Monday, January 30, 2012

Tuna Noodle Casserole, Redux

 I really can't explain why, but the moment I saw this recipe, I couldn't stop thinking about it. You might think that I grew up eating tuna noodle casserole, and that nostalgia was at work -- but that's not it. There was just something about the combination of flavors -- shitake and portabello mushrooms, a rich roux, dry sherry, and crispy panko breadcrumbs -- that had me obsessed.

I knew that trying to sell my boyfriend on this for Sunday dinner would be tough, so I took advantage of his being away on a business trip to whip it up. Good thing, too, because I think I dirtied just about every pan in the kitchen, and he would have had a heart attack thinking that he would have to clean it all up.

I suppose that making tuna casserole the old fashioned way (i.e., with cream of mushroom soup and canned mushrooms) would have been simpler -- and not quite as messy. Nonetheless, after tasting this baby, I know that I can never go back. It's just so darned satisfying. Comfort food at its finest.

And because I'm by myself this week (and nursing a nasty head cold), it's all for me!

 Tuna Noodle Casserole, Redux
(from food52)

  • 5 1/2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 cup sliced shitake mushrooms
  • I cup diced portabello mushrooms 
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, miced
  • 1 tablespoon chives, miced
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 cans packed tuna, drained
  • 8 ounces egg noodles, cooked al dente and drained
  • salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
Preheat your oven to 350F. In a large sautee pan, heat 1 Tbs. of butter over medium-high until foaming. Stir in mushrooms and cook until mushrooms have given off all of their liquid and cooked through (10 or so minutes). Season lightly with salt and pepper, transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Add another 1/2 Tbs. butter to the frying pan, then cook onion, shallot and celery together for about 5 minutes, until softened. Stir in the chopped herbs and the sherry and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir the mushrooms into this mixture, then set this aside.
In a saucepan, heat 3 Tbs. of butter over medium-high until foaming. Stir in the flour to make a roux and cook for about 2 minutes. Then whisk in the milk and chicken stock, bit by bit, to make a smooth sauce. Cook, stirring, until just slightly thickened (another minute or two). Then add the lemon zest and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Flake the tuna and combine the tuna, the white sauce, the mushroom-onion mixture, and the noodles all together. Grease and 8X8 inch baking pan and transfer the casserole mixture into it.
In a small pan, melt the last Tbs. of butter. Stir in the minced garlic and the panko breadcrumbs and cook, stirring, until the panko is golden brown. Sprinkle this all over the casserole. Put the casserole in the oven and bake until it is bubbly, about 30 minutes.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Big, Fat Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies aren't playing around. They are huge. They are heavy. They are incredibly chocolate-y.

I'm not convinced that this recipe is truly the best thing out there, but it's certainly solid -- especially if you're able to eat them soon after they're baked. I found that they dried out faster than I would have liked, despite careful storage.

The recipe states that these are made in the style of Levain Bakery -- a NY mainstay that I have not yet had the priviledge to try. From what I gather, the distinguishing feature of a Levain-style cookie recipe is creaming cold pieces of butter instead of letting it sit to room temperaure. This seems to create a bigger, thicker cookie than is produced using other methods. I'd be curious what others think of the difference. If you try it out, let me know...

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies
(from Love from the Oven)

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1¼ cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup dark cocoa powder
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp. coarse salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar.  Beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.  Blend in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl as needed.  Mix in the cocoa powder until well blended.

Add the flour, salt and baking powder to the bowl and mix on low speed just until incorporated.  Fold in the chocolate chips with a spatula.

Transfer the dough to a work surface and knead briefly by hand to be sure the ingredients are well combined.

Divide the dough into 4 ounce portions (or divide into 12 equal pieces).**  Roll each portion of dough into a ball and flatten just slightly into a disc.  Place on the prepared baking sheets, a few inches apart.

Bake 16-20 minutes.**  Let cool on the baking sheets 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

**I made mine slightly smaller, and ended up with 18 cookies, instead of 12. This meants that I shortened the baking time slightly, to about 14 minutes. Eyeball it.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Blueberry Crumb Bars

What is it with boys and blueberries? It seems that every time I read a blog post about a blueberry dessert -- be it pie, muffins, or the aptly named "boy bait" -- there is some mention about how much it is appreciated by whichever lucky male(s) happen to have tried it. I know, growing up, my father always requested blueberry pie on his birthday. And now, I am struck by how easily the "boy" in my life passes on anything chocolate, and yet devours every last crumb of a blueberry-filled pastry.
Needless to say, these blueberry crumb bars were a big hit in my house. There was even a little resistance when I packed up a few bars as a thank-you to a friend who graciously MacGuyver-ed my car after a nasty run-in with a pothole earlier this week. I did not alter the recipe at all, and think it's perfect as is. Hope you like it as much as we did.

Blueberry Crumb Bars                    (from Smitten Kitchen)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks or 8 ounces)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 4 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9×13 inch pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and lemon zest. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg. Dough will be crumbly. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan.

In another bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix in the blueberries. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.

 Bake in preheated oven for 45-60 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Bolognese-Stuffed Peppers

A few years back, I encountered a semi-tragedy while making a batch of stuffed peppers. It was a very involved recipe, from an authentic Italian cookbook, and required a lot of chopping and dicing. I had just been given a new set of nice knives for my birthday, and was eager to put them to use.

Well, long story short, those knives cut more than just the tomatoes. They cut my thumb pretty deeply, too, and I ended up in the Emergency Department the next morning.

To my credit, I was able to finish the peppers, bloody thumb and all, and honestly, they were worth the pain and suffering. To this day, however, I have not been able to bring myself to pull out that recipe again -- partially due to the traumatic memories and partially due to the fact that the ingredient list is so long and so darned expensive.

Enter the mother of my significant other, who introduced me to a delicious, but far less involved, alternative. It relies on a combination of pancetta, marina, red wine, and cream to create a distinctive and delectable stuffing for beautifull big bell peppers. The only change I made to the original recipe was to use ground turkey in lieu of ground beef, in a rather feeble attempt to lighten up what is an inherently indulgent dish. I don't think the finished product suffered at all from the substitution, but I don't think it's final fat and calorie count were affected either. Enjoy!

Bolognese-Stuffed Bell Peppers
  • 1/2 cup uncooked white rice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup minced carrots
  • 1/4 cup minced celery
  • 5 bell peppers, stems and seeds removed, cut in half lengthwise
  • 12 oz ground beef OR ground turkey
  • 1/4 lb pancetta, diced
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add rice and stir. Reduce head, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes or until tender and fluffy. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablepoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook and stir carrots and celery until tender. Add ground beef/turkey and pancetta, and cook until browned and crumbed. Drain off any excess liquid and return to heat. Add marinara sauce, wine, and red pepper flakes, and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in cream, half of the parmesan cheese, and rice. Simmer 5 minutes more or until most liquid has absorbed.

Place peppers in a shallow baking dish and fill with bolognese mixture. Drizzle with remaining 1 tablesoon olive oil and top with remaining parmesan cheese.

Bake uncovered for 30 minutes in the preheated oven. Serve hot.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Creole-Style Shrimp, Chicken, and Sausage Gumbo

For the life of me, I don't know how I managed to get gumbo on the brain. It isn't Mardi Gras after all, and the weather really has been too warm to justify the need for a stick-to-your-ribs stew. All I know is that once the idea popped into my head, nothing but gumbo was going to satisfy my craving.
Feeling somewhat intimidated by Creole cooking -- and really not wanting my efforts to be in vain, I turned to a trusted cookbook: Soups, Stews, and Chilis from the Editors of Cook's Illustrated. I "borrowed" this book from a colleague about a year ago, for the specific purpose of making Chicken Mole, and well, I never gave it back. Not that my colleague is complaining. After all, he does get samples of anything I create as a result of his generous spirit.

Now, I want to copy the recipe. I really do. But given that Cook's Illustrated requires a paid subscription to view the recipe on their site, I have a feeling it's not exactly kosher to publish it for free here. Sooooo, here's what I'm gonna do. I'm going to give you the link for the real thing, which you can pay for if you like, ANd I'm going to direct you to another blog where I found a very similar recipe.
If you're wondering whether it's worth the effort to click on the above link, I can assure you that the answer is yes. This shrimp, sausage, and chicken gumbo is DELICIOUS, makes a ton, and although somewhat time-consuming, is quite simple to make. The CI technique for making the roux is particularly easy. You basically brown some flour in a Dutch oven on the stovetop, stir in some oil, put a lid on it, and stick it in the oven for 45 minutes. Just be careful upon removing the lid. I was hasty, and let me tell you, that stuff'll really clear your sinuses! Whew!

Mexican Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adding to my list of all-time favorite cookies are these spicy little gems, which I stumbled across on one of my favorite blogs, Cookie Madness.

Once upon a time, I brought a batch of these to work, along with a batch of those infamous New York Times' Chocolate Chip cookies, which (in case you didn't know) are supposed to be the best things ever. Just take a guess as to which cookies were the first to go...

I see little need to comment further on the recipe, except to encourage you to have fun as you take a mallet (or a hammer... or some other blunt object) to the Ibarra chocolate. It takes some strength to break it up into little pieces, but so worth the effort.

And so, without further ado:

Mexican Chocolate Chip Cookies
(adapted --slightly -- from Cookie Madness)

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 slightly rounded teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 8 oz unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (Mexican vanilla is suggested, but regular works, too)
  • 8 oz dark chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli) 
  • 4 oz Ibarra chocolate (broken up into bite-sized chunks using a mallet)

Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and pepper.

Cream butter and sugar in a mixing bowl using high speed of an electric mixer; Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then vanilla. Add flour mixture and stir until absorbed, then mix in chocolate chunks and chopped Mexican chocolate.
Refrigerate dough for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto sheets, spacing 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake cookies until golden brown and set – 10-12 minutes. Let stand on sheets 3 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and cool.

Makes approximately 32 cookies

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Pumpkin Cheesecake

I hate to brag, but I'm a bit famous for this cheesecake. I use the words "a bit" deliberately, though, as there are really only a handful of people who associate me with this creation. Still, when a co-worker asks daily for a whole year, "Where's your pumpkin cheesecake?," it's hard not to overestimate it's popularily...

The recipe itself is supposedly a "copycat" of the Cheesecake Factory's version, which I've never actually sampled, but imagine is extremely tasty. I've made it 3 years straight for my company's Christmas party, and this year, it made a special appearance at Thanksgiving, too.

A few comments on the recipe after considerable experimentation. First, this cheesecake rises VERY high, so it's imperative to use a springform pan that is at least 2.5-3'' inches high (lest it rise over the pan and explode like a volcano -- a lesson I learned the hard way). Second, if you're fool enough to try this in a high-altitutde setting, be prepared to bake for at least an extra 25-30 minutes (lest you end up with significant cracks due to repeated checking -- another lesson I learned the hard way). Finally, while it is not technically necessary to bake this in a waterbath, it sure does taste great if you do. Enjoy!

The Cheesecake Factory Pumpkin Cheesecake
(adapted from

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 5 tablespoons butter , melted
  • 1 cup sugar , plus
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3 eggs
  • teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • whipped cream (if desired)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Make the crust by combining the graham cracker crumbs with the melted butter and 1 T sugar in a medium bowl. Stir well enough to coat all of the crumbs with the butter, but not so much as to turn the mixture into paste.Keep it crumbly.

Put foil partway up the outside part of an 8-inch springform pan. Press the crumbs onto the bottom and about two-thirds of the way up the sides of the springform pan. (You don't want the crust to form all of the way up the back of each slice of cheesecake.) Bake the crust for 5 minutes, then set aside until you are ready to fill it.

In a large mixing bowl combine the cream cheese, 1 C sugar, and vanilla. Mix with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the pumpkin, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice and continue beating until smooth and creamy. Pour the filling into the pan. Place pan in a larger pan (e.g., a roasting pan or 9x13 baking dish) and fill about half-way up with boiling water. Bake for 60-70 minutes.

Turkey Chili with Skillet Cornbread

Here's an oldie, but a goodie, pulled from the archives of Christmases past. I thought it would be a nice seasonal recipe to share, despite the UN-seasonably warm weather we are enjoying here in San Francisco. After all, who DOESN'T love a good, healthy turkey chili with a nice side of buttery, decadent skillet corn bread?

These two recipes from Epicurious never fail to garner raves, along with requests for second helpings. Simple and straight-forward, I have never felt the need to tinker with either the ingredients or the instructions. My only suggestion would be to try adding some extra chili powder, if you like your chili spicy, as this is a decidedly mild version.

And so, without futher ado......

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Dark Chocolate Dried Cherry Oatmeal Cookies

I'm not sure that these cookies really need an introduction. I mean, gooey chocolate, tart cherries, and crisp oatmeal, all combined into a chewy cookie -- who wouldn't be excited about that?

My inspiration for making a chocolate-cherry-oatmeal cookie came from Epicurious, which boasts a highly rated recipe with a very long and expensive ingredient list. Loving the idea, but not willing to spend quite so much, I embarked on a search to find a more reasonable (but just as tasty) option.

I settled on this one from Bake or Break, and haven't looked back. To me, it's a perfectly simple process that produces a perfectly crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside cookie. It definitely ranks among my current favorites.

Dark Chocolate Dried Cherry Oatmeal Cookies
(adapted from Bake or Break)
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups oats
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 8 ounces dark chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli 70% cacao)

Preheat oven to 350°.

Beat butter and brown sugar together until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Gradually add to the butter mixture just until combined. Do not overmix. Stir in oats, cherries, and chocolate.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto lined or lightly greased baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until bottom edges are lightly browned. Cool on pans for a few minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Beef Tenderloin with Wild Mushroom Sauce

Ah, Christmas dinner. Or in this case, Christmas Eve dinner. In my family, it's always been tradition to open presents on Christmas Eve while noshing on whatever combination of cheese, crackers, smoked salmon, and cookies my father received at work. Then, on Christmas Day, my mom and I wake up early and begin preparing one heck of a meal.

This year, however, the state of the economy + rising plane fares meant that I would be flying back home on Christmas Day, necessitating a change in plans. No innocent noshing on Christmas Eve this year -- no, sir. This year, Christmas Eve was all about indulgence, beginning with this rich, flavorful beef tenderloin.

Upon the supervision of my ever practical and very experienced mother, I made a few changes. First, I used a combination of dried /reconstituted chanterelles and dried/reconsistuted oyster mushrooms for the sauce, reserved the liquid from the mushrooms, and combined it with Better than Bullion as a substitute for the time-consuming Beef Reduction included in the recipe. Secondly, I cooked the beef a bit longer than specified, as we have a few people in our family who get squeamish at the thought of rare meat. The pictures below depict beef that was removed at an internal temperature of 132 degrees. In my opinion, it was a bit over-done, though to others, it was perfect. I would try aiming for 125 degrees next time, but to each their own, right?


Beef Tenderloin with Wild Mushroom Sauce
(adapted from Epicurious)

  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme, divided
  • 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed, divided
  • 1 2 1/2- to 2 3/4-pound beef tenderloin, well trimmed
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus additional for brushing
  • 8 ounces fresh (or dried and reconsistuted) chanterelle mushrooms, sliced (about 4 cups lightly packed)
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 4 tablespoons brandy, divided
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 rounded tablespoon all purpose flour
  • Beef Reduction (or 1 tbp Better than Bullion + approx 2 cups of water or liquid reserved after reconstituing mushrooms) 
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley
Mix 1 tablespoon thyme, 2 teaspoons coarse salt, and 2 pressed garlic cloves in small bowl. Rub salt mixture over beef tenderloin. Wrap in plastic. Place in 11x7x2-inch baking dish and chill at least 1 day and up to 3 days.
Heat 3 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Add oyster and chanterelle mushrooms and sauté until browned, about 8 minutes. Add minced shallot, 1 pressed garlic clove, and 1 teaspoon thyme; sauté 2 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons brandy and stir 20 seconds. Add cream; stir until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 3 minutes. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Brush heavy large roasting pan with oil. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef tenderloin and cook until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes Total. Transfer to prepared roasting pan. Roast until instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 118°F for rare, about 28 minutes. Transfer beef to cutting board; let rest 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, rewarm mushroom mixture. Sprinkle flour over; stir to coat. Add remaining 2 tbs brandy to roasting pan. Heat over medium heat, scraping up browned bits, then add to mushroom mixture.

Add Beef Reduction (or Better than Bullion + liquid)  to mushrooms and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-high and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 teaspoon thyme. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Thinly slice beef. Arrange beef slices on plates. Spoon mushroom sauce over, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.

Mom's Apple Crumb Pie

For as long as I can remember, my mother has made this apple pie every Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Fourth of July. Last year, I co-opted Christmas dessert, and my father... well, let's just say that he was less than pleased.

When the question of whether to follow Christmas dinner with the apple pie or something new, the answer was a resounding, "Why not both?"

I cannot personally take credit for this particular pie, as this is the fruit of my mother's labor. I can assure you, however, that the recipe is sound, and does not necessarily require my mother's magic. I recall baking one for a summer BBQ once, and was thrilled to death to catch the host (I kid you not) LICKING the plate. I have tried to enjoy other apple pies, but I always find myself longing for this one. It really is THAT good. Trust me.

Apple Crumb Pie
(original source unkown)

  • 5 to 7 tart apples (5 cups)
  • 1 9-inch unbaked pastry shell*
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons butter

Pare apples; core and cut in eighths. Place in unbaked pastry shell.

Mix 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over apples.

Mix 1/3 cup sugar with the flour; cut in butter using pastry cutter or two knives, till crumbly. Sprinkle over apples.

Bake at 400 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or till done.**  If pie browns too quickly, cover edge with foil.

*If using a 10-inch plate, ncrease the topping flour, butter and sugar by about a 1/3 so you will have enough to cover...

**If you use Granny Smith apples, they will take longer to cook. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees after 35 minutes, and watch carefully.

Ancho Chili-Cinnamon Chocolate Bark

If I were to pick on recipe that exemplifies the 2011 holiday season, this would undisputedly be the one.

I found it when searching for something special to bring on my annual Thanksgiving trip to Tahoe. In the past, I have made biscotti (to great acclaim, I might add), but this year, I knew I wouldn't have time to back the night before the trip, and I was concerned that the biscotti might be a bit disappointing by Thanksgiving if I made them the weekend before.

Enter, my new favorite blog, which lists this recipe for Ancho Chili-Cinnamon Bark as the grand prize winner in their "Favorite Food Gift" contest. I had never made chocolate bark before, but it appeared relatively simple and most importantly, was categorized under the "make-ahead" label. The ingredients were a bit expensive, but absolutely worth it. My friends and family raved and raved, prompting me to make several more batches of bark (for a cookie exchange, for office christmas presents, for fun) before the season was over.

The process is fairly simple. You start out by putting some spices and chilis in the oven....

Then you spread some cherries and toasted nuts on a cookie sheet...

Pour some melted chocolate on top...

Let in sit in the fridge for an hour or so...
Break it into pieces...

And Voila', you have BARK!

The best part: This stuff lasts for weeks. Seriously. If you can keep yourself from eating it all immediately, it just gets better and better with time.

Ancho Chili-Cinnamon Chocolate Bark

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
2/3 cups pistachio

To make the spice mix, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Place first 5 ingredients on a baking sheet and place in oven. Toast until fragrant or about 10 min.

Remove steams and majority of seeds from the anchos. Place all spices in a spice grinder or coffee grinder and pulverize. You may need to grind spices in batches.

Toast the nuts by placing them on the baking sheet and put in the oven. Check after 10 minutes. When done, remove from oven and let cool.

Place ¾ of the chocolate in a bowl and slowly melt the chocolate, either in the microwave checking and stirring it every 25 seconds or over a double broiler on the stovetop.

When all of the chocolate is melted, take it off of the heat and add in the remaining chocolate, stir until it is completely melted.

Add one to two teaspoons of the spice mix. Add one at a time and taste; add more if you want it to be spicier. I like a subtle spice flavor, it keeps those eating it wondering what the secret spice could be.

Line the baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. Spread out the nuts and cherries, reserving a few of the nuts to decorate the top.

Sprinkle salt over the nuts and cherries.

Pour the chocolate onto the pan, covering the nuts and cherries in an even layer. Add remaining nuts to the top of chocolate and press them into the chocolate.

Put in fridge and allow to cool for 45 min. Break into pieces and keep in a sealed container in the fridge