Cherry Pistachio Rugelach

Every year, my mother-in-law, sister-in-laws, and myself have a cookie-baking extravaganza.  We have a few family-favorite recipes that we make every year, but we are always trying new things.  This year, my mother-in-law saw a page in the LA Times that listed the Top Ten Cookie Recipes that were tested and tried in the LA Times test kitchen.  Naturally, we had to give them a go.  We ended up making about 15 different cookie recipes (I told you it was an extravaganza),  and my favorite one was the Cherry Pistachio Rugelach.  There are so many savory flavors in this cookie that it hardly makes you feel guilty for indulging, but rather extremely satisfied. 

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour, sifted
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
1 cup pistachios, finely chopped in a food processor
1/2 cup black cherry preserves, quickly pulsed in a food processor until smooth
Zest of 1 orange, or to taste
Rugelach dough, refrigerated until ready to use
1/4 cup cinnamon sugar (3 tablespoons sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon, blended)
1 egg, beaten (to use as an egg wash)
Directions for Dough:
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter.

2.  Add the sugar, salt and vanilla, and beat well.

3. Add the flour, and mix until just combined. Remove the dough to a well-floured surface and roll into a ball. 

4. Cut the ball into quarters and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Refrigerate to firm up the dough, at least 30 minutes (or freeze at least 15 minutes).

Directions for the filling:
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a small bowl, combine the brown and granulated sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg and pistachios. In another small bowl, stir together the preserves and orange zest.
3. Take one dough quarter out of the refrigerator and roll it out on a well-floured surface to a circle about 9 inches in diameter (use a 9- to 10-inch cake pan as a guide, if you have one, to make perfect circles)

(I know, they look like pizzas.  They're better ;])

4. Spread 2 tablespoons of the preserves in a thin layer over the dough, then sprinkle one-fourth cup of the pistachio mixture over the preserves, lightly pressing it into the preserves.
5. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the circle into 8 wedges. Roll each wedge into a crescent shape, rolling from the outside in toward the point.

6. Place the rugelach on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, point-side down, spaced an inch or two apart. Brush with egg wash. Sprinkle each with a bit of cinnamon sugar.
7. Bake the rugelach, one tray at a time, until lightly golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Rotate halfway through baking for even coloring

So so good.


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Pumpkin Spice Cannoli

I'm Italian.  The extent to which my family embraces Italian culture involves loud arguments, big hand gestures, and grandma's famous cooking. Even though my culture is drastically different than that of my fresh-off-the-boat great grandparents, I still enjoy partaking in my favorite part of Italian culture--the food! This is the second year I have made cannoli, and it might just be a new family tradition. Obviously, this is a twist on the traditional cannoli, but it is just as good!

Pumpkin Filling
1 (3.4 oz) package instant vanilla pudding mix
1 cup milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1 cup lite whipped topping (or a little more ;] )

Cannoli Shells
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon unsweetened baking coca powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1 teaspoon white or red wine vinegar
About 1/2 cup of sweet red wine
1 large egg, separated (egg white only)
About 1 quart of vegetable or canola oil for frying
1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips, nuts, etc. or 1 tbsp of cinnamon for garnish (optional)

For the filling:
Combine the pudding mix, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, and ginger in a large bowl.  

Add milk and beat on a low speed until well combined and slightly thickened.  

Refrigerate until ready to serve. I made this the day before. Just before serving, fold in whipped topping.

I forgot to snap a picture of the filling after I mixed the ingredients, but here is a picture of what it looks like after the whipped topping is added.  This is off the website where I found the recipe.

For the shells:
In the electric stand mixer bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt.  Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about 2 minutes.  Shape the dough into a ball.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for 2 hours to overnight. 

Cut the dough into two pieces.  Keep the remaining dough covered while you work.  Lightly flour a large surface and roll the dough until its super thin (about 1/16 to 1/8" thick...the thinner the dough is, the better it will turn out after frying). 

I know, they red wine makes these little guys look like salami!

Roll the cut circle into an oval, rolling it larger and thinner if it shrinks. 

Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes (you only have to do this once, as the oil from the deep frying will keep them oiled).  Roll a dough oval from long side around each tube and dab a little egg white on the dough where the edges overlap.  (Avoid getting egg white on the tube, or the dough will stick to it.) Press edges together to seal, and overlap again with egg white.  If edges are not secured well, they will pop open during frying. 

These are mini cannoli tubes.  I have found that people enjoy the smaller, bite-sized cannoli.

 In a deep saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 2-3 inches. Heat the oil to 375 degrees and have a pan lined with paper towels.  Carefully lower the tubes into the hot oil (3 at a time).  Do not crowd the pan.  Fry the shells until golden brown.

Lift out the tubes with tongs and place on paper towel. Very carefully remove the cannoli shell from the rod with the tongs and a paper bowl. Repeat with the remaining dough, until all are complete.  

Right before serving, place filling in a plastic bag and cut the corner to pipe in the cannoli shells. 

This is a very time-consuming recipe, but they turned out great.  I think I like these pumpkin cannoli a little more than the traditional ones with ricotta filling that I made last year. 

Happy cannoli making!

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Vanilla-Orange Sugared Cranberries

It's that time of year again! Oh, how I love the holidays. Of course, time with loved ones is so special, but the food--the food is heavenly!  I love trying new recipes, especially dishes with a beautiful presentation.  This is a perfect dish to make for Christmas, but I made them for Thanksgiving, and they were delicious. 

3 3/4 cups sugar, divided
1 3/4 cups water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. orange extract
1 (12 oz) bag of fresh cranberries


Combine 2 1/2 cups sugar, water, vanilla, and orange extract in sauce pan.  Heat over medium until the sugar has completely dissolved.  Make sure it does not boil. Remove sauce pan from heat. Pour the cranberries in and stir. 

Cover the berries with a plate so they will stay submerged in the syrup. cover the pan and place them in the refrigerator overnight. 

Place the remaining sugar in a rimmed dish. Strain the cranberries and place them in the sugar.  Shake until they are completely coated. 

Transfer them to a baking sheet to dry - about an hour. 

Once the sugar coating is hard, place them in an air tight container and store for up to a week.

They taste great frozen, as well. Enjoy!


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Pantry Pasta

So I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner the other night.  I didn't have much in the fridge or pantry.  The only veggies I had were left over from the night before, and I didn't feel like making a trip to the store. I stumbled across Pioneer Woman's Pantry Pasta recipe, and it was perfect.  Delicious and it saved me a trip to the store! I made little tweaks here and there, but for the original recipe, go here.

  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1/2 whole Red Onion, Diced
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 can Diced Tomatoes With Juice
  • 1/3 cup manzanilla Olives, Pitted And Roughly Chopped
  • 1/3 cup White Wine
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1/2 pound Linguine, Cooked Al Dente And Drained
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon italian seasoning
  • dash of pepper
  • shredded chicken
  • 1 cup of chopped squash and zucchini 


Heat medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add olive oil. When warm, add diced onion and stir. Cook slowly for five minutes, stirring occasionally. 

 Add garlic, then stir and cook for one minute. Pour in diced tomatoes with their juice. 

Add chopped olives. Stir and cook for a minute or two. Splash in wine, then stir and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Chop up chicken and veggies and add to sauce.

Add chicken broth and seasonings.  Give it a good stir. 

Toss cooked linguine in olive oil and arrange on a platter. Spoon sauce over the pasta serve immediately. You can add cheese on top, if you'd like :]

This was a very light dish, and left overs were scrumptious!

-Saleena :]

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DIY: Pencil Bags

Back to school again! 
Summer just flies by, doesn't it?  
Well, I hope you all enjoyed your summer as much as I did.  I took my girlfriend shopping with me last week so I could get all of the necessaries for school, and I have never seen someone so excited about school supplies! While we were going up and down every aisle, she excitedly pointed to this and that as if she was opening Christmas gifts.  Her boyfriend called her so she was busy talking when I pointed to extra large post-it notes that were slightly bigger than index cards.  Her mouth dropped and held the package, patiently waiting for her boyfriend to finish whatever he was saying so she could tell him about these incredible post-its. Haha! It was entertaining to say the least.  If you get half as excited about school supplies as my girlfriend does, you are going to love today's post.

DIY Pencil Bags!

I mean, you could just buy a plastic bulky box to put everything in, but where's the fun in that?? So instead of school shopping for a pencil bag, school sew! :]

Sewing Machine
Straight Pins
Rotary cutter
Tape Measure
Fray Check


Cut a piece of fabric to your desired size. (Mine was 20"x8" for colored pencils)

Then fold the top of the fabric down 3 inches, then fold 3 inches again and pin.  Fold the bottom of the fabric up 5 inches, then pin. 

Sew the top three sides, I like using contrasting fabric. As you can see, I didn't sew any hems.  I could get away without them because this fabric was thin and didn't fray much.  I used Fray Check on the raw edges to prevent any fraying. 

Then I cut a piece of fabric 9"x2"

Fold it in half and pin

Sew all four sides, then sew a gathering stitch down the middle

Pull the string so a bow forms, then wrap the string around the bow and secure with a knot. 

Add a cute button if you'd like!

Then sew the bow onto the outside of the top flap of your bag.
On the opposite side of the bow, sew the end of a ribbon.

Fill up your bag with pencils, roll up the bag, and wrap the ribbon around.  Form a large knot at the end of the ribbon to tuck back under the ribbon to secure it.

And now you have a darling pencil bag! 

I had to get creative because I didn't have any zippers or velcro, so I used ribbon and buttons! The green polka dot one in the back is a bit bigger than my orange one and it holds markers.  To secure that one, I sewed on two buttons, one on the top flap and the other on the bottom, and then added a thick thread underneath the bottom button. To close it, I just wrap the thread around the top button and back around the bottom button a few times. 

Happy School Sewing!

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Cajun Chicken Pasta

I love spicy food.  Sometimes, I find myself adding spice to dishes that don't need it, like spaghetti, and other times, the spice really makes the dish complete. This is one of those dishes.  It tastes good, has lots of veggies, and the carbs you crave without overdoing it. 


8 ounces uncooked linguine (I used Dreamfields)
1 pound chicken breast strips
1-2 tsp Cajun seasoning (I didn't have Cajun seasoning, so I used garlic powder, cayenne pepper, paprika, cumin, oregano, thyme, and red pepper flakes.  I didn't measure these, just sprinkled them over the chicken.)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium bell peppers, thinly sliced
8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 cup broccoli, chopped
1/2 red onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 cup fat free low sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup milk
1 tbsp flour
3 tbsp light cream cheese
fresh cracked pepper
2 scallions, chopped
salt to taste
Cooking spray 


Prep all your vegetables. 

In a small blender, combine milk, flour and cream cheese. Set aside. Season chicken generously with Cajun seasoning and salt (or my list of seasonings if you don't have cajun seasoning).

Prepare pasta in salted water according to package directions.

Heat a large heavy nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; spray with cooking spray and add the chicken. Sauté 5 to 6 minutes or until done, set aside.

Add olive oil to the skillet and reduce to medium; add bell peppers, onions, and garlic to skillet, sauté 3-4 minutes.  Add mushrooms and sauté 3-4 more minutes or until vegetables are tender. Toss in the tomatoes and season with 1/4 tsp salt, garlic powder and fresh cracked pepper to taste.

Reduce heat to medium-low; add chicken broth and pour in blender mixture, stirring about 2 minutes.

Return chicken to skillet; adjust salt and Cajun seasoning to taste, cook another minute or two until hot, then add linguine; toss well to coat. Top with chopped scallions and enjoy!

This was a spicy dish because I added lots of red pepper flakes, but season it according to your preferred taste. :] 

<3 Saleena

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