Monthly Archives: January 2014

Sweet Visitors!

Over the weekend, my husband’s cousin and his wife came to spend the weekend (I am just going to refer to them as my cousins for the remainder of this post, because they are now)! Whenever I have anyone coming over, I always like to have a few desserts around, you know, just in case! This might be more for my benefit than anyone else’s, but it sure is a good excuse! 

There’s a recipe idea I’ve had for a while now but hadn’t made yet…this was the perfect occasion to finally pull that trigger! I love S’mores and have been thinking of a way to make it into a pie. I have done a cake in the past (and thought it was quite delicious) but wanted to try something different. My idea was to make a basic graham cracker crumb crust, a brownie filling and marshmallow top. It turned out quite tasty, but next time, I think I’ll make a larger batch of brownies as the pie came kind of thin looking…although more fudgy brownies would certainly make this pie uber rich…but that’s never been a complaint of mine!

I also wanted to have something around that you can just grab one or two of, as opposed to having to go through all of the effort of cutting something. I’ve made dough balls in the past, but I modified my old recipe and cooking time and these turned out the best so far! I literally ate almost an entire batch the night before our cousin’s got in and had to make more…oops.

Brownie S’more Pie:

Crust:

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 15 whole crackers if doing yourself)
  • 8 T butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup sugar

Brownie (The Baked Brownie):

  • 10 T butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder, heaping
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour

15 large Marshmallows cut in half

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix melted butter, graham cracker crumbs and sugar together. Press into the bottom and up the sides of an 8 or 9 inch round pan. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter, sugar and cocoa together until butter is completely melted and everything is incorporated. It might be a little grainy, but that is OK. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Meanwhile, beat eggs and vanilla together until creamy. Add a few tablespoons of the cocoa mixture to the egg mixture, beating to temper the eggs. Add the rest of the cocoa mixture and then the flour, beating just until combined…don’t over-mix. Pour into the crust

Bake for 23 minutes, then top with marshmallow halves, cut side down and bake another 3 or so minutes, just until melted. I used a propane torch to blacken the tops of the marshmallows a bit, but you could also just turn the broiler on for a minute or so on high (just be careful, they can go from white to super black in 3 seconds so watch them carefully)!

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Dough Balls (aka, little bites of heaven):

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 t vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Sift together flour and baking powder, set aside. Cream together butter and sugars until pale and fluffy. Add egg then vanilla. Slowly add in flour, beating just until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Scoop into balls (I used an ice cream scooper but you can use whatever size you like). Place onto greased or silpat lined baking sheet. You do not need to leave much room between them because they do not flatten nor grow much. Bake for 10 minutes…they will look a little underdone but they are done. Trust me. The biggest mistake you can make with these (and trust me, I’ve done it several times now) is to over bake them! You want them to be doughy, soft and cookie dough-like on the inside and more like a cookie on the outside.

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Sweet Treats!

I know I said I was going to be better about posting pics, but unfortunately that does not start today! I was going to wait to post something until I had pictures but then decided, why wait? Just post something with pictures next time! 

You always hear how tastes change as you get older and boy is that ever true! I used to hate peppermint, everything about it, the smell of peppermint used to make me nauseous! This past winter, around Christmas though, I randomly decided to taste my husband’s peppermint mocha he ordered since the smell didn’t upset me! To my complete surprise, it was delicious. I have now consumed over 50 peppermint mochas and it’s only been about a month…once I like something, I go all out! Since I was drinking so many (sometimes 2 a day, seriously), I decided to make my own at home to save some money. I didn’t make any fancy syrup or anything even remotely complicated, although I certainly will soon…I just used a really good dark chocolate, chopped up, and put in in the glass with the milk before steaming. The steam melts the chocolate and creates a rich, creamy cocoa which I then added peppermint extract and espresso to! Another way I have done it is to add peppermint chips (found all over around Christmas time, not so much anymore though) in with the chocolate chunks and steam them all together. I prefer this way however, as I said, it might be hard to find peppermint chips now that Christmas is over…I knew I should have stocked up!

Another peppermint item that seems to have come up a lot this past year was peppermint bark. My mother-in-law loves it and my sister-in-law makes the best one…so I got her recipe and have made at least 10 batches so far, a few of those strictly for me to ‘taste-test!’ So if you want the best peppermint bark, and you should always want only the best, here’s her super simple, yet delicious recipe:

Peppermint Bark:

  • 6 ounces dark chocolate (good dark chocolate is the key here, you want a really good brand)
  • 2 teaspoons oil or shortening (I used shortening but either works…just gives it a nice shine as opposed to a dullness dry chocolate tends to take on)
  • 6 ounces white chocolate (same rule, good quality makes all the difference)
  • 2 teaspoons oil or shortening
  • 3/4 – 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • crushed candy canes

Line an 8X8 pan with wax or parchment paper. Melt the dark chocolate with the shortening or oil in a double boiler over simmering water, stirring occasionally until melted and completely smooth. Pour the chocolate into the 8X8 pan, banging pan on counter top to even out the chocolate layer. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes so the chocolate sets and hardens. 

After 30 minutes, melt the white chocolate and shortening or oil in a a double boiler over simmering water, stirring occasionally until melted and completely smooth. Remove the white chocolate from the heat and stir in the peppermint extract. Let cool a few minutes while you get the hardened chocolate out of the refrigerator. Pour the white chocolate/peppermint over the dark chocolate. Smooth it out using an offset spatula, reaching every corner. Bang pan on counter top again to even everything out. Sprinkle with crushed candy canes and refrigerate until set/hardened.

 

I usually keep the bark in the fridge until I want a piece or am bringing it somewhere so it stays hard. You can leave it out, it will just get a little soft from the oil/shortening…delicious either way, personal preference!

Hello 2014!

It has been a crazy couple of weeks for us but they were some of the best times of 2013! It started on December 19th when my husband took me to New York for my birthday…best birthday so far! NY was amazing, as expected, and we had two of the best meals we’ve had in a really long time…highly recommend Telepan and/or Scalini Fredelli if you are ever there! From NY we headed straight to Michigan for Christmas, finally reunited with our puppy, then headed back to Illinois for a second Christmas spent at my parents! Finally returned home to spend a night in our own bed for once, only to wake up early, head to work Monday the 30th, then back to Michigan straight from work for New Years Eve and the Winter Classic hockey game in Ann Arbor! We drove straight to work Thursday morning and finally returned home for good that evening! Whew, I’m exhausted just writing all that but it was all well worth it and I wouldn’t change a thing if we could do it all over again!

 

The first thing we did when we got home was get right back in the kitchen! We whipped up an amazing homemade spinach and porcini stuffed ravioli with truffle cream sauce and lamb chops for dinner Friday night! Dessert was a dark chocolate cake with salted caramel frosting, pure decadence! Breakfast the next morning consisted of a shaved Brussels sprout and potato hash topped with poached eggs, divine. Cooking and baking was our way of relaxing and enjoying being home!

 

Homemade Spinach and Porcini Ravioli:

Dough:

2 cups flour

2  whole eggs and 1 yolk

1 T olive oil

1 t salt

 

Filling:

1 package porcini mushrooms, chopped

1 small onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 T olive oil

1 T butter

2 cups spinach, roughly chopped

1 container ricotta

1/3 – 1/2 cup parmesan

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 t truffle oil

Sauce:

1/3 cup reserved mushroom mixture

1 T olive oil

1 T butter

2 T flour

1 pint cream

1/3 cup parmesan

1 t truffle salt

Pepper to taste

1-2 truffle oil

 

For the dough, mound the flour and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs,.yolk, salt and olive oil, gently beat with a fork, gradually incorporating more flour from outside the well as you go. When dough comes roughly together, start kneading with your hands until incorporated and no longer sticky. Knead for 7 – 10 minutes. Wrap in plastic wrap and let sit 20 minutes. Meanwhile make the filling. Heat the oil and butter in large saucepan. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and saute another 2 minutes until fragrant. Add in spinach, cooking another minute or two until wilted. Keep about 1/3 cup of this mixture in the pan and mix the rest in a large bowl with ricotta, parmesan, salt, pepper and truffle oil. Set aside. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter to the reserved mixture. When butter melts, add 2 tablespoons flour and let cook for 2 minutes or so. Begin adding cream slowly, whisking the entire time until smooth. Let boil, then simmer, add in parmesan and simmer until desired thickness. Add in truffle salt, pepper and oil.

After 20 minutes, heat a large pot of heavily salted water to boiling and unwrap dough and cut into 4 equal sections. I used my kitchenaid mixer attachment and rolled the dough out to a 5. If you don’t have one, roll out each section as thin as you can with a rolling pin. I also used my ravioli maker attachment to make the ravioli, following the instructions in the manual. If you don’t have one, place teaspoons of filling an inch apart on one rolled out sheet of dough. Top with a second sheet, seal edges and cut out squares or circles, sealing edges as you go (or you can use a ravioli cutter/stamp if you have one of those). Once all are cut, place in boiling water for 3-4 minutes or until they begin to float. Drain and add to truffle sauce, tossing to coat. Top with more parmesan cheese and dig in!

 

Dark  Chocolate Cake (adapted from Ina Garten):

1 3/4 cup flour, sifted

1 1/2 cups sugar

3/4 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder

2 t baking soda

1 t baking powder

1 t salt

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup oil

2 eggs

1 t vanilla

1 cup fresh coffee

Preheat oven to 350. Combine dry ingredients in large bowl and mix well. In a other bowl,combine buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla. Add tge wet to the dry until combined. Slowly add in coffee, batter will be thin. Pour into two greased 8-inch cake pans. Bake 30 minutes.

 

Salted Caramel Frosting:

1 cup sugar

4 T water

2 T light corn syrup

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 T butter

3/4 t salt

Then: 2 sticks softened butter, 3 cups powdered sugar and 1 cup salted caramel

Combine sugar, water and corn syrup in saucepan over medium heat. Heat until sugar dissolves, stirring with a woodenspoon. Once dissolved, turn heat up to medium high and let boil without stirring. Cook until mixture turns a deep amber color, remove from heat and add in heavy cream, butter and salt. Careful, mixture will bubble up and is very hot. Mix until butter melts and cream is incorporated, pour into bowl and set aside to cool and thicken. Meanwhile, whip butter until creamy, add in powdered sugar and whip until fluffy. Add in caramel, whipping until fluffy and incorporated. Frost cake any way you’d like, sprinkling top with more coarse salt! (I cut each 8-inch round in half so I had a 4 layer cake and drizzled the frosted top with a dark chocolate ganache, letting it drip down the sides and didn’t frost the sides of the cake at all, just between the cake layers).

 

Hash;

1 very large or 2 medium potatoes, diced

Diced pancetta (I use Trader Joes pre-packaged diced)

10-15 brussels sprouts, shaved

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

4 eggs

1 t vinegar

 

Boil potatoes until softened, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat pancetta in olive oil in a large saucepan until crispy. Add onion and brussels sprouts. Cook until softened, add in softened potatoes and garlic. Season to taste. Cook until potatoes are browned. Meanwhile, bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan. Add in vinegar and use spatula to swirl water, creating a pseudo whirlpool effect. Crack eggs into individual dishes and gently slide into swirling water. Cook about 3 minutes, they should still be jiggly! Scoop hash into bowls, spoon eggs out of water using a slotted spoon and place atop hash. Crack eggs and use yolk as sauce for hash. Poaching eggs is now our favorite way to eat eggs, we’re obsessed…and it’s all thanks to Locanda Verde in NY!

It’s good to be home!

P.S. New Years resolution is to be better at taking pictures to post!