Friday, June 20, 2014

Cookies for a Texas Barbecue

What would a Texas barbecue be without some Texas sheetcake and these great Texas-sized cookies?  I placed silver dragees on the stars to give them some bling and added a few hats and boots to the mix.  These cookies were made for the day-after-the-wedding family picnic a friend had recently for her newlywed daughter and son-in-law.  Congrats and YEE HAW to the newlyweds who will be spending the next chapter of their life in Texas!

PS...take a look at my veggie garden at!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

I started a new blog!

Hello!  I wanted to let you all know that I have started a new blog!  

"At you will find delicious wholesome recipes and tips for living a healthy and mindful life. I am excited to show you around my kitchen and garden, and to introduce you to Pittsburgh and the places where I buy locally made products and produce. I am crazy about recycling and conservation as well as cooking great healthy meals. Come with me on my journey to healthful living!'

If you are interested in healthy and mindful living, please add to your reader.   (I use  I will continue to post sweets and desserts here as I believe you can enjoy them on special occasions and in moderation!  

Thank you for reading Marzipan and I hope to see you over at too!


Friday, June 6, 2014

Twins! Baby Face Cookies

These are super cute cookies for a baby shower.  The mother-to-be was expecting twin boys and the guests were all couples.  Each couple went home with two cookies packaged in a cellophane bag together and tied with blue ribbon!  So adorable!  

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Chocolate Hazelnut Truffle Squares

Last week, my girlfriends and I got together to eat, chit-chat and do some crafty things.   Pam was bringing lunch and a craft idea, so I took the opportunity to comb through my cookbooks to find a dessert to make.  I often make the same tried-and-true cookies and cakes for my customers, so I'm excited when I get to try a new recipe and have the girls taste test it.  As soon as I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it, and I'm glad I did!  It's my favorite combination of hazelnuts and rich dark chocolate - even better than a scoop of Nutella!  The girls loved it and that makes me happy!

The recipe is a little involved - you have to chop chocolate, and toast nuts, and make a caramel for the praline paste, and dirty more than a few dishes.  This recipe is worth it though, I promise.

Regarding the praline paste needed for this recipe: I ran into a snag while making the praline paste from the book (although you'd never know it in the final product), so below I linked to a similar recipe with a different technique that I think will work better.  Let me say that the praline paste is so delicious all by itself that I have been slowly whittling away at the leftover praline paste in the fridge.   Where has this stuff been all my life?!

Chocolate Hazelnut Truffle Squares
adapted from The Good Cookie by Tish Boyle
Makes 16 bars

hazelnut brownie layer:
1 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon hazelnut liqueur
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (or gluten-free flour mix- I used Cup4Cup)
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and coarsely chopped

hazelnut truffle layer:
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup praline paste (store-bought or recipe here)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks

confectioner's sugar for dusting
16 hazelnuts, toasted and skinned

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Place about 3/4 cup hazelnuts on a baking sheet (add 1 cup hazelnuts and 1 cup blanched almonds to the baking sheet if making the praline paste recipe) and bake in the oven until fragrant and toasted, about 10 minutes.  Rub the hazelnuts inside a clean towel to remove as much of the skins as possible.  Reserve 16 of the barest, nicest looking hazelnuts to use as garnish.  Divide the remaining as follows: 1/2 cup hazelnuts for brownie layer and 1 cup hazelnuts and 1 cup almonds for praline paste, if making.

Make the hazelnut brownie layer:
Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.  Spray a 9x9-inch pan with cooking spray (or coat with softened butter).  Line the pan with parchment, allowing the excess to hang over two sides, then spray or butter the parchment.  Coarsely chop the 1/2 cup reserved toasted hazelnuts.  Place the chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water and heat while stirring until melted and smooth.  Stir in 1/2 cup sugar and the hazelnut liqueur until blended.  Add the egg and stir vigorously until well blended.  Fold in the flour and hazelnuts just until the flour is incorporated.  Spread the brownie base evenly into the prepared pan.

Make the truffle layer:
Place chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water and heat while stirring until melted and smooth.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the praline paste.  Whisk in the sugar, salt, heavy cream, and vanilla.  Whisk in the egg and egg yolks, one at a time, blending well after each addition.  Scrape the mixture over the brownie layer and spread it evenly.

Bake the bars for 25-30 minutes until the top is puffed and set and no longer shiny.  Cool the bars completely on a wire rack, then chill for at least 2 hours.

Cut the bars into squares using a sharp chef's knife.  For clean cuts you can run the knife under hot water, then dry the knife and make your cut, cleaning off the knife between cuts.  Dust the bars with confectioner's sugar and press a toasted hazelnut into the top of each bar.  Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Chinese New Year Dragon Cake

Happy Chinese New Year!

And have a great weekend!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Chocolate Peppermint Ganache Layer Cake

Valentine's Day is quickly approaching and I can't think of a better way to show love than a chocolate peppermint ganache layer cake.  This recipe always gets rave reviews from family and friends.  

I made this cake gluten-free by using Cup4Cup gluten-free flour substitute and it turned out great.  You'd never know it was gluten-free.  

Make a heart on top by sprinkling crushed peppermints in the shape of a heart (use a stencil or template made of parchment for the perfect heart shape).   Have a Happy Valentine's Day!

Chocolate Peppermint Ganache Layer Cake
Make one 3-layer 6-inch cake

For the chocolate cake:
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons hot water
1/3 cup sour cream
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (substitute Cup 4 Cup flour for gluten-free version)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
10 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
peppermint ganache, recipe follows
peppermint buttercream, recipe follow
crushed peppermint candies for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, or 325 degrees for convection setting.

Coat three 6-inch round cake pans with spray oil, line the bottoms with rounds of parchment, and spray the parchment.

In a bowl, combine the cocoa, hot water, and sour cream with a whisk and set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugars and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well, and scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.

While the mixer is running on low speed, alternate adding the flour mixture in 3 additions and the chocolate mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the flour.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and mix until just combined.  Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix again until batter is homogenous.

Divide the batter evenly among the 3 pans and bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 25 minutes.  Allow to cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then remove the cakes from the pans and cool completely.

For the peppermint buttercream:
3 large egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
2 sticks or 1 cup unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

Fill a medium saucepan with about an inch of water and bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer (this will be your double boiler).

Whisk together the egg whites, sugar, and salt in the metal bowl of your stand mixer and place the bowl over the simmering water but do not let the bowl touch the water.  Whisk the mixture while cooking until the mixture reaches 140 degrees F.

Remove the bowl from the double boiler and place it in your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whisk the egg mixture on medium high speed until the outside of the bowl is room temperature.

With the mixer running on medium low speed, slowly add the butter one tablespoon at a time, allowing each piece of butter to become incorporated before adding the next.  After all the butter is added, increase the mixer speed to med-high and beat until the mixture is stiff and smooth, another minute or two.  Add the peppermint extract and mix to combine.  More extract can be added to taste.  Use at room temperature.

For the peppermint ganache:
4 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons creme de menthe liqueur or 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

Place the chocolate in a small heat-proof bowl.  Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan until just simmering around the edges of the pan.  It should be hot but not boiling.  Pour the cream over the chocolate and let stand for 2 minutes.  Whisk the mixture together briskly starting with small strokes at the center of the mixture until the mixture is shiny and smooth.  Whisk in the creme de menthe or extract and set aside to cool until the mixture is firm but still spreadable.

To assemble the cake:
Place one cake layer on a cake stand.  Spread about one half of the ganache on the bottom layer, then spread a thin layer of buttercream.  Repeat this with the second cake layer, and then place the third layer on top.  Cover entire cake with buttercream and garnish with crushed peppermint candies.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Lentil and Eggplant Stew

This past summer, I grew eggplant successfully for the first time.  Maybe it was the new raised beds we made with fresh dirt and compost that did the trick.

Or maybe it was the ample rain we got throughout the season. (We barely had to water the plants all summer!)

In years past, my eggplant just didn't produce, but in the summer of 2013 we had the nicest crop of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant that I've ever seen.  I didn't do anything differently, and I don't ever use fertilizers or pesticides.  I'm always amazed at how many tomatoes can grow on just one plant without any fussing at all.  Tying up the tomatoes was the only thing I made sure to do.

 Since I'd never been able to grow eggplant in any quantity before, I was at a loss of what to do with them.

Then I found a recipe for Turkish Lentil and Eggplant Stew at Simply Recipes.  The recipe is similar to another favorite of mine - Lively Yourself Up Lentil Soup.   I made a few changes to Elise's recipe and the result is a new favorite meatless lentil soup!  I recommend doubling the recipe and freezing to enjoy the goodness all winter long.

Eggplant and Lentil Stew
Serves 4-6

1 1/2 pounds eggplant, cut into cubes (Can substitute butternut squash or sweet potato)
1/2 cup brown or green lentils
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for roasting eggplant
1 medium onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 quart whole tomatoes, undrained (or 4 large fresh tomatoes, seeded, peeled and chopped)
1 jalapeño pepper, some or all of the seeds removed for desired heat, minced
2 sprigs fresh oregano, or 1/2 tsp dried
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
Two big handfuls of hearty greens such as kale or swiss chard, stems removed and leaves chopped (optional)
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro for garnish, chopped (optional)

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Place the eggplant cubes in a colander and sprinkle with salt.  Let sit in the sink for 1/2 hour while the oven is preheating.  Spread the eggplant out onto a baking sheet and drizzle with ample amount of olive oil.  Bake until eggplant is soft and beginning to caramelize.

2.  Check that the lentils do not contain any small rocks or dirt.  Place the lentils in a saucepan add enough water so that the lentils are covered by an inch of water.  Bring the lentils to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until just tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain.

3.  Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a pot over medium heat.  Add the onions and jalapeño and cook until soft.  Add the garlic and cook for one minute.  Add the tomato paste and cook until heated through.  Add the tomatoes, cooked lentils, oregano, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper and parsley and simmer for 30 minutes.  Add water to obtain the desired thickness of the stew.   Add eggplant and greens, if using, and continue to cook until greens are wilted and tender, about 10 minutes.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  Remove from heat, pull out oregano stems and stir in the fresh cilantro, or garnish each bowl with cilantro and a drizzle of olive oil to taste. (I add extra cilantro to my bowl!)

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