Tag Archives: cookies

i8tonite with Salem’s Harbor Sweets Phyllis LeBlanc & Chocolate Sweet Sloops Cookies Recipe

i8tonite with Salem’s Harbor Sweets Phyllis LeBlanc & Chocolate Sweet Sloops Cookies RecipeCEO of Harbor Sweets Phyllis LeBlanc starts the conversation saying, “I started working with the company 39 years ago. There were five of us then and we were all candy-dippers.” Immediately, the statement brings to mind the hilarious “I Love Lucy” episode when the show’s namesake and her best friend Ethel wrap candy on a conveyor belt. That moment became  television history and a classic showcase much the way Harbor Sweets has aligned itself into the specialty chocolate world. Founded nearly 40 years ago under the ownership of Ben Strohecker, the candy factory has become world-renowned for making Sweet Sloops,  toffee dipped sweets with pecans, resembling a sailboat.

Ben Strohecker 1977. From i8tonite with Salem’s Harbor Sweets Phyllis LeBlanc & Chocolate Sweet Sloops Cookies Recipe
Ben Strohecker 1977

They’ve gone on to make a variety of unique confections, such as Salt & Ayre  and Dark Horse, cementing the Salem, Massachusetts-made treats as iconic as Tiffany’s blue box or Chanel’s logo. Ranked as one of the top women-owned business in the United States, under the guidance of Ms. LeBlanc, the staff has grown to nearly 100 people and a thriving food business.

At this year’s Fancy Food Show held in New York, Harbor Sweets unveiled their newest line, Gather. Says Ms. Le Blanc, “When I learned more about the plight of the honeybees and how important they are to our crops, our chocolates, and even our local economy, I started out on a mission to do what I could using Harbor Sweets…so we created Gather.” Gather is a flight of six unusual chocolates highlighted with the use of local wild honey. Partial sale proceeds will be given to the San Francisco-based non-profit Pollinator Partnership, whose work is carried out in North America via advocacy, education, and conservation of the bees and other pollinators.

i8tonite with Salem’s Harbor Sweets Phyllis LeBlanc & Chocolate Sweet Sloops Cookies Recipe

In the Harbor Sweets press release announcement, it quotes an alarming 2015 – 16 USDA Report stating that pesticides and parasites are seen as the foremost cause of a 44% drop in honeybee colonization in one year, making it the second highest annual loss reported in the past 10 years globally. Honeybee pollinators add more than $15 billion to America’s agricultural economy and are critical to the entire eco-system throughout the world. Ultimately, the true loss can’t be valued, since human beings thrive on our dependence of bees and pollinators like them such as bumblebees, hoverflies, butterflies, moths, and wasps.

“We are always looking for something that people can relate to and it doesn’t stay the same,” says LeBlanc. “Part of what we are about is gathering friends. As much as we are about chocolate, we gather our local products with love of family and friends. It’s what we are about.”

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
I don’t cook, my husband does! He is an excellent chef.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Half & half for coffee, ice cream, and wine.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
They eat slowly and appreciate the food

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
They are distracted by their cell phone.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?

Your favorite cookbook author?
Lora Brody.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
There are tools in the kitchen?!? A spoon for sampling ice cream.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Does dessert count? Chocolate!

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?

Favorite vegetable?

Chef you most admire?
Julia Child – she took her food seriously, but not herself.

Food you like the most to eat?
Ice cream/gelato

Food you dislike the most?
Wow, can’t think of any food I dislike…

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Ride horses

Whom do you most admire in food?
Anyone who is a good cook

Where is your favorite place to eat?
By the water

What is your favorite restaurant?
Seasons 52

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
No, and none

Harbor Sweets Chocolate Sweet Sloops Cookies Recipe

Somewhere between a cookie and a brownie, this chewy goodness is dotted with crunchy Sweet Sloops pieces and toasted pecans!

½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 ½ cup (packed) light brown sugar
4 large eggs
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon pure almond extract
1 jar Sweet Sloops Ice Cream Topping (1 cup)
1 cup lightly toasted pecans chopped

1. Place the flour, baking powder and salt in a small mixing bowl and stir to blend.
2. Place the chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler set over simmering water and cook, stirring occasionally, until melted and smooth, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool 15 minutes.
3. Place brown sugar and eggs in a large mixing bowl and, using an electric mixer, beat on medium high speed until thick and light in color, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium-low and beat in the melted chocolate mixture and vanilla and almond extracts. Stir in the flour mixture, followed by Sweet Sloops topping and nuts. Cover and chill the batter for at least an hour an up to 24 hours to firm up.
4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large rimmed baking pans with parchment paper.
5. Drop heaping 2 T mounds of batter on prepared sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake until edges have browned but centers are slightly soft, 13-15 minutes. Let cool slightly and transfer cookies to a wire rack.

Keep cookies in an airtight container, Will stay fresh 3-4 days.

Adapted from NEW ENGLAND OPEN HO– USE COOKBOOK by Sarah Leah Chase
– The End. Go Eat. –



i8tonite with Eleni’s New York Founder & Food Entrepreneur Eleni Gianopulos

i8tonite with Eleni's New York Founder & Food Entrepreneur Eleni GianopulosEleni Gianopulos began her career in the media world working at the venerable Time Inc., eventually moving into the editorial division of Life Magazine. Through a twist of fate, Eleni, who had a passion for baking, began a small catering business in her apartment. What began as a side business featuring Eleni’s mother’s famous oatmeal-raisin cookies quickly outgrew her home kitchen and evolved into a full-fledged cookie empire. Eleni is a business owner that is also committed to giving back to female entrepreneurs trying to start their companies today. Eleni is about to share some exciting news regarding her mission to help female entrepreneurs. Stay tuned!

i8tonite with Eleni's New York Founder & Food Entrepreneur Eleni Gianopulos
Language of Love cookies

Since 1997, Eleni’s New York has been a must-stop at Manhattan’s iconic Chelsea Market, later followed by her website, where irresistibly designed custom “Conversation Cookies TM” and other treats, including Color Me Cookies, await for fans located around the world. Today, Eleni’s custom cookie creations are a favorite of celebrities, luxury brands, Fortune 500 companies, and cookie lovers alike. Her cookie concierges design cookies around events, holidays, and popular trends. All of Eleni’s cookies are certified nut free. We love them.

i8tonite with Eleni's New York Founder & Food Entrepreneur Eleni Gianopulos
Eleni’s Day of the Dead cookies

Eleni and I had a lively chat about parenting, cookies, and growing and running a business. Eleni noted that it was challenging to be a mom in business, but it’s also rewarding and exciting for her kids to see that their parents have careers they love. She grew up watching her father, who owned his own company, going to work every day and loving it. Her kids are happy that their mom owns a bakery (lucky kids!), and Eleni said that she’s a better boss for having kids.

Eleni's New York butterfly cookies. i8tonite with Eleni's New York Founder & Food Entrepreneur Eleni Gianopulos
Eleni’s New York butterfly cookies

Eleni remarked that she feels fortunate and is strategic in finding employees that are in different phases of their lives – many of her employees have kids of all ages. It is this wide range of experience within the company that helps Eleni’s New York continue with their business expansion – a recent Valentine’s Day partnership with 650 Target stores in the Northeast (crisp chocolate chip, butterscotch, and pink sugar cookies!), a new grocery line that will be launched at the Fancy Foods Show this coming July, as well as more retail locations and an expansion of the very popular Color Me Line of cookies.

i8tonite with Eleni's New York Founder & Food Entrepreneur Eleni Gianopulos
Eleni’s New York Sea Breeze cookies

What I loved most, as a non-New Yorker, was talking about living in the city with Eleni.  She’s moved to keep close to her work – starting in Chelsea Market, when she first opened; then a move to be near her cookie plant in Long Island City; and recently a move back to the center of the city to be closer to all the action as they open locations in Manhattan this coming year. When talking about the local bakery (Maison Kaiser) that she heads to every morning with her King Charles Cavalier, Lovey Pie, to pick up croissants and breads for the kids every morning, her love of her neighborhood shone through – she mentioned stores, spaces, colors, and flavors. And while she hits the farmer’s market many times a week, it’s closed on Sundays – and is a perfect place for her young kids to ride their bikes.

i8tonite with Eleni's New York Founder & Food Entrepreneur Eleni GianopulosEleni and her team are surrounded by design inspiration, so look for new cookies inspired by this neighborhood – as well as museums, parks, something from one of the kids’ schoolbooks, etc. And yes, they all still sketch on the back of a napkin at times, to save their ideas. But Eleni’s cookies are also influenced by technology. An exciting development in cookie design at Eleni’s is a new process which allows them to put ink onto a cookie with no sugar film. This adds more and more layers and intricacy – you can see this in the upcoming Easter cookie line, inspired by Faberge designs.

It is this creativity, passion for her work, and inclusion of family that makes Eleni’s work shine.


Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking? Over 20 yearsi8tonite with Eleni's New York Founder & Food Entrepreneur Eleni Gianopulos

What is your favorite food to cook? Cookies, pies, cakes, and Greek specialty appetizers like dolmathes, spanakopita and baklava.

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Milk for my coffee, butter for kids’ toast, and Pellegrino

What do you cook at home? Mexican food. I love America’s Test Kitchen Favorite Mexican Recipes and test new recipes on my family often.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? Direct and to the point.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? This customer requested the most beautiful design, my team executed to perfection. The client received the order and complained that the frosting was off ¼”. From that point on, we insist on sample approval for custom work. And I just knew even if we remade the order this customer would never be satistfied, so I quickly accommodated the request and moved on. I have only seen something like this happen 2 times in 20 years, though.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? Tupperware

Beer, wine, or cocktail? Cocktail

Your favorite cookbook author? America’s Test Kitchen Series of Cook Books, I love how they start off every paragraph…we made this recipe 34 times and found that …

i8tonite with Eleni's New York Founder & Food Entrepreneur Eleni Gianopulos
Eleni’s Lemon Cupcakes

Your favorite kitchen tool? The plastic pastry bags I bring home from work, I use them for everything.

Your favorite ingredient? Lemon, I add it to everything.

Your least favorite ingredient? Orange, I don’t like orange in desserts nor entrees.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Dishes – my husband says when I cook at home I think I’m at work! I tend to make a big mess, and use every pot and pan in the house.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Greek, Mexican, Italian

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu? Chicken

Favorite vegetable? Broccoli

Chef you most admire? Thomas Keller

Food you like the most to eat? Indian

Food you dislike the most? Eggs, cottage cheese, odd scary meat.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? 0

Recipe: The Crispy Roast Chicken recipe from America’s Test Kitchen!

The Crispy Roast Chicken recipe from America’s Test Kitchen! From i8tonite with Eleni's New York Founder & Food Entrepreneur Eleni Gianopulos -
The Crispy Roast Chicken recipe from America’s Test Kitchen!

For best flavor, use a high-quality chicken, such as one from Bell & Evans. Do not brine the bird; it will prohibit the skin from becoming crisp. The sheet of foil between the roasting pan and V-rack will keep drippings from burning and smoking.

1 whole chicken (3 1/2 to 4 1/2 pounds), giblets removed and discarded
1 tablespoon kosher salt or 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper


1. Place chicken breast-side down on work surface. Following photos above, use tip of sharp knife to make four 1-inch incisions along back of chicken. Using fingers or handle of wooden spoon, carefully separate skin from thighs and breast. Using metal skewer, poke 15 to 20 holes in fat deposits on top of breast halves and thighs. Tuck wing tips underneath chicken.

2. Combine salt, baking powder, and pepper in small bowl. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and sprinkle all over with salt mixture. Rub in mixture with hands, coating entire surface evenly. Set chicken, breast-side up, in V-rack set on rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered, for 12 to 24 hours.

3. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Using paring knife, poke 20 holes about 1 1/2 inches apart in 16- by 12-inch piece of foil. Place foil loosely in large roasting pan. Flip chicken so breast side faces down, and set V-rack in roasting pan on top of foil. Roast chicken 25 minutes.

4. Remove roasting pan from oven. Using 2 large wads of paper towels, rotate chicken breast-side up. Continue to roast until instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of breast registers 135 degrees, 15 to 25 minutes.

5. Increase oven temperature to 500 degrees. Continue to roast until skin is golden brown, crisp, and instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of breast registers 160 degrees and 175 degrees in thickest part of thigh, 10 to 20 minutes.
6. Transfer chicken to cutting board and let rest, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Carve and serve immediately.

Recipe and photo: America’s Test Kitchen


– The End. Go Eat. –

The International or “Auntie Mame” of the Cookie World

Making holiday cookies is really not that complicated to understand or do. It might seem difficult because there might be a food processor or a stove but making cookies, a small nugget of sugary goodness, is so simple. So divinely simple…and fun. Simply simple.

I’ve been invited annually to a cookie exchange party for the past three years. The party, now in its fourth year, was the first time that I was able to go. To make up for the past three years, I made three different kinds of cookies because I couldn’t figure out which to bring. (Ultimately, I only brought two.)  I discovered one of the recipes from Real Simple Magazine which has quickly become one of my favorite publications when it comes to food. (I could do without the makeup tips though.)

The magazine recipe for Cornmeal, Fig and Thyme was delicious but the Mexican Wedding Cookies is truly one of my favorite for the holidays and everyday. Apparently it has many names around the globe such as Russian Tea Cakes, Italian Wedding Cakes, “biscochitos”  (Mexico), “polvornes” in Spain, Swedish teacakes (to be confused with the Russian), Moldy Mice, Pecan Sandies, Danish Almond Cookies, Finnish Butter Strips, Napoleon Hats, Melting Moments, Butter balls and…the hipster version, “Yeti Balls”. (Oh, the Iceman cometh…). All are made with the same method (flour, sugar, vanilla and butter) but with different shapes such as crescent, balls or strips…sometimes they use different nuts such as hazelnuts (filberts) or pecans in different European areas.

 You can research why it’s called the Mexican Wedding Cookie/Cake, Russian Doll Goes to Mall…whatever, but I’m calling it the “Auntie Mame”. Not only is it sugary and sweet like the Lucille Ball musical version (“We Need A Little Christmas“) of Mame, but it’s well-traveled and glamourous as if Rosalind Russell dusted it with white. It’s also smart, sort of like the casting of Angela Lansbury in the Broadway musical.


And as I said, it’s simple. Really, really simple…and very holiday-like.

Let’s make these puppies: “Auntie Mame”

1 cup (2 sticks) of softened (room temperature) unsalted butter

3 cups sifted powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups flour

1 cup very finely chopped toasted nuts (Note: Toast nuts at a low temp of 325 for about 20 minutes or until fragrant on a cookie sheet. Then place in a food processor to a mince.)

1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees.

2. Combine the butter, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, salt and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until creamy. Beat in the flour and nuts. Chill the dough 30 to 60 minutes.

3. Shape the dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter and try to make them them the same size. You want them to cook evenly.  Arrange them on parchment paper, squishing them down to flatten the bottoms so they don’t roll around, about an inch apart. Bake on the center rack of the oven until the cookies are set and seem to be a  golden. Roughly 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through cooking

4. Transfer the cookies to a rack or a plate. Then using the sifter, immediately dust heavily with about a cup of the powdered sugar. Once they cool, place the remaining confectioners sugar into a bowl and roll the suckers coating them entirely. Sometimes, before serving, I like to sift some sugar on top to make it look pretty.

No Cook Thanksgiving But If I Were…..

I stopped cooking Thanksgiving meals about 5 years ago. I know, I know. It’s one of the big days that all caliber of cooks want to shine showcasing their adeptness in the kitchen, commercial or home. If you know anything about me, cooking is one my favorite of the things. Therefore, you would think that I would be all over this but I’m not. Not anymore. I stopped cooking for the holiday when I was ending a decade plus relationship that entailed my work and my personal life. I also moved from San Francisco, where I lived for 3 years, back to Los Angeles at the same time. (Hey, no one ever said that I liked to do it easy). That first Thanksgiving, as a single man, turned out to be a horrible experience as I was invited to eat at one of my ex’s friend with their 30 plus dinner guests. My only excuse for going was I that I was still delirious from the break-up.

With each progressive year, I feel less and less like big festivities. This year, I think it’s just Nick, Holly, JJ and my mother. I don’t really think of the holiday as exceptional anymore but I celebrate it quietly with people who love me and I, them.

At the heart of it all, Thanksgiving, Christmas, my birthday and New Year’s Eve clustered together in a 6 week period, is that I really just want to spend quality time with the people whom I cherish. I don’t want to wrapped up in a kitchen anymore for the entire day. Let someone else shine and enjoy learning about cooking. (To brine or not to brine? Fried or not to fry? Oysters in the stuffing or sausage?) I’ve made a lot of turkeys, roasts and hams in my life and I’m now willing to give up the “big star” turn to others. Cooking quietly, simple easy meals on a daily basis.

However, if I were to cook for a dinner of 8 to 10 (LOL), this is what I would make and why:

Butternut Squash Soup: Simplicity. Ease and elegance. Besides, Butternut Squash Soup screams fall!

Roasted Turkey Stuffed with Prunes: Mario Batali’s way of cooking a large bird is ingenious. Have your butcher remove the bones and use them for stock and gravy. Beautiful. Easy. Delicious and quick.

Homemade Bread: There is nothing in the world like homemade bread. Nothing. It can be made two or three days in advance and frozen. Just one of the most beautiful things ever. No Knead Bread is revelatory.

IMG_20140823_150336 (2)

Salad: If I were making the dinner, the recipe for this Kale, Fennel and Apple Salad would be it. And I would leave it at this. It feels very European this meal. A protein. Bread. Salad. Soup.

This would be the meal. You don’t have to do too many things. If you want to throw in a traditional dish of roasted potatoes or sweet potatoes, go for it.

Oh, but don’t forget for dessert. HA! I don’t make a lot sweet things and there are reasons for it. I don’t want it around because I will eat it…ALL…but if I find something sweet and light.

Sparkling water and flat. Always.

White Wine: Duckhorn or Cade Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley. Both are perfect wines for cocktails and for the first course. Lovely and herbaceous.

Red Wine: Oregon’s Sokol Blosser Pinot is lovely for this dinner. Light, bodied, earthy red with hints of cherry.

Beer: Brouwerij West “Saison”. Not to hoppy, excellent flavor, Belgian-style beer. Craft beer made in Los Angeles.

Happy Turkey Day. Enjoy your family, friends and food!