Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Citrus Tarragon Granita


What a beautiful day! The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and I have the day off work!


In all honesty, it is a bit chilly outside, but I was still in the mood for something summery and refreshing. I feel like every single one of my blog posts starts with "This is the easiest thing ever!", but I really mean it with this one. All you need is a juice of your choice, a little sugar, a freezer, and a fork.

I decided to make mine today with a variety of citrus fruits and tarragon. Tarragon, also known as the King of Herbs by the French, is mainly used in buttery sauces and savory dishes. But it pairs wonderfully with citrus and brings a simple granita to a whole new level!

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Another great thing about granita is that you can add as much or as little sugar as you like. And you can sweeten it with anything from sugar to honey to Stevia. It all works in this recipe.

The other day while at the mall, I ran into a tea store simply to grab a sample so I could take an Advil. The salesgirl was SO nice and good at her job that I walked out of there with over $20.00 worth of tea related items. One of which was German rock sugar. Apparently it is sugar in its purest form and digests in the body really easily. Who knows if all that is true, but it looks really cool and tastes really good so I used it to sweeten my granita!


Citrus Tarragon Granita
Serves 10

3 cups orange juice
1 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup grapefruit juice
1/2 cup lime juice
Sweetener of your choice
2 tablespoons Gran Marnier
1 teaspoon each of lemon, lime and orange zest
3 tablespoons finely chopped tarragon

Combine all ingredients and pour into a shallow 13x9 inch pan. Place in the freezer. In 1 hour, remove from freezer and scrape sides with a fork. The mixture will still be mostly liquid at this point, only just starting to crystallize around the edges. Place back in freezer and continue to scrape every hour for the next 3 hours. You will end up with a light and refreshing icy treat, perfect for a warm night. This would also make a great cocktail, with a little vodka or tequila poured over the top.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mexican Wedding Cookies with Vanilla Bean and Almonds


Wow! Life has been busy. So much has been going on. Finally have some time off for a little post.

These are a nutty shortbread cookie rolled in powdered sugar, traditionally served at Mexican weddings. This is a perfect party cookie as they are so easy to make and one recipe makes about 30 cookies. I made these with vanilla bean and almond. You can use any nut you like, or leave the nuts out all together. You can also flavor them many different ways. Someone suggested to me that they would be great with lemon!! You can definitely have fun with these.

Mexican Wedding Cookies

Makes 25 to 35


1-1/2 cups butter, room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar, plus more for rolling cookies in
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, seeded
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and the powdered sugar till light, about 5 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds. In a separate bowl, mix the flour and the salt. Add flour to the butter and mix just till combined. Fold in the nuts.

Using 1 tablespoon per cookie, roll dough into balls. Place on parchment lined baking sheets 2 inches apart. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, till just lightly golden around the edges. Cool completely.

Toss cooled cookies into powdered sugar to coat. Repeat this until the powdered sugar stays dry on the cookie.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Book Page Heart Mobile


Here is a little something I have been working on for the past few days. I have lately come across Dottie Angel's blog and Flikr. Oh my god she is so amazing!! I plan on trying out so many of her wonderful crafts and this is the first project of her's that I have completed.

I definitely made this in the spirit of Valentine's Day, but I think I am going to keep it up all the time because it looks really cute! But mainly because cutting out all of those dang hearts was SO time consuming. Plus I sustained minor injuries to my finger and the loss of a book. Honestly, ripping out and cutting up pages from a book is so counter intuitive, but strangely satisfying all at the same time!


To do this, I cut out hearts in 3 sizes. Each heart on a strand is 2 hearts glued together, with the string running through the middle. I threw in a few random red hearts for a pop of color.


I am also super excited about my new set of stamps!! It is the alphabet in a fairly small size. It has proved to be very useful so far.


I added some vertical word rectangles dangling at the bottoms, simply so I could use my stamps!!


Although cutting out the hearts did take quite a while, I think it was definitely worth the extra work. It looks really beautiful when the sun is shining through the window.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Valentine Venetian Cookies

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Ahh February, love is in the air. Candy hearts, flowers, chocolate boxes, yada yada yada. Don't get me wrong, I love Valentine's Day! And if there is one thing Valentine's Day means to me, it is creating wonderful Valentine themed baked goods and crafts for all the people I care about. I have a few things on the way to share with you in the next week or so. Up first is my sister's FAVORITE cookie of all time. It is an Italian Christmas cookie, traditionally colored like the Italian flag. They are more like cakes than cookies. Kind of like tiny petit four layered almond cakes covered in chocolate ganache. These are perfect for filling heart shaped boxes and giving to that special someone!

*One note I want to make about this recipe has to do with the almond paste. It generally comes in 2 ways. In a can and in a tube. The can is 8 ounces and the tube is 7. Almost every recipe for this cookie calls for 8 ounces. I can only ever find the tube and it costs almost 10 bucks. I hate to buy a whole other tube just for that one ounce. I almost always have almond meal or almonds in my pantry. For that extra ounce, I just use half almond meal or ground almonds and half sugar with a splash of water. Voila, almond paste.

Valentine Venetians
Makes 50 to 60, depending on size

For the cake:
8 oz. almond paste*
1 cup granulated sugar
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
4 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Red and pink food coloring
8 oz. seedless raspberry preserves

For the ganache:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the almond paste and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse will combined. Add butter, egg yolks and extracts. Blend till light and smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. Add flour and salt and mix just to combine.

Whisk egg whites till stiff peaks form. Gently fold into almond mixture. Divide batter into 3 bowls. Add desired amounts of food coloring.

This next part can be done a couple of different ways. The batter can be spread into the bottom of three 13 x 9 inch pans, but I always found this way to be very annoying.

The easiest way to do this is by rolling the batter between 2 sheets of parchment paper. Start by rolling it out on the counter. Transfer the whole thing to the baking sheet. Place another same sized baking sheet on top and press down to flatten. The batter should be about 1/8 of an inch thick.

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Place in oven with both sheets of parchment paper and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool completely.

Heat the raspberry preserves in small saucepan. Brush a layer of preserves over one of the cake layers. Top with another cake layer. Brush another layer of preserves on top. Place last cake layer on top. Wrap in plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator and weight down with a cookie sheet and various refrigerator items. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferable overnight.

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For the ganache, heat chocolate, heavy cream and butter over a double boiler till smooth. Cover the entire almond cake in the ganache.

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Once the chocolate is set, cut the cake into 1 inch squares. These are so yummy, they are almost addicting!!

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