Festive Fudge (White Chocolate Fudge with Cranberries and Pistachios)

White Fudge

Festive white fudge studded with cranberries and pistachio nuts

A baking frenzy took place in my kitchen yesterday. All day–from early morning until evening–I whisked, stirred, melted, rolled, filled, dipped, and baked an assortment of cookies and candies. I made ol’ favs: Walnut Pillows, Pecan Balls, Pecan Tarts, and Macadamia Nut Butter Cookies.

And I tried a few new recipes, such as this Festive Fudge: luscious white chocolate studded with green pistachios and red cranberries. Nutty and fruity. Tart and chewy. Perfect holiday fare.

Ever made fudge? It’s a hit or miss situation with me, kind of like my caramel experiences. But this one worked easily enough: dump a bunch of stuff into a pan, boil for 4 minutes, add to chips, mix in nuts and fruit, and voila–lovely, festive fudge!

Now on to today’s project: packing all these goodies to give away as well as freezing some for Christmas day.

Festive Fudge (White Chocolate Fudge with Cranberries and Pistachios)

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  • 3 cups white chocolate chips
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped pistachios (roasting optional)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract


  1. If you want to roast the pistachios, heat oven to 350 degrees F, spread nuts onto a pan, and roast for 5-8 minutes. Allow to cool.
  2. Prepare pan by lining with parchment paper. Tip: spraying the pan with a bit of oil helps the parchment paper to stay in place. If you want 2-inch high fudge, use an 8 inch x 8 inch pan. If you want 1-inch high fudge, use a 9 inch x 13 inch pan (I like this option because the pieces feel more bite sized and you get a lot more fudge pieces).
  3. Place white chocolate chips in a large bowl and have electric mixer  or whisk ready. If using a stand mixer, use the whisk attachment.
  4. This next step involves boiling, so use a large saucepan (I used my 6 quart Dutch oven): over medium heat, bring the sugar, butter, cream, and salt to a full, rolling boil, stirring occasionally. Once it begins to fully boil, set a timer for 4 minutes, continuously stirring at this point. If you use a candy thermometer, the mixture should reach 230 degrees F.
  5. Pour the hot mixture over the white chocolate chips and whisk on medium speed for about 2 minutes, or until chocolate is completely melted.
  6. Add cranberries, pistachios, and vanilla; stir until combined.
  7. Pour the fudge into your parchment-lined pan; use a spatula to evenly spread it. Allow to cool, which will take a couple of hours, then cover with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator to cool for a couple more hours before cutting. When ready to cut, use a pizza cutter to make smooth, even, and straight cuts.
  8. The fudge can be stored in an airtight container, on the counter or in the refrigerator, for about a week or two. Or you can wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then place in resealable bag, and freeze for a couple months.

SOURCE: adapted from Chocolate, Chocolate and More

Cookie Round Ups from the Past Few Years

Looking for some cookie ideas? For the past few years, I’ve included a series of cookie posts prior to the holidays. Not happening this year. For some reason, I baked very few cookies in 2014. However, I thought I’d share the past Cookie Round Ups. They do, after all, include some of my very favorite sweet treats.



Babbling Brook Cookies


Cookie Round Up 2013

Cookie Round Up 2012

Cookie Round Up 2011



Pumpkin Tarts (Mini Pumpkin Pies)

Pumpkin Tarts

Pumpkin Tarts with Cinnamon-Spiced Whipped Cream

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving surrounded by family and friends and delighted in moist turkey, highly-caloric sides, and rich desserts.

With the past several weeks devoted to grading essays, preparing for a craft party, and baking for Thanksgiving, I finally have time to write a post. Yay!

Although I know I’m late to the Pumpkin Recipe Food Blogger Posting season, which runs from October 1st through Thanksgiving, I just have to share about these Pumpkin Tarts. Not only do these mini pies taste creamy and have an ever-so-slightly-tangy crust, but they have a lovely dollop of cinnamon-and-nutmeg-spiced whipped cream.

But I really want to share these today to tell you my tale of woe.

After slaving away at making the dough, the filling, and patiently waiting while they baked, the taste of the warm pumpkin tarts didn’t thrill me.

The following morning, though, after a stint in the fridge, I took another taste test. Much better, worthy now of taking to the holiday extravaganza.

Then the cinnamon whipped cream piped atop with a star tip made them look so adorable. Great taste + adorable looks = winner winner winner!!!

Fast forward to after-dinner-let’s-bring-on-the-dessert time.

Uh oh.


The mini pumpkin tarts had vanished. I searched high and low. I searched my brain trying to remember if I had piled the tarts on the kitchen counter along with the other zillion desserts.

After ages of wandering in circles looking for them and wracking my brain, I finally remembered that after piping on those adorable little puffs of whipped cream, I had placed the container back in the fridge.

And totally forgot to take them out before leaving!!!!!!!

Utter disappointment that I didn’t get to share these.

But now I get to eat them all!!!!

And they taste mighty delightful for both breakfast and lunch.

So, here are a few notes about the recipe:

  • I used the cream cheese dough from the Pecan Tarts recipe. Easy to work with. Can be rolled into balls and left in the muffin tins made a day or two in advance.
  • The pumpkin filling takes slightly more labor than the usual recipe for pumpkin pie but bakes into the silkiest, creamiest pumpkin pie. Totally worth it. Can also be made a day or two ahead of time, which then allows for the flavors to marry and mingle.
  • Cinnamon-spiced whipped cream. Takes this over the top. Don’t skip it!
Pumpkin Tarts

Pumpkin Tarts

Pumpkin Tarts (Mini Pumpkin Pies)

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Yield: 6 dozen tarts


Cream Cheese Pastry Dough

  • 2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups butter (3 sticks), room temperature
  • 3 1/3 cups flour (14 ounces)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Pumpkin Pie Filling

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can of yams in syrup, drained
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (grade B used for cooking/baking: see Huffington Post info)
  • 2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt

Cinnamon-Spiced Whipped Cream

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch (if you want to stabilize the whipped cream, which allows it to last longer, maintain its shape, and not separate after a day)


Cream Cheese Pastry Dough

  1. Allow cream cheese and butter to soften to room temperature. To speed this process, cut cream cheese and butter into small chunks.
  2. Blend cream cheese and butter (use wooden spoon, pastry blender, or food processor).
  3. Sift then measure flour; add salt and whisk to blend. Stir into cream cheese and butter until flour is absorbed.
  4. Form 1-inch balls (I used my small cookie dough scoop) and place into ungreased muffin tins. Chill for 30 minutes.
  5. Remove pastry from refrigerator. Form shells by using tart tamper: Dip tamper into flour to prevent it from sticking to dough. Press tamper into the dough ball in each muffin well until the dough rises up the sides and to the top. If you don’t have a tamper, press dough with thumb around the edges and bottom until muffin well is evenly covered. Place tart shells back in refrigerator until ready to use. At this point, you can cover them tightly with plastic wrap and store in fridge for a couple of days.

Pumpkin Pie Filling

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together heavy cream, milk, eggs, yolks, and vanilla.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine pumpkin purée, drained yams, sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt; bring to a sputtering simmer. Continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly and mashing yams, until thick and shiny. (I used my immersion blender to mash the yams.)
  3. Remove saucepan from heat; whisk in cream mixture until fully incorporated. To remove any lumps and create a silky-smooth mixture, run it through a fine-meshed sieve. At this point, you can store filling in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a couple of days, or you can use immediately. If not using immediately, rewarm the mixture before filling tart shells.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. Fill tart shells to the top. Carefully transfer muffin pan to preheated oven. Bake tarts for 30 minutes. Transfer muffin tins to wire rack and allow to cool completely. Chill in refrigerator overnight.

Cinnamon-Spiced Whipped Cream

  1. Using an electric or stand mixer, mix heavy cream until soft peaks form. Start at low speed and increase speed to medium-high as cream begins to thicken.
  2. When cream thickens enough to form soft peaks when you raise the beaters, add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg (and cornstarch if you want to stabilize the whipped cream). Beat until mixture thickens enough to maintain peaks, which shouldn’t take but a few seconds more of beating.
  3. Either dollop the whipped cream onto the tarts that have chilled overnight, or pipe onto tarts using star tip.

adapted from the following SOURCES:

Shrimp Cocktail



Greetings blog readers! No excuse for my long hiatus. With the current busy state of my life, I think blogging may continue very sporadically. My kitchen equipment and I are still a team, though, and I’ve whipped up a few dishes worthy of sharing.

And this Shrimp Cocktail is definitely worthy of sharing, yet I’ve hoarded it in my files for almost two years now. I resurrected the recipe recently when Hubby requested this for his birthday.

My mom and my aunt, both stellar cooks, often include shrimp cocktail as an appetizer for holiday gatherings. This version blows away theirs, though. The shrimp only cooks for a few minutes in water combined with a multitude of flavorings, but it really absorbs the aromatics yet not overpoweringly so. Instead, the flavors subtly creep in and stay, providing a light and refreshing citrus hint.

The cocktail sauce provides a spicy kick. Now, I am not a huge fan of cocktail sauce, but I did allow my index finger to take a teensy tiny dip into the sauce for a taste, and I could feel that spice. Hubby, however, reacted by mumbling with a mouthful of shrimp, “Mmmmmm, that’s f@#!% good.” Yep, that’s my man for ya. But his reaction definitely informed me that this recipe goes in the winner pile.

Best of all, the recipe is easy to make. For the cocktail sauce, just stir together a few ingredients. As for the shrimp, add a few seasonings to water, heat, then cool. And you can prepare all of this a day or two in advance. Go ahead, add shrimp cocktail to your cooking repertoire and impress the heck out of your guests.

Shrimp Cocktail

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  • 2 pounds jumbo shrimp, raw & deveined
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tsp. peppercorns
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. celery seed (I bought from bulk bins at Sprouts since I don’t often use this spice)
  • 2 lemons: cut 8 (2-inch) strips lemon peel
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (save the lemon halves for later)
  • 8 cups ice

Cocktail Sauce

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup prepared horseradish (not horseradish sauce)
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper


  1. Rinse the shrimp. Devein if needed. In a large pot, combine shrimp, cold water, salt, thyme, peppercorn, bay leaves, and celery seeds.
  2. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until water reaches 170 degrees F and the shrimp just begin to turn pink, about 5-7 minutes.
  3. Remove pot from heat; add lemon peels, lemon juice, and the squeezed lemon halves. Cover the pot for 5-7 minutes, allowing shrimp to turn completely pink and firm as well as absorb the flavors.
  4. Stir the ice into the pot and allow shrimp to cool completely, about 5 minutes.
  5. Drain water. Peel shrimp, leaving tails intact. Refrigerate until ready to serve (can chill for 24 hours in advance).
  6. For the cocktail sauce, whisk together all ingredients until combined. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Can be made a day or two in advance.

SOURCE: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe via Cooks Country Dec/Jan 2013

Grasshopper Ice Cream Cups

Grasshopper Ice Cream Cup

mint fudge cookies & mint chip ice cream & ganache topping

I think “grasshopper” in the title of this recipe is a lot more fun than just “mint and chocolate ice cream cups,” but why is the chocolate and mint combo called “grasshopper”?

I looked it up and didn’t find much except that the grasshopper is a minty after-dinner cocktail. The creme de menthe liqueur gives the green color to the drink as well as the minty flavor while the creme de cacao adds the chocolate portion. Apparently the drink originated in New Orleans back in the 50’s.

Truth be told, in my childhood I had no desire to go near anything that mixed these two flavors. Chocolate, YES! Mint? No thanks.

Then I grew to savor the sweet coolness of the Junior Mint candies–my pick of candy at the movies in my adolescence. Later I widened my sophistication when I discovered Andes Mints in my young adulthood.

However, I never had a desire to make anything with both mint and chocolate in my desserts…until last year when I crossed paths in March with a few brownie/mint combos (St. Patty’s day, you know) ,and I have been dying to try them but haven’t made the time yet (I know, I know, March was like many moons ago).

When this recipe for chocolate & mint ice cream cups flashed across my computer screen, though, I knew I had to make it soon, and the September heatwave in So Cal brought just the right opportunity. So, when this school year’s first Salad Club invite showed up, I knew exactly which dessert I would create for the event.

These Grasshopper Ice Cream Cups make for a fun presentation, they look more complex to make than they actually are, and they taste refreshingly cool.

Below is my spin on the recipe. The original site says add a handful of this and a splash of that. Well, those kinds of directions don’t work for me, so I made sure to track measurements to share with you. Enjoy!

Grasshopper Ice Cream Cup


Grasshopper Ice Cream Cups

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Yield: 24-30 (depends on whether you use some crumbs to sprinkle tops of the ice cream cups)


Cookie Layer

  • 1 package mint & fudge cookies (I used the Keebler brand 10-ounce package)
  • 1/4 cup (4 tbsp.) unsalted butter, melted

Ice Cream Layer

  • 1 quart mint chip ice cream

Ganache Topping

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I use Ghirardelli 60% cacao baking bar; semisweet chocolate chips would work, too)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp. light corn syrup
  • optional: chocolate jimmies or green sugar sprinkles


  1. For bottom cookie layer, break cookies into chunks and place in a food processor. Process until cookies form into fine crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse a few times until crumbs are coated with butter. (If you want to sprinkle some crumbs on top of the ice cream cups, set some aside before adding butter, about 1/4 cup. However, adjust how much butter you use. For each cup of crumbs, use 2 tbsp. melted butter.)
  2. Place 1 tbsp. crumbs into each muffin paper, then tamp down the crumbs using a tamper or the back of a spoon.
  3. Scoop 3 tbsp. ice cream into each muffin cup (I used my small cookie scoop), and either flatten the ice cream with your fingers or with the back of a spoon. Place ice cream cups in freezer while making the ganache topping. Note: If the ice cream is too hard, let it soften a bit while in the muffin paper. The first time I made these, I let the ice cream soften before scooping. The second time, I scooped while it was frozen hard and found it easier to work with than when it was softened.
  4. For the ganache topping, chop the chocolate into small bits. Place in a bowl or cup with a spout.
  5. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the cream, milk, and corn syrup just until it begins to bubble. Stir it occasionally so it won’t scorch bottom of pan. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Give the bowl a tap to settle the milk into the chocolate. Let stand one minute undisturbed, then gently mix from center outward until chocolate melts and mixes into the milk.
  6. Pour the ganache over the ice cream cups to cover the ice cream (it will pour thickly). Start at outside edges and work your way to the center. Use your finger or the back of a spoon the spread the ganache to cover all exposed ice cream.
  7. If you want to sprinkle with cookie crumbs, do so quickly because the ganache will harden quickly atop the frozen ice cream. Sprinkle it on after pouring ganache onto every two muffin cups. Chocolate jimmies or green sugar sprinkles would make for fun presentations, too. Place in freezer to harden, which shouldn’t take long. After hardening, store in an airtight container.

SOURCE: adapted from Dreyer’s

Dark Chocolate Fudge Pops


rich, decadent fudgepops!

Happy Labor Day!

I awoke before 6am, and after reading emails and a few blog posts, I remembered the fudgesicles I had whipped up yesterday afternoon. So yes, at 6:30 a.m., I ate a fudgesicle. Oh-so-very healthy of me, huh?

And it tasted yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuumy!

I’m using a HUGE amount of willpower right now to not eat another. And another. ‘Cause I easily could.

I took one bite, then a second, followed by a third. I really wanted to devour it pronto. But I made myself stop long enough to snap a quick picture. Luckily it came out okay enough to share on the blog. And then I promptly devoured the remaining frozen treat!

It has taken me over a year to find a fudgesicle recipe that I like. This one works. And it works well. The others tasted grainy, powdering, chalky… But this one? Creamy. Rich. Decadent.

And it uses NO added sugar. None. Can you believe that? I’m still stunned by that one. Granted, the chocolate has sugar in it, but not one spec of added sugar to the ingredients list.  So cool.

Heavy whipping cream plus milk plus a bit of cocoa plus finely chopped chocolate and a bit of vanilla. That’s it. Only that. And it produces a rich, chocolatey scrumptious frozen treat. I’m in awe right now. And so darn excited.

And really annoyed that my impatience last night caused me to lose one of the fudgesicles. I pulled the cap off the popsicle mold only to have the not-yet-frozen chocolate spill ALL OVER the kitchen floor. Into far corners. Little dots of chocolate mess speckling the tiles. Not happy. About the mess. And now about losing a darn yummy fudgesicle.

I had planned to use a bar of Ghirardelli baking chocolate in this, but I only had chocolate chips in the pantry. And I grabbed the container of Hershey’s Dark Cocoa so I used that. Both worked out just fine. Very fine, actually.

So, I guess we can call this a Dark Chocolate Fudgesicle. Or maybe Darn Delicious Dark Chocolate Fudgesicle.

I just had a thought. Is “fudgesicle” a brand name? If so, then I guess I should label these fudge pops instead?

Dark Chocolate Fudge Pops

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  1. Finely chop the chocolate, then place in a 4-cup (or larger) bowl with a spout (makes pouring into the pop molds much easier).
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine cream, milk, and sifted cocoa (to break up lumps). Place over medium heat, whisking until cocoa dissolves and mixture comes to a simmer. If you go beyond a simmer, you risk creating a grainy texture for the pops.
  3. Remove from heat; pour over the chopped chocolate and allow 2-3 minutes to pass before mixing. Then whisk gently until the chocolate melts and is thoroughly mixed in.
  4. Add the vanilla and mix.
  5. Pour the mixture into ice pop molds and place in freezer until solid.
  6. To unmold, place pop in lukewarm water for 1-2 minutes until it easily releases from mold. Now, enjoy every last rich and decadent bite!

SOURCE: Alton Brown’s Fudgepops from Foodnetwork.com



Sweet and Spicy Fish Tacos

Fish tacos with sweet and spicy marinade as well as pineapple/red pepper/jalapeno salsa

Fish tacos with sweet and spicy marinade as well as pineapple/red pepper/jalapeño salsa

My blogging motivation disappeared on me a few months ago. It makes a brief appearance every few weeks, though. I keep waiting for it to return full force. Actually, this summer has presented loads of stress as I handled some home renovation projects (still in progress), so blogging has dropped on the priority list. I haven’t cooked nearly as much as I usually do as a result of the projects.

However, last night hubby came home from a three-day fishing trip with some fresh yellowfin tuna. Perfect time to try the grilled fish taco recipe in the recent issue of Cooks Illustrated. What a winner of a recipe, too!

The marinade, along with a couple of chile spices, includes the sweetness of orange juice and the tang of lime juice. Although it intrigued me, I wasn’t sure how hubby would react. Rather than our usual toppings of cheese and tomatoes, this called for a pineapple/red pepper/jalapeño salsa. I’m the one usually not open to unique toppings like that, but for some reason, my taste buds were in the mood for something new and different. But hubby? I thought for sure he would nix this idea.

Turns out we both really really liked this variation of our usual fish tacos. We dubbed it the Sweet and Spicy Fish Taco recipe. It provided a palatably pleasurable change of pace from our usual fare.

Sweet and spicy fish tacos

Sweet and Spicy Fish Tacos

Serves 6


  • Rather than buy expensive bottles of the chile powders, I found small bags for much less cost near the spice section at the market.
  • Leftover fish easily freezes for another taco meal. Just place in resealable bag and remove as much air as possible before freezing.
  • This works well as a salad, too. Just omit tortillas and toss other ingredients.

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  • 2 pounds of a skinless, meaty, dense fish, such as swordfish, mahi-mahi, tuna, or halibut
  • 16 (6-inch) tortillas

Marinade Paste 

  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp. ancho chile powder
  • 2 tsp. chipotle chile powder
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup orange juice (from 1 large orange)
  • 2 tbsp. lime juice
  • optional: I included the zest from the orange and lime


  • 1 pineapple
  • 1 jalapeño
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 4 tbsp. lime juice
  • 2 tbsp. minced cilantro

Other Toppings

  • 1/2 head green cabbage, thinly sliced (or use any lettuce you prefer; original recipe calls for iceberg lettuce)
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • cilantro, minced
  • lime wedges


  1. Fish prep: Cut fish into one-inch thick slices and one-inch wide strips. Place in bowl or resealable bag; place in refrigerator until marinade is ready.
  2. Marinade: Heat oil and both chile powders in a medium skillet over medium heat, stirring continuously until fragrant and bubbles begin to form, about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add oregano, coriander, minced garlic, and salt; stir for 30 seconds more.
  4. Add tomato paste, mashing it into the spices.
  5. Whisk in citrus juices (I added a bit at a time to fully incorporate it and reduce any clumping). Cook mixture for about 2 minutes, until slightly reduced, then allow to cool for 15 minutes. When cooled, add to container with fish, stirring gently to coat fish. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
  6. Salsa: In a small pan, roast the jalapeño, turning until charred on all sides. When jalapeño cools, remove membrane and seeds (unless you want the heat); finely mince the jalapeño. Transfer to a medium bowl.
  7. Add diced red pepper, lime juice, and minced cilantro.
  8. Cut pineapple in half, then into quarters. Cut each quarter in half. Lightly oil each strip of pineapple, then grill for 3-4 minutes per side. I grilled on the stovetop using a grill pan. However, original recipe calls for outdoor grilling. Dice grilled pineapple and add to salsa.
  9. Grilled fish: Grill fish steaks until cooked through. Grilling time will depend on how thick your slices are and what type of fish you used. I cooked yellowfin tuna for about 4-5 minutes per side. When fish is cooked through, transfer to a large plate and flake into pieces.
  10. Toppings: Prepare toppings before grilling or during grilling. Thinly slice cabbage. Cut avocado into slices. Cut lime into wedges. Mince more cilantro.
  11. Heat tortillas if desired. I like to heat tortillas in a pan on the stovetop.
  12. Fill tacos with fish, salsa, cilantro, avocado, and cabbage. Squeeze with a bit of lime. Enjoy the burst of flavors!

SOURCE: Cooks Illustrated (Sept./Oct. 2014 issue)