Edible Holiday Gift Ideas for Fox News iMag (+ FREE holiday printables!)

On a budget this year or just looking for a fun holiday activity to do with friends or the kids? Hop on over to Fox News iMag to check out a slideshow featuring 5 of my edible holiday gift ideas. From a pretty layered Peppermint Hot Cocoa mix that can be prepared in minutes, to a recipe for delicious homemade marshmallows, you'll find ideas for all skill levels.

And for a little something extra...I'm offering up two FREE PDFs of my labels for the Peppermint Hot Cocoa and Gingerbread Pancake mixes. Click below to download and print! (I suggest printing these on card stock and then attaching to your mixes with twine or a pretty ribbon.)

Chocolate, Pecan, and Butterscotch Topped Cheesecake for Fox News iMag

As I mentioned last week, I recently taped a few holiday dessert segments for Fox News iMag showing some fun and easy ways to personalized store-bought treats (the segments were done in conjunction with Sara Lee Desserts). The second of these segments has just been posted so I'm sharing it with you today!

Of the three recipes I did that day, this one is my favorite. I took a plain cheesecake and created a delicious chocolate ganache and homemade butterscotch topping--basically a twist on the classic "turtle" dessert. When I initially got the details for this shoot, the recipe idea Sara Lee sent over called for jarred chocolate and caramel sauces, but I was like "Oh no, that's not my thing" and asked if it would be OK to just make the sauces from scratch since they only take a few minutes each to make and taste SO much better than anything you can find at the grocery store. Thankfully, they agreed!

These sauces make a fabulous topping for any type of cake, but can also be used to top ice cream or yogurt, as a dip for fruit, and to fill cookies. Both keep really well in the fridge for a couple weeks (if you can keep your spoon away from the jar long enough!).

Click below to watch the video.




To get the written recipe, visit iMag's Food Page

Edible Holiday Gifts (One-Day Workshop Sat, Dec 3rd, in NYC)

Want to spend a day learning how to make fun edible holiday kitchen crafts? Sign up for my Edible Holiday Gifts workshop in NYC on December 3rd!

In this 6-hour hands-on cooking and crafts class in NYC you'll learn to make 12 different edible gifts, along with packaging and presenting ideas. You'll leave class with small samples of the gifts we make, plus complete recipes and instructions to recreate them in your own home.  I'll also provide you with templates for printing out your own labels and recipe cards

A light lunch and festive cocktails will be served. This is a great class to share with a friend or family! Teens are welcome (delicious mocktails and other non-alcoholic beverages will also be available.)

In this class we'll make:
Baby Brandy Pears
Orange Vanilla Bean Marmalade
Rocky Road Fudge
Gingerbread Pancake Mix
Homemade Vanilla Extract
Homemade Anise Extract
Holiday Apricot Brandy
Hibiscus Passion Cordial
Lady Martha's Fruitcake (No groans! This one is seriously good.)
Peppermint Hot Chocolate Mix
Chai Tea Mix
Tropical Granola
Cost: $130 per person. Full payment required in advance. Spaces are extremely limited so sign up today!

20 Thanksgiving Cooking Questions Answered in 20 Words or Less

1. How do I fix lumpy gravy? Pour it into a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Or pass through a fine sieve to strain out lumps.

2. How do I keep my pie crust from getting soggy? Brush the bottom crust with beaten egg white or partially bake it before pouring in your filling.

3. What size turkey should I buy for my dinner? Calculate about one pound per every adult in attendance. If you have a small oven, consider roasting 2 smaller turkeys side-by-side.

4. What's the difference between turkey "stuffing" and "dressing"? Technically, dressing is stuffing that's cooked outside of the turkey, but it's really just regional/cultural semantics.

5. What's your top Thanksgiving tip? Roast the turkey upside down. It protects the breast from overcooking and the juices from the dark meat will seep down and keep it moist. 

6. How do I keep pumpkin pie from cracking? Underbake it slightly. Just bake until the filling is barely set in the center, but firm on edges.

7. How do I defrost a turkey at the last minute? Submerge the whole turkey (still in the packaging) breast-side down in cold water. Change water every hour. Turkey will defrost this way at rate of 30 minutes per pound.

8. Can you roast a frozen turkey? Skipped #7 on this list, eh? It's OK! It's a little tricky, but possible. Click here for directions on how to roast a still-frozen turkey.

11. What's the best way to reheat cold turkey? Best and tastiest is in the gravy. Slice turkey and simmer until hot in a skillet with gravy and some broth or water. 

10. What happens if we start to carve the turkey and it's still raw inside? Discreetly take it back in the kitchen, cut it into pieces & spread on a baking sheet to finish roasting.

9. I don't own a roasting rack. Any DIY alternatives? Scrunch a bunch of foil into a 3-foot snake, then coil it into a ring. Or use a few clean empty tuna cans. Or a few whole potatoes.

12. How do you fix dry stuffing? Pour on some stock or broth (or water), cover with foil, and pop in the oven for a bit.

13. What's an easy basic gravy? Saute 1/4 cup of turkey fat or butter and 1/4 cup flour. Pour in 4 cups hot broth. Whisk until gravy-fied. Season.

14. Can I bring a pie as a carry-on? You can! Pies, cakes, and other "solids" can go through security. Booze, gravy, jam, cranberry sauce, and other "liquids" need to be checked.

16. What happens if I have a major last-minute cooking disaster? Chuck it & don't mention it. Nobody will know. Unless the disaster is the turkey. In that case, confess; pour more wine. 

15. My cranberry sauce always comes out too watery; how do I fix that? Let it reduce longer on the stove. Remember it will thicken as it cools. Also "loose" cranberry sauce isn't necessarily bad. [Ed Note: Here's my favorite cranberry sauce recipe.]

17. My sister is gluten-free and I planned desserts for her, but totally forgot about the gravy. How do I thicken gluten-free gravy? Use cornstarch or arrow root powder.

18. What's an easy side-dish I can make with little time and even less skill? Chop up a bunch of your favorite fresh vegetables, toss them in olive oil & kosher salt, and roast for about 20-30 mins in a 400 degree oven.

19. What's the quickest way to sober someone up so he can drive home? Don't you dare even try it. Call him a cab, have another guest drive him, or let him sleep on your couch tonight.

20. What kind of music should we play during dinner? I love warm autumn-type music. Classic jazz/swing standards, a few quirky songs off the Charlie Brown soundtrack, and a little bossa nova.

Got more questions? Email me, find me on Facebook, or Tweet me on Twitter (@nandita). I'll be checking in sporadically today and most of tomorrow to help out with any last-minute Thanksgiving questions you may have!

Retro Recipes: Apple Cheese Ball

Whenever I teach a cooking class, I always make sure to prepare and serve some kind of fun snack for the students to nibble on during the first couple hours of cooking. While planning for my retro cooking class, I knew I wanted to make a fun and kitschy cheese ball that would go right along with the theme and still be easy enough to prepare in advance of the class.

Some of you might remember the smokey porcupine cheese ball I made for my 1960s cocktail party a couple years ago. This time I decided to go in a different direction based on an idea I spotted in an old issue of Southern Living magazine.

I used my own basic cheese ball recipe, but used their idea of molding it into an apple shape and dusting it liberally with paprika (I used smoked Spanish paprika to pump up the flavor). The apple stem is a cinnamon stick, though I think a pretzel or bread stick, or even one of those "Pirouette" cookies would make excellent substitutes. The apple leaf is a dried bay leaf.

I made the apple in just a few minutes the morning of my class, and then let it chill all day in the fridge. I recommend taking it out of the fridge about an hour or so before serving for easier spreading. I served it with crackers and a small cheeseknife.

photo by Monica Navarro
Cheese balls are always a hit because they are (of course) delicious, but I think even more so because they're just so whimsical that it puts guests into an instant relaxed mood. How can anyone be nervous when there is a pound of cheese in the shape of a giant apple sitting in the middle of the table!? If you're looking for a great idea to serve or take to a holiday party, this is definitely it.

The best part is that the apple starts to look even more realistic once your guests dig into it. The white cheese inside contrasts with the paprika and makes it look like someone has taken a big bite out of the apple. I think next time I might even go ahead and spoon out a "bite" before the guests arrive!

My basic recipe for this cheese ball is below, and I've included substitution ideas. This is really one of those recipes that's difficult to mess up, and with which you can really have a lot of fun. If you've got kids, definitely get them involved with this one--they'll love it!



*****
Did you enjoy this post? Be sure to share it with your friends on Facebook, Stumble, and Twitter! Consider subscribing to my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter (@nandita), become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates by filling in your address in the box on the right. I also offer custom menu planning services, group cooking classes, and offer a variety of culinary workshops in the NYC area. Click here to find out more!

And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to
e-mail me. Thanks for reading!    



Retro Apple Cheese Ball
Serves about 12 as a party appetizer; inspired by a recipe in Southern Living magazine


Ingredients
8oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 pound Monterey Jack cheese, grated (white cheddar, smoked gouda, or fontina would also work here)
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Tabasco
Pinch ground cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
Sweet Paprika (use sweet smoked paprika for a smokey flavor)
1 cinnamon stick (or substitute a pretzel stick, bread stick, or long cookie such as "Pirouette"
1 large whole bay leaf


Directions
In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, grated cheese, and heavy cream, stirring until well combined. Add the Worcestershire, Tabasco, and cayenne pepper. Season with Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste.

Using clean hands, shape the cheese mixture into a round ball and then create indentations on top and a narrower bottom to mimic the shape of an apple (while making this I finally realized where the term "apple shape" came from!).
Place on a sheet of wax or parchment paper and generously sprinkle paprika all over the entire ball, making sure to get all the sides and bottom. Transfer to your serving plate, patching in any open spots with additional paprika.
Insert the cinnamon stick and bay leaf on top like a stem and leaf. Place in the refrigerator and chill for at least 3 hours to set. Remove from fridge about one hour before serving.

Serve with crackers or baguette slices and a small knife for spreading.

Apple Pie With Homemade Streusel for Fox News iMag

Last month, I was asked by Fox News iMag (Fox News Channel's online lifestyle magazine) to host three holiday dessert segments. The segments were done in conjunction with Sara Lee, who provided some of their most popular products and recipe ideas that I made on camera. The idea was essentially adding homemade twists to store-bought favorites in order to create personalized desserts that can be prepared with little fuss.

Taping these segments was SUCH a blast. My day started at the Fox building in midtown where I went for hair and make-up (Shepard Smith and Rick Folbaum were getting their own hair and make-up done at the same time next to me), and then we hopped in a cab to the gorgeous showroom kitchen.

The first of these videos, for an apple pie with a homemade pecan, raisin, and brown sugar streusel topping, just went live. Click below to watch it!


To get the written recipe, visit iMag's food page.


*****
Did you enjoy this post? Be sure to share it with your friends on Facebook, Stumble, and Twitter! Consider subscribing to my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter (@nandita), become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates by filling in your address in the box on the right. I also offer custom menu planning services, group cooking classes, and offer a variety of culinary workshops in the NYC area. Click here to find out more!

And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to
e-mail me. Thanks for reading!    

Five Easy Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipes

If you're anything like me, you may still be looking for just one or two more recipes to round out your Thanksgiving table. Or perhaps you've been asked to bring a dish, but are having trouble deciding. Here are 5 easy Thanksgiving side dish ideas that only take about 20 minutes or less of active time, and which are guaranteed to be hit with your guests. Click on the recipe names to get the recipes.

1. Curried Couscous with Maple Roasted Acorn Squash
This perfect Fall side dish is the perfect balance of sweet, savory, and spicy. The dressing and couscous each take only a couple minutes to prepare, and the squash just requires that you chop it and toss into the oven for about 20 minutes or so until tender (you don't even need to peel anything!). The results are incredible and since the dish can be served both hot or at room temperature, it's an ideal choice for bringing over to a friend's house. Don't like or have couscous? You can substitute quinoa, brown rice, or even orzo (just prepare according to package directions and then proceed with the recipe).

2. Sweet and Sour Brussels Sprouts Hash
This is THE dish to make for those people who claim they don't like brussels sprouts. Shredded brussels sprouts are cooked over high heat with sauteed onions and crisp bacon, and then tossed with tangy yogurt and reduced balsamic vinegar for an absolutely incredible side dish that people will go crazy for.

3. Creamy Parsnip and Carrot Puree
This alternative to mashed potatoes is so easy to prepare, but the results are incredible. The delicate, creamy almost floral flavor of the parsnip pairs beautifully with the sweetness of the carrots for incredibly elegant dish that will impress all of your guests. This dish can be made a few days in advance and reheats easily in the microwave or in a pot with just a little bit more broth or cream added to keep it moist.

4. Sweet Blue Cornbread
I don't know about you, but I LOVE cornbread on Thanksgiving. It just goes so perfectly with all those other great flavors on the table--and is so nice for scooping up extra gravy. This delicate, sweet cornbread recipe is made with stone ground blue cornmeal, which you can find at most specialty stores or even well-stocked supermarkets like Whole Foods. It adds a little twist to a classic dish. (If you can't find blue corn, you can of course just use regular yellow cornmeal.)

5. Sweet Potato Gougeres with Cheddar and Jalapeno
If you're REALLY looking to impress, why not throw together a batch of these gougeres. Delicate cheesy puffs with plenty of sweet potato flavor and just a hint of spice. These would be great served before dinner with a glass of champagne, or can even be served along with the big meal in place of biscuits or dinner rolls.


*****
Did you enjoy this post? Be sure to share it with your friends on Facebook, Stumble, and Twitter! Consider subscribing to my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter (@nandita), become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates by filling in your address in the box on the right.

Roasted Pears with Maple Syrup Caramel

The other day, I found myself in possession of a large amount of very ripe pears. These were the pears that were leftover from the women's retreat and which had traveled in a basket in the back of a bus from Vermont down to New York City, sustaining a few bumps and bruises along the way.

When I got home, I placed all the pears (about 8 of them) in a large zipped bag and popped them in the fridge to both delay the ripening and keep the fruit flies away from the juicy gashes it had picked up in travel.

My plan initially had been to make a pie or tart of some kind, but the truth is that, much to Eugene's chagrin, I hate making pie. I don't enjoy eating it (I'm a cake girl, all the way) and so I have little desire to invest the time in making the crust. I'd much rather just slice things up and throw them in the oven.

So that's what I did.

I quartered and cored the pears (didn't even bother peeling them, as usual) and nestled them all into a baking pan. In a separate bowl, I wisked together maple syrup, vanilla extract, melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and kosher salt, and then drizzled it all over the pears.

This went into an oven where I let them roast until tender. The maple syrup dressing created a kind of gooey caramel laced with just a hint of cinnamon and a touch of salt; absolutely perfect with the roasted pears!

Honestly, there is just something incredible and positively ambrosial that happens when pears combine with heat. I know some may disagree, but I think it's leagues beyond baked apples or really just about any other fruit.

I ate a few of these right out of the pan, then tossed the rest over a few scoops of tangy Greek yogurt. I had to stop myself from finishing the entire batch so that I could share with Eugene, who was also a fan. Later that night, I went back into the kitchen and attacked the pear-and-cinnamon scented caramel sauce that remained on the pan with a spoon. It had cooled and turned into a chewy, buttery, glorious treat practically worthy of its own post.

The next day while watching television Eugene randomly looked up and asked, "Any plans to roast some more pears today?"

Always the sign of a recipe well done.

*****
Did you enjoy this post? Be sure to share it with your friends on Facebook, Stumble, and Twitter! Consider subscribing to my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter (@nandita), become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates by filling in your address in the box on the right. I also offer custom menu planning services, group cooking classes, and offer a variety of culinary workshops in the NYC area. Click here to find out more!

And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to
e-mail me. Thanks for reading!   



Roasted Pears with Maple Syrup Caramel
Serves 6

Ingredients
6 very ripe pears, quartered or cut into eighths (don't peel)
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup butter, melted
Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter an 8" baking pan.

Arrange the quartered pears skin-side up on the buttered baking pan. In a separate bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, melted butter, lemon juice, vanilla, cinnamon, and kosher salt. Pour over the pears.

Place in the oven and roast for about 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven, use a spoon or tongs to flip the pears, then return to the oven for another 10 minutes.

Serve immediately while still hot over yogurt or vanilla ice cream. Also wonderful with cake or alongside cheese.

Retro Cooking Class is TOMORROW in NYC!!

Don't miss your chance to take part in this special retro night tomorrow in New York City!

Sip cocktails while learning how to prepare a fabulous retro feast of classics like Beef Wellington, Parmesan Potatoes, Spinach Apple Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette, Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake, and more! I'll be serving up batches of Mai Tai cocktails, Manhattans, French 75s, and plenty of pink champagne. After the class, we'll sit down to enjoy our feast while a playlist of swingin' 60s hits and bossa nova gets us all into that retro mood.

And yes, all guests are definitely encouraged to dress the part! (Though it's not required.)

Class size is limited and there are just a few seats left, so don't wait! Class is held in a professional kitchen in Midtown Manhattan.

Email me if you have any questions. Otherwise, I'll see you there!

Click to read more, check out the full menu, and get your ticket!

xoxo

Alejandra

Sweet Potato Gougeres with Cheddar & Jalapeño

Gougeres, light and airy cheese puffs, are one of my favorite appetizers. There is a restaurant here in the city that serves a basket of them instead of bread, and each time we go, my family manages to devour the basket within seconds of sitting down. We often order a second and a third, and on the way out, we stop by the bakery to buy one of their take-home packages.

Classic gougeres are simply little puffs of choux pastry--the same light, egg-y dough you would use to make eclairs or crullers or profiteroles--that have been made savory by swapping out the sugar for grated cheese and other seasonings like cracked black pepper or herbs. They come together in minutes and can even be made in advance and frozen for future snacking or entertaining.

The version I'm sharing with you today is a little bit different; along with the cheese (cheddar), I've folded in pureed sweet potatoes and a sprinkle of chopped pickled jalapeños. The result is a bit heavier than a traditional gougeres (these don't rise as high and tend to deflate a bit seconds out of the oven) but with that same delicate, almost melt-in-your-mouth, center and crisp outside. The combination of the sweet potato, salty cheddar, and spicy jalapeños is absolute magic.

I recommend serving these sweet potato gougeres with sparkling wine as an appetizer, or split and fill with slices of salty baked ham as an easy brunch dish.


*****
Did you enjoy this post? Be sure to share it with your friends on Facebook, Stumble, and Twitter! Consider subscribing to my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter (@nandita), become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates by filling in your address in the box on the right. I also offer custom menu planning services, group cooking classes, and offer a variety of culinary workshops in the NYC area. Click here to find out more!

And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to
e-mail me. Thanks for reading!   




Sweet Potato Gougeres with Cheddar & Jalapeño
Makes about 2 dozen

Print this Recipe

Ingredients
1 cup water
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (preferably yellow)
1 cup pureed sweet potatoes (from about 2 peeled sweet potatoes)
1/3 cup pickled jalapeños, coursely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Directions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine the water, butter and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a rapid boil over high heat. Add the flour, lower the heat, and stir it very rapidly until it comes together into a large, but smooth, lump.

Remove from heat and add to the base of your stand mixer or a large bowl. With the mixer or hand mixer on medium start adding the eggs one at a time, waiting until each is fully incorporated before adding the next. The dough should be shiny and smooth. Once all the eggs are in, beat in the cheese, sweet potato puree, and jalapeños. Stir in the black pepper.

Using about 2 tablespoons of dough for each gouger, drop the dough notion the lined baking sheets, each about 2 inches apart and use slightly damp fingers to round the tops.

Place in the oven for 2 minutes, and then lower the heat to 375. Bake for about 10 minutes, then rotate the pans and bake for an additional 12 to 15 minutes, or until puffs are golden, firm, and puffed slightly.

Serve immediately.

Curried Couscous with Maple Roasted Acorn Squash

This easy couscous dish is one of my favorites when entertaining crowds. It's an incredibly easy dish as it can be made up to two days in advance and can be served either hot or room temperature--a Godsend when you already have multiple dishes competing for oven time.

I used roasted acorn squash here, but feel free to substitute butternut squash, sweet potatoes, or even pumpkin, if you prefer. Just adjust the roasting time as necessary. The sweetness of the squash combines well with the spice of the curried dressing and pumpkin seeds add just a hint of crunch to the final dish.

If you'd like, you can also add other kinds of nuts (almonds or pine nuts, would work well here), additional roasted chopped veggies like cauliflower or beets, or even add a protein. I've found that small roasted shrimp work nicely in this dish, turning it into an instant main course for lunch or a light dinner.


*****
Did you enjoy this post? Be sure to share it with your friends on Facebook, Stumble, and Twitter! Consider subscribing to my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter (@nandita), become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates by filling in your address in the box on the right. I also offer custom menu planning services, group cooking classes, and offer a variety of culinary workshops in the NYC area. Click here to find out more!

And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to
e-mail me. Thanks for reading!  





Curried Couscous with Maple Roasted Acorn Squash

Ingredients
3 acorn squash, sliced and then diced into 1" pieces (leave skin on)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons maple syrup
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 1/2 cups couscous
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups boiling water

For the dressing
1/3 cup olive oil
Juice of one large lemon
1 rounded tablespoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 cup minced parsley
1/4 cup minced scallions


1/3 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

Directions
 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Placed the cut acorn squash into a large bowl. Whisk together the olive oil and maple syrup, and then toss to coat. Spread on prepared baking pans, season with kosher salt and black pepper, and roast about 20 minutes, or until tender and just a little bit crisp around the edges.

Place the couscous in a large bowl. Combine the olive oil and water and bring to a boil. Immediately pour over the couscous and cover bowl tightly with foil or a large plate. Let sit for about 5 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients (olive oil, lemon juice, curry powder, cayenne, parsley, and scallions) and pour over the couscous, tossing to coat. Fold in the roasted squash and pumpkin seeds, taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Serve warm or room temperature.

Gluten-Free Cinnamon Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Cooking for a crowd can often pose a lot of challenges, not only are you dealing with different tastes and appetites, but these days there are also often a multitude of dietary restrictions. That was definitely the case this past weekend where I found myself preparing meals for a group of women that ranged from vegan to omnivore with a smattering of gluten and dairy intolerances and shellfish allergies in between.

A challenge? Definitely. Impossible? Not for me!

This is the recipe for Gluten-Free Cinnamon Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies that I created for the trip.  Made with gluten-free oats (I used Bob's Red Mill), natural peanut butter, and chunks of 70% chocolate that I broke by hand, they were absolutely heavenly!

Even better? The recipe is so simple that it takes mere minutes to throw together and bake. Even better? You'll only need one bowl and a spoon to mix it with (I didn't even pull out the mixer for this one)!

If the results I had with these this past weekend are any indication, they will be a hit with everyone, gluten-free or otherwise. I actually had to make two double batches of these cookies over the weekend because they disappeared so quickly.

*****
Did you enjoy this post? Be sure to share it with your friends on Facebook, Stumble, and Twitter! Consider subscribing to my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter (@nandita), become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates by filling in your address in the box on the right. I also offer custom menu planning services, group cooking classes, and offer a variety of culinary workshops in the NYC area. Click here to find out more!

And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to
e-mail me. Thanks for reading!  


Gluten-Free Cinnamon Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Makes about 2 dozen

Print this Recipe

Ingredients

3 cups gluten-free oats (such as Bob's Red Mill)
1/2 cup raw sugar (or use granulated white sugar)
1/2 cup natural peanut butter (look for an unsweetened variety), room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs, whisked
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 3-4oz bar 70% chocolate, broken up into small chunks

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two baking sheets by lining with parchment paper or silpat and set aside.

Combine the oats, sugar, peanut butter, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl and stir well until combined. Beat in the whisked eggs and melted butter and stir until batter is evenly mixed. Fold in the chocolate chunks.

Drop 2 tablespoon-sized amounts of batter about 2 inches apart on the baking sheets, using a damp finger to flatten slightly. Bake in preheated oven for approximately 12-15 minutes or until golden on top.

Transfer cookies to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

Vegan Carrot Cake Cookies

One of the women at the entrepreneur retreat I co-hosted in Vermont this past weekend was vegan, so when I was putting together my menu, I wanted to make sure I had one egg-free, dairy-free, vegan dessert recipe up my sleeve. After hunting around, I came across a recipe for carrot oatmeal cookies by Heidi of the blog 101 Cookbooks. Using that recipe as a base, I tweaked it to create a kind of spiced carrot cake cookie. Soft, with just a little bit of crunch on top, it's a nice treat regardless of whether or not you're vegan!

I based the flavor of the cookie on the flavors I use in my favorite carrot cake recipe, adding plenty of fresh ginger, pure vanilla extract, orange zest, cardamom, cinnamon, and allspice. The fat in the cookie is virgin coconut oil, which also adds a hint of sweetness (though if you don't have any on hand, olive oil would also work very well in this).

Like Heidi, I used real maple syrup to sweeten these, which keeps them from being too sweet. All in all, it's a perfect cookie to enjoy with tea or perhaps some warm apple cider. Actually, this cookie is packed with so many wholesome ingredients, you could probably get away with having a couple for breakfast as a treat!

*****
Did you enjoy this post? Be sure to share it with your friends on Facebook, Stumble, and Twitter! Consider subscribing to my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter (@nandita), become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates by filling in your address in the box on the right. I also offer custom menu planning services, group cooking classes, and offer a variety of culinary workshops in the NYC area. Click here to find out more!

And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to
e-mail me. Thanks for reading!  



Vegan Carrot Cake Cookies
Adapted from a recipe by 101 Cookbooks. Makes about 2 dozen cookies

Print this Recipe

Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup rolled oats (not instant)
1 rounded tablespoon ground cinnamon (Vietnamese, if you have it)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
Zest of 1/2 naval orange
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup real maple syrup
1/2 cup virgin coconut oil, melted (substitute olive oil, if desired)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom. Add the fresh ginger, orange zest, and grated carrots, and mix until evenly combined and distributed. Pour in the maple syrup, coconut oil, and vanilla extract, and stir just until completely combined.

Drop onto prepared baking sheets in about 2 tablespoon sized amounts, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the cookies are golden. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely before serving.  

How to Arrange a Buffet Table (Retro Video)

I came across is fun how-to video from the 1940s on how to set up a buffet table and just had to share it. Even better? The tips stand the test of time!

Inspired Entertaining: 10 Tips for Creating Successful Holiday Party Invites

1. Claim your date during this busy party season by sending invitations as early as possible, at least 3-5 weeks in advance of your event. Don't have all the details settled yet? Send a "save the date" email with as much info as possible, and get cracking!

2.  Unless it is a very formal event, virtual invitations are best as they make it easy to track RSVPs and follow-up. They also allow guests to reply quickly. I recommend Evite-alternatives Pingg and Paperless Post, which have crisp, elegant layouts and aren't cluttered with booze ads or tacky clip-art.

3. Be clear about who is invited. If guests can bring a date, say that. If it's a casual party and the more-the-merrier, let people know they can invite multiple friends. If it's a small sit-down dinner or intimate event, also state that. Don't place people in the awkward position of having to ask if they can bring someone. 

4. Send email/virtual invitations early in the day during the middle of the week. You want the email to hit your guests inbox when they're actively checking it and also near a calendar for planning. Avoid sending at the end of the day (when it can get lost in the going home rush) or weekend (when people are less likely to be sitting at a computer).

5. If you're inviting a couple, send the invitation to BOTH. The odds are higher that at least one of them will open and respond (or remind the other to do so).

6. Avoid including a "Maybe" option in your invitation. Force people to commit one way or another, and you'll be less likely to end up with a bunch of people who flake out at the last minute.

7. Immediately reach out individually to people who RSVP yes to express how excited you are that they are coming to your event. Let them know personally that they're not just there to fill a spot, but that you really are looking forward to seeing them. If it's someone you haven't seen in a while, this is also a great time to reconnect. Help create warm feelings that will get them as excited about the party as you are.


8.  Accept help when it's offered. People like to feel like they're a part of the event, so if they ask, task them with something small to bring or contribute to the event. This will also make them take ownership of it and therefore less likely to not show up at the last minute. Choose something personalized like "a dozen donuts from that great shop near you" or "Aunt Mary's incredible spinach salad." Or you can ask to borrow something for the party, like a cocktail shaker or ice bucket.

9. Set a firm RSVP date and use humor to make people take note of it.  I often say something like "We'll be heading to the store on the 19th to pick up the cocktail supplies. Please let us know by then if you'll be attending...otherwise it's lukewarm tap water only for you!"

10. Make it easy for people to get the information they need to attend your party. Include links to directions or subway info. If it's at a restaurant or other venue, include the link and address. If you recommend a nearby parking garage or hotel for out-of-town folks, include that. Yes, it's all info people can Google on their own, but most won't. Don't give them an excuse to back out.

What are your best RSVP tips? 

*****
Did you enjoy this post? Be sure to share it with your friends on Facebook, Stumble, and Twitter! Consider subscribing to my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter (@nandita), become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates by filling in your address in the box on the right. I also offer custom menu planning services, group cooking classes, and offer a variety of culinary workshops in the NYC area. Click here to find out more!

And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to
e-mail me. Thanks for reading!    




Retro Cooking Class: The 1960s Dinner Party

Hey lovely readers! I'm incredibly excited about the next NYC cooking class on my roster because it is all about RETRO COOKING!

You know I'm a Mad Men fanatic (I even hosted one killer Mad Men Christmas party a couple years ago), and so I decided to share my love for all things retro with a special class and retro dinner party event in New York City on Saturday, November 19th at 7PM.

Introducing: Retro Cooking: The 1960s Dinner Party

In this 3 1/2 hour cooking class we'll prepare a fabulous retro menu featuring classics like:
Beef Wellington
Rumaki with Oriental Dipping Sauce
Sherry Gravy
Glazed Carrots
Roasted Potatoes Parmesan
Spinach Apple Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette and...
Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake!

After the class we'll sit down to enjoy the feast. I'll be mixing up some cocktails and have put together a fabulous retro 60s playlist to keep us all in the mood. You can even dress the part, if you'd like!

This is going to be a seriously fun retro evening and tickets are going to go fast so be sure to sign up today!

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE & SIGN UP FOR RETRO COOKING: THE 1960s DINNER PARTY

xoxo

Alejandra

A Few Fall Favorites

I've been going through my archives trying to organize certain things, and came across a few dishes that you may have missed, but which would be just perfect for Fall. Now that we are solidly into November, it's the perfect time to bring them out again! (Click on the name to read more & get the recipe.)

1. Salted Ginger Molasses Cookies
2. Spinach & Ricotta Gnudi w/ Brown Butter & Sage
3. Napa Cabbage Slaw w/ Mustard & Apple Butter Vinaigrette
4. Chestnut, Bacon & Green Apple Soup

5. Potage Parmentier (Potato & Leek Soup)
*****
Did you enjoy this post? Be sure to share it with your friends on Facebook, Stumble, and Twitter! Consider subscribing to my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter (@nandita), become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates by filling in your address in the box on the right. I also offer custom menu planning services, group cooking classes, and offer a variety of culinary workshops in the NYC area. Click here to find out more!

And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to
e-mail me. Thanks for reading!    

Two Things

I keep coming across wonderful things that I want to share with you, and decided I would just start posting them when I do. Some are food related...some are just awesome.

1. La Croix Sparkling Water in Coconut
I'm pretty obsessed with this water right now. Naturally flavored, calorie free, and completely devoid of sugar or any weird ingredients (it's literally just coconut-flavored seltzer) this thing is incredible.

I first heard about it a few months ago on Twitter when some bloggers were raving about how good it was. Apparently they were sent free samples of it to try and were hooked. I was all like, "What?! How come nobody sent me a free sample?" I decided to throw my own little party and started searching for it in vain in every single grocery store I walked into, wandering up and down the water aisle in search of the coconutty elixir. I came up empty and, after some Googling, discovered that in New York it's pretty much only available at Target. A few months passed until a few weeks ago when Eugene and I finally went to Target and I remembered the special water. We were running out of time on our parking garage ticket and Eugene was trying to get us to check out and get back to the car before the rate jumped from $3 to $10, but I said, "Wait!" and went running down the aisle to grab a box of the coconut water. And then I went back and got a second one, just in case I liked it.

Anyway, like it I did. Although I admit that it's pretty deceptive because it smells so sweet and nutty, and you kind of feel like you're about to take a sip of a pina colada, but it's not a pina colada. It's just water. But that's OK with me. (And you can even add a teaspoon of raw sugar or honey to it for a still-much-healthier-than-soda option.) I'm also experimenting with using this as the fizz in homemade egg creams made with coconut milk; will report back on this shortly.

2. Lana Del Rey
I have been listening to this girl NONSTOP for about a month. I found out about her via my friend (and former coworker) Caitlin's gorgeous blog Dream & Dress (a must-read at any rate).

Apparently this girl became a YouTube sensation (Lana, not Caitlin. Although wait, actually, Caitlin did too.) and got a recording contract for an album due out next year.

For now, you can download her new single, Video Games, (which contains 2 songs and 2 remixes that I keep listening to over and over again, much to Eugene's chagrin) on iTunes or watch her homemade Super 8 music videos on endless repeat on YouTube. She's got this gorgeous haunting voice and beautiful retro style. I'm hooked.

Apple Pie Oatmeal

I'd forgotten how much I don't like chilly mornings.

I've never been much of a morning person; in fact, I'm very much a night person, often staying up until 1 or 2 or even later working on projects, designing little ads, or trying to figure out ways to market my budding business. The summer always has a way of erasing those seemingly endless cold winter mornings when I had to pull myself out of bed, shivering down the hall to the shower, dressing hurriedly near the heat of the radiator, piling on the coats and scarves and hats. I don't drink coffee, but there were some days when I would buy a cup, just so that I could have something hot to hold in my hands during the trip to work.

And though it's been that way, ever winter, since I was born, I always forget. I always forget just how cold the cold is.

...But I'm starting to remember.

I admit that it's even more difficult now that I don't actually have to get out of bed at a specific time. Because I am my own boss and make my own hours and most of my work is done through the internet, there is no need to actually get out of bed on those icy mornings. I can just make a mug of tea and pull my laptop into bed with me, where I work, snug and cozy for hours.

But today I have to venture out. I've got my Thanksgiving cooking class tomorrow and there are a few things I need to buy. I need fresh cranberries, twine to truss the turkey, a new rack for my roasting pan, a bottle of cream soda, smoked spanish paprika, corn meal (to make cornbread for the cornbread & chorizo stuffing), printer ink, and new kitchen shoes that aren't too unbelievably ugly. So I decided to make myself a bowl of this cozy oatmeal flavored with apples and cinnamon. So simple and comforting, plus it's just the thing to shore me up for a day (actually, a weekend) of nonstop busyness.

The trick to making this oatmeal in minutes is to have the apple pie part of it all ready. It takes only about 20 minutes to make and will keep well in the fridge for several weeks, so I recommend doubling or even tripleing the recipe. You can even freeze it! The same filling is also wonderful on yogurt or granola or served over a piece of plain pound cake.  I also like to bake it into puff pastry for quick hand-pies.

Even better? You don't have to peel the apples! There is so much nutrition in the apple skin and it just cooks down with the apples. I used Honeycrisp apples for this batch, but Granny Smith or Pink Ladies or really just about any type of crisp, tart apple, will work.

*****
Did you enjoy this post? Be sure to share it with your friends on Facebook, Stumble, and Twitter! Consider subscribing to my RSS feed, follow me on Twitter (@nandita), become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates by filling in your address in the box on the right. I also offer custom menu planning services, group cooking classes, and offer a variety of culinary workshops in the NYC area. Click here to find out more!

And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to
e-mail me. Thanks for reading!    

 


Apple Pie Oatmeal
Serves 2-3

Print this Recipe

Ingredients
For the apple pie filling
2 large tart apples (such as honeycrisp, granny smith, etc.)
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup (substitute honey or just use another 2 tablespoons brown sugar)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup apple cider, juice, or water 
For the oatmeal
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup whole milk (substitute almond milk or just use all water for dairy-free)
1 cup rolled old fashioned oats (not instant)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


Directions
Core the apples and dice into small 1/2 inch cubes (no need to peel). Combine in a skillet over medium heat with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon, and apple cider or water. Stir until sugar is dissolved and let cook for about 5-10 minutes or until all the apples are soft and tender and the liquid has thickened. Taste and add more cinnamon or nutmeg, if desired. Set aside. (This portion can be made in advance and stored in an air-tight container or glass jar in the refrigerator for at least 2 weeks.)
Combine the water, whole milk, salt, and oats, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the oats are tender and the liquid has thickened. Stir in half the apple filling until fully hot. Remove from heat and serve with additional filling on top.

LinkWithin