Spiced Pumpkin Cheese Crostini

Autumn Crostini 1 Spiced Pumpkin Cheese Crostini

I could make a meal out of appetizers, but I rarely order them at a restaurant. In fact, I just paused for about five minutes to consider just what appetizers I do order. Most recently, I ate wontons. I sometimes crave spring rolls. This post is not an advertisement for a restaurant, but the Bang Bang Shrimp at Bonefish Grill call my name the one or two times per year I walk through its doors.

Maybe I like appetizers because most of them are just giant-sized snacks. Nachos, quesadillas, chicken fingers…. As someone who tends to graze throughout the day rather than eat three square meals, maybe I prefer appetizers because I have an affinity for snacks. Who knows. At this point, you are also probably thinking, “who cares?”, so let’s get to it.

If you need to assemble a quick appetizer for a holiday gathering, or maybe you are thinking ahead to your Superbowl party (no one is thinking ahead to their Superbowl party, but I will plant that seed), this appetizer deserves consideration.

Autumn Crostini Spiced Pumpkin Cheese Crostini

I had to bring something to a party this weekend,  and I could not for the life of me decide what to bring. The main dish and sides were covered. Salad was on the menu. I was staring dessert in the eye.

Although I love desserts (I unwittingly titled my blog so that whenever someone hears its name they say, “Oh, so you’re a baker”), I have not felt like baking much lately. Again, I feel as though I have taken you down the path of  my feelings instead of your needs, so back to the crostini.

It is easy to assemble. It tastes delicious. It looks pretty. Calling for a small amount of pumpkin puree (just 1/4 cup), it is the perfect way to use up the inevitable leftovers when you crack open a can for the pumpkin desserts we all love. At the end of the day, this little appetizer pleased half a dozen people, so I feel safe proclaiming it a winner. Enjoy!

Autumn Crostini 2 Spiced Pumpkin Cheese Crostini



Spiced Pumpkin Cheese Crostini
  • 1 baguette, sliced
  • ½ cup mascarpone cheese
  • ¼ cup pumpkin puree
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ cup hazlenuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 10-15 sage leaves
  1. Place the baguette slices on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 7 minutes. After 7 minutes, flip the toasts over and bake 7 minutes more.
  2. While the bread is in the oven, stir together the mascarpone, pumpkin, pepper, salt, and nutmeg.
  3. Next place the chopped hazelnuts in a skillet over medium low heat and toast until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Stir the nuts regularly to ensure they do not burn while toasting (once the nuts start to toast, the time between toast and burn happens fast). Remove the nuts from the skillet to cool.
  4. Now it is time to toast the sage. In the skillet you just used, melt the tablespoon of butter. Once melted, add the sage leaves and fry until crisp and somewhat golden, flipping the leaves as needed during frying. Transfer the fried sage leaves to a paper towel to drain and cool, then crumble them between your fingers.
  5. At some point during the nut toasting and sage leaf frying, the bread most likely finished toasting and you removed it from the oven to cool.
  6. Assemble the crostini by spreading the mascarpone-pumpkin mixture over a piece of toasted bread, then sprinkling a bit of chopped hazlenuts and crumbled sage leaves over the top. Repeat this process until all of the bread and/or spread is depleted.
The number of sage leaves varies wildly as the size of sage leaves themselves vary wildly. The amount needed will also vary depending on how much sage you would like to enjoy on your crostini.
12 Weeks Spiced Pumpkin Cheese Crostini

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Almond, Orange & Chocolate Biscotti

Biscotti 2 Almond, Orange & Chocolate Biscotti

When you hear the words “Christmas cookies”, what comes to mind? I think of little round snowball cookies that crumble and coat your lips with powdered sugar at first bite. Or sugar cookies decorated with a rainbow of icing and sprinkles. I do not think of biscotti.

Yet, biscotti is what I sent my Food Blogger Cookie Swap matches this year. Biscotti chock full of slivered almonds, orange zest, and chunks of chocolate, to be exact. What was I thinking?

I was thinking I better pick a cookie that would last. Upon receiving my matches, I learned I had to ship two packages to New York (to Kelly and to Shalon) and one package to Europe (to Jenna). I did not know what I was going to bake, but I knew it would have to be something that would hold up over a 10-14 day transit time.

The first year I participated in the cookie swap, I received a package of cranberry-almond biscotti. They were something I never forgot, thinking biscotti were a unique idea for a season marked by peppermint, eggnog, and gingerbread.


fbcookieswap2014 badgewhite Almond, Orange & Chocolate Biscotti


Since biscotti have a reputation for shipping well, were something I wanted to try to bake, and are deemed delicious (at least by most everyone who dunks them in a steaming mug of coffee), they seemed like a reasonable choice. I hope the recipients agreed!

Speaking for this cookie recipient, I could not have asked for better sweets to arrive at my door. Thank you to Laura and Angela at About a Mom for the peppermint chocolate chip cookies, Maegan at The Baker Mama for the peppermint white chocolate pudding cookies, and Olivia at Olivia’s Cuisine for the Dulce de Leche Sandwich Cookies. (Holy smokes, those things are good!)

Between us, we were just four of 566 bloggers around the world who shipped and received cookies, raising $12,335 for Cookies For Kids’ Cancer along the way. Corporate sponsors OXO, Dixie Crystals, Brownie Brittle, and California Olive Ranch each generously matched the bloggers’ donations.

Cookies are pretty good on their own. When partnered with a good cause like this one, they are perfect. Enjoy!

Biscotti Almond, Orange & Chocolate Biscotti

5.0 from 1 reviews
Almond, Orange, & Chocolate Biscotti
Serves: 36 small biscotti
  • 2¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1⅔ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 orange, zest of
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup bittersweet chocolate chunks
  • 1¾ cups sliced or slivered almonds
  1. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt until well combined.
  2. Stir in the orange zest, then set the mixture aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the three eggs, the four egg yolks, and the vanilla.
  4. Pour the egg mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  5. Stir in the chocolate chunks and the almonds. The dough should stick to your hands but should not be so sticky that it does not easily come off in a large clump.
  6. Dust a counter or other work area with flour, and place the dough in this work space.
  7. Separate the dough into three even piles, then roll each pile into the shape of a log. If needed, add more flour to the dough to shape it into logs. (The dough should stick to the counter and your hands, but at the same time be easy to work with.)
  8. Place the logs of dough an a large parchment-lined baking sheet. It will expand slightly, so be sure to leave an inch or two of space between the logs. If needed, use two small baking sheets.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees F until the logs of dough puff into a half-moon shape and become slightly golden, about 20 minutes. The centers of the dough will remain soft after the first bake.
  10. Transfer the baked logs of dough to cool on a rack. When room temperature, slice each log as you would a baguette to yield half-moon shaped (biscotti-shaped) cookies.
  11. Placed the cookies on parchment-lined baking sheets and return to a 300 degree F oven (note the reduction in temperature).
  12. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway between the baking time. The biscotti are done with their centers give slightly. Undercooked biscotti will be chewy but overcooked biscottin will be crunchy and dry.
Cookie Swap 2012: Salted Vanilla Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Cookie Swap 2013: Triple Ginger Cookies

Spiced Bourbon Apricot Truffles

Bourbon Truffles Spiced Bourbon Apricot Truffles

I once heard something like, “Chocolates mean I love you. Flowers mean I’m sorry.” I am fairly certain this sentiment was uttered on a reality TV show set in California. In confessing I remember such a thing, which implies I once watched reality TV shows set in California, my inclination is to move on as quickly as possible.

Yet, I can not help but remember that sentiment. “Chocolates mean I love you.”

As we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of the holiday season, it so very easy to fall prey to the idea that only the perfect gift will demonstrate our love. But will it really? The older I get, the more I find that the people I spend the holidays with want little more than for me to show up so we can spend some time together. If I happen to show up with chocolate…all the better.

Homemade holiday gifts can range from “Oh, dear” (think a hand-knit sweater…with three arms) to “Oh, wow” (think chocolate truffles…with booze). Let’s focus on the “Oh, wow!”

Bourbon Truffles 3 Spiced Bourbon Apricot Truffles

I developed this truffle concoction as part of a holiday truffle challenge hosted by Four Roses Bourbon and Frontier Co-op. I have had the opportunity to work with Four Roses before, that time creating savory bourbon barbecue sauces. This time, something sweet was in order.

The something sweet was chocolate truffles. Technically speaking, a truffle is any confection with a ganache base that is often, but not always, coated with cocoa power or nuts. Making truffles at home requires little more than quality ingredients and a good whisk. There are no candy molds to worry about, and wrappers are optional.

We start with chocolate melted in cream. Then we add bourbon and spices and a bit of  minced fruit. When the chocolate sets up, we roll it in balls, coat it in whatever we please, and present the finished product as a gesture of love.

This holiday season, forget baking cookies. Make chocolate truffles. And remember the words of Charles M. Schulz, “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” Enjoy!

Bourbon Truffles 2 Spiced Bourbon Apricot Truffles

Bourbon Apricot Truffles featuring Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon
Serves: 26
  • For the Truffles
  • ¼ cup dried apricots
  • 10 ounces high-quality chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • To Coat the Truffles
  • pecans, finely chopped
  • cocoa powder
  • chocolate sprinkles
  1. Place the dried apricots in a small bowl.
  2. Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil, pour the hot water over the dried apricots, and allow the drenched fruit to sit for about 20 minutes.
  3. When the dried apricots have plumped up a bit, drain the water, dry the fruit, and chop as finely as possible. If you prefer, use a food processor to chop the apricots into a fine consistency.
  4. Once the apricots are ready to go, it is time to work with the chocolate. Start by transferring the chopped chocolate to a large bowl.
  5. Next bring the heavy cream to a boil over medium heat. As soon as the cream begins to boil, pour it over the chocolate and let the mixture stand for one minute.
  6. Starting at the center of the bowl, begin to stir (a whisk works well here) the chocolate and cream until smooth. If needed, microwave the chocolate-cream mixture in 20 second increments to melt any remaining chocolate chunks.
  7. Once the chocolate is fully melted and smooth, stir in the Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon, cinnamon, vanilla, and chopped apricots.
  8. Cover, refrigerate, and allow to stand at least two hours, preferably overnight.
  9. Once the chocolate is set, remove the mixture from the refrigerator. Use a melon baller (or other small spoon) to scoop the chocolate and then roll into balls. It may be helpful to allow the chocolate to soften slightly before rolling it into balls.
  10. Lastly, roll or toss the truffles in a desired coating. Ideas include additional chopped pecans, cocoa powder, or sprinkles.
Ten ounces of chocolate should equal about 1½ cups of chopped chocolate.

One key to success is to chop the apricots as finely as possible. A mince, if you will. You want to taste the sweet fruit, but you do not want a lumpy truffle.

The yield may vary depending on the size of your truffles. I used roughly two teaspoons of chocolate mixture for each truffle to yield just over two dozen.

In exchange for this blog post, I received a bottle of Four Roses Single Barrel bourbon, Frontier Co-Op Simply Organic pure vanilla extract and ground cinnamon, a whisk up to the task of stirring chocolate, and a gift card to offset the cost of ingredients.