Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Resolution: Healthy Lifestyle

I've been writing about health and nutrition and their interactions for the last couple of years and have resolved to make some important changes. I'm starting with small changes that I believe I will actually make.

Eating Healthy:

Eat fish once or twice a week.

Focus on eating more vegetables and concentrate on colorful vegetables that are high in antioxidants. This time of year sweet potates and winter squash add lots of antioxidants and fiber.

Eat more whole grains and increase fiber. A great way to start the day is with a bowl of oatmeal.

Drink a least 4 glasses of water a day.

Take a multivitamin everyday and a calcium supplement. (It is possible to get enough vitamins and minerals from your diet but very challenging on a daily basis.)

Increase exercise-this in the one that's hardest for me.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Holiday Desserts

Monday night we had our holiday party- dessert for 30. It was scheduled from 6 to 9 p.m. but most people came between 7 and 8. I was exhausted afterward but when I made a complete list of what was served I could see why1 My daughter's friend told me it was the best trifle she had ever eaten. The pumpkin cakeroll was also very popular. We've enjoyed the remaining desserts the last couple of days but I don't think I could had prepared any less.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Dessert Buffet

It takes me forever to finalize a menu, especially when it's for a dessert buffet. I try to balance flavors (chocolate required!), appearance and to me the most important, impressive desserts that are easy to do ahead. I have Chocolate Cherry Almond Clusters and Pecan Pie Bars (from Baking Basics and Beyond) already in the freezer and will set them on a pretty holiday plate.

So here's the menu:

Flourless Chocolate Tart with Sour Cherry Compote
Key Lime Cheesecake
Pumpkin Cakeroll with Mascarpone Filling
Holiday Trifle

I've made the tart and the pumpkin cakeroll and will freeze them until the day of the party. The cheesecake can be done two days ahead and I'll do the trifle and tirimisu the day before or the day of the party. I have also frozen Butter Rum Cake that will be the base for the trifle. Do you think we'll have enough?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Recipe Sources

I must admit although I have a room full of cookbooks, I often go to the web for recipes. For baking recipes, I always go to Baking Basics and Beyond first!

There are times when I know what I want to do but need some guidance with amounts. When you go to the web you can be overwhelmed with responses. It is important to evaluate the source of the recipes. I've found magazine web sites to be loaded with good accurate information. I recommend

I use a lot when I'm looking for classic recipes but it's important to remember that their recipes can be submitted by anybody and can be missing ingredients or other key elements. Usually there are several recipes that are very similar, so read them all before you choose one. And read the comments.

Food company web sites are also sources of great information. Try

Friday, December 12, 2008

It's Party Season

Because of all the entertaining that goes on during this time of year I'm trying to provide useful information when I write. I'm having Friends in for a dessert buffet which is something I enjoy doing.

But most people entertain with an appetizer party. Recently on Ina Garten's television show on the food network , The Barefood Contessa, she gave some guidelines on what to serve that I think are very useful.

She suggest serving 6 appetizers, allowing 3 appetizers per person and having a variety of hot, cold, meat and vegetable. Her advice: make three and buy three. I was surprised that she recommends 3 wine glasses per person but I agree once you set your glass down, you often forget where and take another glass.

Let me know if you are having a party this year.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Our Favorite Holiday Coookies

This is the time of year that I pull out my recipe box looking for the cookie recipes that are our family favorites. Baking cookies is one holiday task that can be done ahead because cookies freeze well and only take a few minutes to defrost at room temperature. Be sure you don't mix strong flavors, like gingerbread, with buttery cut-outs. It's also important to wrap carefully to prevent them drying out or breaking.

I try to bake an assortment that make a festive holiday plate. Variety is the key. In addition to frosted sugar cookie cut-outs, I usually make Pecan Puffs, Kolache Cookies with a cherry jam filling, Pecan Tassies, Chocolate Snowballs, Scottish Shortbread and always "Buckeyes" my family's all time favorite. This is the treat all three of my children chose one year when I tried to simplify baking. I had read that an easy way to save time was to let everyone pick one favorite. Needless to say I did do Buckeyes but still had to make lots of decisions on what else to include.
(Except for Buckeyes the cookies above are in Baking Basics and Beyond.)
A question that comes up a lot is what cookies are the best for shipping. Choose sturdy cookies that keep well. Shortbread is rich and buttery and easy to send. I also recommend candies like fudge (or Buckeyes)or peanut brittle. Bars like brownies are also good gifts.

In case you didn't know-Buckeyes are peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate. If the top isn't covered with chocolate they look like buckeyes as the peanut butter peaks through. I try to make them last as they are what tempts me the most!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Everybody Loves Cookies

If you are planning to bake cookies for a holiday platter, try a winner from the Minneapolis Star Tribune Cookie Contest. Winners are posted in the Star Tribune today. In addition to your favorites, don't forget the American classic chocolate chip!

Here's my favorite from Baking Basics and Beyond. Happy baking!

Chocolate Chip Cookies Deluxe

Toll House, or Chocolate Chip, Cookies are definitely the most famous cookies in America. I use both butter and shortening in my recipe—a combination that gives the cookies a buttery flavor and a softer texture. Be creative and experiment with different combinations of “extras,” such as butterscotch chips, milk chocolate chunks, and crunchy macadamia nuts.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 egg
1 cup semisweet or milk chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans, if desired

Heat oven to 375°F with oven rack in middle (see Baker’s Notes below).
Mix flour, baking soda, and salt together in medium bowl.
Beat butter, shortening, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in bowl of a heavy-duty mixer on Medium-High speed until creamy, scraping down bowl once or twice. Add vanilla and egg and mix well.
Reduce mixer speed to Low and add the flour mixture. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat until dough forms. By hand, stir in chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, and pecans.
Drop dough in rounded tablespoons about 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until cookies are browned on edges. Let cookies stand on cookie sheet for 1 minute before removing them. Cool on wire cooling rack.
These cookies should be stored loosely covered at room temperature.

BAKER’S NOTES: For uniform cookies, I drop the cookie dough onto the cookie sheet using a 1-tablespoon scoop that I purchased at a specialty store.
I usually place my oven racks on the second and fourth levels and bake two cookie sheets at once. If the heat in your oven is uneven, rotate the sheets halfway through baking.
SECRETS TO SUCCESS: Line a cookie sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper for easier clean-up.
If you like softer cookies, remove them from the oven when the edges are barely browned even though the cookies still look slightly moist in the center. They firm up as they cool.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Gifts from the Kitchen

This morning I was on Showcase MN doing a presentation on homemade gifts from the kitchen. My Chocolate Cherry Almond Clusters were a huge success with the KARE 11 staff. It was easy to put ideas together for a holiday set because I love decorating for the holidays. I did several gift baskets made up of something I prepared and something extra. Rob Hudson always makes it really easy to be LIVE! And Corbin Seitz is planning to make the candies for gifts this year.

Four of my recipes are posted on Here's the link to the video.