Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dreams Of Rugelach

I admit...I CAN's just I do not always want to...But there is that one dessert that I make that is truly MY dessert. Everyone asks for MY recipe...Everyone doubles over in delight after eating MY creation...Everyone gains about 2 pounds after eating MY dessert.

This is how this magical dessert was born...
I was unemployed...depressed and bored. I was sitting on the couch, doing nothing more than watching the Food Network. Ina Garten comes on screen and starts making these amazing little cookies. My ears perked up and my mouth started salivating. "I can do this," I thought. Reluctant to fail, I followed the recipe to a T. However, when the dough was not ending up quite how I like it, I tweaked it a bit. And they ended up AMAZING! I ate ten myself and I decided these posed a major threat to my figure! I passed the delicious little love handle makers to my husband and told him to take them to work the very next day.
At 10am the next day I get a phone call from a crazed best friend. She said her husband told her he had eaten the most amazing cookies that my husband brought into work and that I must make more! So I made more and invited her over. She drove over in an hour and was eating them still hot. The sweetest thing she said was, "It's like you put something in them that makes them absolutely irresistible! I cannot stop eating them." The following day her father-in-law tasted them...and chaos ensued! They all literally sat with their hands folded at the table and waited for my fresh batch of cookies for hours and immediately devoured them!
So now I finally pass them on :) I use the recipe below as more of a guide than anything else. Most rugelach look like little crescents. I shape mine a little differently because it's easier to cut them.
As far as the preserves goes, I have used everything from apricot, to strawberry to cherry. I personally enjoyed the strawberry, but in my kitchen everyone is a critic and the vast majority prefer the apricot.
The beauty of these little cookies is how versatile they are. Make them as I do or make them yours...whatever it is share's a sin not to...


8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2-pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar plus 9 tablespoons
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup apricot preserves, pureed in a food processor
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk, for egg wash

*You can double this recipe and save the dough in the fridge for a week for a rainy day*

Cream the cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light. Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar, the salt, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour and mix until just combined. Dump the dough out onto a well-floured board and roll it into a ball. Cut the ball in quarters, wrap each piece in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour. *I have also used a food processor to make the dough and it worked great.*
To make the filling, combine 6 tablespoons of granulated sugar, the brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, the raisins, and walnuts.

On a well-floured board, roll each ball of dough into a 9-inch circle. Spread the dough with 2 tablespoons apricot preserves and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the filling. Press the filling lightly into the dough.

Roll up the dough carefully like a jelly roll, making sure to tuck the corners under.

Cut into 2 inch pieces and place face up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. *Make sure you use parchment paper, when the jam boils out it creates a sticky mess*
Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Brush each cookie with the egg wash. Combine 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon and sprinkle on the cookies. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack and let cool.
*Sometimes it takes longer for the cookies to bake. Just monitor them carefully.*

Tuscan Mussles and Shrimp

Very few things in life give me as much pleasure as putting a smile on people's faces with my food. Particularly, my husband's face :) Those days that he is down and out and needs a pick me up...I know the shortest distance is to his stomach! 90% of the time this remedy calls for seafood; my husband’s favorite food of all time. I was on the phone with my husband shopping at my favorite grocery store when I noticed that he was not in a particularly pleasant mood. I knew this called for an arsenal of seafood!
This particular dish I made on a warm September afternoon. I wanted to make him something healthy yet still allow him to feel like he indulged. The dishes’ simple flavors combine and form an incredible broth perfect for dipping a whole wheat crostini into.

Tuscan Mussels and Shrimp
* Like all seafood mussels can be extremely dangerous if they are not fresh. Sorting through them is crucial. Stick them under cold running water and pick through, discarding any shells that refuse to close. If they are open then they are already dead. Scrub the remaining ones with a sponge to remove any access dirt. They all have a grassy looking "beard" attached to their shells, tear that off as well.*

1 Pound of Mussels, Washed and Sorted
6 Large Shrimp; Shells and Veins Removed
4 Large Garlic Cloves; Minced
1 Shallot Diced Finely
Juice of Half a Lemon
3 Scallions Sliced on the Bias
2 Tablespoons Chopped Parsley
1 Cup of Wine
1/2 Cup Canned Diced Tomatoes
1 Pinch Red Pepper Flakes
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Pieces of Whole Wheat Bread, Toasted, Rubbed Down with Garlic Cloves
Salt and Pepper to Taste

1. In a wide and deep pot combine olive oil, shallots, garlic and red pepper flakes. Allow to sweat for a couple of minutes until fragrant and transparent, but not brown.
2. Add in shrimp and sautee for two minutes.
3. Add in mussels, white wine, tomatoes, lemon juice and scallions; toss everything to combine. Cover with tight fitting lid and allow to cook for 4 minutes untouched.
4. Remove lid and move everything around, if all the mussels are opened, poor into a deep bowl, sprinkle with parsley and serve with toasted bread!
Dip, slurp and enjoy!