Dear Prosciutto,

I know you were looking forward to becoming that lovely fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, and prosciutto roll last summer, but I am sorry to say that I never got to it. But you didn't let discouragement get you down as you next looked to becoming a delicious prosciutto, pear and blue cheese sandwich. That never happened did it. Your disappointment and sadness has taken its toll, not to mention your age. You have substituted nicely in this recipe for the dried beef. Just be thankful you make into a cheese ball and not that unmentionable place.

Yours truly,

Cheese Ball

16 oz. cream cheese, softened
6 oz dried beef
6 green onions
1/4 t. garlic salt
1 1/2 T Worcestershire sauce
Chopped nuts or parsley

Place dried beef and green onion in food processor. Process until minced. Add cream cheese, garlic salt and Worcestershire sauce and blend well. Scoop out and form into a ball. Chill. Roll ball in chopped walnuts or parsley. (I like to roll the cheese ball in nuts before chilling.) Pecans would work as well. Soften slightly before serving. Serve with your favorite cracker.

What's This?

From what?

I have been ignoring the bag of truffles in the back of the refrigerator for about 5 years now. They somehow had melted into a giant ball but I wasn't about to throw out a bag of chocolate so I stuck them in the fridge to deal with later. Much later. These cookies will leave him speechless.

Chocolate Filled Cookies
Adapted from Sing for Your Supper
Makes about 18 cookies

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
Ganache style truffles, about 1/3 oz each, chilled (ie: soft ones, not chocolate covered ones or make your own. The ones at Sam's Club are perfect. My truffles came out of the fridge and were easy to handle)
Sea salt

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Drop by rounded ice cream scooper onto ungreased baking sheet. They should be about a 2-inch ball. Flatten balls to make about 3-inch circles. Place one truffle in middle of circle and fold up the dough around the truffle making sure to cover it completely. Pick up the dough to form a well shaped ball. Return to cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Leave plenty of space between cookie balls. Sprinkle with sea salt. If you forget the sea salt you can still sprinkle it after it comes out of the oven pressing the salt gently into the cookie.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. I bake mine for 10 minutes 30 seconds. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

If you wish to make your own ganache here is a good recipe.

6 oz chocolate chips, semisweet or bittersweet. I like to use half milk chocolate and half semisweet.
3/4 c. heavy whipping cream

Place chocolate chips in a bowl. Heat cream to scalding point (bubbles forming around the edge) over medium heat. Pour hot cream over chocolate chips. Stir until smooth. A wire whisk works great for this. Chill until easy to handle. Can be made a day ahead. Slightly soften at room temperature for ease in handling.

Easy Gifts from the Kitchen

Herbes de Provence Salt
From Whole Foods
Makes 2 cups salt or enough for 4 (1/2 cup) gifts
Gourmet salts are all the rage among foodies. This flavorful version is wonderful sprinkled over grilled steak or a whole roasting chicken, with sautéed mushrooms or a potato gratin. Try sprinkling over savory scones or rolls before baking for a tasty treat. Package for gift giving with a downloadable gift tag.

2 cups sea salt, grey salt or fleur de sel
3 tablespoons herbes de Provence blend
1/2 teaspoon lavender flowers
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage

Place salt and herbs in a food processor. Pulse until evenly mixed. Divide evenly and package in decorative containers for gift giving.


Citrus Salt
From Whole Foods
Makes 2 cups of salt or enough for 4 (1/2 cup) gifts
Lemon, lime and orange zest add bright, fresh flavor to gourmet sea salt. A great addition to any seafood dish from grilled fish to shrimp stir fry. Package for gift giving with a downloadable gift tag.

2 cups sea salt, grey salt or fleur de sel
2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest
1 tablespoons fresh lime zest
1 tablespoons fresh orange zest

Preheat oven to 225°F. Mix salt with zest and spread evenly on a baking sheet. Place in oven and bake 2 hours, until zest is dry. Place in a food processor or blender and pulse until evenly mixed. Divide evenly and package in decorative containers for gift giving.

You know who you are.

Some of you still have leftover mashed potatoes from Thanksgiving. Uh huh. You know you are out there. Make this and it will look like you meant to keep them forever.

Potato Pie
From Great Dinners from Life
Serves 6-8

1 10 in. unbaked pastry shell 

1 lb. cottage cheese
2 c. mashed potatoes
1/2 c. sour cream
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1/2 c. scallions, sliced
3 T. grated Parmesan cheese

Put the cottage cheese through a food mill or use a food processor to make it smooth. Beat the mashed potatoes into the cottage cheese. Beat in sour cream, eggs, salt, and cayenne. Stir in scallions. Spoon into pastry shell. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Bake at 425 for 50 min until golden brown.

Peppermint Bark

This is better than Williams-Sonoma peppermint bark.

Peppermint Bark
Adapted from
Makes about 4 pounds
To make less, halve the recipe and use a 9x13 pan

24 oz. Ghirardelli all natural chocolate chips (Your choice which kind. I used the double chocolate)
2 pounds Ghirardelli all natural white chocolate chips (They come in 11 oz packages)
1 t. peppermint extract OR 1/8 t. peppermint oil
20-25 peppermint candies, about 1 cup (Use all natural if you are so inclined.)

Crush the peppermint candies by placing them in a plastic ziploc bag and pounding them with a hammer, rolling pin, whatever you like. If you crush them in a food processor, they will be too powdery. If you don't like the big chunks, then use that method.

Preheat oven to 250.

Line a jelly roll pan with foil, creasing into the edges and letting the foil hang over the sides. Spray with cooking oil. Spread the chocolate chips evenly in the foil lined pan. Place in preheated oven for 5 min. Remove from oven and smooth evenly using an offset knife or spatula. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, place white chocolate chips in a large metal bowl or one that can withstand heat. Fill a large stockpot with about 4 inches of water. Place bowl of white chocolate on top of stockpot. It should rest on top and not touch the water. Bring water in the stockpot to a boil with the bowl of chocolate on top of it. Turn off the burner. Let the steam melt the chocolate. Stir gently until the white chocolate is completely melted. Stir in the peppermint.

You want the white chocolate to slightly melt a thin layer of the chocolate so the two layers will stick together but not melt it so much that it mixes.

If the chocolate layer in the fridge is hard and cold, spread the melted white chocolate on it as soon as it is melted. If the chocolate is firm but still sticky to the touch, let the white chocolate cool a little.

Another option is to let the dark chocolate stand at room temperature to soften a bit, about 20 minutes. However, condensation on the dark chocolate will prevent the layers from sticking together. Layers that are too thin will not stick together.

It will probably work out no matter what. My chocolate layer wasn't cold and my white chocolate was hot. Needless to say the dark chocolate started to melt into the white chocolate. It took careful spreading.

To spread the white chocolate, use an offset knife. Working quickly, push the white chocolate to spread it, always having white chocolate ahead of the knife. Don't let the knife touch the dark chocolate. Spread over dark chocolate evenly and completely.

Sprinkle with crushed candy while the white chocolate is still warm and soft. If needed, gently push the candy into the white chocolate. This can be done a number of ways. Place a plastic bag over your hand and spray with cook oil. Press gently on the candy. Or, spray the bottom of another cookie sheet, jelly roll pan or other flat surface and press gently on candy.

Refrigerate until firm. Let the bark stand at room temperature for a few minutes before trying to cut or break it. I broke mine up by hitting it on the edge of the counter.

Store in airtight container.