Monday, September 17, 2012

Home-Roasted Salsa: Preserving the Remnants of Summer

It seems everyone has their own version of salsa. It's one of those recipes that, once made often and long enough, takes on the sacred status of a family heirloom.

I've made this one for a while now...developed in my mom's kitchen a few years ago simply by standing with the pantry door open, pondering my personal favorite qualities of a salsa.

Roasted. Medium spicy. Fresh. And different.

Home-Roasted Salsa
1/2 onion, layers separated (add more if you wish...I have to minimize the onion due to Ryan's dislike of it)
3 cloves garlic, sliced
15 medium smallish tomatoes (or whatever equivalent you care to use--these came from my garden)
3 jalapeños, seeded
1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
Cilantro, 2 handfuls
Cumin, enough to fit in the small part of your hand when cupped
Salt, 2 pinches

Sauté the onion and garlic until soft in a frying pan heated with a little olive oil. Remove into blender. Halve the tomatoes and blacken slightly in the frying pan with a little more olive oil.

(The way I started out doing this was on my mother's gas stovetop. If you have one, skewer the tomatoes without halving them and roast over the flame. Carefully.)

Remove into blender. Add the remaining ingredients. Blend, pulsing until it reaches the desired consistency. Taste and add adobo sauce if you want it spicier. may get spicier as it sits in the fridge.

Now I made this batch with my new Ninja blender. Be it turned my salsa into tomato juice rather more rapidly than I expected.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Nutrifact 4: Detox Debunked

Being a near-dietitian, I find it incumbent upon me to give this blog a healthy spin. There are many nutrition issues I would like to discuss at some point, but one that has been particularly on my mind lately is the Detox Diet.

First of all, let me just clarify that a diet does not entail weight loss. We are all on a diet. Whether it's a diet of McDonald's hamburgers or vegetable still classifies as a diet. Whatever you normally eat is your diet.

The detox diet comes in all shapes and sizes and everyone has heard of a different juice or smoothie or liquid fast that benefits your body in all kinds of miraculous ways! People usually grab hold of the idea as another elusive quick fix. This is just another example of how the world of nutrition can be extremely confusing. Well, the most recent Food and Nutrition magazine by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics included an article about Detoxification written by (who else?) an RD. (Registered Dietitian...which is what I will be in two or three months when I pass the exam!)

Robin Foroutan, MS, RD, delves into this difficult topic without fear. She starts by defining detoxification as "the biochemical process that transforms non-water-soluble toxins and metabolites into water-soluble compounds that can be excreted in urine, sweat, bile or stool."

This basically means that your body has a process that turns waste products from metabolism and external toxins into forms that can be eliminated from the body. The intermediate stage between the toxin's first form and the form that can is excreted is a free radical.

So this process can go wrong in two different ways. Either the body can't keep up with all the toxins entering the body, resulting in extra toxins getting deposited in the body's tissues. Or the body lacks enough enzymes to transform the intermediate free radicals into the excretable form, resulting in extra free radicals floating around.

So what is a toxin? When the word "toxin" is used in this sense, it generally refers to pesticides, food dyes, additives, and chemical preservatives that are in almost every single food we find on the shelves. Metabolic wastes are basically whatever is leftover after you have gotten everything useful out of whatever you ingested. This is normal. This is the very reason WHY we have an exit at the end of our digestive tract and kidneys that usher leftovers out of the blood and down the tubes.

For example, when you consume protein, you are consuming something that is made up of a bunch of molecules that contain the element nitrogen. Once our body digests these, ammonia is formed from the left over nitrogen. Our bodies can't do anything useful with ammonia and it is toxic. So the liver takes over and converts it to urea, which is much less toxic and can be excreted through the kidneys.

Look at you...learning nutritional biochemistry! :)

In general, the resiliency of our bodies allows us to eat strange diets for a small amount of time without suffering too greatly. One diet I would classify as strange is the juice diet. If you use this diet for a day or two to mentally prepare yourself for a healthy eating lifestyle change, it won't cause much physical harm. (Unless, of course, you have diabetes or blood sugar issues! Please do not attempt any new diet without consulting your doctor!) But basically a juice fast is doing nothing but drinking simple sugars (carbohydrates that are more quickly digested) without the benefits of the fiber that is in the whole fruit or vegetable. You will either suffer through a series of blood sugar highs and lows or you will have to drink a lot of this high-calorie substance to feel full.

Another detox diet is one containing herbal supplements. Generally the ones promoted for detoxification mean they enhance your body's own detoxifying system...meaning extra excretion. Think toilet time.

Another detox diet is only eating raw fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, many vegetables contain nutrients that are much, much more useful to the body after they have been cooked. (I have been asked about this topic recently and intend to make this my next Nutrifact!)

So the question is...does your body need help doing something that it is already designed to do?

It is my opinion that detox diets are a waste of time and money. However, increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables you consume is never a bad idea and will help your body's digestive and excretion system maintain itself.

If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to bring them up. I would also appreciate any nutrition topic ideas that you would like me to discuss!

My biochemistry notes

Monday, August 20, 2012

Two Ice Creams: Bailey's Chocolate Chunk and Roasted Banana with Nutella Flecks

My dietetic internship may have been just stressful enough to keep me off of here, but I am not going to let graduate school take my blog away from me. Needless to say, I graduated! No, not back in May, but after the summer session. I have been thoroughly enjoying my couple weeks off before I jump back into the academic world.

What better way to celebrate summer but to make some decadent ice cream?

Bailey's Chocolate Chunk
Roasted Banana with Nutella Flecks

The first is a traditional custard-base flavored with Bailey's or whichever Irish cream you prefer...I used Ryan's...shhhh....

The second is more of an ice milk since it has no cream.

So here we go!

Bailey's Chocolate Chunk, adapted from She Makes and Bakes
Makes about 2 quarts

For the ice cream:
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup Bailey's Irish Cream
1 cup milk (I used 1%)
1 cup sugar, divided
Pinch of salt
5 egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla

In a medium saucepan, combine the heavy cream, Bailey's, milk, salt, and 1/2 cup sugar. Heat over medium, stirring frequently, until it comes to a boil. Let it boil for one minute.

Let me interject here. I'm not sure if I can think of a time I have made ice cream with this method without it boiling over. It just takes so darn long for the cream to heat up that I start getting lackadaisical about it and before I know it I hear the dreaded fizzing of cream burning on my electric cooktop. So, speaking from experience, here's what you do if that happens:
If the handles don't have cream bubbling over them, grab the pot and move it off the heat. If the handles are covered, then use hot pads or paper towels or your apron. Turn off the heat. Then take a super quick estimate of however much spilled over...mine's usually about 1/2 - 1 cup. Then use rags or paper towels to wipe up the mess before it hardens. The leftover scum will have to wait til the cooktop cools down. Then add half milk and half cream back into the mixture, use a different burner, and watch it like a hawk until it boils.

So while the milk mixture is heating, whisk together the egg yolks, the other 1/2 cup sugar, and vanilla until thick and pale. After it has boiled for one minute, slowly pour a steady stream of it into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. This is called tempering. Once you have poured 2/3 of the Bailey's mixture into the eggs while whisking, slowly pour the egg mixture back into the pan and reheat over medium heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon for a few minutes until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon. Remove from heat and pour it into a large bowl.

Now, if you did a poor job of tempering, you'll have some scrambled egg bits in there and you'll want to strain it as you pour it into the bowl. Also, I like to set the bowl in an ice bath to help it cool down faster. Once it's cooled off for a bit (maybe stop and stir it a few times every so often), cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge to cool for 2-3 hours or overnight.

Once the ice cream mixture is cold, churn it according to the manufacturer's directions. During the last few minutes of churning, sprinkle in about 4-6 oz chopped dark chocolate. Scoop the ice cream out of the maker and into a bowl. Freeze it for several hours or overnight before serving. 

Alright, still with me? Just one more! This one was a little easier.

Roasted Banana with Nutella Flecks, adapted from Chocolate and Chillies

4 bananas (ripe but not overly ripe), sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3 cups 1% milk (The recipe called for whole, but I only had turned out great...and healthier)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp coarse salt

Preheat oven to 400 F. While oven is heating, place the sliced bananas, brown sugar and butter in a baking dish. Toss well. Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring once, or until bananas are browned and cooked through.

Scrape the bananas into a food processor.  Add milk, sugar, vanilla and coarse salt.  Process until smooth.  Transfer the mixture into a bowl and store in the fridge until chilled (about 3 hours or overnight).  Once chilled give it a quick whisk and process according to your ice cream maker's instructions. While it is churning, heat up about 3/4 cup Nutella in the microwave just until melted. In the last few minutes of churning, drizzle it in! Freeze about 2-4 hours.

If it is in the freezer for longer than this, it will become rock hard due to its low fat content. So you may want to plan to let it sit out for about 30-60 minutes before serving.

Surprisingly, the Roasted Banana Ice Cream was everyone's favorite. I say surprisingly because the Bailey's Chocolate Chunk is richer and has a better mouth feel. But if I make a healthier option that people actually prefer?? I'd say that's a dietetic success.

Can you spot me?? :)

Wish me luck as I start classes on Wednesday and study for the RD (Registered Dietitian) Exam!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Bourbon Chocolate Chip Ice Cream with Butter Roasted Pecans

"Best ice cream I've ever had." Straight from my husband's mouth.

Needless to say, after purchasing an ice cream maker earlier this spring, I've felt inspired. This was the first batch I made and am proud to say I came up with the whole idea myself!

I used a trustworthy vanilla ice cream base from A Year in Chocolate by Jacques Torres, but changed up a few things and doubled the recipe (why not double your yield when going to all that effort??).

Here 'tis.

Bourbon Chocolate Chip Ice Cream with Butter Roasted Pecans

2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
14 large egg yolks
2 cups 1% milk
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp heavy cream
3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp vanilla
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp bourbon (or more...)

Place 1/4 cup and 1 tbsp of EACH of the sugars in a large bowl. Whisk in the egg yolks until well combined.

Prepare an ice bath by putting ice cubes and a little water in a large bowl and nesting another bowl inside it.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the rest of the sugar, milk, cream, and honey. Heat over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally with a heatproof rubber spatula. Once boiling, immediately remove from he heat.

Slowly pour about a third of the hot mixture into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. (You may need someone to help you with this.) Pour the tempered egg mixture into the hot mixture, stirring constantly. Place over medium heat and cook for about 5 minutes, or until it gets to 182 F on an instant read thermometer, or until it coats the back of a metal spoon. Immediately remove from heat. Stir in the vanilla and bourbon.

Pour the custard into the bowl nested inside the bowl with ice water. Let cool, stirring frequently. Once thoroughly chilled in the refrigerator (I recommend leaving it in there all night), the ice cream base is ready to meet its (ice cream) maker.

10 oz of your favorite chocolate (I used 5 oz dark Valrhona and 5 oz milk Valrhona)
1 cup chopped pecans
2 tbsp butter
pinch of kosher salt

While the base is cooling, you can make the Butter Roasted Pecans. Preheat oven to 350 F. Toss pecans with butter and salt and spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until fragrant and nicely toasted.

When you are ready to freeze your ice cream, melt the chocolate in a double boiler over the stove or in segments in the microwave. Freeze the base in your ice cream maker according to its directions. Five minutes before it is supposed to be done, gradually drizzle in the melted chocolate. Next, gradually sprinkle in the pecans. Add these while it is still churning. In case that wasn't obvious.

Once finished, place it a freezer-proof, sealed container and freeze until it reaches your desired consistency!

I'll post next about my Peanut Butter and Honey Ice Cream that hearkens back to a childhood sandwich I actually never had!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

In the Midst of It All

Oh my! I even shocked myself with the date of my last post. For those of you who might not remember, I am in my dietetic internship right now and have been slammed with all kinds of homework and assignments! However, I had to make time to sneak on here and let you in on some of the things I've been making.

I recently decided that I have not cooked enough recipes out of my cookbooks. So I categorized them on my little cookbook bookshelf and am going through them systematically. So the first week I took the first book from each of the categories and made one of the first few recipes in each of them. The second week I took the second book...and so on. It's been quite fun!

Another change that has occurred is the addition of an extra flash to Ryan's camera. We've been experimenting with it...usually I just get frustrated and have him take pictures if it's right before dinner. But, if it can wait to be photographed until the next day, I try to take pictures in natural light when I get home from work.

As you can see, I've still been cooking! Recently, however, we've had so many things going on that I had not cooked dinner for two weeks. Seriously. We somehow had something going on every night. When I told Ryan I was going to make dinner this past Monday, he asked, "Are you sure our kitchen still works?" Yikes! Now you know why I haven't had time to blog, let alone do homework and exercise somewhat regularly. And housework. And yardwork. And...

Nevermind. Let's not think about those things right now.

These peppers smelled absolutely amazing toasting away in the oven. I ground them up and put them in a chili, which, unfortunately, very stubbornly refused to be photogenic and was eaten before I had a chance to try again in different lighting.

Blueberry Buckle! When I was little, I told my mom that when I grew up I would make blueberry buckle and bring it to her every day. Don't know how I got that in my head...but I did take her some of this!

Tip: Asian soups are amazingly tasty and surprisingly fast and easy.

Know what this is? Yep! Homemade Apple Strudel Bread! You know, like what Great Harvest sells? I think I made a little too much topping, but basically what I did was make a basic whole wheat bread dough. When it was all risen and ready to bake, I mixed some unsweetened applesauce, cinnamon, a little bit of brown sugar, and 1 chopped apple, spread on top, and baked it!

Well now you're somewhat caught up. I hope to get back on here very soon as I can't wait to tell you about the first ice cream I made in my new ice cream maker from Williams Sonoma...Bourbon Chocolate Chunk Roasted Pecan. Yes. And I made it up. So...that means you get the recipe!

Stay tuned!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Healthy and Quick: Fish Curry with Sweet Potatoes and Brown Rice

For those of you who may not know, I am in my dietetic internship right now. I have three rotations, Food Service Systems Management (10 weeks), Medical Nutrition Therapy (10 weeks), and Community Nutrition (7 weeks). I just finished my sixth week of the FSSM rotation and I have had some wonderful experiences so far! I taught the nutrition portion of a diabetes seminar on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday this week. I am also in the middle of planning a themed meal for the cafeteria in St. Joseph Hospital, where I am interning for the first two rotations. I get to do everything from planning the menu, to choosing the recipes, to ordering the food (waaaay more complicated to order an accurate number of portion sizes for 200 people), to briefing the staff, to carrying out the plan on the day of!

Anyway, all that to say, I've had a lot of interesting shift times because I have been shadowing everyone in the kitchen, from AM Cook (4:30 am-1 pm) to Tray Passer (7 am-5:30 pm) to PM Lead (12-8:30 pm). And sometimes I don't have very much time or energy (or neither) to make dinner. This meal is great for when you want a healthy dinner on the table in less than an hour.

Ryan commented that this curry was too sweet...but I'll tell you that's because I was trying to reduce the sodium and cut out some salt.'s up to you how much you want to put in. We also added crushed red pepper at the table.

Fish Curry with Sweet Potatoes and Brown Rice
adapted from Anja's Food 4 Thought

1 cup brown rice

1 lb white fish, chopped into chunks
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
juice of 1 lemon

2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tomato, finely chopped
2 sweet potatoes
3/4 tsp turmeric
2 cups low- or nonfat coconut milk

cilantro for garnish

Marinate the fish in the chili powder, salt, and lemon juice.

Cook the rice according to the package directions.

Peel and chop sweet potatoes.

While rice is cooking, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a pot (the one the curry will end up in). Fry the fish over medium heat for about 7-10 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from pot.

Add 1 tbsp olive oil to the pot. Heat slightly and add the garlic. Add the tomato, sweet potatoes, turmeric, and salt to taste. (See...this is where my taste did not equal Ryan's.) Stir in the coconut milk and keep stirring until boiling. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the fish and simmer for another 5-10 minutes.

By this time, the rice should be done! Serve with rice and cilantro.

By the way, kudos to Ryan for buying a new awesome flash and taking pictures for me when I get frustrated about not getting the result I want.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Coconut Shrimp with Mango Mint Dipping Sauce

Now I'm going to warn you right away...I'm not going to share the exact recipe for this. 

After reading a discussion about blogger plagiarism and consulting my own conscience, I decided not to copy recipes that are in a cookbook, not even if I include the name of the cookbook and author. If my source is online and free to all, then I will copy the recipe and link back to the original page. But I don't want to steal the results of someone's hard work from them. I will give the process and my opinion, but not the exact recipe. However, if I change the recipe significantly, I will write it out. 

This may motivate me to develop my own recipes more often! But, unfortunately, when I do that, I usually don't make note of what I do and can't repeat it. Honestly, though, a food blogger who mostly posts recipes straight from someone else needs to learn how to experiment a little more and stop showing off their ability to follow a recipe. I'm talking to myself here. :)

Anyway, this was one of our favorite meals recently. Ryan and I teamed up in the preparation process...I made the shrimp and he made the sauce. The recipe came from Small Bites by Jennifer Joyce.

The end result was delicious, but coating the shrimp took forever. I dipped each of them in four ingredients...salt and pepper, corn starch, egg white, and coconut.

The rest is pretty simple...just fry 'em in some oil in a wok!

The sauce was basically a bunch of fantastic ingredients (including mango, mint, cilantro, limes, chili pepper, etc.) whirled in a processor until smooth.

Combine the two and magical things happen!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tangerine Crème Brûlée and Mexican Chocolate Cookies

Cliché alert.

I am way behind on posts!

And I have a huge stash of photos just waiting to be exposed (pun intended) to you.

Stay tuned for Coconut Shrimp with Mango Lime Sauce, Miso Chicken, Black-Eyed Pea Patties with Beer-Braised Turnip Greens, and Spinach, Lentil and Bacon Stew. I've gotta crank 'em out because I have lots more exciting things on the menu for this week.

The deal is...I have to make exciting dinners because I've been packing my lunch for the past four weeks and let's face it...I'm running out of ideas. And at 5 in the morning I can somehow decide that I can last an entire 8 hours on coffee, oatmeal and an apple. Not really working out for me.

Yes, I am currently interning in a hospital kitchen. Yes, there is a cafeteria full of wonderful things every day. But when it comes to feeding myself, I get stingy with my moolah.

Anyway, on to some delicious recipes!

This first recipe is entirely from Tartelette. To view the original post, please click here.

I copied the recipe here because I used two of her posts to make it and this just makes it easier for you.

"Tangerine Crème Brûlée Tartelettes

Kitchen Notes: The dough recipe was enough for four 4 inch fluted tartelettes and four 3 inch straight edged tartelettes, so I would say it makes between 6 to 8 tartelettes depending on your molds. You can replace the tangerine with orange or grapefruit, and leave the Grand Marnier out.

For the cocoa cardamom sable dough:
1 stick (115 gr) butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (93 gr) powdered sugar
1 large egg
1 1 /2 cups (188gr) flour
1 tablespoon (10 gr) natural cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon (2gr) ground cardamom
pinch of salt

In a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix until combined. Add the flour, cocoa, cardamom and salt and mix briefly to incorporate. Dump the whole mixture onto a lightly floured board and gather the dough into a smooth ball. Do not work the dough while in the mixer or it will toughen up. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour. When the dough is nice and cold, roll it out on a lightly floured board or in between the sheets of plastic. You will have extra dough that you can save for another use in the fridge for up to 5 days or frozen, well wrapped for up to 3 months. Cut out 8 rounds two inches larger than your pastry rings. Fit the dough inside the rings with your fingertips and trim the edges with a sharp knife. Line the rings with small squares of parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dry beans. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes. Let cool."

"For the tangerine cream:
2/3 cup (120gr) sugar
3 eggs
6 egg yolks
3 tablespoons (30gr) all purpose flour
1 stick butter (115gr), melted and cooled
2/3 cup (160ml) tangerine juice
grated zest of 2 tangerines
2 tablespoons (20gr) Grand Marnier (optional)

In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, whole eggs and egg yolks until pale. Add the flour and butter and whisk until incorporated. Whisk in the tangerine juice and zest. Place the mixture in a saucepan over medium low heat and cook until thickened about 5-8 minutes, stirring constantly without letting it boil. Remove from the heat and whisk in the Grand Marnier if using. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the cream to prevent it from forming a crust while cooling. Let cool to room temperature.

To assemble:
tart shells
tangerine cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar mixed with 1/4 cup packed brown sugar for the brulee crust
tangerine slices and candied tangerine zest (use the recipe for candied kumquats, using tangerine zest instead)

Divide the cream evenly among the shells and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Top each tartelette with about 1 tablespoon of the sugar mixed and using a blow torch, caramelize the top of the tarts to create a sugar crust. If you do not have a blowtorch, set the tarts on a sheet pan under the broiler and broil them until golden, watching carefully to monitor that the edges don't burn.
Decorate with segments and zest of tangerines.

Candied Kumquats:1/2 cup (125ml) water
1 cup (100gr) sugar
2 tablespoons (40gr) light corn or glucose syrup
1 pint fresh kumquats, washed, patted dry, and cut in 1/8 inch thin slices

In a heavy saucepan, combine the water, sugar and corn or glucose syrup and bring to a boil over high heat. Let the mixture reach 234F. Add the kumquats, being careful not to overcrowd your pan and let the fruit become translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Remove the fruit with a slotted spoon and place it, separating the slices, on a piece of parchment paper or silpat. Use as desired."

My notes: Her sugar mixture for the topping did not work well for me. So I used raw sugar instead. In fact, the tartelette in my photos is the only one that turned out. The others were ruined because I did not bake them long enough and so they did not come out of the pans easily. So, while baking beans are helpful, I would recommend taking them out of the tart shells for the last 3-5 minutes of baking or until the shells are done. Also, the candied tangerine turned out extremely hard and chewy. Not sure what happened there...perhaps it cooked too long.

Next up...Spiced Chocolate Sugar Cookies! These are from the book A Year in Chocolate, by Jacques Torres. One of my friends and I made these together and we were thrilled with how they turned out! I like to call them Mexican Chocolate Cookies, because that more accurately describes them, in my mind.

Makes about 4 dozen

1.75 cups AP flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ancho chile powder ( I didn't have this so I used regular, but I'm sure ancho chile powder would be better!!)
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1/4 cup light corn syrup (I know. Disappointing. But we went with it.)
1 cup (about 6 oz) chopped bittersweet chocolate
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line cookie sheets with parchment and set aside.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, chile powder, and salt. (We didn't sift.) Set aside. in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the batter on low speed to soften. (I don't have a stand mixer, but since I was making it with another person, one of us acted as the stand mixer.) Add the brown sugar, raise the speed the medium, and beat until well blended. Add the egg and beat until incorporated. Add the melted chocolate and corn syrup and beat until blended. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture, and beat for about 3 minutes, or until a stiff dough forms. Remove the bowl from the mixer and, using a rubber spatula, fold in the chopped chocolate.

Spread the granulated sugar on a small plate. To shape the cookies, scoop up a nugget of the dough, form it into a 1-inch ball between your palms, and roll the ball in the sugar to coat evenly. (OK, we didn't do this either because the dough was so soft. We just dropped them on the sheets using teaspoons and then sprinkled sugar over them.) Leave about 2 inches between cookies.

Bake for about 12 minutes, or until puffed and the tops are cracked. Remove and let cool on the pans on wire racks for 5 minutes, then transfer to the racks and cool completely.

This recipe was amazing and I will definitely make these again.'s finally time to get ready for my Valentine's date with my hubby tonight!!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Pappardelle with Veal Meatballs

The anniversary of this little blog came and went yesterday. There's something addictive about the melancholy yet celebratory nature of anniversaries. Ryan and I celebrate as many as we can. Two-year engagement anniversary coming up on February 6th. First date anniversary. First kiss anniversary. Wedding anniversary...obviously. :)

Anyway, in honor of this blog's one-year anniversary I made pappardelle again. I wanted to recreate a recipe I fell in love with quite a few years ago at a local restaurant, Portofino. The Veal Marsala Meatballs with Tagliatelle is to die for.

Here is what I did to the best of my ability without a recipe:

Pappardelle with Veal Meatballs
Makes 3 large portions or 4 medium portions

12 oz ground veal
1 tsp dried rosemary
2 cloves garlic, minced
pinch of fresh ground black pepper
pinch of kosher salt
1-2 tsp olive oil
1-2 tsp butter
10 oz pappardelle pasta
3 roasted red pepper slices from a jar, one minced and two sliced
8 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
3/4 cup red wine
shaved parmesan

Combine the veal, rosemary, garlic, pepper, salt, and minced red pepper in a bowl. Form into balls about 1.5" in diameter. Heat a large skillet with a small drizzle of olive oil. (Be careful to not let it smoke, as this destructs the flavors of the oil. Use canola oil if need be, as it has a higher smoke point.) Cook the meatballs in batches, about 2 minutes per side. (I was already roasting broccoli at 425 degrees, so I put the meatballs into a dish and into the oven for about 5 minutes to complete the cooking process. You can do this, or cook through in the pan.) Remove from the pan and keep warm.

Using the same skillet, add a small pat of butter, about a tsp or two. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 10 minutes, until translucent. Add the sliced red peppers and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spatula to get up all of the meat bits. Reduce for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the pasta according to the package's directions.

Put pasta in skillet and toss to combine. Serve with the meatballs and shaved parmesan.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Chocolate Almond Mousse with Bailey's Whipped Cream

Do you ever feel that you are so close to something utterly fantastic, but it's just on the other side of a wall that contains a completely different maze than the one you're winding through? Have you ever been so speckled with jealousy to the point that you've stoppered the possibility of inspiration? It's like once you start emulating you feel much worse than simply sitting back and admiring.

I'm not talking about blogging...well yes in part...but not completely. I'm talking about life. If we don't get what we were expecting we have to turn around and realize we shouldn't have been expecting that thing in the first place.

Our culture just loves those who have it all, doesn't it? We idolize them. We perfect them. We copycat. And when we do, we want to tell everyone what we're up to.

But what if we keep it special? Secret. Like my mother who's provided countless beautiful meals to my family without a single picture or blog post. Or my dad who with a quiet passion has carefully impregnated our farm's soil with multiple native trees. Or my sister who sees the beauty in things before anyone else does and knows how to showcase it just so. Or my brother who lent me his imagination and let me run wild with it when we were kids...and now runs circles around me with his intellect. Or my sweet husband who lives drenched in joy and befriends with wholehearted compassion. No recognition. And yet...complete. Why strive for acknowledgement? Why not

Just saying. It makes things simpler.

Let's see. How to transition? Simple? Yes...this recipe is simple.

Chocolate Almond Mousse with Bailey's Whipped Cream
adapted from The Novice Chef

1 cup warm water
2 tsp instant espresso powder
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
9.35 oz dark chocolate
6 tsp granulated sugar

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1-2 tbsp Bailey's or Ryan's

Make an ice bath with two large bowls. Fill the bottom of one bowl with ice and a little water. Set the second bowl inside.

In a sauce pan NOT on heat dissolve espresso powder in the warm water. Add extracts, chocolate, and sugar. Place over medium heat.

Stir until melted. Heat just until the chocolate is melted. Pour into the bowl over the ice bath. Whisk until you can't whisk anymore (took me about 20 minutes and it still wasn't as thick as I would've liked so I let it set up in the fridge after plating it). But don't over-whisk. You don't want grains.

Divide among four glasses. Refrigerate for about 12 hours. Before serving, beat the cream and Bailey's and top the mousse with the cream and some chocolate shavings.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Espresso Cookies

 For those of you who may not have realized by now, I am a dietetics student. As such I am required to be in an internship before I can sit for the RD (Registered Dietitian) exam. I attended orientation for said internship last week and have mixed feelings about my first day tomorrow. Yes, I suppose I am excited. But I know it will be a lot of work and a lot of time. Basically, I will be working full-time without pay while completing projects and assignments. Just glancing over my schedule gives me the chills...4:30 am shift coming up here in a couple weeks.

So I made these cookies for the potluck lunch at my orientation last week and they were a big hit. I've already had a couple requests for the recipe, so here 'tis!

Espresso Cookies
adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens Ultimate Cookie Book

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup shortening (I know...disappointing...but it's only 1/4 cup)
1 cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp + 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
1 tbsp hot water
1 egg
2 cups AP flour
Coffee or espresso beans

In a large bowl, beat butter and shortening with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the 1 cup sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.

In a small bowl, stir 2 tbsp espresso powder and hot water together until dissolved. Add to butter mixture with egg. Beat until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer, then stir in the rest.

Divide the dough into thirds. Shape them into 7" logs. Wrap each with plastic wrap. Chill about 2 hours or until firm.

Preheat the oven to 375. Using a sharp knife (you may have to clean it several times while slicing), cut logs into 3/8 inch slices. (No, put that ruler away. Just use your best judgment.) Place cookies about 2 inches apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet. (They WILL spread.) Combine 2 tbsp sugar and 1/2 tsp espresso powder and sprinkle over. Press 1-3 espresso beans into each cookie. Bake 9-10 minutes or until edges are light brown. Let stand for 1 minute on cookie sheet, then cool on wire rack.

The espresso beans make the cookie...please don't omit them.

I sprinkled the extra espresso sugar on my homemade Cappuccino.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Bûche de Noël (Yule Log)

I have long desired to make one of these. There is something so captivating about creating a picture with food that doesn't look like food at all. And they are super fun to eat. Who wouldn't want to look like they were eating a slice of a tree trunk with mushrooms sprouting out of it?

So after being intimidated by the traditional Bûche de Noël for far too long, I decided to jump on it when we had my family and Ryan's family over for dinner during the Christmas season. To be honest, it wasn't that hard! It's just a lot of different components. The hardest part was rolling the cake, and even then, the cracks make it look more realistic. Just allow yourself lots of time and read the recipe a couple days ahead of time. This is a dessert that requires planning.

I started with a recipe from Alice Medrich's A Year in Chocolate (need I sing her praises again?). She provided the Chocolate Hazelnut Roulade and Coffee Meringue Mushrooms. But I also wanted bark.

So here we go.


3 egg whites, at room temp
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 cup sugar, preferably superfine (just blend regular sugar in a food processor)
1.5 tsp instant espresso powder
about 2 tsps unsweetened cocoa, for dusting
2 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces

4 oz chocolate

1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted and cooled, skins rubbed off
2 tbsp AP flour
6 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
2-3 tbsp unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder* (see end of post)

1 cup heavy cream, cold
2 tsps instant espresso powder (A staple in my house! Never used it for straight up drinking, though. Instant coffee powder can be substituted if need be.)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1.5-2 tbsps sugar

Special Equipment
Pastry bag
Plain pastry tip with 1/2 inch opening
16x12 or 17x11" jelly roll pan, lined with parchment paper

I would recommend making the mushrooms the day before.


Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat to 200 degrees.

In a clean, dry mixing bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks form with the beaters are lifted. On high speed, gradually add half of the sugar with all of the espresso powder, about 1 tbsp at a time. The mixture should stand in stiff glossy peaks when the beaters are lifted. Using a spatula, fold in the remaining sugar. Scrape the meringue into a pastry bag. Pipe pointed kisses about 1 inch high to make stems on a parchment lined baking sheet. Don't freak out if the tips bend or sag. Pipe domes to make caps. (don't stress over this me...they will turn out alright) Sieve a light dusting of cocoa over top and fan or blow on them to blur it and make them look authentic. Bake until crisp and dry, about 2 hours.

To assemble, place the chocolate in a small bowl set in a skillet of barely simmering water. Immediately turn off the heat and stir the chocolate until melted and smooth. Use a sharp knife to cut 1/4 to 1/2 inch off the tip of each stem (remember those points on your kisses?) to create a flat surface. Spread a good amount of chocolate on the flat side of the mushroom caps. Allow the chocolate to set a little before attaching the cut surface of the stems. Set aside until hardened and glued together!


Preheat the oven to 350.

In a clean, dry food processor, combine the nuts and flour and pulse until finely ground. Set aside. (You can do this the night before.)

Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler (same technique as melting the chocolate above), stirring occasionally, until melted and smooth. Remove and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the sugar until pale and thick. Stir in the warm chocolate mixture. Set aside.

In a clean, dry bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar with a mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually sprinkle in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating at high speed until stiff but not dry. Using a spatula, fold in about 1/4 egg whites and all of the hazelnut mixture into the chocolate mixture. Fold in remaining whites. Turn the batter into the prepared jelly roll pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs, 10-15 minutes. (I set it for 12 initially and it was almost too done, so I recommend checking at 10.) Cool COMPLETELY in the pan on a rack.

I would recommend making your bark now. Tape two large sheets of parchment paper to the counter and spray with cooking spray. Melt the 4 oz chocolate as described above. Spread thinly on one of the parchment sheets. Sandwich with the other sheet, cooking sprayed side down. Roll it up and place in the freezer for several hours. When you are ready to decorate, just remove from the freezer and unroll. It should crack naturally.

Sieve a light dusting of cocoa over a sheet of foil a little bigger than the jelly roll pan, reserving the remaining cocoa. Invert the cooled cake on the foil (scary part!) and peel off the parchment liner.

To make the filling, whip the cream with the espresso powder and vanilla until it begins to thicken. Sprinkle in the sugar and beat until the cream holds a soft shape. Spread over the cake.

Starting at a short edge, roll the cake using the foil to help. If you've ever made sushi, those skills will come in very handy right about now. At first the cake will crack a lot. Don't worry too cracks less as it gets fatter. Plus, as I said before, it looks like bark anyway. Wrap it all up in the foil and refrigerate until you decorate it just before serving.

Alright, now I decided to decorate mine about 2 hours before serving. I mean, who really takes the time to mess with that sort of thing when guests are over.

Unwrap the roulade and transfer to a platter.

Top creatively with the bark and mushrooms. You can sieve cocoa or powdered sugar over it for effect if you would like. Refrigerate until you serve!

*Alright, about that Dutch process cocoa powder. I can't find it anywhere in Lexington! It's not at Kroger or Fresh Market and I don't want to waste my time going to every grocery store. Any suggestions?