Dragonfly Home Recipes

Recipes, Photography, Musings

Tag: holiday desserts

Candy Cane Brownie Cake

This candy cane brownie cake has everything one could want in a dessert– sweet chocolate flavor, moist cake texture, a layer of chocolate frosting, and a sprinkling of crushed candy canes.  It is also a very pretty dessert, with its bright red and white flecks of candy cane against the dark of the chocolate.  If you are looking for a festive holiday or winter dessert, this is a great one.

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Gingerbread Cake

Place a piece of this rich, moist gingerbread cake on a layer of tangy-sweet lemon sauce, top it with a dollop of whipped cream, and you have an iconic, heart-warming holiday dessert!

Nothing gets me in the holiday spirit like gingerbread.  Whether it’s decorating gingerbread cookies or breathing in the comforting aroma of gingerbread as it bakes, I don’t feel quite right in December until I have made something with gingerbread.  This feeling goes way back to my childhood, and I associate the incredible smell of baking gingerbread with warmth and comfort against the backdrop of December’s cold, dark mornings and nights.

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Chocolate Tea Bark

This chocolate tea bark is made with melted semi-sweet chocolate topped with leaves of delicate black tea flavored with bergamot, orange and lemon.  Some fresh orange zest gives it additional color and flavor.  Super-easy to make, this chocolate tea bark makes a subtly elegant and delicious after-dinner treat, snack, or a sweet homemade gift!

chocolate tea barkBark is a festive winter dessert because it is fun to make, and has so many variations.  In this version, I use my favorite tea–called Lady in Waiting–from Wilkinson’s of Norwich, a coffee and tea shop in the village of Norwich, in the east of England.  My cousin moved to the Norwich area a few years ago, and she often brings me a bag of this wonderful tea when she comes back to visit.  It is a version of Earl Grey tea, and it has such a delicate yet powerful flavor. You can use any type of loose leaf tea you wish in this bark, though I am partial to the bergamot/citrus notes in the Earl Grey or Lady Grey types of teas.

chocolate and zestI added some orange zest because I cannot resist the flavors of chocolate and orange together, and with the citrus notes already present in this tea, the orange zest goes perfectly.  The quality of the chocolate also makes an impact, I have found.  Spending a bit more on good chocolate is worth it when making bark.  The flavors of the tea leaves and orange zest are subtle, and they look so pretty! It is well-known that both chocolate and tea have lots of health benefits, especially for the health of the soul.  🙂 I find both chocolate and tea especially good for the soul in the winter, when we seem to feel all pleasant things more intensely due to the challenges of the cold weather and long stretches of darkness.

chococlate tea bark and orangesThe winter solstice is tomorrow, and it feels every bit of winter here today.  We have plenty of snow on the ground and a cold wind is blowing.  Our dog has taken to spending time next to the heat vent in the kitchen, and the kids don’t want to get out of their warm beds on these cold, dark mornings.  This year, I am especially enjoying our Christmas tree lights and the colorful lights out on the porch as they cast such a warm and cozy glow.  We are trying to remember to eat dinner by candlelight, even when it is a dinner thrown together at the last minute.

We are entering the peak of the holiday season, such a special and gracious time of year.  Yes, it is a hectic and sometimes stressful time.  But also, I hope we all will have some time not only to reach out to those around us, but to sit quietly and contemplate.  My yoga instructor shared a famous Mother Teresa quote with us in class yesterday:  “Peace begins with a smile.”  This chocolate tea bark definitely makes me smile, and I hope it does you too.  Peace and Happy Holidays!christmas lights at sunset

Chocolate Tea Bark

  • Servings: the equivalent of two large chocolate bars
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  • 8 ounces of high quality semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2-3 teaspoons of Earl Grey, Lady Grey, or Lady in Waiting Tea, in leaf form
  • 2 teaspoons of orange zest


Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Zest your orange peel and measure out your tea leaves.

Break the chocolate into pieces.  Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, or if you don’t have a double boiler, heat a couple of inches of water in a saucepan over low heat.  Place a heat-proof glass bowl over the saucepan (but don’t let the bowl touch the water).  Put the chocolate in the glass bowl and allow it to melt, stirring often.  When the chocolate is melted and shiny, pour it onto the parchment-lined baking sheet and shape it into a rectangle with a spatula, so the chocolate is about 1/4 of an inch thick.  (You may make it thicker or thinner, if you prefer).  Sprinkle the tea leaves and orange zest evenly over the melted chocolate, pressing the leaves into the chocolate a tiny bit.  Let the chocolate cool and harden, about 2 hours, or if you are in a hurry, you can put the baking sheet in the freezer for about a half hour.  When the chocolate is cool and hardened, break it into pieces.  Enjoy!



Cherry-Cranberry Crisp

A radiant cherry and cranberry filling, mixed with a classic crisp topping of oats, graham cracker crumbs, and brown sugar, makes this cherry-cranberry crisp burst with flavor and color.  If you are looking for a festive and delicious holiday dessert that is easy and doesn’t involve making a pie crust, then this is a great option!  Don’t get me wrong, I love to make pies–in fact I will be making one this evening–but…sometimes it’s nice to throw a dessert together quickly and without much fuss.  And the gorgeous colors and many health benefits of tart cherries and cranberries are an added bonus!

cherry-cranberry crispI used frozen Montmorency red tart cherries and frozen cranberries for this recipe.  I have written in a previous post about my love for this particular type of cherry (Michigan is known for them), but any tart cherry would work fine.  I made the filling for this crisp before assembling it and baking it, so I could make sure I had the level of sweetness that I wanted.  Everybody has a different threshold for tartness, and this way you can adjust the sweetness before you bake the crisp.

Also, it helps to make sure you mix the cherries and cranberries well while they are cooking in the filling, because the cherries are sweeter than the cranberries, and if someone ends up with a spoonful of mainly cranberries, they may be in for a very tart surprise! However, when mixed up, the cherries and cranberries make a delightful burst of sweet-tartness, and I am so pleased with this very bright flavor and color, and the antioxidants inside it all.

cherr-cranberry-crispThe crisp topping is very simple.  My aim with this crisp is to make it as flavorful and at the same time as easy as possible, so it can be a recipe you can turn to when you are a bit pinched for time, but still want a beautiful dessert.  It is a crisp topping I use all fall for apple crisp, and it is simply four ingredients–old fashioned rolled oats, graham crackers, brown sugar, and a bit of butter.

I can hardly believe that Thanksgiving is tomorrow already, in addition to it being my husband’s birthday! And my daughter’s birthday is a few days after that.  Busy times, and yet I am trying to focus on what is most important, and one of those things continues to be gratitude.  In these times when there are pressures about holiday shopping, I try to remember also that time is a gift.  Spending time with loved ones is a gift, especially if you can be fully present for them.

cherry-cranberry crispFood brings people together, bridges gaps, and expresses love.  If you are celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow, I hope you have a great day, and if not, I hope you have a great day, and weekend as well!  I am sharing a quote that my yoga instructor shared with our class:  “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”  ~ Melody Beattie

May you have all those things this weekend, and thank you for reading this blog!cherry-cranberry crisp

Cherry-Cranberry Crisp

  • Servings: 6
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For the filling:

  • 4 cups of frozen tart cherries
  • 2 cups of frozen cranberries
  • 1 cup of sugar (or a bit more, if you desire more sweetness and less tartness)
  • 3 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • 1/4 tablespoon of almond extract

For the topping:

  • 1/2 cup of old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup of graham crackers, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Get out a 9 x 9 inch baking dish (8 x 8 inch works too).

Place the frozen cherries and cranberries in a medium saucepan.  Add the sugar, cornstarch, and almond extract.  Gradually bring to a boil, stirring as the mixture warms up, to combine the ingredients. When the mixture starts to boil, stir it continually for about a minute, as it starts to thicken and the fruit bursts.  Turn the heat down and simmer for a couple of minutes, tasting the filling and adding more sugar if desired.  (My family likes it with the 1 cup of sugar, so it’s sweet but with a hint of tartness.  If you are used to more sweetness, you might want to add a bit more sugar.) Let the filling cool a bit while you make the topping.

In a small bowl, combine the oats, graham cracker crumbs, and brown sugar.  Spoon the filling into the baking dish.  Make sure the cherries and cranberries are mixed up, so they can complement each other, and not be in their own corners of the baking dish. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the filling.  Dot the butter pieces on top of the filling, distributing them evenly.  Bake in your 350-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the topping is golden.  Serve warm or at room temperature. Serve with vanilla ice cream if desired. Enjoy!