Blushing Snow Peaks dipped in Dark Chocolate

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This is going to be a fast post for my cousin, Debbie George out in California.  I snagged this recipe off of the Food TV website and added my own blushing sugar art to the end.

You’ll see by Tyler’s recipe his snow peaks look more real but mine look like they might be in a Dr. Seuss book; so really whose are better, huh?

Ingredients

  • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons superfine granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups dark chocolate chips
  • Sugar Luster Dust

Directions

Watch how to make this recipe on Tyler Florence’s Food TV page.

Special equipment: Piping bag, medium size round tip

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites on medium speed with the whisk attachment until the whites become foamy. Add the cream of tartar and turn up the speed to medium, beating until just fluffy. Add the sugar gradually, while whisking, so it incorporates into the whites slowly without collapsing them. Once all the sugar has been added, add the vanilla and increase the speed to high, whisking until the meringue is firm and glossy, 5 to 7 minutes.

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Place the meringue into a piping bag with a medium-size round tip attached. Pipe 48 bite-size tear-drop-shaped meringues onto the sheets and place in the oven. Bake for 1 hour undisturbed, and then turn off the heat and leave in the oven overnight to really dry out.

Melt the chocolate over a double-boiler or in the microwave on medium power for 30 seconds. Holding each meringue by the peak, dip the bases in chocolate so the bottom half of the meringue is coated. Let any excess chocolate drip off before placing on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Allow to set at room temperature; do not put in the fridge. Once set, store in an airtight container. – This is where I used the sugar art to the tops as well as to the chocolate edges.

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It was a lot of fun making these and even more fun eating.  They are pretty sweet, so I added a smidge of sea salt to my chocolate to balance out that sugary merengue.

 

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Mommy’s Juicy Chicken Recipe

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This dish is totally delicious and juicy, just like it’s name.  The secret is in the basting.   Gigi used to say, “Yeah, its mommy’s juicy chicken for dinner!” and that’s how it got it’s name.  Back then I took the whole chicken and cut it into parts and that added an additional hour to my work.  Now my kids are big enough to eat half a chicken each, so no need to do all that carving of raw chicken – unless I’m catering for a friend’s kid birthday party, then it tends to look more like this:

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Ingredients:

    • 1 tablespoon each of fresh rosemary, sage, thyme and basil, chopped
    • juice of two lemons (save the skins for the cavity of the chicken)
    • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • half a stick of butter cut into tablespoons
    • 1 large clove of garlic or 3 small cloves
    • ½ teaspoon turmeric
    • ½ teaspoon paprika
    • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
    • sea salt and black crushed pepper
    • ½ yellow onion
    • 1 celery stalk cut into quarters

Directions:

  1. Salt and pepper chicken and cover in the refrigerator for about an hour while mixing marinade.
  2. Mix all herbs and spices with olive oil, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of butter in glass bowl or measuring cup. Let melt to room temperature or melt in the microwave a few seconds.  Let stand.
  3. Roast garlic in a wrap of tin foil at 400 in the oven with a dash of olive oil. Add to the olive oil, herb mixture and smash.  Take chicken out of the refrigerator and pour marinade over chicken.
  4. Take the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and insert under the skin of the chicken breast.
  5. Take onion, celery and the lemon halves and stuff inside the cavity of the chicken.
  6. Cover in plastic and return to fridge for at least an hour or overnight.

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High heat method (this creates a crispy, darker skin):

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) and cook whole (thawed) chicken for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and roast for 20 minutes per pound.  Today’s chicken is 7 pounds!

Here are some little personal preferences I do:

  1. I usually cover my chicken with aluminum foil and baste every 20-30 minutes for extra juicy chicken but then you’re doing a dance between crispy and not crispy enough skin.
  2. If you cover your chicken during cooking, remove foil for the last hour (at least) and turn the broiler on at the end and cook for about 3-5 minutes, keeping a careful eye on it.  Also, you can never baste too much, in my opinion.

Other tips for my girls I snagged from the All Recipe’s website Roast Chicken Tips:

How to Tell When Your Chicken Is Done

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Regardless of the method used, a whole chicken is ready when a meat thermometer inserted into the inner thigh (close to but not touching the thigh bone) reads at least 165 degrees F (74 degrees C).

  • The temperature of the meat will continue to rise slightly when you pull it out of the oven (this is called “carryover cooking”), so if the thermometer shows a few degrees below the target, give it a few minutes–the internal temperature might still rise to at least 165 degrees F (74 degrees C).
  • When you remove the chicken from the oven, cover it loosely with a doubled sheet of aluminum foil, and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing. This redistributes the juices and results in moister chicken.

Now that my chicken is done, I’m going to head out to the airport and pick that little girl in an adolescence body up from the airport.  She’s home for the holidays after a stressful two weeks of finals at BU!  I hope she still loves “Mommy’s Juicy Chicken!”

Lemon & Brown Sugar Baby Bread Pudding

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One of my favorite bread pudding recipes has to be the one I created for my daughter Emma’s kindergarten class’ recipe book and bake sale.  While the title says lemon and brown sugar, so much more goes into this delicious warm and cozy treat.  It makes a perfect dessert with coffee and a generous dollop of whipped cream this Chanukah.

Here is the original recipe but today I am out of coconut flakes, blueberries and white chocolate so I’m doing a little creative substitution with dark chocolate, toffee bits, a teaspoon of cinnamon and cocoa powder.  I also cut the recipe in half and used a Greek Easter loaf (Tsoureki) I had in the freezer for just such an occasion of craving!  I’ll put the alternate recipe underneath the images and post.

So we’ll see if its as good as the first one!

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf Challah bread, cut into 2-inch dice
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, loosely packed
  • 1 cup coconut flakes
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 2 lemons, zested
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Whipped cream, for garnish
  • 1/2 cup blueberries, for garnish
  • Powdered sugar, for garnish
  • Coconut flakes, for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon of butter for greasing the casserole.

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Put bread cubes into large bowl. Mix eggs, cream, brown sugar, zest, coconut, white chocolate chips and vanilla together; pour over bread. Mix well and let sit for a minimum of 15 minutes. Butter a casserole dish and pour the mixture into the casserole. Put into the top half of the oven until the center is slightly firm to the touch, about 30 – 40 minutes. Remove and serve warm, topped with whipped cream, blueberries, and powdered sugar.

Here’s a shot of it just before putting it in the oven.  I’m not sure if you can see that the chocolate chips are mixed into the mixture, whereas I just sprinkled the toffee bits on top.

Lemon & Brown Sugar Baby Bread Pudding

Setting in the oven

So, the pudding has been in the oven for about 15 minutes and I went to the office to check on something.  I was nearly knocked over by the fragrance that had escaped my kitchen and made its way down the hall.  That combination of butter, chocolate, cinnamon and lemon is so satisfying.  I can’t wait to see how this one comes out!

Turns out I cooked this one for 35 minutes exactly and here it is!

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I took my first bite and it did not disappoint.  It may even be my new favorite.  I didn’t bother whipping up any cream.  Its still morning for goodness sake!

I’m not the only one who wanted in on the action.  Our new family member, Graham, tried to sneak a taste too!  No chocolate for doggies, but he did get a corner of the bread and was simply lick-a-licously satisfied!

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Alternate Recipe (halved)

  • 1/2 loaf Tsoureki bread, cut into 2-inch dice
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, loosely packed
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • Zest of 1 lemon (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup Hershey’s milk chocolate-toffee bits
  • 1 tablespoon of butter for greasing the casserole.

A Savory Twist on a classic Scottish shortbread with white cheddar and rosemary.

These little shortbreads were great with all the appetizers at our host’s Thanksgiving feast this year.  Although I may have cooked them a little too long, our host and her guests gobbled them up along side a mix of spicy nuts, cheeses, olives and pigs in a blanket (a shameless request of someone whose name shall go unmentioned).

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary chopped

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add cheddar cheese and rosemary and continue to cream. Add 2 1/2 cups flour; mix well. Turn dough onto a floured surface; knead for 5 minutes, adding enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.
  2. Roll to 1/2-in. thickness. (I place my dough between two long sheets of Saran Wrap and Roll that way therefore I don’t need the extra flour to keep it from sticking). Cut into circular shapes. Place 1 in. apart on un-greased baking sheets. Prick with toothpick. Bake until cookies are lightly browned, 20-25 minutes. Cool.  Yield: about 2 dozen.

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Post-Holiday Cooking: Here’s a Quick & Easy Sausage & Egg Pie Recipe

wp-1484173950945.jpgFrom stuffing, basting, patting, pricking, roasting and toasting, most of us foodies who refer to the holiday season as the “Olympics of Family Cooking,” have taken a deep sigh of gratitude for the love and joy that was shared amongst our family and friends.

All the gifts have been opened, clothes tried on (and modeled on the living room runway) and Google Home was streaming music at our demand when I noticed that I was starving! But, I was also tired and didn’t have the energy to create breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  But clearly, we all needed to eat.

So, here is a quick go-to recipe I like to use that comes loaded with the right amount of nutrition, salty savoriness, and warmth.  This pie oozes with comfort and cozy post-holiday sit-around-the-house goodness.  I like to think of it as alinner (lunch and dinner) dish or a classic brunch dish too.

– Don’t worry, you’re not required to make your own pie crust, I promise.

Ingredients:

1 Pie Crust (for the inquiring minds, yes, I used the type you buy and roll out).
1 tablespoon of butter
1 good-sized shallot, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
4-6 sun-dried tomatoes loosely chopped
8 ounces of Italian sausage or chicken sausage (remove the outer skin and crumble)
1 three-finger pinch of sea salt
1 pinch of oregano or thyme (or both)
3 – 4 handfuls of fresh spinach or kale
2 cups of freshly grated California cheddar cheese
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup of heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit

Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat and saute shallots and garlic until translucent. Add salt, oregano and thyme. Add the crumbled sausage, sundried tomatoes, and cook until browned. Add the spinach or kale and cook until the greens wilt and set aside.

In a pie dish roll out the pie crust and pinch the edges.   Add 1 cup of cheese on the bottom and then add the sausage mixture on top of that.

In a mixing bowl whisk together the eggs and heavy cream and 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese (you can also use almond milk or any other milk/cream variation).  Season with a pinch of sea salt and mix well.  Pour the egg mixture over the sausage mixture.  Top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.  I also added a little extra romano in this pie – I mean, can you blame me?  Take a brush and lightly coat the edge of the pie crust with some of your egg mixture for a crispy finish.  (not too much).

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Place your pie on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes or until an inserted toothpick or knife comes out clean.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

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Special thanks to Mele Cotte for the inspiration of this recipe.  I use it in many reincarnations.

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Here is one I made with Kale

More Soup Please!

Tonight’s stormy weather calls for this recipe again.

Food to Fiction

White Bean Soup with Kale and Italian Sausage White Bean Soup with Kale and Italian Sausage

What happened to our early summer weather? Just when we New Yorkers were starting to forget about the coldest winter in recent years and beginning to complain about the humidity and heat in crowded elevators, temperatures suddenly drop?  And now we’re pulling out our sweaters again and craving hot bowls of soup?

Okay, fine.  So with my bones a little cold and wishing I’d not worn the linen skirt, I turned for comfort in my kitchen.

In my fridge I grabbed some summer greens, carrots and celery, four or five hot and sweet Italian sausages. Staring into the pantry I grab a can of organic cannelinni beans and a box of organic chicken stock.

Here’s what I came up with.

Ingredients:

1 pound kale, stems (and veins, if desired) removed and leaves washed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 scallion, chopped
2…

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Blackberry Summer

Raspberry-Vanilla Custard Ice Cream with Chocolate Shavings.jpegNow that it finally feels like summer, I’m feeling nostalgic; I’ve just sent my eldest on a trip to visit her Grandmother in Washington.  While we grew up in California, we’d spend a lot of our summers up there; taking long road trips to finally

get there.  I thinks its where my mom always felt most at home and now she’s made it her home.

Memories of being crammed in a car with my mom, grandmother and my two agitating brothers for the long trip from California to Washiington come to mind.  Playing “eye-spy,” finding the alphabet in the road signs, and fighting -mostly with my older brother’s ever-extending air guitar- only to hear him say (with one finger pointing right in my eye), “I’m not touching you.”

These road trips were obviously some of my mother’s favorite things to do with her mom, but for us kids that excitement ran out just passed the wind mills in Tracy.  Mom and Grandma Lee both smoked Terryton Lights and made sure to light one up anytime our fighting in the backseat got to be more than they could handle.  Cracking the window only enough for the smoke to whiffle out and right back in.  I attribute that one-inch crack in the window to my asthma today moreso than the smoke, because maybe if they’d just rolled the windows all the way down, I wouldn’t have lost my appetite on second hand smoke.

While much of those memories are full of rancor and sarcasm, the truth is they’re also some of my most cherished childhood memories.  Although I desperately needed to know how much longer till we get there, my grandmother’s child-like thrill to show us kids the salmon swimming up stream, or an eagle in the sky or the water falls tucked in between a mountain of large trees just off the roadside was utterly contagious once we unmangled our legs, hair and barf bags from the car.  I still remember her story of Donner’s Pass and the people who had to eat one another to stay alive in the freezing snow.  She’d tell us why California was called the gold coast and talk about the history of gold miners, women in covered wagons, farming, Indian Life and loggers.  Later in life when I saw The Grapes of Wrath, I thought that this must’ve been what it was like for my grandmtoher, always moving, looking for work to survive.  A Norwegian father, Cherokee and Belgian mother, fitting in where they could.

She taught us all the old American folk songs like “Old Suzanna,” and “She’ll Be Coming Around That Mountain.” Sometimes I will see something and it will remind me of a time before I was born, her time, but I’d also feel as though it was intrinsically my time too;  I was sitting in her log cabin with her; an invisible witness.

My foot taps. I begin to sing and now I’m completely transported right back to being seven years old, sitting in my mother’s blue Oldsmobile, and the year is 1976.

My grandmother’s sister Anne lived in Washington.  She had a large forest of blackberries along the side of her house and what she did with those was truly American, truly a taste of summer and any pastry chef today would envy her skills in the kitchen.  She baked blackberry pies for us and served them hot with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream and a glass of milk.

I was a tenacious little kid when it came to sweets and my brothers, not being bashful themselves, would clammor around her kitchen until that pie was ready.  The entire room brightened up with the aroma of butter and crisping dough and a sweet scent of blackberries tickling just under our noses.  She’d pull the pie out, set it on a little counter.  The crust brown and flaky with bubles of purple goop stained around the pie-hole.

“Where’s the ice cream?”

“Get the ice cream!”

“Wait children it has to cool.”

Auntie Anne would have to back us up against a playpen and her dark scratchy sofa where we’d wait to grab a seat at large the table. Sewing patterns, knitting needles, yarn and newspapers we’re swooshed aside.

“Plates! Get the plates and forks!”

“We’ve got the plates and the forks and the ice cream.  Have a seat.”

One bite is all it took, All those hours in the car, the fights with Michael and Danny, the long-winded baseball announcers blaring through the speakers, my mother’s cigarette smoke and grandma’s cracked windows suddenly evaporated.

Silence.

This next recipe is dedicated to the Berg women of Washngton and their ability to love us children unconditionally .  I believe Auntie Anne and Grandma Lee would be proud of this ice cream.  I’d call it Blackberry Pie but there is no crust in the cream.  But feel free to serve it over your own favorite pie.

The sweet-tartness of the berries balances out the richness of the vanilla custard.  We loved it here at home and it’s now one of our absolute favorites.

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Blackberry + Vanilla Custard Ice Cream with Chocolate Shavings

Ingredients:

2 pints fresh blackberries
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extra (or vanilla bean)
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 cup sugar
5 large egg yolks (I saved the egg whites for breakfast)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup dark chocolate shavings (I love the bulk chocolates at Fairway and today I went with one from Spain).

Add blackberries to a medium saucepan with 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla and lemon juice. Cook over low heat, covered, for 20 to 25 minutes. Drain using a fine mesh strainer, pressing berries to extract as much juice as possible.  I do this by pressing the berries firmly into the strainer with a rubber spatula and this takes a good fifteen minutes.  You’ll be surprised how much you can scrape off the underside of the strainer too.  Set aside.

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Heat the half-and-half and 1 cup sugar in a separate saucepan over low heat. Turn off heat when mixture is totally heated and sugar is dissolved.

Add heavy cream to a separate bowl.

Beat egg yolks by hand or with an electric mixer until yolks are pale yellow and slightly thick.

Temper the egg yolks by slowly drizzling in 1 1/2 cups of hot half-and-half mixture, whisking constantly. After that, pour the egg yolk and half-and-half mixture into the pan containing the rest of the half-and-half mixture. Cook over low to medium-low heat (depending on how hot your stove gets) until quite thick, stirring constantly. Drain custard using a fine mesh strainer.

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Then pour into the bowl with the cream. Stir to combine.  Add blackberry juice puree to the custard mixture and stir.

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Chill mixture completely in the refrigerator.

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Pour the mixture into your in an ice cream maker until thick- about 20 – 25 minutes.

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The last few minutes add the chocolate shavings so they get nice and mixed in.

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Place container in freezer to harden for an additional two hours.

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Then serve and enjoy with someone you love.  Create some good memories too!

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