Fudgy Chocolate Cherry Cookies

I had an opened bag of dried cherries that was slowly petrifying. I wanted to make something that would bring them back to life but I also wanted chocolate.

I could have replumped the cherries using steam or a double boiler (something I typically do for raisins before adding them to Oatmeal Raisin Cookies) but I wanted to add some flavor. I had a bottle of Cortas Orange Blossom Water that was ideal as cherries, oranges and chocolate go so well together.

The result was chewy cherries in a rich fudgy chocolate cookie with a delicate perfume of orange. Some pecans for nuttiness and the cookies were super delicious!

Fudgey Chocolate Cherry Cookies

1 ½ cup all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons Orange Blossom Water (I used Cortas)
1 stick unsalted butter
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
¼ cup cocoa powder
1 large egg
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate morsels
½ cup pecans, chopped

Heat the oven to 325 degrees F. with the racks in the upper and lower middle positions.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

In a microwave safe bowl, stir together the cherries and orange blossom water to flavor and plump up the dried cherries. Microwave uncovered on high until the cherries for 30 seconds to a minute. Stir and set aside. The cherries will slowly absorb the liquid.

In a double boiler over low heat, melt the butter. Add the chopped chocolate and the cocoa. Whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Let cool until barely warm to the touch.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the egg and both sugars until combined. With the mixer running on low, add the vanilla, then slowly pour in the chocolate-butter mixture. Beat on medium until well mixed, scraping down the bowl once or twice. With the mixer running on low, add the dry ingredients, then mix just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips, the pecans and the cherries along with any remaining liquid until the ingredients are evenly distributed.

Divide the dough into large spoonfuls and roll each portion into a ball with your hands. Place the balls on baking sheets, spacing them evenly. Bake until slightly cracked on top and the edges feel firm, 14 to 16 minutes, switching and rotating the baking sheets about halfway through. Cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack. Cool to room temperature before storing in an airtight container.


Chicken Potpie Casserole

A friend forwarded me a video of a recipe for a dump casserole for a no mix chicken pot pie. I’m a fan of bottom crusts on my pot pies, so I wasn’t too convinced that this would be a good recipe. I was wrong – the biscuit mix made for a lovely crust and the flavors all came together for a very yummy meal. Of course, to make it mine I eliminated the carrots and peas and added broccoli, cheese and mushrooms.

I wish I’d gotten a better picture as this one doesn’t do it justice but the hoards had descended. I was able to beat them off long enough to get some for myself and took a picture before folks came back for seconds.

This is a very comforting dish that will definitely go into our regular rotation.

Chicken Pot-Pie Cobbler

1 stick butter
1 rotisserie chicken, about 2 cups picked from the bones and chopped
1 8 ounce can mushrooms, pieces and stems
1 10 ounce package frozen broccoli florets
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 cups milk
1 box Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuit mix
2 cups chicken stock

Preheat oven to 350. Place the stick of butter in a 9-by-13-inch pan and melt in the oven as it preheats.

Once the butter is melted, add chicken into an even layer. Distribute the mushrooms over the top along with the broccoli florets. Sprinkle on grated cheese. Pour in the milk. Sprinkle biscuit mix over in an even layer with the seasoning packet. Pour the chicken stock over.

Place on a baking sheet to catch any spillover and bake uncovered for 45 minutes. Let stand for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Greek Grilled Quail

One of my parent’s neighbors had some extra quail so he gave us four. I like the flavors of the Mediterranean with grilled poultry – so I did a marinade with garlic, oregano and lemon. I set two zone on the grill for direct and indirect cooking and in short order, we had a delicious meal.

Be sure not to marinate for too long as the acid will toughen the bird. Also, don’t cook it too long over direct heat or they will dry out. Finally, eat quail carefully as you don’t want to crack a tooth or swallow some of the bird shot!

I served rosemary sweet potatoes with them – recipe here. I did have to prebake the sweet potatoes for 30 minutes in a 350 degree F oven as the quail cooks so quick. After the prebake, I peeled them and sliced them and tossed them in rosemary butter brown sugar and then finished them on the grill.

Greek Quail

4 quails
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Place the quail into gallon size freezer storage bag or a large food storage container. Combine the remaining ingredients, mixing well. Pour the marinade into the bag with the quail, making sure the birds are completely coated.

Marinate for at least 2, but no more than 4 hours. Prepare your grill for two zones with the charcoal on one side.. Cook the quail over direct heat five minutes on each side before moving the quail to a cool part of the grill to finish, about 5 minutes more. Let rest briefly before serving.

Make Your Own Italian Seasoning Blend

I made a lovely focaccia on Friday from a recipe that was a little more involved than I usually use but I was blown away by how good it is. I found the recipe for Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia on the Mediterranean Dish website. My only change was to make it in a cast iron skillet. That made it rise beautifully and came out of the oven full of flavor and so very, very good.

Once I had the focaccia, I wanted to make sandwiches with it. What could be better than a meatball focaccia hero? I’ve got pint jars of sauce that Michelle canned for me from tomatoes from her brother. I just needed to flavor it and that was when I realized I was out of Italian seasoning. I make a fairly traditional version (minus the marjoram which I never have) that mixes up quickly.

Italian Seasoning

1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary

Place all the herbs in a bowl and mix well. Store in an airtight jar.

To make the sauce, I added a tablespoon of the Italian seasoning and two garlic cloves to two cups of tomato sauce and simmered for ten minutes. I added a pinch of salt and it was ready to slather on the focaccia with a couple of meatballs and a slice or two of provolone cheese.

So good!

Adultifying Chocolate Coconut Macaroons

I love macaroons and have done a version before (recipe for Chocolate Coconut Pecan Joys here) but I wanted to do one with a little kick. I tried plain rum but the flavor was too mild. The spiced plus the addition of dark chocolate was much, much better.

Lovely coconut flavor and not too sweet.

Chocolate Rum Coconut Macaroons

1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 tablespoon spiced rum (I used Old New Orleans Cajun Spice Rum)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ½ cups sweetened flake coconut
4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli Bittersweet Baking Bar)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

Lightly whisk the egg and egg white in a medium bowl until frothy. Whisk in the rum and vanilla. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the coconut. Take about 2 tablespoons of the mixture and squeeze it between your hands (like making a snowball). Place on the baking sheet, leaving some space in between each one. Bake until the edges are golden and crispy, about 10 minutes. Cool.

Melt chocolate in double boiler. Dip tips of macaroon in the chocolate or, if feeling artistic, drizzle the chocolate over macaroons with slotted spoon. If you’re feeling generous, do both!

Store in an airtight container.

Grilled Pork Steaks with Honey Mustard Root Beer Glaze

My brother-in-law had left some pork blade steaks the last time they were here and I’m only just finding them in the back of the freezer. Oops! I decided to combine my honey mustard marinade with my root beer mustard and the result was delicious.

These were fairly thin, so I grilled directly over the coals. They came out juicy with a sweet but tangy glaze. Yum!

Honey Mustard Glaze

4 pork blade steaks or pork chops
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup spicy brown mustard
1 cup root beer (I prefer Abita Root Beer as they sweeten with cane sugar not high fructose corn syrup)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside ⅓ cup of the mixture to glaze the pork once on the grill. Pour the rest in a zip top bag and put in the pork steaks or chops. Place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Grill on a 350 degree direct fire grill for 7-10 minutes on each side or internal temperature is 145 degrees F. Baste with reserved sauce when you flip over the steaks.

Soda Bread Blueberry Muffins

I like the flavor of soda bread but I didn’t want to make a loaf. These muffins still have the flavor profile of soda bread but can be individually frozen. I used the King Arthur Flour recipe as my stepping off point but I didn’t have whole wheat flour, currents or caraway seeds. Michelle loves blueberries, so I converted the recipe to give her a happy treat for the holiday.

It is St. Patrick’s Day, so I topped them with a sprinkle of green sparkling sugar! The added sweet was more of a bonus for me but these are delicious muffins that are super quick to make.

Soda Bread Blueberry Muffins

2 ¼ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 cup blueberries
1 large egg
1 cup plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Lightly butter a muffin pan, or line it with baking cups. This recipe makes at least 12 muffins, more if your blueberries are on the large size.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Add the blueberries and stir to cover them with the flour mixture. This will keep them from sinking in the batter. In another bowl, whisk together the egg, yogurt, and butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl the with dry ingredients. Gently combine the dry and wet ingredients just until everything is evenly moistened and there is no loose flour. Be careful not to over mix.

Spoon the thick batter into the baking cups. Bake muffins for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then move the muffins to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Pi Day 2023 – Creole Cream Cheese Chocolate Chess Pie

Classic chess pie pairs a traditional buttery pie crust with a sweet, custardy filling. Michelle and I had a great version at High Hat Cafe that used Creole Cream Cheese. Country Roads Magazine posted the High Hat Cafe’s recipe a few years ago and we used that as the stepping off point for our pie.

I picked up the Creole Cream Cheese at Dorignac’s Food Center but you can make your own (recipe here) if you aren’t in the area. As chocolate makes everything better, we added a little cocoa powder both for flavor and to cut the sweet a bit.

The end result is a creamy chocolate pie with a slight tang. Delicious!

Creole Cream Cheese Chocolate Chess Pie

16 ounces Creole cream cheese at room temperature
4 eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa (I use Hershey’s Special Dark), sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
pinch of salt
1 frozen deep dish or 10″ pie crust
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Prick the bottom of the pie crust with a fork and par-bake the pie crust for 15 minutes.

Drop oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Whip eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, butter and salt in stand mixer until well incorporated. Add in the Creole cream cheese and cocoa powder and mix until smooth. Pour into the pre-baked pie crust. Bake the pie for 60 minutes, rotating halfway through, until set in the middle. Let cool before serving.

Welsh Rarebit

There is just something pleasing and comforting about a cheese sauce. And, when you have a sister willing to scale up the recipe SIX times, there will be plenty of both pleasure and comfort to go around. As you can see from Mom’s recipe card, the original only serves four and the pot I’m holding it over contains over a gallon of cheese sauce.

We go a step further than just cheese on toast – which there is absolutely nothing wrong with and will be how I eat the leftovers. Instead, we toasted up English muffins then put on some sliced ham (Canadian bacon would have been great, too) and a thick slice of tomato before we ladled on the sauce.

Smooth and delicious and I was tempted to lick the plate. Instead, I toasted up another English muffin and used it to wipe the plate clean.

Welsh Rarebit

3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup beer (or milk)
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 ½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

In the top of a double boiler, melt butter. Add flour to make a paste. Add in beer (or milk) gradually, stirring constantly. After mixture thickens, lower heat and stir in the seasonings. Add the grated cheese by the handful and stir until mixture is smooth. Taste for seasonings.

Serve immediately on toast.

Lemon Cream Tarts

I love lemon curd but wanted to do something a little different than my standard lemon pie. I used as a stepping off point a copy of the Tartine Bakery’s Lemon Cream recipe that I clipped from a newspaper almost 20 years ago.

Because there is so much whisking involved to get the lemon cream, I cheated on the pie crust. Instead of making my own, I used frozen tart shells from Dutch Ann. To pre-bake the pie shells: thaw and prick bottom and sides of shells with a fork and bake at 350 degrees F, 12 to 14 minutes.

Pure lemon flavor. I ended up eating what didn’t get baked into tarts with a spoon. It makes a delicious lemon pudding on its own.

Lemon Cream Tarts

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened

8 tartlet shells (I used Dutch Ann Frozen Tart Shells), pre-baked

Combine the lemon juice, whole eggs, yolk, sugar, and salt in the top of a double boiler set over low heat and prepare to stir for a while. Try not to leave the egg yolks and sugar for more than a moment or two without stirring; the sugar will cook the yolks. Whisk until the mixture becomes very thick and registers 180 degrees F on a thermometer. This will take at least 15 minutes. It is thick enough when the whisk leaves a trail through the curd.

Remove the bowl from over the water and let cool for about 5 minutes, stirring from time to time to release the heat.

Meanwhile, cut butter into 1-tablespoon pieces. When the cream is ready, pour it into a blender. With the blender running, add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time, blending after each addition until incorporated before adding the next piece. The cream will be pale yellow and opaque and quite thick.

Pour the lemon cream into the pre-baked pie shells and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Store any remaining lemon cream in an airtight container in the refrigerator.