Chocolate red wine bundt cake.

Chocolate: check. Red wine: check. Love: check. Whatever happens next is up to you. [Wink!]

Of course, you could purchase something for your sweetie this Valentine’s Day. Or you could make something from scratch and from the heart. Which isn’t to say that you have to fuss, or extend yourself or buy any fancy ingredients. I’ve a hunch you have everything you need for this simple, one-bowl Chocolate Red Wine Bundt Cake right in your kitchen.

This cake couldn’t be easier to make, yet its rich, dark color and that eye-pleasing bundt shape make it seem fancy enough for a special occasion.

SWAK!

chocolate red-wine cake recipe

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa (not Dutch-processed)
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups red wine (Zinfandel or Shiraz)
Powdered sugar for dusting
Whipped cream for serving

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour a standard (12-cup) bundt or tube pan. Sift together into a bowl the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl using a handheld mixer), mix the butter on medium speed until smooth, then add sugar and beat on medium until very light and fluffy (3 or 4 minutes should do it). Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing to blend completely. Add vanilla and mix to blend. Add one-third of the flour mixture and mix on low speed to incorporate. Add half the wine and mix to incorporate. Repeat, adding one-third of the flour, then the rest of the wine, then the last of the flour, blending just to incorporate the dry and liquid ingredients. Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan; use a spatula to smooth the top and rap the pan firmly on the counter a couple of times to settle the batter. Bake for 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out completely clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes or so, then run an offset spatula around the perimeter to loosen. Invert onto a plate, then invert again so the cake is right-side up. Dust with powdered sugar.

Salty chocolate shortbread cookies.

So, here’s one of those recipes that periodically just makes the rounds of the internet: the Salted Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies from Alison Roman’s new-ish cookbook, “Dining In.” Everyone — I mean, everyone — is making them: The New York Times Cooking app (which is where I first spotted the recipe), Smitten Kitchen, Bon Appétit … and when I taught my winter soup class at the Cooking School at Jungle Jim’s last week, one of the chefs there had made a batch at home and brought some to share.

As with all such things on the interwebs, there are all kinds of comments about the recipe ranging from “the best chocolate chip cookie you’ll ever make” to “meh” to “this recipe is a disaster.”

Suffice it to say that I was intrigued. And since I love a salty chocolate cookie — like these Sea Salt Chocolate Chunk Bar Cookies (which are strikingly similar to Roman’s recipe, but in pan cookie form) — I figured I’d get in on the action.

I’m not one of those food bloggers who love to hack apart someone else’s recipe, but I did make a couple of changes in order to address what I found to be a common critique of  Roman’s popular recipe: that the logs of dough are hard to slice. So, I did a couple of things: First, I chopped the chocolate a little more finely than the recipe suggested (like, into 1/4-inch pieces, max). Second, I skipped brushing an egg wash over the rolls of dough after I’d formed them, opting instead to simply roll the dough in turbinado sugar. And third, I chilled the dough slightly less time than indicated and then used a flat chef’s knife to slice the dough instead of a serrated edge. Of note, I did use the salted butter called for — usually a no-no in baking.

So what’s the deal with these internet-popular Salted Chocolate Chunk Shortbread cookies? I say: Hooray! They’re amazing. Make a batch and judge for yourself.

Alison Roman's Salted Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies

makes about 40 cookies

1 cup + 2 Tablespoons salted butter, softened at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup (lightly packed) brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
6 oz. good quality semi- or bittersweet chocolate, chopped into 1/8- to 1/4 inch chunks
Turbinado sugar for finishing
Flaky sea salt (like Maldon) for finishing

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a bowl using a hand mixer) whip the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, 5–6 minutes. Stir in vanilla. Scrape down the bowl. Blending on low speed, mix in flour about 1/2 cup at a time (the dough is very stiff, and adding flour gradually helps keep it from whooshing out of the bowl and all over your countertop). On low speed, mix in chocolate chunks. Use a scraper to divide dough in half and place each half on a sheet of waxed paper. Use your hands to press (not roll) each portion into a log about 12 inches long by 2 inches in diameter. Sprinkle a bit of turbinado sugar on the paper and roll the log in it to coat the edges. Wrap each log in the paper and roll to form an even cylinder. Refrigerate dough for about 90 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°; line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Working with one log of dough at a time, use a chef's knife to slice the dough into 1/2-inch thick rounds (place the fingers of your opposite hand on the end of the dough log to help keep the dough from crumbling). If the dough, crumbles, just form it back into a round. Place the rounds on the baking sheets fairly close together. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Place both baking sheets in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes before baking (this helps the cookies keep their shape). Bake cookies for about 12 minutes, rotating pans once halfway through baking time, until they're very lightly golden on the edges. Let cool. Cookies keep at room temperature for several days and freeze well.

Beef and cheddar pasta bake.

So, if you’re looking for recipes that will jump-start your healthy eating habits in the new year … well, this is not that recipe. There’s nothing especially virtuous about this Beef and Cheddar Pasta Bake, dietarily speaking—its virtues are purely sensuous: cheesy, comforting goodness.

If you recall that recurring menu item from your elementary school cafeteria days, you might think of this as a sort of upgraded version of Johnny Marzetti. (A dish that has local-ish roots as the house specialty of Marzetti’s Restaurant in Columbus, OH.) The original version combines sautéed onions and mushrooms with ground beef, tomato sauce and elbow macaroni underneath a broiled mantle of cheddar cheese.

For whatever reason (oh, I dunno … maybe because it’s stupid cold outside), I was craving something cheesy and starchy and gooey like this dish, and I found it in Pierre Franey’s “60 Minute Gourmet” recipe for Macaroni and Beef Casserole on the New York Times Cooking app.

As the late Dick Enberg (to bring in a totally non-contextual sports reference) would say, “Oh, my!”

This recipe, with my adaptations is, I humbly submit, the perfect thing for cold winter nights. It’s easy yet takes just enough time to prepare to make it the ideal thing for Sunday supper. It makes 6 generous servings and reheats well, so leftovers are a bonus. It’s the kind of dish you’d just as well serve to company as eat with a spoon from a bowl in front of the television, in your jammies.

Use a food processor to make the prep even easier, and enlist a kitchen helper to sautée the vegetables and meat while you whisk up the cheddar bechamel. Use very lean ground beef (like ground round) to keep the dish from tasting greasy. Bookmark this recipe for the weekend, OK?

Beef & Cheddar Pasta Bake (AKA upscale Johnny Marzetti) recipe

serves 6

6 oz. dried pasta (like elbows, small shells or 'o's)
1/2 sweet onion
1 stalk celery
1 small red or green bell pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms
1 pound extra-lean ground beef
3/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian herb seasoning
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (divided use)
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne
Kosher salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375°. In a food processor, pulse the onion, celery and bell pepper until finely chopped; transfer to a bowl and use the processor to chop the mushrooms in similar fashion.

Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil and add pasta; cook according to package directions, then drain and keep warm.

In an ovenproof skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers; reduce heat to medium and add chopped onion, celery and bell pepper. Season with a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until they're soft, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and another pinch of salt and cook until the mushrooms are soft and release their juices, about 5 minutes more. Use your fingers to break ground beef into pieces and scatter over the vegetables; cook, stirring to break up the meat, until it is no longer pink about 7 minutes. Raise heat and bring the mixture to a boil; cook until liquid is evaporated. Stir in tomatoes and Italian herbs; season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat; whisk in flour. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture smells like buttered toast, about 3 minutes. Gradually add about 1/2 cup of milk, whisking constantly. Mixture will get thick and pasty; keep gradually whisking in milk a little at a time until smooth. Cook the sauce at a near-boil until it thickens, about 5 minutes. Whisk in 2 cups of cheese, the nutmeg and cayenne; season well with salt. Stir until smooth.

Add pasta to the skillet and stir to combine with the beef and vegetables. Pour the cheese sauce over all and stir gently to blend. Scatter remaining cheese over the top. Bake 20–25 minutes, until cheese is browned and casserole is bubbly.

Christmas cookie palooza: Orange butter cookies, two ways.

Do you love chocolate and orange together? Know those “whack and unwrap” chocolate oranges that are so fun to get in your Christmas stocking?

That’s the inspiration behind this recipe for Orange Butter Cookies, Two Ways.

Way No. 1 is the straight-up version of a recipe I found in my Grandma Dorothy’s “Kitchen Klips” file of vintage recipes. The original, clipped from a package of Land ‘o Lakes butter, calls for lemon flavoring. But I love orange at this time of year: Oranges are in season now, and I associate orange with Christmas thanks, in part, to Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory.” Capote writes of opening gifts with his extended and distant family on Christmas morning: “My friend has a better haul. A sack of Satsumas, that’s her best present.”

Traveling in South Carolina recently, Rob and I found a sack of Satsumas at a farmers’ market, the juice and peel of which went into my Orange Butter Cookies.

And then it hit me, this chocolate-and-orange idea: What if I added chocolate kisses to these orange butter cookies, a la Peanut Butter Blossoms?

Blammo (as Rob would say).

So here you go: The last installment of 2017’s edition of Christmas Cooke Palooza: Grandma’s Frosted Lemon Cookie recipe reimagined with orange flavoring and chocolate. Make ’em either way!

And happy holidays to you!

orange Kiss cookies and Glazed Orange Cookies

makes about 5 dozen

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 teaspoon orange extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

For finishing: unwrapped Hershey's chocolate kisses
For the glaze: 1 cup powdered sugar whisked with 2–3 tablespoons orange juice, orange sparkling sugar

Preheat oven to 400°; line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl using a hand mixer), combine the sugar and orange zest; use your fingers to work the mixture until it is damp and fragrant. Add butter, and cream together butter and sugar for about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time and stir to combine then stir in orange juice and zest. Add flour, cream of tartar, baking powder and salt and stir to combine thoroughly. Use a small cookie scoop or two teaspoons to portion out roughly 1-inch balls of dough onto the baking sheets. Bake until just barely beginning to brown on the edges, about 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through baking time.

For Orange Kiss Cookies: Place a Hershey's kiss in the center of each cookie; return to the oven for 1 minute to soften the chocolate.

For Glazed Orange Cookies: Spread a bit of glaze over each cookie while still warm and immediately sprinkle with orange sugar.

 

Christmas cookie palooza: 7 layer bars.

Quick note from the editor: Now through midnight December 31, comment on any of the 2017 Christmas Cookie Palooza recipes to let me know which one is your favorite — and in so doing, you’ll be entered in my drawing to win a copy of The Findlay Market Cookbook! Enter as often as you’d like; one winner will be randomly selected from all entries. Love to you!

In this holiday season, can we share a bit of honesty, friends? Let’s acknowledge that Seven Layer Bar Cookies are not, in fact, cookies. They’re more like candy bars. Which is totally fine, of course. Calling them by their true name recognizes their utter decadence, their chocolatey, butterscotchy deliciousness.

Here’s another recipe in The Dorothy Project: my Grandma Dorothy’s recipe for Seven Layer Bars. It’s likely the same as your grandma’s recipe for Seven Layer Bars. These delicious little squares were ubiquitous on the buffet table at Christmastime when I was a kid. Everyone loves them.

[Here’s a confession: I hatehatehate coconut. Hate. It. So I skipped the coconut when I made the recipe for the photograph here. But if coconut is how you roll, then by all means.]

Funny thing about Grandma’s recipe: As you can see from her handwritten old recipe card in the photo, it calls for a package each of butterscotch chips and chocolate chips. Which, my dears, is soooooooo many chips. A quick online search told me that the proper amount of chips is 1 cup of each. Packages of baking chips back when Grandma copied down this recipe must have been half as big as they are today.

So, here you go. Grab some butterscotch chips (you probably have semisweet on hand already) and a can of sweetened condensed milk and go to town. Make these traditional Christmas bar cookies … erm, candy bars.

seven layer bar cookies

makes about 48 small squares

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup moist coconut
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk.

Line a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish or quarter sheet pan with parchment paper; spray sides of pan with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350°. Pour the melted butter in the bottom of the pan and tilt to spread it evenly. Layer ingredients in order given, then pour the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the top. Bake until deeply golden brown and set, about 25 minutes. Run a thin spatula around the perimeter of the pan to loosen the bars while they're warm, then let cool. Use the parchment paper to lift the whole thing out of the pan, then cut into small squares.

Christmas cookie palooza: Salty Marcona almond cookies.

On the heels of last week’s Hazelnut Raspberry Jam Thumbprint Cookies, here’s another simple, buttery cookie that’s perfect for the holidays. I discovered this typed recipe for Almond Cookies in my grandma’s old Kitchen Klips vintage recipe collection; it came from a friend of hers named Rita Crear, who lived in southern Indiana near Evansville.

Whenever you encounter old family recipes or vintage cookbooks, you invariably find something head-scratching; in this case, it was that the recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of almond flavoring. Three tablespoons! Note, though, the word ‘flavoring.’ Not ‘extract.’ I adjusted my measuring to account for the fact that I’m using high-quality pure almond extract, and backed it down to 1 tablespoon. They’re plenty almond-y (though you could certainly add another teaspoon if you want bold almond flavor). I also substituted salted Marcona almonds for the plain blanched ones on top of the cookies — I love the salty, toasty kick.

I also discovered, regrettably, that the baking time called for was woefully overlong (I nearly burned the first batch). No, these don’t need to bake for 20 minutes; 12 will do nicely.

Grab a fresh bottle of almond extract and get that butter softening on the counter!

salty Marcona almond cookies

makes about 5 dozen

1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk (divided use)
1 Tbsp. pure almond extract (more if desired)
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 Tbsp. milk
Salted Marcona almonds for finishing

Preheat oven to 375°; line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl using a hand mixer), cream the butter until soft; add sugar and cream until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg, then almond extract. Slowly blend in flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir in corn syrup. In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolk and milk. Spoon teaspoons of dough onto cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart; gently form the dough into rounds, then flatten the tops slightly. Brush each with egg wash, then top with a Marcona almond. Bake until barely golden brown, about 12 minutes, rotating cookie sheets once halfway through baking time. Cool on a wire rack.

raspberry hazelnut thumbprint cookie recipe | writes4food.com

Christmas cookie-palooza: Hazelnut jam thumbprints.

As far as Christmas cookies go, I love a basic butter cookie: they’re easy to make, crowd-pleasing and have that Old World sensibility that feels somehow appropriate during the holidays.

Simple butter cookie dough is really versatile: You can run it through a cookie press to make Spritz cookies, or roll it out and cut out shapes. In fact, this easy sugar cookie recipe is really a variant on the butter cookie.

If you don’t want to fuss with a cookie press (one of the best kitchen gadgets ever, in my humble opinion), or to roll and cut out shapes, then the easy out is to roll the dough into balls, coat the balls in chopped nuts, press an indentation with your thumb and fill that with jam. Hence: Hazelnut Jam Thumbprint Cookies. Here you go!

raspberry hazelnut thumbprint cookie recipe

makes 4 dozen

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
1/2 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts (or almonds or pecans, or any of the above)

Preheat oven to 350°; line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl using a hand mixer), cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. Blend in egg and egg yolk, then stir in vanilla. Stir in flour and salt to blend completely. Scoop teaspoonfuls of dough and roll into balls. Roll each ball in chopped nuts to coat, arrange on baking sheets. Press your thumb deeply in the center of each ball; fill indentations with jam (use two espresso spoons to make this easy). Bake until pale golden, about 12 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking. Cool cookies slightly on baking sheets, then transfer to a wire rack.

Christmas Cookie Palooza 2017

I’ll admit it: I wasn’t going to bother making a ton of cookies during the holiday season. We’ve been away, I have a full workload … and combined with my natural tendency to feel busier than I am, I was going to cut myself some slack and lay off the cookies this year.

Until.

Until I was demonstrating one of my favorite recipes from The Findlay Market Cookbook during last weekend’s Holiday Market — a gorgeous lentil salad with a lovely spiced vinaigrette (thanks, Joanne!) — when the most delightful woman came up to me and told me how much she enjoys this website and especially looks forward to the Christmas cookie recipes.

So, there you have it. Christmas cookies, it is.

I’ll start this week by sharing an old favorite of mine (stay tuned on Friday). And then we’ll make this the Dorothy Project edition of Christmas Cookie Palooza: I’ll share three recipes from my grandmother’s vintage recipe collection.

And, if you follow along, I’ll have a special treat for you: I will collect all the comments on all the cookie recipe posts between now and December 24 and randomly draw a winner who will receive a FREE copy of The Findlay Market Cookbook. Sweets and SWEET!

MWAH!

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Awesome appetizers for your Thanksgiving feast.

If you stop and think about it, it’s kind of absurd to even consider appetizers before Thanksgiving dinner. But let’s not stop and think about it, shall we?

Because all the while the turkey’s in the oven roasting, it’s emanating the most delicious smells from the kitchen. Tummies will invariably rumble. Dinner will invariably happen a little later than the hosts imagined. Conversations will invariably veer in strange directions as family members and guests imbibe.

So, yeah: appetizers are a good thing.

But they should be two things: 1) easy to make (or for guests to bring along) and 2) fairly light. Just little nibbles to keep the edge off the hungries until everyone sits down to the main event. Amiright?

Here are a few great Thanksgiving appetizer recipes that meet those two criteria. Even better: they’re all easily made ahead. Give one or several a try this year:

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Fabulous Thanksgiving side dishes.

So, Thanksgiving will be a bit unconventional for us this year, as Rob and I are taking off for the beach in South Carolina, leaving our loving family in Indiana wondering what the hell is wrong with us. Many years ago, we had the opportunity to enjoy a couple of holidays in an island setting, and the idea kept tugging and tugging at us until we simply had to do it again. So, it’ll be coffee on the beach and shrimp and grits for us on Thanksgiving day.

Regardless of our plans, I know you have yours — and that they’ll probably involve a table full of wonderful, traditional Thanksgiving dishes. I wanted to share a few Thanksgiving sides, salads and breads to inspire you as you’re assembling your menu this year. Enjoy!