December 20, 2009

White Chocolate, Cranberry & Orange Shortbread

Flour, sugar, butter and salt are ingredients that, in my opinion, produce the worlds tastiest biscuit. Shortbread. Simple and perfect. So why mess with the charming simplicity of this Scottish marvel by adding white chocolate, orange zest and cranberries? Well, because simplicity goes hand in hand with versatility, which is why shortbread is so special. Mixed fruits and herbs, such as dried Apricots, Lavender, Rosemary and Thyme are great additions to shortbread, as is Parmesan cheese.

There are dozens of combinations that take shortbread to a whole new level and this is one of them.

The idea came after making a variety of chocolate truffles that included a white chocolate, cranberry and shortbread combination. I quickly realized that these festive flavours would be delicious in biscuit form.

This shortbread would make a lovely addition to your Christmas dessert table. It would also be delightful on Christmas Eve with an ice cold glass of milk. Something I'm sure, a white bearded man in a big red suit could attest to!

For us, Christmas this year will be a large affair. We have friends and family coming from all over. We will also be doing some traveling here and there. So, if I don't see you again before the holiday, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Makes about 30 biscuits

2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
2/3 cup powdered sugar (icing sugar) sifted
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
Finely grated zest of 1 orange

No need to cream the butter and sugar and all that other faff. Just put the flour, sugar, butter, vanilla, salt and orange zest into a large mixing bowl and stir until well combined. I find it easier to use my hands. Be sure not to overwork the dough. Stir in dried cranberries and white chocolate chips.

Divide the dough in half and shape into two logs, each about 1 1/2-inch-diameter. Wrap in cling film (plastic wrap) and refrigerate until firm, about 1-2 hours. You can also chill the dough in the freezer for 20-30 minutes.

Once chilled, preheat oven to 350F. Slice the logs into 1/4 inch slices. You may have to pat each slice a little to secure any loose bits of chocolate. Place biscuit slices 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container.

Note: I found that the shortbread was ever so slightly over baked at 15 minutes, but this happens to be the way I like it. Just something to keep in mind.

December 10, 2009

March of the Goat's Cheese Penguins

Adorable, fun, and tasty is how I would describe this little army of penguins. Granted, they are time consuming to make but you have to agree that their cuteness is worth it! Make them at your next party and I assure you, they will not be forgotten!

Plus, if you ever want to see a child eat an olive...this is how!

These funny little fellows are made up of five simple ingredients. Cream cheese, goats cheese, carrot and black olives. I added goats cheese to the cream cheese for additional flavour, but if you prefer, you can use cream cheese alone. You could also add garlic or onion seasoning for a little extra zest.

If stored in an air tight container, penguins will live happily in your fridge for up to 24 hours.

Oh and did you know that Penguins mate for life!? So cute!

Makes approximately 2 dozen penguins
Inspired by All Recipes

1 can extra large black olives, drained
1 can small black olives, drained
1 small tub cream cheese ( I used low fat )
3-4 tbls goats cheese (optional)
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
Cocktail sticks

Mix the cream cheese and goats cheese together thoroughly. Make a slit down the side of each extra large olive. Carefully stuff each one with the cream cheese mixture. Cut a small triangle out of each carrot slice to resemble feet. Make penguin beaks out of each triangle and place into the little hole of each small olive. Place a penguin body onto each carrot slice followed by the head, secured with a cocktail stick. Penguins are best served at room temperature.

December 2, 2009

Festive Pomegranate Couscous

I could bore you to tears by telling you how much I adore couscous and its immense flexibility. I could also go into a dizzying amount of detail about the history and origin of these wonderful semolina grains. Or, I could save you (and me) the time by simply telling you that this salad tastes amazing and is absolutely worthy of your efforts! If you don't mind, I'll go with the latter.

The salty feta cheese in this recipe is complemented by the sweet pomegranate seeds. The pine nuts offer a subtle crunch and the red onion produces just the right amount of bite. The glorious vibrancy of the fresh coriander is the perfect finishing touch.

Finally, the Red, White and Green colours that make up this salad remind me of Christmas and Christmas is, well...fabulous!

Serves 4-6

1 cup couscous
Just over 1 cup boiling chicken or vegetable stock ( I always add a tiny bit more stock than couscous )
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (substitute dried cranberries if desired)
1/3 cup good quality crumbled feta cheese
1/2 small English cucumber, diced
1 small red onion, finely diced
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
Large handful coriander (cilantro) roughly chopped

Tip couscous into a bowl, pour over the boiling stock and cover with a tight fitting lid. Leave for about ten minutes.

Fluff up couscous with a fork. Add all of the salad ingredients and season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Enjoy with a glass of fruity Rosé.