Grand Marnier Truffles~Third Sweet Tradition

Dark chocolate truffles are a tradition!  Every year for the last 14, I’ve taught a class called Gifts from the Kitchen.  In this class we make recipes that are perfect for gift giving along with inventive ways to package the treats.  Since the beginning, a chocolate truffle recipe has been included, in part because they make fabulous gifts but also because Grand Marnier Truffles were the very first gift from MY kitchen, many many years ago!   

Making beautiful and taste tempting chocolate truffles is easier than you think.  Try my recipe for Grand Marnier Truffles TODAY, you will be glad you did!

Stay tuned next week for some of my favorite Christmas Morning breakfast ideas!

Grand Marnier Truffles

1 cup heavy cream

3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

3 1 inch strips orange peel

½ cup powdered sugar

½ cup unsweetened cocoa

Heat the cream, Grand Marnier and orange peel in a medium saucepan or double boiler until it begins to steam.   Remove from heat and discard the orange peel.   Add chocolate chips to the warm cream and stir until chocolate is almost incorporated, add butter, continue to stir until completely smooth.  Refrigerate the mixture until chocolate has solidified about 3 hours.  Combine powdered sugar and cocoa on a plate.  Using a spoon and your hands, roll chocolate mixture into balls; roll the balls into the cocoa mixture.  Store the truffles in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Magic Cookie Bars~Second Traditional Sweet

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Magic Cookie Bars are a second sweet holiday tradition in our home.    These sensational chocolatey treats have really stood the test of time.  I think I was about 10 years old when my mother made these the first time and we have had them every year since! 

It is hard to beat the flavor that is packed into these pretty bars.  I hope you will make a batch to eat and share this holiday season and stay tuned for one more sweet tradition this week!

Magic Cookie Bars

1 stick butter, melted

8 whole graham crackers

1 ½ cup chopped walnuts

2 cups shredded sweetened coconut

1 12 ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pour melted butter into the bottom of a greased 9×13 glass baking dish.  Crush graham crackers into a fine powder.  Sprinkle crumbs evenly over butter.  Sprinkle first a layer of walnuts, then chocolate and last coconut.  Drizzle milk evenly over coconut.  Bake for 18-22 minutes until coconut is lightly browned.  Let cool before slicing to serve.

Brie with Buttered Pecan Cherry Compote- Appetizer 3

 

Cherry pecan compote over brie

When it’s appetizer time, nothing satisfies like brie served with a decadent topping.  My Brie with Buttered Pecans and Cherries is hard to beat.  The tart fruit and warm pecans complement the creamy texture of brie perfectly.

Serve this tasty bite with apple, French bread or crackers for a happy crowd!

Stay tuned next week when I will be sharing some of my favorite sweet bites to enjoy with your friends and families.

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Brie with Buttered Pecan Cherry Compote 

1 brie wedge

2 tablespoons butter

¾ cup chopped pecans

¾ cup dried cherries

Juice and zest of 1 orange

¼ cup brown sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla

Pinch salt

In a small saucepan, melt butter.  Brown the pecans in the butter for about 3 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients to saucepan and simmer slowly until mixture is thick.  Pour warm compote over room temperature cheese and serve.

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Tomato Basil Tartlet- Appetizer 2

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Tomato, basil and cheese is without a doubt my favorite flavor profile.  I have developed many recipes over the years using this trio of ingredients and these Tomato Basil Tartlets are among the best.

This precious 3 bite appetizer is simple to make and always a crowd pleaser.   Enjoy and stay tuned for one more sensational appetizer this week!

Tomato Basil Tartlets

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed

1 cup Gruyere cheese

¼ cup fresh basil cut in a chiffonade

2-3 Roma tomatoes cut in slices

½ teaspoon fresh thyme

2 tablespoons parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cut tomatoes into thin slices, about 1/8 of an inch thick.  Lay tomatoes in a single layer on paper towels and sprinkle with salt.  Roll out puff pastry to eliminate creases.  Using a biscuit cutter cut 12 rounds from the sheet.   Place rounds on greased baking sheet.  Mix the cheese, basil and thyme together in a small bowl.  Put a pinch on each pastry round.  Top with tomato, salt and pepper and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Bake for 12-14 minutes until tarts are puffed and beginning to brown.

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Apple Crostini- Appetizer 1

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It is appetizer season!  Chances are you have been asked to bring an appetizer to at least one holiday party this year.  I would like to share 3 of my favorites with you this week, today, Apple Crostini.

Apple Crostini is my current appetizer crush, when I make theses I cannot stop eating them!  NO need to feel guilty since the cracker is an apple slice!

This is a recipe I developed for Dinner Party 2018 hosted by Lauren Palmer at TAOLB and Marcie and Tracy of Unique Unique Designs and myself. These beautiful photos were taken by Jet Pack Creative, thank you!!

Enjoy and stay tuned for more yummy appetizers later this week!

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Apples Crostini

2-3 large red, sweet apples such as Ambrosia or Fuji

½ lemon

4 ounces goat cheese

½ cup pistachios, roasted and chopped

½ cup dried cranberries

¼ teaspoon cinnamon plus more for garnish

1 tablespoon good quality maple syrup plus more for drizzling

Slice apples crosswise, very thin creating apple crackers.  Ambrosia and Fuji apples will not turn brown after they are cut but just to insure, rub each apple slice with lemon half.  In a small bowl combine goat cheese, cranberries, pistachios, reserve 1 teaspoon for garnish, cinnamon and 1 tablespoon syrup and mix well.  Place a scant teaspoon of the mixture on each apple cracker and spread slightly.  Sprinkle with a dusting of cinnamon, pistachios and a few drops of syrup.

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Pumpkin Madeleines

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The most requested flavor of fall is without a doubt pumpkin.  I thought I would get into the act by creating a recipe for my favorite little cakes, so I present, Pumpkin Madeleines! Packed full of crave-able pumpkin and fall spices, these moist little cakes will not disappoint.  Grab a few Madeleine pans and make these for your family, they will be so glad you did!

The truth is I am not sure if I like my new leopard booties or Pumpkin Madeleines better, it’s a toss-up.  If you need a pair to spice up your wardrobe, click the link below!

ENJOY!!

Pumpkin Madeleines

¾ cup butter

3 eggs

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 ¾ cup powdered sugar

1¾ cup flour

2 teaspoon vanilla

¾ teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons cinnamon

¾ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon allspice

¼ teaspoon ground coriander

1 ½ cups pecans, finely chopped

More butter and flour for preparing pans

Preheat oven to 375 degree.  Grease Madeleine pan generously with butter and dust with flour.  Cream the butter and sugar together using an electric mixer.  Add pumpkin, vanilla and eggs one at a time.  Mix all spices and salt with flour in a bowl and slowly add it to the butter mixture until it is all incorporated.  Stir in nuts by hand. Place the batter into a pastry bag.  Pipe Madeleine tins most of the way full with batter.  Bake for about 16 minutes until edges are beginning to brown.  Flip pan to release cakes and prepare pan again for baking the last batch.  Cover tightly as soon as cakes cool and freeze any portion that will not be eaten the same day.

 

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Autumn in Provence~The Land of Lavender

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Beautiful lavender fields abound in Provence.

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By the time we arrived in September, the lavender had already been harvested for the year.  Lavender is a fragrant bushy shrub that reaches the peak of its growing cycle in late summer. This is a small lavender field depicts the recent harvest.

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Lavender is prized for its essential oils that have many medicinal properties.  It is said to have a tranquilizing effect making sleep easier as well as an antiseptic used for insect bites and treating wounds.

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Visiting the distillery was interesting.  Steam is used to extract the prized essential oils from the blooms and stems of the plant.

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Once extracted the oils are kept in plastic vats and shipped all over the world.

Lavender can be used in our food too, like in my recently published Goat Cheese Truffles or the Lavender Vanilla Scones that are sure to please!

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Lavender Vanilla Scones

3 cups flour

½ cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ sticks cold butter, cubed

1 cup chilled buttermilk

Seeds from 1 vanilla pod

1 teaspoon edible lavender plus more for garnish

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix all dry ingredients in food processor. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles small peas.  Mix extracts and vanilla seeds and lavender into the buttermilk.   Pour buttermilk into food processor and pulse until dough is formed.  Gather the dough into a ball and turn it onto a lightly floured work surface.  Knead it gently not more than a dozen times.  Cut the dough in half.   Roll ½ of the dough into a circle ½ inch thick. Slice the circle like a pizza creating triangles.  Repeat with second half of dough.  Place triangles on a baking sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes until slightly brown around edges.  Frost scones with glaze and garnish with lavender sprinkle if desired.

Vanilla Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon vanilla

Seeds from 1 vanilla pod

Pinch of salt

Cream

Add all ingredients in a bowl except cream; add cream slowly until desired consistency is formed.  Drizzle tops of baked scones with glaze.

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Autumn in Provence- Through an Open Door

Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls. Joseph Campbell

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I adore this image from my most recent autumnal visit to Provence. It draws you in, wondering what could be on the other side of that passageway.

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It’s Friday and I am contemplating the doors that have both opened and closed in my life while sifting through photos and I am grateful for both.

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I am always curious about what is on the other side of colorful doors like this with grand adornments.

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When a door closes it can be very sad.  It’s like we are being pushed forward even though we might not feel ready; it’s times like these that faith and hope get us through.

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And just like that a window opens and things are better than you could have ever imagined.  I think this little kitty agrees!

Hope you have a wonderful weekend, hug someone you love today!

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Autumn in Provence~A Trip to the Market

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Provencal markets are truly a magical place for food lovers.

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Gorgeous seasonal vegetables were relying only on their vivid color to entice buyers.

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Stunning eggplants begging to come home and become something wonderful on your plate!

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I adore the vegetables artfully displayed in sturdy baskets.

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Freshly picked thyme and bay leaves perched in this precious, red riding hood basket.

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The markets of Provence have much more to offer foodies besides just produce.

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Freshly made sausage is always a good bet to go along with a cheese and wine picnic perhaps?

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Nuts and dried fruits as far as the eye can see.

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And prepared foods like roasted chicken or this enormous copper pan loaded to the brim with Paella, just look at the size of those shrimp!

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Markets are bursting with jams, tapenades and spreads along with clothing, table linens, soaps and lavender. All in all a truly lovely way to spend a few hours and we did!

Travel with me next autumn! Two seats are available for

A Taste of Provence September 7-14th 2019

Reach out today for more information!

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Autumn in Provence~Sunflowers and Van Gogh

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I was at Trader Joes this morning gathering supplies for my classes this week, French Foods of the Normandy Coast and 4 Course French Menu at the Arboretum on Saturday and I noticed the gorgeous sunflowers for sale.

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They reminded me of the lovely sunflowers I enjoyed while touring my A Taste of Provence group in September. Sunflowers are such a happy flower!

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So big and bold, they almost don’t look real.

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The Provencal sunflowers surely inspired Vincent Van Gogh to paint this vase chalked full.  This particular painting was done while he lived in Arles, not far from our base in Saint Remy.

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One of the most interesting places we visited this year was the Van Gogh Clinic.  Van Gogh checked himself in and spent the last year of his life here in Saint Remy.

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He was very prolific and painted some of his most well-known pieces here, including Starry Night and Irises.  This is a look at the beautiful interior garden that inspired Van Gogh and many other residents.

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This is such a beautiful view of the outdoor garden at the clinic, also a source of inspiration to the artists here.

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I thought this was such an interesting arrangement I came across while traveling in the area. The sunflowers standing so tall and proud!

Have a happy day!

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