Top 5 Recipes of 2011

2011 was a big year for me.  I started the year in New York City working on an exciting new show.  Pursued and received a promotion that took me into a new area of theatre.  R and I got engaged and moved into a place of our own.  And I ended the year in the snowy mountains with new family.

Looking back, a lot of big things happened for me in 2011.

Not to mention 2011 is the year I started this blog and really gave myself permission to pursued my passion for writing and baking.

If you’re just tuning in, or have been following since the beginning, here are the viewers top 5 recipes from 2011.



Dark Strawberry Brownies

While my strawberry plant is just now opening it’s first blossom, the local grocery store had a sale on strawberries.  All my life I have loved strawberries.  My first one was sour and sweet, the size of my hand, and even though I puckered and my eyes scrunched I dove back in for another bite.  Bringing home the carton of strawberries I began to run through my head of what I could make with them, in addition to just snacking on the whole.  I settled on brownies.

Not wanting them to be too sweet I paired the strawberries with dark cocoa.

Dark Strawberry Brownies

Soft Butter
4 large Eggs
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Brown Sugar
1 cup melted Butter
1 1/4 cups Cocoa
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1/2 cup Flour
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 cup fresh Strawberries (diced)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Butter and flour an 8-inch square pan.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a mixer at medium speed until fluffy and light yellow.  Add sugars and mix.  Add remaining ingredients and mix until combined.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Remove to rack and let cool completely.  Cut into squares and enjoy!

Gorgonzola & Pear Pizza

Gorgonzola and pears make a wonderful combination, creamy and naturally sweet with a taste that lingers on the tongue.  I’ve had it many times on or in pasta, but wondered how it would work as a pizza.  Pizza is a comfort food for me; easy, delicious and satisfies both a crispy and creamy craving.

Gorgonzola & Pear Pizza

16oz Frozen Pizza Dough
1 Bosc Pear (thinly sliced)
2 1/2 oz Gorgonzola Cheese
6oz Thin Sliced Provolone Cheese
Sweet Italian Sausage (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Roll out the pizza dough onto a lightly greased pan.  Cover pizza dough with provolone, lightly overlapping the edges of pieces.  Spiral the pear slices with the top in the center.  If using sausage break into small pieces and sprinkle over pears.  Sprinkle the Gorgonzola cheese on top of everything, not too close to the edges of the dough.
Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and the outside crust is golden brown.

The bite of the Gorgonzola blends well with the texture and sweetness of the pair.  It has a robust flavor with a light finish.  A great meal if you’re looking for a nontraditional pizza or appetizer for a party.  Also, wonderful as leftovers served at room temperature.

Almond Sugar Cookies

While killing time between rehearsal and a performance I wandered into Williams & Sonoma, I had been thinking about getting a new spatula for a while and discovered a Darth Vader spatula.  R and I decided it was too cute to pass up on.  I giggled and quoted “Come to the dark side… we have cookies” while R said “cooo-kie” in Darth Vader like breaths.

To break in the new spatula I made an alteration on the Sesame Sugar Cookies, a darker cousin.  Almond Sugar Cookies, they are much richer, lack the crispness of the sesames but the almonds add a moisture to the cookies and a smoky, woody taste.   The white chocolate frosting adds a touch of sweetness without being to indulgent.

Toasted Almond Sugar Cookies
(makes about 6 dozen)

2 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup almond slivers
2 ounces white chocolate, melted

Spread the almond slivers on a cookie sheet and bake in a 400 degree oven for 5 minutes, or until evenly toasted.  Let cool in a paper towel to absorb moisture.  Then grind until you have a crumb-like consistency.

Mix flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.  In a large bowl beat the butter until light and fluffy.  Add brown sugar, beat until well blended (make sure to break up the clumps).  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Gradually beat in flour mixture and 1/4 cup of toasted almonds.

Refrigerate dough approximately 2 hours or until firm.  Shape into balls.  Roll in remaining toasted almonds.  Place on greased baking sheets.

Bake in a 400 degree oven 6 to 8 minutes or until bottoms are a medium brown.  Cool completely.  Drizzle melted white chocolate over cookies.  Let chocolate set.  Enjoy!

Pumpkin Chai Muffins

For our most recent designer run (the rehearsal run that the designers and show staff attend to see the show before we move into tech) I made two types of muffins.  One of the cast members is a vegan and our director is following a gluten-free diet so I decided to try out a Bittersweet recipe.  I did not know where to get persimmons, so I substituted pumpkin instead and altered a few other things.  They came out looking amazing, something you would find at a corner coffee shop along side espressos and lattes.  The crumbly muffins were excellent paired with tea or coffee, the spice gave them a little kick and were savory more than sweets.  Here’s the recipe:

Pumpkin Chai Muffins

1 Cup Pumpkin Puree
3 Tablespoons Canola Oil
1/2 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
1/3 Cup Light Brown Sugar, Packed
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
2 Cups Soy Flour (or All Purpose for non-gluten-free)
1/2 Cup Chopped Hazelnuts
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Instant Coffee Powder
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
3/4 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
Pinch Salt

6 Teaspoons Granulated Sugar, for Topping

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, oil, vinegar, brown sugar, and vanilla until smooth.  In a separate bowl mix the flour, hazelnuts, baking soda, coffee, spices, and salt.  Combine the wet ingredients into the dry, stir.  Don’t thoroughly stir, just until a few lumps remain.

Distribute the batter in greased muffin tins and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 15-20 minutes. Let cool in the pan for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.  Then enjoy!