Get Yo Paczki

This morning while sipping my coffee I realized it was Fat Tuesday aka Paczki Day and I was without a paczki. While in some parts of the world revelers are dancing in the streets for carnival, today is the day I always indulge in one (or a few) of Poland’s most calorie-laden pastries, the paczki. Keep Reading!

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Not Your Grandma’s Casserole: 29 Modern Casserole Recipes

If you can fit it all in one dish, call it a casserole. The beloved retro dinner that touched the hearts of housewives across America is back in a big way. We have 29 revamped one-pot meals that will not only have your taste buds reeling for more, but they’ll save you time and effort too. Keep Reading!

Fresh From The Oven to Your Door: 15 Amazing Online Pie Companies

This might just be the greatest invention since sliced bread. No running to the store for butter, no cursing when you burn your hand on the oven and no crying when your laborious pie crust is burnt to a crisp. We’ve found your saving grace — pie bakers who deliver the goods to your door with a click of the mouse. Keep Reading!

Happy Diwali: 36 Recipes To Celebrate The Festival of Lights

Today marks the Festival of Light, one of Hindu’s biggest and brightest celebrations. This ancient festival celebrates the triumph of light over dark and good over evil. Keep Reading!

Banoffee Pie

When Juliet {Kiera Knightley} pleads with Mark {Andrew Lincoln} at his doorstep in Love Actually, for video footage from her wedding day, she bribes him with a box of banoffee pie. The moment she uttered the words, “banoffee pie,” I knew I wanted to try it. You see, I have an affinity for words and banoffee is one that strikes me. It rolls off the tongue in a playful manner and it’s a made up word, stemming from banana and toffee. Cheers to the British for bringing banoffee to our language and dessert to our bellies.

My banoffee moment came when a friend returned from a holiday in Dublin. I was invited over for a Dublinesque dessert….and what to my wondering eyes should appear? A BANOFFEE PIE!!! Ecstatic to finally fulfill my quest of filling my belly full of banoffee, I was most obviously, overjoyed.

WP_002003Banoffee

For those of you unfamiliar with banoffee pie make some. It is quite good and hardly requires baking, plus bananas are good for you.  It’s namely a brown-butter-biscuit-base, dulce de leche, bananas, whipped cream and chocolate.

Banoffee Pie
Banoffee Pie

Banoffee Pie

9oz graham crackers

4oz butter, melted, plus extra for greasing {add browned butter for a rich taste}

14oz dulce de leche {Nestle makes a can which can be found in Latin markets called: La Lechera Dulce de Leche}  otherwise, use a can of sweetened condensed milk and follow these instructions:

All you need is a can of sweetened condensed milk and a pot of water. Remove the label from the can and add two holes to the top (either with a hammer and nail or a simple can opener) to prevent the cans from exploding. Place in a large pot with water (enough to reach almost the top of the cans). Bring the water to a simmer and cook until that beautiful golden color is achieved. There’s no stirring required here, but be sure that you keep adding water to the pot as it has a tendency to evaporate. If you want a soft dulce de leche, cook for three hours; for a harder one it could take up to five.

3 bananas, peeled and sliced

2 tbsp sugar

½ pint whipping cream, whipped until soft peaks form

2 tbsp grated dark chocolate

Place the graham crackers into a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Transfer to a mixing bowl and stir in the melted butter, mixing well to combine.

Place the mixture into a lightly greased 8-inch loose-bottomed cake pan and press down into the base and up along the sides. Place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

To make the whipped cream, use a chilled metal bowl. Place the sugar into the mixing bowl and add the whipping cream. Whisk just until the cream reaches stiff peaks.

Spoon the dulce de leche over the biscuit base, and then cover with a layer of sliced bananas. Spoon the whipped cream on top and decorate with grated chocolate.

Slice into wedges and serve.

Chocolate Tofu Pudding

Trying new things. Being different. It’s not for everyone but for those who dabble in the unexpected, magical things can happen.  Tonight, in my kitchen, I did something out of the ordinary and discovered the wondrousness of a simple, chocolate pudding. Afresh to the exploration with tofu, I chanced upon a recipe that piqued my curiosity.

Reading an article the words, “she walked down the path, a bowl of chocolate tofu pudding slung under arm” came off the page and onto my tongue.  Chocolate. Tofu. Pudding. had to try it.  Stopping what I was doing I began searching for recipes and found one via a reputable source, Mark Bittman.

Mark Bittman is a food journalist and columnist for the New York Times.  A writer of several cookbooks and a marathon runner, I trusted his recipe.  Also, it wasn’t JUST chocolate tofu pudding but cinnamon and chili spiced, Mexican Chocolate Tofu Pudding!   Mark Bittman recommends using the silken tofu from aseptic boxes as opposed to the tofu packed in tubs for better texture.  He also notes, to use high quality chocolate because it is the predominant flavor.

Chocolate Tofu Pudding

Following the recipe, step-by-step and patiently awaiting the pudding to set before sampling, my first bite ensued.  Eh underwhelmed.  The spice of cinnamon and chili over-powered the chocolate and imparted a gritty texture on my tongue.  Personal taste preferences aside, I did not want to lose confidence in Mark Bittman’s recipe, so I tweaked it, omitting the spices and creating a more minimal, chocolate tofu pudding.  For those whose tongues have tasted the famous Marie Catribs chocolate pudding, I dare say, this comes close!

Purists would have difficulty in detecting the taste of silken tofu as it lends a velvety texture and is masked by the chocolate. I envision variations with agave, homemade fruit syrup or puree instead of chocolate or adding a splash of Frangelico or Cointreau for a twist.

Chocolate Tofu Pudding

Chocolate Tofu Pudding

3/4 cup sugar
1 pound silken tofu
8 ounces high-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted (double-boiler method, don’t have one?  Me neither, make one, easy)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate shavings (optional, however I used white chocolate for contrast).
Whipped cream (optional)

1. In a small pot, combine sugar with 3/4 cup water; bring to a boil and cook until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly.

2. Put all ingredients except for chocolate shavings in a blender and purée until completely smooth, stopping machine to scrape down its sides if necessary. Divide into individual serving ramekins or covered container and chill for at least 1 hour but I prefer overnight (if placed in a large container, recommend chilling overnight.) If you like, garnish with chocolate shavings, whipped cream, fruit or all three before serving!

Smash-tastic!

I give full credit to a blog I stumbled upon, Pepper Lynn for these delightfully, smash-tastic and decadent “smashies”.  Thanks to a 5th generation-old tradition, from the Ellis Family, in Ohio you can now take pleasure in a smashie all to yourself!  For those familiar with whoopie pies (and you know how good those are) well, eat your heart out because to me, a smashie is a delicate and glorified whoopie pie!
I served these up to my family after a night out on the town and reviews came in with smashing success!  Save this one for when you don’t want a mess but want to impress or simply want to treat your taste buds.
I broke tradition a bit and used Orange Blossom Water to sweeten the cream….ENJOY

Smashie with Orange-Scented Whipped Cream and Homemade Chocolate Sauce

Smash-tastic Smashies
adapted from www.pepperlynn.com

makes about 15 servings

16 ounces heavy whipping cream
3-4 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
orange zest, to taste
a few packages of Anna’s Swedish Cookies (I used Orange, Almond and Chocolate)
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup cold water
1 1-ounce square unsweetened baking chocolate

Anna’s Swedish Cookies and Orange Blossom Water

In a cold bowl, whip the heavy cream, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and orange blossom water with a mixer until stiff peaks form.  Using a rubber spatula fold in the orange zest.
Next, it is time to assemble the smashies so grab a cookie sheet, wax paper and spoon.  Take a generous portion of orange-scented whipped cream and dollop it atop the cookie.  Gently smash another cookie atop the whipped cream then add another dollop of whipped cream, followed by another cookie and smash down again.  Continue layering until you have a stack of 4 cookies tall.  Cover the smashies and refrigerated overnight (you may get away with a few hours but overnight is best!)

For the chocolate sauce, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and cold water in a small saucepan until the cornstarch is dissolved.  Add the chocolate, then heat the mixture just to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally; reduce the heat and let it simmer for a few minutes, stirring often, until the sauce is slightly thickened (fyi the sauce will be fairly thin at this point and will thicken slightly as it cools). Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.  Once the chocolate has cooled to room temperature transfer it to serving container and allow it to chill in the refrigerator until smashie time!

To serve, dollop a finishing touch of orange-scented whipped cream atop each smashie, then pour cold chocolate sauce over each and garnish with additional orange zest.

Viola.

Smashie with Orange-Scented Whipped Cream and Homemade Chocolate Sauce


Strawberry Pretzel Salad

No matter how you say it this dessert has absolutely no class!  What it does have is the perfect blend of sweet and salty and a flair of 1950’s Jello!  Strawberry Pretzel Salad is common place on the potluck or buffet table, and  makes its rounds about once a year for family holiday gatherings.

Today was one of those days when I had to turn to some sugary goodness for an uplift.  I should make note of the major food groups involved in this “salad”…Carbs, Dairy and Fruit!  Perhaps, not the most helpful or healthy option but you know what they say, desperate times cause for desperate measures!

Strawberry Pretzel Salad
Photo by Michelle

To recreate this dessert-type salad requires a few ingredients (not found in the perimeter of the grocery store) and a knack for layering!  I think this would be great served up in individual ball jam jars like My Baking Addiction does here:

http://www.mybakingaddiction.com

To make this yourself peruse your cookbook shelf for a community or church cookbook for a recipe or use the one below from About.com

Strawberry Pretzel Salad

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 24 to 36 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups crushed thin pretzel sticks (see Notes)
  • 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks or 12 Tablespoons) butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 package (6 ounce) strawberry flavor gelatin.
  • 8 ounces (1 large block) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup whipped topping (see Notes)
  • 2 heaping cups sliced strawberries, fresh or frozen
  • Additional whipped cream for garnish, optional

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 400 F.Finely crush pretzels with a rolling-pin or food processor. Combine crushed pretzels with 3 tablespoons sugar and butter. With a spatula, press pretzel mixture into the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan to form a crust. Bake 6 to 10 minutes until lightly browned. Cool completely.Pour 2 cups boiling water over strawberry gelatin. Stir until melted and let cool to room temperature.

Beat cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, and whipped topping until combined. Spread evenly over cooled crust.

Add strawberries to cooled gelatin and let thicken slightly. Spread strawberries and gelatin over cream cheese layer. Refrigerate until firm.

Cut into squares to serve.

Yield: 24 to 36 servings, depending on cut size

Notes: As for the pretzels, select thin pretzel sticks. A 9-ounce package is plenty for the pie shell. Real whipped cream may be used, of course, but Cool Whip and prepared Dream Whip work equally as well and are not quite as rich and heavy. You may also use sugar-free gelatin and sugar-free and/or low-fat whipped topping. I have not tried it with sugar substitutes in place of the sugar, though. Please comment if you try it.

Rosewater and Pistachios

“We snaked our way among the merchants and the beggars, wandered through narrow alleys cramped with rows of tiny, tightly packed stalls. Baba gave us each a weekly allowance of ten Afghanis and we spent it on warm Coca-Cola and rosewater ice cream topped with crushed pistachios.”
The Kite Runner

This week I had my first attempt at making ice cream!  I had been brainstorming some delicate, springtime flavors when I recalled that rosewater ice cream is mentioned in a great read by Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner.  I discovered, that rosewater pistachio ice cream has Persian roots, one of the world’s most ancient and varied cuisines.  In Farsi it is called  Bastani-e Za’farāni and is typically, flavored with saffron and rosewater.   I recommend serving it alongside baklava with black tea steeped with sage and sugar.

If you want to try this recipe and are thinking to yourself…when will I ever use rosewater again?  You are in luck!  Rosewater’s versatility ranges from flavoring baklava to cleansing the face.  It is derived from fresh rose petals and possesses a high potency, so a little goes a long way.  Splash it on fresh strawberries or oranges, try it in rice pudding or other desserts.  Rosewater is also a natural moisturizer so you may apply it to your skin or use it as a conditioner for your hair.

Rosewater and Pistachio Ice Cream with Baklava
photo by Michelle

I used the following recipe by David Lebovitz featured in the LA Times.

Pistachio-Rosewater Ice Cream
Makes: about 1 1/2 pints

1 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios
2 cups evaporated milk
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (not imitation)
5 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
2 ½ teaspoons rosewater

1. Crush the pistachios in a mortar and pestle or chop in a food processor.

2. Mix the milk, sugar, and vanilla in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan; add the pistachios and bring to a light boil. Allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes, then remove from the heat.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and slowly mix in about a cup of the hot milk-pistachio liquid to temper the eggs. Add the egg yolk-milk mixture to the saucepan, whisking as you pour it in. Cook the custard over low heat, stirring constantly until the custard clings to the back of a spoon and your finger can run a path through it without it running. Meanwhile, set a bowl large enough for the custard over an ice bath.

4. Remove the custard from the heat and immediately strain into the bowl set over the ice bath. Thoroughly chill the custard, placing a piece of plastic over the custard when it’s cooled slightly so that a skin doesn’t form.

5. When the custard has chilled, mix in the heavy cream and rosewater and prepare according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

Side note: Don’t discard the milk-cooked pistachios – they are soft and chewy, sweet and rich. Use them to top your ice cream, cupcakes, cereal, or eat them straight with a spoon. You could probably even use them to make baklava.

 

 

Mixed Fruit Rasayana

Yesterday was a wintry wonderland with white frosted trees and brisk air that marked my cheeks a rosy hue.  Today, however was filled with slush and intermittent raindrops.  A day that left me in a shade of grey.  I left work in the rain and came home to a mug of tea, mail and more emails.  I discarded my work clothes for some yoga ones and headed out the door in hopes of some restoration!  Great news… yoga was very relevant today taking on the form of back-bending and twisting.  These asanas help open the chest and release any negative emotions which perked me up enough to head home to the kitchen!

I opted for a fresh and colorful Mixed Fruit Rasayana with a hint of sweet! Hailing from India many people love to eat this salad with banana as the main fruit.  It’s super easy to  whip together and you can vary the flavors by using your favorite fruits or seasonal ones.

photo by michelle.

I adapted my recipe from Mysore Style Cooking   by V. Sandhya

Mixed Fruit Rasayana

Ingredients

Serves 4

2 bananas sliced

1/2 a papaya chopped into small cubes

2 apples, chopped into small cubes (I like Gala)

3 clementines peeled (I used a can of clementines)

1 bunch of green grapes (I cut into half)

1 bunch of red grapes (I cut into half)

1 pomegranate, peeled and seeds removed

3 mangoes, chopped

1 cup coconut cream

Juice from 1 fresh lime

Add the chopped fruit into a large mixing bowl.  Squeeze the fresh lime juice to taste and to prevent apples and bananas from turning brown.  Chill until ready to serve.

Serve in individual bowls and drizzle the coconut cream atop each fruit salad.

Semiya Payasam

Semiya-  vermicelli

Payasam- with milk

This is a very old and revered recipe that is an essential part of the South Indian meal.  Payasam is especially prepared during festivals or on auspicious days and is eaten before any of the other foods.  Consisting of minimal ingredients payasam instills a ‘homey’ feeling from the very first bite.

It is a sweet dish that may be consumed hot or cold.  I would describe the consistency to be like a rice pudding or porridge.  Payasam is most often made with rice but may also be made with vermicelli, like it is here.
There are several types of payasam and different versions all throughout India.  For example, in Northern India payasam is called kheer and is considered as a holy food, reserved for occasions such as weddings.

I made my first Payasam on the day I received my new cookbook, Mysore Style Cooking by V. Sandhya in the mail.  It was very simple to make and the ingredients are not difficult to come by.  I felt almost child-like and comforted by this sweet dish and just had to share!

Semiya Payasam

Ingredients

3 cups Milk (I use whole)

2 Tbs. Ghee

3 Tbs Cashew Nuts, halved

3 Tbs Raisins

1 cup Semiya (vermicelli)

1/2 cup Jaggery

10 Cardamom Pods, crushed, discard the husks

10-20 Almonds, finely chopped

1/4 tsp Saffron, soaked in 1/2 cup hot milk (I use the milk from the pot)

Method

1. Bring the milk to a boil in a heavy-bottomed pot and keep over a moderate heat, uncovered, until it is reduced .  Now lower the heat and allow to simmer.

2. Heat the ghee in a frying pan over medium heat.  Add the cashews and raisins and fry until the cashew nuts turn to golden brown, then remove from the pan and set aside.

3. In the same pan, fry the vermicelli until it turns golden brown.  Once browned add the vermicelli to the simmering milk, along with the ghee and cook over a low heat for 15 minuted until it becomes soft and the payasa begins to thicken.

4. Stir in the jaggery, cashew nuts, raisins, cardamom, almonds and the soaked saffron along with the milk, and mix well.

Remove from heat. Serve hot or cold

Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango

The most important ingredient in this dish is the mango.  The sticky rice and coconut milk are the backdrop to this “king of fruit”.  The best mango for this dessert is a small, sweet yellow type called Ataulfo (Honey Mango or Manila Mango).  It is non-fiborous and widely available throughout the United States.  Only the ripest (sweetest)  mangoes should be used and can be detected by touch and smell.  The ataulfo mango will be yellow, supple to the touch with a full-fruity aroma and the skin may have a slight wrinkling to it which means it is at perfection!

Ataulfo Mango

The next important ingredient is the sticky rice–it’s not so much the rice itself but the manner in which the rice is cooked.  Sticky rice is also referred to as glutinous rice or sweet rice.  Do not be fooled because sticky rice does not contain gluten it actually has a higher starch content = sticky.  This rice is traditionally cooked by steaming in a woven bamboo basket. Due to lack of space and ease of use I usually perform the ol’ boil in a pot method.  However, I have heard of some cooks using a splatter guard atop a pot of boiling water and covering with a large bowl as a ‘homemade steam method’.

*When shopping in U.S. Asian markets sticky rice is usually labeled as sweet rice.

*Thai people believe that sticky rice makes you mellow and that mangoes are a comfort food which also aid digestion.  A    satisfying ending to any meal!

This is how my Coconut, Mango Sticky Rice turned out:

photo by michelle.

I basically followed the recipe (shown below) from Darlene Schmidt.  I added cardamom and a drop of almond extract as well.

Classic Thai Mango Sticky Rice Dessert (Khao Niaow Ma Muang)

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Thai Sweet Rice (also called ‘sticky rice’ OR ‘glutinous rice’, available at Asian food stores
  • 1-2 ripe mangos, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 4-5 Tbsp. palm sugar OR brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 can good-quality (thick) coconut milk
  • water (for boiling or steaming the rice)

Preparation:

  1. Soak the rice in 1 cup water for 20-30 minutes, OR up to 4 hours.
  2. Do not drain the rice. Simply add 3/4 cup (more) water, plus 1/4 can coconut milk, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1 Tbsp. brown sugar. Stir this into the rice.
  3. Bring to a gentle boil, then partially cover with a lid (leaving some room for steam to escape). Reduce heat to medium-low.
  4. Simmer in this way for 20 minutes, or until the coconut-water has been absorbed by the rice. Turn off the heat, but leave the pot on the burner with the lid on tight. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes.
  5. To make the sauce, warm (do not boil) the rest of the can of coconut milk over medium-low heat (5 minutes). Add 3 Tbsp. sugar, stirring to dissolve.
  6. Taste-test the sauce for sweetness, adding more sugar if desired. (note that it will taste less sweet when added to the rice).
  7. To assemble, place a few ‘mounds’ of sticky rice in each serving bowl. Top with slices of the mango, then pour sauce over. It should look like an English pudding with custard sauce, with the mounds of rice swimming in sauce.
    OR, here’s another method that results in even more coconut-ty flavor (optional): Add scoops of rice (portion out 1 scoop per person) directly to the sauce pot and stir over low heat, gently breaking apart large lumps, but leaving smaller lumps/chunks). Now add the mango pieces and gently stir until everything is warmed through. Portion out into serving bowls, making sure everyone has equal amounts of rice, mango, and plenty of sauce.