Saturday, December 17, 2011

Oreo Truffles


So I keep running into this recipe for Oreo cake pops, or Oreo truffles all over the web, and so of course I had to give it a whirl.  With the holidays right around the corner, making a gift plate was the perfect way to try this recipe (so they wouldn't be around the house and therefore ending up around my hips).  Just plate the truffles and wrap in cellophane wrapping, tie with a bow and voila!  I got the opalescent cellophane from Michaels.



Here's a closeup of all the truffles that didn't come out the most pretty as you can see.  The ones that were coated and dusted to perfection I put on the gift plate.  (Of course that doesn't include the three that I ate. )  



Oreo Truffles

Ingredients:

1 box Oreos (15.5 oz)
1 8 oz box Philadelphia cream cheese
1 24 oz package white Almond Bark* (or your choice of melting chocolate)
Blue crystal sugar (or your decoration of choice)





Directions:

1.  Crumbify (coined!) all Oreos in a food processor.   If you don't have a food processor, using a ziploc bag and a rolling pin to crush is just as good.

2.  Cut up cream cheese block into 8 squares and add to food processor.  Blend together to form dough.

3.  Put the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up a bit so that you can roll balls easily.  (I just put the container from the food processor in the fridge.  No need to dirty another dish.)

4.  Put wax paper or parchment paper or Silpat onto a cookie sheet and roll out approximately 40 1 inch balls.  To avoid the messy hands issue, you can use rubber gloves, because this dough is rather sticky.

5.  Cover cookie sheet with cling wrap and put in the fridge a couple of hours or overnight to firm up.  Alternatively, you can pop the cookie sheet in the freezer for 30 minutes if you are under time constraints. I was moving at a leisurely pace.

6.  Melt almond bark* in the microwave according to the package directions.  Unfortunately, mine didn't have package directions, so I melted about half of the 24 oz package of rectangles in a ceramic bowl in the microwave on full power for 30 second intervals, stirring the chocolate in between intervals, until fully melted.  I ended up needing another quarter of the package in order to coat all of the balls, so I just added more rectangles when I was running low and popped the bowl back into the microwave and repeated the melting process until all melted.

7.  Push a toothpick about halfway through dough balls, and dip firmed up dough balls into melted candy coating.  Tap your hand (not the toothpick) gently against the side of the bowl to shake excess coating from the ball.  If you don't do this, then when you place the ball on the parchment paper to harden, the excess will pool around the Oreo ball and and it will look messy.  If you find the dough balls are becoming too soft, pop back in the fridge for another 15-30 minutes to firm up again, and continue dipping once they are firm enough.  If your fridge isn't doing the trick, you can use the freezer. Just note that if the balls are in the freezer for too long, and you coat them when frozen, they crack the candy coating as they defrost and expand.

8.  Place the coated Oreo ball on the cookie sheet to harden.  Sprinkle with the blue sugar crystals.  Make sure to do this before the coating hardens.  I usually wait about 30 seconds to a minute so that it is still very wet but not *just* dipped.

9.  After the coating has hardened so you can touch it without the coating mushing, gently twist and pull, very gently, the toothpick from the Oreo ball.  Touch up any visible hole with some melted chocolate coating using a clean toothpick, and sprinkle some blue sugar crystals on the area to cover up.

*Note: Here is a picture of the almond bark candy coating that I used.  It is found usually seasonally in the supermarkets.  Here in NJ, I found it at Aldi, but they do run out fast.


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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Mat- The Ultimate Fondant Application System

I am super excited to have found this product by SweetWise called "The Mat"- the ultimate fondant application system.  I haven't yet bought it but I was so excited that I had to share with all my favorite readers out there!

Here's a wonderful video that shows not only how The Mat works, but also gives GREAT tips on how to correctly roll out and apply fondant to a cake:


I will be purchasing this mat soon, and will update you all on how the product performs in a normal kitchen.  The reviews I have come across have all been positive.  The only problem would be its 30 inch size, which is very large to work with, and you can't get a fold in it or the dent transfers into the fondant and is impossible to get out once imprinted.  

I'll keep you all posted!

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Favorite Holiday Cookie Recipes of 2011

It's that time of the year again, holiday cookie baking time!  It seems so time-consuming to surf through food blogs and cook books looking for new and inventive cookie recipes each year, so I thought I'd do some of the hard work for y'all.  

Presenting my Favorite Holiday Cookie Recipes of 2011!

recipe by The Country Cook


These cookies were the talk of the office when I brought them in one Friday.  I actually think I offended some of the people who were too late to the cookie plate.  The recipe is SUPER easy and the results will leave you wanting more.  Definitely a favorite of 2011!  Thank you The Country Cook for sharing such a fun and amazing recipe!


recipe by SP Cookie Queen






































Chocolate crinkles are like brownie bites from Cloud 9.  They are light and fluffy, yet full of fudgey goodness, with a festive snowy powdered sugar coating.  The recipe called for 4 eggs and I only had 2 in the house, so I cut the recipe in half and as you can see in the picture above, they came out just perfect. Half a recipe gave me 34 cookies.  Thanks SP Cookie Queen for sharing this awesome recipe!


Chocolate Chip Cookies 
recipe from the cookbook "Cookiepedia" by Stacy Adimando

























Why another chocolate chip cookie recipe, you ask?  Because these have the perfect amount of crispness on the outside and chewiness in the middle, with a touch of saltiness to make the sweetness sing.  I used Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips in the picture above.   I only had dark brown sugar in the pantry so I used that instead of the light brown sugar she lists in her recipe.  I also used vanilla infused sugar that I had made some time ago in place of the granulated sugar.  Here is the recipe for the vanilla sugar if you are interested:

JAMIE OLIVER'S VANILLA SUGAR
Don't buy vanilla pods that are dry and hard -- buy them fat, sticky and squashy. What we want to do is infuse the natural vanilla flavor of the vanilla pods into the sugar. It is perfectly fine, and obviously quicker, just to pop the pods in an airtight container with the sugar; you will achieve a more subtle flavor. I really like this recipe, though, because you get the maximum flavor from the pods. 
2 pound superfine sugar
4 vanilla beans 
You need a food processor for this one. Put your vanilla pods in the mixer, blitz, scrape the sides and blitz again. Add all the sugar and blitz for about 2 minutes. Sieve the mixture into a bowl, return any lumps to the food processor and blitz again. (You may want to repeat this process if you want it really fine). The result will be a slightly ashy-colored mixture -- now that's real vanilla sugar! 
Store it in an airtight container. It should last you for ages.


recipe by That Skinny Chick Can Bake


Now these cookies look amazing, but I have not yet had the time to make my very own batch.  However, they look so amazing that I didn't want to leave them off my favorites list this year.   As That Skinny Chick Can Bake said, "Chocolate, caramel and pecans...who can resist that combo?"  Make your own batch and comment below on how they turned out!  I bet they will be the talk of your office too. :)

Happy Holidays to all of you!

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Photo Studio for only $49.99!

Thinkgeek.com- Portable Photo Studio

For those of you looking for that great holiday gift for the food blogger (or ebayer, or etsyer, etc), look no further!  Thinkgeek is offering this Portable Photo Studio that comes with the following:

  • Collapsible photo lightbox, 16 inches cubed
  • Two high-output table-top 35 watt photo lights
  • 6 inch to 7 inch extension mini-tripod
  • Zippered nylon carrier, 9 inches by 4 inches by 8 inches
  • Does not include a camera ;)

And for only $49.99, which is 1/4 of the price compared to the ones from EZ Cube!

To top off those Cyber Monday savings, use coupon code CYBERMONDAY to receive FREE ECONOMY SHIPPING. Better hurry; this offer is only good through 3am ET 11/29/11!

My Hubby gets a special shout out for jumping on this deal and getting me an early Chanukah present!  Thank you Hubby!!
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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ginger Snap Cookies


My favorite thing about ginger snaps is the way the house smells while they are baking.  The house smells like wintertime, white snow gently falling to the ground while the family is cuddled up inside, warm with hot cocoa and warm ginger snaps fresh from the oven.  

Here is the recipe:

Ginger Snaps
Makes about 3 dozen

Ingredients

2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
Pinch of sea salt
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
3/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg
Sugar in the raw (for coating the outside before baking)


Directions

1. Mix together the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt in a medium bowl. 

2. In another bowl, combine together the brown sugar, molasses, canola oil, and egg until smooth. 

3. Mix the flour mixture into the brown mixture, stirring until dough comes together. 

4. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for about 30 minutes.

5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with a Silpat or parchment paper. 

6. Roll dough into balls about the sizes of a silver dollar, then roll the balls in sugar in the raw and place on the baking sheets 2 inches apart.   Gently flatten just a little.

7. Bake 9 minutes.

8. Remove the cookies from the oven.  They will be very soft but will solidify as they cool. Leave on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


With the holidays around the corner, a nice idea for a gift is to bake your favorite cookie recipe and give them as a gift.  You can put them in a cookie tin with some tissue paper inside and decorate the outside with some ribbon like so:



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Sunday, November 13, 2011

I scream, you scream, we all scream for... (Updated)


...cake!  The Scream cake that is!


This weekend the DH and I went to a Scary Movie Party.  My task was to bring the cake in a spooky theme, and so I searched online for some caketastic ideas and found this cake design on the Wilton website.  It resembles the famous The Scream painting by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch:


There have been many great parodies of this chilling painting such as:


I figured if Homer can make this, then I can too, with cake!  The only question was, how was I going to make a tasty cake when it is going to have so much fondant on it?  I'm not a huge fan of Wilton's playdough tasting fondant so I researched and discovered marshmallow fondant.  

I decided to make my marshmallow fondant, which tastes a thousand times better than Wilton's fondant and costs a sixteenth of Wilton's $20 per 2lb tubs.  You can make marshmallow fondant (mmf) up to a month in advance, just store it in double wrapped cling wrap and then place inside a ziplock bag.  Do not refrigerate or it will break down due to the moisture in the fridge.

Here is the recipe for marshmallow fondant:

Ingredients

   16 oz of mini marshmallows
   2 to 4 Tablespoons of water
   2 LBS powdered sugar
   1/2 Cup of Crisco (for fingers and counter)


Instructions 

1.  Melt marshmallows and 2 Tablespoons of water in microwave until completely melted (approximately 1 minute 30 seconds).  

2.  Once melted, stir until completely smooth.  (Note: you can add food gel coloring at this point and stir to mix.  Much easier than kneading it in later.  This only works if you want one color for the whole batch.) Then add 2/3 of the powdered sugar. 

3.  Mix with a spoon unil you can't anymore, and then put Crisco on your hands and start kneading. 

4.  Once it's mixed well, put Crisco on your counter and knead until completely smooth.  

5.  It works better if you let it rest in an airtight container or zip lot bag and let it cool down for 24 hours, then use.  If it is necessary, it can be used immediately.

6.  If you find the fondant is tearing easily, it is too dry.  Add 1/2 Teaspoon at a time of water and knead it in until it is stretchy again.

The trick to making black fondant is to use the recipe above but add in some mini semi-sweet chocolate chips after melting the marshmallows and stir until melted and blended.  Then you can add your black gel food coloring and mix in until it reaches the blackest it can be.  This will be about 2 tsp per bag of marshmallows.  Here is the recipe from Cakecentral.com but note the recipe is calling for a 10.5 oz bag of marshmallows in the recipe instead of the above 16oz bag.  


Black Marshmallow Fondant

Ingredients

   6 oz. of semi sweet chocolate chips (about half of a bag)
   1 10.5 oz bag of mini marshmallows
   3 tbsp. of clear Karo syrup
   3 tbsp. water
   1 1lb. bag of powdered sugar
   gel black food coloring
   Crisco


Instructions

1.  Put your marshmallows in a microwave safe bowl, add the water, and microwave on high for 1 minute and 30 seconds. When marshmallows come out they will be HOT.

2.  Stir, scraping the sides with a scraper. Immediately add your chocolate chips, and stir until the chips are completely melted.

3.  Add your Karo syrup and stir again, this time with a butter knife, making sure that all of your syrup is incorporated.

4.  Add a good amount of black gel food coloring, and stir again with your knife, making sure that you scrape around the edges. 

5.  Once your mixture is the blackest black that you can get, (I added about 2 tsp. of the gel coloring) then add about half of your bag of powdered sugar, and stir until the mixture is thick, with your knife. 

6.  Grease your hands liberally with Crisco and add the rest of the powdered sugar to the bowl. Knead your fondant until all of the powdered sugar is gone. 

7.  Store for up to a month wrapped in plastic wrap, sealed in a gallon Ziploc, and stored in an airtight container.


I also made my own own apricot filling called Lekvar (Hungarian).  The apricot Lekvar was so easy and tasted great.  I am now inspired to make my own Hamentashen when Purim rolls around in March.

The following Lekvar recipe yields about 2.5 cups of Lekvar.  You can use either prunes or apricots.

Ingredients

  1 1/2 cups pitted prunes, lightly packed
  2/3 cup water
  1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  3 tablespoons lemon juice
  1/3 cup brown sugar


Directions
  1. Simmer all ingredients, except brown sugar, covered 25- 30 minutes until very soft and most of water is evaporated.
  2. Uncover last few minutes if necessary.
  3. Remove from heat and mash.
  4. Stir in brown sugar.
  5. You can keep Lekvar in the refrigerator for a long time.
  6. Store in a canning jar.

Unfortunately I made the cake with a boxed chocolate cake mix and the containers of chocolate frosting that you can buy from Duncan Hines or the like.  This made the cake taste cheap and overly sweet, and completely overpowered the delicate flavor of the apricot.  Next time I will make my own cake batter and use a light buttercream to hold the fondant on.  I'm considering making an orange cake to go with the apricot filling next time.  What flavor cake do you think would taste best with an apricot filling?  Comment your thoughts below!


***UPDATE:  I have submitted this recipe as November's YBR submission.  For more information of what YBR is, click on the button below which will take you to Spicie Foodie's site:



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Monday, November 7, 2011

Slow Cooker Hearty Beef Stew




The beef stew was a success!  I promised in my last blog post to list the recipe I used if the recipe was a winner, and oh boy was it ever!

I found this recipe doing a Google search for a lovely beef stew for the umpteenth time.  I found this one on Basil Kitchen's blog and decided to give it a whirl.  Well this recipe was just what I want out of a chunky, belly-warming beef stew.  You can't see it in the picture above, but there was a ton of liquid, and the beef is soft and fall-apart tender, which is how I love my stew.   I served this over a bed of Texmati rice that I made in my Neuro Fuzzy Zojirushi rice cooker (couldn't cook rice without this wonderful gadget- trust me, I've destroyed pots trying).




Slow Cooker Hearty Beef Stew



Ingredients
 3 lbs cubed beef stew meat
 1/2 cup all purpose flour
 2 TBSP vegetable oil
 2 TBSP butter
 2 large russet potatoes, 1 1/2" cubes
 3 celery leaf stalks, 1/2" slices
 3 large stewing carrots, 1" slices
 1 large zucchini, halved lengthwise, 1" slices
 1 medium yellow onion, coarsely diced
 2 TBSP minced garlic
 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, fire-roasted
 32 fl oz beef stock, low-sodium, intense flavor
 1 cup red wine
 1/8 cup worcestershire sauce
 3 bay leaves
 3 sprigs thyme
 1 TBSP sugar
 2 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
 2 tsp paprika
 1 tsp ground black pepper
 tobasco sauce
Directions
  1. Set slow cooker on high. Set aside beef, flour, oil, butter, tobasco sauce, and reserve 1 1/2 cups of the beef stock. Put all other ingredients into slow cooker. Allow to warm up.
  2. Meanwhile, dredge beef cubes in flour, shaking off excess. Set aside remaining flour. Do not discard.
  3. On the stovetop, heat 1TBSP oil in large pan. Over medium heat, brown dredged beef chunks in two even batches, second batch with the other TBSP of oil. Let sit and brown, about 5 minutes. Flip beef chunks and brown other side another 5 minutes or so.
    (You can speed up cooking time by using two pans simultaneously.)
  4. Add browned beef to slow cooker. Return to the same pan to make roux. Melt butter. Add leftover flour (approx. 1/4 cup) and stir constantly to get make a smooth roux. Add the reserved 1 1/2 cups beef stock to pan slowly while stirring and allow to thicken, scraping all earlier beef drippings. We've essentially made gravy to thicken the beef stew. Add to slow cooker. This also makes use of all that beef flavor from the pan earlier.
  5. Stir to distribute contents. Cook in slow cooker on high for 5 hours -OR- on low for 8+ hours. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as desired. When done, locate and discard bay leaves and thyme.
  6. Serve beef stew with french bread or over rice. Also surprisingly good with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. Serve with tobasco sauce, individually adjusting for heat and tartness desired. Enjoy!

For some more Bucky Balls fun, here is my latest sculpture:




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Friday, November 4, 2011

Snowtoberfest NJ

I thought I prepared for the snowstorm that graced our presence the weekend before Halloween.  There was going to be slow cooker chili, peppermint hot cocoa, apple spice tea, and movies galore.  I was wrong, very very wrong.  I prepared for a snowstorm, not a power outage, and that was my downfall.

Saturday morning (well ok, afternoon) hubby and I woke to a white landscape, beautiful flakes falling from the sky, making for a cozy weekend inside.  Well that was the plan anyway, until the power cut off at 4:30pm Saturday night, not to return until Wednesday at 6:30pm, and we were some of the lucky ones, getting back power before Friday!  People are STILL without power, and it is now Friday, a full week after the storm.



The snowfall accumulation by us was 17 inches of heavy, wet snow that took down tree branches and power lines. As the heavy snow on the trees melted, the weighed down tree branches that survived would snap up and take out more power lines, creating a disaster worse than Hurricane Irene.  Power crews from 5 states were called in to help Jersey Central Power and Light restore over 600,000 customers who lost power for days.  A total of 3.1 million customers lost power across the Northeast from this freak October Nor'easter snowstorm.



Our comfy Saturday turned into a desperate attempt to cook tortellini, sauce and steamed broccolini on my propane grill outside, in the freezing snowstorm.  It was so cold the pot of hot water never did boil.  I started  cooking dinner around 10pm, and we didn't eat until about 1:45am.  I was determined to get that water to boil!  I failed, but the tortellini re-hydrated quite tastily in the hot-but-not-boiling water.

So in the past few months NJ has lived through an earthquake, a hurricane, and now a snow disaster.  What next, Mother Nature?  Bring it on!  (maybe I shouldn't have said that...)

This morning I stopped for my breakfast bagel and coffee, and on the door was a sign from the nearby New York Sports Club offering the community free use of their showers for those who are still without power.  Kudos to you NYSC!

This weekend I would like to attempt a slow cooker beef stew that looks mighty tasty.  I will post the recipe next, but only if it is a winner.
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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Playing with my new balls

Bucky Balls that is!



Thanks to my hubby for the awesomely addictive gift!  I have learned how to make this cube as my first trick.  It's actually harder than it looks!  You have to create this sheet:


Then you fold the sheet into a cube.  Pretty slick, eh?  Here's a video on how to build the cube:




Hubs also brought me a new book on how to make all different shapes called The Big Book of Bucky. I'm so looking forward to it!  


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Friday, October 21, 2011

Easy Peasy DIY Photo Studio

I've been trying to improve my photos for this blog, and desperately want to buy a light box and some full spectrum lights for my shoots.  My friend inspired me to find DIY light box recipes online, and voila, here is one that diffuses the light and is made with stuff that is lying around the house and/or really cheap to purchase.  Now, how long will it take me to conjure the energy to make this simple box?  Hmmm...

 
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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Beer Battered Cod


Since our trip to Portland, the hubby has been craving the amazing fish and chips we had from The Frying Scottsman.  I am still perfecting the batter, but here is my recipe in progress from last night's meal.  It came out pretty tasty, and we finished almost 2lbs of cod between the two of us, so that's sayin' something.


Beer-Battered Cod 


Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for sprinkling on onion rings and fish
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • egg
  • 3/4 cup (half a 12-oz. bottle) medium-bodied ale (such as New Belgium's Fat Tire)
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 2 pounds skinless cod fillets, rinsed and cut into 2- by 4-in. pieces
  • lemon, cut into eighths

Preparation

  • 1. Whisk flour, baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, pepper, egg, and beer in a large bowl.
  • 2.  Heat oil to 375°.  Add fish to batter and turn to coat well. Cook fish in hot oil, turning and holding down as needed, until deep golden brown, about 7 minutes. Drain on rack and sprinkle with salt.
Serve with malt vinegar and tartar sauce, if you like.




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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Caponatarama- Updated below!

caponata
Sicilian Caponata on Crostini

Another of my edible favorites is the italian Caponata dish that my mother-in-law makes as an appetizer or a side dish.  She was kind enough to share the recipe with me, and now I share it with you.

Caponata can be served either hot or cold, and either by itself or on a crostini (see crostini recipe below).  I find the caponata tastes best when marinating and blending flavors in the fridge for a few days, so I end up serving it cool, sometimes on crostini but mostly just shoveled into my mouth with a giant sigh of happiness.

Sicilian Caponata

 Ingredients:

1   eggplant
1/2 cup olive oil
1   onion, sliced
2   sweet red peppers, cored, seeded and cut into 1 inch pieces
2   sticks celery, sliced thickly
1 lb canned plum tomatoes
2  tablespoons red wine vinegar
1   tablespoon sugar
1   clove garlic, crushed
12 jumbo stuffed green olives
12 jumbo black olives, pitted
2   tablespoons capers (reserve liquid)
ground black pepper to taste



Directions:

1. Cut the eggplant in half and score the cut surface.

2. Sprinkle with salt and leave to drain in a colander or on paper towels for 1 hour. ***See note below***

3. Rinse, pat dry and cut into 1 inch cubes.

4. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan and add the onion, peppers and celery.  Lower the heat and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the eggplant and cook a further 5 minutes.


5. Cut the tomatoes open and remove the seeds.  Dice the tomatoes and add the flesh and the pulp and liquid from the can to the vegetables in the sauté pan.

6. Add the remaining ingredients except the olives and capers and cook for a further 2 minutes.

7. Slice the green olives into four equal slices perpendicular to the pimento and the cut the black olives in quarters and add to the vegetables with the capers.



8. Simmer, uncovered, over moderate heat for about 7 minutes to evaporate most of the liquid.  (Make sure not to overcook, you still want the eggplant to have a shape and not be mush.)  Adjust the seasoning, adding liquid from capers to salt.  Mix in approximately 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper or to taste.  



9. Serve hot or cold.  Again, I will strongly advise you to let this at least sit overnight.  The blending of flavors makes this dish sing, and by eating this right away, you will lose that savory flavor.  Each day it sits and blends, it gets more flavorful, however getting this to last more than a day or two is a challenge.

Serves 6

***Note:  When salting the eggplant, I place two heavy plates on the backs of the halves, and put the eggplant face down onto some paper towels so the liquid is forced out.  I let them sit for about an hour, which you can use as time to prep your other ingredients.  After an hour, I rinse the salt from the top of the eggplant with a little water and pat dry, pressing gently down on the meat of the eggplant as I dry to remove any excess water still inside.  This removes any bitterness from the eggplant.  As eggplants age and grow big, the water inside is what makes the eggplant bitter.  It is not necessary to salt small eggplants such as the Japanese eggplant as they are not bitter and do not require the moisture to be removed.




Crostini Recipe 
 
Simply bake 12 half-inch slices of ciabatta, rub them with a cut clove of garlic, drizzle it with olive oil, and season it with salt and pepper. 
Ingredients
  • 1 loaf of ciabatta bread, cut into 1/2- inch slices
  • good quality, extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large clove of garlic, peeled and cut in half
  • salt and ground black pepper
 Directions
Toast your slices of ciabatta in a 400-degree oven for 7-12 minutes or until golden brown, or use a grill until golden brown. While they’re still hot, rub them gently with the cut side of the garlic, just two swipes of a garlic clove over the top of each crostini, drizzle with good-quality extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with some salt and pepper.  Finish with a scoop of caponata or your favorite topping.

***UPDATE:  I have submitted this recipe as October's YBR submission.  For more information of what YBR is, click on the button below which will take you to Spicie Foodie's site:



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Friday, October 14, 2011

Who you gonna call?

ghostbusters

My hubby was driving past the Ghostbusters fire house in Manhattan and got a blurry shot while zipping by in his car.  I decided to add a few items and post it to my blog in honor of the ORIGINAL GHOSTBUSTERS coming back into theaters this month.  Yes, you read that right.  Please bring your children, this is an opportunity not to be missed!

For local listings, check out this app from the Official Ghostbusters Facebook page.
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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Homemade Boba!

Bubble Tea Boba


Today the ingredients from boba tea direct came so I can make my very own boba at home!

My husband is an addict of the honeydew flavored bubble tea, so I ordered the honeydew powder online at the link above, plus the oversized straws and of course the large sized tapioca pearls.  I was a bit apprehensive about getting the pearls that take 30 minutes to cook, but now they have minute pearls!  All you have to do is boil some water and stir in the tapioca pearls for 5 minutes, rinse in warm water and strain.  To make them have a sweet flavor you can put them in a container with some sugar water or sugar syrup or honey.  They keep for up to 6 hrs, so only make enough to use the same day they are cooked.
 
Just a side note- if you happen to be lucky enough to have an asian grocery by you, check to see if they sell the minute pearls.  Many people have had luck finding them at their local asian grocer.  I am just lazy and haven't had time to go looking yet.





When I accompanied my DH to Portland, Oregon this month for a work conference he was attending, we got one day to walk around and experience the Portlandness of Portland.  We strolled by a cute little boba/yogurt shop and stepped in for some refereshing boba.  I have never had "Popping Boba" before but what a treat!!



These little bubbles are replacements for tapioca pearls in the bubble tea.  Instead of a chewy consistency, they are like little grapes full of liquid that "pop" open when you suck them up the straw and into your mouth, releasing in this case a strawberry flavor that adds to the flavor of the tea.  You can use them as a topping for ice cream as well, and I'm sure there are tons of other uses for them.  My favorite flavor by far is the strawberry popping boba.  A huge plus to using these instead of tapioca pearls is you don't need to cook them.  They are pre-made fruity boba bliss.  I had mine in a peach flavored bubble tea mix, and it was delish!  My DH had Honeydew flavored tea mix with mango popping boba, and it was good but not nearly as yummy as mine.  Boba tea direct sells these Popping Bobas by the bucket but they are so new and so popular, it is out of stock before they can list them online!  You can sign up for the backordered list if you want to by contacting them through their email form online.

Here is the recipe for making the minute black pearls:

Cooking Minute Pearls for Bubble Tea:

1/2 cup Minute Pearls
4 cups water

(Makes enough for 2 16 oz bubble teas)

1) Boil water in a large pot.
2) Add in the Minute Pearls to boiling water.
3) Stir initially to prevent Minute Pearls from sticking to the bottom of the pot. The tapioca pearls should float in the water.
4) Boil for about 5 minutes with the cover on.
5) Rinse the cooked Minute Pearls in warm water and drain out the water.
6) Cover the cooked pearls with *sugar water to give them a sweet flavor.

*Sugar water:
Boil 2 cups water and add 3/4 cup white sugar.  When sugar is dissolved, set water aside to cool.


To make the bubble tea mix, I purchased the honeydew flavored all-in-one mix and followed the directions that came with the package, which is as follows:

Preparation: (For 16 oz serving)
1) Scoop desired amount of Tapioca Pearls, and/or Coconut Jelly and/or Choobees into your serving cup.
2) Put 2 to 3 ounces (4-6 Tbsp) of All-In-One mix in your cocktail shaker or blender (for ice-blended drinks).
3) Add 6 to 8 ounces of water to dissolve the powder.
4) Add 1 cup ice (or desired amount) to cocktail shaker or blender until the blended mixture comes up to 2 cups (16 oz serving).
5) Pour over your texture components.

Don't forget to serve your boba with an oversized straw so you can slurp up the tapioca pearls!


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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Buffalo-Style Hot Wings

Buffalo wings

Tonight's dinner: Buffalo wings with creamy bleu cheese dressing and a salad.  For dessert, a slice of homeade blueberry pie and a cup of iced Strawberry Bliss tea brewed fresh from my loose tea stash.  What more can you ask of an evening?

I am constantly craving finger foods, the kind you would find in bars like potato skins and buffalo wings.  Tonight I decided to finally tackle the short learning curve and make my own buffalo wings.  Being from NY, I wanted to make the authentic wings that originated in Buffalo, NY.  Alton Brown came to the rescue with this authentic recipe sans the deep frying since this is adapted for the home.

First, a little lesson on the anatomy of the chicken wing:

My whole life, I had thought there were these tiny chickens running around that were specifically grown for the purpose of hot wings, having tiny legs for the drum sticks part of hot wings and tiny wings.  Now that I've been educated by my brief google search, I know the standard chicken wing is cut into three parts, the tip, which is discarded or saved to boil into chicken stock, the Wingette, which is the two boned portion of the wing, and the drumette, which is the tiny chicken leg like portion of the wing.  When sharing a portion of hot wings, usually there is someone who loves the drumette and someone who loves the wingette, creating hot wing harmony.  If we ever find ourselves sharing wings, I prefer the drummette as it is so much less messy to eat.

Now that we've got that cleared up, the recipe is as follows:



Ingredients

  • 12 whole chicken wings
  • 3 ounces unsalted butter
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

 

Directions

Place a 6-quart saucepan with a steamer basket and 1-inch of water in the bottom, over high heat, cover and bring to a boil.  Remove the tips of the wings and discard or save for making stock. Using kitchen shears, or a knife, separate the wings at the joint. Place the wings into the steamer basket, cover, reduce the heat to medium and steam for 10 minutes.



Remove the wings from the basket and carefully pat dry. Lay the wings out on a cooling rack set in a half sheet pan lined with paper towels and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Replace the paper towels with parchment paper. Roast on the middle rack of the oven for 20 minutes. Turn the wings over and cook another 20 minutes or until meat is cooked through and the skin is golden brown.
While the chicken is roasting, melt the butter in a small bowl along with the garlic. Pour this along with hot sauce and salt into a bowl large enough to hold all of the chicken and stir to combine.
Remove the wings from the oven and transfer to the bowl and toss with the sauce. Serve warm.


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Friday, September 30, 2011

Your Daily Dose of Cute

red panda

Red Pandas, commonly known as Firefoxes due to their red colored fur and their fox-like appearance, are the most floofy, cuddly, friendly creatures I have ever seen.  If you watch this pandacam and you don't find yourself SQEEEEEing from total cuteness overload, then you just might have a heart of stone.

Sadly, these sweet Red Pandas are endangered.  Their habitat is being cut down and they have nowhere to safely live in peace.  The Red Panda Network works hard to protect their forests and grow their species count by, among other things, safely breeding Red Panda babies in zoos where there are people who specialize in raising Red Pandas.  The RPN is currently building a Community Conservation Center in Nepal, home of the Red Panda, where they can do community outreach to educate people about the importance of their forests, as well as in-field research.  Here is a video of the future location of the Community Center in Nepal:



The Knoxville Zoo has this awesome live pandacam where you can watch the babies Dolly, Bernadette and Winston play and bottle feed in their oh-so-comfy looking nursery.  Don't miss the bottle feedings around 12:45pm daily, it is way too precious.

If you would like to donate to The Red Panda Network, one neat way that benefits both you and the RPN is to adopt a Red Panda.  For only $40 you can have pictures and a wallpaper for your computer of your newly adopted panda, an adoption certificate, and more.  With the holidays coming up, this could be a great gift for the animal lover in your life, or for your wishlist if you are the animal lover.

International Red Panda Day is a day devoted to the celebration of and community education about the Firefoxes. We just celebrated the day on September 17.  Don't forget to post about it next year on your Facebook/Gplus/Twitter accounts and get the word out!
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Friday, September 23, 2011

September's YBR Submission



It's that time again- I am submitting my Sausage and Peppers recipe for September's YBR event. Nancy at Spicie Foodie holds the "Your Best Recipe" list monthly and anyone with a food blog can submit their best recipe for the month.  This list is not a contest, but a great way to share favorite recipes from across the globe.  All you have to do to submit your favorite recipe from your food blog is to follow a few small rules that you will find by clicking on the YBR button above.  Happy Fall everyone!



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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Vacation Time!

Weather Report at Home:





Weather Report on Vacation:



Any Questions?

I will be back posting again soon.  Until then, it's beach weather my friends! Adieu!

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Snausages!

sausage and peppers

This recipe for Sausage and Peppers came from my Mother-in-Law.  For years, only my husband could replicate the delicious meal in our home, but I have now mastered the art of this amazing dish.  Here is the recipe:

Sausage and Peppers
















Ingredients:
·      6 Premio brand sweet sausages
·         6 Premio brand hot sausages
·         









·      2 Tbsp and 2 tsp olive oil
·         2 jars Victoria Fra Diavlo sauce



·     










·       1 box Ronzoni thin spaghetti
·         1 large yellow onion- chopped (1 inch pieces)
·         2 large green peppers- chopped (1 inch pieces)
·         Grated Parmesan cheese to garnish (Most times I don’t use it, dish doesn’t need it)


Tools:
·         Large sauté pan with cover
·         Stock pot and strainer for pasta
·         Large Tongs
·         Paring knife
·         Cutting board
·         Large baking dish (9 x13 Pyrex dish or I love my Dansk 13.25” Paella Pan)
















Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 425° F

2.  Cook pasta for 1 minute less than the minimum time on the box’s cooking directions.  

3.  While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large sauté pan to medium high (electric stove is between 7 and 8).

4.  Right before smoking temp is reached, place sausages in the pan. Brown the sausages on three sides for about 2 minutes or so per side or until slightly darker than golden brown.  They brown fast so keep an eye on them.


5.  When browning the fourth side, add the slices of onion and green pepper, so they are on top of the sausages, and turn the heat down to medium, (electric stove between 5 and 6).



6.  Cover and let the onions and peppers soften, approximately 10 minutes.  (I usually go by the color of the green pepper.  When it turns a soft green, it’s done.)

7.  Pour 1 full jar of the Victoria’s Fra Diavlo sauce into the baking dish.














8.  When pasta is fully cooked, strain and add the pasta to baking dish and mix with the uncooked sauce in the pan.



9.  Once the sausages, peppers and onions are done, place the sausages on top of the pasta, nestling the sausages just slightly into the pasta as you place them.



10.  Top with peppers and onions, making sure to keep as much of the fat in the pan out of the baking dish.



11.  Top with remaining jar of Fra Diavlo sauce.



12.  Bake in middle of oven at 425 ° F for 35 minutes.  (The temp seems high, but it is vital to make the most flavorful dish, where the flavors are blended all the way through, and some pasta crisps along the edge which is a treat if you are lucky enough to get some on your plate.  I have tested many different temps and 425 degrees Fahrenheit is the best choice by far.)

This is the finished product:


You can add some grated Parmesan cheese to the plated meal if you prefer, but it really doesn't need it.  This dish is so easy I make it during weeknights with no problems whatsoever.  It also makes a ton, so you can eat it for lunches or for dinner again the next night.  Mangia!
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