01 January

Chocolate Croissants

(Pain au Chocolat)


January 30: National Croissant Day

Chocoholics like us will enjoy indulging in a chocolate-filled croissant for breakfast, brunch or snack time with a cup of tea or coffee. This recipe is so easy yet impresses our houseguests when they drop by for a friendly visit. Store-bought puff pastry is the key ingredient to creating the flaky-crisp layers. The chocolate croissant may be dusted with confectioner’s sugar but we drizzled ours with extra chocolate for a fancy finish. For National Croissant Day, prepare pain au chocolat with puff pastry.


(Adapted from Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry)


  • 1 package puff pastry sheets (we used Pepperidge Farm brand)
  • chocolate pieces (like Ghirardelli Squares or Baker’s brand chocolate bar)
  • 1 egg + 1 teaspoon water, beaten together to make an egg wash
  • extra chocolate for drizzling (optional)


Thaw the puff pastry according to the directions on the package. Unroll one sheet. Cut along the fold and then across the sheet to create six squares. Place chocolates in the center.


Fold the flaps of the square. Press to seal the edges all around. Place seam side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush with egg wash.


Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes or until puffed up and golden brown. Remove from the oven. Let the chocolate croissants cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes. Melt some chocolate and drizzle over the pastries. Serve warm while the chocolate can still ooze out and is not solidified inside. Yield: 1 dozen.



  • Handle puff pastry minimally so it does not stretch out too much. It should be kept cold as possible after thawing to ensure a good rise in the oven.
  • It is best to reheat puff pastry products in the oven instead of a microwave to maintain its flaky-crisp texture.
  • Use good quality chocolate, like Baker’s semi-sweet baking bar.
  • This recipe is prepared in a rectangular roll instead of the crescent shape that gives the croissant its French name.



January 26: Australia Day

Happy Australia Day to our awesome Aussie blog readers! And Happy Anniversary to our friends, Gary and Girlie B., whom we met when we lived in New Jersey (they still live in the Garden State and we visit each other when we can). They suggested some recipes from Down Under, which we could try, such as Lamingtons, for our blog on this special day.

Our friends came from Sydney, but Lamingtons originated in Queensland and were named after Lord Lamington who served as its first governor from 1896-1901. These snack-sized chocolate-covered, square-shaped sponge cakes are rolled in desiccated coconut to give it its distinct texture and taste.

Lamingtons are the quintessential Australian snack and they are terrific during tea time and for celebrating Australia Day.


(Adapted from Chefs Jamie Oliver and David Lebovitz)

For the sponge cake

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar, granulated white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled slightly


In a large bow, mix together the eggs, sugar and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. Gradually add this to the egg mixture.

Stir in the melted butter and mix into a smooth batter. Pour into a lightly greased 8×8 inch square baking pan (we lined ours with wax paper). Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for about 25 minutes, testing cake for doneness.

Remove from the oven and cool completely. Square off the edges of the cake by trimming the sides (optional). Cut evenly into 2×2 inch squares (16 pieces).

For the chocolate-coconut coating

  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (we used Baker’s brand)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3+ cups desiccated coconut


In a large microwavable bowl, melt the chocolate, butter and milk. Stir until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar and cocoa powder.

Gradually add the sugar-cocoa mixture into the chocolate mixture. Stir until smooth. Carefully dip a cooled square cake into the chocolate mixture and coat evenly around the cake. Roll into a pie plate of desiccated coconut. Let set on a baking sheet lined with wax or parchment paper.



Gruyère Cheese Puffs

January 20: National Cheese Lovers Day

We previously posted a recipe for pão de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread), which is similar to Gruyère cheese puffs without the chewy texture. This French gougere recipe is soft and light—and addicting! Pop these puffs in your mouth and prove you love cheese on National Cheese Lovers Day!


(Adapted from People magazine)


  • 8 ½ tablespoons water
  • 8 ½ tablespoons milk
  • 7 tablespoons salted butter (we used European style butter)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 ¾ cup flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 7 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated


Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (see Notes). In a large saucepan, boil the water, milk, butter and salt over medium heat, taking care not to scald the milk and butter. Stir in the flour all at once and mix with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until a smooth dough is formed.

Transfer to a mixing bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Stir in the cheese until well mixed (the cheese will melt slightly).

Place dough into a pastry/piping bag and pipe our 1-inch balls on the parchment paper, leaving 1-inch spaced apart. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until the puffs have risen and are golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve warm.


  • We placed a 1-inch round macaron pattern underneath the parchment paper to guide us when piping out the puffs. Remove the pattern before baking.
  • Check out our other cheese recipes by searching our blog.

Filipino Chicken Curry

January 12: National Curried Chicken Day

We have cooked different chicken curries for our blog before. But Islander seems to have gone back to the basics with her family’s Filipino-style chicken curry recipe for National Curried Chicken Day. This tasty dish is sometimes served at Filipino buffets and fiestas.

The Philippines were ruled by the Indianized kingdom of the Hindu Majapahit, Khmer Empire and Buddhist Srivijaya for 2,000 years before the islands were colonized by Spain. There is still a big population of Indians in some areas. Thus, the Indian culture has influenced Filipino cuisine. This recipe fuses Indian curry spices with sour patis (Filipino fish sauce) to give this dish its distinct flavor.

For a Filipino fusion food, try this Pinoy-style chicken curry recipe on National Curried Chicken Day.


  • 1-2 pounds chicken legs or thighs
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon patis (fish sauce)
  • 3 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ – 1 cup baby carrots
  • 1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk
  • 1 bell pepper, cut into large squares
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Prepare the vegetables by cutting the potatoes, onion and bell peppers. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large pot. Cook the potatoes on medium high heat for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally so they don’t stick to the pot. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. In the same pot, add 1 tablespoon of oil and lightly brown the chicken pieces. Add the onions and garlic to the chicken and sauté until the onions have softened. Season with patis (fish sauce).

Sprinkle in the curry powder. Stir well with the water. Add the carrots and potatoes. Cover, lower the heat to medium and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the coconut milk. Mix in the bell peppers. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 10 minutes. Transfer to a large serving bowl. Serve hot with rice.


  • Bottled patis (fish sauce) may be found in the Asian section of some grocery stores or in Asian markets.
  • Search our blog for more chicken curry recipes.
  • Find more Filipino recipes under the ethnic section of our Theme Menus.


Lentil Soup with Lemon


January 6: National Bean Day

We are but a few days into the new year and our resolution to eat healthier is fulfilled with this recipe for lentil soup with lemon. In some countries (like Italy, Hungary and Lebanon), these lucky legumes are considered an auspicious new year’s food. The beans’ flat and round shape resembles coins and, when cooked in liquid, the lentils plump up, symbolizing growing wealth. Health and wealth in a bowl are a wonderful way to ring in the new year as well as celebrate National Bean Day!


Adapted from Sol S.


  • 1 pound lentils (preferably red lentils), rinsed
  • 6 cups water (or chicken or vegetable stock)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 5+ cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped


In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the lentils and cook covered for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a pan. Saute the chopped onions and minced garlic until soft and fragrant.


Add the onion-garlic mixture to the lentils. Stir in the ground cumin. Simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and cilantro leaves. Ladle into soup bowls and serve hot with flat breads.



  • Lentil soup with lemon is also a good recipe to make during January (National Soup Month). We also like to eat lentil soup on Lent Fridays—it is simply delicious while fasting from meat dishes.
  • Thanks to our Syrian chef friend, Sol. S., for sharing this recipe with us.
  • Search our blog for more bean and soup recipes.

Irish Coffee Cupcakes

Irish Coffee Cupcakes

January 25: National Irish Coffee Day

Sometimes on a cold winter night, Highlander has a hot nightcap—a decaffeinated Irish coffee. His favorite flavors of chocolate, coffee and Bailey’s (Irish cream liqueur) with a shot of whiskey is a relaxing drink at the end of a long work day.

He also indulges in Irish coffee cupcakes as an occasional after-dinner treat. They are among his favorite desserts, along with the Irish cream liqueur cake that he often requests for his birthday.

Irish coffee cupcakes are ideal for National Irish Coffee Day as well as St. Patrick’s Day.


(Adapted from “Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes” by David Lebovitz)

For the cupcakes

  • 1 ¼ cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup coffee, strongly brewed
  • 6 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • ½ cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 ¼ cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla


In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a saucepan over medium heat, mix together the coffee and cocoa. Add the butter and stir until melted.


Add the brown sugar and cool to room temperature before beating in the eggs. Stir in the vanilla. Gradually add the flour mixture and stir until the batter is smooth.


Scoop into a muffin tin lined with cupcake papers. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely. While the cupcakes are baking, make the Irish cream filling. Yield: 14 cupcakes


For the Irish cream filling

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, softened
  • 6 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons Irish cream liqueur (we used Bailey’s)


In a bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together until light and fluffy. Gradually add the powdered sugar. Stir in the Irish cream liqueur until the filling is smooth. Core the cooled cupcakes.


Pipe the filling in the center. Replace the cores and press down to flatten the tops slightly. Chill in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes to set the filling. Make the Irish whiskey chocolate glaze.


For the Irish whiskey chocolate glaze

  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • ¼ cup heaving whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons corn syrup or agave nectar
  • 2 tablespoon Irish whiskey (we used Jameson’s)
  • green confectioner’s candy, melted (optional)


In a microwavable bowl, melt the chocolate. Stir until smooth. Then pour in the cream. Mix until incorporated. Stir in the corn syrup or agave nectar and Irish whiskey until smooth. Frost with a spatula or dip the tops of the cupcakes to coat.


Let the chocolate glaze set. Drizzle melted green confectioner’s candy on top (optional).



  • We used Wilton brand green candy melts to drizzle on top of the cupcakes.
  • An alternative to the Irish whiskey chocolate glaze is a whipped ganache frosting. Simply cool the glaze to thicken at room temperature and beat until light and fluffy. Place in a decorating bag. We used Wilton tip 1M to pipe swirls on top of the cupcakes. Optional: Sprinkle green shamrock shapes or non-pareils on the frosting for a festive food.



Hot Buttered Rum

Hot Buttered Rum

January 17: Hot Buttered Rum Day

Before we settled in the Southwest, we used to live in states with some serious snow days. When our apartments in Oklahoma and New Jersey did not have garages, it was such a hassle to scrape off the snow on our cars. And even though our townhome in Illinois had a garage, it was a workout shoveling the snow off the driveway. Coming back in the house from the cold, we would warm up with a hot beverage—tea, cocoa or a “spirited” liquid. One simple spiked drink included hot buttered rum, which was easy to prepare after expending energy out in the winter weather. A sip of it was certainly soothing. We rarely have snow days in South Texas now but we still make hot buttered rum to cozy up on some cold evenings as well as observe Hot Buttered Rum Day.


(Adapted from Food Network)


  • 1 tablespoon/pat of butter
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • dash of ground cinnamon and/or nutmeg
  • dash of vanilla extract
  • 1-2 ounces rum
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • cinnamon stick to garnish


In the bottom of a mug, place the butter. Sprinkle with brown sugar and dash of spices (cinnamon and/or nutmeg). Add the vanilla.


Pour in the rum and meddle the ingredients together. Pour in the hot water and stir. Garnish with a cinnamon stick. Serve hot. Yield: 1 serving



  • The final food photo above was shot with our old sweaters and woolen hoodies, which have been stored away for years after moving to the Southwest. We still wear them on the occasion that temperatures drop to freezing, or during the holidays/winter break when we visit family and friends who live in northern climates.
  • Search our blog for other beverage recipes with “spirits” to warm your hearts.

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