Friday, December 21, 2012

mascarpone fig jam cookies

With Christmas right around the corner, I thought I'd bring you a quick and easy cookie to create last minute.  My last several recipe posts haven't contained any mascarpone, so my choice cookie to share are these delicious, chewy Mascarpone Fig Jam Cookies.  The mascarpone makes these cookies so beautifully tender, and the fig jam adds just the right amount of sweetness.   A sprinkling of powdered sugar adds a delicate finished touch!

You can create these lovely cookies with any of your favorite jams or preserves.  In the past, I've replaced the vanilla extract with almond extract and filled with raspberry jam.  If you want to get fancy, a center dollop of chocolate ganache would be absolutely perfect!  Don't want to take the time to add the jam centers?  No problem.  Just bake the rolled cookies without adding the center indentations in the cookies.  When they've cooled, add a lemon or orange glaze to the mascarpone cookie.  Yummm!!!

I hope you can try some of the ideas for this delightful cookie, or create it just as I have.  It's always fun to take something basic, and try some of your favorite flavor variations!

Coming soon over the holidays, I have two scrumptious recipes, Limoncello Mini Bundt Cakes with Limoncello Glaze, and a Cranberry Almond Streusel Coffee Cake...stay tuned, I can't wait to share!

Wishing all of my blog followers, email subscribers, and RSS readers of A Cup of Mascarpone a very Merry and Blessed Christmas! Your kind comments and messages make me smile each day, and I love you all!

Until next time...mangia!  xox


Mascarpone Fig Jam Cookies
Yield:  Approximately 30 cookies


1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup fig jam, or jam of choice
powdered sugar for garnish (optional)

Create the Mascarpone fig Jam Cookies:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Place sheets of parchment paper, or silicone baking liners on two cookie sheets. Set aside.

Beat together the butter and sugar until light, then add the egg and vanilla.  Mix until smooth.

Add the mascarpone cheese, and beat until smooth.

Sift together the dry ingredients, and fold them into the butter mixture, mixing just until combined.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and refrigerate 1 hour.

Rub a slight amount of flour on the palms of your hands.  Roll the dough into 1-1/2 inch balls. (approximately 1-1/8 ounces each)  Cover with plastic wrap as you work, so they don't dry out.

Using the blunt round end of a wooden spoon, or similar kitchen utensil, create an indentation in the center of each cookie.  Place the cookies 2 inches apart, and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or just as the cookies begin to color.

As soon as you remove the cookies sheets from the oven, use the spoon to open up the circle, (since it will slightly close up while baking.)

Carefully spoon a small amount of jam into each cookie.

Let sit at room temperature until the jam is set.  Once the jam is set and cookies are cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar, if you wish.

Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator, or freeze in an airtight container for up to 2 months.

Adapted from  Italian Food Forever.

Mascarpone Fig Jam Cookies

Sunday, December 16, 2012

copycat starbucks gingerbread loaf

I admit it...I'm hooked on Starbucks Gingerbread Loaf.  I enjoyed my first slice last year by pure accident.  I ordered a Pumpkin Scone with my "non-fat" latte (have to watch the calories on one end,) and the cashier stated what I never wanted to hear..."Pumpkin Scones are only available for the fall season, which has now ended."  As I stood at the counter in silence, no words able to come out of my mouth, I heard him say, "Miss, Miss."  "We now have our Gingerbread Loaf, would you like to try that?"  I nearly said "forget about it," but instead, reluctantly mumbled, "ok, sure."  The rest is history.

I had to try and create this scrumptious morning treat myself, not wanting to pay nearly $3 a slice, along with the $4 coffee!  I found a copycat recipe online and tweaked it a bit, until I came up with a perfect tasting recipe, actually better than the bux loaf itself.  Oh, and did I mention you can whip this up in no time at all!

Embarking lovely fragrant and spicy notes, a thick layer of perfectly sweetened cream cheese frosting, with a hint of orange, make this loaf ideal for breakfast or an afternoon snack with a cup of hot coffee or tea.  Created in disposable bakeware, accompanied with a Starbuck's Card, makes it an ideal gift for the Starbucks lover; however, once you try it, you won't want to part with it!

Until next time...mangia!  xox


Copycat Starbucks Gingerbread Loaf


for the loaf:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon orange extract, or 1/4 teaspoon orange oil (I used Boyajian Pure Citrus Orange Oil)
1 egg at room temperature
1 cup natural applesauce
1 teaspoon baking soda

for the frosting:
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
1/2 teaspoon orange extract or 1/8 teaspoon orange oil (I used Boyajian Pure Citrus Orange Oil)
2 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
chopped candied ginger or candied orange peel for garnish (optional - see Carol's notes below)

Create the Gingerbread Loaf and Frosting:

create the loaf:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a 9"x5" bread pan or use baking spray.  You can also use two pieces of decorative 7"x2.5" disposable bakeware, as pictured.  These do not have to be greased or sprayed.  Set them on a small cookie sheet to bake, and turn them around half way through the baking cycle.  These are perfect for gift giving!

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and salt.  Set aside.

In the large bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy.  Stir in orange extract.  Add egg, and mix well.

Mix the baking soda into the applesauce.   Stir into creamed butter mixture.  Add the flour mixture and mix until smooth.

Scoop the batter into prepared loaf pan(s).

Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of cake comes out clean.  If baking the 2 smaller loaves, bake for 30 to 40 minutes.

create the frosting:
Beat the cream cheese until fluffy.  Add vanilla and orange extract.  Slowly beat in confectioner's sugar.

Once the cake has cooled, evenly spread the frosting on top.  Garnish with chopped candied ginger or orange peel, if desired.

Once frosting has set, loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  I feel it tastes so much better chilled, but this is not necessary if eating the up the same day.

Adapted with slight changes from The Restaurant Recipe Blog.

Carol's notes:
This is one of those baked goods that tastes even better the second day, as the flavors intensify.

I've reduced the clove amount over the original recipe; however, the clove flavor will get stronger the following day, so if you prefer, you can reduce it even further to 1/2 teaspoon.

Although a toothpick will come out clean and the loaf be fully baked, the center will sometimes concave slightly as it cools.  Don't worry if it does, since the frosting will cover it up.  I prefer it to do this, rather than over bake it to prevent it.

The frosting makes more than you will need.  Depending on how thick you want it, adjust accordingly.

I found delicious Woodstock Foods All-Natural Ginger Slices at Wegmans, not strong or overpowering.  I chopped a few slices into small bits for the garnish.  They're incredible on the cream cheese frosting, and make the loaf look just like the real thing!  Candied orange peel, which can be found easily this time of year, also works well.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

chocolate peppermint cake pops

Finally I come bearing a recipe! :)  In my last post, Fashionable Wine Garb, a knitted hat and scarf pattern for a wine bottle, I promised to explain why the post wasn't about food, and what had happened to my food photos, and me.

First and foremost, I was sincerely blessed and thankful to spend Thanksgiving with my son and daughter, my son's beautiful wife, and my four adorable grandchildren!  I hadn't seen them since January, one month after my granddaughter Charlotte was born.  Charlotte (or one of the many other nicknames she has lovingly inherited) will be 1 year old on Friday.  What an absolute joy it was to spend time with all of them!

Unfortunately, then came the strokes of bad luck.

My 8 month old Mac started doing very strange things the day after Thanksgiving.  After bringing it into the Apple Store, insisting I needed a fix for a virus (Macs supposedly don't get viruses,) it wound up being a hard drive crash...a one in a million occurrence after that short a period of time, so I was told.  Stupid me, had not backed up any of my food photos, so I lost everything!  Yes, everything!  All my holiday recipes I had so diligently created and taken photos of, I lost.  All my earlier recipe photos, I lost.  Recipes I had created earlier in the year, and not blogged about yet, I lost.

The computer crash was followed by losing my driver's license somewhere in Atlanta while visiting my son and family.  ...and I finalized it all by getting really sick! :)  I need to hurry and get a flu shot while I'm well, so I don't get it again!

So after all that, my knitting post came into play.  I was able to take some quick photos of one of my knitting projects and blog about it, prior to starting to cook and bake all over again! :)

Everything is back to semi-normal, and the food creations will start rolling out again.  Thank you all for bearing with me, and continuing to visit A Cup of Mascarpone!  With all the little mishaps, November was a super month for my blog!  I was ecstatic to be included in The Kitchn's Delicious Links with my  Sparkling Sugar Cranberries.   Thank you so much to The Kitchn for this wonderful honor!  If you haven't experienced this amazing blog, you will have to check it out, it's a real treat!  A Cup of Mascarpone was also visited the most in one month since its inception in mid-July, with just shy of 34,000 visits!  Thank you, thank you for stopping by my humble little blog and leaving all your kind comments and messages!  This all came about because I wanted to share my weekend love in the kitchen with all of you, and as mentioned in an earlier post, I will continue striving to improve, to keep you all returning! xox

Now onto my food creation!!!  These delicious cake pops made their way to a sweet bunch of middle school girls in Northern Virginia, who play on the  school's basketball team.  My daughter, who teaches in the middle school, is also the Assistant Basketball Coach.  It was the team's very first game, and  Coach Kelly asked me to "pretty please" make cake pops for the girls.  How could I resist?  Although the team lost, they were thrilled with the awesome cake pops after the game, and had big smiles on their faces anyway!

A dark chocolate, brownie like cake interior is covered with a hard candy coating and sprinkling of crunchy peppermint.  I've created many cake pops over the last couple years, but can say without a doubt, these were the tastiest ever!  The combination of flavors - scrumptious chocolate, and crunchy, aromatic peppermint - worked perfectly together, and the completed cake pops looked so seasonly charming and festive!

The process looks long and tedious, but trust me, once you get the hang of it, it's very easy!  You do need some time, so make them when you're not feeling rushed.  I've added an excellent link below from the original creator of cake pops, "Bakerella," and highly recommend watching it a few times to understand the process prior to making the pops.  You will be so happy you did!

My Chocolate Peppermint Cake Pops recipe post is also being linked to the monthly "Chocolate Party" I'm so happy to be part of!  Thank you so much to my friend, Roxana, of Roxana's Home Baking, who hosts this delightful monthly Chocolate Party.  Peppermint was the lovely ingredient  added to chocolate for December. Inspiring bloggers, all part of the Chocolate Party, have used their creativity to make some absolutely delicious chocolate and peppermint recipes. Links to check them all out are at the bottom of my post.  Hope you enjoy them as much as I have!

Until next time...mangia!  xox


PS:  Promise not to talk so much next a little carried away! :)

Chocolate Peppermint Cake Pops
Adapted from the book Cake Pops by Bakerella

Yields 30 - 48 depending on cake mix used and size of cake pops.


16.5 ounce or 18.25 ounce box cake mix (I used Duncan Hines 16.5 ounce Devil's Food)
box mix required ingredients (3 eggs and 1/3 cup canola oil on the DH mix)
16 ounce container ready-made frosting (I used Betty Crocker Rich & Creamy Dark Chocolate)
2-3 bags Wilton 12 ounce candy melts (I used 1 bag white and 1 bag pink)
chopped candy cane pieces (I used the pre-chopped pieces found in the bulk food area of Wegmans)


30-48 6" lollipop sticks
styrofoam block (for drying coated cake pops)
4"x6" clear cellophane treat wrappers with twist ties or ribbon (optional)

Create the Chocolate Peppermint Cake Pops:

Bake the cake mix as directed, using a 9x13 inch cake pan.  Let cool completely.  This can be done a day ahead to save time.

Once the cake is cooled, section into approximately 6 or 8 pieces, and crumble the cake into a large mixing bowl. You should not see any large pieces of cake.

Add 2/3 container of frosting, if using DH mix.  With the back of a  large spoon or spatula, mix the frosting with the cake crumbs until thoroughly combined.  If using an 18.25 ounce mix, use 3/4 container of frosting.  You will not need the remaining frosting.  Only add the amount required, otherwise, the cake pops will be too moist.

Roll cake mixture into approximate 1-1/2" balls.  The mixture should be moist enough to roll into balls and still hold a round shape.  After rolling the cake balls by hand, place them on wax or parchment paper covered baking sheet.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill for several hours in the refrigerator, or place in the freezer for about 15 minutes.  You want the balls to be firm, but not frozen!

Reminder as we move along:  Watch the YouTube video referenced in Carol's note below on how to crumble, add frosting, roll balls and dip in candy melts.  This will make all these steps make better sense.

Place the candy coating in a deep, microwave-safe plastic bowl.  This type bowl makes it easier to cover the cake balls completely with candy coating, while holding the bowl without burning your fingers.

Melt the candy coating, following the instructions on the package - or, microwave on medium power for 30 seconds at a time, stirring with a spoon in between.  Make sure you do not overheat the coating.

Now you're ready to dip.  If your cake balls are in the freezer, transfer to refrigerator.  Take a few cake balls at a time out of the refrigerator to work with.

One at a time, dip about 1/2 inch of the tip of a lollipop stick into the melted candy coating, and then insert the lollipop stick straight into a cake ball, pushing it no more than halfway through.  Watch video again at this point for how to dip the cake pops and tap off excess coating.

Once coated, sprinkle peppermint candy pieces onto the wet coating and set in the styrofoam block to dry. Repeat with remaining cake balls and let dry completely.

Store the cake pops in an airtight container on the counter or in the refrigerator for several days.  You can also cover them in the small clear treat bags, and leave them in the styrofoam block.  I prefer to keep mine in the refrigerator.  Enjoy!

Carol's notes:
An awesome YouTube video with Bakerella guiding you through making cake pops can be found here.  This is the video I watched and learned from prior to making cake pops for the first time a couple years ago.  It's simple, right to the point, and everything you need to know!

If you are serious about learning hot to make cake pops, I highly recommend purchasing the inexpensive book "Cake Pops by Bakerella," found just about everywhere, including here on Amazon.  It's filled with wonderful step by step tips, and clear directions with photos for making cake pops.

For the light, pale pink candy coating color, I used 200 white to 50 pink candy melts.  Yes, I stood and counted them like a crazy person to get the color I wanted! :)

Poke holes in the styrofoam block before you begin dipping the pops.  Use one of the lollipop sticks to poke the holes about 2 inches apart.  You can then easily insert the cake pop for drying into the "pre-drilled" hole.

When preparing cake balls, I use a kitchen scale and quickly weigh out 1 1/8 ounce globs :), and set them on the prepared cookie sheet, until I've used up all the mixture.  Then I roll them into the balls.  This seems to work well for me, creates uniform sizes, and moves along much quicker.

Wilton Candy Melts are found at any craft store, and also some grocery stores.  You can usually find them on sale at Michael's at least once a month.

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Friday, November 30, 2012

fashionable wine garb - a knitted hat & scarf

My post today is obviously not about food! :)  I'll explain what happened to all my new food photos next time.  In the meantime, since wine is the perfect accompaniment for many of us with our delicious foods, it's kind of ok to post...right? :)  I thought it would be fun to share some gifts I knitted this year (including the pattern), which will go along with my favorite homemade gift bags of biscotti for friends this Christmas.

While watching the Giada Christmas Special last season, she was in a relative's home in Colorado.  In the kitchen scene, there were wine bottles adorned with red and white hats and scarves, which I fell in love with!  I immediately paused the show (thank goodness for technology), and took a quick photo with my iPhone, so I wouldn't forget exactly how they looked. (see photo captioned below)

iPhone photo from the Giada Christmas Special I took from the TV screen. :)

My google search began for a knitting pattern that could replicate the charming wine bottle hat and scarf.  The pattern  I found was called "Chilled Wine Garb."  The adorable knitting pattern was courtesy of Lisa Valentino of Knitsburgh: where steel meets wool.  Although slightly different from the ones displayed on the Giada TV Show, I thought the set was just as lovely!  Actually you can achieve the look of Giada's by using a lighter weight yarn and a smaller size needle.

The only changes I made were to lengthen the scarf, and shorten the ribbing on the hat.  With the extra length, I could wrap the scarf in different ways, and since I didn't want to fold over the ribbing on the hat, I limited it to fewer rows.  You can choose the lengths you like, or follow the pattern as written...either way, it makes the cutest gift anyone would cherish!

Red and white traditional colors, pink and green girly/preppy colors, or your favorite sports team colors...there are so many possibilities to customize this fashionable wine garb!  For the fluffy mini pom poms, I used an extra small pom pom maker just like this one on Amazon.  You can find it at any craft or knitting store.

Hope you enjoy this impromptu post, and that all you knitters out there will find it a delightful gift to knit, not just for Christmas, but for any occasion throughout the winter season!  If you're not a knitter, maybe this easy gift idea will inspire you to learn how to knit! :)

Until next time...mangia...or in this case - salute (cheers)!!! xox


"Wine Bottle Garb" Knitting Pattern

Yields about 12 sets


worsted weight or DK yarn (3 skeins - colors of your choice)
#6 / 4mm double point knitting needles
tapestry needle for sewing in ends

Create the Hat & Scarf:

PDF free download pattern found here from Knitsburg: where steel meets wool.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

colonial williamsburg indian corn muffins

When we first moved to Virginia in the early eighties, every summer for years we visited renowned historic Colonial Williamsburg, which was only about 2 hours from our home in Northern Virginia.  My son, Ryan, was only 7 years old when we first started making our yearly summer treks.  Even at  an early age, Ryan was in absolute awe of the enormous history of this colonial area of Williamsburg, that spans over 301 acres, and includes over 88 original 18th-century structures.

At the end of a delightful day of walking all over beautiful Colonial Williamsburg, taking a step back into the 18th-century, we would relax and enjoy dinner at one of the many charming historic taverns, filled with famed Virginia hospitality.

The servers, dressed in period attire, would set a basket of Indian Corn Mini Muffins on our table as soon as we were seated.  The crispy exterior was hot and buttery, and biting into the corn sweetness of the moist interior, was one of our relished courses of the meal, especially Ryan's. :)  Delicious, steaming hot muffins, served straight from the oven, originally baked in a fireplace or over an open fire.

On one of my early memorable visits, I purchased the cookbook published by The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, The Williamsburg Cookbook, containing a traditional array of recipes initially compiled and adapted by Letha Booth.  My copy is now 30 years old, and I cherish it to this day.

Indian Corn Muffins are one of my favored recipes to create from the cookbook, with fond memories of Colonial Williamsburg.  Sitting upon your Thanksgiving table, or alongside a spicy chili or steaming soup - this time of year couldn't be a more perfect occasion to savor them.  Baked in a mini muffin pan, they rise beautifully to look plump and much larger than the mini cup they begin in.

I'm sure you'll delight in these muffins as much as my family has over the years.

Until next time…mangia! xox


Colonial Williamsburg Indian Corn Muffins
Makes 18 - 20 mini muffins


1 cup white cornmeal (I use Indian Head self-rising stone ground white cornmeal) (a little extra for "flouring" the cupcake pan
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted (a little extra for buttering the muffin tins)

Create the Indian Corn Muffins:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Butter and flour (using cornmeal) the mini muffin pans, 1-1/2 inches in diameter cup size.  Shake and move the pan around so the cornmeal adheres to the sides and bottoms; then remove the excess cornmeal by patting the pan upside down.

Sift the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl.

Combine the lightly beaten eggs, milk, and melted butter and add to the dry ingredients, mixing just until blended. Do not over mix.

Spoon batter into the buttered muffin tins, filling each tin completely full.  Bake at 400 degrees F for 18 - 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Do not over bake.

Remove from oven and turn pan upside down so muffins drop out onto your serving piece.  Serve hot from the oven!

Carol's note:
For buttering the tins, I put a pat of butter between my fingers, and smear all over the tins, then use the cornmeal to "flour" the tins.  Don't overdue the butter by leaving chunks, just be sure they are fully greased up. This gives a delicious buttery, crisp taste to the outsides of the muffins.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

sparkling sugar cranberries

Bags containing fresh, multi-red shades of this little super-fruit are decoratively piled high all over the produce department of grocery stores from October through early December.  For years, I've made cranberry sauce, breads, muffins, strung them with popcorn for Christmas trees, but I had never just popped a fresh, crisp and tangy cranberry in my mouth…until now!  This may sound ridiculously naive, but I thought they needed to be cooked first.

Aren't these sweet, twinkly, sparkly cranberries the cutest things?!!  When I found the recipe for my last post, Chocolate Cranberry Fudge Cake, on the Ocean Spray Cranberry website, the cake was garnished with these sparkling jewels, along with mint leaves - it was so beautiful and festive!  I was determined to find out how they were made, since my cake was not going to be as pretty without them!  

My source, 101 Cookbooks, offered a wonderful recipe!  They are simple to create; however, plan ahead, since they need to "marinate" in a simple syrup overnight, then a couple sugar tossings the following day.  Once the sugar is dried and crunchy, start munching away.  They have an awesome sweet and sour flavor, almost candy-like.  The Sparkling Sugar Cranberries can be used for garnishing your Thanksgiving food platters, on crackers or crostini with a creamy cheese, twinkling on your Christmas cookie trays, or just placed in a pretty bowl to eat!

A few fun cran-facts:  raw cranberries are loaded with nutrients and anti-oxidant qualities.  Fresh cranberries will last up to one month in your refrigerator, or freeze them right in their bag.  When freezing, do not rinse them first. According to Ocean Spray, they will keep in your freezer for one year!  It will then be time for the new fall's fresh ones to be in the grocery stores again.  Use the cranberries frozen in your recipes, do not thaw - just rinse them off when ready to use, and add them to your breads or muffins in a frozen state.  Ok, I've persuaded myself to freeze a bag or two for my favorite "orange cranberry and walnut streusel muffins throughout the year." :)

Until next time…mangia! xox


Sparkling Sugar Cranberries
Makes 2 cups

Ingredients for simple syrup:
2 cups cranberries (rinsed and picked over)
2 cups water
2 cups granulated sugar

Ingredients for coating:
turbinado sugar for first coating
granulated sugar for second coating

Create the Sparkling Sugar Cranberries:

Place the cranberries in a medium glass bowl and set aside.

Make a simple syrup by bringing the water and sugar just to a simmer in a medium saucepan.  Let the syrup cool for a couple minutes and then pour it over the cranberries.  If the syrup is too hot the cranberries will burst, so be careful.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, drain the cranberries (don't rinse) and toss them with the larger grained sugar until they are well coated.  Use small amounts of sugar and cranberries at a time, so the sugar doesn't get too damp.  Use another bowl or cookie sheet for tossing.  Place the coated cranberries on a clean baking sheet (I lined it with parchment) to dry for a few hours.

Do a second toss with the granulated sugar, this typically takes care of any sticky spots on the cranberries.  Let dry another hour.  I actually did my second toss right on the parchment lined cookie sheet (picture 3 above).

Carol's note:
For my first time creating these, I used the turbinado sugar for the first coating.  The larger grain gives a bit of a crunch.  If you don't have turbinado sugar, it will work just fine to use granulated sugar for both coatings. Experiment. :)

Don't put the sugared cranberries in the refrigerator after making them.  This will cause them to get wet and sticky.  Mine were used up in two days, but they should be fine for up to 3 or 4 days.

Monday, November 05, 2012

chocolate cranberry fudge cake with chocolate cranberry ganache

Today is the first Monday of a new month, which means "Chocolate Party" time again!  Last month the lovely ingredient to accompany chocolate was pumpkin.  I created the Pumpkin Pie Chocolate Bars, which were so well received.  Thank you so much for all your wonderful feedback!  November's ingredient, to be combined with chocolate is "cranberry!"  Cranberries reach their peak and are harvested from mid-September through mid-November, so what a perfect time to use them in our recipes.  A big thank you once again to Roxana's Home Baking for hosting this fun Chocolate Party!  Don't forget to check the bottom of my post, where all the Chocolate Party members will be featuring their scrumptious Chocolate and Cranberry recipes!

Although I love cranberries, and actually have two exciting cranberry creations to be posted soon, I was having a hard time coming up with a recipe I felt was worthy enough for our Chocolate Party, embracing both chocolate and cranberries together.  It had to be something rich and decadent, a dessert for this cherished time of the year. A time of year that we reminisce over what we are truly thankful for.  I'm convinced once you savor the first heavenly bite of my Chocolate Cranberry Fudge Cake with Chocolate Cranberry Ganache, you will have one additional food in your life to be thankful for!  :)

This may be the best kept secret in Ocean Spray Cranberry's history, my recipe source.  Why did I not find this chocolate gem sooner in my life?  Most likely because I wasn't participating in a Chocolate Party that required I use the two ingredients together.  :)  This is pure elegant baking, yet simple as can be.  One bowl, one spoon, and no mixer required.  The cake is deliciously dense, yet incredibly light at the same time.  The ganache is rich, creamy and beautifully flavored with the hint of cranberry.  A descriptive word for Chocolate Cranberry Fudge Cake with Chocolate Cranberry Ganache - OUTSTANDING!

One last thing.  See those sweet little sugary cranberries garnishing my cake?  Stay tuned to my next post on how to create them!

Until next time…mangia! xox


Chocolate Cranberry Fudge Cake with Chocolate Cranberry Ganache

Serves 10


for the cake:
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate powder (I used Trader Joe's)
1 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baked powder

for the ganache:
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup jellied cranberry sauce
mint leaves and cranberries for garnish, if desired

Create the Cake and Ganache:

prepare the cake:
1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Line an 8-inch or 9-inch round cake pan with aluminum foil.  Coat foil with baking spray.  Dust pan with flour, tap to remove excess.

2) Microwave 2/3 cup chocolate chips, butter and unsweetened chocolate powder in large microwave-safe bowl on high for 1 minute.  Stir until smooth.  Microwave for 30 more seconds longer, if necessary to melt chocolate.

3) Add cranberry sauce and sugar; mix well.  Add eggs, vanilla, flour and baking powder; mix well.  Pour batter in prepared pan.

4) Bake for 38-40 minutes or until center is set and a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool at room temperature in pan 30 minutes, then refrigerate in pan for additional 1 hour, or until cold.

prepare the ganache:
1) Microwave cream and chocolate chips together in medium microwave-safe bowl on high for 30 seconds.   Microwave for 30 seconds longer if necessary to melt chocolate.  (Mine took approximately 45 seconds total.) Stir until smooth.  Add cranberry sauce; mix well.

2) Turn cake out onto serving plate; remove foil. Spread glaze over top allowing some to drip down sides of cake. Chill 1 hour or until glaze is firm.  Garnish, if desired.  Can be made a day ahead.  Store at room temperature, or refrigerate.

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Saturday, November 03, 2012

kelly's apple crisp

As promised in my previous post - Baked Salmon Stuffed With Mascarpone Spinach, this is the dessert I created for my daughter Kelly's pre-marathon race training event - her favorite!  We've loved this apple crisp forever, and it's one of those dishes that you may just want to eat dessert first, and not even feel guilty about it!  Piled high with fresh apples, crispy oats and graham cracker cinnamon crumb topping - it's all healthy goodness, right? :) There are hundreds of apple crisps out there, but I've yet to find one that I enjoy more!  It's quick, easy, and absolutely scrumptious!

When Kelly was a young girl, around 10 years old, she attended a Pampered Chef Party with me.  It was the mid 90's, and this was a new home party that involved cooking, so we were excited about attending for the first time. For anyone who has never attended a Pampered Chef party, the demonstrator always creates a food item using multiple kitchen gadgets the company sells, of course. :)

A beautiful memory of a fun time with Kelly, the demonstrator made apple crisp that day! Kelly was in awe of all the gadgets surrounding us!  Smiling from ear to ear as she was asked to try out the apple peeler - which peeled, cored and sliced the apple - her eyes met mine with that look - Mom, we need this!!  Her eyes became even wider when she tasted the incredible apple crisp!

We left the party ordering the apple peeler (for Kelly), the deep dish stoneware baker, and the best food chopper ever.  Of course, we were also given a copy of the Pampered Chef recipe, which eventually made its way to the online world here. :)  Except for the apple peeler, which I've donated since (I prefer a paring knife), I still have the gadgets I bought 17 years ago, and can't even tell you how many times I've made Kelly's Apple Crisp, named for Kelly after being asked so many times, "Mom, will you make my apple crisp?" :)

Perfect for a cool fall day, your home will be filled with the lovely fragrance of the steaming, hot baking apple crisp.  Enjoy as a dessert, brunch, or an accompaniment to your Thanksgiving pumpkin pies!

Until next time…mangia! xox


Kelly's Apple Crisp


4 - 6 (about 3 pounds) granny smith apples (or any preferred cooking apple - I use honey crisp apples)
8 graham crackers (2 1/2 x 5 inch size), finely chopped
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick or old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
whipped cream or ice cream (optional)

Create the Apple Crisp:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Peel, core and slice apples.  Place in deep dish stoneware baker, or pie plate.

2) Finely chop graham crackers, place in a medium size bowl.  Add brown sugar, flour, oats, cinnamon and nutmeg; mix well.  Add melted butter; mix well.

3) Sprinkle graham cracker mixture evenly over apples and pat down into place.  Cover loosely with aluminum foil. Bake 45 minutes; uncover and bake an additional 5-10 minutes or until apples are tender.  Cool slightly; serve warm topped with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.

Carol's note:
Although baking in the oven gives a crispier topping, this is also delicious cooked in the microwave, especially if you're in a hurry.  Microwave on high 12-15 minutes or until apples are tender, rotating dish after 6 minutes.  As above, cool slightly; serve warm topped with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.  I've baked it both in the oven and microwave, they are equally as delicious!

Prepare apples, mix ingredients, bake and mangia!!!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

baked salmon stuffed with mascarpone spinach

My daughter Kelly came to visit a couple weekends ago.  She signed up and ran a half marathon while here, training for the Marine Corps Marathon, in Washington, D.C., which started early this morning.  This will be her first full marathon {26.2 miles}, and as I write this, she's running throughout the streets of D.C.!  I'm dying to know how she's doing! One of her best friends, Kristen, a sorority sister from college, is running the marathon with her.  Kelly's plan, before turning 27 in December, was to run a full marathon, and she is about to achieve her goal!  By the time this post hits my blog today, she will have finished the race, I will be relieved, proud, and ecstatic for her!  We will then begin bracing for the history making storm heading this way later tonight.

I love creating Kelly's favorite foods when she comes by, so decided I would buy some fresh salmon,  one of her favorites, and try a new recipe I had bookmarked several months ago.  I went by Wegman's which has a lovely fresh seafood department, and picked out three beautiful medium red fleshed, wild Pacific Coho Salmon fillets. While all five species of Wild Pacific Salmon have great flavor, Alaskan Coho's wonderful taste and delicate texture, is ranked among the three most popular to eat, along with Chinook and Sockeye.

The baked salmon, stuffed with creamy mascarpone spinach was perfection!  The breading was incredible with the fresh processed crusty French baguette breadcrumbs, and freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano.  There are recipes from time to time that I change after creating the first time, but I would not change one thing about this recipe.  This is an outstanding dinner party entree and can be prepped and prepared ahead, so lends itself to a large group.  It's just as easily cut in half, as I did.  The leftovers heated up perfectly, and the flavor was just as exceptional two days later.

To complete the meal, I'll feature Kelly's favorite dessert I created - a simple, yet scrumptious Honey Crisp Apple Crisp in my next post.

Until next time…mangia!  xox


Marathon Update:  Just before posting my baked salmon recipe, Kelly called elated, "I did it, I did it!!!"  That's my girl!

Baked Salmon Stuffed with Mascarpone Spinach
Recipe adapted from Epicurious.
Serves 8 (recipe can easily be cut in half)


1 10 ounce size bag of fresh spinach leaves
1/2 cup (4 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup (4 ounces) mascarpone, at room temperature
pinch of ground nutmeg
8 6-8 ounce salmon fillets with skin (each about 1 inch thick)
extra virgin olive oil
2-2/3 cups fresh french baguette breadcrumbs
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
salt and ground pepper to taste
fresh herbs or lemon slices for garnish, if desired

Create the Baked Stuffed Salmon:

1) Cook spinach in large pot of boiling water just until wilted, about 30 seconds.  Drain; rinse with cold water. Squeeze spinach dry, then finely chop.  Place in a small bowl.  Mix in cream cheese, mascarpone, and ground nutmeg.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Cut one 3/4-inch-deep, 2 1/2-inch-long slit down center of top side of each salmon fillet, forming a pocket for spinach mixture.  Fill each slit with spinach mixture, dividing equally among salmon fillets.  This step can be made up to 4 hours ahead.  Cover and refrigerate.

2) Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Brush rimmed baking sheet lightly with olive oil.  Sprinkle salmon fillets with salt and pepper to taste.  Mix breadcrumbs, melted butter, and parmigiano-reggiano in medium bowl.  Top each salmon fillet with breadcrumb mixture, pressing to adhere.  If desired, grind some fresh pepper over top of breadcrumbs.  Place salmon fillets, skin side down, on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake salmon until opaque in center and mascarpone spinach stuffing is hot - depending on fillet size, about 12 - 15 minutes.  If breadcrumbs start to brown too much after the first 10 - 12 minutes, place a piece of aluminum foil loosely over the top of them.

3) Transfer to serving plates, garnish if you wish with a fresh herb or lemon, and mangia!!!