Category Archives: Desserts

Candied Bacon, Bacconalias and More Bacon

I thought the bacon hype would die down, but I was very wrong. In the past couple weeks, there has been much bacon talk in my world.

Two weekends ago, I decided that the secret to a good sausage gravy is bacon grease, and a little bit of cooked bacon. Yep, heart attack in progress. I’m still refining the recipe a bit, and will share it when I’m happy with it.

Apparently in tune with bacon on the brain, the folks at Seattle’s Cook Local posted this picture on twitter: Chocolate chip cookies with candied bacon. Think what you will, but this sounds pretty good to me. They promised a recipe, but suggested using regular chocolate chip cookie dough and mixing in candied bacon. They offered me these instructions to candy bacon on Twitter: take two strips, and in a ziploc bag with brown sugar, shake, then bake at 350-degrees for 15 minutes. Cool and chop.

And adding to the bacon front, today I saw this upcoming event mentioned in Seattle Magazine: Baconopolis from 6-8 p.m. Feb. 25. Cost is $30 and includes boutique bacon tastings and bacon-enhanced dishes and desserts with Seattle celebrity chef Tom Douglas. To buy tickets contact Christie at 206.448.2001 or email her at:

When I went to look up more information on the event, I also found a bacon bun recipe from Tom Douglas. Read it here.

I think all this means that Kitsap needs to have its own bacon festival, a Kitsap Bacconalia, if you will.

Easy, Boozy, Homemade Balls O’ Goodness

Rum, bourbon and hazelnut liquer balls.
Rum, bourbon and hazelnut liquer balls.

This summer we had another in a long line of great interns. But one of the things that set Mandy Simpson apart was that she plied us with treats while she was here. (Note to all future interns: baking is a bonus skill.) She made us strawberry pie, and some going-away goodies called bourbon balls.

They were an instant hit, and I knew this summer that I’d be making them for Christmas. I mean, how can you go wrong combining holidays and chocolate-y, little, boozy balls?

The recipe came by way of Mandy’s mom in the form of a copied newspaper clipping from a Judy Cunningham of Roanoke, Virginia. So thank you all to Mandy, her mom and Mrs. Cunningham, wherever you are now.

I made them and some adaptations for a recent cookie exchange and will be giving some soon as Christmas gifts.

Here it is:

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Did You Remember the T-Day Desserts?

Yeah, there’s the turkey or the ham, but the thing I look forward to every year is that belt-notch dropper, dinner topper dessert.

For me, it has to be some sort of pie, and as we head into tomorrow, I thought I’d share a few.

It also happens to be what I’m focusing on this year, since cooking dinner has been taken off my plate as we head out to family gatherings instead of hosting. I’ll make a few apple and a couple of from-scratch pumpkin pies. Dough and all. (Well, at least that’s what I’m assuming at 4 p.m. Wednesday. We’ll see if I’m frantically running out to Safeway at midnight tonight.)

I’ll tweak the recipe I used last year. I’ll likely try something out of the Pie and Pastry Bible, but heard a great Skillet Apple Pie recipe on NPR yestarday.

Food Life readers offered up some great recipes for the recipe contest, and I wanted to highlight a couple desserts that sounded like they’d be relatively quick (one is incredibly quick) and delicious.

The first one comes from Colleen Smidt and uses flour and whipping cream and sugar mix that adds an extra layer of richness to the apple pie.

Apple Cream Pie

1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream (liquid)
4 tablespoon Flour (heaping)
3/4 Cup Sugar (organic tastes best)
Cinnamon to taste ( I like a lot but that is just me)
4 to 5 Golden Delicious Apples (do NOT substitute any other apple variety)
1 Deep Dish Pie Shell (I use pre-made frozen)

Mix everything, except apples, together in a big mixing bowl and set aside for 1 hour. Ingredients will have a slight reaction and some rising will occur. This is ok.

Peel and core apples. Cut length wise into quarters. Slice length wise into thin slices between approximately 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Fill pie shell with apple slices to determine correct amount to be used. I make sure it is full and has a nice mound. Once the apple slices are mixed with the liquid a significant amount of settling will occur.

Mix apples and liquid together in the bowl. Pour into the pie shell. Sprinkle additional cinnamon sparingly on top for taste and color.

Bake 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Let pie cool and serve room temp or chilled. This is a great pie to make up the day before and travels really well once it is chilled.

The next recipe came from Shellie Cohagan, and would be a pretty good bet for something to whip up on Thursday since it’s quick and oven-free.

No Bake Punkin’ Cheesecake Pie
20 min prep
Serves 6 -8
8 inches prepared graham cracker crusts
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese , softened
2 1/2 cups whipped topping, divided
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (3 1/2 ounce) package vanilla instant pudding mix
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups 100% pumpkin puree (not the pie mix)
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

  1. In a medium-mixing bowl combine cream cheese, 1 cups of the whipped topping, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla extract. Beat until smooth.
  2. Spread evenly over crust.
  3. In a large mixing bowl combine: pudding, milk, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, and 1 more cups of whipped topping.
  4. Stir until thoroughly combined.
  5. Spoon mixture over cream cheese layer.
  6. Top with remaining 1/2 cup of whip topping. Shellie puts it in a pastry bag and decorates the top with the whip cream.
  7. Chill at least 1 hour before serving.

Grilled Nectarines with Blackberry Sauce

Grilled nectarines
Grilled nectarines

The great thing about summertime desserts are that many tend to be simple. Grilled fruit is one of my favorites whether it be slices of grilled pineapple drizzled with coconut milk and macadamia nuts or apples or stone fruit.

Here’s a recipe I tried out a couple weeks ago:

Grilled Nectarines with Blackberry Sauce

1 cup sugar, divided
1 pound fresh blackberries
4 nectarines, cut into 1/2-inch slices
Juice from 1 lemon, divided
Vanilla ice cream

In a medium saucepan, mix blackberries, half the lemon juice and sugar over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook about 10 minutes, making sure all the sugar is dissolved. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve.

Lightly oil the grill and heat to high. Brush nectarine slices with olive oil, drizzle with lemon juice and sprinkle with sugar. Place on grill and cook until edges start to brown, about two or three minutes on each side.

Serve slices with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and pour sauce over it. Use leftover sauce for ice cream or waffles later.

Using up zucchini with a sweet treat

Zucchini Bread
Zucchini Bread

Last week, into my home came a zucchini the size of a football. While I love the stuff, my husband hates it. Loathes it, in fact. And just as I was dreaming up creative ways to use it — should I stuff a chicken? core it and bake it like a boat with a cargo of meats and marinara? — out fell one of those food-zine newspaper inserts.

What initially caught my eye was a recipe for watermelon gazpacho with herb oil (which I vow to try despite the disgusted looks I get when I string together “watermelon” and “gazpacho” in a sentence). But as I flipped through it, Ii found their zucchini special and a recipe for that standard zucchini overabundance user upper ubiquitous to potlucks and garden gatherings everywhere.

Everyone has their own zucchini bread recipe, each with slight variations, nuts, other fruits, different portions of this and that.

I’ve made zucchini bread before, but it was a long time ago and it came out way too bitter. But I’ve had some good zucchini bread courtesy of our arts and entertainment reporter, and figured I’d give it another try. The magazine’s recipe looked pretty simple and pulled in plenty of sugar.

I made it twice, turning the second batch into muffins (which I cooked for 25 minutes instead of the load time of 1 hour). It turned out cakey and moist and sugary, so here, tested and approved, it is to share.

What’s your favorite zucchini (or other vegetable) bread recipe?

Zucchini Bread

from Relish

3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 3/4 cups shredded, unpeeled zucchini undrained
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325-degres. Spray a 9X5 loaf pan with cooking spray and dust with flour.

Combine oil, sugar, eggs and zucchini in a large bowl. In a seperate bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Gradually add to zucchini mix. Beat 3 minutes with a mixer on medium speed. Scrape batter into a prepared pan.

Bake 1 hour or until inserted knife comes out clean. Serves 10.

The Relish link above has calorie and nutritional information.

Beating The Heat With Frozen Fruity Desserts

All I can think about today is being outside. I’ve been taking a look again at suggestions of best places to head after work on a sunny day.

And I’ve been craving ice cream, gelato, sorbet and the like since I woke up. I’ve been particularly wanting to try out a recipe I ran across yesterday on Foodista, the Seattle-based food encyclopedia. It was a Watermelon Ice recipe that was really basic using only sugar, watermelon, water and some lime leaves. Best part was it didn’t require an ice-cream maker, just some patience and ability to stir up the mix over the course of half a day. Because of that last part, I didn’t quite have time to make it last night, but it will definitely be tried out soon. I’ll leave a comment here letting you know how it went. Or if you try it, let me know how it goes.

I’m going to try a raspberry fruit ice, a strawberry and, taking an idea from a drink I saw at Bremerton’s Hi-Fidelity Lounge and combining strawberry with basil.

But since my interest in fruit ice was piqued, I looked up and found a couple other interesting recipes.

Epicurious has a recipe for Fresh Fruit Ice Trio: Lime, Watermelon & Pineapple and a site called Flora’s Hideout had a recipe for a mixed-fruit ice beverage that included strawberries, bananas and gelatin.

Triple Berry Cobbler That Tastes Good and Is Actually Good for You, Too

Three-berry cobbler
Three-berry cobbler

So in all that talk of high fiber foods, I tried to go beyond the beans and looked for something tasty and dessert-like. I found a recipe in one of my gifted cookbooks, “Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Healthful Cooking.” The book had a whole section of foods based on properties like high in fiber or lowfat, etc. and a table of recipes and stats. I keyed in on the dessert that said 7 grams of fiber per serving.

I initially bought all the ingredients for a dinner with friends, but when I started making it, I realized that the clock I’d been timing my day by had not yet been reset for the season. So, rather than be 45 minutes late, I cooked it later. Then we ate it for dessert, and breakfast, and snacks for the next few days.

Even after all that, I still liked it. That’s gotta say something, right?

My few complaints were these: As I started cutting up the berries and placing them in the bowl, they was way more than the suggested 8X8 pan would hold and not nearly enough crust. Also, there is no way I found that you can smooth out the crust over the berries. I tried oiling a clean spoon and being very careful until I lost my patience. My solution the second time around was to drop smaller half-spoonfulls all over. The crust gets mushy pretty fast. I prefer something a little crispier on my cobbler, but managed to get a little of that back by popping servings back in the oven under the broiler.

Peach-ified cobbler
Peach-ified cobbler

This weekend I made it again for a family dinner. I abandoned most of the high-fiber, healthy part of it because I really needed to eat something new. For the filling, I replaced the berries in the recipe with a couple cups of frozen marionberries and most of a bag of frozen peaches. Instead of raspberry jam, I used apricot preserves left in my refrigerator from another recipe, a touch of honey and I was out of instant tapioca so used about 1 1/2 tablespoons of corn starch. I also used regular buttermilk.

I liked the berry version better, but then again, I’m a pretty big fan of berries.

Triple Berry Cobbler

(from “Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Healthful Cooking”)

7 grams of fiber, 4 grams protein, 61 carbs, 7 grams fat

2 cups blueberries
4 cups raspberries
4 cups strawberries, stemmed and sliced in half
1/4 cup raspberry jam
1 Tbs instant tapioca

1 cup unbleached flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
kosher salt
3 Tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup nonfat buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together berries and carefully fold in jam and tapioca. (I heated up the jam a bit to make it runny and mixed the tapioca in before pouring it over the berries.)

Mix flour, baking soda and baking powder together. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy and pale. Add half the buttermilk and half the dry ingredients and combine until getting sticky. Add remaining buttermilk and dry ingredients and mix just until it’s a sticky mass. Don’t overmix.

Drop spoonfuls of crust over the berries. Smooth it out a little (if you can), but don’t worry about gaps.

Bake 40 minutes or until top is golden and filling bubbles up on the sides and through the gaps.

Remove to a wire rack to cool.

The Recipe for Those Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut Butter Cookies
Peanut Butter Cookies

Here’s the really simple recipe for the peanut butter cookies I briefly fretted over last night. I believe I got it out of a Weight Watchers magazine, but I’ve been making them by heart, so the proportions may be off from the original.

Quick Peanut Butter Cookies
1 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar plus extra for dusting
About 2 Tbsp flour
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Mix all ingredients together. Add a little more powdered sugar if the mix is too soft, but be careful not to make it too crumbly.

Roll about a teaspoon at a time into small balls (I can fit about 16 on a regular baking sheet) and flatten gently with your thumb or a fork. Bake for 12 minutes.

Remove from oven and let them sit on a baking sheet for about two minutes. Place on wire racks to finish cooling.

Food Failure No. 324: Why Do They Always Happen?

FAIL: Poached Pear Tart
FAIL: Poached Pear Tart

No, I’m not really keeping count, but sometimes I feel like some ghost consortium of departed award-winning chefs is checking off the three-hundreth failure mark along a list of my cooking (and food photo) attempts.

I could feel it when I once went chasing after my cat and left a pot of water boiling on the stove so long that the non-stick layer smoked and peeled right off. Felt it when I had to step away from a dish-in-progress to look up the word “julienne” while onions and garlic burned away in a skillet on the stove.

And I felt it again last weekend, when I thought for sure I could pull off a poached pear tart, almost straight out of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”.

A few months before, I’d had my first little test with a poached pear after eating a delicious dessert at Seattle’s Le Pichet: a delicate little pear poached in white wine with a dollop of an airy cream sauce. We had gone to the restaurant as part of a book club excursion after reading “My Life in France,” a posthumously published autobiography about Julia Child’s introduction to the country, cuisine and cooking.

After a little trial and error, I got down a passable piece of poached fruit. There is not a whole lot to poached fruit except sugar, water, spices and maybe wine or liqueur. Which is how I got all confident about the poached pear tart.

The rest of the tart requires a sugar crust and a custard bed for the red-wine-poached pears and a currant jelly glaze. The original recipe calls for an almond custard, but since I was bringing the dessert to a friend who is allergic to almonds, I went for a more standard custard recipe offered on the previous page.

Well, it seems that everything I touched for that recipe started out wrong:

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Weekend Cooking, Starting with Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies

This weekend was cooking madness at my house. I cooked up goodies for a party on Saturday and a cookie exchange on Sunday.

Knowing that I’d be having people over and a cookie exchange the next day, I set out making a ton of cookies. In planning, I wanted to do at least a couple little fancy cookies and some things that were far simpler. So when I started baking Friday night, it was with a recipe I knew I could make a lot of, and I wanted it to be fairly simple and freezable so 1) I could make extra and freeze them to put in Christmas cookie plates for other friends and 2) just in case no one ate them.

So I hit up the basic chocolate chip cookie recipe, but decided to liven it up a bit for the holidays. I took a basic cookie recipe and swapped out the semi-sweet chips with white chocolate chips, added pecans and dried cherries.

They turned out OK, but I realized after the fact (always after the fact) that I should have bought more pecans to really bulk up the cookie (which I accounted for in the recipe below) and shouldn’t have tried to make the batch all at once.

My new cooking lesson is that the baking soda reaction is only good for so long. It apparently starts reacting soon after it mixes with the other wet ingredients, and if you wait too long, like when you’re baking 7 dozen cookies, the cookies get kind of flat and crispy.

What these cookies did do right, however, was jazz up a basic recipe in a way that made it a little different from the norm. I’d love to hear some of your suggestions for ways to make a basic recipe better.

Cherry, White Chocolate Pecan Cookies

Cherry, Pecan, Chocolate Chip cookies

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
2 cup dried unsweetened cherries, chopped
2 cups white chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375-degrees.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugars with a mixer. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat until well-mised. Gradually beat in as much of the dry mix as you can, and stir the rest until well-combined. Fold in cherries, pecans and chips.

Drop by spoonfulls onto nonstick cookie sheets or sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake  a dozen at a time for 10-12 minutes. Cool on sheet for two minutes and finish cooling completely on wire racks.