Banana Meringue Cookies

Banana Meringue Cookies

Using only 5 ingredients, meringue cookies are some of the simplest to create. Egg whites are whipped to stiff peaks then dropped or piped onto cookie sheets and baked at a low temperature to dry to a crunchy delight. If you don’t like banana, you can substitute your favorite flavor extract.

4 egg whites
¼  teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 tablespoon banana extract
1-1/2 cup fine* white sugar

Preheat oven to 200˚F. Add pieces of parchment paper to cover two baking sheets.

Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites, salt, cream of tartar, and banana extract until firm. Slowly add sugar in a stream while beating into the egg white mixture.

Drop or pipe by onto the parchment lined sheet trays to make 15 cookies per sheet. Bake for 2 hours. Turn the oven off and leave the cookies in the oven to cool, 2 hours or up to overnight, to dry. Makes 30 cookies.

*process the sugar in a food processor for 1-2 minutes until ground fine.

Pasta with Halloumi Cheese and Oven Roasted Vegetables

Pasta with Halloumi Cheese and Oven Roasted Vegetables

Yummy pasta tossed with pan-fried Halloumi cheese, roasted veggies, fresh rosemary, toasted ciabatta croutons, and cherry tomato mushroom sauce. Then topped off with a squeeze of fresh lemon, basil leaves, and parmesan cheese.  Halloumi cheese is a semi-hard, unripened, brined cheese made from a mixture of goat and sheep milk, and has a high melting point allowing it to be sautéed long enough to develop a crispy exterior.

½ small loaf ciabatta bread, cut into small cubes
1 yellow pepper, cut into ½” pieces
1small red onion, sliced into thin wedges
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided plus extra
1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 lemon, zest and juice
Kosher salt
16 ounces Campanelle pasta
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 package halloumi cheese
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1 clove of garlic, minced
½ cup thinly sliced mushrooms
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
Parmesan cheese for topping

Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Slice the crusts off the ciabatta bread, then cut into ½” cubes and place into a large mixing bowl. Cut the pepper in half, remove the seeds, cut into ½” square pieces, and add to the bowl. Peel the onions and cut into thin wedges then place in the bowl.

Drizzle in 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and the chopped rosemary into a small bowl. Using a rasper grater, finely grate the lemon zest into the small bowl, add a large pinch of salt and whisk everything together. Pour the mixture over the bread and vegetables, tossing them well so everything is coated. Lightly coat a sheet tray with oil and pour the vegetable onto the sheet tray. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, tossing halfway through.

Prepare the pasta according to the package directions. While keeping one cup of the pasta water, drain the rest, and set the pasta aside.

While the pasta cooks, add the remaining olive oil to a pan set over medium heat. Add the red pepper flakes to the pan and sauté for 2 minutes until soft. Add the halloumi cheese and sauté for 2-3 minutes until golden on all sides. Remove and keep warm.

Add the cherry tomatoes to the pan and sauté until they pop. Add the garlic, mushrooms, and tomato paste with ½ cup of pasta water and cook until incorporated and a smooth sauce forms, about 3-5 minutes. Add the roasted vegetables with bread and any liquid in the pan to the tomato mixture. Cook until incorporated, add the pasta and the sautéed Halloumi cheese, then squeeze the fresh lemon over the pasta, stir in. If needed, thin the sauce with the remaining pasta water. Top with fresh basil, parmesan cheese, and serve.

Chocolate Stout Cake Truffles with Irish Whiskey Sauce.

Chocolate Stout Cake Truffles with Irish Whiskey Sauce.

Celebrate like the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day with a special treat created with Irish Stout and Whiskey. We used a deep chocolate stout cake rolled into delicious truffles, then coated with dark chocolate ganache. To top it off, we created a pastry dipping sauce flavored with Irish Whisky.

Be sure to roll the cake truffles when the cake is still warm. The melted chocolate pieces in the still warm cake are what holds the truffles together.

Cake Truffles
1 ½ stick unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan
1 ounce unsweetened natural cocoa powder, plus more for dusting the pan
2/3 cups Guinness or other Stout
3 tablespoons molasses
3 ¾ ounces all-purpose flour
¾  teaspoon baking powder
¼  teaspoon baking soda
¼  teaspoon salt
¾ cups packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs yolks, at room temperature
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

Ganache coating
½ cup cream
6 ounces chopped dark chocolate

Irish Whisky Sauce
1 ¼  cups whole milk
1 ½  teaspoons vanilla bean paste
4 large egg yolks
2 ½  tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoon Jamison Irish Whiskey or other Irish Whiskey

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line an 8×8” pan with parchment paper. Butter, then dust the sides and parchment with cocoa. Set aside.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the stout and molasses to a simmer. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter in the mixer work bowl on medium speed until smooth. Add the brown sugar and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, stopping to scrape the bowl after each addition. Turn the mixer on low speed, and add 1/3 of the flour, then half stout mixture. Continue adding another 1/3 of the flour, the remaining stout mixture, and end with the flour. Scrape the bowl and then beat at medium speed until the batter is smooth. Stir in the chopped chocolate.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it, 20 minutes. The cake should be just slightly underdone. Set the pan on a rack to cool for 20 minutes or until just barely warm. Then scoop and roll into 16 equal size balls and place on a parchment lined sheet tray. Refrigerate for 2 hours until cold.

To make the ganache topping, place the chocolate in a bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the cream until just steaming. Pour over the chocolate. Let sit five minutes then stir until the chocolate is completely melted, shiny, and smooth. Dip the balls in the chocolate placing them back on a parchment lined sheet tray. Return to the refrigerator until set, about two hours.

While the cake truffles set, make the whiskey sauce. Fill a medium bowl with ice water. In a small saucepan, heat the milk with the vanilla bean paste until it just comes to a simmer.

In another medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and salt until the mixture is pale yellow and thickened. Whisking constantly, temper the eggs by drizzling in the hot milk, a little at a time. When combined, pour the entire mixture into a clean saucepan and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 7 to 8 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve into a medium bowl and add the whiskey, whisking to combine. Set the bowl in the ice bath until cold. Cover and refrigerate the sauce.

To serve: spread a tablespoon of sauce on each plate, add two cake truffles and serve cold with the extra sauce.  Makes 8 servings.

Mardi Gras King Cake

Mardi Gras King Cake

Mardi Gras isn’t complete without the sweet and colorful King Cakes appearing on tables in New Orleans throughout the Carnival season. Layered with pecans, cinnamon, and dark brown sugar, the cakes are decorated in green, gold, and purple. The cake is finished with a tiny plastic baby hidden inside to symbolizes luck and prosperity to whoever finds it in his or her slice.

For the Cake
1 cup warm milk, between 100-100˚F
2 tablespoons dry yeast
½ cup sugar
3 ¾ cups flour
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 sticks butter, melted
5 egg yolks

Butter & Brown Sugar Spread
1 cup brown sugar
2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
¾ cup roasted pecans, chopped

2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons dried egg white powder
2 tablespoons fresh juice

To Finish
Purple, green and gold decorative sugars
1 plastic baby to insert after baking

In a large mixing bowl combine the warm milk, with the dry yeast, sugar and  ¼ cup of the flour. Mix with whisk until both the sugar and the yeast dissolves. When the mixture begins to froth or foam, add the remaining cake ingredients. After the dough comes together as a large ball, turn the dough out and knead dough on a clean but floured surface for 15 minutes or until smooth and elastic.

Place the dough in a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap move to a warm place in the kitchen for 90 minutes or until the dough has doubled in volume.

While the dough rises, using a wooden spoon, combine all the ingredients for the butter and brown sugar spread.

Preheat the oven to 375˚F. When the dough has risen, punch it down and weight it. Divide the dough into three equal pieces by weight. Roll into three 18” long ropes of dough. Roll out each long rope of dough into a long rectangle about 4 to 5” x 18”. Spread 1/3 of the butter and brown sugar spread over the dough and roll tightly back up to a rope shape. Braid the three pieces around each other and then form into a circle.

Place the braided circle of pastry onto a parchment lined baking sheet, cover lightly with a piece plastic wrap and allow it to rise for another half hour or so or until it doubles in size. Once doubled place into the oven and bake for 30 minutes until golden brown. Remove the cake and place onto a wire rack to cool for another 1 to 1½ hours.

When the cake is cooled mix the powdered sugar, powdered egg white, and lemon juice together with a small wire whisk so that the icing is smooth and thick. If too thick add water a teaspoon at a time until you reach your desired consistency. if it’s too loose, add a little more powdered sugar.

Drizzle the icing over the top of the cake, then immediately sprinkle with purple, green, and gold decorative sugars while the icing is still wet. Insert a plastic baby into underside of the cake and transfer to a platter and serve.


Makes 10-12 servings.