rum-soaked french toast w/ pecan butter

Did everyone survive the holiday madness? Any diasters? Everything settle out or down ok? New Year's is right around the corner. I love Christmas, but in all honesty I love New Year's more. I love the celebration of a brand spanking new year. It's like someone came into your home, cleaned everything spotless, organized everything to a perfect ideal system just for you and gave you fresh clean sheets on your brand new bed. I love that! The perfect motivation to start something anew. This new year I am moving into my own home. Finally my own home with my own kitchen. No more greasy, messy rentals with broken appliances that never get fixed, no more wasting, burning rather, your hard earned money on a rental. My current rental I've dubbed as 'the money pit'. Seriously, I've even named my home network/internet connection 'the money pit'. This is the place as many of you remember where the landlord took her time fixing the fridge, then finally realizing (after 2 months) that she should buy a new one. But she didn't take the old one out (it's a wall unit) so the new fridge was put in the living room. Nice! And on top of that the new fridge that she bought was actually a 2-year old floor model that was used on the showroom floor for potential customers to open and close repeatedly, kids to open and slam repeatedly, and who knows what else abuse. She wanted the floor model because....yes, it was cheap. And cheap it was. You should hear the noises that thing makes, it reminds me of the movie Alien. No lie. I have to keep it turned up to the highest setting just to keep it at a nice toasty 35 degrees. Yes, this was the same landlord that didn't want to get the brand new washer & dryer properly fixed. I could go on and on, but in a month I move. But the icing on the cake was the fact that last week the 37-year old oven died. Just two days before Christmas my oven dies. I knew this was coming, but was hoping it would happen the day I moved. None such luck! And get this, the landlord is still undecided on whether or not to put in an oven! Good luck getting it rented with a brand new washer & dryer that doesn't work, a barely working fridge sitting in the living room and now no oven. Crazy right?
I have one more month left in the money pit and with no oven I have to resort my baking & creating to the gas stove. Thank goodness that still works (I should knock on wood at this point right?). This can give me a good excuse to do more with my wok and to flambe more, no? I have to admit I did try a batch of cookies in my ez-bake err toaster oven--it wasn't that bad!

rum-soaked french toast w/ pecan butter

1 large loaf of day old, crusty bread, sliced thick
3 eggs
1/2 cup - 3/4 cup of half & half
1/4 cup dark rum
pinch of salt
couple pinches of cinnnnnaminnnaamon

pecan butter

1 stick of room temp butter
1/2 cup or less of toasted, chopped pecans
pinch of salt
couple dashes of vanilla sugar (if you have it)

Make the pecan butter first by combining all the ingredients in a bowl and mixing well. Put into a small dish, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. You want the flavors to have an hour or so to meld together.

To make the french toast combine all the liquid ingredients, plus the cinnamon and salt in a shallow dish. Whisk this egg batter very well. Slice the crusty bread into desired thickness and let a few slices soak in the rum batter until ready to use. I soaked mine about 5 minutes. Add a few pats of butter to a hot skillet and cook up the french toast. Easy peasy. Make sure to serve with the pecan butter.


Merry Christmas

2009 copyright dawn finicane

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas. May the New Year bring you good fortune and the best of health.

Thank you to each and everyone of you for being such great friends.

(the above photo of the dexter grist mill in sandwich , located in my little neighborhood where I live.)

copyright 2009 dawn finicane


pumpkin spice cookie bark

Are you one of the many who is, at the last minute, still wondering what the heck to bring to your family Christmas gathering/party? You know Christmas is like in three days right? Ut oh! You're making me nervous! But I think I can help you and make you come out absolutely fabulous. Not that you already don't look tres fab, you do, but you will look super fab if you show up with these super tasty treats--they will be the talk of the dessert table, trust me. Plus you will wow your friends and family--you will, totally. This will not take a long time to make either, it's super easy and crazy-good tasting, plus it looks all professional, you know like you worked really hard at it.
pumpkin spice cookie bark
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All you need to do is take your favorite pumpkin-spice cookie mix, instead of making them into cookies, flatten the dough out (half inch thick is good) as a thin brownie in a jelly roll pan.
You might have to reduce the cooking time too as they are thinner and might not need as much time to bake.
Then as soon as they come out of the oven put on some chopped good quality dark chocolate, let it melt, then spread it around evenly with a rubber spatula (I used about 2-3 cups of chocolate--use as much or as little as you like). If you want to add toasted pecans like I did, this is the time to sprinkle them on before the chocolate hardens. Let it cool and harden. Then you can drizzle with a little melted white chocolate. And you're done! Easy right? (if you don't have a favorite pumpkin cookie mix here is one from allrecipes.com)
Note: I did add a bit "extra" of sea salt to the cookie batter. You know me and my sweet & salty fix. It makes all the difference. All I did was sprinkle some sea salt (fine, not course) over the cookie sheet BEFORE I put the pumpkin cookie batter on--just a light, light dusting of sea salt.). Please use high quality chocolate when making these, it really make all the difference in taste and texture; the higher the cacao the better.


molten chocolate cake w/ raspberry coulis and caramel

chocolate molten cake w/ raspberry coulis & caramel Chocolate souffle, chocolate molten cakes are like a happy drug to me--an addicting happy drug. When a good chocolate molten cake is paired perfectly with a fruit coulis, like raspberry, the end result is pure sweet heaven. The best molten cakes are made with the best chocolate, period--no other way around it. The chocolate paired with the raspberry coulis is just heavenly. I have yet to try a lemon coulis. I think a good lemon coulis would go so well with a vanilla-white chocolate molten cake. Doesn't that sound good? Anyone tried a lemon coulis? With this molten cake I added an extra layer of flavor: caramel. I was going to add some creme fraiche, but the snowstorm is keeping me inside, so I wasn't able to run to the store. But I added some freshly whipped cream, just as good in my book. chocolate molten cake w/ raspberry coulis & caramel
I got this recipe from the Top Chef Cookbook this was the recipe from Hung (Season 3 of Top Chef, Episode 14: the elimination challenge). Hands down excellent recipe. molten chocolate cakes w/ raspberry coulis by Hung Huynh of Top Chef print recipe raspberry coulis: 1 pint fresh raspberries 2 TB granulated sugar, or to taste 1 TB fresh lemon juice, or to taste molten chocolate cakes: 9 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped 2 sticks unsalted butter, plus more for ramekins 4 large eggs plus 4 large egg yolks (room temp) ½ cup granulated sugar 2 TB flour For the rasp coulis: Put all the ingredients in a food processor and puree. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, pushing down on the solids. Discard the seeds. Taste and add more sugar or lemon juice if needed. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. For the molten cakes: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter 4- to 6- ounce ramekins. In the top of a double broiler, combine the chocolate and butter and place over barely simmering water. Stir until melted. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. In a large bowl beat the eggs and yolks until frothy. Add the sugar and continue beating until doubled in volume. Beat in the chocolate mixture, slowly temper to eggs if still hot, and then beat in the flour. Divide the batter among the ramekins. Bake until the sides are set but the center remains soft, 11 to 14 minutes. (Mine were done at the 11 minute mark). to serve: Run a small knife around the cakes to loosen, and turn the cake out onto plates. Spoon the raspberry coulis around the cakes and top with crème fraiche. Garnish with mint and/or fresh raspberries. If you want to serve caramel with it like I did here is the recipe for the caramel.


toffee-vanilla pinwheels

I love cookies, pastries, cakes, breads, etc... that have a bit of shape and art to them. When I saw the original cookie recipe of these on Alton Brown's Christmas-cookie-something-show I wanted to make them simply because of the twirl. Who cares what they tasted like I wanted that damn twirl! They do taste great though, added bonus. On Alton's show he made them as a peppermint version. Since I am not the person to go by the rules I did them my way. I'm not a big fan of candy peppermint, I love the taste of mint, but just hate the whole crunchy candy cane stuff. Candy canes are kind boring to me...I need something else happening/going on taste or texture wise with the candy cane to eat it. I love watching and learning from Alton Brown, but sometimes he can get a bit cheeky in his "Good Eats" show--too goofy, too silly you know? He is very smart and knowledgeable when it comes to deconstructing recipes and educating you on their backgrounds and simpleness of them--so why be cheeky? Half the time when I'm watching his show I rarely pay attention, my ADD gets the best of me when shiny kitchen utensils are in the forefront and background. I have to see what he has for kitchen tools, how he has his kitchen drawers lined up, what's in all the kitchen drawers, how many gadgets he has, and what's in his friggin' fridge! I also love seeing what kind of knives the chef's have on the show 'The Next Iron Chef', and what else is in their bags and foldups. I'm a firm believer that the perfect tools help make the perfect chef. Duh, right?

toffee-vanilla pinwheels 2 12-12-2009 9-19-50 AM

Back to these cookies, as I said above they were originally chocolate-peppermint pinwheels from Alton Brown. To make the toffee-vanilla pinwheels all I did was change it up with toffee and take out all peppermint, and change places with the two doughs. You could change it up with just about anything really: peanut butter sounds good; I would love to try a vanilla-strawberry version. So, if you do want to make these my way: just follow that recipe from Alton Brown, take out the peppermint extract, use 1/2 cup toffee bits instead of crushed candy cane, add the toffee bits to the vanilla dough not the chocolate dough, and put the chocolate layer on the inside instead of the outside. That's it! These make awesome Christmas gifts if they ever make it out of your kitchen.

toffee-vanilla pinwheels 8 12-12-2009 9-28-26 AM


chocolate-caramel tarts

Lately I've been giving you a lot of baked sweet nothings. That term sweet nothings can be taken so many ways can't it? I find it ironic that I am giving you food ideas on what to make to give as gifts for the holidays when I haven't even started. Yes, I haven't even started. Tell me I'm not alone (lie)? The only thing I can say that is halfway done are the Christmas cards-- half people, half. I still haven't a clue on what to make for holiday gifts for my friends and clients. Wouldn't it be awful if I gave them gifts and no food? Oh the horror! I think I would get a lot of sad, almost on the edge of tears, phone calls. Ha ha, I would never do that. I love to make foodie-gifts just simply for the mere pleasure of their facial expressions of pure happiness. That makes all the slaving in the kitchen soooo worth it you know?
Last year I made a version of poor man's toffee that was a huge hit. People are asking for it again, but I hate giving the same thing. I might just give these chocolate-caramel tarts. They are very easy, and I used a shortcut too. I bought the pre-made shell tarts from Whole Foods. I just didn't have the time to make the tarts by hand. I know, bad, but I am so strapped for time these days. If you don't want to buy the tarts you could easily make a cookie-crust that would be perfect--like crushed Oreo's?

So what foodie gifts are you giving this holiday season?

chocolate-caramel tarts

Take some pre-made mini chocolate or vanilla tarts, chill a bit in fridge. Take some melted caramel and fill tarts halfway, add in a roasted macadamia nut or two, chill in fridge until caramel is set. Then pour melted dark or milk chocolate to the top, let set. You could literally add in whatever you like: peanut butter, white chocolate, peanuts, almonds...endless possibilities.

print recipe


chocolate dipped pretzel shortbread

pretzel shortbread dipped in dark chocolate

I am asked, often, about how I come up with my crazy-kicked up ideas. Well, I admit I watch a lot of food tv shows, either on the Food Network or on PBS. (btw, Emeril Green on Planet Green is pretty good too). When I watch these shows I see what they are doing and always, always, always want to do it differently than what they did. The only time this does not happen is this seasons' Top Chef: Las Vegas; I'm blown away by the huge amount of talent. Almost every single dish they've made I am sitting there saying 'holy moly how very clever'! You know? Season one was sooo good too.
I keep a notepad with me almost at all times: there is one in the car, one on my nightstand, and one at my desk. The others times I carry one with me because I do get a lot of ideas when I'm at the gym or walking about. I'd say I get most of my ideas at night just before bed, and in the middle of the night to as I'm trying to fall asleep my mind just races with ideas. My list of 'to-make' is long, oh so very long; I finally resorted to typing them into my computer years ago or else I would be like those old college professors with papers, stack of papers, and stick-it's all over the place. I'm sort of a neat freak so that wouldn't fly. I am up to over 30 typed pages of ideas, not to mention the stack of recipes I printed from other food bloggers. I am very guilty of making more sweets than meals. My first love is french cooking, and I haven't been good about keeping that end up lately it seems.

Just like every chef and cook alike I have a fairly large cookbook collection. A lot of inspiration comes from cookbooks. One of my favorite things to do is look through a newer cookbook, ear-mark something, then go research almost the same thing in an old cookbooks and try to fuse the two together. Collecting old cookbooks is an addictive behaviour of mine that I don't get to practice as much as I'd like. Here on cape cod there are a lot of old, rotting bookstores with ginormous piles of neglected books; it takes hours to find the cookbooks because nothing is labeled and most of the people who go there prefer literary novels and the like, so the cookbooks are like those rug warehouses where the best carpets are at the very bottom! Don't get me started on the old, mile-long bookstores in NYC. That is heaven!! What I love about the older cookbooks: those food stains/mug stains on the pages, the withering ear-marked pages, and of course the old book smell--Love that old book smell!

There are so many food-creations I make that never make it to the food blog or are sitting in the photo archives. But I shall change that as most of you said you have no problem seeing my recipe-fails. This pretzel shortbread inspiration came from an old food & wine magazine--orignally it was a pretzel crust with chocolate filling type pie. I wanted to see if I could make shortbread with it. Came out ok, but for whatever reason they go stale fast--lasting only a couple days after being baked & dipped. Will I make this again? Not so sure, this is one of my recipe-fail ones, but I might if I add in more sugar and a hint of vanilla to it next time around.

pretzel shortbread dipped in dark chocolate

pretzel shortbread
inspired from food & wine
print recipe

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups coarsely crushed thin pretzels (I used 1 & ½ cups)
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
A small pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg

Chocolate dip:
About ½ cup of melted milk or dark chocolate (milk is way better)

In a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with 3/4 cup of the pretzels and the confectioners’ sugar at low speed until creamy.
Beat in the flour, egg, and salt.
Add the remaining 1/2 cup of pretzels, being sure to leave some pretzel pieces intact.
Flatten the dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 30 minutes. I only flattened them to ½ - ¾ inch thick—you don’t want them too thin.
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Roll out the dough between the sheets of plastic wrap. Cut them into circles of strips, whatever shape you desire. Place onto parchment lined cookie sheet.
Bake for about 10 minutes or until tops are almost light golden brown. These bake FAST! Once they turn a medium brown they are no good.
Let them cool a bit before dipping in melted chocolate. When you are ready to dip them make sure to let them set on parchment paper.
Note: these do not keep more than 2 days. They get stale fairly fast for whatever reason.


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