Archive for April, 2011

April 30, 2011

Gourmet: I try, but Popcorn: apparently not!

Everyone is OK….

Smoke, School evacuation, cancelled fire calls, no snack – but everyone is ok!!

Lets set the scene… I finished my lunch but wanted a snack to reached into my drawer to get a snack-sized popcorn. Headed to the microwave & started it up.

Now everyone knows that when you make popcorn you need to hang out by the microwave to listen to the pops: so that is what I was doing. There was not even 1-second between pops when I saw smoke pouring out of the microwave. First reaction is to stop the microwave but the “open” button was the first one I hit (and then turned it off and quickly shut the door). We tried to contain the smoke and then were in the process of moving the whole smoke-box to a window to air out. There just so happened to be a smoke detector right above the microwave (which I guess is a good spot!)

So within moments the school’s Fire Alarm is going off and our school evacuates (luckily it is in the upper 60s and partly cloudy). I immedietly find our principal to let him know to cancel the Fire Department & that I just burnt popcorn. Everyone safely evacuates the building and our “drill” went exactly as planned. But now, I just get to hang my head in shame (and never live this down) because of my popcorn accident (guess I’ll have to buy some pre-popped stuff – yech).

Live & Learn… never too old to learn to make popcorn (although I still blame the microwave!)

April 25, 2011

Halvah

“Hal-e-vah”OR “hawl-vah” … now that you know how to say it – you can try to enjoy it! But, how to spell it!? Halvah, Halva, Halava – no one ever said I was good at spelling (or that spelling makes sense, so lets just skip that part and enjoy eating)!!

sliced halvah

I have loved Halvah since I was a little kid (its a sweet from Isreal, Turkey, Greece, India… you know, that area of the world. If you are interested in learning more about it: check out the Wikipedia article, even though it isn’t the most accurate source – come good background info, or visit Dictionary.com for quick info). The flavor tastes a lot like the tahini that you use, so make sure you are using one that you like (and that you like that flavor). I really thought that this was going to be a lot harder to make than it was – but besides making sure you have these ingredients (which I did) it is really pretty easy!

halvah - layers of flavor

GUESS WHAT – this is [pretty] HEALTHY [in my opinion at least]… made with just cashews, sesame paste, & agave. Yes, there are about 15 grams of fat & 175 calories if you base this on 10 servings – but all of those are natural fats! So it really isn’t that bad of a tasty sweet (rich) treat for you. All of the fats or calories in this are the “good” kind, just don’t eat the whole thing at once!!

Chocolate-Swirl Halvah 

From Diet Dessert n Dogs who adapted it from the book: Sweet Freedom: Desserts You’ll Love without Wheat, Eggs, Dairy or Refined Sugar

Halvah Base

  • 1/2 cup cashews [lightly toasted]
  • 3/4 cup sesame tahini
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds [lightly toasted]
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • pinch sea salt
  • 3 Tbsp [yacon syrup or] agave nectar
  • [10-20 drops plain, vanilla or chocolate stevia liquid, to your taste – I skipped]

Chocolate Swirl

  • 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 Tbsp [vegetable glycerin or] agave nectar
  • [10-20 drops plain or vanilla stevia liquid, to your taste – still skipped]

Base: In the bowl of a food processor process the cashews until they resemble a coarse cornmeal, no pieces left bigger than a sesame seed. Add remaining (base) ingredients and blend until the mixture comes together in a ball (scraping the sides down once helped). It should have the consistency of a thick dough (do not add liquid; you want it fairly dry, just moist enough to hold together).  Break up the ball with your fingers or spatula and crumble it evenly around the processor bowl.  Set aside.

Chocolate Swirl: Prepare to melt your chocolate in a double boiler (small pot of a little water with a bowl on top to put your chocolate in the top bowl).  Stir constantly until the chocolate melts, a couple of minutes.  Remove the bowl from the pot and then stir in the [glycerin or] agave [and stevia].  The mixture should remain smooth and pourable.

Finish: Drizzle the chocolate mixture directly over the halvah in the processor bowl.  Don’t worry if it’s not even around the whole mixture.  Pulse once or twice ONLY to just barely incorporate the chocolate in ribbons through the mixture (any more than this and you will end up with chocolate halvah).  You want the chocolate to be distributed between the halvah, but not blended into it.

Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap on your counter and turn the mixture onto it.  Folding the plastic over the halvah mixture, press the mixture into place to form a compact rectangle (make sure its not too thick, but is compact).  Cover with plastic and refrigerate until firm, at least overnight.  Once firm, cut into small squares for serving.  Store, covered, in the refrigerator up to one week.  Makes 20-30 small squares.

April 23, 2011

Pickled [Deviled] Eggs

A few years ago I made Pickled Beets and my parents told me that they hated pickled beets, but since through the years I was forced to try lots of things that I said I didn’t like – I told them they had to try it. Guess What… they liked it! I figured since at Passover (or Easter!!) we always have hard-boiled eggs and my whole family now likes pickled beets, why not combine the two!?

Pickled Deviled Eggs

I grew up working at Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm (and am still very involved as a Board Member, group leader, newletter editor, etc) where I was first introduced to pickled eggs (and pickled beets for that matter) and have not had them for a while. The method (especially when making these from canned beets, which actually made my dad ask if I had used fresh!) is really easy. Just be warned that when eggs get pickled their texture does change a bit, but they taste awesome and are a beautiful addition to any table!

Pickled (and Deviled) Eggs

feel free to just Pickle these eggs OR pickle and then create your family’s favorite deviled filling, this version is from Eye Candy.

  • 6 eggs
  • about 3 cups beets [fresh: blanched/peeled/sliced OR 2 cans sliced) with their juice
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar (or mix of cider and white)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • To Devil: 4 Tbs. mayonnaise, 4 tsp. mustard, your favorite mix-ins

Make hard-boiled eggs and peel them. (My method is: cold water and eggs on the stove until a rolling boil. Then turn off the heat & let sit in the hot water with the lid on for 12 minutes. Rinse in cold water and let sit in cold water until you are ready to use them or refrigerate)

Combine beets, vinegar and sugar. For best results: bring to a boil and stir until the sugar dissolves. Let it cool down for a bit, but leave warm (I often skip the boiling – especially. if using canned beets like I did this time) Fill a container that’s large enough with the eggs AND the liquid. Seal and store in the refrigerator.

After about 2 days, the eggs will be ready. Take them out and rinse them shortly with cold water. Enjoy here or devil them 🙂

To pickle: Slice the eggs lengthwise and carefully remove the egg yolks. Mash the egg yolks with a fork and mix them with mayonnaise and mustard. Fill the egg yolks into the egg halves with a piping bag. Done!

Enjoy these beautiful red eggs here on my page, or if you want a dose color in the form of beautiful, awesome, so ridiculously coolEaster Colored” Deviled Eggs, check out Food Jimoto… you could even make colored deviled eggs to go along with whatever holiday you are making it for
April 22, 2011

Chocolate Covered Caramel Matzo

Every year since I can remember, Chocolate Covered Matzo graced our Passover table. We always bought it but in recent years 1/2 of the pieces in the package were no longer full pieces of matzo but were broken into small pieces. Having smaller pieces is perfect when it is homemade, but when I buy it and they advertise full sheets – I want full sheets!

A few years ago, (pre-food blog life) I made chocolate covered matzo for my family’s sedar and since it was so easy we have decided it is even better than buying it. My dad wishes I made one without any homemade caramel on it, so maybe next year I will try dipping some so there is more chocolate than matzo to make dad happy.

By the end of Passover most of us are sick and tired of eating matzo – but when you cover it in chocolate it refreshes your tastebuds and makes sure that you can’t get enough of it!

matzo + caramel + matzo = yum

Chocolate Covered (Caramel) Matzo

(as made by Zoe Bakes – a family favorite that I have made for years)

  • 4 – 6 unsalted matzo (whatever fits in your pan)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter [original recipe called for double this, I wanted less]
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar [original recipe called for double this, I wanted less]
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Line a baking sheet with foil. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a sauce pot cook the butter and sugar over medium high heat for about 3 to 5 minutes, whisking constantly. The caramel may melt and be transparent or it may look more crystallized – don’t worry. Spread it evenly over the matzo. Bake for about 15 minutes (rotated and check 1/2-way through).

Remove from oven and add the chocolate. Let the chocolate sit for 5 minutes and then spread evenly over the matzohs. Allow to cool to room temperature (or put in the fridge to cool). Break into strips or bite sized pieces.

Happy Passover … or anytime you have extra matzo that you aren’t sure what to do with it!

April 18, 2011

Chocolate Cake Cheesecake

ITS RICH’S BIRTHDAY!

Chocolate Cheesecake Cake - layers in motion

The is just one problem with loving to cook, starting a food blog, improving your cooking skills, and dating someone who loves to eat my cooking. That is: when I offer the world for his birthday, he decided to take it and challenge me to get an awesome birthday cake this year. I love a challenge, so was ready to try making Chocolate Cake Cheesecake (you know kinda like the Cheesecake Factory’s classic dessert) when that was what Rich requested. After some Foodgawker searching I found Erin’s Food Files version that she recently made and decided I was up for this birthday challenge. Since last weekend I made a chocolate-peanut butter cake (and Rich didn’t want a peanut butter frosting) I decided to search for a different frosting (Rich requested a fudge-like chocolate frosting) and decided to roughly base my frosting on Beantown Baker’s Chocolate Frosting.

pre-frosted cake or oversized Oreo!?

cake plate hand-painted by my wonderfully talented Aunt Pat

Be sure to set aside some time (cheesecake the day before) to make this cake – but once all of your parts are ready it is a fast assembly! The cheesecake layer is nice and smooth not a super solid cheesecake so it fits perfectly with the soft layers of the cake. Feel free to decorate however you want (I went with sprinkles since it was a birthday!) and just enjoy this cake for a special occasion [or whatever].

Happy Birthday Rich

RECIPE

Recipes adapted from Erin’s Food Files & Beantown Baker

CHEESECAKE:

  • 1 1/4 pounds bar cream cheese (20 oz), room temperature
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Boil a pot of water. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese on medium until fluffy, scraping down side of bowl. Gradually add sugar, beating until fluffy. Beat in vanilla extract and salt. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down side of bowl after each addition. Beat in sour cream.

Cut parchment paper in a circle and line the bottom of the cheesecake pan. Wrap bottom half of pan in foil. Pour in filling; place in a roasting pan. Pour in boiling water to come halfway up side of springform. Bake until just set in center, about 45 minutes. Remove pan from water; let cool 20 minutes. Run a paring knife around edge; let cool completely. Cover; chill overnight, then on day 2 take out of the springform (leaving bottom on) and wrap in plastic wrap and freeze.

CAKE:

  • Butter, for greasing the pans
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour [plus more for pans]
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups good cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 extra-large or large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee OR Guinness warmed up (since Rich loves our Guinness cake but it not a coffee drinker)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 2 (9-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

FROSTING:

  • 8 Tbsp butter (1 stick)
  • 4 oz cream cheese (1/2 a block)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup milk (or Baileys) – I did a 50/50 mix & used Vanilla Almond Milk

Cream butter and cream cheese and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture. Slowly add milk until frosting reaches desired consistency, then beat another 5 minutes until creamy.

ASSEMBLY
Place first layer of cake on cake stand. If desired, frost with a little frosting. Remove cheesecake from freezer, unwrap, and remove from metal bottom of the pan, then be sure to peel off parchment paper. Place cheesecake layer on top of the cake. If the cheesecake is wider than the cake & its necessary to to trim it, wait approximately 10 minutes for the cheesecake to soften, then trim it with a knife. Place top layer of cake on top of the cheesecake, and coat with a layer of frosting (crumb coat). Refrigerate approximately 30 minutes, then frost the remaining frosting. Top with shaved chocolate, chocolate chips, or decoration of your choosing. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

... make a wish

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