I don’t know if baklava is typically considered a holiday goodie but it’s always been one in my mind. My mom told me once many years ago that she only makes it around the holidays because it’s such a pain in the butt.

But anyway, baklava is my husband’s all time favorite treat and I make it every year around the holidays because it’s also around this time that Greek Fest happens in our city and I would rather make him a huge pan of it than watch him fork over $6 for 5 small bites at the festival.

I’ve made it a few times for him now and tried a different recipe each time. This one was by far the best I’ve tried yet. It was soft where it was supposed to be and crunchy where appropriate, which is something I’ve had trouble with when trying out other recipes. It was delicious. So delicious that I might actually make it more than once next year. ;)

Baklava
Ingredients
  • 1 16 ounce package frozen phyllo pastry, thawed
  • 1 cup butter melted
  • 3 cups finely chopped or ground pecans walnuts, pistachios, or almonds
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
For the syrup:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup honey
Instructions
  1. Butter a 13 x 9 inch pan. Set aside.
  2. Cut phyllo in half crosswise, and cut each half to fit prepared pan; discard trimmings. Cover phyllo with a slightly damp towel.
  3. Layer 10 sheets of phyllo in pan, brushing each sheet with melted butter. Set aside.
  4. Combine nuts and next 3 ingredients; stir well. Sprinkle one-third of mixture over phyllo in pan; drizzle with melted butter.
  5. Top nut mixture with 11 sheets of phyllo, brushing each sheet with butter. Repeat twice with remaining nut mixture, phyllo, and butter, ending with buttered phyllo.
  6. Cut stack into diamond shapes, using a sharp knife. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until golden. Cool completely.
  7. For syrup, combine sugar, water, and honey in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 4 minutes. Pour over baklava.
  8. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours.
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Ever since I tried my first peppermint bark candy waaaay back in November (heh..) I’ve been wanting to try my hand at making some. For some reason I expected it to be difficult but the only hard part was not digging in while it was chilling.

This is such a great holiday candy and now that I’m in love with it, I have a hard time imagining that there’s anyone out there who wouldn’t love it. I’m already looking forward to next year’s batch!

Peppermint Bark
Ingredients
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate finely chopped
  • 12 ounces white chocolate finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tsp Peppermint extract
  • 6 oz peppermint candies
Instructions
  1. Line a 13 x 9 baking pan with foil and coat with cooking spray.
  2. Melt the semisweet chocolate, peppermint extract and whipping cream and stir until smooth. Pour the dark chocolate into the baking pan and evenly smooth out. Place in the fridge for about 15 minutes to firm.
  3. While the chocolate is chilling, crush peppermints in a large, heavy duty plastic storage bag. Make sure you have smaller and larger pieces.
  4. Melt the white chocolate and stir until smooth. Remove the semisweet chocolate from the fridge and pour the white chocolate over top. Place in fridge to firm for about 1 hour. Remove and cut to your desired shape and size.
  5. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

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It’s been 2 weeks (tomorrow) since the little guy was born and I’m finally feeling well enough to be on my feet long enough to chop an onion or brown some ground beef! Lucky for me, this week’s CEiMB recipe was very simple and very quick. It was chosen by Lauren and Paul of I’ll Eat You.

My husband and I have very different ideas of what chili should be. I like beans, lots of beans, and I’d prefer no meat at all. He likes a lot of meat and no beans. This chili included a pound of ground beef and 3 cans of beans so it made both of us happy.

I thought the flavor was a little weird. It didn’t really scream chili to me, I guess because it had no chili powder in it. It did have a chipotle pepper and some adobo sauce which gave it a nice smoky flavor but still not the traditional chili flavor that I love. Next time I would definitely add some chili powder.

CEiMB – Confetti Chili
from Food Network
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion diced (1 cup)
  • 2 carrots diced (1/2 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 pound extra-lean ground beef 90 percent lean
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce seeded and minced
  • 2 teaspoons adobo sauce from the can of chipotles
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt
  • 1 15.5-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15.5-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15.5-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in large pot or Dutch oven over moderate heat. Add the onion and carrots, cover and cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the cumin and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the ground beef; raise the heat to high and cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon, until the meat is no longer pink. Stir in the tomatoes, water, chipotle and adobo sauce, oregano and salt. Cook, partially covered, stirring from time to time, for 30 minutes. Stir in the beans and continue cooking, partially covered, 20 minutes longer.

3

Don’t those cookies just scream holiday? I love how festive they look!

Up until my Peppermint Bark incident I always thought chocolate and peppermint was a weird combination. The two don’t seem like they would go together at all. But they work wonderfully somehow and I’m so glad that they do.

I’m not going to lie, these cookies were quite a bit of work and after fighting with the first cookie to get a completely perfect white chocolate outside, I gave up and just went for the haphazard look. It works, right?

The taste makes up for all the problems I did have. They might just be the best cookie I’ve ever had and that’s saying a lot.

Chocolate-Peppermint Cookies
Ingredients
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour plus more for surface
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 ounces 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
  • 8 large candy canes or 30 peppermint candies crushed
  • 2 pounds white chocolate coarsely chopped
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed for 1 minute. Reduce speed to medium-low, and add egg, then yolk, beating well after each addition. Beat in peppermint extract. Slowly add flour mixture, and beat until just incorporated. Shape dough into 2 disks, wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour (or up to 2 days).
  2. Roll out 1 disk of dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness. Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. Using a 2-inch round cutter, cut out circles, and place 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Roll and cut scraps once. Freeze cookies until firm, about 15 minutes. Repeat with remaining disk.
  3. Bake until cookies are dry to the touch, about 12 minutes. Transfer parchment, with cookies, to wire racks, and let cool. (Undecorated cookies will keep, covered, for up to 3 days.)
  4. Sift crushed candy, and separate larger pieces from dust, reserving both. Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of gently simmering water. Remove from heat. Dunk cookies into melted chocolate. Using a fork, turn to coat, let excess drip off, and gently scrape bottom against edge of bowl. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets, and sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of either candy pieces or dust on top. Repeat, sprinkling half the cookies with pieces and the rest with dust. Refrigerate until set, up to 3 hours. Decorated cookies are best served the same day.
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I’m kicking off December with 25 days of holiday treats! Expect cookies, candy, cakes, and so much more!

And for the big kickoff, here’s one of my all-time favorite holidays treats. I worked at Starbucks many years ago and their Cranberry Bliss Bar was always my favorite holiday pastry. This is almost exactly like the Cranberry Bliss but (should I even say it?) better!

The base is kind of a hybrid cake/cookie with cranberries and white chocolate chunks mixed in. And then the topping is pretty much a cream cheese frosting with chopped dried cranberries sprinkled over top.

So delicious and rich enough that you only need one to satisfy your sweet craving.

Cranberry Bliss Bars
Ingredients
For the cake:
  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 6 oz. white chocolate cut into chunks
For the frosting:
  • 4 oz. cream cheese softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
For the drizzled icing:
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon milk
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable shortening
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Make cake by beating butter and sugar together until smooth. Add eggs, vanilla, ginger and salt and beat well. Gradually mix in flour until smooth. Dice cranberries.
  3. Add 3/4 cup cranberries and white chocolate chunks to batter and fold in. Pour batter into a well-greased 9 x 13 baking pan, spread evenly. Bake for 35 minutes or until cake is lightly browned on the edges. Allow to cool.
  4. Make frosting by combining cream cheese, icing sugar, lemon juice and vanilla in a medium bowl with electric mixer until smooth. Frost cooled cake, using spatula to spread evenly
  5. Sprinkle 1/4 cup diced cranberries over freshly frosted cake
  6. Whisk together 1/2 cup icing sugar, 1 tablespoon milk, and shortening. Drizzle icing over cranberries.
  7. Chill cake in refrigerator for several hours before slicing. Serve cold.
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