garlic and Wine Turkey Gravy
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Servings
12
Servings
12
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a small fry pan. Add the garlic and shallots and cook until golden brown. Be careful not to burn them.
  2. Add the wine to the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the wine is reduced by half, 5 - 7 minutes. Set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook stirring often for 2 minutes.
  4. Add about 1 cup of the stock and continue to whisk until it is smooth. Gradually stir in the rest of the stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and add the reserved garlic and wine mixture and the Italian Herb Blend.
  5. Continue to simmer for 5 - 10 minutes until the gravy thickens. Give it a taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
  6. Serve with turkey, dressing, or anything else you want to put it on.
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This year I have so much to be thankful for. Our family is thriving and the younger grandboys are a true delight. I cherish the time I get to spend with them. Our first grandboy is “home” for the holiday and the time spent with him is precious. I hope that you too, have many things that make you thankful and happy. Enjoy the day and all the blessings that it brings.

 

Let’s Talk Turkey… All Week Long

As I write this, we are barely a day away from the ultimate turkey feast. Birds are waiting patiently for their close up. Some are thawing, some may have been strutting around only a few days ago, and some are soaking in one savory salt bath or another. Mama D’s kitchen doesn’t have a turkey in waiting this year, but that doesn’t mean that her week hasn’t had a more than a few turkey adventures… Obviously that intro was written prior to Turkey Day, here’s how it went down. By the way, you can click on those little red links for more recipes.

My son and his girlfriend  hosted Thanksgiving this year and I once again brought the stuffing (to be correct it was dressing as it never saw the inside of a bird). Thanks to Pinterest, this year  Mama D’s Cali-Itali Stuffing  arrived in a bundt pan. Who doesn’t love stuffing enough to eat it like cake? Instead of frosting, I opted to create a gravy. How does one do this without actually having a turkey? Why by using turkey wings, of course. This idea came from Cooking Light Magazine  and it resulted in a wonderful stock that is the base for a  gravy that is low in fat yet delicious. I used their method for making the stock, but took some liberties when it came to the gravy itself (see the recipe below).IMG_0817 I ended up with a lot of stock; four quarts to be exact. One of those quarts became the Garlic and Wine Gravy….that left 3 quarts of this flavorful stock to play with, and play I did.

First up was a simple soup that I made the day I cooked the stock. I browned some Turkey Italian Sausage along with Mama D’s Trinity (olive oil, onions and garlic). I added some spinach and a modest amount of the Turkey stock and let everything simmer for 45 minutes. I topped it with a Ciabatta roll covered with melted Asiago Cheese and a satisfying Sunday Supper was the result. This is truly an non-recipe recipe, but, if you want the measurements for two hearty bowls, it was 2 sausage links, a 6 ounce bag of spinach, 4 cups of stock and a respectable amount of onion and garlic.IMG_0825The day before Thanksgiving was set to be a busy one, so I opted to use yet another quart IMG_0831of my turkey stock and create some Turkey Mole Chili . I had planned on making it for dinner the night before, but I got lazy and we went out instead. (Yes, I do choose not to cook every so often.) Much of the prep had been done earlier and I added the turkey wing meat to the mix since it was sitting in the fridge doing nothing. It was a nice combination with the ground turkey and added a bit more texture. I combined all the ingredients then put it in the crock pot. The all day simmer gave the chili time to really come together. It worked as well as making it a day ahead. (Note to self: you’ve got a crock pot, use it!) It was a warm tasty supper that required nothing more than a touch of cheese and some corn bread croutons. A bed of brown rice was a comforting addition.IMG_0864

The stuffing cake was a huge success. My only adjustment to the original recipe was to add an extra egg and a little more of the turkey stock. I packed the bundt pan pretty tightly. I covered it tightly with foil for its initial baking which lasted about 30 minutes.IMG_0835Once we arrived at the gathering, I uncovered it and let it continue to bake for another 20 minutes. (Note: It was sharing the oven with a green bean casserole that was being reheated so the time was longer than if it was in the oven on its own.)

It un-molded without a hitch, always a good thing. and made quite the attractive presentation.IMG_0840We sliced it as you would any bundt cake and gave it a little drizzle of gravy. The gravy stayed nice and hot for everyone’s seconds and thirds because of an electric gravy boat. This is one gadget that I’m glad I impulsively bought.IMG_0841

Here’s the recipe for that gravy.

Garlic and Wine Turkey Gravy
Print Recipe
Servings
12
Servings
12
Garlic and Wine Turkey Gravy
Print Recipe
Servings
12
Servings
12
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a small fry pan. Add the garlic and shallots and cook until golden brown. Be careful not to burn them.
  2. Add the wine to the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the wine is reduced by half, 5 - 7 minutes. Set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook stirring often for 2 minutes.
  4. Add about 1 cup of the stock and continue to whisk until it is smooth. Gradually stir in the rest of the stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and add the reserved garlic and wine mixture and the Italian Herb Blend.
  5. Continue to simmer for 5 - 10 minutes until the gravy thickens. Give it a taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
  6. Serve with turkey, dressing, or anything else you want to put it on.
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So, my Turkey Week is coming to an end.The food that was created was wonderful but, it couldn’t come close to how wonderful it was to be with my family. I hope that your Thanksgiving was filled with just as much love and deliciousness.