Saturday, August 30, 2008

Saturday Morning Breakfast

My favorite breakfast food is waffles and over the years, I have tried a good many recipes. I can't say I've found a favorite, but I really like the one I tried this morning. The most important ingredients I have found in making really good waffles are butter and buttermilk and this one's got 'em both. They came out evenly brown and crispy on the outside (an absolute must IMHO). If I'd thought more about posting this recipe, I would have gotten some nice fun toppings for them. Sorry I wasn't on top of my game today folks - you'll just have to use your imagination.

Buttermilk Waffles from Everyday Food September 2008 issue

2 cups all-puropse flour (I used 1 cup a.p., 1 cup whole wheat)
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups low-fat buttermilk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
toppings (gonna have to do another post some other day on these)

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together buttermilk, butter, and eggs; add flour mixture and mix just until combined.

Pour batter onto pre-heated waffle iron and cook according to manufacturer's instructions (or, if your like me and haven't read those instructions, according to your own personal experience).

They also added the following note, which I think definitely makes for better waffles: Like pancakes, waffles require a gentle hand when preparing the batter. For the most tender results, don't overmix it - there should still be some lumps remaining.

I guess at the pinnacle of the waffle world are Belgian waffles. Someday I hope to own (and, more importantly, have a kitchen big enough to store it) a Belgian waffle maker, but for now, my trusty (and compact) Cuisinart handles the job well.

Now, go eat some waffles and enjoy your weekend everyone!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Almond Horns, take 1

Last week, a friend of mine introduced me to these sinfully delicious treats, and I can only guess that the chef who came up with them has sold his or her soul to You-Know-Who (no, not Voldemort, but I couldn't resist throwing a H.P. reference in here). This is why I figure they're called horns, because they look more like a boomerang to me. They were kinda crunchy on the outside and filled with chewy almondy goodness on the inside. And they were huge - big enough for two, but if I was all by my lonesome I could've eaten at least two or three of these bad boys without batting an eyelash. It's a veeeerrrrryyyyy good thing the bakery she got them from is pretty inconvenient to get to. (The picture above is just one I found on the internet, but it looks pretty much like the one I had.)

At any rate, I've got a thing for almond flavored baked goods and knew I must find a way to make them. A quick Google search (what would we do without that little internet tool?) came up with about 300,000 hits. I looked through quite a few before settling on trying this recipe first from The recipe says to bake for 12-14 minutes, but I'm here to tell you that mine were in for 16 minutes and still came out on the undercooked side. I was just so scared of over-cooking them that I just went ahead and took them out; they are nice and chewy but, unfortunately, no crunchy outside.

My preliminary taste test results - pretty good, but not even close to the ones I tried a week ago. So, darn, I'm going to have to try another recipe. The downside of trying again is that the almond paste is pretty pricey. The upside, of course, is that I get to keep sampling my efforts (I fear the scale is not going to like me after all this).

Wish me luck as I continue on my quest.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

In which I attempt to make an ice cream torte

Sorry, I must take a deep breath and sigh before I write this.


This was not one of my finer moments in the kitchen. When I first read the recipe it really seemed like it wasn't going to be too difficult, but alas, for me, the amateur, it was. When I made this on Sunday, at every step of the way, something happened to reinforce that fact that I am still, very much, but a learner. Again, sigh.......

It turned out to be surprisingly good in the end, but ugh, what an ordeal. I really think I made this much more difficult by a.)not following the recipe to the letter and (and this pains me to admit, because I know better!) b.)not reading through the recipe carefully beforehand. I read it, but apparently (duh!), I didn't really pay attention. You know how that sometimes happens, you're reading a book and then suddenly your a page farther but have no idea what you just read, right - please tell me this happens to other people too.

Anyhoo, on Saturday morning, (nothing like waiting til the last minute) I was still trying to decide what to mix into the ice cream when my dear friend Christy suggested cherries - great idea, huh, I mean chocolate and cherries, yum! So I decided to macerate said cherries in brandy because the recipe in the book listed liqueur as an option. This part went just fine, started them the night before and they were good to go the next morning. So far, so good.

This, however, was the end of my good fortune.

I don't have much photo-documentation from this point on, because I was to d*mn frustrated too take any pictures and I thought there wasn't any way in h-e-double-hockey-sticks I was going to post this disaster. My second friggin recipe from the book, UGH!

Here's a quick recap of the problems with making the Chocolate Banded Ice Cream Torte (really, it shouldn't have been this difficult and I'm sure there are lots of TWD bakers out there who handled this with nary a problem. The blogroll is here and the recipe is here):

  • Realized the recipe called for 8 inch springform pan - don't own one so used a 9" and knew the torte would be thin

  • Didn't feel comfortable using raw eggs in the ganache because the kids were going to have some - doubled the chocolate and used a combo of 2 parts butter and one part vegetable oil and substituted corn syrup for the sugar - all in an effort to prevent the ganache from becoming brittle. This only sorta-kinda worked. Actually all melty, it looked awfully pretty in the bowl - nice, shiny, beautiful chocolate brown.

  • Tried to put all the ice cream and cherries in my too stinkin small food processor (yes, I know, I should have learned my lesson by now, but no.) and found out, yes it's still too small a bowl for that much liquid. Put in blender - this worked but the color was not very attractive - sort of mauvey gray. Oh yes, and by now my ice cream had become quite the consistency of a milk shake - an ugly, mauvey gray milk shake. On the bright side - ugly as it was, it did taste pretty good.

  • Realized after the second layer of ice cream that I had erroneously divided the ice cream into thirds when there were only supposed to be two ice cream layers. Now my already too thin torte was going to be that much thinner. grrrrrrrrr.
We still ate it for dessert and everyone said it was good, but the kids ended up eating all the ice cream and leaving most of the chocolate. I think if I had used semi-sweet chocolate and/or added more sugar or corn-syrup, they would have liked it more. It was also hard to eat. Not completely brittle, but still hard to dig into with a spoon.

Bottom line: don't think I'll make this again, but I'm looking at this as a learning experience. On tap for next week: Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters. Cookies, I can definitely handle - should be a piece of cake (famous last words?). Stay tuned!

Oh yeah, and I couldn't resist this one:

I wondered where that saying came from and looked it up online - apparently it was a song from the 1930's. I liked it so I thought I'd share:

Life is just a bowl of cherries;
Don't make it serious;
Life's too mysterious.
You work, you save, you worry so,
But you can't take your dough when you go, go, go.
So keep repeating it's the berries;
The strongest oak must fall.
The sweet things in life
To you were just loaned,
So how can you lose what you've never owned?
Life is just a bowl of cherries,
So live and laugh at it all.

"Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries" was the title of a song by Lew Brown and Ray Henderson, sung by Ethel Merman in Scandals (1931).

In the end, it's all good :-)

Sunday, August 24, 2008


I am so proud to be part Italian (although, I think I'm only a quarter or something like that - I still claim the heritage). My great grandparents came over from Siciliy in the 1920's and I still remember going to their house as a kid and just stuffing myself silly. My nonna was probably the greatest cook I ever knew - gosh I miss her! Almost as soon as we walked in the door, she was saying "Mangia! Mangia!" because the table was already piled high with traditional southern Italian food (my favorite was a dish called scachatta - I have no idea how it's spelled, but this is how she pronounced it - which is kind of like a stuffed deep dish sausage pizza. I'll have to make it for you all sometime!). I'm getting hungry just remembering those days.

Well, I don't think this is a traditional food from Italy, but I love it just the same (and just like me, it's descendants had to come from somewhere over there).

I like this recipe because it's easier (and not to mention healthier) than the original in that you don't have to fry the eggplant - you bread and then bake them. Serve it up with some pasta and a salad and dinner's done. Three out of four kids approved of this dish, and I think that last vote was a nay because he wasn't feeling really well. The others ate it up and even Little Miss K, my 3 year old, had seconds!

Mangia bene!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Another yummy use for all those blackberries

Another friend from church had a baby (another darling little boy - we've had a run on them ;-) and I brought them dinner the other day. I wanted to try something a little different (but not too far out there) so this is what they had for dessert:

I can't actually say how this tasted, because I didn't keep any for us, but I just had to slice it up and get a picture - it looks pretty darn tasty if I do say so myself. And just to guild the lily a little, I also took them some vanilla ice cream to go with it.

You can find the recipe at I ended up following the advice of some of the reviewers and lowered the temperature to 350 after about 20 minutes (the top was getting pretty brown) and baked it for about 15 more minutes. 400 is awfully hot for a cake, maybe that's a mistake in the recipe. I think if I were to make this again I'd just cook it at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes.

Unfortunately, this put an end to my blackberry stash. Karen, I will be calling you soon for more!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Fresh is best

Another treat for summer - Caprese Salad.

I got the tomatoes from a friend last weekend (thanks Susan!) and they are just so delicious and begging to be pared with fresh mozzeralla and the basil from my new plant. I ended up eating the whole plate myself for lunch yesterday and it was goooood.

Caprese Salad (for 1 - well, for me anyway)

1 fresh tomato, sliced
1 bunch basil leaves (appx 1/4 cup chopped)
4 oz. fresh mozzerella cheese, sliced
olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Arrange tomatoes and cheese around a plate, sprinkle with chopped basil, drizzle with olive oil and add salt and pepper.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It's Tuesday!

This is my first Tuesday entry with the Tuesdays with Dorie group - yay!

These Granola Grabbers turned out even better than I thought they would. I was afraid that since the granola was such a big portion of the recipe that these might turn out a little dry and hard - boy was I pleasantly surprised. They taste a lot like a soft, chewy oatmeal raisin cookie, but with oomph. I had to forgo the peanuts because of a possible allergy, so I doubled the almonds. Definitely two thumbs, make that, two hands up.

Granola Grabbers

makes about 40 cookies

3 cups granola without fruit
3/4 plump raisins
1/2 cup salted peanuts
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/3 cup wheat germ
1 3/4 sticks (14 Tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temp.
3/4 cup packed lt. brown sugar
1/4 sugar
1 large egg
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking pans with parchment paper (I didn't do this and they came off my pans fine).

Put granola in a large bowl and break up any clumps with you fingers. Add the raisins, peanuts, almonds, coconut and wheat germ and mix together.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the sugars and beat for another 3 minutes, or until creamy. Add the egg and salt and beat until well blended. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, mixing only until it is just incorporated, then steadily add the granola. Stop the mixer when most of the granola mix is blended and finish the job with a sturdy rubber spatula, making sure to get up any bits of dry ingredients left in the bottom of the bowl.

Scoop out rounded tablespoonfuls of dough, pack the scoops between your palms and arrange the mounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between them. Flatten the mounds lightly with your fingertips.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway. The cookies should be golden brown, but not firm (you definitely don't want to over cook these). Allow them to rest on the sheets for 1 to 2 minutes before transferring them to racks to cool to room temp.

There is no way they're going to last until the first day of school on Thursday. Darn, I guess I'll just have to make more :-)

Enjoy - we sure did!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

No green thumb here

You know, I really have had some success before at gardening: tomatoes, green and red peppers, green beans, watermelon, broccoli. But I must admit failure when it's due. Now I realize this isn't exactly gardening, but it's in the same ballpark.

Back in the early spring, I decided not to plant anything in my garden in the back yard because we were going to be away this summer for 4 weeks and didn't want to have to ask my very kind neighbors to care for it for that long. However, one of the things I would really miss was having fresh herbs (I usually grew at least Italian parsley, basil and thyme). So I thought would try planting some for the kitchen - how hard can it be, right?.

Instead of buying nice, easy, already established plants, I decided to try my hand at planting from seed - got the little peat moss disks, seed packets, those cheap little trays, and I was set, this should be easy right? Lots of people have success at this, right? Alas, not I.

That's supposed to be parsley and thyme. I know you're thinking "parsley, I mean c'mon? That's sooo easy." I tried folks, I really did. It just didn't work out for me and I really don't understand why, but I have come to accept the fact that I failed. period. the end. sigh.

Enter in the nice, easy, already established plants from Meijer:

I already had the rosemary, which has been used many times, and I am looking forward to combining that basil with some fresh mozzarella, fresh tomatoes (from the aforementioned very kind neighbor) and olive oil in the very near future!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Let's hear it for the berries!

Ah, summer .... did I mention before how much I LOVE summer - the heat, the sun, the fresh berries!? Oh yes, I did. A friend of mine from church has been picking blackberries and had some extra she needed to find a home for. I was quite happy to take them off her hands - I ended up with about a gallon of them. Thank you so much, Karen! They are tart and juicy and delicious!

Today we are going to a pool party and cookout and I said I'd bring the dessert. Obviously, I needed something that was pretty easy to transport and serve - these are perfect because you can just pick em up and eat em on the go:

The recipe is from Martha Stewart's "Baking Handbook", but you can find it on her website here. My only problem with the recipe is the crust - it's delicious, don't get me wrong, there was just not enough of it to cover my pan. I am not talented enough to roll it really thin and still manage to get it in the pan in one piece. I had some help though -

So, this is definitely not the prettiest pie I've ever made, but after some patching in the corners, it turned out ok, I guess. Next time I make this, I will be doubling the crust recipe and using whatever might be left for individual tartlettes at a later time.

As for the taste, well it's fantastic. I hope you try it and be sure to let me know how it turns out!

I've got more blackberries left, so stay tuned for another recipe to come soon!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie

I am so excited to be a part of this online cooking group! Each week a recipe is selected from the beautiful cookbook "Baking: From My Home to Yours" by Dorie Greenspan for the group to prepare. I got my copy of the book a few days ago and it just looks spectacular. It's loaded with photos - this is a huge plus for me because I really don't like it when cookbooks don't have a lot of pictures to base your results on. The author is quite accomplished, and one of the things that impressed me the most is that her previous book is titled "Baking with Julia" - you know, the Julia, pioneer of cooking shows, educator to millions on the basics of fine cooking and all-around chef extraordinaire.

Anyway, check back each Tuesday as I attempt to keep up with this fabulous group of bakers. Featured for this coming Tuesday is Granola Grabbers. Here's an excerpt from the book:

"It would be hard to find a more after-schoolish cookie than this one. It's chunky, bumpy, both chewy and crunchy and packed with little surprises..."

This sounds perfect, as next Thursday is the first day of school for us. I'm not sure we'll have any left by then, but maybe I can freeze them without the kids knowing (I know, you're thinking - yeah, good luck with that). We'll see.

Monday, August 11, 2008

I Scream, You Scream...

...we all scream for ice cream! My absolute, all-time, most favoritest ice cream is pistachio and, let me tell you, it's pretty hard to find. Somewhere deep down, I realize this is probably a very good thing because if I could get my hands on it more frequently, well my waist to hip ratio would be off the charts.

I was recently talking to one of my dearest friends (who, by the way, is probably the best cook/baker I have ever known and I credit her with getting me started in baking) and mentioned something about wanting to make pistachio ice cream but hadn't found a good recipe (I should clarify, I have found them but they called for pistachio paste which is impossible to get at your local grocery store and pretty expensive to buy online). She pipes up and says "Oh, I have one" - <smacking my forehead with palm>I should have known she'd have a recipe and asked her a recipe couple of years ago when I got my ice cream maker! Anyway, she emailed it to me the other day and of course, I had to make it immediately.

The good news - it's easy. The bad news - she also included the nutritional info...UGH. For a 1/2 cup serving (who only eats a 1/2 cup of homemade ice cream at a time - maybe Paris Hilton, but no real people I know) it's 289 calories and 21 grams of fat, 10 of which are saturated. sigh.

I don't care I am making it anyway!!! But I did lighten it up a bit - my substitutions are in pink.

Pistachio Ice Cream (makes 12 minuscule 1/2 cup servings, about 8 real people servings, or 1 single-serve I'm PMS'ing serving)

2 cups heavy cream (or 2 cups 1/2 and 1/2)
1 cup whole milk (or 1 cup fat-free 1/2 and 1/2)
1 cup pistachio nuts (I used unsalted)
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp.vanilla
1/4 tsp almond (optional - not to me, but that's what the recipe said)
1 drop green food coloring (optional)

Place all ingredients in blender. Blend until nuts are chopped to the size you want them. Pour into freezer bowl, mix until thickened 20-25 minutes. Transfer to freezer safe container and freeze until firm (about 2 hours).

Thanks to my two sous chefs, the work of opening the pistachios went really fast.

I can hardly wait!

No, it's not super smooth and creamy, but ohmygoodness is it good! I actually like my ice cream a little crystallized but I'm in the minority, I know. The really good news - my version has 188 calories, 9.7 grams of fat, 3.6 grams saturated. So, roughly half of the original - I'll take it!

This one's mine ;-)

Thank you, Beth :-)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

These are a few of my favorite things

Well, some of my favorite simple kitchen tools anyway. My father always told me that ya gotta have the right tool for the job (actually, he often told me "that's the wrong tool" and I had to run around trying to find the right one for whatever job we happened to be working on). This is certainly true in the kitchen. I have my favorites and thought I'd share a few with you:

1. My Wuestoff knife collection so far - still waiting for the steak knives :-) But my favorite knife is this little guy and I use it daily:

2. France's favorite tool (no, it's not what you're thinking): the whisk (this one's made by Oxo - don't you just love their stuff?)

3. The only thing to use when grating citrus peels: the microplane

4. And last, but certainly (most definately!) not least: my wine opener. You might even say that this is an absolute necessity in my house, especially after a long day with 4 lovely children ;-)
I've had this one since I waited tables in college 20 years ago (WOW, was it that long ago? Yeesh.)

Oh yeah, and I forgot another one - my mandoline (seen earlier in the post on "Main Course"). Like I said, I just wouldn't make scalloped potatoes without it.
I'd love to hear from you - what are your favorite simple kitchen tools? (I'll have another post on the more complex stuff later)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

On the lighter side

I have decided that being on a diet stinks. No really, it's true. I have struggled with weight for, oh, pretty much my whole life and it seems like every year I try to lose some weight (all to varying degrees of success). I have found that the all-time best diet is the breastfeeding diet. Did you know that most women burn around 500 calories a day when nursing an infant? What a wonderful bonus God gave us ladies when we decide to gladly sacrifice so much time and energy to our little ones.

Well, unfortunately for me, that gravy-train is over. I have weaned my last baby and, not only am I a little misty-eyed that this precious time has passed, but now I find myself having to really watch what I eat again (Chocolate Ice Box Pie aside, of course). Sigh.

I just wanted to share a quick and easy recipe for a healthy and tasty salad that is, for me, a perennial go-to diet food. It's from the South Beach Diet Quick and Easy Cookbook (there are some really tasty and easy recipes in here, I highly recommend it). I made it the other day but, since I was so friggin hungry, I didn't take a picture and just dug right in. You can get the recipe here. For more of a light dinner, I have increased the olive oil, vinegar and oregano and added pasta. And yes, the kids liked it too. It's also great for summertime potlucks because there's no mayo.

I'd love to hear what your go-to diet food is - it's always nice to share the food love!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Main Course

From Saturday's dinner, that is. Here is the recipe for the delish Flank Steak Marinade from my brother-in-law Dave (but it's called Julie's - how confusing?!)

Julie’s Flank Steak Marinade

6 cloves garlic minced
3 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

1.5 tbsp ground pepper. (I didn't use this much - maybe 2 tsp or so)
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup olive oil
5 tbsp honey (maybe a bit more)

Shredded ginger
Green onions

I used this recipe for about 3 pounds of flank steak and, in hind sight, I should have doubled it (but I didn't have enough honey or soy sauce for that). I put the steaks and marinade, sans optional stuff, into a gallon sized ziploc bag and parked it in the fridge for about six hours. The flavor was great and not over-powering in the least. I guess if you let it sit overnight, the flavors would be stronger, but that's definitely not necessary.

Unfortunately, our grill is on it's last legs and we can only cook on half of the surface. They took a realllllly long time to cook and weren't ready when our guests arrived. Luckily, I knew they'd be forgiving :-) I handed them each a glass of wine and we listened to the ever-effervescent Katherine while we waited - luckily, they only took about 10 minutes more (this is after being on the grill for 20 already - painfully slow!).

Fortunately for us, I think we will be inheriting a really nice, almost brand new grill from my sister-in-law Karen and her husband Richard (did I marry into a great family or what - recipes, grills and so much more!). We just aren't sure when they'll be able to deliver it (or when we might be able to get it) - but I suppose I've got all fall and winter to get it here before the next grilling season strikes up again.

As for the side items for our meal, we had Three Cheese Garlic Scalloped Potatoes and Strawberry Spinach Salad. (didja see? didja see? I figured out how to link within the text!!!!! You can click on those and they'll take you to the recipes!)

For the potatoes, I doubled the recipe which I baked in a 13x9 casserole. Other changes: I only used two cheeses (cheddar and parmesan) and after reading some tips in the comments section, I substituted 1 cup of low-fat milk and 1 cup of low-fat sour cream for the heavy cream (if only making one recipe, use 1/2 cup each).

The proper tool for this job: a mandolin or food processor). I honestly don't think I'd ever make scalloped potatoes without one, they make the cutting potatoes job go so fast! It also works great for apple pie.

Oh, and completely ignore the times on there. Mine took 2 hours to cook and it really needed to sit for 20 minutes or so to set up.

This was taken at 1 and a half hours in, definitely needs more time. I was kind of worried about how soupy they looked, but after a few minutes on the table, they were much more solid.

These were fabulous and everyone (and I mean even the kids) wanted seconds, so make plenty!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Company's coming

We had some guests come to dinner last night - our parish pastor Father Horton and Father Rogers Byambassa, a missionary priest with the Apostles of Jesus from Uganda, Africa. It was such a pleasure to have them over and really interesting. A great experience for the kids, too. Father Rogers was quite entertained by Katherine (who is quite the conversationalist at 3 years old) and he promised to take her to Africa to see all the animals she kept talking about.

Unfortunately, I haven't had the time or energy for much entertaining (oh for the last 3 years or so) but I really enjoy it. There's something about planning and making a nice meal and dessert for people that really makes me happy!

I tried several new recipes this time (although my mother wisely told me once not to experiment on guests, but luckily it worked out this time). My brother-in-law sent me a great marinade recipe for flank steak (thanks, Dave!), and I found a recipe online for 3 cheese and garlic scalloped potatoes (though, I guess this was more like an au gratin); and another recipe online for chocolate pudding which I turned into a chocolate ice box pie. This latter recipe was found through a network called "Tuesdays with Dorie" where some foodie bloggers are working their way through a cookbook called Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. I am hoping to join them - not sure if I can keep up with that and keep the 4 kids fed and clothed, but I'm going to give it a shot - it sounds like fun! I guess you'll find out soon (check back on Wednesdays :-)

Anyhoo, here's how things went yesterday with the dessert portion of the meal. Of course, nothing goes as planned and of course, I was under a time crunch because I didn't do any prep work the day before (and did I mention I have 4 beautiful, but always-needing-something-when-I'm-really-really-busy, children). First off, I realized I didn't have any whipping cream (and you most certainly can not have chocolate ice box pie without fluffy whipped cream on top!), so now a quick run to the IGA is on my to do list.

I made my crust using Nilla Wafers first thing in the morning and while that was cooling, made the pudding/filling. I had to alter the recipe a little because a) one recipe was not going to fill my deep dish pie pan and b) since it was pie, and presentation value matters when having company over for dinner, I had to make sure it ended up being thick enough to slice.

Here's the recipe (which I made one and half of). It's actually not that difficult (despite my trials) and it did come out very nice - smooth, chocolaty and not too sweet.

Chocolate Pudding
Courtesy of Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

2 ¼ cups whole milk
6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and still warm
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Have six ramekins or pudding cups, each holding 4 to 6 ounces (½ to ¾ cup), at hand. Bring 2 cups of the milk and 3 tablespoons of the sugar to a boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.

While the milk is heating, put the cocoa, cornstarch and salt into a food processor and whir to blend. Turn them out onto a piece of wax paper, put the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, the egg and egg yolks into the processor and blend for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the remaining ¼ cup milk and pulse just to mix, then add the dry ingredients and pulse a few times to blend.

With the machine running, very slowly pour in the hot milk mixture. Process for a few seconds, then put everything back into the saucepan. Whisk without stopping over medium heat – making sure to get into the edges of the pan – until the pudding thickens and a couple of bubbles burble up to the surface and pop (about 2 minutes). You want the pudding to thicken, but you don’t want it to boil, so lower the heat if necessary.

Scrape the pudding back into the processor (if there’s a scorched spot, avoid it as you scrape) and pulse a couple of times. Add the chocolate, butter and vanilla and pulse until everything is evenly blended.Pour the pudding into the ramekins.

If you don’t want a skin to form (some people think the skin is the best part), press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of each pudding to create an airtight seal.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.Makes 6 servings

Soooo, I didn't exactly follow the directions.

Apparently, my food processor isn't large enough to hold one and half times this recipe (and I have my doubts about it holding one, so just a warning - make sure your processor holds at least 7 cups). The evidence:

This was after I tried adding all the hot milk mixture into the eggs/cocoa mixture - not happening, I was only able to add about 2/3rds of the milk. I ended up dumping what I managed to fit in the processor bowl back into the pot with the milk and whisking like crazy. To say the least, I was a little irritated at this point and kicking myself for not doing this the day before and thinking I probably should have heeded my Mom's advice (see above). It definitely didn't look right to me (look at how foamy the mixture is),

but I kept whisking like a maniac anyway and praying (as I looked at the clock which read 11am, knowing this pie will need at least 6 hours to chill and dinner was set for 6:30pm....ack!) that it would come together.

Eventually, thankfully, it did.

Oh, for the pie crust (for a 9 inch deep dish pie pan) I used 3 cups of mini Nilla Wafers and 3 tablespoons melted butter - crush wafers in a food processor until fine crumbs form and then add melted butter, pulsing until mixed well. Press crumbs into the pan and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes, or until just starting to get golden brown. I think this pie would be fabulous with a traditional pie crust, but I just didn't have the time yesterday.

My results...not too bad (and a hit with the dinner guests!)

Let me know if you try this - it's definitely a keeper recipe for me. When I lived in Birmingham, Alabama we frequently ate at a BBQ restaurant called Johnny Rays and they had the best Chocolate Ice Box Pie I have ever had. Each slice was, I swear, 4 or 5 inches high, and it had a light consistency with lots of whipped cream on top. Next time I make this, I think I'll try folding in some whipped cream into the pudding and maybe it'll be more like that. If I can come close, I'll be in foodie-heaven - I'll let you know!

Friday, August 1, 2008

What's for dinner tonight, Mom?

This is what I made for dinner last night. The recipe is from Kraft (for the Food and Family magazine) and was very easy to do and the kids generally love kabobs (meat on a stick - fun, right?). The most difficult part is trying not to puncture your fingers during assembly (trust me, I speak from experience, this really hurts!).

The husband really liked it (but he likes almost everything, so his vote is always kind of taken for granted) and the youngest kiddos liked it (ages 3 and 1) - me and the older 2 (ages 10 and 8), not so much. I really think the chicken should be marinated and I got a great marinade recipe from my sister last month which uses terryaki and pineapple juice that I will try. I guess I thought it was only ok - but really, I should know by now (because I've tried quite a few of these Kraft recipes, some pretty good, others, eh) not to expect great flavor from something that only calls for BBQ sauce and OJ concentrate. But anyway, it was fast and easy and they sure looked nice. That red pepper, on which I spent (and I hate to even type this, because it is so ridiculous) $2.50 for (yes, on just one!) really makes the kabobs look so purdy, don't you think. And I just love grilled red pepper - yum! (this is Kraft's picture, as I forgot to snap one of mine when they came off the grill, but they looked pretty much the same)

Here's the recipe:

Substitutions: The recipe calls for Kraft BBQ sauce, which I am not particularly fond of, so I used Sweet Baby Rays; and I used canned pineapple chunks instead of fresh.

PS (are there ps's in blogging?): I sure wish I knew HTML and could write the words something like this :

You can find the recipe here

where when you click "here", you go to the website above. Someday, and someday soon, I hope to learn how to do that!