Mother’s Day Treats

I’m pretty sure that I have the best mother in law anyone could ask for, so for Mother’s Day I really wanted to do something to make her feel special. I found an adorable tote bag from J.Crew, and had it monogrammed “MOM”. I wanted to fill it with lots of wonderful treats for her. Thankfully, I finished my second year of medical school on Friday (wahoo!), so that evening I had a great time preparing different goodies that I thought she would enjoy. Of course by the time I had finished, I had made a little too much to actually fit it all in her bag, but that was okay with me. I gave her her gift this morning at brunch, and she seemed to really enjoy it, as did the rest of the family.

I made four different things to put in her bag: blueberry almond cookies, sun-dried tomato dip, chocolate espresso bars, and potato salad. They all turned out wonderfully. They are all pictured with recipes below, except the potato salad.

Almond Blueberry Cookies

This recipe is from “Everyday Italian” with Giada De Laurentiis, another one of the Food Network chefs. These cookies are a really wonderful spring/summertime treat. I read many reviews on the Food Network website before making them, and many of the reviewers had two main complaints. First, many people complained that they would have liked more blueberries than the recipe called for – simple to fix, I just added 1.5 cups instead of 1 cup. Second, lots of reviewers mentioned that the juice from the blueberries had stained the batter and made the cookies look “dirty”. I think this is because the original recipe called for frozen blueberries, so I used fresh instead, and I really didn’t have that problem.

The only changes I will make next time will be to use a bit more almond extract because the almond flavor seemed a bit overshadowed by the lemon flavor. Also, I would recommend baking them on parchment paper as some of the blueberries pop while cooking, releasing their juice. The parchment paper will make for much easier clean up.

Almond Blueberry Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 to 1/3 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons lemon zest, about 1 lemon
1/2 cup chopped almonds, toasted
1 ½ cup fresh blueberries

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. In another medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar using a hand mixer. Add egg and beat to incorporate. Add milk, almond extract, and lemon zest. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Fold in the almonds, then the blueberries. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Using two small spoons, dollop mix onto cookie sheets. Bake until golden brown around the edges, about 15 minutes. Cool the cookies on a wire rack.

Sun-dried Tomato Dip

This is yet another recipe from Ina Garten out of my Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. It really has the right amount of sun-dried tomato flavor – not overpowering as I feel they sometimes can be in other dishes. I put a package of toasted French baguette rounds in the bag to go with this dip. It was great with these, and on veggies as well. I was very happy with the way this turned out. This was incredibly easy, and would be great to throw together at the last minute if needed.

Sun-dried Tomato Dip
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped (8 tomatoes)
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup good mayonnaise
10 dashes hot red pepper sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)

Puree the tomatoes, cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, red pepper sauce, salt and pepper in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the scallions and pulse twice. Serve at room temperature.

Chocolate Espresso Bars

Once again, another incredible recipe from Williams Sonoma. I made these especially because I know how much Robin likes coffee, and I am so glad I did. These were definitely the most popular of the treats. The only real change I made was to garnish them with chocolate chips instead of chocolate covered espresso beans, because I had chocolate chips on hand. The recipe does call for espresso powder, which is sold mainly in specialty grocery stores. It would be possible to substitute instant coffee instead, but I have other recipes that call for espresso powder as well, so I decided it was a worthwhile ingredient to have around.

Chocolate Espresso Bars
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
3 Tbs. instant espresso powder
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 oz. semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 eggs
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the glaze:
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. instant espresso powder
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
Pinch of salt
16 chocolate-covered espresso beans (optional)

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Generously grease an 8-inch square baking pan. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking powder and salt into a bowl; set aside. In a small, heavy saucepan over low heat, combine the butter and chocolate and heat, stirring occasionally, until melted, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and brown sugar until blended. Gradually stir in the chocolate mixture until blended. Stir in the vanilla, then add the flour mixture and stir until blended. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the edges pull away from the sides of the pan and the center is springy to the touch, about 25 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool.

Meanwhile, make the glaze: In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream and espresso powder and heat, stirring, just until the powder is dissolved and bubbles start to appear around the pan edges. Add the chocolate and salt, remove from the heat and stir just until the chocolate is melted. Let cool to room temperature.

Using a small offset spatula, spread the cooled glaze over the cookie in a thin layer. Refrigerate until the glaze is set, about 30 minutes. Cut into 1 ½ -by-2 ½ -inch bars or 2-inch squares. Top each bar with a chocolate-covered espresso bean (or chocolate chips). Makes 16 bars.

4 Responses

  1. Oh my gosh – those cookies look like muffins! I’ll have to add those to the must-make list.

    We served Ina’s sun-dried tomato dip along with one of the veggie platters at our wedding reception – it was a huge hit. I *love* that recipe!

  2. Everything looks great!! I wish I were your MIL. HAHA!

  3. Wow, that all looks wonderful. I think I have to try the recipe for the almond blueberry cookies soon.

  4. Sounds like a delicious Mothers Day – everything looks great!

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