Saturday, December 24, 2016

Pignoli Cookies

Merry Christmas everyone!

One of my favorite cookies is an Italian almond paste cookie called Pignoli. Normally served at the holidays or other special occasions, they are always the first to disappear. The thing I love most about them besides the decadent almond flavor is the texture - they are SO chewy. 


This year was my first year attempting them. I don't know why but they always seemed so mysterious. How could a block of almond paste transform into these light, chewy morsels of heaven?

You may have seen almond paste at the store and wondered what the heck it is. It's what makes these cookies so chewy. For this recipe, make sure you use this and not marzipan or pie filling, they will not work. It comes in boxes and cans. I personally like the little boxes better because it's easier to open but either are fine. 
 
I tried a couple different recipes and finally found a winner! This one doesn't use any flour so it's gluten free too. Bust out your food processor to make these even easier. If you don't have one, you can crumble the paste manually and use a pastry cutter. This recipe is expensive but so worth it! 

Ingredients:

2 (8-oz) cans or boxes almond paste (not marzipan)
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
2 tablespoons honey

1 cup (4 1/2 oz) pine nuts aka pignoli
marachino cherries (optional) 

You will need parchment paper or a silpat for this recipe.


Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Break up almond paste to fit into bowl of food processor. Pulse almond paste until crumbled up into small bits, then add confectioners sugar and salt and continue to pulse until very finely ground, about 1 minute.

Beat together almond mixture, egg whites, and honey in mixer at medium-high speed until smooth, about 5 minutes. The dough will be very thick. Refrigerate over night.

Spoon about a teaspoon of dough into your slightly dampened hands and roll into balls. Place the balls about 1 inch apart onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Decorate one of three ways:

 Place a small piece of marachino cherry in the center and then gently press      about 5 pine nuts around it. It will look like  a flower (this is my favorite)
 Roll the cookie in pine nuts then place a piece of cherry in the center
 Gently press half of pine nuts into tops of cookies

Bake cookies until golden, approximately 10 - 12 minutes depending on the size. Slide cookies on parchment onto racks to cool completely, then peel cookies from parchment. Make rest of batch on cooled baking sheets.

Notes:

If you roll the cookies in the pine nuts you will need at least 2 cups of the nuts.

Cookies will keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment, in an airtight container at room temperature 1 week or they can be frozen.

Inspired by Epicurious.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Best Roasted Mushroom and Cauliflower Quinoa Salad

Guys, can you believe there are only 13 days until Christmas? This whole year has just flown by and it's picking up speed as we finish it up.

Here's how we spent our weekend:
Christmas parties, fancy cocktails, elves, a flamingo in a Santa hat and child labor at work


It was filled with a family Christmas party, breakfast with Santa, our annual mall shopping, fancy cocktails, delicious food and live music with lots of dancing. If you are still shopping (me too!), check out my Gift Guides for Foodies, Wine Lovers, Kids and Buckeyes or daily deals on Facebook for some ideas. 

If you are looking for a healthy, festive and delicioius recipe to take to a party, look no further! We made this for the family Chistmas party this weekend and it was the hit of the party. It's vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and really easy to make. Soooo many people requested the recipe after the party, I thought I should share with my fabulous readers too. You're going to want to make this.
This recipe is SUPER easy and the best part is that you can easily customize it and the measurements don't have to be exact. If you hate mushrooms, leave them out! Love them, add more. Toss in some chickpeas if you're in the mood. Add some chicken. Swap the walnuts for pinenuts or cashews. Allergic to nuts, skip them all together. See how easy that is?

Roasted Mushroom and Cauliflower Quinoa Salad

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
3 12 oz packages of mushrooms (we used baby bellas and button), halve or quarter them depending on the sizes so they are consistent sizes
6 oz oyster, shitake, maike or other "fancy" mushroom
1 cup red quinoa, cooked in 1 3/4 cup broth
2 large bunches kale (about 6-8 cups cut into bite size pieces)
1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
4-6 oz feta cheese, crumbles
3 green onions, sliced
1 T. dried thyme (fresh is even better - use about 3x more)
extra virgin olive oil
balsamic glaze
salt, pepper, granulated garlic or powder to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss cauliflower florets with olive oil, salt, pepper garlic and half of the thyme. Place in shallow baking pan. Do the same with the mushrooms but put them in a separate pan. Roast veggies, stirring occassionally. The mushrooms will release a lot of liquid so you will need to drain them part way though so they don't end up simmering. We save the liquid - it's so good and great to add to soup, when cooking rice, etc. The mushrooms will take about 20 minutes, the cauliflower will take a little longer. When it is tender but still firm, it's done. Don't cook until soft and mushy or you'll end up with a mess.

While the veggies are roasting, drizzle olive oil on the chopped kale. Just a little bit is needed, maybe a teaspoon or two. Massage the kale to soften it and ensure the olive coats all the leaves. Place in a huge bowl.

Add cooked quinoa to the bowl of kale. Toss very well until the quinoa is evenly distributed. Add roasted veggies. Toss again. Add cheese and a generous dizzle of the balsamic glaze and toss yet again. Adjust seasoning if needed.

Place in serving bowl and garnish with the green onions, walnuts and another drizzle of the glaze.

roasted mushrooms and cauliflower tossed with kale, walnuts, feta and balsamic glaze

Ideas and tips:
  • If your "fancy" mushrooms are small, don't add them at first. Stir them in after you drain the liquid. This will keep them from over cooking.
  • Add fresh chopped parsley
  • Use blue or goat cheese instead of the feta
  • Use lacinato kale instead of the curly kind and you can skip the massaging. Just toss lightly with the olive oil and move to the next step.
  • Try regular quinoa or a pretty blend like this one. I picked red because of the holiday but the blends are my normal go to.
  • Trader Joes Tricolor Quinoa for Eat*Drink*Cleveland: Roasted Mushroom and Cauliflower Quinoa Salad
  • Add pomegranate seeds for a pop of color and flavor
  • I use this balsmic glaze - it is so good! It's expensive but a little goes a long way and it lasts for a really long time (store in the fridge.)
Blaze Balsamic Glaze for Eat*Drink*Cleveland: Roasted Mushroom and Cauliflower Quinoa Salad

Monday, November 28, 2016

Holidays 2016 - Buckeye Love

Happy Cyber Monday! If you are looking for gifts for the Clevelanders on your list - check out these items that are sure to make them proud to be a Buckeye.

As a cutting board or to hang on a wall, this Ohio shaped bamboo board is a great addition to the kitchen.

Everyone loves A Christmas Story, and this ornament is awesome. Fragile!

Here's another ornament that shows off your Ohio pride. Perfect for the folks who moved away and haven't moved back...yet!
Ohio Home Hanger - Reclaimed Wood Ornament - Ohio Decor (small keepsake 4 inches by 4 inches in size)

Oh my gosh, how cute is this Good Night Ohio book! 


If you know an Ohio State fan, these Jello Shots Jigglers Molds will make them the hit of every party.


A shirt from Cleveland Clothing Co. is always a hit. They are SO soft and come in a ton of styles.



How about a cooking class? Loretta Paganini, Market District - Strongsville, Gatherings Kitchen, The Western Reserve School of Cooking and Sur la Table all offer classes that are fun, informative and delicious!

Add a frame and your shopping is done - this is a great print of our favorite city.


No frame is needed to add some hometown pride to your wall with this Cleveland decal.


Show your love for the Cavs with this handknitted scarf.
Hand Crocheted Cav's Cowl
For the person who wants an experience instead of a wrapped package, the Circlepass Multi Museum Ticket is sure to please! These four museums are included in the ticket: the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, Cleveland History Center, Cleveland Botanical Garden and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. 

If you missed my other 2016 Gift Guides, you can find them here:

What's on YOUR wish list?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Holidays 2016 - For the Kiddos

Here's some fun gift ideas for the minis on your list!
Photo Credit

This is a game changer for the artist in training - Kwikstix are the jam! No water needed tempera paint that dries in 90 seconds. This set includes neons and metallics in addition to the classic colors for the most color options.

If you are lucky enough to find one of these, grab it immediately. In fact, grab two and give me one! Hatchimals are all the rage this holiday season and this Owlicorn is my favorite.
How about a cooking class? The Loretta Paganini School of Cooking and Gatherings Kitchen offer classes especially kids of all ages where they can learn to make cupcakes, bread, Thai food and more. (photo credit)


If your kids are obsessed with the sink like my niece was, this Let's Get Ready Sink will help keep your bathroom mess free. 
Get the whole family singing with this karaoke machine. I know some big kids that would like this too. 
If you want to get your kids a gift they will love all year, get a family membership to the Zoo, the Natural History Museum, the Children's Museum, Great Lakes Science Center or The Cleveland Museum of Art.

I know I would loved one of these cotton candy machines as a kid (and I still would!) It's under $30 too! You can get refills here. They also make these really cool tlight up LED sticks to serve the candy on. Why didn't they have this stuff when I was a kid?

A gift of Prime is a gift for the whole family. More than just free 2 day shipping, they have a ton of content that you can stream onto multiple devices. Movies, books, games and more.


If you missed my other 2016 Gift Guides, you can find them here:



What's on YOUR wish list?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Crackers that Will Make Your Cheese VERY Happy

Cheese and crackers are the perfect way to start a party. Elevate your next cheese board with these delicious crackers. Your cheese will be happy - and so will your guests!

Wheat Thins are a classic and this holiday version is so much fun. I love the snowflakes! Pairing: Aged Swiss or Gruyere.




These crackers are EXPENSIVE, but totally worth it. For a smaller (and cheaper!) version, try Trader Joe's. Or you can try making your own. Pairing: Lemon Goat Cheese, Gorgonzola Dolce or Cambozola.

Water crackers are my all time favorite and the variety pack is perfect. Their flavor is neutral (but not bland) so they really let the taste of cheese shine. Pairing: Cotswold or blueberry goat cheese. Honestly, any cheese will be great with these!

For those who need a gluten-free cracker, I love Nut Thins. And now they come in a square version enhanced with seeds too. Pairing: Aged Gouda.
And Perfect 10 isn't super shiny like the usual gluten-free options and has more of a traditional cracker taste. Pairing: Sharp cheddar or Wensleydale with Cranberries.



I only buy these if I'm having company because I can eat the whole damn box. The buttery cracker combined with the pretzel is irresistible. Pairing: Aged provolone or Bellavitano Merlot.


 

This gift box has a really good selection of cheese to go with all these crackers:


What is your favorite cracker?


Monday, November 21, 2016

Holidays 2016 - Gifts for the Wine Lover

If you are looking for gifts for your favorite wino, here's are some that are sure to please. Add a bottle or two of wine for the perfect present.
wine, Christmas, gift guide, VML

This handy invention lets you transport wine without worrying about a heavy glass bottle. If you have a wine drinking backpacker on your list, this is a must buy! Also great for tailgating. It can be used for your favorite spirit too if wine isn't your thing.


Portable Foldable Wine Bottle (2 Pack) - Holds a Full Bottle of Wine (750 ml) - Flex, Fold & Roll Plastic Wine Bag Flask for Red and White Wine - Wine Accessories and Gifts
This wine-by-the-glass advent calendar is genius and certainly on my wish list! Click here to order.
wine, gift guide, christmas, holidays, wine advent calendar
After a few glasses of wine, it's hard to keep track of your glass. These magnetic and cling versions of wine charms make it easy. And they come in so many styles including Christmas, snowflakesHalloween, animals, beach and even ones made for the guys. They work on any glass including stemless glasses. 
cling wine charms, wine, gift guide, holidays, christmas

I love these wine glasses! They make any day feel like a party. Perfect for cocktails or even your morning juice.
gold sparkles wine glass, wine, gift guide, gold polka dot wine glasses
This 8 bottle wine fridge is small enough to fit in a kitchen or bar so you can keep those favorite bottles close at hand. It has an adjustable thermostat and interior light. At just over $100, it's a steal. And it looks great too!
wine, 8 bottle wine refrigerator, gift guide, wine lover gifts
Wine clubs are a great way to get your hands on boutique wines that aren't available locally. Here are some of my favorites from California. Even if you just order a bottle or two, trust me, your loved ones will go crazy for these! 

Alpha Omega - the chardonnay that made a white wine drinker out of me
VML - Virginia Marie Lambrix Winery
Ledson
Frog's Leap - love the cab and zinfandel
Miner - The Oracle is a killer red blend

VML is offering a great holiday deal - Holiday Gift Set WinesMix a selection of their 2014 Single Vineyard Chardonnays or 2014 Barrel Select Pinot Noirs- Earth, Moon, Stars - to create the perfect gift for your wine-loving friends, family or business associates. Now through November 25th, enjoy $5 Shipping per 3 bottle gift. Their chardonnays and pinots are sublime and a real value too.

wine, California wine, VML, christmas gifts for the wine lover
Photo Credit

If you missed my other 2016 Gift Guides, you can find them here:

What's on YOUR wish list?