Holiday Popcorn Three Ways

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Ho ho friends,
We’re in the midst of it, holidaycrazyfuntimes.
I hope you’re swilling eggnog, buying overpriced but happy things and doing regrettable things at your office party.

Should you need a treat to bring to a party this week or want to apologize to co-workers for your behavior at said holiday party, can I suggest making these Popcorn recipes. While I love a cookie swap as much as the next girl; sometimes (only sometimes) you don’t need seven dozen Peanut Butter blossoms Amirite? Sometimes you just want a handful of something crunchy and sweet and leave it at that. Or you can’t look at another frosted anything, and need something crunchy, smokey and savory, I’ve got you covered there too.

Best part about these recipes; you can put all three together in under 2 hours; and you never have to put your oven on. They package up perfectly as gifts in either treat boxes, tins or quart size tupperware. #holidaywin

Holiday Popcorn Three Ways:
~ Makes 6 quart containers (2 quarts of each flavor)
~ Time: 2 hours (including cooling time)

  • White Chocolate, Toasted Coconut & Cashew
  • Rosemary, Sage with Pistachios and Smoked Paprika
  • Milk Chocolate, Toffee with Sea Salt

IMG_1119Ingredients:
Base:
1-1/2 c. white popcorn kernels
6 tbs vegetable or safflower oil (or an oil with a high smoke point)

White Chocolate, Toasted Coconut & Cashew

6 oz White Chocolate Chips
1 c. Unsweetened Coconut Flakes
1/2 c. Cashews (or mix of Cashews, Almonds and Hazelnuts), chopped fine
Sea Salt

Rosemary, Sage with Pistachios and Smoked Paprika

3 tbs butter
small bunch (1/2 .66 packet) rosemary, finely chopped
4-6 leaves sage, finely chopped*
1/2 c. pistachios, shelled
1 tbs smoked Paprika (more to taste)
Sea Salt
*Fresh sage can be very overpowering; start small and add more if you’d like.

Milk Chocolate, Toffee with Sea Salt

6oz Milk Chocolate Chips
3 Heath bars, chopped finely or 3 oz butterscotch chips
Sea Salt (or if available, Sea Salt Flakes, like a Maldon Salt)

Directions:
In a large, deep stockpot, cook popcorn according to instructions.
You may find it easier to make it in two batches. Set aside.
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White Chocolate, Toasted Coconut & Cashew
Add coconut to a small non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Keep the pan moving to toast the coconut. Do NOT leave this pan, the coconut will burn very quickly. This should only take about 2 minutes to lightly brown. Once coconut is done, set aside; and wipe out skillet, you’ll use it again.

Place coconut, chopped nuts and a pinch of sea salt to the bottom of a LARGE bowl (you’ll want to toss the popcorn together, so you’ll need a large bowl with room to toss).

Using a double-boiler or the two-pan method, melt white chocolate until smooth.
Add the popcorn to the bowl, and drizzle the chocolate in. Using tongs, toss popcorn in bowl to coat with chocolate, coconut and nuts; keep moving the popcorn until everything is coated. Allow to cool. Store in two quart-size, airtight containers.
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Rosemary, Sage with Pistachios and Smoked Paprika

Add pistachios to a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Much like the coconut, keep moving the pan to just lightly toast the nuts. Again, this should only take a 2-3 minutes. Once pistachios are toasted, transfer to a cutting board; and dice.  Add nuts to another LARGE bowl.

In the same skillet, melt 1 tbs butter. Add the herbs and a pinch of sea salt; saute until lightly crisped. Remove the herbs to the large bowl. In the same skillet (without wiping out), melt the remaining butter. In the large bowl, add popcorn to nuts and herbs and drizzle with melted butter. Toss the ingredients together, adding the smoked paprika and a few more pinches of sea salt to taste. Allow to cool. Store in two quart-size, airtight containers.
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Milk Chocolate, Toffee with Sea Salt
To get the “drizzled” look on your popcorn versus coated, spread the popcorn out in one layer on your counter (covered with wax paper).

Using a double-boiler or the two-pan method, melt chocolate until smooth. Using a pastry bag or just dipping a clean butter knife in the chocolate, drizzle the chocolate over the popcorn. While chocolate is still warm, sprinkle on the chopped Heath bars (or butterscotch chips) and several pinches of Sea Salt. Allow to cool in one layer before packaging. If you’d rather just toss to combine without the drizzle effect; simply combine the candy, sea salt and melted chocolate together in a LARGE bowl as the other recipes dictate. Allow to cool. Store in two quart-size, airtight containers
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This should make up for what you did after 5 glasses of holiday punch in front of your boss, right? IMG_1159

Happy Holidays friends! Have a beautiful week!

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NY State of Food

A recent girls weekend to NYC found me in front of some positively fantastic meals.
Let’s dive in!

First and foremost, I have to give kudos to Chef Omar Zerrei. My friend generously invited Chef to our loft to cook us a Moroccan breakfast feast one morning. Chef is part of
Kitchen Surfing, a site where Chefs (of all distinctions) can be hired for events (and rates) ranging from an intimate dinner for two to Thanksgiving dinner for 35. Chef arrived early, cooked magnificently and left the kitchen spotless. A wonderful experience.
Now, to his food!

Our brunch started with Harissa-spiked (blurry) Bloody Marys. Off a to beautiful start indeed.
Bloodies
The first course was this gorgeous little yogurt and berry parfait with honey.
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Refreshing, tangy and a perfect start to the meal.

Next up, were the Moroccan style blueberry pancakes. Luscious is the only word to describe these. Light, delicate; but perfectly crisped all around. I asked Chef how he got such perfect crispness. “Butter, just lots of butter.” Love it. IMG_0953
After the pancakes, we were served a refreshing (and unpictured) Avocado and Almond milk smoothie which was the perfect break in the decadence.

On to a Moroccan style Shakshuka! This is an absolute favorite of mine (hello, I live for eggs), so I loved Chef’s spin on it. Poached, but not completely runny eggs, gently cooked in a chunky, rich, tomato sauce with just a hint of spice. This was warming down to my toes.  IMG_0956
If you can believe it?  There was more. Homemade Pumpkin and Sugar glazed mini donuts with Haagan-Daaz Vanilla ice cream. End scene.  Please note that we walked the high line after this to be able to fit into our pants again. IMG_0957
Our experience (and photo-op :) with Chef Omar could not have been better.

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Our NY weekend was off to a delicious start.

Not wanting to be rude to the restaurants nor my dining companions; I kept the picture-taking to the minimum (and in some cases, it was so atmospheric (aka DARK) that no picture was possible! Enjoy these little nibbles of our weekend!

First up, an unexpected twist on Paella from Gato; a Bobby Flay restaurant that is focused on Mediterranean-style fare. I always enjoy Paella, as I’m a fool for rice dishes and the Wild Mushroom and Kale version on the menu intrigued me. The crispy artichoke flowers were beautiful and added a delicate crunch to the dish. And (spoiler alert), it came with an egg on it (seeing a pattern?). Mixed with the crispy pot rice, I would put this up against any sausage and seafood filled paella.

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Friday dawned windy and cold. This simple cappuccino from Spiegel and unpictured croissant warmed me from the inside out while chatting with a friend. Bonus? When I asked for jam on my croissant, the server apologetically informed me that they didn’t have jam, but could I try their HOUSE-MADE DULCE DE LECHE on my croissant instead? Hmm, instead of the corn-syrup filled jelly packet I was assuming you may have,  you’d like me to slather house-made, creamy, dreamy caramel on my croissant? Let me think. #itshandled. (Incidentally, I’ve been watching alot of Scandal lately…).

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I knew we wouldn’t leave New York without getting some pizza into our faces, and after such rich meals at Gato and Lebanese Valhalla, Ilili (unpictured, see atmospheric), it was nice to cozy up and just chow down on some pizza. And this was SOME pizza. A large Artichoke pie from Artichoke Basille’s.

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I’m not a huge fan of red sauce, so when I see a good-looking white pizza, I jump to try it!
In addition to weighing the same amount as a small child, this pizza was topped with Artichoke Hearts, Spinach, Cream Sauce, Mozzarella and Pecorino Romano Cheese.
Eight women ate this pizza for two days, that’s how giant it was. Worth. Every. Bite.

One afternoon, we enjoyed a leisurely brunch at Hudson Clearwater.
I enjoyed slightly lighter fare in their Argula salad with  gala apples, dates, shaved fennel, toasted pine nuts, crumbled ricotta salata, balsamic….and I added a fried egg.
I have an egg problem. #nojudgement.

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Sunday was another windy and cold day, so nothing to do but head to the St. Regis for a bourbon and cider to while away the afternoon. Am I right?
IMG_0996Sadly, after this (and a few more bites of pizza), we packed ourselves up and headed home. A gorgeous weekend with lovely people and excellent meals! Win!

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Recent BItes

As usual, its been a busy few weeks with several great meals in the mix.
Enjoy a few snaps of what’s been delicious in my life.

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Thursday night burger special at my beloved Dutch’s Wine. That there is a Poutine Burger. You read that correctly. Poutine. ON A BURGER. For the uninitiated, Poutine is a Canadian-born treat of french fries covered in cheese curds and gravy. Its crazy good on its own. Insane on a burger. #loveyouforeverDutchs.
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A touch more refined but equally amazing was this starter at Salazar. That would be a GORGEOUS piece of seared foie gras over a pistachio blini with radish and granola garnish. I enjoyed this with a small glass of Sauternes and felt super wicked classy.

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On a particularly blustery day, I met a friend for lunch at French Crust Cafe. Hot tea and this ” le casserole le creuset” Macaroni and Cheese with medley of mushrooms, leek and celery warmed up my very soul.  IMG_0893Speaking of warming, I enjoyed my first Hot Apple Cider with bourbon on a recent night out at Igby’s. When the weather turns colder, my drinks turn darker. Bourbon for Vodka and Reds for Rosé (but Champagne? Its 365).
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This beautiful tier is the offering of high tea at Bonbonnerie. Celebrating a friend’s birthday in charming style; we enjoyed their beautiful tea service which included savories, sandwiches, scones, breads, fruits and a stunning assortment of pastries. The table was set beautifully and the service was perfect. A fantastic option for holiday celebrating. IMG_0912
Thankful indeed! For the first time in several years, I made my way back to Boston for Thanksgiving. It was just as delicious as always. IMG_1009
Finally, I enjoyed an afternoon espresso with a friend while we caught up on news
(aka gossip). I love that Collective Espresso serves this the traditional way; with a small glass of Pellegrino on the side. Their coffees and espresso are excellent.

What delicious things have you been discovering? What are you making for the holidays? Are you in a holiday haze of eggnog? Can you invite me?
I love eggnog.

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Bacon, Apple Macaroni and Cheese

Are you cooking for a crowd this holiday season? Or need to bring an item for the office potluck? I say make this big ole bowl of comforting macaroni and cheese.

This isn’t any macaroni and cheese. It has smokey bacon, tart green apples and a rich, creamy, cheese sauce makes this a luscious and healthy dish (healthy because, you know, apples). This recipe is designed for a crowd, so don’t be scared off by the ingredients (almost a pound of bacon? Yes, please).

This is a savory, cheesy contrast to the nonstop sugar cookies. You’re welcome.

IMG_0628Bacon, Apple Macaroni & Cheese
Serves 8-10 ~  Time: 1.5 hours


12 slices bacon (3/4lb) center-cut bacon, diced
1 large yellow onion, peeled & diced
4 small (or 2 large) granny smith apples, peeled, cored & diced
3 tbs butter
1/4 c. AP flour + 1 tbs
4 c. milk (dairy or non-dairy are fine)
16oz shredded extra sharp cheddar
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried sage
1 tbs fresh thyme
Salt & Pepper
12oz elbow macaroni (or other small-shaped pasta)
Topping:
1 c. panko crumbs (enough to cover the dish)
3 tbs cold butter, cut into small cubes
(Ignore the hard apple cider in the picture, I opted to make this booze-free, see? Healthy).

Pre-heat oven to 350. Lightly grease a 13×9 casserole dish.

In a deep saucepan, over medium heat, saute bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate. Drain all but 1 tbs of bacon fat (you can reserve the fat to saute vegetables another day). Add onion and apple (and a sprinkle of salt and pepper) to the fat in the pan and cook until soft (about 5 minutes). Remove to a plate.

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In the same pan with all the good bits of onions and apples, melt butter. Whisk in flour until a roux (paste) forms. Slowly whisk in milk until smooth (no flour bits). Add bay leaf and bring mix to a low simmer (about 5 min). Slowly stir in 3/4 of the cheddar cheese; a small bit at a time so as not to cause the sauce to break. Sprinkle in herbs and taste here. Add salt and pepper as necessary. Remove bay leaf.  Cook pasta according to directions on the box. Drain and set aside.

IMG_0631IMG_0632In a very large bowl, combine the apples, onions and bacon. Temper the apple/onion/bacon mixture with the cheese sauce then add the whole mix to the sauce pan. At this point, I like mix the pasta into the sauce in either the same very large bowl or in the 13×9 casserole dish, as the mix with the pasta is too big for my saucepan. If you haven’t already, transfer the mixed pasta into the 13×9 casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese and panko crumbs to cover the top. If you do not want to bake this now, at this step, allow to cool and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use, and turn off your oven :) IMG_0634Once you are ready to bake, dot the cold butter (or be naughty and drizzle a little reserved bacon fat) over the panko crumbs.  Bake for 40 minutes until golden bubbly.

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I would rather do a Macaroni and Cheese swap than a Cookie Swap. Who’s in?

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Spiced Apple Caramel Swirl Ice Cream

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Oh Fall seasonal foods, how we love you.
All the Pumpkin Spice things and heck, even all the Red Cup things are in full swing even as November has barely peeked out from underneath the pile of unraked leaves called October.

Lest we wish away this crisp autumn for the grey chill of December, please give a nod to the original fall flavor: apple.

Before our life was pumpkin-spiced, the trendy fall thing was apples.
As in, real-life, honest-to-goodness apples. Not “apple-flavored Pringles,” but just apples.
And we were ok with that.

I think you can be ok with this: A homemade, creamy, dreamy fresh apple and softly spiced ice cream with a decadent swirl of caramel in there.

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Spiced Apple Ice Cream with Caramel Swirl
Adapted from Fork Knife Swoon
Time: 1.5 hours (includes chilling) ~ Serves: About 2 quarts

Spiced Apples
2 large apples, peeled, cored and diced finely (Honeycrisp or other sweet apple)
2 tbs brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or a mix of nutmeg, cloves and allspice)
pinch of sea salt

Ice Cream Base
2 c. heavy cream
2 c. whole milk
3/4 c. powdered sugar
1 tbs vanilla extract
1-1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or a mix of nutmeg, cloves and allspice)
1/2 tsp sea salt

Add-In
1/2 c. prepared caramel sauce, refrigerated

Notes:
– Ensure the bowl of your ice cream maker is completely frozen (usually 24 hours in the freezer is needed).
– Prepare 4 pint size ice cream containers (I like to re-use Talenti gelato containers)

Directions:
In a deep saucepan, over medium heat, cook apples, sugar and spices until soft (to the point of breaking apart, about 10 min).

IMG_0740Pour apples into a heat/freezer-safe bowl and allow to cool completely.
Once cool, place in freezer to chill thoroughly (at least 30 minutes).

In a blender, whir all ingredients of Ice Cream base together until completely blended. Pour mix into a freezer-safe bowl and place in freezer to chill thoroughly (at least 30 minutes).

It’s important that all ingredients are the same temperature when churning or the
ice cream consistency will not be correct.

Following your manufacture’s instructions, churn the Ice Cream Base (usually about 25 minutes). Ensure that your ice cream maker can accommodate two quarts or prepare in batches.

photo(resist sticking  spoon into the ice cream maker)

With about 5 minutes left to churn, slowly add the chilled spiced apples to the ice cream maker.  Done! Ready to eat….

…but wait, there’s more…..

Assemble freezer-safe ice cream containers. Add a spoonful of chilled caramel and then a layer of ice cream. Continue layering until full. Repeat with remaining containers.
Ice cream will be soft. Allow to chill in freezer for firmer texture.  Makes about 2 quarts.
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Re-serving suggestion: Homemade ice cream can freeze solidly. For later serving, allow at least 20 minutes for ice cream to thaw on the counter for scoopable, spoonable consistency.
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Kind of makes Pumpkin Spice Oreos just look silly.

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One-Bowl Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies

Also known as “Doorbell Ringing Cookies”.
Meaning your guests have just arrived for dinner and you have nothing for dessert.
Someone  “promised to bring dessert” but that flake showed up with a sheepish expression and a bottle of 2-buck Chuck.  Hmmph.

This recipe to the rescue. In addition to making two dozen (rather than the traditional
4 dozen), this recipes uses oil, so there’s not need to wait for butter to soften.  Everything is mixed in one large bowl to keep everything even easier.  Mix the batter and prep the cookie sheets while everyone is on their second glass of wine (they won’t miss you). Pop them in the oven when you clear after dinner. Bonus? Your guests are treated to the nostalgically delicious smell of freshly baked cookies.

One Bowl Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes: 2 dozen cookies
Time: 35 minutes

1/2 c. light oil (Sunflower Seed, Canola, Vegetable)
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tbs vanilla
1.75 c. AP flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 pinch sea salt
1 c. chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, mixed*
*Add chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, bits of broken-up Halloween candy; whatever you have on-hand. I’ve been known to chop up a few Lindt truffle balls that were hanging around in my freezer to use here.
2 cookie sheets (for faster transition time)

Pre-heat oven to 350.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together oil and sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla until mixture is smooth. In the center of the bowl, add flour, baking soda and salt. Use a fork to thoroughly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet.  Stir in candy chips of your choice.

As there is no butter in this recipe, the cookies will not spread and flatten as nicely. Scoop a tablespoon amount into a ball, place on ungreased cookie sheet and flatten slightly (trust me, this is quick). Prep two cookie sheets of 12 each. Bake for 11-13 minutes until tops are lightly golden. Serve immediately.
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Your guests will be so blown away that you served freshly baked cookies
they won’t even notice that you just ran out of wine.

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Nibbles

A look back at some gorgeous meals recently. Eat up.

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Feast at the Rookwood.

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Pumpkin beer samples at Cock and Bull.
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Treats from Chef @ Dutch’s

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A toffee/coffee sundae (shared) at Yardhouse.

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A pretty little drink from Boca.

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Chocolate Coconut cupcakes (courtesy of a Stonewall Kitchen mix from my friend Liz!)

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A pulled pork sandwich enjoyed track-side at Keeneland Race track.

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Homemade Kale & Rice Noodle Salad with Homemade Miso Dressing

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Beers and Pork sandwiches after golf at The Eagle
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Sweet Pea & Bacon pizza at A Tavola.
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And for a sweet finish…Two Peas and Their Pod Apple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Keep the delicious going friends.

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