Saturday, March 21, 2015

Raspberry-Vanilla Marshmallow Easter Eggs

Easter has the BEST candy. 
Seriously, I count the days in February until Valentine's day is over. Not only because Valentine's day is my birthday, not just because in early March, we celebrate our Half-iversary, and not even because Spring is steadily approaching...
It's 'cause of the candy. There is insta-joy when I see the purple bags of Cadbury Mini Eggs in the store next to the clearance $.99 chocolate hearts. I'm on my 4th package of them right now, no joke.

Easter, like most Holidays has lost its childhood luster, and I no longer get a new dress for church, I no longer get a basket filled with goodies, and instead of sprinting to find the most eggs, I help the kiddies find them and witness their joy when they find the egg with the twenty dollar bill in it.
Can I get in on that twenty? No, really...

This year I wanted to make something pretty, and tasty, and sparkly!  They don't take long, but they take some finesse. Anyone can make them, and putting the sparkles (sprinkles) on is so much fun, and kids would love it!! Step by step, here's the recipe and method.

Raspberry-Vanilla Marshmallows (Makes 12 eggs)
Special equipment:
Stand mixer
candy thermometer
12 standard size plastic eggs, washed, dried and coated lightly with cooking spray
18" plastic piping bag
#805 Ateco round plain tip (about 1cm)
Empty egg carton

1/3 cup raspberry juice*
1 tablespoon water
3/8 oz. unflavored gelatin
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
Non-stick cooking spray (high-quality)
Sugar crystal sprinkles
Nonpareils (the tiny, round sprinkles)
Jimmies (the long and soft sprinkles)

* Thaw frozen raspberries overnight in the refrigerator and strain the juice from the fruit. Bonus: stir the excess fruit into a big tub of plain yogurt, or pancakes for a yummy treat.

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Place the raspberry juice, and water in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, sprinkle the gelatin evenly over top and let it stand.

Meanwhile in a small sauce pot, and combine the sugar, corn syrup, honey, and 2 ounces of water. Stir gently and attach a candy thermometer to the pot. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil without stirring and cook the sugar until the thermometer registers 248°.

With the stand mixer on low speed, slowly pour the hot sugar mixture into the gelatin.

Once all of the cooked sugar is added, turn the speed and continue beating until the 'mallow is light and fluffy.
 You are gonna wanna stop here, but beating just a little longer will create a really fluffy 'mallow. At this point, add the scraped vanilla bean and continue beating.
Until it looks like this. If you beat it any longer, it will be too firm to pipe. You want it to be light, but not too cool.

Set the prepared egg shells on a large sheet pan. Fill the piping bag with half of the marshmallow and scrape everything as close to the tip as possible.
Pipe marshmallow into each half of the egg, squeezing from the very top of the bag. In the short half, leave a bit of a dome, and in the tall half, pipe only almost to the top. Be careful not to get any cooking spray on the mallow as it will prevent it from sticking together once it is set.

Pro tip: keep the piping tip just barely submerged in the marshmallow, slowly moving it up as you are piping it into the egg. This will keep the 'mallow evenly distributed through the whole egg.
Close the egg and let the excess come out of the tiny hole in the tall end. Most plastic eggs have this, so make sure yours does. Clean up the outside of the egg as much as possible, and place in the egg carton. Leave the eggs to sit out at room temperature for at least an hour or two. 

Test the egg to see if it is ready, carefully pop open the egg and see if it stays in tact as you try to remove it. Once it is easy to remove from the egg, they are ready to dip into the sprinkles.

Sugar crystal sprinkles stick best, but if you want to use jimmies, make a combination of crystal, and nonpareils with the jimmies.

Wrap the eggs in the carton with plastic wrap and let them sit overnight. They are ready to eat (so you can if you want), but the sprinkles will stick best when they sit long enough to dry a bit.

Package them in plastic bags, and adorn your Easter baskets with beautiful, delicious, sparkly eggs!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Caramelized Onion and Bacon Jam

Check it, y'all,
Onion and Bacon jam is magic.
It is the combination of bacon, onions and time. By adding some cheese, maybe some bread, you've got something just...well, amazing.

What this recipe will take is patience; love and sweet patience. Which anyone who knows me will tell you I have very little patience for anything, but I do, I swear...especially when it makes my burger taste bonkers! Yeah, I said bonkers.

Now what people don't tell you about caramelizing onions is that it takes about 45 minutes to an hour to get the color and flavor really deep and caramelized. TV magic just makes them appear in like 10 minutes tops. But you gotta keep 'em on low heat, slowly cooking, and stirring the onions without burning them. Just be patient, control your heat and keep stirring.

Caramelized Onion and Bacon Jam
1/2 pound smoked thick-cut bacon
2 medium-sized onions,
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon mustard powder
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1.  Cut the onions in half so that both pieces have the root end attached. Cut the ends off of both pieces and remove the skin. Place the onion cut-side-down on your cutting board and slice them into 1/2-inch crescents. To do this, cut slices starting 1/2 inch from the bottom of the onion, at a 45 degree angle, working your way up the onion until your knife is at 90 degrees, then back down the other side.
2.  Cut the bacon into 1/4 inch strips. In a large stainless steel skillet, over medium-high heat, cook the bacon, then drain on a paper towel, leaving the fat in the pan.
3.  Add the onions and stir quickly to coat each piece in the bacon fat. Once the onions are hot, turn the heat down to medium, and keep stirring until the heat has stabilized.
4.  Over the next few minutes, slow down the stirring and turn the heat down a little more so that the pan is still hot, but the onions will not burn. You want to completely avoid browned pieces. This whole process will take about 10 minutes.
5.  Cook the onions over medium-low heat, stirring every few minutes for the next 30-40 minutes. Once the onions are soft, and starting to caramelize, turn the heat back up to medium, stir in the butter, and let it melt before stirring in. Add the mustard powder to the butter and stir until combined, then add the brown sugar, and stir to gently combine everything.
6.  Season with the salt and pepper, then stir the bacon back in. By now, you will have a lovely, caramelized mixture of bacon and onions. Taste, then add the apple cider vinegar. Adjust the seasoning as desired, maybe adding some cayenne pepper, or chili powder for a little heat.  

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Corn Flour Madeleines

First off, let me say that calling these Madeleines may be, well, not PC.
Classically, true Madelines are made by beating air into eggs and sugar very rapidly to create a light and fluffy cloud to hold melted butter, and flour. Well made Madeleine cakes also have a signature bump; a characteristic my French chef told me is only found in "exquisitely made cakes".

Since I had a bag of corn flour just sitting on my shelf, I thought to make these little cakes. Problem is that the coarseness of the corn flour, could deflate my batter and make me say rude things, so I opted for the "muffin method". Super easy too. Just combine your dry ingredients, then your wet ingredients, then mix everything together!
I could probably call these "Corn Flour Maddies", as to not offend anyone but, eh, I won't.

These are gluten-free and quite nice for dipping into tea or Mexican hot chocolate!

Corn Flour Madeleines:
1 cup corn flour
1 tsp baking powder 
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg 
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons honey
zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange blossom water (optional)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1. Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
2. Combine the remaining ingredients, except for the vanilla bean in a 2-cup measuring cup and whisk until thoroughly combined.
3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until the batter comes together. Let the batter stand for 2 minutes to thicken. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the batter and whisk.
4. Lightly spray a Madeleine pan with cooking spray and fill the molds with about 1 1/2 tablespoons of batter. I used my two-ounce cookie scoop for this and I got exactly 12 portions.
5. Bake for 10-11 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and let the Madeleine cool in the pan for 5 minutes.

These cookies are best served warm from the oven or within a few hours.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Gluten-free Spanish Benedict

Gluten-free cooking has been difficult to explain to those who don't have dietary restrictions. 
To my wife, who cannot have gluten in her diet, it is often frustrating when we go somewhere and there are no gluten-free options. Luckily, if we go to our family's house, there is usually rice, beans, salsa and tortillas. But when we go out to brunch for example, options are limited to piecing together a meal from the "sides" menu that is hopefully not cooked on the same griddle as the pancakes. 

I wanted to make a special eggs Benedict that was just as crafted and put together like anything we would find in a restaurant. This recipe for my Spanish Benedict has several components that layer flavor. It is completely delicious on its own, piled high on a Portobello mushroom, leaving the gluten completely out. Serve it with a simple hash of red onions and potatoes, and love its gluten-free-goodness.

Call me old-fashioned, but the first I ever learned of "food science" was from Alton Brown. So now I use his recipe for Hollandaise, and watch this video every time I make poached eggs. They never fail me.

Spanish Benedict 
4 Portobello mushroom caps, cleaned with stems removed.
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

1 pound Spanish Chorizo-style links, cut into 1/2 inch pieces.
Roasted piquillo peppers, packed in water, and at room temperature.
4 poached eggs
Classic hollandaise recipe, kept warm.
Smoked paprika
12-month aged manchego cheese

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil, and place the cleaned mushroom caps on top of a baking rack on the sheet.
2. Combine the oil, garlic, and parsley in a small bowl, and with a small pastry brush, apply the mixture to the mushroom caps evenly. Gently sprinkle the vinegar among each, gill side up, season with salt and pepper, and set on the baking rack, gill side down.
3. Bake the mushrooms for 10 minutes on one side, flip and bake for another 10 minutes. You want the mushroom to hold its shape, so make sure not to overbake.
4. While the mushrooms are baking, pulse the chorizo in a food processor, or chop into small chunks. Over medium high heat with a pat of butter, heat the chorizo bits until hot and set aside.
5. By now, the mushrooms should be done. Remove from the oven and set the caps on four plates, sill side up. Warm the poached eggs gently in simmering water and stir the hollandaise to make sure it is still emulsified.

To assemble: 
Fill the mushrooms with half of the chorizo, top with a roasted piquillopepper, then the egg. Pour the hollandaise over, then sprinkle with smoked paprika. Shave thin pieces of manchego over the top, sprinkle with more smoked paprika, and garnish with Italian parsley if desired. Divide the other half of the chorizo over top and onto the plate.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Chocolate Dipped Bananas

I LOVE frozen chocolate bananas (in theory), but the thing I hate about them is that they're fucking frozen.
Seriously, they are way too hard, and if I wait until they soften a bit, well, I'll just be holding a frozen banana for longer than I feel comfortable with. In addition, chocolate covered bananas are just too delicious to wait for. 

Don't freeze it! Dip a very cold banana, one that's been sitting in the freezer for long enough that it has started to freeze, in a bath of chocolate a little coconut oil and you'll get an incredible, delightfully textured treat decorated with nuts, shaved coconut, sprinkles or anything your little heart desires. I'll never freeze another banana ever again. Truth.

Chocolate Dipped Bananas

4 bananas
8 popsicle sticks
3 cups 60% chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons coconut oil
Topping Ideas
Chopped toasted nuts, toasted coconut, cookie crumbs, chocolate chips, sprinkles, white chocolate drizzle or multi-chocolate drizzle, just to name a few.

Peel and cut the bananas in half crosswise, so that you have 8 pieces and place the posicle sticks in deep enough so that it wont come out when you dip them.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place bananas in the freezer on the sheet pan for at least 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the chopped chocolate in a double boiler with the coconut oil, stirring occasionally until shiny and not too hot. Transfer to a large measuring cup or tall mason jar with enough room for dipping. Let it cool slightly while you prepare your toppings.

Remove the tray from the freezer and carefully, but quickly dip the bananas into the chocolate, letting the excess drip off before they are rolled or sprinkled with toppings. Place them back on the sheet tray and back in the freezer for at least another 15-20 minutes. They can stay in the freezer for up to an hour after dipping before they become too hard.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Gluten Free Nectarine Polenta Muffins with Blackberry Butter

I went a little crazy at the Farmer's market last week. 
But who can resist perfectly lined baskets of berries and plump, ripe heirloom tomatoes in every shade and hue? One would think that they were shopping for shoes instead of produce.

As we looked around, into my basket went perfectly sweet white corn, vibrant zucchini, yellow peaches that rivaled the perfume of my grandfather's tree, Bing cherries, a jewel-toned red onion, lettuce, peas, a basket of strawberries that ended up being an impulse buy right at the end, as well as a tempting little brioche (for me, not my gluten free love), and we drove off happy with ourselves ready to eat all of it in it's ripe, raw glory.

Cut to: Thursday when all of a sudden I'm looking at steadily ripening peaches, and a whole bag of cherries that seemed like a good idea at the time, I thought, "Uh, I think I went a little crazy at the Farmer's market." And I got to work making some of my favorite Farmer's market seasonal recipes to finish out the week. But that's another post!

Finally, I finished my veggies, now onto the last of it...those two nectarines that have been neglected all week because they were just under-ripe when I bought them. They now are super-sweet because of the warm weather and have been made into muffins. The polenta adds an amazing texture, and the blackberry butter from jam I made from the last crazed F.M. shopping spree, just makes everything better. 

Nectarine Polenta Muffins (makes 12)
1 ¾ cups Cup4Cup
¾ cup polenta
½ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
Zest of ½ an orange
1 cup milk
2 eggs
¼ cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon almond extract
1- 1 ½ cups nectarines, diced
¼ cup sliced almonds and 1 tablespoon of sugar
Preheat the oven to 375°

1.     Combine the Cup4Cup, polenta, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and zest in a large bowl and mix well.
2.     In a smaller bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the milk, eggs, buttermilk, butter and extract. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well.
3.     Gently fold in the nectarines and portion into a muffin pan.
4.     Top with the sliced almonds and sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of sugar.
5.     Bake for 20-22 minutes or until the top springs back when touched and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
6.     Once slightly cooled, remove the muffins from the pan and let them sit on a cooling rack for 5-10 minutes. Serve warm or with blackberry butter.

Blackberry Butter
4 tablespoons of butter mixed with 1 heaping tablespoon of blackberry jam and a pinch of salt.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Strawberry Milk

When I was young, I would spend the summer days at my grandparent's house when my parents worked. I would arrive early in the morning and go back to sleep in the spare bedroom which I heard some years later, that it was haunted by the spirit of a, right?

Mid-morning, my uncle would arrive for a visit, and bonus, he brought my cousins with him. These girls were my partners in crime and their arrival signified a much needed break in the otherwise boring day at my grandparents house. Once we played tag in the yard, watched the one episode of Sesame Street that was allowed and played whatever make-believe game we conjured up, it was time for a snack.
What we ate, I don't remember, but what I do remember is the canister of Strawberry Quick milk drink powder set out on the table and how I was not fond of it at all. No one liked it, all the kids wanted chocolate, why the fake strawberry crap, grandma? I don't know and in taking one sip of the stuff, my young taste buds were indignant. Why, oh why was it the only thing we had to drink other than plain milk...which was gross. Duh.

Feeling rather nostalgic lately, I wanted strawberry milk, but what I wanted was a full-flavored drink made with real strawberries. Not"natural" flavoring with red no. 40.
Because I am a grown-ass adult now, I'd like my strawberry milk a little more complex too, with another element of flavor. So I steeped the milk with a bit of lavender and let it chill before I added the strawberry syrup.You don't have too though, and it will be just as lovely.

Strawberry Milk
1 Pint Strawberries, sliced
1/2  cup Sugar
Milk or milk alternative

1. Let the strawberries marinate in the sugar to release the natural juices.
2. Puree the strawberries until smooth.
3. Strain the puree in a fine mesh strainer.
4. In a sauté pan over medium high heat, bring the puree to a boil, stirring occasionally.
5. Once the mixture becomes foamy, it will begin to gel. Continue to stir quickly to prevent scorching.
6. Reduce the mixture by half and the color will be a deep red and the scent will gloriously fill your kitchen. Chill completely.

7. Mix as much strawberry sauce as you want into a glass of milk and stir. Strain into glasses if desired, otherwise, pour into glasses and stick a straw in it! Enjoy.