Thursday, October 4, 2012

Cookbook Review: 500 Best Quinoa Recipes

Click here to buy on Amazon
Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this cookbook from the author. I was not otherwise compensated for this review and all opinions are 100% my own. Recipes reprinted with permission from the author.  
* * * * *
We all know quinoa is good for us, but what are we supposed to make with it? I've browsed other quinoa books in the past, but they never left me feeling inspired enough to want to add them to my already large cookbook collection. But since I've had so much success with Camilla's recipes in the past, I just knew this one wouldn't let me down, and it certainly did not!

For any of you who NEED tons of photos in your cookbooks, please do not let the fact that there are only a handful in this one dissuade you. These recipes can stand on their own, with or without photographic evidence.

With 500 to choose from, I wasn't quite sure where to start, so I decided to try recipes based mostly on what ingredients I had on hand. I did pick up a few things at the store during a regular shopping trip, but I figured the true test of a cookbook is whether or not I can turn to (almost) any recipe and have it come out great. (I mean if it has pickles in it, I'm not going to like it no matter how well-written or tested it is!) Can I make something with the pile of tomatoes that will only last another day or two? Or the other half of a monster zucchini before it shrivels up? Can I find a recipe in this book that uses those ingredients and tastes great. Well my friends, the answer is a resounding YES.

I have a particular fondness for the Vegetarian Main Dishes chapter, but the book also features many other types of dishes: Breakfasts, Appetizers & Snacks, Soups, Stews, & Chilis, Salads & Sides, Seafood, Poultry, & Lean Meat Main Dishes, Breads, and Desserts. Yes, Desserts. This book has got it ALL.

All the recipes in this book call for either the whole grain form of quinoa or quinoa flour. If you can't find quinoa flour, check if your grocery store has a separate gluten-free section which is where I found it. Also, when you first open the bag of quinoa flour, don't be alarmed if you think it has a very strong scent. That is not what your baked goods are going to taste like. I find that quinoa flour lends just a bit of a pleasant, nutty taste to whatever I'm making.

The first recipe I'd like to share with you (with Camilla's permission of course) is for Quinoa al Pomodoro. This was hands down the most delicious quinoa dish that has ever passed my lips. While it is definitely more of a summer recipe, I was lucky enough to have several tomatoes harvested from the end of my aunt's garden bounty. This dish is so simple, yet so spectacular.

Quinoa al Pomodoro
Print Recipe

Makes 6 servings
1 1/4 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 1/2 cups ready-to-use reduced-sodium vegetable broth (GF, if needed)
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chopped tomaotes
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
fine sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
4 oz ricotta salata or mild feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
2/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)

1. In a medium saucepan, combine quinoa and broth. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine garlic, tomatoes, oil and vinegar. Generously season with salt and pepper. Let stand for at least 10 minutes  to blend flavors.

3. Add tomato mixture to the quinoa, tossing to combine. Serve sprinkled with cheese, basil and pine nuts (if using).

I also wanted to give you a sample of what a baking recipe using quinoa flour tastes like, so the second recipe I'm sharing is for Scottish Oat Scones. I was fortunate enough to travel to Scotland earlier this year and since I've long been enamored with all things Scottish, this was a natural pick for me! The dough was a bit stickier than I'm used to for a scone which made it a little difficult to work with, but the flavor was out of this world! They are delicious plain, but Camilla suggests serving them with "ample amounts of jam or marmalade and a mug of tea" and I can't say that's a bad idea!

Scottish Oat Scones
Print Recipe

Makes 8 scones
Preheat oven to 425 F
Large rimmed baking sheet, lined with parchment paper

1 1/3 cups quinoa flour
1 1/4 cups large-flake (old-fashioned) rolled oats (certified GF, if needed)
1/3 cup natural cane sugar or packed light brown sugar
1 tbsp baking powder (GF, if needed)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
6 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 large eggs
3/4 buttermilk

1. In a large bowl, whisk together quinoa flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until crumbly. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and buttermilk until well blended.

3. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just blended.

4. Turn dough out onto a work surface lightly floured with quinoa flour. Knead briefly until dough comes together. Gently pat into an 8-inch circle about 3/4 inch thick. Cut into 8 wedges and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet.

5. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 13 minutes or until tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool on pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then transfer to the rack to cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm or cool completely.

Other recipes I've made: Swiss Chard Quinoa with Goat Cheese; Zucchini, Carrot and Butter Bean Quinoa; and Cinnamon Applesauce Bread. (All were fabulous!)

And a few more I can't wait to try: Maple Breakfast Biscotti, Zucchini Quinoa Fritters, Smoky Corn & Quinoa Chowder, Caramelized Onion Quinoa Tart, Pumpkin Spice Scones, Gingerbread Scones with Lemon Drizzle, Sweet Potato Biscuits, Cranberry Orange Tart, and so many more!

Don't forget to check out Camilla's other cookbooks and her blog, Enlightened Cooking, which also has a great collection of recipes. A few of my all-time favorites you can find there are her No-Stir Crock Pot RisottoGnocchi al FornoWhole Grain Buttermilk Biscuits, Roasted Carrot Hummus, & So-Easy Goat Cheese, Pesto, and Tomato Tart.

In fact, all Camilla's recipes work extremely well for the home cook. They are tried & true recipes that I can always count on and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this cookbook. I was not otherwise compensated for this review and all opinions are 100% my own. Recipes reprinted with permission from the author.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Couple of Scones

I've been making a lot of scones lately. I guess I've been missing my days in Scotland! These aren't exactly traditional flavors, but they are really delicious. I'm a big fan of a scone for breakfast or as an afternoon treat with a cup of tea. Sometimes I could swear I was born in the wrong country! I can't tell you how excited I was when travelling in the UK, to see that the hotel rooms are set up for tea drinkers rather than coffee drinkers, as they are here is the US. I was in heaven!

Anyways, back to the scones. For me, a perfect scone has a nice crunch on the outside, but is still tender on the inside. That is usually a pretty easy texture to achieve if you're eating the scones right out of the oven, but it can be difficult to maintain when saving a few for another day. After trying several different recipes, I've come to realize that one way to maintain that crisp exterior is to not skip the step that has you brush half-and-half/buttermilk/cream, etc. on top of the scones and then sprinkle with sanding sugar/turbinado sugar/cinnamon sugar, etc. This really does help keep the outside nice and crunchy and it also adds another layer of flavor.

As for the recipes, first we have Strawberry Lemonade Scones from Munchkin Munchies. I skipped the sanding sugar on this one and it was not my best idea. This recipe makes a delicious, not-too-sweet scone, but I was missing that crunch as I was eating the extras over several days. Luckily, there's a simple solution for that: I won't skip it next time!

Next, we have Whole Grain Cranberry Apple Scones from Susan Reid & Bon Appetit on Epicurious. These were SO good and I will definitely be making them again. I was skeptical about a whole grain scone, but these were incredibly tasty. Which is good because if I didn't want to make them again, I'm not sure what I'd do with the rest of the apple juice concentrate I bought specifically for this recipe! I forgot to take a picture of these ones, but I can tell you that even without a visual aide, the flavor was out of this world!

Peanut Butter Graham Cracker Truffles

I've been meaning to share the link to this recipe forever. I made these several weeks ago and brought a couple for my cousin Jen to try when I visited her. They're really tasty and super easy to make. I like to call them truffles, even though there is no ganache involved and I'm sure that's not technically correct. Whatever you'd like to call them, you can find the recipe here on Baby Gizmo Blog.

I mostly followed the recipe as written, but skipped dipping them in the mini chocolate chips because I couldn't be bothered. I also melted about 2 cups of chocolate chips (one whole bag) which is a little more than the recipe calls for, just to make dipping a little easier. I used half natural peanut butter and half "traditional" peanut butter because I was cleaning out jars to scrape this recipe together, but I'm sure either one would work just fine on its own. I specifically made this recipe to use up a sleeve of graham crackers, but I would happily make it again!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Printable Recipes

I just learned a nifty little trick to make my blog recipes printable! If anyone has any interest in printing out any of the (few) recipes I've shared on this blog to try for yourself, it's now super-easy! Just click on a recipe below to go to the original post. Once there, you'll see a "Print Recipe" link directly under the recipe title that you can click. That's it!

Of course I love them all, but if I had to pick favorites, I'd go with the Cranberry-Raspberry Crumb Cake (Sweet) and the Smoked Caprese Quesadillas (Savory) -- I highly recommend them both!

Cinnamon Rolls
Cranberry-Raspberry Crumb Cake
Cranberry-Orange Tea Loaf
Cherry-Almond Clusters
Homemade Vanilla (or Chocolate) Frosting
Split Second Cookies
Apricot Squares

Smoked Caprese Quesadillas
Tomato-Balsamic Pan Sauce
Spaghetti with Roasted Eggplant
Roasted Broccoli, Carrot, & Barley Salad
Baked Haddock in a Bourbon Marinade

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Top Ten Tuesdays: (Food) Books That Made Me Think

Yesterday, I participated in a book blogger's weekly feature hosted by The Broke & the Bookish on my other blog, Buckling Bookshelves. This week's theme was the Top Ten Books That Made Me Think. The list I came up with consisted of novels and a few non-fiction memoirs. I tend to divide my books in my head and think of them as totally separate: on one side I have my "reading" books and on the other side I have my "food & cooking" books. While I didn't put any food books on my original list, I think they deserve their own list. This list is a bit shorter, so I'm calling it my The Top Five Food Books That Made Me Think + Five More I Hope Will, (but I haven't gotten around to reading yet!)

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle   The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love   French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating For Pleasure
Real Food: What to Eat and Why   The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove

1. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver -- I was working full-time at a really stressful job when I read this one and each day as it neared 5 o'clock, all I wanted to do was rush home and read the next chapter. This book introduced me to the idea of "local food," a concept that I hadn't really considered before then. It drove home the idea that locally grown is the freshest you can find and that there is tremendous value in supporting the people who produce food in and around your own community.

2. The Dirty Life, by Kristin Kimball -- For anyone who ever harbored a secret dream of an idyllic life on a farm, this book drives home just how hard farmers work. If you've ever scoffed at the cost of organic produce at the farmers' market, read this book and you will happily pay these hard-working people and then make extra sure none of your bounty spoils before you make something with it.

3. French Women Don't Get Fat, by Mireille Guiliano -- I'm thankful I've never had a weight problem, but there was so much hype around this book when it was first published that I decided to read it anyway. It introduced me to the French culture of food & eating and I found it quite fascinating. Rather than encouraging "dieting" as so many American books do, this book presents a healthy (& deliciously satisfying!) way of life.

4. Real Food, by Nina Planck -- This one was a real eye-opener. Growing up, I was taught the mantra "too much fat is bad for your heart" and with a family history of heart disease, it was good that I learned about nutrition from an early age. However, this book caused a bit of a shift in my thinking. It really solidified my food philosophy that you can really eat anything in moderation as long as it's real food. I'm no dietitian, but I truly believe industrialized fake foods, processed foods, and fat substitutes (trans-fat laden margarine? no thank you!) are a thousand times worse for you than baking or cooking from scratch using butter and fresh ingredients. This book taught me that it's important to seek out quality foods that are raised or grown using traditional methods - dairy products, eggs, and meats from pastured/grass-fed/free-range animals and produce grown without toxic chemicals. They are worth the extra expense, in my opinion, and much of that thinking came from this book.

5. The Art of Eating In, by Cathy Erway -- This was a fun read that made me realize that you really can eat well by cooking at home all the time if you want. Don't get me wrong, I love a good restaurant, but following along on Cathy's journey reinforced the idea that homemade is usually better and that I have unlimited options for experimenting and trying new foods, all in my own kitchen (heaven knows I have enough cookbooks to draw inspiration from!) She also tries a few alternative means to eating out, that aren't really for me, but were interesting to read about.

And the Five on my To-Read List, that I hope will be just as eye-opening and thought-provoking:

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals   French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters   An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace
The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table   American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It)

1. Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan -- I really can't believe I haven't read this one yet!

2. French Kids Eat Everything, by Karen Le Billon -- Similar to my situation with French Women Don't Get Fat, I don't actually have kids, but this idea (and again the French food culture) fascinates me.

3. An Everlasting Meal, Cooking with Economy and Grace, by Tamar Adler -- I've heard very good things about this one. It has been said to be an "elegant testimony to the value of cooking."

4. The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's Farm Fields, and the Dinner Table, by Tracie McMillan -- The title pretty much explains it. I expect this to be an eye-opening, behind-the-scenes look at some sectors of America's food system.

5. American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Half of Its Food and What We Can Do About It), by Jonathan Bloom -- In a time of high levels of both obesity and poverty, I think this is an important topic and I'm hoping this book has a lot of food for thought.

There are many others I'd love to read, but these ones made the top of the list!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Post for My Cousin Jen (with Recipes)

A couple of weeks ago, Nick and I spent the weekend in Connecticut with my cousin Jen, her husband Shaun, and their daughter. We were invited for what was promised to be an "EPIC Sunday Funday." Sunday Funday is something Shaun came up with as a way to do something fun together that doesn't cost a lot of money and that doesn't involve electronics, gadgets, or TV. Not that there is anything wrong with those other activities, but Sunday Funday has become something special for their family that they look forward to all week.

Shaun is super-creative and very handy, so he's been known to build a mini golf courseturn their entire house into a board game (no joke!), and create a home-spun carnival. Not to mention that before Sunday Funday was ever invented, he even built a dinosaur bed for their daughter's room (you have got to see the pictures of it!) This is mainly something they've done during the colder months because summer tends to be fun-filled without hardly trying. Days at the beach and outside activities just seem to happen when the weather is beautiful, but they did want to have one Sunday Funday in the summer so they could invite over some of their friends, their kids, (& us!) and have a barbecue afterward. You knew I'd get to the food eventually! But more about that later.

After helping paint the wooden castles Shaun built and filling more water balloons than I care to count, the group divided into teams and proceeded to run around the yard and work together to launch the water balloons catapult-style at the opposing team's castle, in a truly epic battle. Let me tell you, it was like being a kid again and we had such a blast! Even if you don't think you're that creative, I'm now convinced it's worth trying to think outside the box and make a little extra effort to plan something fun to do with the people you love.

Jen has been chronicling their adventures on her blog, Bored Have Imagination and I do hope she writes a post about this latest Sunday Funday soon. I was too busy enjoying myself to take any pictures!

OK, I know I promised food, so here it is. Baking and desserts are kind of my thing, so I made two different cookies to bring for the barbecue. First, I made this recipe for Apricot Squares, but substituted homemade blueberry jam. Honestly, you can make it with any flavor jam you like. The only one I don't recommend is strawberry. For some reason, the flavor gets very dull and kind of lost in the baking, but raspberry, blackberry, triple berry, peach, apricot, cherry -- any of those work really well.

Second, I made a go-to favorite, Martha Stewart's recipe for Outrageous Chocolate Cookies because chocolate is always popular at a party. There's also a bit of a funny story behind this recipe. One summer during college, I worked as a cashier at a small local grocery store and a photocopy of this recipe was left at my register one day. I held onto it thinking whoever left it might come back looking for it, but they never did. After a while, I decided I might as well give the recipe a try myself! Years later, I figured out where it came from, but I'll never forget the odd way I first discovered this amazing recipe.

So whatever you decide to do and whatever you decide to serve, keep in mind that family, fun, & food are a fabulous combination!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Summer Squash Tart with Goat Cheese

Today's recipe comes from the June/July issue of Fine Cooking Magazine. I made a few changes from the original, mainly due to what ingredients I had or rather didn't have on hand. If you just want to skip to the original recipe, it can be found here: Zucchini Tart with Lemon Thyme Goat Cheese.

On to the changes. First, I used yellow summer squash instead of zucchini, because that's what was available. I honestly don't think it makes much of a difference either way, as they're kind of interchangeable. If you want to get really fancy, you probably could use some of each.

My next change was to use dried thyme instead of fresh lemon-thyme. The recipe recommends also adding lemon zest if you are not using the fresh herb, but I didn't bother. I'd say it's up to you. I find dried thyme very flavorful (assuming it's not 4 years old), so I don't think the dish suffered much from this substitution. Your call.

The final thing I did differently was to reduce all the ingredients by a quarter. Note: I do not recommend this. I only did it out of necessity because I was just a little short on just about every ingredient (butter, squash, & goat cheese). If you make the recipe in full, as I DO recommend, I still don't think it needs the full 8 oz of goat cheese, that's probably a bit overkill. For my bizarre 3/4 tart, I should have used 6 oz, but I only used 4 and I think it came out perfectly. If you make a full recipe, I'd say use 5-6 oz.

OK, there is one more thing I did differently, but it was out of sheer laziness. I so did not roll this tart into a pretty, perfect circle. It was more like a jagged, rectangular-ish shape that would fit on my baking sheet. Whatever floats your boat.

Two more good things to know: 1. It will look like you have too much squash -- don't worry about it. Just make sure all the slices are overlapping and it will cook down in the oven. 2. Even as I just told you to use less cheese, it will look like there isn't enough cheese. Just spread it nice and thin (using your fingers helps a lot) and it should cover the dough.

This tart is so incredibly good, you really need to try it. If you manage to have leftovers, reheat in the oven or toaster oven, not the microwave -- it's worth the extra few minutes to crisp up the crust. Enjoy!

Full Disclosure: Some links go to and yes, I work for them, but I loved this site long before I ever worked for them, so come check it out!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Cookbook Recommendation - Serving Up the Harvest

It seems this blog has been a little neglected lately, but that doesn't mean I haven't been cooking (or baking)! So here's the first of my recent culinary experiments. Unfortunately, I can't give you the recipe, since it can't be found anywhere online (not in any legitimate places anyway). It is, however, from one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, so I still want to share it with you.  

Summer Squash Pizza from Serving Up the Harvest, by Andrea Chesman.

I made it with zucchini, but it can also be made with yellow squash or a combination. I have read so many stories about people who make homemade pizza "all the time" and I just wasn't buying that it was that easy. Well, this crust recipe made me a believer -- it truly was a snap to put together, mainly because you make it in a food processor and then just leave it alone for an hour. You do need to leave yourself some time, but it's hands-off time, so it really is super simple. I even substituted white-whole wheat flour for the all-purpose without any problem. While making this particular topping did take some extra time, I made the same crust last night for a cheese pizza and a pepperoni pizza and those came together in a snap.


As for the cookbook it came from, Serving Up the Harvest is truly one of my favorites. It's written by Andrea Chesman who also wrote The Roasted Vegetable, which is practically my Bible. I'm telling you, I don't think there is a single recipe I have made from either one of these books that hasn't been a smash hit. She has fabulous ideas for making the most of your fresh produce, and you know I love my veggies. Be warned though, if you happen to already own her The Garden-Fresh Vegetable Cookbook, it's the same book with a different cover. Stupid, I know.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Smoked Caprese Quesadillas

There are lots of things I love about working from home. Sitting outside on a nice day, making my own schedule, and working with the cat purring on my lap, just to name a few. But what might possibly be my #1 favorite thing about working from home is having more time to cook. I find myself trying a lot more new recipes and having a freshly cooked lunch in the middle of the day is a wonderful new experience for me. I'm not talking crazy complicated recipes, just something fresh and yummy.

The recipe I want to share with you now is what I had for lunch today... and yesterday, and let's be honest I'll probably make it again tomorrow. Just because I like to try new recipes doesn't mean I'm not going to make them more than once, especially when I find one this delicious. I'm also continuing my mission to use up an accumulation of ingredients, so on the chopping block today was the other half of that ball of smoked mozzarellasome extra basil from this recipe I made a few days agotortillas from the freezer, and the fresh tomatoes I just bought, but won't last long. All I needed to do was grab some olive oil from the pantry, slice, and assemble and in about 10 minutes (OK maybe 15) I was eating one of the best quesadillas I've ever had. 

Smoky, creamy cheese + juicy tomatoes + bright, fresh basil = a lunch that tastes just like summer! 

Smoked Caprese Quesadillas  

Print Recipe

1 whole wheat tortilla (or whatever variety you prefer)
1 small vine-ripened tomato, sliced
smoked mozzarella, approx. 8 small slices
a handful of fresh basil leaves, or to taste (I LOVE basil, so I used quite a bit)
1-2 Tbsp olive oil

Lay the tortilla on a plate. Cover half of the tortilla with 4 slices of mozzarella. Layer 3-4 slices of tomato on top of the cheese. Cover with basil. Layer with remaining cheese. Fold unfilled tortilla half over fillings

(Note: The two layers of cheese help keep the tomato from making the tortilla soggy, so I don't recommend skimping on the cheese)

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Carefully place folded tortilla in heated oil. Cook 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Flip over and cook the other side 2-3 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from pan and slice into 3 pieces. Enjoy!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Eggplant, Tomato, and Smoked Mozzarella Tart

I've been trying to use up all the miscellaneous groceries that keep hanging around in the fridge/freezer/pantry, so a few days ago, I defrosted a ball of smoked mozzarella and was determined to find a new recipe to use it in. Enter Cooking Light's Eggplant, Tomato, and Smoked Mozzrella Tart. I made a few tweaks to the original recipe, but the essence of the original was still there.

First, I substituted dried herbs for the fresh, which I know is a big no-no, but since they were in small amounts and the filling was going to be cooked anyway, I don't think the dish really suffered that much. Second, have you ever tried to brush a tray full of eggplant slices with 1/2 teaspoon of oil? I don't think that's physically possible. I used olive oil spray to give an even coating and called it a day. This also helped better moisten the eggplant, so I skipped that weird "steam in plastic wrap" step -- yuck.

Oh, and I strayed from the "light" recipe directions and used at least double the amount of smoked mozzarella the recipe called for. What can I say, I'm my father's daughter. With a maiden name like Azzolino, I think a love of cheese is required :)

The only thing I think I would do differently next time would be to try it with a traditional pastry crust. The crust in the recipe is very bread-y, almost like a pizza crust. While clearly that's part of what made this a "light" recipe, it would definitely taste even better with a flaky, buttery crust (go figure!). Or, I might try this cornmeal crust from Ellie Krieger's Ratatouille Tart, another favorite recipe of mine.

Whatever crust you decide to use, the original recipe's instruction to sprinkle some cheese on top of the baked crust before you add the filling really helped keep the bottom of the tart from getting soggy. That is definitely a trick to remember for future reference.

Baba-gha Hummus

I recently made a Cooking Light recipe for Baba-gha Hummus. Basicially it's a dip that blends the flavors of baba ghanoush and hummus. I love anything eggplant, so I know I couldn't go too far wrong with this recipe. While this dip is never going to win any beauty contests, the flavor more than makes up for it's ho-hum appearance. It gets 5 stars in my book and I will definitely be making it again.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Lemon-Cranberry Muffins

I got this recipe from an issue of Eating Well Magazine earlier this year and these little gems were so good I needed to share. I'm determined to use up the surplus frozen cranberries I have stockpiled from the fall, so I figured this recipe would be perfect. With just a touch of cornmeal inside and a sprinkling of lemon-sugar on the top, they were quite delicious. That topping might make them look messy, but it makes them taste extra yummy. Check out for the recipe.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I'm probably the only person you know who does this...

Bake on vacation. I cook too, but for today I'll just talk about baking.

I packed lightly for my trip to Ocean City (NJ, not MD people!) because part of the way I was traveling by train. I didn't exactly have room in my luggage for baked goods, and Lord knows this side of the family loves their baked goods, so we picked up a few things at the store and I baked two different bar cookies. We had just one requirement: whatever I made needed to be easily packed in a cooler to be eaten on the beach. No problem.

First up was a batch of Snickerdoodle Blondies from The Baker Chick. These truly are snickerdoodle cookies in bar form. YUM.

Second was a batch of Chocolate Crumb Bars from Nestle. Super rich, chocolate deliciousness. My Grandma declared them "wicked" -- I think she was right!

A house by the beach, sea, sand, surf, family, & some old-fashioned home cooking -- it doesn't get much better than that :)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Two More Lunch Recipes

I've been short on time lately, so trying new recipes has been bumped down on the priority list (temporarily of course).  I haven't been able to tweak or experiment much, so I'm just going to share a couple of links and thoughts with everyone.

First off we have Roasted Carrot Hummus from Camilla Saulsbury's blog Enlightened Cooking. This was a really delicious chickpea-less take on hummus. Out of habit, I definitely used more olive oil than called for and consequently felt the need to skip the milk since I could tell the resulting hummus would have been too thin and loose. I'd imagine if you followed her instructions, you would not have this problem! 

On a side note, I'm also a HUGE fan of Camilla's cookbooks and she has graciously offered me a copy of her new cookbook to review when it comes out! The title is 500 Best Quinoa Recipes: Using Nature's Superfood for Gluten-Free Breakfasts, Mains, Desserts and More. According to Amazon, it's slated for publication 8/28. Quinoa might seem like a funny thing to get excited about, but I really do enjoy eating it and Camilla's recipes have not failed me yet! I can't wait to get my hands on this one, but in the meantime, definitely check out her blog -- she's got lots of great recipes in the archives. And while you're at it, check out some of her other books too, they are all excellent.

Now on to the second recipe -- Cilantro Lime Hummus from How Sweet it Is.  Cilantro and I started off on the wrong foot, but now I can't get enough of it! Consequently, I followed this recipe to a 'T' except for the part where I doubled it so I could add an entire large bunch of cilantro instead of a measly 1/2 cup. Trust me, if you like cilantro, this was the right call!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Two Yummy Lunch Recipes

I've made two very successful recipes this past week I wanted to share.  

First, an incredibly delicious Spinach and Feta Hummus from What's Gaby Cooking.  This made for a delicious lunch with whole grain crackers and some fruit on the side. Just two quick notes: 

1. In my opinion, 1 tsp salt is more than enough since there are plenty of other salty ingredients in this recipe.
2. I also think 1 Tbsp of red pepper flakes is plenty, unless you like your hummus really spicy

The second recipe is Roasted Eggplant Salad with Smoked Almonds and Goat Cheese from The Kitchn.  My main reason for making this was to use up some smoked almonds in my pantry, but I must say it was surprisingly delicious. However, if I made it again, I think I would use cilantro instead of parsley, but that's just a personal preference. 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Happy Easter!

I just made some delicious cinnamon buns for Easter tomorrow!  I adapted them from a Todd Wilbur "Top Secret" Recipe for Cinnabon's Cinnamon Rolls I found on his website a while back. The ingredients are pretty much the same, but I changed up the preparation a bit and made significant changes to the glaze. A lot of people are intimidated by yeast baking, but it really is not that difficult. It just takes a little extra time because the steps are more spread out. The hands-on time is not much more than your average home-baking recipe. They are perfect for a holiday brunch, afternoon tea, or anytime you feel like a treat! And with that, here's my version:

Print Recipe

1 packet active dry yeast
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup melted butter
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
4 cups flour

Cinnamon Filling:
1 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, melted & cooled slightly

5 Tbsp butter, softened
2-3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

To make the rolls:
Measure the milk in a glass measuring cup.  Microwave for 30 seconds, stir and test temperature. Microwave another 20-30 seconds. Milk should feel warm, but not hot. Stir in the yeast and sugar. Let stand 5 minutes, or until it starts to get foamy. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, salt, and eggs. Whisk in milk mixture. Stir in the flour with a wooden spoon until fully incorporated. Let stand 5-10 minutes to allow the moisture to soak into the dough (this will make it easier to work with). 

Transfer dough to a floured surface. (I highly recommend working on a large-sized silicone mat. If you do, the dough sticks much less and the kneading and rolling process is much easier.) Knead dough for about 5 minutes, adding a little extra flour as needed.  Dough should be smooth, elastic, and not very sticky.  

Transfer ball of dough to a clean, buttered bowl and loosely cover with a clean dishtowel.  Let rise in a warm place for about an hour. Dough should double in size. 
Note: For this step, I like to give the oven a quick shot of heat at about 200 degrees for just a couple of minutes then shut it off.  This creates a nice warm place for the dough to rise. But please, please, please, make sure the oven is off and not too hot before you place the dough covered with the dish towel in it. You want a warm, cozy spot not a kitchen fire! Be careful!! Also, remember not to turn the oven on for any other reason while your dough is rising! (Seriously, fires suck.) 

Once doubled in size, roll the dough out on a floured surface. (Again, I recommend working on a silicone mat.) Dough should be about 20 x 14 inches. 

To make the filling
In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar and cinnamon. 

Brush the melted butter all over the rolled out dough. Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture evenly over buttered dough. 

To form the rolls:
Working from the long side, tightly roll the dough, enveloping the filling and forming a 20-inch long log. 

Cut the log into even quarters, then cut each quarter into 4 even slices. 

To bake:
For best results, line a 13x9 inch baking pan with parchment paper (Reynold's new pan-lining paper is perfect for this.)  Butter the parchment.  
Note: If you do not have pan-lining paper, you can place a 9-inch wide strip of regular parchment long ways in the pan; the edges should overlap the sides. You will not be able to line the whole pan, but this should still help keep the rolls from sticking.  If you don't have either kind of parchment, make sure to grease the pan liberally.

Evenly space the rolls in the prepared baking pan, 4 in each row. Cover pan with a clean dish towel and let rise again in a warm place for approximately 45 minutes or until doubled in size. Rolls will almost fill up the pan. 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. If you are letting your rolls rise in the oven, make sure you take them out before preheating the oven.

Bake 10-13 minutes. Rolls should be golden brown. 

To make the icing:
In a large bowl, beat all ingredients with an electric mixer until smooth. Add milk 1-2 Tbsp at a time until a thin, glaze-like consistency is reached. 

After the rolls come out of the oven, let them cool about 15 minutes before coating them in the icing. Alternately, you can leave the icing on the side and let each person use however much they prefer. That way frosting-freaks (like me) get lots and non-frosting people (like Nick) can skip it altogether. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Baked Caprese Pasta

As much as I loved Scotland and eating out at amazing restaurants every night, for me, it's still nice to get back to some good home cooking. I couldn't resist the fresh mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes I saw at the grocery store and was definitely feeling the need for some Italian food. With those ingredients in hand, I decided to make this recipe for Creamy Caprese Pasta from the blog How Sweet It Is.  I didn't have any cream, so I skipped that altogether and I loaded the dish up with extra tomatoes (as usual).  It wasn't exactly creamy, but it was definitely yummy.  The extra grated cheese at the end really brought it all together and gave the dish a bit of salty finish.  Buon Appetito!


Monday, March 12, 2012

I'm in a Scottish State of Mind...

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To say I am super excited about my upcoming trip to Scotland would be a vast understatement. Completely psyched would be a much better description. Since I am about to depart for the land of shortbread (apparently it's also the land of haggis, but I'm going to overlook that and stick with shortbread), I thought I'd bake a quick batch of those heavenly, buttery cookies (or biscuits as I believe they are called in the UK). While Nestle's Mini Morsel Shortbread Squares are not authentic, real-deal shortbread, they are quite delicious. And isn't it the thought that counts? They are very tasty with or without the chocolate topping, but this time I opted to skip it. I highly recommend this yummy recipe as well as Martha Stewart's Dried Cranberry Shortbread Hearts. If you have never made shortbread before, it requires a few simple ingredients and comes together in a snap. I'm hoping to return home with a more authentic recipe and who knows, I may even return to the states with a shortbread cookbook. I'm sure there are several people who would not be surprised by that one bit!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Quick & Easy Tomato-Balsamic Pan Sauce

I've been meaning to share this recipe for a while now. It is so simple and really has the ability to liven up a meal. While it would be a perfect recipe to make with beautiful summer tomatoes, it is also a really great way to prepare tomatoes that are not exactly at their seasonal best. 

Clearly this sauce is not a meal on its own, but with just a little extra help, it easily can become a delicious meal. My favorite way to serve it is over a bed of whole wheat couscous and wilted spinach. While that might sound like quite a lot of separate things to prepare, couscous takes about 5 minutes to cook after you boil the water and spinach only takes about 30 seconds to wilt in the microwave, so I really don't find it all that daunting. I often eat this particular trio for a light lunch, but you could also pair it with some leftover chicken.  

Another option is to prepare chicken breasts or fish fillets and use this recipe as a sauce to serve on top. Just add a salad and/or side dish of your choice and you have dinner. Get creative!

You truly do not need to measure ingredients for this recipe, but to make it a little easier I've provided some ballpark figures. It can easily be doubled, tripled, etc. to serve more people. 

Tomato-Balsamic Pan Sauce
Print Recipe

1 container cherry or "cocktail" tomatoes
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
splash of balsamic vinegar
tiny pinch of sugar
salt & pepper, to taste
dried basil, to taste (I like a lot, but I would recommend at least a 1/4 tsp)

Cut the tomatoes into q

Heat olive oil in a small or medium skillet over medium heat. Add tomatoes, stirring occasionally until they begin falling apart and forming a sauce. Add in the remaining seasonings and cook an additional 2 minutes or so. Serve hot. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The "Perfect" Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am forever on a quest for the so-called "perfect" chocolate chip cookie recipe. I am also forever hearing Nick's relentless requests for me to make him chocolate chip cookies. (I thought that wasn't supposed to happen until we had kids?!) Anyways, you can now see where today's recipe came from.  The other day, I stumbled upon a gorgeous new blog, The Baker Chick, and this recipe for "The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies" just seemed to be calling my name. 

The verdict? Soft, chewy, gooey deliciousness. The only thing I recommend to change is to skip the metal cooling racks. In my desperation to make sure these little babies did not overbake, I did as recommended and removed them from the baking sheets as soon as they would not fall apart. However, they still proceeded to partially ooze through the bottom of the metal racks. While they tasted fine, that first batch of cookies really lost their shape. For the second batch, I simply slid the parchment paper, cookies and all, off the baking sheets and onto the counter to finish cooling. Those ones were the picture of perfection.  And with that, my very first picture on this blog!

Doesn't that look yummy? 
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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Cranberry-Raspberry Crumb Cake

I just made this cake last night, but it was so incredibly delicious I couldn't wait to share it. I adapted it from a recipe I found a while back in a Betty Crocker magazine. It makes a delicious dessert, but it would also be perfect for brunch or with an afternoon cup of tea. Enjoy!

Cranberry-Raspberry Crumb Cake
Print Recipe

Crumb Layer:
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup white whole wheat flour (I like King Arthur)
generous 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup butter (at room temperature)

Cake Layer:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup shortening (I like to use Spectrum brand which has no trans fat)
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
1 cup frozen raspberries
1 cup frozen cranberries

To make the crumbsIn a small bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Cut in the butter. Use your hands to finish combining the ingredients (this always works best). Mixture should be crumbly.

To make the cake: In a large bowl, whisk together flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix in shortening. Use hands to finish combining the ingredients. Mixture should look crumbly with no large pieces of shortening. Stir in milk and egg just until combined.  Gently fold in raspberries and cranberries.

To assemble: Spread cake batter evenly in a greased 8-inch glass baking dish. Sprinkle crumbs evenly on top of batter. 

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 45-50 minutes.  Cake is ready when topping is browned and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. 

1.You can make this in a 9-inch baking dish, just make sure to start checking earlier for doneness.  

2. If you use an aluminum baking pan (8- or 9-inch) the cake may need some extra time, as glass bakes faster than aluminum; just make sure to check it. 

3. You could probably substitute additional white whole wheat flour for the all-purpose. I've had much success with this ingredient in muffins and quickbreads, but I have yet to go all the way for a cake. Since this recipe has so much else going on with the crumbs and the fruit, I do think it would be a good recipe to try it in. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Baked Haddock in a Bourbon Marinade

I have another fish recipe to share today. I know fish is not as exciting as chocolate and desserts, but one can't live on sweets alone! We've been having fish once a week lately on the night Nick has bowling (he's the non-fish person in the house). This past Monday haddock was on the menu so I got the fish marinating and put on a pot of brown rice.  Then, I tossed some broccoli and green beans with olive oil, salt and pepper on a baking sheet to roast alongside the fish.  Once the fish was done marinating, I popped the fish and the veggies into a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Since broccoli and green beans only take 15-20 minutes to roast at 400 degrees, dinner couldn't be easier!

Baked Haddock in a Bourbon Marinade
adapted from this recipe in Cooking Light Magazine
Print Recipe

3 Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp bourbon
2 Tbsp tamari soy sauce
1 Tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3/4-1 tsp garlic powder (depends how much you like garlic)
scant 1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup scallions, sliced
2 large haddock fillets (enough for 3-4 servings)

Stir together all marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Place fish in a large glass baking dish and pour marinade on top. Make sure the fish is nicely coated on all sides. Let stand for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake fish for 15 minutes. Fish should be opaque and flake apart when tested with a fork. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Peanut Butter & Pretzel Truffles

This recipe from Eating Well magazine was my first attempt at a "healthy" truffle. When I say healthy, I don't mean "light" or "low-calorie" or filled with artificial "stuff." I mean it's made with ingredients that are actually good for you. In my opinion, natural  peanut butter sure fits that bill since it's packed with good-for-you fats and protein (not to mention rich, fabulous flavor). The peanut butter is definitely the predominant ingredient in these little babies. Mix in a little bit of crushed pretzels and dip in some semi-sweet or dark chocolate (which has it's own health benefits, in moderation, of course) and you have a dessert you can really feel good about. YUM.

You can find the recipe here. The original calls for milk chocolate and if that's what you like, be my guest. But believe me when I tell you a darker chocolate in this recipe is truly divine.

One TIP: I find it very difficult to roll truffles in such a small about of chocolate. So, I melted quite a bit more and then used the leftovers to make some Chocolate, Fruit, & Nut Clusters (another dessert you can feel pretty darn good about). This way, I had plenty for rolling and nothing went to waste. Enjoy!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Roasted Broccoli, Carrot, & Barley Salad

I found inspiration for this recipe in Andrea Chesman's Serving Up the Harvest. I changed it so much, it's only vaguely recognizably from her original, but she was my muse nonetheless.  I desperately wanted to finish off the end of a bag of barley and didn't want to go to the grocery store, so I came up with this recipe. My Mom thought it sounded really strange, but once she tried it, she agreed it was quite delicious. 

Just a few notes
1. This recipe uses much more veggies than barley because I only had a small amount of barley left. Feel free to increase the amount of barley if you wish, just make sure to cook it in three times the amount of water.

2. WARNING: If you use the white parts of the scallion, your salad will taste very onion-y; the green parts are much milder. I originally put in the white parts, but promptly picked them out because the flavor was too overwhelming. 

Roasted Broccoli, Carrot, & Barley Salad
Print Recipe

1/3 cup barley
1 cup water
1 large head broccoli (or 2 small), cut into florets
1-2 cups baby carrots, cut into 3-4 coins each
olive oil
sea salt & pepper
1-2 scallions (according to taste), green parts only, thinly sliced
balsamic vinegar
extra-virgin olive oil

Combine barley and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 45-60 minutes. When ready, water should be absorbed. 

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a large bowl, toss cut broccoli with enough olive oil to lightly coat. Season with sea salt & pepper to taste. Spread on one side of a large jelly-roll or roasting pan. Repeat with carrots and spread them on the other side of the pan. Roast for 15 minutes.  

Remove the broccoli from the pan and place into a large serving bowl. Return carrots to the oven and roast an additional 10-15 minutes.  When finished, add carrots to serving bowl along with the sliced scallions and cooked barley.  Drizzle with a little more olive oil and balsamic vinegar, to taste. Toss to combine. 

Makes 2 large or 3 small servings

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cherry Linzer Bars

This past weekend, Nick was heading down to the city with his Dad, Uncle, and some family friends to meet my Dad and Brother for a St. John's basketball game at The Garden.  Since the boys were otherwise occupied, I thought it would be a good weekend to head down to Poughkeepsie to see my Mom, Grandma, & Aunts. As always, I traveled with sweets! I still had an open jar of homemade cherry jam from my previous visit a few weeks ago and although they were delicious, I didn't want to make the same cookies as last time

So, I dug out a recipe for 
Cherry Linzer Bars I tore out of a Good Housekeeping magazine a couple of months ago. My Aunt Susie saw it first and thought it sounded delicious, but was really hoping someone else would make it (imagine that?!). Baking is one area that I can always help out in, so I whipped up a batch of these delicious cookies to bring with me. And boy were they good. The cookie crust is flavored with cinnamon, lemon zest, and pecans (which I used instead of hazelnuts and highly recommend) and the filling is a simple combination of cherry jam and dried tart cherries, YUM! Other than switching the nuts, I followed the recipe to a T. They were a bit less fussy than traditional Linzer cookies which I also enjoy, but those are my Dad's specialty. Nevertheless, I do think this recipe has earned a spot in my "tried & true" folder, right next to Dad's Linzers of course.  

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Quick & Easy Fish Dinner in Parchment Packets

Just a quick post today...

The recipe
: Filet of Fish in Parchment from The Pleasures of Cooking for One, by Judith Jones

The verdict: Good recipe. The veggies and potatoes were very tasty and flavorful, but I think I would prefer it with a different fish next time. We used a walleye fish which was OK, but I think I would like a flounder or sole better. Recipe was very easy to expand to serve more people. With another fish, I would highly recommend this recipe.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

An easy, healthy risotto (slow-cooker)

The other night I made a "healthy" Butternut squash barley risotto from Good Housekeeping Magazine. I would be lying if I said it was the best thing I ever ate, but it was definitely good enough for a weeknight dinner. Considering that it was basically whole grains and vegetables, it was not half bad. In the past, I've made barley risotto on the stove-top and found that all the extra broth in the world could not soften the barley's extra-chewy texture. In comparison, this slow-cooker version is definitely softer and creamier, but I have decided that barley can never really replace the pure deliciousness of a good Arborio. However, if you're looking for a healthier version or just want to try something different, give this one a go.

On the other hand, if you want to keep the convenience of the slow-cooker, but still make a risotto with Arborio rice, I highly recommend 
Camilla Saulsbury's recipe for No-Stir Sundried Tomato Risotto from her blog, Enlightened Cooking. This is a tried-and-true favorite recipe of mine. It's not quite the same as making a stove-top risotto, but it's close enough for me, and very, very delicious. (In my slow cooker, it is always done at the lower end of the suggested cooking time, 2 hours.)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Cranberry-Orange Tea Loaf

I found inspiration for today's recipe in Carole Bloom's The Essential Baker. Her original recipe was for Cranberry Nut Tea Loaf, but I wanted to make my own version with quite a few changes. A slice of this loaf is delicious with afternoon tea, as a lighter dessert, or even as a breakfast treat. In my version, I amped up the orange, reduced the sugar a bit, skipped the nuts, and turned this into a 100% whole grain recipe, so no need to feel overly guilty about enjoying it! 

Cranberry Orange Tea Loaf

Print Recipe

Dry Ingredients:
     2 cups white whole wheat flour
     3/4 cup sugar
     1 1/4 tsp baking powder
     1/4 tsp baking soda
     1/2 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients:

     1 large egg
     2/3 cup vanilla yogurt
     1/3 cup fresh orange juice (from approx. 2 oranges)
     zest of 2 oranges
     6 Tbsp butter, melted
     2 cups frozen cranberries (I always freeze several bags each fall so I can have cranberries year-round)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a glass loaf pan with butter or cooking spray. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. 

Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir just until combined. Gently fold in cranberries. Spread batter evenly into the prepared loaf pan. 

Bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees. Then, lower the oven to 325 degrees and bake an additional 50 minutes. (Since everyone's oven is different, start checking at 40 minutes to be on the safe side.)  Loaf is ready when the exterior is a deep golden brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. 

Remove loaf from the oven and let cool 15-20 minutes in the pan before turning the loaf out onto a cooling rack. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

No-Bake, Fast & Easy Dessert - Cherry Almond Clusters

I've arrived home from my weekend in Poughkeepsie and I'm happy to report that every last crumb of the Cherry-Almond Bars I made were devoured and enjoyed (over-done edges and all). The only down-side to this was that I was so busy enjoying the new cookies that I didn't even get to taste the Chocolate, Fruit, and Nut Clusters my mom made. This is a favorite recipe I discovered many years ago in Health Magazine. Most of my family is nuts for chocolate and the darker the better, so we always make the clusters with just semi-sweet chocolate and skip the milk chocolate altogether. After I arrived home, I unpacked, ate dinner, and when I was looking for a little something sweet for dessert, I was really missing those clusters. I decided to make some of my own, but change it up a bit.  I swapped out the cranberries and pecans, trading them for cherries and almonds. Quick, delicious, and not even too terribly unhealthy (in my opinion, anyway). So here is my adapted version:

Cherry-Almond Clusters
Print Recipe

1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips (my favorite is Trader Joe's brand)
1/3 cup dried tart cherries
1/3 cup slivered or sliced almonds

1. Line a baking sheet or other flat surface with parchment or wax paper. (Trust me, you will regret it if you skip this step).

2. In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the chocolate chips in 30 seconds increments, stirring after each, until melted and smooth. Stir in the cherries and almonds until completely coated in chocolate. 

3. Drop mixture by the spoonful onto the lined baking sheet. You can make these any size you want, but usually somewhere in between a teaspoon and a tablespoon works well. Let sit until chocolate is set and no longer shiny. 

I store mine in a tin at room temperature, but if your house is too warm, you may want to refrigerate them. They will stay fresh for a week or so, but most likely they will not last that long!