Dark Chocolate Chunk Brownies with a Caramel Ribbon

2013-08-02 10.50.19Hello everyone! I have something lovely for you this week, I hope you enjoy.

I was recovering from a minor surgery, and really wanted to bake but I wasn’t supposed to move around much. So, in classic wifey fashion, I threw myself on the mercy of G, asking him to bake something, anything, to break up the monotony of a confection-less week. (We never, ever buy pre-made cakes or cookies, so if we want it, we have to make it).

My quest for the perfect brownie has been an ongoing saga, spanning dry cakey letdowns to oily crumbly messes (and those were some of the better ones). Every food blogger worth their salt needs to have a “best” brownie recipe in their repertoire, and now, I am happy to say, We have found ours.

G looked all over for easy recipes, and eventually decided he wanted to make brownies. I groaned and rolled my eyes, because,

1) When was the last time I had a REALLY good brownie…

and

2) See reason #1.

All that was about to change however. We discussed a few different recipes and the merits of each, this one was too eggy, that one looked like cake. He finally found what looked like a good basic recipe here, though we had no interest in the sugary frosting. What we were after was a truly good traditional brownie, with a smidgen of bling. So, we added dark chocolate chunks, and a dulce d leche caramel swirl to the top, and viola, fanshmastic badass brownies that have it all. A crispy chewy crust, a fudgy deep chocolatey base, and delicious dark chocolate chunks, just because we can. I kid you not, these are IT.

Ingredients: (Makes 12 large brownies/20 small brownies)

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 100 grams good dark chocolate (the better the chocolate, the better the brownies)
  • 3 tablespoons of a good quality, THICK dulche d leche spread or ribat chalav spread, made from real milk. (I use the one from comida, made at kibbutz ma’anit). Use the real stuff, not some caramel ice cream topper from a mass production company. The Latin American or Israeli brands are the best, from small dairies.

Method:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour an 8 inch square pan, or a 6×8 aluminum tin if you want them slightly thicker, like we did.

2) In a large saucepan, melt the 1/2 cup butter. Remove from heat, LET COOL, and stir in sugar, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup flour, salt, and baking powder. Spread batter into prepared pan.

3) Chop chocolate roughly into small chunks, and distribute evenly throughout the pan, mixing in slightly to get them below the surface.

4) Take a small plastic bag in your hand, and feed the corner into your fist, opening the rest of the bag around your hand, like this:

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and then spoon the caramel spread into the corner of the bag. Press out the air, and twist the bag closed, and snip off JUST the very tiny tip of the bag, so that you now have an easy homemade piping bag. Pipe the caramel spread onto the brownies in a zigzaggy pattern, then when it is all over the surface of the brownie batter, take a fork, and gently drag it up and down the brownies from top to bottom, then from left to right. You should end up with a pretty swirl type design that will bake deep down into craggy chewy deliciousness later on.

3) Bake in preheated oven for 26 minutes for softer brownies, 28 minutes for firmer ones (We did 25 minutes first and they were a bit too soft in the middle, then another 5 minutes, but then there was a faint burnt smell, which was undetectable later. 28 minutes should be perfect but watch them and use a timer). Do not overcook.

4) Take them out, and let them cool, completely. This is the most important part. Seriously. LEAVE THEM ALONE. When they are fully cool, refrigerate them for at least an hour, and up to 3 if you can wait that long. Trust me. Have I ever steered you wrong? Eh? This is where most people ruin what could have been otherwise passable or even delicious brownies.

5) After chilling for a reasonable length of time, (I know, it’s hard), remove from fridge, cut carefully, and serve with a very tall glass of milk.

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Apricot and Sour Cream Afternoon Coffee Cake

apricot sourcream cake2

I’m really feeling into gorgeous fruity cakes now, so I’m attempting, (with little success) to get them out of my system. This pretty little cake was inspired by an apricot jam, sour cream and toasted almond cupcake recipe that I am dying to make. Sadly, I haven’t had all the ingredients, in the house, at the same time yet and with our impending move, I’m trying not to buy anything that I don’t actually need to survive. (I can make a convincing argument for cupcakes being integral to my survival but that’s for another time). Since I had fresh apricots that were begging to be baked into something delightful, I decided to go with a cake instead. The basic cake recipe/ratios that I started with came from one of my favorite blogs, but I have changed it around a bit, made it bigger and a bit sweeter as well, since the apricots in Israel are quite sour, even when ripe. The top has an almost custardy texture, which is delicious and lends a wonderful creaminess to the apricots. I considered using brown or demerera sugar instead of the white, but went for the classic, simpler flavor of the white in the end. I used vanilla to round out the sourness of the apricots, but I think it would also be fantastic with some almond extract or amaretto, so feel free to experiment!

Ingredients: (serves 10)

For the cake:

– 5-7 very ripe apricots, washed and cut into slices
– 2 cups flour
– 1 teaspoon baking powder
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
– 150 grams  butter (basically 1 and 1/3 stick of butter)
– 1/2 cup milk (approximately)
– 2 tablespoons cream (15%, not heavy whipping)
– 3/4 cup sugar
– 1 egg
– 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

For the top:

– 1 tablespoon sour cream
– 1 tablespoon sugar
– 1 egg

Right before serving:

– powdered sugar
– vanilla ice cream

apricot sourcream cake1

Method: Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F) and grease or line a 12 inch spring-form pan with baking paper. I always use baking paper and clean up is nonexistent.

1) In a big bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda and butter with your hands, pinching it all together until it is almost all incorporated. Alternately you can use a food processor.

2) Add in the sugar, and mix again. Add in the egg, vanilla, cream, and milk, then mix again until just combined, being careful not to over mix.  The batter should be thick, bot pourable, so if it is too stiff, add more milk as needed.

3) Pour the batter into the pan and spread it around evenly with a spatula. Arrange the apricots on top, in a spiral pattern.

4) In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, sugar and egg for the topping, beating them with a fork, and pour it evenly over the top of the cake.

5) Bake for about 35 minutes, (I cooked it for 40 minutes, as you can see in the top photo that was too long, so I reduced the cooking time to 35 minutes) or until golden and the apricots are tender. Turn off the oven and let it sit for another 15 minutes or so.  I did this with the oven door open slightly open so that it wouldn’t dry out. Dust with powdered sugar just before serving, and serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a truly awesome experience.

apricot sourcream cake3

Coconut Curry Quinoa with Creamy Sauteed Garlic, Broccoli and Artichoke Hearts

coconutquinoaOK, you guys are going to love this one. It’s something we make all the time, and just forgot to put it up before because it’s such a frequent meal in our house that I just assumed I had posted it already. My sister assured me I hadn’t. Now, I’m trying to go more veggie and more healthy in general, and this is the most fantastic core basic thing that you can serve with just about anything. It also makes many dishes that you already make about 100x better so here goes.

The secret is in the coconut milk. Instead of the basic quinoa to water 1:2 ratio, I do quinoa to coconut milk to water 1:1:1. It comes out super fluffy and delicious, and much more hydrated than regular quinoa, for a much tastier and more satisfying texture. It’s almost like a non-dairy version (just the quinoa) of the difference between rice and risotto, but far healthier. You can make this vegan by leaving out the cream in the veggies.

Variations include adding 1-2 shakes of curry powder and instead of mixing in veggies at the end, serving it with glazed soy ginger baked salmon, or any main protein that you want. The coconut is super mild, as is the curry powder, so you get a really lovely side dish (I say side but this ends up being the main event more often than not, it’s that good) without anything being too overpowering. Just make sure your guests aren’t allergic to coconut before serving this, because it’s really undetectable other than the subtle things it does for the texture and flavor!

Ingredients: (serves 4 as a light but wonderful dinner)

For quinoa:

  • 1 and 2/3 cup white quinoa
  • 1 and 2/3 cup coconut milk, this works out to exactly a can for me. (coconut water, coconut liquid, and coconut cream all work, (unsweetened) look for the one that says 17% fat)
  • 1 and 2/3 cup water
  • salt and pepper to taste (usually when i say this it works out to be about 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-2 shakes yellow madras Curry powder (very tasty but OPTIONAL) to be added with salt and pepper

For veggie saute: (you can double this if you want lots more veg to quinoa ratio or if you have more people coming over)

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen broccoli, (I use frozen) cut into bite sized pieces (run under cold water to ease cutting)
  • 1 cup cubed fresh, frozen or canned artichoke hearts (I use frozen or canned). (about 1cm cubes)
  • 3-4 smashed and minced cloves of fresh garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil for sauteing
  • splash of white wine (optional, I think it doesn’t need it)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of cream, depends on how creamy you want it (15% for pastas)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder or to taste.
  • salt and pepper to taste (1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper usually works)

Method:

1) Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium sized saucepan that has a cover.

2) Pick a glass that is around 1 and 2/3 cups. Fill it up to the very top with quinoa. Add quinoa to the pot, and mix it around, coating in the hot oil.

3) Cook for about 1 minute, toasting the little quinoa seeds. Then, using the same cup you use to measure the quinoa, add water and coconut milk. basically, 1:1:1 quinoa to water to coconut milk. You can do this with white, red or brown rice and the results will be the same, the only thing that varies is the cooking time (35-40 minutes for red or brown rice or red quinoa).

4) Add salt and pepper, don’t worry, you can correct this later if you don’t use enough. If you are adding curry powder, add it now, and mix it all up and cover.

5) Cook covered on a low flame for 20 minutes exactly. I use a kitchen timer. Do not stir. After 20 minutes, turn off the heat and let it sit for five minutes undisturbed. Uncover and fluff the quinoa.

While the quinoa is cooking, make the veggie saute.

1) Heat olive oil in a large frying pan or wok. Add minced garlic when oil is hot enough to make garlic sizzle, saute gently on medium heat.

2) Chop broccoli and artichoke hearts, add now if both are frozen, otherwise, add fresh first, then frozen 3 minutes later, then canned 2 minutes later. Cover, and saute 3-4 minutes.

3) Saute until all veggies are mostly cooked through (broccoli should still be bright green!), then add splash of white wine if you are using it.

4) cook off alcohol for about 2 minutes, then add cream, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and stir gently for the next 2 minutes.

By now, the quinoa should be done, if not, turn off heat and cover veggies. Serve veggies over a warm bed of quinoa, and… Oh boy, my tummy is just rumbling away right now, I think I’ll go make some. Oh yeah, we added a cup of chopped fresh mushrooms and sauteed them with the other veggies once and it was delicious then too, so don’t be afraid to experiment with other options. All the best till next time, I love you guys!

Easy Cheesy Comte and Basil Gouda Buttermilk Biscuits (can be made vegan!)

biscuitblog1So, I have been a very bad girl. No, not in the biblical sense as some of you may be thinking, but rather in terms of my promise to you, to bring you wonderful recipes each week. I do of course have some lovely excuses and stories… you know I would have to. For example, the birthday visit of my super sweet sister for 3 weeks, and the fan-freaking-tastic good time we had traveling all over the place hiking, biking, beaching, eating and wine tasting.

Or, perhaps I’ll tell you the one about how after she left, I went on another hike with G and our dog Bella in a very remote, rocky area, and at the very very end of the trail, deep in the park, I fell and twisted my ankle. I actually was sure it was broken it hurt so much, but then as I was crawling to a big rock to sit on away from all the crawlies in the stream bed, it sort of cracked back into place, and I could actually wiggle it. Whew. OK, so at least it wasn’t broken. It gets better. Our parks don’t really have rangers on duty so G had to call an ambulance, problem was, no one could get to us where we were. To make things worse, I had left my phone behind, and G had about 17% left on his that was rapidly draining as he tried to explain where we were so they could get a GPS lock on us. We saw an ATV trail nearby that might have some traffic, and decided to get there the only way we could, with me riding piggy back as G carried me, army style, over hill and dale. Still no one could reach us and I started to despair, sure I would have to stay the night, knowing that I would freeze my ass off and all manner of creepy creatures would come out as soon as it got dark. Or, even better, the army would have to helicopter me out of there for a mere sprained ankle, and I would spend the rest of my days paying off a massive debt for an embarrassing and unplanned helicopter ride. Please god no I thought, just let me die here instead.

Luckily, just as I was at the peak of my panic attack, a one handed old man with a geriatric poodle in a sweater happened by in his jeep, on his daily trip through the park. G flagged him down and after explaining what happened, the guy, who I later found out was named Eli, and Sally, his deaf, blind and epileptic dog, offered to 4WD me out of there. And so I was saved by a most unlikely duo. The ambulance was waiting at the exit to the park when we finally emerged, 30 minutes later, and after a short exam, they sent me off to get x-rayed and hooked up with crutches, bound for bed for the next few days.

That would be the end of my tale, but then we had the holiday, a weekend away camping at the beach, and finally, I was hit with a most common cold. So here I sit, with a list 5 miles long of things I cooked or baked in the last month and want to share with you, and yet, I’m fighting just to be able to type straight in the clutches of this crappy little head cold. So. Knowing that I had to do something to get back in the saddle, and having no bread or anything else ready made in the house to snack on, I went online looking for the easiest biscuit recipe I could find. I of course modified it, because it was just a bit, well, boring, if you must know the truth.

I hope you enjoy, because I sure did…

Ingredients: (makes 12)

2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable (canola) oil
*1/3 cup buttermilk (I used 1/3 cup 1% milk and a 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar)
*1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
*1/2 cup shredded Basil Gouda cheese
*1/4 cup shredded Comte cheese
*For vegan biscuits, substitute 1/3 cup coconut cream for heavy cream, and 1/3 cup coconut cream plus 1/2 a teaspoon of white vinegar for the buttermilk, and leave out the cheese.
Method: (takes 8 minutes prep time maximum).
1) Preheat oven to 475F.
2) Set up either an ungreased cookie sheet or large cupcake sleeves.
3) Mix all dry ingredients and cheeses together in a large bowl.
4) Add wet ingredients, and mix until just combined, no more.
5) Gather dough together into a ball, kneading for just a minute until no pieces fall off.  It will be very crumbly, don’t worry, that’s good, it means they will be light and fluffy.
6) Either break apart into 12 equal pieces and place in cups, or roll out gently to 1/2 inch thick and cut out twelve 2 inch circles and arrange on tray.
7) Bake for 10-12 minutes at 475F or until tops begin to brown.
8) Enjoy with butter and pepper for a savory treat, or with raspberry jam for a much sweeter twist.
Please let me know what you think, and I promise more good stuff is on the way!

Cranberry Quinoa Summer Salad with Parsley, Red Onion, Celery, and Lemon

photo(17)Many people that I have met in my travels were afraid of quinoa. (That is until I got through with them.) I get it though, It’s just one of those items on the shelf that I used to look at and think, ummm. Maybe I’ll try that NEXT week.

Why was it so intimidating? Well besides the fact that it looked like a cross between couscous and rice, so I wasn’t sure how to cook it; the few times I had eaten it, it tasted bitter or even hard because it wasn’t cooked or seasoned properly. I’m guessing some of you have had a similar experience?

However what many people don’t know is that it also has an unbelievable high nutrient and protein content, and almost no fat- which makes people mistakenly classify it as a health food,  as in, “I’m only going to eat that if I’m on a diet and you make me”.  What they also don’t know is that when cooked properly, it has a wonderful nutty taste and can be absolutely delicious if coupled with a few other yummy ingredients.

This is one of my favorite quinoa recipes, and is an unbelievably refreshing and yummy Mediterranean salad that we love to eat in the summertime. It is so easy, and really healthy, so you don’t have to feel guilty if you want to drink a beer or two with it. It would also be really good with chicken or fish as a high protein side, but I love it as a light lunch all on its own. Next time I think I’m going to crumble some feta on top as well.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

1 “cup” quinoa (I use a large whiskey glass)+(2 “cups” water)

A small handful of fragrant chopped parsley

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/4 to 1/2 of a medium sized red onion, diced

2 large celery ribs, diced

1lemon quartered for garnish and adding juice over the top

Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

Method:

1) Cook the quinoa. This is really easy, even though I didn’t know how to make rice for the LONGEST time. Like, really. I only learned this year, and this method is FOOLPROOF. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium sized saucepan. Pick a glass that is around 1 and 1/2 cups. Fill it up to the very top with quinoa. Add quinoa to the pot, and mix it around, coating in the hot oil. Cook for about 1 minute, toasting the little quinoa grains. Then, using the same cup you use to measure the quinoa, add water filling the cup up twice. basically, 1:2 quinoa to water. You can do this with white, red or brown rice and the results will be the same, the only thing that varies is the cooking time (40 minutes for red or brown rice). Add salt and pepper, don’t worry, you can correct this later if you don’t use enough. Cook covered on a low flame for 20 minutes exactly. I use a kitchen timer. Do not stir. After 20 minutes, turn off the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes undisturbed. Uncover and fluff the quinoa.

2) Dice the celery and red onion, and chop the parsley and dried cranberries.

3) Mix all ingredients together, and serve with 1/4 slices of fresh lemon to squeeze over the top.

Asparagus, Feta, Manchego and Japanese Shimeji Mushroom White Wine and Butter Scrambled Eggs with Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper

Best eggs ever

Not your grandmothers scrambled eggs

These don’t look like much from the outside, but trust me when I tell you that they were the best eggs I have ever had, and I have something of a reputation for fantasamagorical eggy creations. In fact, at this point, I am not even sure you could call them just plain old eggs. It was more like a gourmet saute with savory cheeses that just so happened to have eggs as the main ingredient. It was alternately savory, salty, cheesy, and fluffy with a slight crunch every now and then. Divine.

The most important thing I think you have to remember when cooking eggs is not to overcook them, after all, there are few things less appetizing than rubbery eggs. With recipes like this, I think your ingredients make the difference between an average dish and a mind blowing one, so that is what this post is going to focus on.

Ingredients: (serves 2)

  • 4 Large Eggs. eggs
  • Fresh Baby Asparagus, cut into 1 cm slices. Otherwise known as young asparagus. You should be able to eat it raw (uncooked), and it will taste sweet and fresh, with a slight bitterness at the tips with no woody bits that need to be discarded. The cut ends should still be mostly green, not white and dried out. Look in the specialty/gourmet veggies section. The bottom ends should be no thicker than 1 cm across in diameter.baby asparagus
  • 10-15 Japanese Shimeji mushrooms all sizes, leave the small ones whole, and slice the bigger ones the long way down the middle with just the ends trimmed off and discarded. Otherwise know as Chinese mushrooms, brown beech mushrooms, or brown clamshell mushrooms. (Shimeji should always be cooked: it is not a good mushroom to serve raw due to a somewhat bitter taste, but the bitterness disappears completely upon cooking. Wiki.)Fresh_Japanese_Mushrooms_2
  • A small handfull (1/4 cup to 1/3 cup) of  sheep’s milk Feta cheese, crumbled. Get the one that is in a cube in water, not the dry one that is already crumbled for you, it’s fresher. Bulgarian feta cheese
  • 1/8 of a cup (splash) of a nice white wine that you wouldn’t mind drinking, not some icky cooking wine. Yes, it matters. We used a mild semi-dry Emerald Riesling. You could also use a nice Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, or Chardonnay, doesn’t really matter as long as you like it.white-wine
  • Shredded Manchego cheese, (or parmesan) to sprinkle all over the top of the eggs while they are cooking. About 1/8 cup.manchego
  • Sea Salt and Fresh Cracked Pepper to taste, about 1/8 teaspoon Sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon Cracked Pepper freshly ground. saltandpepper
  • 1 teaspoon Salted Butter for sauteing.butter

Method:

1) Saute Shimeji mushrooms in 1 tsp butter for 5 minutes, in a covered 12 inch diameter saute pan over medium heat. Don’t crowd the mushrooms.

2) When they are cooked through but not wilted, add asparagus, and cook for another 2 minutes covered.

3) Add white wine to hot pan, let alcohol cook off uncovered, about 2 minutes.

4) Mix up eggs in  a bowl with a fork, add sea salt and pepper, then add to pan with mushrooms and asparagus spreading out over the whole pan evenly, as if you were making an omelet.

5) Cook for about 3-5 minutes covered. When egg is mostly cooked on bottom but is still wet on top, sprinkle Manchego and Feta over the whole surface, then break up the eggs as if you were scrambling them, but gently, minding the asparagus and mushrooms. Cover, and cook for 1 additional minute.

6) Turn off heat, but LEAVE covered for 2 additional minutes. This will finish cooking the eggs through, but will not overcook them.

7) Serve immediately, with toast and butter or jam.

*All Ingredients Photos: credit Google images.

Cinnamon & Spice Banana Muffins with Dark Chocolate Chunks and Toasted Pecans

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Warm spicy banana pecan chocolate melty goodness right out of the oven. MnnnnnnMnnnMnn!

My husband cant sing enough praises about this recipe, in fact it was the one that he says cinched the marriage proposal. It was good then, but it’s also one I have been developing for the last 3 years and I think, possibly, maybe, it’s finally truly perfect.

These are in fact so easy and wonderful, I honestly can believe how good they are considering the little amount of work they require.

NOTE: This was originally a loaf recipe, so it makes a few more muffins than normal. My pics are of a DOUBLE RECIPE, but I will be giving you the normal recipe for 16-18 regular sized muffins, so have a 12 cup muffin tin, as well as a 6 cup muffin tin ready for the regular recipe.

DSC_0063

Ingredients: In 2 separate bowls, 1 for wet ingredients, 1 for dry.

Dry:

1 2/3 cups flour (white all purpose)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup chopped pecans

1 bar good dark chocolate, (100g) chopped (or chunks or chips if you can find)

Wet:

2/3 cup white sugar

2/3 cup brown sugar

2 large room temperature eggs, mixed

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup sour cream or creme fraiche

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large, or 3 small RIPE bananas, sliced (folded in at the very end, to the whole mixture, otherwise they break down and you don’t get chunks, just banana flavor and moistness)

*Do NOT add wet ingredients to dry ingredients until you are ready to bake! The baking soda needs the sour cream to react, and rise. The reaction starts immediately, and stops eventually, so once you mix them, they should go straight into the muffin cups and then into the preheated oven. If you want to make them non-dairy, leave out the baking SODA and the sour cream and use 1 teaspoon baking POWDER instead, which doesn’t need a catalyst.

Method: Preheat oven to 375F, or 190C and line muffin cups

1) Toast chopped pecans in a dry frying pan over a low flame while mixing often, until they are a toasty brown, NOT burned. You are looking for a warm nutty smell. Watch them. it’s SO easy to burn nuts while toasting them. Stop early if you are unsure. Chop Chocolate.

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2) In large bowl, mix together: flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, chopped pecan, and chocolate pieces.

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3) In medium sized bowl, mix together: white sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vegetable oil, sour cream, and vanilla.DSC_0068

4) Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, mix just until combined, then fold in bananas.

DSC_00745) add mixture to muffin cups, up to the tops but not overflowing.

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6) Bake for 12-16 minutes with a timer, or until the middles look golden brown and set but not dry. Gently press down on the top of one if you are not sure. You can try using a toothpick but you are likely to hit banana or chocolate, so its not the best test. they will literally smell and taste better than the best spice cake you have ever had.

Banana Chocolate chunk spiced muffins with toasted peacansHow simple they look, yet they hold many secrets…

Allow to cool in pan or on rack for 5-10 minutes, then enjoy warm with a big glass of milk. They keep in a tupperware out of the fridge for a good 3-4 days, if they last that long.

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Crispy Chicken Tenders From the Great Beyond

chicken nugget bites

I’ve made fried chicken before a few times, always with a breadcrumb and flour coating, and always gotten rave reviews. Now I love the idea of fried chicken. But what I don’t love is long frying (and then baking) times, wasting huge amounts of oil, unevenly cooked chicken pieces, and bits of fat, bone, and gristle getting in the way of my fried chicken experience. I mean come on people, this is serious stuff we are talking about here. So I wondered what would happen if I made my own full white-meat fried chicken tenders. Crispy spicy batter, juicy white meat chicken tenders… you know, they are called chicken “tenders” for a reason. They wouldn’t call them tenders if they were some chewy nasty tough-ass bits of shoe leather tasting “chicken product” like the stuff you get in the freezer section, am I right? Yeah, you know I am.

So there I was, searching the web for the ultimate fried chicken recipe with which to make my dreamed up nuggets, and I’ll be honest with you now… lean in… there are hundreds, if not thousands, all claiming to be the best. But you see, I had a second critical criteria. There couldn’t be milk in the batter. Turns out that almost every fried chicken recipe under the sun calls for milk or buttermilk, AND milk is the one thing in a batter that will make it burn before the chicken is crispily (yes I made that word up) cooked through to perfection. Fascinating right?

Unfortunately, or so I thought, Googling “fried chicken no milk” brings up far fewer recipes to choose from, so at first I was worried. then my eye fell on this link, from Mark of the excellent blog “2010, my year with Chris Kimball” featuring  “Batter-Fried Chicken“. (Yes, I am now a fan. He includes the relative cost of each meal. Brilliant!) I clicked on it, read through the page, and my heart leaped… I could see that this might really be something special. For those of you who didn’t know, Chris Kimball is one of the chefs behind “Cooks Illustrated Magazine”, and “Americas Test Kitchen”. The fact that Mark was inspired to write his blog after watching the movie “Julie and Julia” just made it that much better. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it. Now.

julie-julia-movieStanley Tucci Went to My College!

After making these yummy guys, (and they were AWESOME, juicy, and delicious) I emailed with Mark about how to make them less salty. He tried them that night, and pointed out that the brining time should be cut (at least) in half for nuggets vs. whole pieces of chicken on the bone, and that they would be better cut to about 2x bigger than the size I made them. This makes sense for a few reasons, and while I love bite sized food that you can just pop into your mouth,  these really would be better if you make them a bit bigger. The batter is intense, but wonderful. He got about 30 pieces to my 50 if I understood him correctly) Also, if you have leftovers, which you wont unless you are cooking for 2 and don’t halve the recipe, they can be reheated without drying out. yes, I always make too much. No, I don’t sweat it because I live with a very hungry man.

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So I am going to give you the recipe Mark provided from Cooks Illustrated Magazine, along with my variations, and his suggestions for the best “fried chicken nuggets” ever. These are a great appetizer/snack for Superbowl Sunday, and will make any day that much better!

Ingredients: (For 3-4 hungry people for dinner, or as snacks for 5-7)

Brine:
1 quart cold water
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup sugar
4 chicken breast pieces (the tops of 2 whole chickens, or 4 chicken cutlets)

Batter:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornstarch (cornflour, NOT cornmeal)
5 teaspoons pepper (Yes, that’s right, FIVE)
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (used pepper flakes as I had no cayenne)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 cups cold water
1 liter vegetable oil ( I cut it from the original recipe by 2/3 and it made about 4-5 batches no problem)

Method:

1) I started with the full white meat breasts of 2 chickens. (4 pieces total). After cleaning and cutting up the pieces, (I had around 50 nugget sized pieces of chicken. Go for 30 pieces (15 pieces from 2 chicken cutlets) like Mark did unless you want them bite sized and plan to eat them all in one sitting. I brined them for an hour (too long for nuggets!), as the recipe called for.

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2) Mix up brine, then brine for 30 minutes in refrigerator. Set a timer, and drain right away. Pat dry.

3) Mix up batter by combining flour, cornstarch, pepper, paprika, cayenne, baking powder, salt, and water. Whisk until all lumps have gone. Add chicken pieces to batter and mix them around, coating each piece completely.

Fry Batter

4) Heat oil until the end of a toothpick bubbles happily.

5) When oil is hot, using a fork, add pieces one at a time, first allowing excess batter to drip off each piece. Do not overcrowd! I fit about 10 per batch for the smaller ones, I’d say 6-7 per batch of the bigger ones.

6) Set a timer for 6 minutes for each batch of smaller ones, 8 minutes each batch for the bigger ones. After about 3 minutes in the oil, break them up, make sure they aren’t sticking to the bottom or each other.

7) When they are a  deep golden brown, take them out and lay them on paper towels to crisp up and dry off.

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8) Keep warm in preheated oven while you make the next few batches.

Nuggets

9) I served with mayo and ketchup because they has so much flavor on their own they really didn’t need much, but you can serve with whatever dipping sauces you like best, be it BBQ, honey mustard, spicy mayo, the possibilities are endless.

Homemade Jalapeno Poppers, The Last Bastion of The “Restaurants Do it Better” Misconception

Best Superbowl Appetizer

I remember the first time I ever had a Jalapeno popper. I was 16, cutting study-hall (read: we don’t know what to do with you kids so sit here and do your homework) so that I could hang out with the seniors down the street at what was one of the best deli’s in West Hampton Beach. I had never heard of such a thing before, and that first bite revealing the creamy melty interior was otherworldly. I could see the layers of orange cheddar, white cream cheese, and green jalapeno, and was just blown away by how well it all worked together. It was hot and cheesy, with just a mild spice and the perfect creamy crunch. I was in love.

Game Day Jalapeno Poppers

I have always craved brilliantly conceived and executed appetizers because they were delicious, (think Fridays’ stuffed potato skins, Friendlys’ Mozzarella sticks, and Outback Steakhouses’ 3 cheese fries with that insane dipping sauce…) but even more so because it just didn’t seem like the kind of thing people could do at home. No one I knew had a deep fryer yet, (this was in the 90’s before the food culture revolution when the only place you could buy such a thing was on the late night TV insomniacs shopping channels) so it just seemed like a non-starter. A moo point.

moo pointThank You Joey Tribbiani.

Later on, these things started becoming available to the mainstream, and I’m going to upset a lot of food supply marketing people when I say this… you don’t even need one. All you do need is a medium sized pot at least 4 inches deep and some frying oil, vegetable works just fine. You can even go out and buy a frying thermometer, which I recommend if you are going to be making doughnuts or other temperature sensitive fried foods, but really, all you need to know is this. Get your oil hot enough so that after you put the food in, it rises to the surface after about 30 seconds. If it sinks and stays down, the oil is too cold. If it never sinks, the oil is too hot. That’s it, that’s all you need to know. You see, easy.

I had been dreaming about these little monsters for ages, and literally couldn’t remember the last time I had a good popper other than that first time, when I started going off about them to my husband. He was unconvinced of their goodness and you just can’t find anyone out here who has even heard of them, so I promptly went online to see if it was possible to do at home. Guess what?!@! IT IS! I found this recipe at blogchef.net and modified it because the crust didn’t seem substantial enough, but you are free to try it his way. I also made a bigger batch since we bought too many Jalapenos and also, we just can’t ever get enough of a good thing.

hot peppers!

Ingredients: (serves 4-8 depending how many everyone wants)

  • A big bag of Jalapenos, we used about 7-10 that were each about 8-10 inches in length. I think it would be cool to use the smaller ones and much prettier, but this was what we had.
  • 16 oz plain cream cheese
  • A nice big block of either good quality shredded sharp yellow or white cheddar (I recommend Cabot), or shredded manchego cheese, which was what I used since I can’t get the former here. Anywhere from 1 cup to 1 and 1/2 cups should be enough.
  • A large container of seasoned bread crumbs, working with about a cup at a time.
  • Plain white flour (at least 1-2 cups, working with about a cup at a time).
  • Whole Milk (2% or 3% is also fine (at least 1-2 cups) working with about a cup at a time.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Kitchen Tools:

  • A large metal slotted spoon for removing poppers from oil
  • Paper towels
  • 2 pairs of Latex gloves for working with!!! Those oils can BURN your face and eyes… but that story for another time (remind me to tell you sometime about the great chili fiasco of 08′).

safe hands1

Method: (prep time 45 minutes)

  • Wearing latex or rubber gloves, use a knife to carefully slice off the stems, cut the Jalapenos in halves, and cut out the pith (white parts) and all the seeds.
  • Cut Jalapenos to the sizes you want, we experimented with longer ones, and more bite sized ones, as you will see in the photos. Both were great, depends on your personal preference.
  • Once that is all done, carefully discard gloves.
  • In a bowl, mix up cream cheese, salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon milk if your cream cheese is too firm. Ours comes fresh from the dairy so it’s already very creamy and easy to mix. (Alternately, you can layer the melty cheese on top of the cream cheese stuffed peppers, you will see why this might be a better idea in a minute).

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  • Put on your second pair of gloves, and stuff peppers with cheese mixture. If you are layering on melty cheese, do that now as well.

2013-01-20 20.42.51As you can see, we mixed it all together, which made them explode a little in the oil, so next time I’m going to try it with the layering. I think its also better for the textural experience, I like to see those threads of melty cheese stretching on for days when I bite in to something cheesy.

  • This part is important, dip each popper in milk, then roll in flour, and let it REST for 10 minutes.

2013-01-20 20.52.00Fun Fact: That’s G’s hand doing the dirty work!

  • Now, you are going to set up 3 bowls, one with milk, one with flour, and one with breadcrumbs, and prepare a surface to lay the poppers while you are working.

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  • After they have sat for 10 minutes, dip each one again in milk, then roll in flour, then back in milk, then roll in breadcrumbs. It will get messy, but doing the flour twice gives it a real nice crunchy coating.

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  • Once you have breaded the very last one, it’s time to FRY!!!!!!
  • Pour oil into pot until it comes up about 2-3 inches from the bottom.
  • Heat oil over high flame until a toothpick tip held in the oil bubbles happily.
  • Now you can gently add your first popper to the oil. If it sinks and then comes up to the surface after about 30 seconds, you can add more poppers until there is no room left. I had to do 3 batches. 1 dinner plate full of poppers per batch, or about 10 poppers per batch.

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  • Fry each batch for 3 minutes, or until they are golden brown. Remove one at a time with a metal slotted spoon, and place directly onto paper towels to dry and crisp up.

See how they exploded a bit? I think that’s because the Manchego was mixed in, rather than layered on top of the cream cheese. But boy did they taste AMAZING!!!

  • Remove any stray bits from the oil, repeat temperature test, and fry the second batch. I use my digital oven timer and they come out perfect in 3 minutes and evenly cooked every time.

I promise, if you are faced with the option to do these yourself or buy the processed frozen ones, TRUST me, do it yourself. Homemade  is almost always better. I left a plateful uncooked to freeze so that I can wow my chef sister with them the next time she comes to visit, the great thing about these is you can do all the work one day, then freeze them until you are ready to serve for a dinner party or Superbowl Sunday, and then just fry them right up on the spot! YUM! They were delish, with a mild heat, that you only really noticed when they started to cool down, but by then, well, they were all gone. 🙂

*Update: My cheffy sister came to visit for the weekend and sample some of the recent goings on in our kitchen (saved in the freezer for her imminent arrival). This meant sampling Asian chicken dumplings with their insane garlic scallion sweet and spicy dipping sauce, chocolate cream cheese glazed cinnamon buns, my husbands first amazing attempt at a classic new york cheesecake with a cookie crust and a creamsicle twist, herbed squash on toast with ricotta and onion marmalade, and of course, our beautiful Jalapeno poppers experiment. The poppers went into the oil frozen this time, and by 3 minutes the outsides were a gorgeous brown, but the insides were still a bit cold, so I would recommend frying for a full 5 minutes with the timer set. We just popped them into the toaster oven to finish warming the insides, on the highest heat for about 5 minutes, which did the job splendidly. Make sure that the oil is HOT when they go in, and resist the temptation to remove them until they bob up to the top and have been floating on the surface for about a minute. Salt generously when they come out of the fryer, (5 or 6 shakes over the whole thing) and serve. Watch out. they are hot inside!!! I went to bed with the smell of cheesy jalapeno in the air and dreamed of poppers dancing, dipping and swirling through the ether.

Popperjoy

Best Ever Devils Food Chocolate Cupcakes With Coffee Infused Dulce D’ Leche Frosting

2013-01-22 13.19.27  There are cupcakes and then there are CUPCAKES. Unfortunately, not all cupcakes deserve the name. I understand where heavy cakes and butter-cream have their place at kids parties and inauguration ceremonies (where the point is that they look good rather than taste good), this recipe however is for lighter than air, sinfully grownup gourmet cupcakes loaded with coffee and orgasmic tendencies. In other words, you want to hang out in the adult section? Step right up. Someone very close to me recently tasted these for the first time, and after her eyes rolled into the back of her head and she finished chewing, promptly thanked me for the  foodgasm and asked for another. She now asks me to make them whenever she comes over.

I found this recipe online looking for the best basic chocolate cake recipe, and was surprised to find that the best ones around are in fact vegan and made with vinegar. Shocking, I know. But I have always respected Mollie Katzen, and now I know why. I modified baking time for cupcakes, and then developed the frosting to go along with it for a truly special marriage of flavors and textures.

Ingredients:

For “lighter than air” Moosewood vegan chocolate cake

(The cupcake bit of this recipe actually happens to be vegan, but don’t be fooled, they are sure to satisfy even the most beastly confectionery cravings you may be having, AND they are super light, quick and easy!) Hooray!

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used grape seed oil for the most recent batch of these, which made them EVEN lighter) I would only do that if you know they are all going to be eaten the same day though, because after a night in the fridge they have a hard time holding their crumb together. No such issues when using vegetable oil. In fact with veg oil they are even better on the second day out of the fridge.
  • 1 cup cold water or coffee (1 heaping tsp instant coffee dissolved in 2 Tbsp hot water, then add cold water to reach 1 cup)
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar

For the Frosting:

  • 1 approx. 450g container or jar of Dulche d’ Leche spread, Ribat Chalav spread, or coconut milk caramel sauce, homemade like my sister makes, or store bought. You basically want something thick and spreadable that tastes like caramel. coconut milk caramel sauce is good because it can be made non-dairy with coconut milk so that your whole cupcake is vegan, but I prefer it with a dairy caramel spread. To each his (or her) own.
  • 1 tsp instant coffee
  • 1 Tbsp hot water

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  • Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt and sugar into a bowl.
  • In a small bowl, mix the oil, water or coffee and vanilla extract.
  • Add the wet ingredients except vinegar to the dry ones, stirring as you go. The mixture will quickly turn almost black.
  • When the batter is smooth, add the vinegar and stir quickly. Pale swirls will occur where the vinegar and baking soda react. Stir just until the vinegar is even distributed throughout the batter.
  • Distribute evenly between 12 lined cupcake cups, right up to the top of the liners.
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes in center of oven, using a timer because they are so dark from the cocoa powder that you cant see when they start to brown and you really don’t want to overcook them and dry them out.
  • Make frosting in a bowl now, by dissolving instant coffee in water and then adding the package of caramel sauce to the bowl. Mix gently (or do the whole thing in a stand mixer, which I don’t have so I have to do this bit by hand) for about 5 minutes or until it is all smooth and even. Chill in the fridge until you are ready to frost the little devils.
  • Remove cupcakes from oven when timer goes off, and allow to cool for 20 minutes in the tray.
  • Take cupcakes out of tray carefully, first running a small knife around the sides to release them from the pan.

devils food cupcakes

They should look like this, and have a super thin crust on top after they have cooled. Inside, they should be fully baked but oh so moist and lighter than air. Frost when they are fully cool or when you are ready to eat or serve them, and then, go do something worthy of confessional.

2012-12-12 16.44.47Some people prefer them with the frosting warm, as above, all melty and shameless! If you do, add a few more tablespoons of water to the coffee/frosting mixture. I prefer them chilled out of the refrigerator, with chilled frosting on top, as in the photo with the birds. But you don’t have to choose, after all there are 12…

Herbed Butternut Squash with Onion Marmalade and Ricotta on Olive Oil Toast, and A Few Words About Staying Fit While Writing A Food Blog

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I am one of those people who just LOVES food. So you can imagine how stinky things get when I decide its time to go on a diet and start getting fit again. It doesn’t help that my husband (the sandwich king) also loves food and can eat whatever he wants in huge quantities without ever gaining an ounce. I love him, but seriously-not cool.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my body, as each and every one of you should love yours. Beautiful women come in all shapes and sizes. It’s just that winter brings with it a certain sense of couch surfing complacency and most of us don’t instinctively jump on the “lets get toned for summer” bandwagon until it’s WAY too late. By then, we just sort of give up and hide beneath a beach dress hoping that our skinny friends wont try to be “cute” and drag us into the sea, ocean, pool, or whatever. Thus, the soft body phenomenon perpetuates itself, year in and year out. Lets be honest, exercise takes WORK, and most of the time we just don’t feel like it.

Just trying to limit myself to small portions becomes a chore when I know I need to make twice the amount normal “healthy people” (read: skinny with motivation)  eat in an attempt to satiate my husbands’ appetite- and when it’s all pretty yummy, you try eating just a little bit.  Go on. I double dog dare you.

No? I thought so.

As I’m sure you will all agree, when we get to this place, we are literally ready to consider almost any method to get skinny quick. (Tapeworm, anyone???)

tape

I’m sure you’ve all been there, when you are single or dating and it’s just so easy to limit what you are eating because there is no one else to cook for; eating ramen noodles (GACK) out of a cup for a few meals a week and skipping others because it’s just not fun to cook while you are alone, let alone do the dishes afterwords (ack, dishes! my arch nemesis!!!!!!!)- the weight just seems to fly off. Oh how I miss those effortless skinny days.

So with all of this in mind and no taste for “fad diets” I finally broke down (read: manned up) and started using the treadmill that has been sitting sad and neglected in the corner gathering dust for the last few months. An hour and a half a day (walking fast, not running, I don’t run) really gets my blood flowing, burns a ton of calories, and as an added bonus, get me warm without having to spend a fortune on heating. SCORE. It’s slow going, but it’s healthy and sustainable. Also, with the advice of a dear friend, I started planning my meals ahead, having the same things each day for breakfast and lunch, and varying my snacks a bit, so that I can actually have a wonderful dinner with G where I eat what I want within reason and don’t feel like a hungry puppy trying not to drool as he cooks and consumes something simple while trying to fend for himself. He actually is a pretty good cook but just like I described before, when you are just cooking for yourself the motivation to WOW just flies out the window and hides under a bridge. With the trolls.

trolls

If you want the details, it’s pretty bland, but it’s working, and I appreciate dinner that much more, so here it is. Breakfast: SMALL bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon and a coffee or any green tea. I like Lemongrass with Ginger. Lunch: SMALL bowl of quinoa. Snacks: Two 12 Minute boiled egg-whites with pepper ( I give the yolks to the Dog and she adores me for it) and the occasional ginger snap cookie or two spread with ricotta or some other tasty thing. I use a small amount of salt and pepper in the oatmeal and quinoa and use coconut milk for half the water I would normally put in the quinoa, which makes it creamy and delicious. The idea is to eradicate most, but not all salt and fat because then I would just fail. Any veggies I can slip in there are also great, but this is a good basis that gives me protein and healthy carbs without feeling like I’m starving. Then comes DINNER when I can have any delicious thing I have been obsessing about, and take a smaller portion than I would if I just had it all in front of me and just kept eating. And eating.

This is actually easier if:

1) I make my own plate and don’t let him make it for me,

and

2) I consciously think about how much I want to consume over the next 30 minutes and STOP WHEN I’m FULL. Easier said than done right? Well, I’m learning.

Doing it this way, dinner always feels like a treat and I work harder to make it awesome because I know it’s where I’m going to get all of my happy food chemicals for the day. It’s interesting how much more seriously I take these meals knowing I will have to wait until the next night to try again if it doesn’t work out.

OK, reality check- I miss being slim but I LOVE being able to whip up and eat super yummies in the kitchen without too much fuss, which is why you will love this recipe from our dinner last night, for squash with onion marmalade on toast from chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten of ABC kitchen in Manhattan. I stumbled across it a week ago while surfing Mark Bittman’s NY Times dining section videos and spent 30 minutes or more trying not to lick my computer screen. The fact that I couldn’t find ricotta for weeks for a different recipe I’ve been wanting to try didn’t help much either, the stores kept selling out before I got there. I guess the early bird really does get the worm, er, cheese.

 

So here it is, with my variations. Sorry for the less than awesome shots, our lighting is all yellow and I haven’t figured out yet how to do that sexy food photography where everything comes out looking huge and amazing without looking flat or wet. Trust me that this was stellar despite my poor photography, and think of the photos more as visual aids than actual representations of this fantastic dish. If you need more convincing, use the video in the link above. 🙂

Herbed Butternut Squash with Onion Marmalade and Ricotta on Olive Oil Toast

Ingredients: (for 2 for dinner, or for 4 for appetizers)

1 ripe medium or large sized squash, peeled sliced, and de-seeded. I used butternut

butternut squash

but you can use others. Use a bigger squash if you want to make it for more people, I had leftover onion marmalade and cheese mixture, so this recipe can easily be expanded.

16oz good 9% fat ricotta cheese, fresh if possible. you may have leftovers, no tragedy there 🙂

A loaf of Really good fresh rustic bread, something towards the baguette or nutty sourdough flavors, NOT SWEET.

Olive oil

Chili Pepper flakes

1 very large onion

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

Small handful fresh parsley

Pinch of *fresh thyme (my own addition)

Pinch of *fresh rosemary (my own addition)

Fresh mint for garnishing ( I didn’t have any, but I highly recommend using it)

Sea salt

Black pepper

*For those of you who don’t use fresh herbs that often (and why you wouldn’t is beyond me) and who don’t want to spend the money to buy a whole bunch of fresh herbs just for this one dish, There is an answer. I didn’t know this until last year, but herbs keep amazingly well in the freezer for ages, I’d say up to a year. This means that you can use what you need and save the rest, and just take a bit when you need it. So much better than using the dead dry stuff or buying a whole bunch of fresh and then throwing it out when it rots a week or two later in the fridge. Cool huh?

Method:

1) Preheat oven to 400-450F

2) Peel squash, de-seed, and slice into 1/4 inch slices. Arrange on a baking tray over baking paper for easy clean up. (Did I mention how much I HATE dishes)… Chop rosemary (ours grows outside and is HUGE, you may not have to) and sprinkle it, thyme, sea salt, pepper, and chili flakes over squash. Drizzle olive oil generously over the whole baking tray, and pop into preheated oven for 30 minutes.

DSC_0315

3) While squash is baking beautifully, slice onions into thin spears, and saute in olive oil, salt and pepper on medium high heat. Once they are browning, add 1 cup cider vinegar and 1/2 cup maple syrup to deglaze the pan. cook down until you have a sticky sauce and the onions are really soft, about 25-30 minutes. Add some water if you feel like the onions need more time and there isn’t enough liquid, but not too much. I’m sorry that I don’t have a photo of the onions alone, because they were really beautiful, but G had come home and was bouncing around the kitchen helping me prepare the cheese mixture and I just forgot. Make them and you will see for yourself 🙂 They will be a sort of brown sweet and sour caramelized delicious mixture that fills the whole house with a pungent and intoxicating heady aroma.

DSC_0316

4) When that is done, and if you didn’t have help, mix the ricotta with salt, pepper, and a small handful of chopped parsley. The squash should be done by now, so take it out of the oven and mash it up. It will smell heavenly.

See the bits of chili, rosemary, and thyme?! YUM!!!

DSC_0320

4) In a pan, pour out a bit of olive oil, heat the pan, and toast your crusty bread slices on both sides, or just one if you are impatient like we were to get it into our mouths already. WATCH them so they don’t burn! They should be golden brown, less dark than my photo below. This is where I got sad because I didn’t have any really amazing bread in the house so I first tried it with a challah roll, which I toasted a bit too much 😦 and was too sweet for this dish, and then I tried it with a nice sandwich baguette which turned out to be far superior. I’m still going to do it again when I get some real artisanal bread….FOOD ZEN. Spread the ricotta on the toast, then add some or all of the onions to the squash – You should have a ratio of (2:1) squash to onions. mix them up gently, and add a layer to the cheesy toast. See how nicely the onions swirl in with the squash? They should be just combined, not mixed completely, so that you get the different flavors and textures.

voila!

A little shake of salt and pepper to top it off, aaaand FRESS!!!!!!

Again, here it should be garnished with fresh chopped mint, and I highly recommend it, it would be a good contrast to the sweetness of the squash and the sweet and sour onions. SO effing GOOD. Sigh. Can’t wait until tonight!!! OK, I’m going to go slave away on the beloved/dreaded treadmill for a while before I eat my keyboard, quick word of advice, find some walking/running music with a good fast beat that you can match while speed walking, it really helps get your head into the right mindset.

The next day:

As a quick update, just wanted to let you all know how well the leftovers held up from the squash on toast extravaganza. If you have any, which you probably wont. No photo, so sorry, I hadn’t thought to include it in the blog, but it was too good not to!

Ingredients:

Tortillas

Ricotta with parsley, salt and pepper

Onion marmalade

Spinach, fresh or frozen

Parmesan

Melty cheese

1 egg per tortilla

Preheat toaster oven. 350-400 (low broil)

I wanted to do something with spinach so I defrosted a bit of frozen spinach, squeezed all the water out, and added salt and pepper. Then I took the leftover ricotta mix and slathered some over a couple of uncooked tortillas, about 2 tablespoons more or less per tortilla. I dotted the cheese with spinach, not much, about the same as the cheese, maybe less. Then I took a forkful of the onion marmalade (see recipe above) and spread that across the spinach and cheese.

Next I shredded a tiny bit of best ever Parmesan, (see the importance of being cheesy blog post) not much, and a bit more melty cheese, you can use mozzarella or cheddar, I used something local called tal haemek. Lastly, I fried up a couple of perfect over easy fried eggs with whites set but the yolks still runny, this was essential. Be careful not to break the yolks.  Place them over the rest and wrap them up GENTLY.

I arranged them on foil over the rack from the toaster oven, and then popped it in for about 4-5 minutes. Set a timer so they don’t burn! They will come out hot and crispy, and all delicious inside from the runny egg yolk and the warm cheeses, and have that delicious sweet and sour bite from the onions. Slice on  an angle, serve immediately alone or with salad, and drink a beer with your dinner and all will be well 🙂

Dark Chocolate Covered Banana Slices With Toasted Almonds

bananas

I was having a monstrous chocolate craving yesterday and just didn’t feel like a candy bar. After looking around my kitchen I realized I had everything I needed for these babies. My sister Rivka’s Jerusalem-Elegance (on facebook) did this first for a fancy dinner, and I have really wanted to try it ever since. Believe it or not, these are better than most truffles I have tried, probably because the fresh cold creamy banana taste comes through over the sweet dark chocolate really nicely, and nothing is too overpowering or repetitive like I find so many mass produced truffles to be. Also, IMPORTANT!!! the better the chocolate you use, the better these will taste, naturally. So use Ghirardelli or some other higher end dark chocolate for really great results.

Ingredients:

  • 200g dark or semi sweet chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 2-3 Medium sized bananas, ripe, but not overripe, sliced in 1 inch slices, and frozen for 1 hour.
  • A small saucepan
  • A medium sized heat proof glass bowl (something non-porous like pyrex) that will fit on top of the saucepan without falling inside.
  • 50g chopped toasted almonds (I just buy whole shelled almonds and chop and toast myself)

Non Food Items:

  • A spatula
  • Baking paper for lining the tray
  • A cookie sheet or baking tray

Method:

1) Set up a double boiler using the saucepan with water in in, and the glass bowl on top.

2) Melt the chocolate with an added tsp. of canola oil for shininess.

3) When it’s melted, quickly* dip banana slices into chocolate using 2 forks, shake off excess, and then line them up on a baking sheet covered in baking paper.

*Quick note: If you try dipping them one by one into the chocolate (like I did) too much liquid from the bananas gets into the mix and gums up the melted chocolate. So go fast, or do it in batches of about 6 at a time. If you have ever accidentally gotten water in a melted chocolate mixture you were making you know what I am talking about. If this does happen, you can save the chocolate by scraping it out onto a sheet of baking paper, adding some toasted nuts, crushed candy canes or other candy or dried fruit you have on hand, pressing it down into a bark, and freezing it until hard. This was a yummy byproduct of this experiment, and saved me from flinging a bowl of hot (presumably unusable wasted) chocolate against the wall. I also tried it afterwards a different way, pouring the chocolate over a bunch of sliced bananas, but it was even worse, not sticking to the bananas at all. So please let me know if you come up with a better way to do this, because its fine for a quick treat to make a few, but if you want to make say, 30, for a party, I can see this getting complicated.

4) I toasted some chopped almonds for the top as well, they really added to the flavor, and tried a few with colored sprinkles because I just love them that much. The almond ones were better, but I’ll bet kids would flip over the sprinkly ones. Add toppings, then chill in the fridge until you are ready to serve them. The chocolate melts in your hand, so eat quick! My husband, G, was so sad when I told him about the last time I had them without him, so he ate almost all of them when he got home.

Update: just started watching Arrested Development, (I know, I’m WAY behind) what a fun show, and I love the whole Bluths bananas storyline. I’m going to make these again for the next time I sit down for a marathon catch up session. Enjoy!