Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread [and behind the scenes!]

Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread

I’m usually the one behind the camera when I’m blogging. I cook in my no-so-photogenic kitchen and shoot the finished product using a simple setup in my dining room. With three little ones running around, I don’t always get a chance to get in front of the camera or snap many process shots.

A couple months ago, friends of ours stayed at our house while they were in town for a wedding—and since one of those friends is a super talented photographer, I took advantage. Despite my outdated cabinets and the fact that it was dark in my house that morning due to impending thunderstorms, I love what Taylor Rae Photography captured. You can see my little ones running around and my flour covered counters. I’ll admit my kitchen usually looks way messier, and I often wear yoga pants and a top-knot. But other than that, this is basically what it looks like when I’m trying to capture recipes for the blog. (What you can’t see in pictures, though, is the chaotic noise level from my kids.)

We shot my recipe for Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread. I based it off my Mix + Match Shortbread and used almond extract instead of vanilla. Originally I intended to dip the cookies in white chocolate but made a last minute adjustment using chocolate chips I had on hand. It’s a flexible recipe, though, so use whatever you want! You can also drizzle on both white and milk chocolate instead of dipping for a different look, try pistachios instead of almonds, or top them with a little sea salt.

Scroll down for the recipe!

Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread
Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread | Sarah J. Hauser #baking #foodphotography #cookies #shortbread

Chocolate Dipped Almond Shortbread
Makes about 2 dozen cookies
Adapted from Ina Garten

3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon almond extract
3½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
6-8 ounces dark chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips
A handful of almonds, roughly chopped (just eyeball it)

Using a mixer with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until combined. Mix in the almond extract along with two teaspoons of water.

In a separate bowl, stir together the flour and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly pour the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Mix until ingredients are fully incorporated.

Place the dough on a floured surface and form into a log shape. Wrap the log in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap the dough and slice it into about ½ inch slices. Place cookies on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies turn golden brown.

Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool on a wire rack.

While the cookies are cooling, melt the chocolate over a double boiler or in 20-second intervals in the microwave, stirring frequently. Dip the cooled shortbread cookies into the chocolate and then lay them out on parchment paper.

Sprinkle on the chopped almonds, gently pressing them into the melted chocolate so they stick. Allow the chocolate to harden completely before serving. (You can place the cookies in the refrigerator to speed up this process.)

Serve and enjoy!


All the photos in this post were taken by Taylor Rae Photography. Head over to her website to see more of Taylor’s incredible work!


Dairy-Free (and Vegan!) Chocolate Pudding with Candied Orange Slices

Dairy Free (and Vegan!) Chocolate Pudding with Candied Orange Slices | Sarah J. Hauser

My husband and I just finished a Whole30, and I’m trying to ease into other foods gradually. While I don’t have any food allergies or severe sensitivities, I know that diving right into chocolate cake or pizza after having avoided grains and dairy for a month probably wouldn’t be the best decision! (I have to admit it’s tempting, though.)

That being said, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner—which means I at least need a little chocolate. We don’t typically make a big deal about Valentine’s Day, mostly because for the last four years we’ve been too tired or too busy with the kiddos. But, we do enjoy a good date night in at home, a bottle of wine that’s a bit better than what we’d normally buy, and something special for dessert.

This pudding is perfect for just that! It only requires a few ingredients, it’s dairy-free and vegan, and you can make it in advance. (I actually suggest making it in advance since it has to firm up in the fridge and the orange slices have to dry out.) The dark chocolate pairs perfectly with a hint of orange, and the candied orange slices add a fun, creative twist.

I will tell you, too, that this pudding is rich. It may look at first like the recipe doesn’t make very much, but a little goes a long way. You can also add a bit more maple syrup for a slightly sweeter version. (I love really dark, bittersweet chocolate.)

What do you do for Valentine’s Day? Or Galentine’s Day? Do you head out on the town or have a quiet evening in? Let me know in the comments below! I’m always looking for new ideas!

Dairy Free (and Vegan!) Chocolate Pudding with Candied Orange Slices | Sarah J. Hauser
Dairy Free (and Vegan!) Chocolate Pudding with Candied Orange Slices | Sarah J. Hauser
Dairy Free (and Vegan!) Chocolate Pudding with Candied Orange Slices | Sarah J. Hauser
Dairy Free (and Vegan!) Chocolate Pudding with Candied Orange Slices | Sarah J. Hauser
Dairy Free (and Vegan!) Chocolate Pudding with Candied Orange Slices | Sarah J. Hauser
Dairy Free (and Vegan!) Chocolate Pudding with Candied Orange Slices | Sarah J. Hauser
Dairy Free (and Vegan!) Chocolate Pudding with Candied Orange Slices | Sarah J. Hauser
Dairy Free (and Vegan!) Chocolate Pudding with Candied Orange Slices | Sarah J. Hauser
Dairy Free (and Vegan!) Chocolate Pudding with Candied Orange Slices | Sarah J. Hauser

Dairy-Free Chocolate Pudding with Candied Orange Slices
Yields 2-3 servings*
Adapted from Paleo Running Momma

⅓ cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
⅛ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup coconut cream (the hardened cream from a can of coconut milk)*
3-4 Tablespoons maple syrup (plus more to taste)
1 Tablespoon Cointreau (optional)
Coconut whipped cream
Zest of 1 orange
Candied orange slices (see note below)

In a small bowl, sift together the cocoa powder, arrowroot powder, and salt. (Sifting helps prevent lumps in the pudding.)

In a small saucepan, add the coconut cream and maple syrup. Heat over medium-low heat, whisking frequently, until the coconut cream melts. LIttle by little, add in the dry ingredients, whisking after each addition until smooth. Add in the Cointreau if using (it’s optional but adds the perfect bit of citrus flavor to the pudding. Skip this, though, if adults avoiding alcohol or kids will be eating the pudding!) Add additional maple syrup if you want a sweeter pudding.

Whisk the pudding constantly for 3-5 minutes until thickened. Turn the heat off and transfer the pudding to containers for serving. (Ramekins, small mason jars, and other types of dishes work great for this.) Refrigerate until cold and firm, at least a couple hours. To avoid a “skin” at the top of the pudding, cover the top in plastic wrap so that the plastic lays directly on top of the pudding.

Top with coconut whipped cream, orange zest, and a candied orange slice (see below).

*This recipe is very rich, so a little goes a long way!

**Put a couple cans of full fat coconut milk in the fridge for a few hours. The cream will separate and hardened at the top of the can, so you can easily scoop it off with a spoon.

Candied Orange Slices

For the candied orange slices, I followed this recipe from Taste of Home, but I cut the recipe in half. After the slices dried overnight, I dipped them in granulated sugar.

Make sure to keep the orange simple syrup that’s leftover. It’s perfect for cocktails and other fun recipes!


Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards

Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser
Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser

Sometime the best recipes are the ones that require no recipe at all. You throw together a soup with leftover produce or create a pasta dish with whatever's in the pantry. Creativity in the kitchen often comes when there are restraints. After all, necessity is the mother of invention, right? 

Lately, I've been in a rut in the kitchen. I don't know if it's because I don't feel like grocery shopping, I don't want to turn the oven on in 90+ degree heat, or I'm tired of trying to convince my toddlers to try new dishes. But whatever the reason, no-cook meals sound pretty much perfect right now. You can change them up to use whatever you have on hand (toast, other cheese, cured meats, etc.) or whatever your family will eat! And while these no-cook brunch boards were originally created for, well, brunch, there's no reason you can't take the same idea and tweak it for a weeknight dinner. 

Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser
Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser
Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser
Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser
Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser

This isn’t so much a recipe as it is a compilation of ideas. I created two different variations of brunch boards - one with more sweet ingredients and one that leans savory. Play around and use whatever you like! Add a few different types of cheese if you want that to be the star, or serve charcuterie, fruit, and nuts for a paleo option. Make it all about bagel toppings with different cream cheeses, jams, and smoked salmon, or use this as an excuse to clean out your refrigerator and pantry (don’t worry, I won’t tell!).

Every dish in the ferial cuisine, however, provides a double or treble delight: Not only is the body nourished and the palate pleased, the mind is intrigued by the triumph of ingenuity over scarcity - by the making of slight materials into a considerable matter.
— Robert Farrar Capon

I (loosely) stick to two rules when I create a board. 

1. Make sure everything is convenient to eat. For example, slicing hard cheeses in advance makes it easier for guests to grab a piece. (I don’t slice soft cheeses ahead of time because that gets messy.) Prepare fruits and vegetables by cutting peels from citrus, remove pits from dates, etc. (I didn’t hull the strawberries on my “sweet” board because I like the look of unhulled ones, but I probably should have.)

2. Pick all your ingredients, then leave out a couple. If you’re like me, you can easily go crazy and include every possible combination. Less is more sometimes, so err on the side of simplicity. I bought quite a few more ingredients than I ended up using for these boards, and it would have been overkill if I tried to incorporate them all. In the end, I stuck with 9 different items for each board. 

Scroll down to see what I used for my sweet and savory versions. I also included other ideas I hope will help spark your creativity as you make your own. Have fun with it!

Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser
Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser
Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser
Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser
Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser

Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards

Sweet: 

Croissants, Brie, raspberry jam, green grapes, dried apricots, walnuts, Medjool dates, white cheddar cheese (to balance out all the sweet items), strawberries

Savory: 

Toasted bagels, chive and onion cream cheese, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, almonds, smoked salmon, Manchego cheese, hard-boiled eggs*, fresh parsley for garnish

*Okay, this isn’t entirely no-cook, but if you’re feeding a crowd, buy eggs that are already hard-boiled so you’re not peeling eggs all day!

Other Ideas:

Prosciutto or other cured meats, crackers, toast, baguette slices, butter or compound butters, cream cheese varieties, chutney, marmalade, lemon curd, other types of cheese, strawberries, apples, pears, sliced oranges, dried apricots, dried cherries, candied pecans, sliced radishes, olives, marinated artichokes, fresh basil or other herbs


Coffee, Peanut Butter + Banana Smoothie [featuring FreshGround Roasting]

Coffee, Peanut Butter + Banana Smoothie - Sarah J. Hauser

It's Friday. Phew. Take a breath. I love having a holiday in the middle of the week, but I'm not going to lie. It kinda' throws me off my rhythm a bit (as if I had any rhythm to begin with). Anyone else know what I mean? But alas, the weekend is here and so is this smoothie. 

Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.
— Henry James

I've been craving a coffee smoothie lately, but so many of the recipes I've seen contain extra sugars or loads of dairy - both of which I love, but my body doesn't. This one is sweetened with dates and uses almond milk. To make it paleo, use almond butter instead of peanut butter, but there's something about the peanut butter flavor that just can't be beat. If you're not avoiding peanuts for dietary reasons, I highly suggest sticking with that creamy, peanut goodness. 

For the coffee, cold brew iced coffee tastes best. I used FreshGround's ready-to-drink Black Ice Brew. If you use a cold brew concentrate, you may just need to add a little extra almond milk or water to the smoothie. It's a flexible recipe, though, so just taste as you go along!

What are you sipping this weekend? Any favorite summer beverages? I'd love to hear in the comments below!

Coffee, Peanut Butter + Banana Smoothie - Sarah J. Hauser
Coffee, Peanut Butter + Banana Smoothie - Sarah J. Hauser
Coffee, Peanut Butter + Banana Smoothie - Sarah J. Hauser

Coffee, Peanut Butter + Banana Smoothie
Yields 2-3 servings

1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 cup brewed coffee, cold*
2 large bananas
¼ cup creamy peanut butter
3-4 Medjool dates, pitted
1-3 cups ice

Add the almond milk, coffee, bananas, peanut butter, 3 dates, and 1 cup of ice to a blender. Blend until smooth. Add another date if you want it to be sweeter and additional ice to taste. Less ice will give you a richer flavor but a thinner smoothie. More ice tones down the intensity and makes the smoothie thicker. (My personal preference is about 2 heaping cups of ice.)

*Your recipe is only as good as your ingredients, so use good quality coffee! I used FreshGround’s ready-to-drink Black Ice Brew. Cold brewed iced coffee is ideal in this recipe!