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Chocolate, Desserts, Great Gift Ideas, Treats

Chocolate Bourbon Balls

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I promised you Chocolate Bourbon Balls that are irresistible.  Here they are.

I’m a Tennessee girl – bourbon seeps into what I cook. I think these Chocolate Bourbon Balls are going to replace the Bourbon Ball recipe my sister-in-law gave me many years ago. I use to make bourbon balls every Christmas and keep some frozen for those times when only a hot bath, a good book (probably not high literature) and bourbon balls would suffice.

The old recipe took two days and used paraffin. This Chocolate Bourbon Balls recipe is easy enough to make throughout the year when the need arises!

Chocolate Bourbon Balls

Makes about 40


1 c          heavy cream

8oz             dark chocolate, chopped. Use a high quality chocolate, with around 70% cocoa. You can usually find Lindt in the grocery store or look for Valhrona, Callebaut, or Scharffen Berger

1 -1½ T     Bourbon You can use Grand Marnier for an orange/cognac flavor.

Coating the Chocolates:

8oz             dark chocolate ,chopped  If you like chocolate a bit sweeter, you could use semi sweet dark chocolate.

2T              flavorless oil


Medium heavy saucepan, scale, measuring spoons, mixer with a medium bowl, wooden spoon, parchment or wax paper, cookie sheet, two forks, wire rack


In the saucepan over medium heat, warm the cream to a simmer. Take off the heat and add the chocolate. Stir with the wooden spoon.

Pour the cream mixture into the mixer bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. When cool, add the liquor and beat with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form. Don’t over-beat it.

Using a piping bag with a small tip (3/8in) or a baggie with a corner cut away, pipe small blobs about 1” across onto a tray lined with wax paper or parchment.

Smooth the top of the chocolate with your finger to make a ball. (I have also dipped my finger in the liquor and smoothed the top off the chocolate.)

Refrigerate till cold.

Coating with Chocolate:

Melt the rest of the chocolate in a heavy pan or a double boiler. Add the oil.

Pick up the cooled chocolate pieces with two forks and dip them in the melted chocolate. Put the dipped chocolates on a wire rack or a fresh sheet of parchment to set.

Store in a cool place. These Chocolate Bourbon Balls will keep for 3 to 4 days.

Ideas: Pour the last of the melted chocolate over the dipped chocolates to add another layer of chocolate. You could also shake cocoa powder over the chocolates as they set.



Cookies, Desserts, Great Gift Ideas, Snack, Treats

Gingerbread Snow Flake Cookies

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Gingerbread Snow Flake with Royal Icing. Bring on the Yuletide Spirit!

I’ve started baking for the holidays. It is 70F outside so it is not feeling like the Yuletide inside. I figure making some gingerbread snowflake cookies and chocolate Grand Marnier bites will make the house smell of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and orange.  My Christmas tree is up and friends are coming over to help me decorate it. I may even turn on the AC and light a fire, Texas-style. That should get the holiday feel started.

My first project is to bake a really great gingerbread cookie.  I want it spicy and a little hot on the tongue.  I really don’t bake a lot of cookies so I went to Fine Cooking and looked at several recipes.  What I came up with is one of the best doughs I’ve tasted! Decorating these cookies is fun but you don’t have to – the cookies are great on their own.

Don’t be discouraged by the long text. Read through it. It is very simple. Make the dough a few days before you bake and it is a cinch!


Gingerbread Snow Flake Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen



3½ c          All Purpose flour (You’ll need more when you roll out the dough)

1t               baking soda

1t               cinnamon (I use the Vietnamese cinnamon which is strong)

3t               ginger powder

¼ t             cloves ground

1/8 t           pepper, finely ground

¼ t             salt

¾ c            light brown sugar, hard backed

1½ c          butter, softened

¾ c            molasses or trecal

1                large egg

1½ T          orange zest


2c              confectioners’ sugar

2t               powdered egg whites or meringue powder

¼ t            cream of tarter (optional)

4-5T          water


Mixer with a medium or large bowl and a paddle attachment; scraping spatula; measuring cups and spoons; medium bowl; wooden spoon; fine grater; two cookie sheets lined with parchment; plastic wrap; rolling pin (or a wine bottle if you don’t have a rolling pin); flour scraper; cookie cutters; racks for cooling (if your stove has removable burner covers, you can use those – you just want air to flow around the cookies to cool them quicker); several small plastic bags sized for sandwiches.


Put the flour, baking soda, spices and salt and pepper in the medium bowl and stir.

Nutmeg pod with the nutmeg seed you cook with. The nutmeg is from Grenada.

Nutmeg pod with the nutmeg seed you cook with. The nutmeg is from Grenada.

In your mixer at medium speed, cream the butter and brown sugar until it is light and fluffy. It really will look different towards the end so be patient. Add the egg and a tablespoon of the flour mixture. The flour keeps the egg from curdling the sugar mixture. If it curdles, don’t worry, just keep going.  Add the molasses and orange zest and beat until the mixture is smooth. Remember to scrape the sides of the bowl.

Add the dry ingredients, either by lowering the speed of your mixer or by stirring them in with a spatula or wooden spoon. Mix until just incorporated. It will be stiff and sticky.

Put a piece of plastic wrap on your counter and turn the dough out onto it. Pat the dough into a circle about 1” thick. Wrap in the plastic wrap and freeze for an hour or a few days. This allows the gluten to relax so your cookies will be tender.

 To bake the cookies:

Preheat your oven to 350F. Put one rack in the lower third of the oven and one in the upper third.

Take the gingerbread dough out of the freezer and cut into 4 pieces. Put one piece on a floured work surface and put the rest back in the freezer.

Roll out the piece of dough until it is about 1/8” thick. Dip your cookie cutter in flour and begin to stamp out cookies. Gently move the cookies to the parchment-lined cookie pan. Place them about ½ “ apart.

Old copper cookie cutter from Old River Road
Old copper cookie cutter from Old River Road

Bake for about 10 minutes. The cookies will be lightly browned and firm. Slide the cookies onto a cooling rack, leaving them on the parchment to make this easier.

Repeat with the rest of the dough.

If you want to decorate your cookies:

Royal Icing to decorate the cookies.

King Arthur Flour has great information about making and using Royal Icing.

Attach a whisk to your mixer. Put the sugar, egg white and cream of tarter in the mixing bowl.  Start by mixing together on low speed then increase speed to medium and begin to add the water a tablespoon at a time.  Scrape the sides of the bowl. Beat till the mixture becomes smooth, glossy and thick, 6 to 7 minutes.

A test to see if the consistency is right is to put a small plop of icing on the counter.  Dip a toothpick in the plop. When you pull it away a peak should form and then gently flow back into the icing. If it is too thick, add a teaspoon of water and beat a bit more until its morale improves.

Put the icing in a bag and pipe your favorite decorations onto the cookies.  If you don’t have a bag and tips for decorating, no problem. Fill a baggie with some icing, cut a small corner off and you’ve got it. Keep unused icing covered with a damp towel or plastic wrap or it will dry out.  If it gets too stiff, just add a bit more water and beat again.



Chocolate, Desserts, Great Gift Ideas, On the Road

CocoAndre Chocolate

The best tasting boot you'll ever stick in your mouth

The best tasting boot you’ll ever stick in your mouth!

I once bought a card that said “No matter what the problem is, the answer is chocolate!” I’m always on the hunt for really good chocolate.

Preparing to make Christmas cookies and chocolates, I thought I would go and see how the talented Coco Pedraza, owner and head chocolatier of a boutique chocolate company CocoAndre Chocolatier in the Bishop’s Arts District in Dallas, makes her confections.  Made with 100% cocoa-butter-based raw chocolate, you’ll find her marvelous molded chocolates, Old World truffles, chocolate cakes and specialty drinks over-the-top wonderful. You could describe her chocolate with the words you would use for a fine wine – dark, rich flavors with a slight bitterness at the back of your tongue, with notes of raspberry, ginger, pear or vanilla.  How does a dark, spicy Oaxacan chocolate drink sound?

Choc Star 20151209-_MG_3332.CR2

Dark and white chocolate snow flake

CocoAndre Chocolatier also has a Facebook page:

Bread, Desserts, Fruit, Great Gift Ideas, Snack, Treats

Melissa’s Banana Bread – the best!

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Melissa’s Banana Bread – the best banana bread!

I love banana bread. I’ve tried all sorts of recipes and have concluded that finding a great banana bread is hard to do. Sometimes they are too sweet and often they don’t pack a bold banana flavor. I lost my favorite banana bread recipe years ago and I’ve been looking for another one ever since.

Melissa’s Banana Bread is the best I’ve ever eaten.   Sometimes the memory of a really great meal is not just the flavor of the food but is colored by where you were and the people you were with. You’ve had that experience of trying a recipe for the second time because it was so good the first time (and the meal or party was really fun) and it just didn’t taste the same, haven’t you?

The first time I had Melissa’s Banana Bread was aboard the 28’ Beneteau, Booty-Ful, in the Harvest Moon Regatta. This annual race is from Galveston to Port Aransas and takes about 24 hours to complete. We hit the start line perfectly at 2pm. Tom, the captain, put Booty-Ful on a broad reach about a mile off the Texas coast. Just after dark the wind picked up unexpectedly so we sailed into the evening with eight foot waves crashing over the boat. Booty-Ful held her course but with the tossing and crashing of the waves, no one wanted the dinner I had prepared. Instead, we dined on Melissa’s Banana Bread because it was a perfect balance of sweet banana while being easy on the stomach. See the Harvest Moon Regatta – the Voyage of the Booty-Ful for more.

I asked for the recipe, made it, and found that it was as good as I remembered, even without the saltwater and the excitement. I tried making the recipe three ways: according to Melissa’s recipe, adding a few tablespoons of banana liquor and with fried plantains. The recipe really did not need the extras. Melissa’s Banana Bread is perfect just as is.

Tip: Grill or toast it for breakfast.

Melissa’s Banana Bread – the Best Banana Bread Ever


2 ½ c    all purpose flour

1 tsp      salt – I use Morton’s Kosher salt

2 tsp     baking powder

1 c         coconut oil

1¾ c     sugar

2 c         bananas, very ripe, mashed – about 6

4            eggs, slightly beaten

1 c       chopped pecans, coarsely chopped


2 medium loaf pans, measuring cups, measuring spoons, one small bowl, two medium bowls, a fork, a wooden spoon, and a toothpick or skewer.


Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease and flour two medium loaf pans.

Mash the bananas with your fork in the small bowl. Beat the eggs together in a medium bowl just until the white and yolks are blended. Stir in the coconut oil, sugar, mashed bananas and pecans. Mix all the remaining dry ingredients together in a bowl with a spoon. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until the batter is just blended.

banana bread ingredients 20115-_MG_3131.CR2

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pans and bake for

55-60 minutes. Insert the skewer into the loaf. If the skewer comes out clean, your banana bread is done.

Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 5 minutes then turn the bread out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

Desserts, Travel

Lemon Meringue Pie – for my sweetie pie

lemon merangue pie

Lemon Meringue Pie

For years – 20 or so – I have been making lemon meringue pies for my husband because I thought it was his favorite. Last Thanksgiving I made a pecan pie. I rarely make them because I find them too sweet. At dinner my husband exclaimed ‘Pecan pie, my favorite!” Oh well. It is good to learn something new.

I’ve tried all sorts of recipes for lemon meringue pie and most of them take a long time. A few years ago it dawned on me that lemon curd was the perfect lemon filling because it makes the pie quick to create and not a chore. If you buy a crust, it is a cinch. I often make the dough and the lemon curd a day ahead.

At the Koffee Kup in Hico, Texas they make a lemon meringue pie with a meringue top well over 6” high. It is a marvel. In Hico you’ll also find wonderful chocolate confections from Wiseman House Chocolates.

The meringue in the lemon meringue pie does not reach the 6” height but add another egg white and you might make reach it!

Lemon Meringue Pie

one 10″ pie


1   Old Fashioned Pie Crust, made with this recipe.

Lemon Curd, made by doubling this recipe.


3 egg whites (room temperature is best but not essential)

1/2 c sugar


Mixer, 1 large mixing bowl (very clean), spatula


If you are doing this in one day, start by making the pie dough. While it is cooling in the fridge make the lemon curd. While the curd is cooling, roll out the pie dough and place it in a 10-inch pie pan. Chill the pie crust one more time to stop shrinkage and blind bake it. Pour the lemon curd into the baked pie crust.

Finally, preheat the oven to 400F and make the meringue: whisk the egg whites until they begin to get fluffy. Add half the sugar while continuing to beat.  Beat egg whites until stiff peaks just begin to form. Add the rest of the sugar and beat till stiff peaks form.

Spread the meringue on the lemon curd, making sure to completely cover the curd and sealing the meringue to the crust.

Place the pie into the 400F oven and bake for 7 minutes.  The meringue will be slightly crisp, golden brown on the outside and lovely and soft on the inside.