Candy Cane Cookies 2

Before the holiday season is over, I must share with you these adorable little cookies I made for a Holiday Dessert Party hosted by a colleague from our department. The idea is a get-together mid-afternoon in which everyone brings something sweet. It can be a cake, a pie, cookies, bars, preferably home-made, but no one will be mad if you bring store-bought stuff. The important is to join the party and have fun.  When I got the invitation, I quickly assembled a list of possibilities, but decided that it would be hard to top these babies, recently blogged by Chris, from The Café Sucre Farine. They are simply PERFECT for the season, and a lot of fun to make. Too bad Greenlee is a bit too young and way too far away. Still, I know one day I’ll be making a batch with her help. Can hardly wait.

Candy Cane Cookie

(from The Café Sucre Farine)

1 cup salted butter, softened
⅔ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup color nonpareil sprinkles
1 10-ounce bag Hershey’s Holiday Candy Cane Kisses

Heat oven to 350°F. Pour sprinkles into shallow bowl. Unwrap Candy Cane Kisses, reserve.

Combine butter, sugar and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract in bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add flour; beat at low-speed, scraping bowl often, until well mixed.

Shape dough into small 1-inch balls, then roll balls of dough in sprinkles, patting sprinkles gently onto any areas where sprinkles have not adhered. Place 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 14-18 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Remove from oven and quickly place a kiss in the center of each cookie, pressing down barely (about ¼ inch or less!) into the cookie.  Let stand 5 minutes on cookie sheets, then carefully remove to cooling rack. Cool completely before moving or touching them. The kisses will take a while to firm up, so be gentle.


to print the recipe, click here


Comments: These are the simplest cookies ever as far as the dough goes. A regular shortbread type, no eggs, just butter, sugar and flour. I have very limited experience with shortbread, but when I made a batch of choc chip shortbread cookies there were no issues, and I loved the resulting texture. These are shaped as balls one by one, they don’t spread too much, get all plump instead. I was worried about the cookies hardening too fast, so I left one baking sheet in the oven when they were done baking, and worked as fast as I could on the first sheet.  It turns out you can take your time, get both sheets out of the oven at the same time and move along. However, make sure to have all candies unwrapped and waiting. This batch made 26 cookies, which is about half the bag. I suggest you unwrap 30 just to be on the safe side, and if there are kisses leftover be brave and do the sacrifice expected from a real baker: polish them off.

The thing I loved the most about these cookies (apart from their cuteness) is the way the mint flavor of the candy permeated through the whole cookie. I did not expect that to be the case since the candies are placed after baking. Let’s say it was a very pleasant surprise.


This basic recipe could be adapted to so many situations!  All you’ll have to do is change the color of the sprinkles, and the type of kiss candy in the center. I can visualize a batch for Valentine’s Day, for Halloween, 4th of July, or to match the colors of your favorite team or school.

Thank you Chris for a great recipe, and super helpful advice!



This will be my last post for the year, so I wish all my readers a wonderful New Year’s Eve! We are heading to Colorado for a week. I intend to face the ski slopes with the bravery of someone born and raised in the Austrian Alps.
(I am laughing so hard now I’ll need to dry my eyes)

Candy Cane Cookies from Bewitching Kitchen


ONE YEAR AGO: Macarons: Much better with a friend

TWO YEARS AGO: Our Mexican Holiday Dinner 

THREE YEARS AGO: The Ultimate Cranberry Sauce



SIX YEARS AGO: Beef Wellington on a Special Night



For those who celebrate, Merry Christmas!  

For those who don’t, Happy Holidays!  

When I first arrived in the US  for my post-doc (bringing with me a pretty broken English), I thought that a straight translation from Portuguese (Feliz Natal) would work quite well to greet my friends. I had no idea that Merry Christmas is the greeting of choice. There is a very interesting story behind it, if you are fond of this type of trivia click here.  At any rate, if you happen to know a foreigner who is new to the US of A, do him or her a favor and make this point clear. My American colleagues were very sweet and graciously accepted my Happy Christmas,  until a good soul pushed me to the side and explained that even though there was nothing fundamentally wrong with happy, merry was the way to go. Now, would it be too bad to wish you a Cran-Merry Christmas? I hope not.  Cranberries are everywhere these days, they are appropriately red, cute, plump, go well in sweet and savory dishes, they are festive, and… I love them. Since it is the season of giving, I share not one but two recipes. Let’s start by sweetening up this festive day, shall we?


(from Barefeet in the Kitchen)

3 eggs at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
12 oz fresh cranberries

Heat oven to 350 degrees. With a mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar until slightly thickened and light in color, about 7 minutes. The mixture should almost double in size. The mixture should form a ribbon when you lift the beaters out of the bowl. Add the butter and vanilla; mix two more minutes. Stir in the flour until just combined. Add the cranberries and stir to mix throughout.

Spread in a buttered 9×13 pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool completely before cutting into squares.


to print the recipe, click here 

Comments: This cake is a must-make. Period. First there will be a bit of a surprise from the sharp tartness, but then everything mellows down into the perfect amount of sweetness. Quickly you’ll realize that behind its adorable face lies danger. One piece will very likely lead to a second one. Maybe a third… I baked it around 6pm for a small reception we were hosting a couple of hours later, so I could not quite let the cake cool completely before slicing it. No harm was done, though.  Next day it was even better, I think the flavor of the cranberries permeated the crumb a little more. It was perfect to start the day with a cup of coffee.  So there you have it, a very simple cake to prepare, huge pay-off in taste. You are very welcome….


And now that we got the sweetness taken care of, let’s take cranberries on another culinary adventure: Cranberry Sauce, a mandatory side dish at Thanksgiving.  So tasty that it should never be limited to one day of your year. When it comes to cranberry sauce, you will find countless versions, often using ingredients like Port wine, dried figs, pomegranate molasses, all sorts of exotic additions that promise to make it truly memorable. Not that theres’s anything wrong with it, I even have one such version in the blog.  However, when I saw Dorothy’s recipe and read her comments about it, I knew I had to try it myself. She went through many recipes, always coming back to this one. Simplicity, few ingredients, 15 minutes of your time.

Cranberry Sauce-2
(from Shockingly Delicious)

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries
Zest of 1 orange (orange part only)

In a large, heavy saucepan, add sugar, water and spices and cook, stirring often, until sugar dissolves, syrup is clear and comes to a rolling boil, about 3 minutes. In a colander, rinse and pick over the cranberries to remove any mushy ones. Add cranberries to boiling syrup and continue cooking, uncovered, just until they begin to pop, about 2-3 minutes (set the timer). Be careful not to cook them too long or they will get mushy.

Remove from heat, stir in orange zest and cool to room temperature, uncovered. Ladle into clean jars or plastic containers, label and refrigerate until serving time.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups sauce, enough to serve 6-8.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I had no intention to blog on this recipe until I tried the sauce. It was everything Dorothy promised it to be. The spices are just right, and the texture of the cranberries spot on. I think I’ve always over-cooked my cranberries thinking that was the way to do it. Trust Dorothy’s directions, set the timer, stop the cooking even though you think it’s not nearly enough. We had one vegetarian guest at our  home for Thanksgiving who arrived from India just a few months ago, so it was his first Thanksgiving and first contact with cranberry sauce. He absolutely loved it, in fact I almost wanted to take a picture of his plate, he had a bit of mashed potatoes and this humongous amount of cranberry sauce all around it… Made my day!


ONE YEAR AGO: Merry Christmas!

TWO YEARS AGO: The Avocado Mousse that Stole the Show

THREE YEARS AGO: Sourdough Popovers

FOUR YEARS AGO: Merry Christmas!

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Sourdough Focaccia, with a twist

SIX YEARS AGO: Merry Christmas!


Soup weather is here to stay. I should not complain, actually, so far things have progressed more or less smoothly. Anytime December catches me in my neck of the woods going for a morning run with no gloves, no hat, no growling, and wearing only a light long-sleeved shirt, I am a happy camper. Actually, happy jogger is more like it. But, let’s face it, things will get nasty soon enough and diving into a creamy bowl of soup feels like the right thing to do. I improvised this one using stuff I had in the fridge, not sure how it would turn out, but it was so delicious I had to share. The combination of zucchini with mushrooms might be a bit unusual, but worked very well… If you care to know, the soup is Paleo-friendly, low in carbs, and high in deliciousness.

Creamy Zucchini Mushroom Soup

(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 onion, diced
salt and pepper (I recommend using a heavy hand for the black pepper)
za’tar (optional)
3/4 pound white mushrooms, sliced thick
3 medium zucchini
1 cup chicken stock
2 cups water
fresh thyme
2 handfuls spinach
1/2 cup coconut milk
toasted coconut flakes for topping (optional)

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan, when hot add the onion, season lightly with salt, pepper, and a little za’tar, if using.  Saute until onion is translucent, add the mushrooms, and cook them in medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. If the pan gets too dry, add another tablespoon of olive oil.  When the mushrooms are starting to get soft, add the zucchini, cook for a couple of minutes then add chicken stock and water. Mix well, cover the pan and let it simmer for about 12 minutes.

Turn the heat off, add thyme and spinach. Mix, transfer the contents to a blender.  Blend very well, being careful (hot stuff in a blender can be dangerous, do it in batches if necessary). Return the blended soup to the pan, add the coconut milk, warm it up in low-heat, taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve with toasted coconut flakes or any other topping you like.


to print the recipe, click here

: I am very fond of zucchini soup, and also love a nice creamy mushroom soup. Never thought of marrying both ingredients. When mixing zucchini with mushrooms you’ll enter a twilight zone of unappealing color that can be tricky to deal with. After all, part of the charm of zucchini soup is its beautiful green, but the mushrooms mess that up. That’s when the fresh spinach enters the scene. I use this trick often when I want to perk up the green color of a soup. The secret is to add it right before you blend the soup, and don’t add too much. You won’t be able to tell there is spinach in it because the zucchini and mushroom flavor is prominent. Use a nice blender, if you have a Vitamix put it to work for at least a couple of minutes.  You will have a gorgeous green soup, creamy, soothing, flavorful. It will be light but keep you satisfied, thanks in part to the fat from the coconut milk.  I had a bowl of this soup on a Saturday after running and felt like a million bucks after.  Two Aleve pills as a side dish probably did not hurt either.

Creamy Zucchini Mushroom Soup2
ONE YEAR AGO: Mascarpone Mousse from Baking Chez Moi

TWO YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Brigadeiros

THREE YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Espresso Loaf

FOUR YEARS AGO: Caramelized Carrot Soup

FIVE YEARS AGO: Miso-Grilled Shrimp

SIX YEARS AGO: A Special Holiday Fruitcake


Truffles for a date? I actually think it could be a great idea to make the occasion special,  particularly if your date is a truffle-worthy someone, but the name refers in fact to their main ingredient which I happen to love: Medjool dates. If you are fond of the regular chocolate truffles, these will surprise you because they look almost the same but taste completely different.  Think sweet but complex, exotic and intriguing.  Ridiculously easy to make, they are ready in minutes (literally) using the food processor.  Both the recipe and the main ingredient were sent by our friend Steve, who through his visits to Saudi Arabia (against my wise advice) keeps me stocked on fantastic dates and spices, saffron included…

Date Truffles

(from our friend Steve)

for truffles:
3 cups dates, pitted and roughly chopped
12-ounce cup of strongly brewed coffee (or 6 oz coffee + 6 oz brandy)
1 cup pecans, chopped finely in a mini – food processor
1/2 cup shredded coconut, sweetened or unsweetened
zest of 1 orange
optional: 2-3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
& ½ teaspoon cinnamon

to coat truffles:
Shredded coconut
cocoa powder
ground nuts
melted semi-sweet chocolate

Soak dates for 10 minutes in coffee, or in a mixture of coffee and brandy. Drain the dates but do not squeeze out liquid. Discard the coffee.

Transfer dates to a regular food processor, add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until mixed. Shape into 1-inch balls. Refrigerate at least 30 min.

Keeps well for many days in an airtight container in the fridge. Bring to room temperature to warm up slightly before serving.


to print the recipe, click here


Going, going, GONE!

Comments: Next time I make these, I intend to coat them in melted chocolate to pump the decadence level up a little. Actually, a shell of white chocolate would be amazing for color contrast. Not that I need strong reasons to use white chocolate. To coat this batch I used Oreo-type cookie crumbs. They turned out delicious with a little bit of extra texture the crumbs offered.

The truffles were inhaled at lightning speed by our colleagues at the department, which is obviously one of the best compliments for my concoctions… If you have a dinner party coming up and would like to keep the dessert course very simple, serve these truffles with a cup of coffee or tea at the end of the evening. Or make a small plate with 4 or 5 and offer to your guests to take home… they will absolutely love it!


ONE YEAR AGO: Spiced Honey Ginger Cookies

TWO YEARS AGO: Twisted Sister of the Shepherd’s Pie

THREE YEARS AGOHail Caesar Sourdough

FOUR YEARS AGOIn My Kitchen, December 2011

FIVE YEARS AGO: Festivus Dinner Rolls

SIX YEARS AGO: 100% Sourdough Rye


The year is almost coming to an end. And you know what’s really scary about it? In less than 3 months I’ll be adding one more year to my life,  but still have not shared with you the wonderful celebration we had for  my Birthday back in March. In one word: unacceptable. So without further ado let me invite you for a flash-back from that great evening.

Central DIning Room

Dining room at Central Restaurant

I don’t normally blog about dining out. First, I think there are countless sites and food blogs devoted to that already. Second, I am not too fond of taking photos of meals in restaurants. But, I make an exception for places that involve unique dining experiences (like Lasserre and Taillevent), or places we love so much we tend to go back at every opportunity. Exactly the case for Central in Washington, DC.  I’ll start by sharing with you the review Phil left on Open Table the following day:

We’ve now had the pleasure of Central restaurant 3 or 4 times. It is a Parisian bistrot on drugs! French food with a decidedly American (Hollywood) accent. After a LONG day in DC on business, just the thought of Central began to raise my mood. It was also my wife’s birthday. The restaurant is so festive and exciting, literally buzzing with excitement, from the servers to the chefs and the diners. The food is unique and delicious in classic French fashion: simple, yet exquisitely and richly prepared. Our appetizer was gougeres and prosciutto, a perfect combination and generous portions of both. Our plates were coq au vin and miso salmon with glazed turnips. At Central you find yourself saying things like ”….this is the best (your dish here) I’ve ever had”, and tonight was no exception.  At the end of the meal one had to say, WOW! Then, because of the birthday they brought the “Celebration Cake,” complete with a Roman candle. It’s kind of a chocolate encrusted clafoutis, topped with fresh strawberries, blueberries and whipped cream. After eating our meals it looked HUGE, but after a few bites we couldn’t stop ourselves, and we ate it all. My wife commented that it was one of her favorite meals in the past decade.”

 As Phil  mentioned, we had a kind of a tough day. Let’s say a scientific meeting was involved. And it wasn’t much fun. At all. So of course we were looking forward to exorcising the demons of the day and celebrating the occasion. One of the things I really look forward at Central is the bread basket they bring to you the moment you sit at the table. It is one of the best breads we’ve ever had. Rivals the best Parisian crusty baguettes you can sink your teeth into. Seriously. And, if you finish the basket, they will bring you more, so pace yourself and try to follow the mindful eating path. Yeah, right. Bread can be exquisitely addictive.

The restaurant has an open kitchen next to the dining room, so you can see all the action like the powerful salamander this guy is using… Crème brûlée, anyone? Onion soup gratinné, perhaps?

Central Kitchen

Michel Richard does a fantastic job, we’ve never had a bad meal in his place.  And I must say his manager Adriane was such a gracious hostess, absolutely perfect! Chatted with us without being too intrusive, making sure we were well taken care of.  Central feels special, slightly upscale, or as Phil likes to put it, “casual but chic.” If you find yourself in Washington DC, make a reservation, and have a blast!


Cheese Puffs… Don’t skip these!

Below you see a photo of our meals. The Coq au Vin was luscious, served over pappardelle. And my salmon was exactly what I was hoping it to be: perfectly cooked, just rare in the center, and paired with a reasonably light side dish, that did not steal the show.  Both entrées were spectacular.


One of the dishes that never leaves their menu is the famous Lobster Burger. I ordered it once for my dinner just out of curiosity, and it was quite decadent. But if you want decadent, nothing beats their “Celebration Cake“, which is pretty much three desserts in one: mousse, cake, a tumble of fruit encased in a crunchy shell of chocolate and topped with a sparkling candle. I still find it hard to believe we polished it off, but that’s exactly what happened.

Celebration Cake1

If that doesn’t say Happy Birthday, nothing will!

Celebration Cake2

I don’t always eat dessert, but when I do I make sure it’s spectacular…


PicMonkey Collage

The Perfect Boiled Egg

TWO YEARS AGO: Light Rye Sourdough with Cumin and Orange

THREE YEARS AGO: Homemade Calziones

FOUR YEARS AGO: Plum-Glazed Duck Breasts

FIVE YEARS AGO: Holiday Double-Decker

SIX YEARS AGO: New York Deli Rye