chocolate whats-its, cranberry whatnots and lemon thinglings

Well, there’s no snow here but there’s a Christmas tree – and where there’s a Christmas tree, there must be Christmas cookies. I think it’s one of the laws of physics (maybe number 25?)

In the middle are luxurious Argentinean alfajores, or hockey pucks as Pat calls them. The crumbly cookies sandwich golden dulce de leche and then are dipped in chocolate ganache like these. You can also cover them in coconut and marvel at your fine fancy hockey pucks.

On the left are incredibly easy but richly rewarding cranberry shortbread which are buttery and punchy with bits of tart cranberry. These are convenient to make the dough ahead of time and slice and bake as you need them. And they look festive, too.

Lastly, these lemon almond cookies are fantastic and highly addictive little bites of bright lemon, which are especially refreshing if you’re over all the pumpkin spice blah-de-blah and cinnamon whatevers and peppermint who-cares. No judgement, just consider de-Grinching yourself instantly with a tin of these cookies (and if you feel like it, even share them.)


almonds and roses and oranges – oh, my

For my recent Moroccan night meal, I needed a Moroccan inspired dessert that was easy to make ahead of time. I decided to slightly alter this recipe for almond cake with orange blossom syrup by making an almond cake with rose water. Ethereal and fragrant rose water, to me, is a clear flavor trip to North Africa, Middle East and South Asia. I simply omitted the vanilla in the recipe and added 1 teaspoon almond essence and 1 teaspoon rose water essence to the batter. You can find this in a specialty grocer or an Indian or Middle Eastern shop. A little bit of rose water goes a long way! Make sure not to add too much or else your cake will taste like a bar of fancy soap. For this recipe I also used whole fat Greek yogurt and made the simple orange syrup without the orange blossom essence. The syrup added another fragrant layer to the flavor and really helped keep this nutty crumbly cake moist the next day.


cinco de mayo brownies

The days are getting longer and it’s time to savor the lingering sunny hours with friends, food, and oh yeah – margaritas.  Cinco de Mayo is a perfect excuse to fire up the grill, chop up some taco fixings, and have an ice chest full of Pacificos and Mexican Coke. After a bit of sun, two or three too many tacos, and   an empty ice chest, you and your guests are going to experience a wicked sugar crash – will you be prepared? Save the day with a plate of Mexican chocolate-inspired brownies (I mean really, who doesn’t like brownies?).

The sweet, fudgy brownies in this recipe reflect the flavors of Mexican chocolate: chocolate, cinnamon and almonds. They’re super easy to make and home-made brownies are so much more delicious than the boxed stuff. The only substitute I made (and definitely recommend) is semisweet chocolate chips as the milk chocolate makes these overpoweringly sweet.

For me, these brownies were even better the next day. Keep them in the fridge and let them come to room temperature before eating – the consistency after refrigerating is more fudgy and the chocolate chips creaminess really coming through.

The topping starts out like dulce de leche, a sticky caramel that dries into a crisp glaze. I could have done with out its excessive sugariness, but it does keep the almonds on (and the almonds are integral), maybe next time I’ll just drizzle melted dark chocolate for the same effect.