Tag Archives: desserts

Mexican chocolate pudding

Man, was I skeptical when I first read about this recipe. First of all it’s vegan. Yes, vegan. Secondly, it’s basically made in a blender. Weird, huh? But, the cinnamon and pinch of chile caught my eye. Also, I love dishes like this that aren’t exactly “healthy” but are much healthier versions of the original.

Anyway, I made it and could not have been more pleased. It’s creamy and subtly spicy with cinnamon and a little heat. The chocolate has a tropical tartness. All in all, a winner. I think it’d be great for kids too with the extra protein. I had it plain in the picture above, but also served it with a Khalua-spiked whipped cream. Yum.

Courtesy of Mr. Mark Bittman

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 pound silken tofu
  • 8 ounces high-quality semisweet chocolate, melted (click this for melting options)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, or more to taste
  • Optional whipped cream or chocolate shavings for garnish
  1. Combine sugar with 3/4 cup water in a small pot; bring to a boil and cook until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly.
  2. Put all ingredients except for optional garnishes in a blender and purée until completely smooth, stopping machine to scrape down its sides if necessary. Divide among 4 to 6 ramekins and chill for at least 30 minutes.

 

Party planning

I need to take a break from work, so here’s some info on a party I’m planning right now. We’re having 25-30 people over on Friday night for apps, sweets and booze. I’m in the middle of a crazy week, so I’m looking to make it pretty easy on myself…but still amazing.  A few tips to that end:

  • I think a spread looks more impressive as a whole if it follows something of a theme (e.g. Italian, Mexican, Comfort food).
  • When the whole looks impressive, you have a little more wiggle room on the individual items. Meaning that you can buy more dishes ready-made or ready-to-assemble.
  • Always plan several items that can be wholly or partially cooked 1-2 days in advance.
  • For a cocktail party, I shoot for 3 savory dishes (1 veggie, 1 vegetarian or seafood, and 1 meat), 2 sweets and 1 signature drink.
  • Try to avoid dished that need utensils or more than 2 bites.

With those rules in mind, I came up with the following 3 menus:

Mexican

  1. Guacamole topped with chipotle puree and toasted almonds, served with chips (vegetarian): Easy-peasy. You have to make the guac the day of, but easy to puree the chipotle in adobo and toast the almonds in advance
  2. Cilantro dip  with crudite (veggies): The dip is store-bought and I’d cheat and buy a lot of veggies already prepped
  3. Oregano-crusted pork tenderloin sliders with pickled red onion and lime aioli (meat): Cheap, delicious and easy. I can make the pork and red onions in advance, the rolls come from the freezer section and the “lime aioli”is just mayo with lime zest and sauteed garlic.
  4. Subtly spicy Mexican chocolate pudding with cinnamon cream, served in little shot glasses (sweet #1): You literally make this dish in a blender. It is so good and easy…and vegan (minus the whipped cream)
  5. Key lime bars (sweet #2): The hardest thing on the menu, so I might think about a substitute.
  6. Margaritas (signature cocktail): Always easy, always delicious. Pre-mix everything and just have it out for people to serve themselves

Comfort food

  1. Michael’s curry dip with crudite (veggie): Easy to make in advance because it tastes better after a day or two…and I can outsource it to my husband
  2. Little crawfish pies (seafood): Store-bought pie shells filled with crawfish etouffee and cooked with parm on top. YUM. The etouffee isn’t “easy” but I’ll end up with more than half of it in my freezer for a rainy day, so I don’t mind the effort
  3. Pigs in a blanket (meat): Come on, people. They are delicious and everyone loves them. Literally just store-bought little sausages rolled in crescent roll dough and baked. Sprinkle some poppy seeds on some before baking, mix up some honey mustard (yellow mustard, honey and a bit of mayo) and Schriracha ketchup, and people with think you’re Christ come again.
  4. Brown-butter rice krispie treats (sweet #1): Just increase the butter a bit and let it get nice and brown before you mix it up. Sprinkle a bit of course salt on top while it’s still warm in the pan.
  5. Peanut butter, chocolate chunk cookies (sweet#2): My earliest signature dish and still a winner. Stay great for days, so you can make in advance.
  6. Bourbon slushes (signature cocktail): Mix it two days ahead and  pop it in the freezer. Then you just separate the ice with a fork and leave it out for people to serve themselves.

Italian/Mediterranean

  1. Rebecca F’s delicious prosciutto wrapped goat cheese (meat): So easy, plentiful and yummy. They do need to be assembled the day of the party, but it’s an easy job for a hubby or child (hah)
  2. Puff pastry tartlets with pesto, fresh mozzerella and sun dried tomatoes (vegetarian):  Another day-of job, but easy and great at room temp.
  3. Mediterranean platter (veggies): Store-bought grape leaves, hummus + crudite, olives, and Marcona almonds
  4. Nutella and banana tea sandwiches (sweet #1): Seriously. Nutella and bananas in perfectly square, little white-bread, crustless  sandwiches
  5. Meringue cookies with lemon curd (sweet #2): Store-bought meringues with store-bought lemon curd. Add a blueberry or raspberry on top and we’re in business
  6. Blood orange Sangria (signature cocktail): Add “blood orange” to the title and people will think it was harder. 🙂 Better if you make it a day in advance

So, 3 menus that are all easy, delicious and well-balanced. My honey picked the last one for the party. What do you think?

Either way, I’ll start linking back to some of these recipes. Fun, fun!

The very best applesauce

It’s apple season, people. Please don’t let it pass without making some delicious apple dishes. This is one of my favorites to just have in the fridge. Great on it’s own, mixed with yogurt, served with potato pancakes or pork. You can also sub it for oil in a lot of baking recipes.

Served here with a dollop of Greek yogurt and local honey….

One thing about this recipe that’s really different from most apple recipes, is that I strongly prefer it with just one variety of apples, as opposed to a mix. I usually prefer mixes because you get more complex flavors. With this, it’s best to really let one variety shine. My fav is pink lady.

  • 4 lbs apples, unpeeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1/8 – 1/4 cup sugar (your call…I prefer less. You can always add honey later)
  • 3/4 C water
  • pinch salt
  • 1 T butter, cut into 4 pieces

Optional flavorings to stir in at end: Cinnamon,  candied ginger, lemon zest, nutmeg

  1. Place apples, sugar, salt and water in heavy-bottomed pot. Toss to combine, cover and cook until apples are tender and just beginning to break down (but not falling apart). About 20 min
  2. Transfer to food processor, add butter, optional seasoning and pulse until broken down. Do not over process! You want it smooth, but not liquid.

I also love it mixed with Greek yogurt and served with homemade granola and chopped apples

Shortcake

OK, so this post isn’t exactly “seasonal” or “timely.” So, I’m a bad “blogger” and “person.” You might take all that sass talk back when you try these shortcakes. They are really different from what I grew up with- impossibly tender and delicate, instead of biscuity and sturdy. I love both types, but I think they just go with different fruits. This recipe would be perfect with raspberries or blueberries. The other would be better with strawberries or peaches. Fair enough?

There’s one super nutty step in this that I loved. You add a pulverized cooked egg yolk. That way, you get the fat and richness, but not the moisture. Kooky.

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 hard-boiled egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 teaspoons lemon or orange zest (optional)
2/3 cup  plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, egg yolks, and salt. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and zest, if using, and pulse until the flour resembles coarse meal. Add 2/3 cup of cream and pulse until the dough comes together.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gather into a shaggy mass. Knead a couple times to make it into a cohesive mass and then pat it into a rough circle about 6 to 7 inches in diameter, and 3/4 to 1-inch thick.
  3. Use a cookie cutter to make shapes of your choice. Chill for 20 minutes and up to 2 hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush the tops of the shortcakes very lightly with heavy cream and sprinkle lightly with  sugar (course/decorative if you have it). Bake until risen and golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Turn the pan around halfway through to ensure even cooking.
  5. While the shortcakes are baking, toss the berries with a little sugar and lemon juice. Let stand several minutes. The sugar pulls out moisture from the berries and the lemon balances the sweetness and prevents browning.
  6. Split the shortcakes in half horizontally and set the tops aside. Place the bottoms on dessert plates and heap strawberries over them. Spoon whipped cream generously over the strawberries and replace the shortcake tops. Serve immediately with any remaining whipped cream on the side.

Birthday dinner

Well, the birthday dinner was a big success. The table was covered with candles, bright colors and little toys. I hung old pics (mostly Polaroids) from the chandelier and got these great balloons that say “Happy Dumb Birthday.”

It all started off with my spicy acorn squash soup, topped with some crispy caramelized shallots:

You can see the carrot cake in the foreground, but here’s a better picture of its insane deliciousness:

In between those scrumptious bookends, I serves roasted asparagus (I should add that recipe) and this Tuscan chicken dish I made up a million years ago. Basically, you serve chicken cutlets with crisped prosciutto and a mushroom Madeira sauce on creamed spinach.  I came up with it when I was on that Devil Atkins diet. It was a keeper, though. Here’s a pic…

Blueberry cobbler bars

I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, one of my favorite food blogs. I saw it about a year ago,  filed it away in my noggin, forgot all about it, rediscovered it, baked it, fell in love with it, and then forgot about it for 2 months. And now, ladies and gentlemen, I am FINALLY posting it.  Please don’t let my treatment of this recipe suggest that it is anything other than extremely delicious and simple. It is a keeper. I made it the week my niece stayed with me and packing it in her lunch for camp. I don’t think she minded.

Recipe adapted slightly…

1 1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks or 8 ounces)
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon salt
Zest and juice of one lemon
4 cups fresh blueberries
4 teaspoons cornstarch

  1. Preheat the oven to 375  and prepare a 9×13 inch pan (I suggest a parchment “sling” + pam, but just pam works fine).
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in 1/2 teaspoon salt and lemon zest. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg. Dough will be crumbly. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan. Press down to compact and ensure even coverage.
  3. In another bowl, stir together 1/2 cup sugar,  1/4 teaspoon salt, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix in the blueberries. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 40-50 minutes, or until top is slightly brown.  Cool completely before cutting into squares. Can be refrigerated for 1+ week

Do I dare to eat a peach?

Caramelized peaches! YUM! I am always looking for good peach recipes. I can’t help myself when I see a peach stand by the side of the road or a big pile of pink, fuzzy goodness at the grocery store, but there is a difference between coming home with peaches and coming home with GOOD peaches. Sometimes they just aren’t good enough to eat all by their lonesome. It’s not their fault. They just need a teeny bit of help. I know for a fact that this is great with ice cream or yogurt.  I secretly (maybe not so “secretly” now) suspect that it would be a great topping with pavlova, pound cake, angel food cake, shortcake, etc.

  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 5 large peaches
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  1. Peel (if fuzzy) and slice peaches. Toss with salt in bowl. Then pour peaches into a strainer, set over bowl and let sit for 30-6o minutes.
  2. Heat the butter in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. When it is hot but not smoking, add the peaches and sauté them until they sizzle and their juices reduce and begin to thicken, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle the sugar over them, increase heat to medium high and sauté until the juices further thicken and the sugar caramelizes slightly, about 1-3 minutes.
  4. Add the lemon juice and any juice in bowl and sauté until the juices thicken, shaking the pan so that all is well blended. Let the peaches cook, shaking or stirring occasionally, until the juices are very thick, about 1-2 minute.

By the way, the title of this post is from one of my  all-time favorite lines of poetry, from TS Elliot’s “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock.” Here’s the last little bit…

I grow old … I grow old … I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach? I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves, combing the white hair of the waves blown back, when the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea, by sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown

Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Raspberry brown sugar gratin

3 ingredients, people! You are 3 ingredients and 15 minutes away from an insanely delicious and elegant dessert. Really, how can you not jump on that? Come on. It isn’t the prettiest girl at the dance, but it is the one you want to take home to meet the parents, knock up and live happily ever after with. Did I mention that it only has 3 ingredients?

1 pint (2 cups) fresh raspberries (or your choice of berry)
1 pint (2 cups) sour cream or crème fraîche (at/close to room temp to ease folding)
1 cup dark brown sugar

  1. Preheat broiler and set rack to lower middle level. Gently fold raspberries and sour cream together in a shallow 1-quart dish.
  2. Evenly sprinkle brown sugar evenly over the dish.
  3. Run the dish under the broiler until the sugar just starts to caramelize. Watch VERY carefully. Eat at once.

The very best pie crust ever

First of all, let’s start with a picture

Right? That thing was delicious. The filling wasn’t perfect…something about the flavor combo that just wasn’t the best ever. Which is why this is post is called “the very best pie crust ever” instead of “the very best pie ever.”  Still, I was happy to serve it and even happier to eat it up. See?

The genius of the recipe, courtesy of the genius that is Cooks Illustrated, is that it replaces some of the water with vodka. This allows you to make the dough wetter and easier to roll out, while still maintaining a tender, flaky crust. Basically, water + flour = gluten, but vodka + flour = magic. That’s just one of the awesome tricks that CI came up with.

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening , cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup vodka , cold
1/4 cup cold water
  1. Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
  2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
  3. Bake your pie as directed in whatever recipe!

See how you can sort of see the little chunks of butter and shortening in the picture? You want that because it creates layers of yummy flaky crust

Pavlova!

I think I can safely say that I make no other dessert that consistently knocks people out of their chairs like pavlova. While it certainly looks lovely, there is something innocuous about it sitting on the plate…just this white puff with some yogurt and berries. Nothing special, right? W-R-O-N-G. It’s crunchy on the outside and melt in your mouth fluffy on the inside, a heavenly pillow of dessert. AND you can make it in advance. AND it is secretly the best breakfast ever.  Just trust me on this one, ok? 

Makes 1 medium “cake” or 6 individual “cakes”

4 large egg whites

1 cup superfine sugar

1 teaspoon white vinegar

1/2 tablespoon cornstarch

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and draw multiple 3-4 inch circles on the paper. I usually end up with 6-7, but draw 8 just in case. They don’t spread in the oven, so you can fit quite a few on one sheet. If it does take two pans, make sure your pans both fit in the oven before you start cooking. No harm in over lapping them a bit.
  2. In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, OR using a hand-held mixer with both beaters and a large bowl, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until they hold very soft peaks. Start adding the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat until the meringue holds very stiff peaks. It’s hard to over-beat meringue, so if you’re not sure, give it another minute.
  3. Sprinkle the vinegar and cornstarch over the top of the meringue and fold in with a rubber spatula,.
  4. Gently scoop and spread the meringue inside the circles drawn on the parchment paper. They should be nice, high mounds, 2-2.5 inches high. With a spoon, swirl the middle slightly to create a small well in the center. This will hold your yogurt or whipped cream.
  5. Bake for 1 hour or until the outside is dry and takes on a very pale cream color. Turn the oven off, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the meringue cool completely in the oven (about 1 hour). The outside of the meringue will feel firm to the touch, if gently pressed, but as it cools you may get a little cracking.
  6. Serve with whipped cream (sweetened and with vanilla) or Greek yogurt (sweetened and with almond) and top with diced berries and fruit (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, peaches, kiwis, blackberries, etc.)