Tag Archives: baking

Marcia’s Gingersnap recipe

There are some people you meet in your life that you  know, after just your first introduction, you will remain friends for a long, long, time. When I think about friends like this, I think about my friend Marcia.

We  had just moved here (12 years ago) from San Francisco, and didn’t know a soul in town. Marcia rang my doorbell, introducing herself as my new neighbor. She was holding  a plate full of freshly baked gingersnaps, all perfectly sized, and glistening with sugar.

It was the plate full of cookies and Marcia’s welcoming  smile that made me feel a little less  far away from home that day.  But it was the moment I took a bite from that  first gingersnap cookie,  that I realized I had landed somewhere pretty good. These were the very best gingersnaps  I have ever eaten…ever.

Slightly crispy on the outside, perfectly spiced, and just the right amount of  chewiness in the center.

I have come to love these cookies so much over the years. They are part of my annual   Christmas cookie lineup, along with jam thumbprints, chocolate crinkles, and sugar cookie cut-outs. Traditions that make the holiday season special.

To me, these little gingersnaps will always remind me of my thoughtful friend Marcia. What better time to sit back with a cup of coffee  and a cookie (or three) and enjoy a break from the hectic pace of shopping, wrapping, and running around.

Marcia’s Gingersnaps

1 stick of butter

¼ cup of  vegetable oil (such as canola)

¼ cup molasses

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

2 ¼ cups of flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cloves

Cream together first four ingredients.  Add egg and mix.  Sift all dry ingredients together and stir into molasses mixture.  Chill dough for at least an hour.  Form into small balls.  Roll in granulated sugar.  Place 2” apart on a greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 375 for 8 minutes.  Cool briefly and remove from pan. Sprinkle with sugar.

Makes 3-4 dozen.


Dark Chocolate and Almond Tart with Creme Anglaise and Mixed Berry Coulis

And the winner is…

Congrats to Mindy Byrne! You are the winner of my tablescape giveaway and have selected the Tuscan Garden Tablescape as your prize.

Thanks to everyone who entered!


Last week (on the heels of Thanksgiving), I taught a series of cooking classes on holiday entertaining. Here’s a look at the menu:

Orange,  Rosemary, and Prosciutto  Grilled Shrimp

Baby Lettuce and Herbs with Roasted Beets, Fennel, and Blue Cheese Chantilly

Herb and Garlic Crusted Beef Tenderloin with Creamy Horseradish Sauce

Individual Wild Mushroom Bread Pudding

Shaved Brussels Sprouts

Dark Chocolate and Almond Tart with Cream Anglaise and Mixed Berry Coulis

For those not sure what they would be serving for upcoming holiday dinner parties, the classes offered students the opportunity to taste the menu from start to finish, as well as have a look at what preparation would be involved.

When I put together menus, I like to break them into windows with make- ahead opportunities.  Time management is key, especially when you are in the midst of writing cards, shopping, baking cookies and wrapping presents. The idea is to allot your time, so you have plenty of days to do a segment each day, rather than trying to scramble to get it all done in 24 hours. To do so would be very stressful, and leave you feeling, well…cranky! Who wants to feel frazzled when you have friends and family over? Not me.

If you are looking for a dessert to share at your holiday table this season, you may want to give my chocolate tart a try. It is incredibly decadent and truffle like in texture.  It’s the kind of dessert that feels like a celebration, and based on the appearance of the plates that came back to the kitchen (they looked like they were licked clean), I would say it was quite popular.

The tart and accompanying sauces , may be prepared a few days ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Your work is done on the front end, so that when your guests arrive, you are ready to enjoy a little merrymaking yourself. After all, isn’t that what this time of year is all about?

Dark Chocolate and Almond Torte with Cream Anglais & Mixed Berry Coulis


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 cup all purpose flour


1 cup slivered almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup heavy whipping cream

8 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped

For crust:

Using electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in large bowl until smooth. Beat in cocoa powder. Add flour and beat until dough comes together in moist clumps. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Roll out dough between sheets of waxed paper to 11-inch round. Peel off top sheet of paper. Invert dough over 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom; peel off paper. Gently press dough into pan. Press dough overhang in to form double-thick sides. Pierce dough all over with fork. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake crust until sides look dry and bottom looks bubbly, about 14 minutes. Transfer crust to rack. Using back of spoon, press up sides of dough if falling. Cool completely.

For filling:

Toss almonds, sugar, and cinnamon in small bowl. Sprinkle almond mixture over bottom of prepared crust. Place cream in heavy medium saucepan. Bring to simmer. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and whisk until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Pour into crust. Refrigerate until filling is firm, at least 3 hours. (Can be made  2 days ahead. Cover loosely with foil and keep refrigerated.)

Using sharp knife, gently loosen crust from pan sides. Remove pan sides. Cut tart into wedges; serve cold.

Creme Anglaise

1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 cup whipping cream

1 2-inch piece vanilla bean, split

3 large egg yolks

3 tablespoons sugar

Combine milk and cream in heavy medium saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Bring milk mixture to simmer. Remove from heat.

Whisk egg yolks and sugar in medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into yolk mixture. Return custard to saucepan. Stir over low heat until custard thickens and leaves path on back of spoon when finger is drawn across, about 5 minutes (do not boil). Strain sauce into bowl. Cover and chill. (Can be made 1 day ahead.)

Makes 1 cup

Mixed Berry  Coulis

1 (10-oz) package frozen mixed berries

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Purée berries, sugar, and lemon juice in a blender or food processor. Pour mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl, pressing on solids.

8-10 servings


Fighting Breast Cancer One Meal at a Time: Cooking Class and Recipes

In the  8 years that I have been teaching cooking classes I have gotten to know my students (who are mainly women) very well. I have a regular following, and even have  some students who have attended almost each and every class I have taught.  When you see people on such a regular basis, you learn more and more about them, and you start to become friends.

Over the years, some of these friends have been diagnosed with breast cancer. There have been missed cooking classes where they just weren’t up to eating because their taste buds were off, or because they just didn’t feel well, and cooking classes where they walked in with  pretty pink scarves on their heads and a smile on their face. There are some that won their battle, and some who did not. All faced their breast cancer with a tremendous amount of courage and strength that  I can only try to get my arms around.

October is breast cancer awareness month,  and last night I had the pleasure of teaching a different kind of cooking class to a room full of  65 women currently fighting breast cancer, and women who are breast cancer survivors. The topic for the evening was focused on nutrition Fighting Breast Cancer One Meal at a Time.

Melissa Jones Snader, RD led the presentation with a detailed look at what foods provide the best nutrition/cancer-fighting nutrients, and which foods and drinks should be avoided. When you look at the statistics, and learn that 30% of all cancers are related to diet, “you are what you eat” takes on a whole new meaning.

Next, it as my turn to take all of that nutritional  information, and apply it using real recipes that the audience could make at home.  For those who don’t do much cooking, and/or haven’t eaten with the nutritional rainbow in mind, trying to figure out  how to cook  can be overwhelming.

I talked to my audience about ways they could ensure a healthy way of eating: Setting time aside 1 day a week  to put together a meal plan  that included nutrient rich foods, shopping ahead and making sure you have healthy foods  at-the ready for times they wanted a snack or quick meal. I talked about ways to incorporate things like a sprinkle of flax seeds here and there, adding applesauce to baked goods in place of fat, and about eating plant based protein as an alternative to an animal source.

This led me to my  quinoa salad, loaded with all kinds of good things, like fresh kale, apples, toasted almonds, dried cranberries, and goat cheese.  Samples of the salad were passed to the guests, and it was rewarding to hear that everyone thought this good-for-you salad was delicious.

Quinoa Salad with Kale, Apples, Almonds, and Goat Cheese


1/2 cup orange juice

2 tablespoons minced shallots

2 teaspoons honey

2 tablespoons raspberry balsamic vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Zest from one orange

3/4 cup olive oil

Whisk all dressing ingredients together in a medium bowl until well blended.


1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed

1 1/4 cups water

1/2 cup dried cranberries

2 medium apples, quartered, cored, and sliced into 1-inch-pieces

1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds

3-4 large kale leaves, center rib removed, thinly sliced

1 cup crumbled goat cheese

In a medium saucepan combine quinoa and water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 12- 15 minutes or until liquid is completely absorbed.

Transfer quinoa and all other salad ingredients to a large  bowl along with the dressing. Toss well, thoroughly combining ingredients. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

2-4 entree servings

6-8 side servings

For a healthier sweet option, I put together some gluten-free pumpkin muffins. The muffins may be frozen, and pulled out of the freezer when you need a snack, quick breakfast, or even dessert.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Muffins

1 1/4 cup brown rice flour

1/2 cup tapioca flour

1/4 cup potato starch

2 tablespoons ground flax seeds

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

2 large eggs

1/2 cup milk (or rice milk)

1/3 cup apple sauce

1 cup canned pumpkin

1/2 cup light brown sugar


2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

In a medium bowl, mix flours, ground flax seeds, xanthan gum, baking soda, salt and spices.

In a large bowl, mix eggs, milk, apple sauce, pumpkin, and brown sugar.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet mixture. Mix everything together until it is just combined.

Pour the mix into greased or lined muffin cups.

Mix sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle on top of muffins.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 – 25 minutes (12 minutes for mini muffins), or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes 12 muffins (or) 40 mini muffins

I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the Pink Mondays series, and hope my recipes will inspire these fine ladies to go forward in their  kitchens with colorful, healthy foods in their own everyday cooking.

If you know someone who is a breast cancer survivor, or currently in treatment, I hope you will share these recipes with them too.