May your holidays be merry and bright and full of good food! :-)

photo credit: Our Christmas Tree by Tamie Snow


Over the weekend, my kitchen turned into a chocolate factory as I whipped up all kinds of goodies to go in gift bags. And after taste-testing every bit of it, I was kind of sick of eating chocolate. This statement is a tab bit shocking even to myself, because I don’t ever tire of eating chocolate.

In an effort to prevent my gift recipients from going into chocolate overload, I wanted to add something else a little different to their packages. This nut filled recipe seemed like it would be a great addition to the sampler.

Oh boy. Let me tell you, I’ve eaten more than my daily allowance of nuts for 3 days straight. I seriously have to force myself to step away.

These beautiful nut bars are rich, buttery and decadent. To save my friends and family from themselves, I’m only going to include 2 in each package. Because I care. (Not because I want to eat more of them myself. No, that is not it all.)


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Rustic Nut Bars

Adapted from Epicurious. Yield: about 3 dozen.

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp plus 3/4 cup cold butter, divided
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten

Topping
2/3 cup honey
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
6 Tbsp butter, cubed
2 Tbsp heavy whipping cream
1 cup hazelnuts*, toasted
1 cup roasted salted almonds
1 cup salted cashews, toasted
1 cup pistachios, toasted

Directions:

Line a 13-in x 9-in. x 2-in. baking pan with foil; grease the foil with 1 Tbsp butter. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; cut in remaining butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in egg until blended (mixture will be dry). Press firmly into prepared pan. Bake at 375 for 18-20 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

In a large heavy saucepan over medium heat, bring the honey, brown sugar and salt to a boil; stir until sugar is dissolved. Boil without stirring for 2 minutes. Add butter and cream. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in the nuts. Spread over crust.

Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes or until topping is bubbly. Cool completely on a wire rack. Using foil, lift bars out of pan. Discard foil; cut into squares.

Note: Nut bars keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment, in an airtight container at room temperature 1 week.

*I couldn't find hazelnuts at the store on the day I was shopping, so I just used peanuts since I had some in the house. You could also sub macadamia nuts or pecans for an even richer taste.

Hazelnuts on Foodista

No visions of sugar plums dancing in my head. Sugar plums? Really? Nah, I much prefer chocolate. Want to know what holiday treat I’m most looking forward to this week? Take a gander to the right.

For those that have been following this blog for a while, you probably remember the wedding desserts I featured back in October. Well, the recipe for my mom’s chocolate peanut butter balls was included then, but I wanted to share again for fear that you might have overlooked. And that would be a shame. A crying shame I tell ya.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

2 sticks butter
1 lb peanut butter
1 1/2 lbs powdered sugar
1 large bag chocolate chips
1 bar paraffin

Melt butter and add peanut butter and powdered sugar. Make into 1-inch balls. Melt 1 bar paraffin and 1 large bag chocolate chips over low heat, stirring to prevent sticking. With toothpicks in balls, dip into hot chocolate mixture. Place on waxed paper until chocolate hardens.

Another sweet treat that has become a holiday tradition in our family is this fudge. It’s so rich that I can’t eat much, but that’s probably a good thing, right???

White Chocolate Fudge

1- 8 oz cream cheese, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla flavoring
12 oz white chocolate chips or bark
3/4 cup chopped pecans

With an electric mixer in a tall mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, slowly adding in powdered sugar and vanilla. In a separate container, melt white chocolate in microwave. Stir in cream cheese mixture. Pour in pecans and stir. Pour mixture into greased 8×8 baking dish. Once cooled, cut into small squares.

And this year I’m introducing a new goodie into the mix. We’ll see how it’s received by the fam. I know I’ve enjoyed taste testing it, but as you might recall, I’m partial to a little sweet-n-heat….

Spicy Chocolate Bark

1 lb semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped cashews, toasted
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1 tsp cayenne pepper

In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips. Stir in the nuts and cayenne. Spread onto a waxed paper-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Break into small pieces. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

What’s your favorite holiday sweet? Do you make it, or does someone else?

The winner of the beautiful cheese board and serving utensils had this to say about her favorite cheesy appetizer:

“almost embarrassed to admit it, but I love me some sausage balls this time of year! so easy too, with just three ingredients… bisquick, shredded cheddar, and sausage. Always a hit.”

Yes, Misty, you’re the big winner*!

And I agree, you really can’t go wrong with sausage balls.

Here’s a little something else Misty had to say:

“I would win some serious points with my mother-in-law if I gave her that cheese board for christmas… just sayin’…”

Glad to be able to help you get in good with the in-laws! Happy Holidays~

*winner chosen by random.org


I’ve really been wanting to post this for a few weeks, but I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to write as much as I would like. Today I decided I could put it off no longer. Reason being, the holidays are upon us, and I want to spread the word about the wonderful holiday treats available at Provence!

For those of you that don’t know, Provence is a local artisan bread bakery that specializes in French-style breads, pastries and other scrumptious cafe fare. It’s a great place to meet friends for lunch or pick up an impressive dessert for a dinner party.

I’ve been following @ProvenceBreads on Twitter for quite some time, and knew from the conception of my “Tweet Me Right” feature that they would be one of the first Nashville businesses I would highlight. (If you haven’t been following along, click here to see what I’m talking about)

Here are just a few examples of why I love them:

1) Highlights Special Events and Happenings

Holiday sampling from 11am-2pm at Hillsboro Village location with Terry and head baker Keith. Come out and see us… http://bit.ly/5p7kGq

Tomorrow’s Fall Fest at Hillsboro Village store is shaping up beautifully! Follow this link for a PDF of event details http://ow.ly/d/u5

The Coffee Fête starts at 10:00a.m.with discounted coffee drinks, tastings, free cookies, and door prizes-come join us at Green Hills!

2) Discounts for Twitter followers!

Twitter promo…Green Hills store-buy a loaf of bread and get your large Intelligentsia coffee free. Please mention “friend of twitter”

Free toppings with Yummi Yo Yogurt purchase in Green Hills today. Regular Tart and today’s flavor is Lemon.

Sweet Tweet-lemon tartlette at Hillsboro and Green Hills free today when you mention Twitter-until they’re gone

3) Supportive of Other Local Businesses

http://twitpic.com/nawxt – Our friends the Delvins have the best organic sweet potatos-today is the last market of the season!

@MannaEast Wonderful! We are so excited about your opening and many of us are east nashvillians, we can’t wait to become customers!

Cafe Margots for brunch…thank you Margot for doing such a great job with our bread…Sun. brunch was so delicious. Bloody Mary’s rock too!

4) Informative -New Items, Specials and Menu Features

Today’s soups at Hillsboro Village: Traditional Spiced Pumpkin, Lentil (chicken stock based) and Pork Hominy.

We now have two savory tarts. Tomato/blue cheese and Mushroom/Madeira/Goat cheese all @21st. Come and get them.


5) A Taste of Paris
When @ProvenceBreads went to Paris, he shared photos and tidbits from all of his fantastic meals and tastings. It was such a pleasure to feel like I was sharing in the experience. Ahh, Paris.

Just arrived in Paris. What a beautiful day-can’t wait to start my food journey though I’m so jet lagged. Got my tastebuds and camera ready!

My fist stop in Paris is the fromagerie downstairs from my apartment, just got enough cheese for a week-some old favorites and some new ones…


I have had the best pastry day in Paris-trying to organize the pastry shops with photos of the pastries I’ve eaten or am about to eat :)

Paris-Carl marletti-classic “tarte aux fruits” done like i’ve never seen or tasted. From the crust to the fruit-perfect

Owly Images

6) Appreciative and Responsive:

@devinmcc Thanks for the thumbs up on the portabella/moz/onion panini…that’s my favorite sandwich! We appreciate your business.

@kimu Thanks for the bread mention! Stop by the market next week and let me give you some samples of some really awesome pastry as well.

Received news while in Paris that we just won Best of Nashville Scene for Best Bread, thirteen years and running, I’m thrilled and humbled..

So there are just a few reasons I’m diggin’ Provence. They’ve gotten me in their door more than a few times since I’ve been following them, and some of my personal menu favorites are their Golden Beet Salad with roasted beets, pepper bacon and goat cheese over mesculun greens, their crustless quiche, and the Lamb Panini with artichoke pesto and oven-roasted tomatoes on rosemary olive oil bread (only served on Mondays). I’m dying to try the Roast Pork Loin with oven-roasted tomatoes and rouille served on sweet potato pecan bread. Unfortunately, it’s only served on Thursdays and I just haven’t been anywhere in the vicinity on a Thursday since I work so far away. One day….

And then of course there are all of their amazing pastries and sweets. I’ve had the pleasure of sampling more than a few, and so far haven’t found a single one I don’t like! If you’re looking for some special holiday treats, get over to Provence and pick some up- your friends and family will love you!

Nashville Locations:

Hillsboro Village
1705 21st Ave S

Green Hills
Hill Center
4031 Hillsboro Rd

Downtown Library
601 Church Street

For more locations and hours, click here.

For the Twitterers out there, be sure to follow @ProvenceBreads!

Say Cheese!

To my utter delight, the nice folks over at Président Cheese sent me a gift package last week to use for holiday entertaining. It included 3 of their new Brie logs as well as a beautiful Acacia wood serving set.

(Me and Brie? We get along. Do you remember how I served it this summer at a cookout? Serious Yum.)

With my annual girls’ after-Christmas party looming on the horizon, this package could not have come at a better time. Typically I would have already started to create a list of appetizer ideas, but not this year. Work is pretty crazy right now, and I haven’t had much time to play the foodie role.

Enter Président . Président Cheese that is. I checked out their site and am totally impressed with some of the recipes. There is no doubt I’ll be turning to them for some holiday bites inspiration. For instance, this is a definite:

Prosciutto Wrapped Brie with Figs


4 dried figs, quartered lengthwise
2 tablespoons fig preserves or jam
¼ teaspoon Italian herb blend
Pinch red pepper flakes
Salt & pepper to taste
6 oz. Président® Brie Log
4 thin slices prosciutto ham
1 teaspoon olive oil

Combine figs, preserves, Italian herbs, pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Cut Brie log in half lengthwise. Top one half of Brie with fig mixture and place other half of Brie on top, sandwiching the figs in-between. Lay the prosciutto slices out lengthwise, slightly overlapping the edges, and place Brie near one end. Gently, roll prosciutto around brie tightly. Heat olive oil in sauté pan large enough to hold log and sauté log, turning to crisp prosciutto on all sides. Remove from pan and serve with bread, crackers, or toast.

As wonderful as that sounds, I’ve got something even better for you. I’m not just here to tell you a story of how great my gift is and how I’m going to use it. Instead, I’m going to share with you. That’s right, this lovely serving set with accessories could be yours!

As you can see, the rich wood board comes with a pull out storage drawer that houses three stainless steel serving utensils: 1 cheese spreader/serrated knife, 1 cheese fork, and 1 hard cheese knife. (For more details on size, etc, click here.)

Now all you have to do to enter the contest is leave me a note in the comments section telling me your favorite cheese appetizer. One entry per person, please.

Bonus: You can get a second chance by twittering about this giveaway or posting it on your own blog. You’ll just need to come back here to the comments section and post a link for me to see.

Please be sure to enter a valid email address when leaving a comment so I can get in touch with you. If you can’t be reached, I’ll be forced to choose an alternate winner and we don’t want that now do we?!?

Contest ends Sunday, December 20th at midnight (CST) and the winner will be announced first thing Monday morning! Say Cheese!

Contest open to U.S. Residents Only.


Photo Credit: President Cheese website

Homemade baked goods can be great gifts, but if you’re anything like me, you may have struggled with how to package them in a pretty way.

Well, not any more! King Arthur Flour has just come out with a whole selection of bake-and-give pans that I love for several reasons. Not only are they attractive but they also make the process so much easier. Just bake, allow to cool, throw some cellophane around ‘em, tie ‘em up with some cute, brightly colored ribbon and you’ve got your gift!

I’ll no longer have to worry about tearing up my loaf of bread as I’m taking it out of the pan and even better, there will be less for me to clean up. No more scrubbing metal loaf pans between bakings…yippee!

So what’s my plan? Well, I’m ordering the mini loaf pans shown above (a set of 12 is only $6.95) and baking up some tasty Pumpkin Gingerbread. After receiving rave reviews from family members, it has become my absolute favorite holiday bread. You’re more than welcome to steal my idea or come up with your own.

Click here to find the perfect bake-and-give pans for your needs, and once you do, use promo code RT91212 to get 20% off your order!




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Pumpkin Gingerbread

From allrecipes.com. Yields 2 - 9x5 inch loaves (or 6 small loaves)

Ingredients:

3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2/3 cups water
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 9x5 in loaf pans. In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, oil and eggs. Beat until smooth. Add water and beat until well blended. Stir in pumpkin, ginger, allspice, and cinnamon.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, soda, salt, and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture and blend just until all ingredients are mixed. Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake in preheated oven until toothpick comes out clean, about 1 hour.

A couple of the other King Arthur Bake-and-Give Pan options

Photo Credit: King Arthur website


It’s so, so, so, so cold right now that all I really want to do is snuggle up by the fire in my pj’s. But a girl’s gotta eat, so I’m on the hunt for recipes that warm my bones. This chili does just that.

You might remember my trip to Pittsburgh, and the visit to Parma sausage, where I scored some chorizo. I’ve been trying to decide what to do with it, and this recipe was perfect. With it’s kick of spice it’ll heat you up in a hearbeat! So yummy….



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Chorizo and Black Bean Chili

Adapted from Cooking Light. Serves 6.

Ingredients:

1 (7 oz) can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
Cooking spray
1 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped green pepper
3/4 cup chopped red pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 oz chorizo sausage, diced
2 tsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 (15 oz) cans black beans, drained
2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup whole kernel corn
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Directions:

Remove 1 chile from can; finely chop, reserving remaining chiles and sauce for another use.

Heat a large Dutch oven coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add chile, onion, bell peppers, garlic, and chorizo; saute 5 minutes or until tender. Add chili powder and next 7 ingredients (chili powder through corn), stirring to combine. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 30 minutes stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, stir in salt and pepper.

Sorry I don’t have a photo of the chili for you. On this particular night I wasn’t in blogger mode, just starving, tired Beth mode. Next time I’ll try to remember to snap a pic and post it here, because there will definitely be a next time very soon!

Photo Credit: Fireplace by arild

Chorizo Sausage on Foodista