Chocolate-Dipped Orange Shortbread Cookies

Chocolate-Dipped Orange Shortbread Cookires

Every December my mom turns into a Christmas baking machine.  Everyday for a month she’s getting butter out to soften, firing up the oven, and cranking out cookies.  There are peanut butter balls, fudge, jam turn-overs, bittersweet chocolate and coconut shortbread, cherry bars, buttery cut-outs, snowballs, thumbprint cookies, and on and on.

It’s pretty amazing.  It’s also a ton of work, lots of trips to the baking aisle of the supermarket, plenty of yelling at cookie dough-snitching kids/dogs/husbands, a few miscellaneous melt-downs along the way.

There is another way though.  An easy way.  You can arrive at your holiday gatherings with a kaleidoscope of cookies without baking for a solid month.

It’s called a cookie exchange.  Most people are probably familiar with the concept, but it came as a revelation to me.  You gather up a few friends (preferably amazing bakers) and everyone makes a big batch of one type of cookie to share with the group.  You end up with a beautiful assortment of goodies after only one day of cookie baking.  Plus, if you’re not a blabber-mouthed food blogger, you can bring your beautiful tray to Christmas, pass them all off as your own, and really impress your family and friends.

Christmas Cookie Exchange

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Candied Kumquat & Mascarpone Tart

Candied Kumquat & Mascarpone Tart with Spiced Chocolate Crust

Candied Kumquats?!?  Thought you were going to do something with all those candied orange peels…

I will, I will, but first let me tell you all about my candied kumquat tart.  What can I say?  I’m a big fan of citrus.  Especially this time of year and especially when it is candied.  Big fan.

Also, I’m a big fan of concocting desserts tailored specifically to my taste buds.  Today we’re looking at a spiced chocolate crust filled with lightly sweetened mascarpone and topped with cinnamon ‘n clove glazed kumquat slices.  This tart has my bases (and dessert biases) covered: just enough chocolate, creamy and decadent without being too rich, and bright with citrus. Added bonus, the kumquats are super shiny and I would bet if you parked this tart near a twinkling Christmas tree, it would positively sparkle.

Candied Kumquat & Mascarpone Tart with Spiced Chocolate Crust

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Bucatini Pasta with Brussels Sprouts & Prosciutto

Truth: I eat pasta about four times a week.

And why shouldn’t I?  It’s fast, filling, easy, delicious, and cheap.  Plus it’s a great way to use up stray items in the vegetable drawer and if I ever decide to become a marathon runner, I’ve already got the diet part of the training regime down.

This particular pasta started as a weeknight, use-up-ingredients-get-something-on-the-table-as-quickly-as-possible-before-I-go-crazy-with-hunger dinner, but has become a favorite combination of ingredients worth shopping for and worth sharing with you.

Shall we?  Get the water on to boil, preheat the oven, and gather up the gang.  Pasta, Prosciutto, and Parmigiano- an Italian P trifecta.  Also, lots of Brussels sprouts, a couple egg yolks, and plenty of black pepper.

Bucatini is on the the bill tonight.  Do you know Bucatini?  Think really thick, hollow spaghetti.  Bucatini is neck in neck with fusilli for the title of silliest pasta.  The noodles dance and flop off your fork, making it virtually impossible to eat in a dignified manner.  That’s okay.  Get over your manners and slurp ’em up.

There’s nothing to this.  Get the Brussels sprouts roasting.  I pull off a couple outer layers of leaves and then cut the inner-sprout in half.  The leaves will be crunchy, brown, and nutty and the sprout halves will be caramelized with just a little bite.  Having them retain a little bite is very important.  Mushy Brussels sprouts make people think they hate Brussels sprouts and we certainly don’t want that.

While the sprouts are off doing their thing, boil a pot of water and cook your Bucatini.  Al dente.  People like mushy pasta about as much as they like mushy Brussels sprouts.  We’re going to sauce and finish the pasta in a big mixing bowl, so toss one in the oven so your pasta makes it to the table piping hot.

To sauce the pasta, I’m taking a page out of the alla carbonara playbook.  The Bucatini gets thrown in the big, warm mixing bowl and tossed with our roasted Brussels sprouts, a couple egg yolks, and copious amounts of grated Parmesan.  Add fresh black pepper until your grinding wrist is sore, artfully arrange some Prosciutto over the top, and dig in.

Good.  Yum.  I might have to up my pasta dosage to daily.

Bucatini Pasta with Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Prosciutto
Thinly sliced Prosciutto is laid over the hot pasta and nearly melts into the sauce. Spring for the imported Prosciutto- you only need a little and it makes the dish!
Recipe type: Dinner, Pasta, Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
  • ½# Bucatini Pasta (Fettucine or Linguine would work as well)
  • 1# Brussels Sprouts
  • 2 Egg Yolks
  • 1 c. Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • ¼# Prosciutto, very thinly sliced and cut in half lengthwise
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Black Pepper
  • Salt
  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Remove a few outer leaves of the Brussels sprouts. Cut the core of the sprouts in half. Toss halved cores with leaves, drizzle lightly with olive oil, and season with salt. Roast about 15 minutes until leaves are crisp and the Brussels sprouts have caramelized.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the Bucatini in boiling water.
  4. In a large, warm bowl, combine roasted Brussels sprouts with cooked Bucatini. Toss with egg yolks, Parmesan, abundant coarsely ground black pepper, and salt(if needed).
  5. Divide between warm pasta bowls and arrange Prosciutto over the top of each dish. Serve with additional cheese, if desired.

Candied Orange Peel…Christmas is Coming


I might be the only Christmas-celebrating food blogger out there who hasn’t been bombarding her readers with cookie recipes, ideas for edible gifts, and seasonal treats for the last few weeks.  I don’t know; I just wasn’t feeling the baking bug yet.

Then on Sunday, Matt and I drove a hundred miles over (two) rivers and through the woods arriving at a terribly charming Christmas tree farm.  I should add that we were traveling in near white-out conditions through a real-life winter wonderland, while rockin’ out to some holiday tune-age.



Suddenly, I was feeling it.  You can’t have a day of near-death driving that results in a Christmas tree and a tangle of twinkle lights in the middle of your living room without wanting a little cookie to nibble.  We’d better get down to business.

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Oatmeal Quick Bread with Scotch-Maple Glaze

A few years back, my mother gave me a coffee grinder as a Christmas gift.  Great present, I love coffee and require a great deal of it to wake myself up every morning.  Very sweet, Mom.

I never use it.  I know, I know, but it’s just one more step in the morning and I have enough trouble as it is getting myself looking somewhat presentable and out the door.

So how was it that I was able to bake pre-lunch shift yesterday, if I can’t even come up with the time to deal with whole bean coffee in the morning?  I was wearing clean, matching socks AND carrying a loaf of maple-oat bread when I arrived (on time, even!) at work.

This oatmeal quick bread is that quick.  It’s hardly more trouble than grinding coffee and doesn’t require an electric mixer so it’s a whole lot quieter, too.  It’s pleasantly nutty and chewy and tastes a little bit like pancakes made over a campfire, thanks to the smokey Scotch whiskey and maple syrup.

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