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Honey Vanilla Fleur de Sel Caramels

I’ve had a running wish list of interesting ingredients to be added to my cooking cabinet, and I am proud to say I can finally cross one off as it is now nestled away among spices, vinegars and oils. Several weeks ago, I purchased fleur de sel, a hand-harvested, artisanal sea salt that is used in finishing a dish and looks very elegant; the salt appears in a crystallized flake form, reminiscent of a beautiful snow flake. 

Considering fleur de sel (French for flower of salt) is somewhat obscure, I had always planned to make a special trip for the flaky salt when I found time, perhaps to the Reading Terminal or a specialty cooking store. Who would have thought I would have stumbled upon a little tub of it when I was furniture shopping?

Discount stores like Marshalls and Home Good sell specialty food items mixed in with their cooking tools and kitchen appliances. Fine olive oils, flavored coffees, even fancy snacks grace the shelves for a fraction of the prices they are usually sold for; my belief is, as long as the expiration date isn’t a thing of the past, it’s a done deal. When my eyes spotted a container of fleur de sel for $2.99, I was a happy camper.

Since the salt is typically added as a finisher, I wanted to make something that looked and tasted equally elegant. This recipe for salty-sweet caramels can be summed up in one word: addictive. Read More…

Petite Palmiers

Typically, I’m a chocolate person. When I need something sweet, my preferences are likely to point me in the direction of Oreo’s, Hershey Kisses or M&M’s (plain, peanut, pretzel, you name it). There are occasions, though, where I’m in need of a buttery, flaky, pastry. Maybe something light, and delicate, and perhaps even aesthetically pleasing.

For example last summer, one of my Kitchen Kapers shopping sprees added a tart pan to my collection of kitchen toys; I decided, in the dead of summer, to make a blackberry tart. From scratch. Maybe the heat and humidity got to my head; I learned very quickly that working with pastry dough in inferno-like conditions is absolutely impossible. Not only was I practically melting in the hot kitchen, the dough itself pretty much liquefied.

Taking advantage of the chilly conditions, I was able to make a simple, buttery pastry that’s delicious for breakfast with jam or satisfying as a dessert. Though I spent the day making the dough from scratch (which will be posted to CleanPl8.com), here is a recipe using store bought, frozen pastry dough. Read More…

Cherry Walnut Oatmeal Cookies

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day; who am I to skip any opportunity to eat (especially if it’s key to my day starting off on the right foot)?  Usually, I have a big bowl of cereal in the morning but every now and then I treat myself to something special. Breakfast sandwiches never fail me and a hot bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar can hold me over until my next meal of the day.

There’s one sweet treat that I indulge in very rarely, only because its addictive properties may do more harm than good in the end. Gia Pronto, a locally owned sandwich and salad spot in University City, serves an apple-cherry-walnut bagel in the morning hours of their operation. Laced with swirls of brown sugar, the bagel is reheated on a Panini press, resulting in a warm confection with an exterior as sticky as a cinnamon bun. Don’t expect to get one if you show up past 10 AM, though: these things sell like hotcakes.

To recreate similar flavors at home, I opted for a real-deal dessert that can (and should be) eaten breakfast, lunch and dinner. Read More…

Whopper Cookies

One of my best friends, Mary E., has gatherings that Martha Stewart would want an invite to: all of the food looks and tastes perfect, a signature cocktail is served in a big, beautiful punch bowl, and items are served on coordinating platters and plates. Mare always has something for everyone, but the item that always catches my eye on the dining room table is the classic glass cake plate, covered with the dome lid protecting stacks of cookies like they were gold doubloons. It’s no secret that, before I can even sample the punch or make myself a dinner plate, I sneak one of her famous Whopper cookies to start things off.

“What makes a cookie perfect?” Posing this question to a group of people could result in a dangerous debate, much like religion or politics could at your company’s holiday party. Those from the “crunchy” school of thought just cannot imagine where the “chewy” group is coming from. The folks who love thick, cake-like medallions don’t see eye to eye with the wafer-thin lovers. I, for one, have always been a slave to the soft and chewy; there once was a time where, fortunately, I stopped myself just short of scarfing an entire package of Keebler Soft Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies. Had they been homemade, I would not have been so disciplined. If they were Mare’s Whopper cookies, well, I’d be a goner. Read More…

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