Mint-Chocolate Brownies (2)

Years ago, the cyclist was told (by a wise, wise man) that you should always have a little something sweet after dinner. Just to let your tummy know that the meal is over. For this reason, I always have Junior mints or York Peppermint Patties in my freezer. They are the perfect little after dinner treat. I love the chocolate mint combination.

I found this recipe in an Everyday Food magazine and just got around to making them (the second treat served at this year's progressive dinner.)

Delicious, moist, fudgy, minty, perfect.

Mint-Chocolate Brownies
from Everyday Food

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
25 small (1 1/2 inch) peppermint patties (use York's, not those sad imitations they sell at Costco)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on all sides; butter foil. Set aside.
Place chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of gently simmering water. Stir occasionally just until melted, 4 to 5 minutes.
Remove from heat. Whisk in sugar and salt until smooth; whisk in eggs. Gently whisk in flour and cocoa powder just until smooth (do not overmix).
Spread 1/3 of batter in prepared pan. Arrange peppermint patties on batter in a single layer, leaving a narrow border on all sides. Top with remaining batter, and smooth surface. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 45 to 55 minutes.
Cool completely in pan. Use foil to lift from pan; peel off foil and discard. Cut into 16 squares (4 rows by 4 rows).

Cranberry Salsa

This is one of my all time favorite holiday appetizers (have I said that before? because I mean it about this one). Everywhere I take it, someone requests the recipe. It has a vibrant color, and such a fresh, tangy flavor. It is excellent simply served with tortilla chips. We also love it spooned over a brick of cream cheese and eaten with crackers. I've even enjoyed it spread on a turkey sandwich.

Try it. You'll thank me.

Oh, and make a double batch. It stores well in the refrigerator (for a couple of weeks if it doesn't get eaten first.)

Cranberry Salsa
(I found this recipe a few years ago. I wish I could remember where. Maybe my local newspaper or one of the morning news shows)
1 (12 oz) package of fresh cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
1 medium jalapeno, seeds removed, roughly chopped (throw in some seeds if you like it spicier)
1 green onion, roughly chopped
2 T fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1/4 tsp cumin

Place all ingredients in a food processor. Process until mixture is coarsely chopped. Store in refrigerator overnight to allow flavors to blend.

Eggnog Cheesecake with Candied Kumquats

Every December, we have a progressive dinner with my family. We always start at my sister's house. She makes delicious appetizers. We make our way over the river to my sister-in-law's next. She is the expert salad maker. Then it's through the woods to my mom's for delicious lasagne and garlic bread. And we always end up at my place for dessert.

Here is one of our offerings for this year's festivities.

Egg Nog Cheesecake with Candied Kumquats
adapted from Better Homes & Gardens

5 T melted butter, divided
1 1/4 cups Grape Nuts cereal
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 t cinnamon
Dash of kosher salt

24 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup eggnog
1 T vanilla extract
1 T (scant) rum extract

Candied Kumquats
12 oz fresh kumquats (about 45), stems removed
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup water

Heat oven to 375. Butter a 9 or 10 inch spring-form pan with 1 T of the melted butter; set aside.

In bowl of food processor, process cereal for about 2 minutes, until a fine crumb forms. Add the 1/3 cup sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Process to combine. With processor running, add remaining butter through feed tube and process until just combined. Press crumb mixure on bottom and 1 inch up sides of prepared pan. Bake 10-12 minutes or until crisp and lightly browned. Cool on wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 350.

In clean food processor bowl, process cream cheese until smooth (you can do this in a mixer as well). Add 1 cup sugar until combined. Add eggs; process until creamy, scraping down sides once or twice. Add eggnog, vanilla and rum extract; process until combined.

Gently pour filling into baked crust. Bake 45 minutes to one hour, or until sides are slightly puffed and starting to brown. Turn off oven and leave the door ajar. Let cheesecake stand in oven 1 hour.

Transfer to wire rack; cool 15 minutes. Using a small, thin knife, loosen crust from sides of pan. Cool another 30 minutes. Remove sides from pan. Cool one hour. Cover and refrigerate 6 hours to overnight. To serve, top with candied kumquats. Makes 12 servings.

Candied Kumquats
With a paring knife, piercing only the skin, cut four evenly spaced slits around each kumquat. Place in medium saucepan; add cold water to cover. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook five minutes. Drain in colander.

In a medium saucepan, dissolve 1 1/2 cups sugar in 3/4 cup water. Add kumquats. Bring t a simmer over medium heat. Reduce to low to barely simmer. Cook, uncovered, 30 minutes, until glazed. Remove fruit from syrup wit a slotted spoon. Place on wire rack over tin foil. Cool 10 minutes.

Place the remaining 1 cup sugar in a small bowl. Roll whole kumquats in sugar. Space on rack and let stand overnight. Store in airtight container in a cool, dry place up to 3 months. Slice before topping cheesecake.

Tortilla Rolls

This delicious appetizer makes its way to many family gatherings. The filling flavor can easily be altered depending on your taste. Add more or less onion. Throw in some chopped cilantro. If you like spice, how about some chopped jalapeno?

You'll be amazed at how quickly these will fly off the plate.

We're taking this to a holiday gathering, so to make it more festive (and who doesn't like festive?), I used white flour tortillas, green spinach tortillas, and red sun-dried tomato tortillas.

Tortilla Rolls

based on a recipe from "A Pinch of Salt Lake"...excellent cookbook by the way
32 oz softened cream cheese
1 (4 oz) can chopped green chilies
1 (4 oz) can chopped olives
1 bunch green onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
12-15 flour tortillas
Your favorite fresh salsa

Mix together cream cheese, chilies, olives, onions, and garlic. Spread one side of each tortilla with cream cheese mixture. Roll up jelly-roll style. Pack tightly in a freezer bag and refrigerate several hours or overnight.
To serve, cut each roll into 1/2 inch rounds and place cut-side up on a serving tray. Serve with salsa.

Cranberry Trifle

There is not much I love more than a festive holiday dessert. And as far as festive holiday desserts go, this is one of the best.

Here are my top ten reasons you should make this trifle
1: It tastes fantastic.
2: It looks impressive.
3: It travels well (just keep the trifle dish upright).
4: Many of the components can be made way ahead of time: the cranberry compote can be refrigerated at least a week. The pound cakes can be frozen a good month or so--easier yet, buy frozen pound cakes at your supermarket. And the entire trifle can be assembled the night before.
5: Cranberries are good for you.
6: While all butter pound cakes aren't necessarily good for you, they are oh so tasty.
7: Whipped cream is delicious.
8: Add cream cheese to whipped cream and the deliciousness compounds exponentially.
9: The candied orange zest looks gourmet and adds a wonderful zing.
10: You might as well indulge now. January will be here before you know it.

Cranberry Trifle
from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food
2 bags (12 ounces each) cranberries, fresh or frozen
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger (I cheated and used "Christopher Ranch" chopped ginger--find it in the produce section)
1 bar (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
2 homemade or store-bought all-butter pound cakes (12 ounces each), cut into 3/4-inch-thick slices (If using store bought, I recommend Sarah Lee)
Candied Orange Zest, for garnish (optional)

In a medium saucepan, combine cranberries, 2 cups granulated sugar, ginger, and 2 cups water. Bring to a simmer over medium; cook until cranberries begin to burst, 8 to 10 minutes. Let compote cool completely.
Make cream filling: Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, brown sugar, remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and vanilla on high until well combined. With mixer on medium, gradually add heavy cream; continue beating until soft peaks form.
Arrange 1/3 of the cake slices in a 3-quart serving dish. Spoon 1/3 of compote over cake; spread to sides of dish. Dollop 1/3 of cream filling over compote; spread to sides of dish. Repeat twice, ending with cream filling. Cover; refrigerate at least 2 hours (or up to 1 day). Garnish with Candied Orange Zest, if desired.

In a medium saucepan, bring 1/2 cup and 1/2 cup to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add zest of one orange (peeled into long strips with a vegetable peeler); simmer, swirling occasionally, until zest is tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain, and transfer to a plate. Dredge zest in sugar, and thinly slice.

Lime and Honey-Glazed Salmon with Basmati and Broccoli

This salmon dish was a refreshing oasis in a sea of heavy holiday meals.

And clean up was a snap as it all cooked in one skillet.

Adapted From Bon Appetit


1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons finely grated lime peel (I used about 4 limes total)
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro plus additional for sprinkling
4 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup sliced shallots (I got enough from one LARGE shallot)
1 1/2 cups basmati rice (9 to 10 ounces)
3 1/4 cups (or more) vegetable broth
4 5- to 6-ounce skinless salmon fillets
1 bunch broccoli, bottom inch trimmed, stalks separated if necessary


Preheat oven to 450°F. Whisk lime juice, lime peel, honey, 2 tablespoons cilantro, and soy sauce in small bowl; set aside.
Heat oil in large deep ovenproof skillet or casserole (with lid) over medium-high heat. Add shallots and sauté until beginning to soften and brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in rice, then 3 1/4 cups broth; bring to boil. Cover skillet tightly with lid; place in oven and bake 10 minutes (rice will be almost cooked through and most of broth will be absorbed; mix in more broth by 1/4 cupfuls if dry).
Remove skillet from oven. Sprinkle rice lightly with salt. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper and arrange on rice, pressing in lightly. Tuck broccoli in around fish, with stems anchored in rice. Spoon 1 tablespoon lime mixture over each salmon fillet. Cover skillet tightly and return to oven; bake until salmon is just opaque in center and broccoli is crisp-tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drizzle remaining lime mixture over fish and rice; sprinkle with additional chopped cilantro and serve from skillet.