Monday, December 5, 2011

Yummy Chocolate Pumpkin Bread-Puddin'

The best dessert, but oops... i forgot to add the schlag for the photo op!

This is it!!!

I think this must be my very favorite dessert to make, because...
  • it's so easy;
  • chocolate... bread... what more does a person need/want?
  • people haven't stopped asking me for the recipe!  

I made some slight modifications to Bobby Flay's Pumpkin Bread Pudding, such as using freshly made dulce de leche (OMG!  you can eat it with a spoon directly from a jar in the fridge!) with fresh whipped cream instead of Bobby's Spicy Caramel Apple Sauce and Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise.  Also, i did the ultimate... i added small chunks of dark chocolate bits.  Oh... and i substituted brioche rolls instead of his pumpkin bread. The modifications can be endless.  I'd love to know what you're going to do to make it your bread pudding!

NOTE:  As good as this dessert is, and as good as it may look, i continue to forget to add the whipped cream (schlag) and powdered sugar to the one plated for pictures.  Just imagine... 
Ingredients -
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
  • 6 large egg yolkls
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrun
  • 1 cup pure canned pumpkin puree
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • pumpkin bread  I prefer brioche or about 10 brioche rolls
  • chopped semi-sweet chocolate chunks
  • sprinkling of walnuts
  • confectioners sugar (just to sprinkle on top)
  • Dulce de leche (recipe to follow)
  • Fresh whipped cream, or schlag

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F°. 
Combine the cream, milk, vanilla bean and seeds in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer.
Whisk together the yolks, sugar, maple syrup, and pumpkin puree in a large bowl.
Slowly whisk in the hot cream mixture until combined, remove the vanilla pod, and whisk in the bourbon.
Strain the custard into a clean bowl.  (I have no idea what this is for, so i didn't do it.)

Scatter the bread cubes in a buttered 9 by 13-inch baking glass baking dish.
Pour the custard over the bread, pressing down on the bread to totally submerge it in the custard.
Let sit for 15 minutes to allow the bread to soak up some of the custard.

Place the pan in a larger roasting pan and pour hot tap water into the roasting pan until it comes half way up the sides of the glass dish.
Bake until the sides are slightly puffed and the center jiggles slightly, about 1 hour.

Remove from the oven and water bath and cool on a baking rack for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Spoon some of the bread pudding onto a plate and drizzle with the dulce de leche.
Top with freshly whipped cream.
Bread pudding is best served warm.

Buon appetito!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Get ready for the BEST dessert I've ever made...

Princess Cake - the most delicious combination of sweets.

as delicious as this is, 
     i did not make it,
          and it's not the dessert i've been talking about for over the past week.

Each Thanksgiving i focus on something, and hope to turn it into something special.
Last year it was the butternut squash soup with pancetta, thanks to Laurence's discovery of one of his favorite comfort foods while going to NYU.  (Ok... and thanks to Tom Colicchio's, Wichcraft and its fine selection of reasonably priced food that brings a smile and warms the belly of many looking for good, comfort food while away from home.)

This year i focused on pumpkin bread pudding.  I'd like to say more, but i'll wait until you can read the recipe before i say what's in it and what accompanies it.  

The few days before Thanksgiving i make the dish and bring it to work.  That night i work at refining it and, yes, bring another one to the office.  Based on reactions, i was able to tell when it was a hit!  Mom wants the recipe, Colleen wants the recipe, and Jess wants to share it with a teacher.  Audrie said Georg thought it was the best dessert i've ever made.  I love making something that everyone loves to eat.

Now i have to sift through dozens of photos and turn them into pretty viewing for you.  I also feel i owe it to this delicious dessert that i give it the recognition it deserves.  So before this weekend is over, i'll have the pictures and recipes posted.  All three parts of the dessert are easy and delicious.  It's probably going to take me more time to blog it than to make it.

I hope this posting has you looking forward to reading about this yummy dessert!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pretty Pickled Peppers

You don't want to know how long these have been in my fridge, but i think they get better with time.  Isn't pickling... like a fine wine?  Ok... June 13th.  And i'm sure my mother is asking "of what year?"  I had everything ready to go for this post, then i had my nasty fall and never got around to posting this.  I just re-discovered a jar of these in my refrigerator and was surprised at how tasty they were and i thought i should share with you!

As a kid i thoroughly loved raw green bell peppers.  Then, at 7, i had my tonsils removed and, ever since, you couldn't pay me to eat a bell pepper.  Whether green, orange, yellow, red or purple - i won't get near them with a 10 foot pole.  Then, on the evening of Tuesday, February 22, 2011, the stars must have aligned in a way that amazed me... i watched a little boy eat a baby orange bell pepper, and you could see how much he enjoyed it, while at the same time it emitted an aroma that i thought was so fresh.  I got up and got one of those same orange peppers, and LOVED it!  In fact, i ate two more -- one yellow and one red, and the entire time i kept thinking "i can't wait to call mom and tell her that i now eat bell peppers, albeit, not green"!

So now that i love these little sweeties, i'm finding a lot of goodies to incorporate them in, but the first thing is some pickled sweet peppers...

  • Mixed baby peppers (whatever colors you like)  
  • 1-1/2 c. white taragon vinegar
  • 2 T. pickling spices
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • herbs are optional (dill, taragon, almost anything)
Wash the peppers and stick each one with a fork so that they don't pop or burst when you boil them.Place the uncooked peppers in a pot of boiling water for just a few minutes.  You don't want them too soft; it's nice if they have a little snap when you bite into it.
Remove the peppers from the pot of boiling water and let them cool.
Meantime, boil the vinegar, pickling spice and sugar for about 5 minutes or until the sugar is completely dissolved. 
Stack the peppers in a canning jar any way you like.  I lined mine all vertically and alternated colors.
Pour the cooked vinegar mixture over the peppers to fill the jars.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Kitchens for an Ivory Tower

I'm hoping to get back to cooking very soon, so i need to share more of my collection of spectacular kitchens.

I'm generally a monochromatic person -- i like a vase of flowers with all the same kind and color.  Or when i wear black, i might accent it with white or ivory, and when i wear white or ivory, i accent it with... yes, you guessed correctly... black!  Ok, i do incorporate brown on occasion.

If this were my kitchen, i would have a vase of magenta colored flowers on the island...
I want to see the rest of this house!

I'd like to wake up to this kitchen on a gorgeous spring morning, or winter or summer or fall would also be fine with me.
I love these exposed beams.

And then, dine al fresco, of course...
No, this isn't my patio.  It's a private patio from the Amanjena Resort in Morocco. 
Think, Sex and The City II.

Stay tuned for more kitchens... soon!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A romantic kitchen (No, that's not an oxymoron!)

In my quest for spectacular kitchens, this one must be tops for romantic.  Look at the gorgeous painted ceiling and the warmth that the wood counter brings.  And don't miss the chandelier in the back corner -- just above the potted plants on the back counter.  Wouldn't you love to know what the yard looks like just beyond those windows.  Stay tuned!

Of course they use brown eggs.  White would disappear with everything else.   

A pretty day becomes a happy day.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Cuisine du Jour... or Kitchen of the Sea

If you need me, here's where i'm cooking dinner, if i was able to cook, and if i was in France --

Look at the gorgeous ceiling, and how the crystal chandelier adds the right amount of bling to spice up this kitchen.

Oh, if you're wondering, this is the little breakfast nook where i planned my day of strolling through Provence's street market and figuring out where i was going to get lunch.

Bonne journée

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Not your mother's kitchen

Since i'm out of commission for 4-6 more weeks with a fractured knee, some pulled ligaments and a sprained ankle, i decided that, even though i can't cook (takes too much standing), I could look for fabulous and unusual kitchens to drool over.

Here is my first... a sunken kitchen in my own backyard... Venice, CA.
I'm assuming the fridge are cold drawers and the oven is beneath the stovetop.

Could cooking get any more serene than this?

A kitchen with "what-a-view"!

On that note... I have to go scrounge up dinner.

Buon appetito!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Turkey Chili with Cranberries

Last week i was in New York for Laurence's NYU graduation.  We had a great time and ate at some great restaurants.  The funny this is, the day of his Tisch graduation we couldn't catch a cab (ok... for much of the trip we couldn't catch a cab) and walked forever just to find a place to eat.  We all were tired of walking in the rain and finally, after what seemed like an eternity, decided to eat at the next available place.  Turned out to be The Counter, a restaurant we have in our very own backyard.  I'm not crazy about their turkey burgers, but Debbie and I decided to try the turkey chili with a green salad.  Wow!  It was fantastic.  I thought about that chili every day.  In fact, i took most of mine back to the hotel and ate it cold the next day for breakfast. 
                Polenta Cakes                           Turkey Chili in the Making     

Here's my recreation...

  • 2 pounds of ground turkey (mixed white and dark meat)
  • 2 cups of chopped white onion
  • 1 cup of fresh or frozen sweet corn kernels
  • 1 package of sundried tomatoes
  • 1 cup of dried cranberries
  • chili seasoning mix
  • 1/2 bottle of good red wine
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 1 large can (32 oz) of stewed cherry tomatoes 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
In a large skillet, saute the ground turkey and chopped onions until the turkey is thoroughly cooked.
Transfer the turkey and onions to a large stock pot.
Add salt and pepper, half of the dried cranberries, chili seasoning mix, tomato paste, chopped sundried tomatoes and the stewed cherry tomatoes.
Mix thoroughly.
Add wine and let simmer for an hour or two.

This time i spooned the chili over polenta cakes and topped with a sprinkling of dried cranberries, but it would also be good with an arugula salad and cornbread.

Buon appetito!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Healthy Kale Soup with Brown Rice Medley

My friend Lovey and I have been on a "kale" kick.  Aside from the nutritional values, it's delicious and makes you feel good.  This is my spin on a healthy kale soup --

Ingredients --
  • 5 cups of chicken broth
  • Juice of 1 meyer lemon
  • 1 T of zest from meyer lemon
  • 1 T of horseradish
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • sliced white mushrooms
  • handful of snow peas
  • 1 large sliced carrot
  • 1 bunch of sliced scallions (i use whites only)
  • 1 handful of cherry tomatoes
  • Trader Joe's Brown Rice Medley (or any kind of brown rice will work well.  But this mix is so interesting.  It's an unusual combination of long-grain brown rice, black barley and daikon radish seeds. )

I put the chicken broth together in a large stock pot and added the lemon juice, zest and horseradish.
Then i added the carrots and let them cook for about 10 minutes. 
Next i added all of the other vegetables other than the cherry tomatoes and let everything simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the brown rice was ready.  Just before you're ready to serve, you can add the tomatoes.

While the veggies were simmering, i made the brown rice medley. 

Spoon some of the rice in a bowl, and ladle over the soup.

This would also be delicious with steamed shellfish.  Oh well... next time!

Buon appetito!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mom's Cucumber & Onion Salad

I picked up a couple pounds of meyer lemons and was planning on making lemon bars or lemon & rosemary jam.  Unfortunately, i just haven't felt like cooking.  But i have felt like some of my mom's delicious cucumber & onion salad.  It's similar to Factor's, but it's even better because we use the persian cucumbers and slice them paper thin.   Plus, i use Splenda sugar instead of the real thing, so at least i don't have to feel guilty when i eat a cucumber salad.

  • 1 cup of white vinegar
  • 1 cup of sugar (or splenda)
  • 1-1/2 cups of water
  • 1 sweet onion
  • Dill
  • 12 Persian cucumbers.
Heat the vinegar, water and sugar in a large bowl until the sugar dissolves.
(To make it super easy, i just add all 3 ingredients to a 4 cup pyrex measuring bowl and then heat it in the microwave for 5 minutes.)
Let the mixture cool, either in the refrigerator or on the counter.
Slice the cucumbers and onion as thin as paper.  I use a mandolin which does the job perfectly and in a flash!
After the mixture has cooled, pour over the cucumber and onions. 
Add the dill.

Buon appetito!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Julia Child's Orgasmic Brownies

Brownies, before and after.
 I wanted to make another batch of Julia Child's delicious brownies, but decided to put a spin on them since it's Valentine's Day.  The "spin" was inspired by Smitten Kitchen's gorgeous brownies, although I decided to stick with the brownie recipe i enjoy so much.

So i made two different batches, which i must say took a number of pots, pans and bowls (yes, and a lot of cleaning!).  Then i realized my heart-shaped cookie cutter was too large, so i figured i'd find a new cookie cutter on Sunday.  Wrong!  Who would have thought how difficult it is to find a small, 1" heart-shaped cookie cutter.  Since i needed something to "cleanly" slice through the brownies, i decided to use an apple corer.  So i didn't have hearts in my brownies, i had a circle.  Or, as Elliot declared, they're more like the "circle of life" brownie.  The fun part is you have dark chocolate brownies with white chocolate centers, or white chocolate brownies with dark chocolate centers.  Keeps everyone happy!

I gave my niece, Jessica, a box of the brownies and told her to share them with Annie and Emily (i've been promising Annie some of these brownies).  She texted me this morning and said I'm free to quote them --

"HOLY $HIT- your brownies are THE $HIT. Hands down best brownie I've had. Honestly, and you can quote me on that. Also you can quote Emily- 'it's orgasmic', and Annie stood up as to give you a standing ovation!  (I think Julia Child would smile knowing her brownies are "orgasmic".)

The following ingredients and recipe are for one pan of 16 brownies.  To do black & white brownies, you need to duplicate the recipe using white chocolate and a little less sugar.

  • 1 1/4 cups sifted all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°.
Sift the flour and salt together and set aside.
Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water (water should not be touching the upper bowl).  Add 1 cup of sugar to the mixture and stir for half a minute, then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
Pour the mixture into a large bowl.
Put the remaining 1 cup sugar and the eggs into a stand mixer bowl and mix or whisk by hand just to combine.
Little by little, pour half of the sugar and eggs into the chocolate mixture, stirring gently but constantly with a rubber spatula so that the eggs don't set from the heat.
Fit the whisk attachment to the mixer and whip the remaining sugar and eggs until they are thick, pale, and doubled in volume, about 3 minutes.
Using the rubber spatula, delicately fold the whipped eggs into the chocolate mixture.
When the eggs are almost completely incorporated, gently fold in the dry ingredients.
Pour and scrape the batter in to an unbuttered 9-inch square pan. (If you want thin brownies, use a considerably larger pan; say, 9 x 13).
Bake the brownies for 35-40 minutes, during which time they will rise a little and the top will turn dark and dry.
Cool the brownies in the pan on a rack.

Buon Appetito, and happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Chocolate-covered marshmallows

I wanted to think of something super simple to bring to my parents today, and felt something sweet to ring in the new year would be apropos. 

It doesn't get much simpler, quicker or easier than this...

Ingredients --

A bag of marshmallows
1 pound of semi-sweet chocolate

minced sweetened nuts
minced candy cane (gotta have some left over from the holidays)
sprinkles, and anything else that would be good to sprinkle over these sweets
Wooden skewers

Cook the chocolate in a double-boiler.  If you know how to temper chocolate, i suggest doing so.  In the future I'll do a post on tempering chocolate, but not right now since my thermometer broke.  Tempering makes it so that the chocolate is smooth and glossy and dries to a point where you can touch it without it being "soft & gooey".

Once the chocolate is almost melted, take it off the double-boiler and stir it.
Pierce a marshmallow with a wooden skewer, and swirl it into the chocolate.  i like to swirl about 2/3 of the marshmallow, leaving part of the marshmallow exposed.
Then, while the chocolate is still soft and warm, dunk it in a bowl of the chopped nuts, candy canes or sprinkles.
Carefully remove the skewer and place on a sheet of parchment or wax paper until dried.


And a wonderful new year to all!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Crunchy Pumpkin Granola

My new friend Becky told me about her new way of eating and how she basically eliminated sodium from her diet and, without trying, dropped a lot of weight.  I was so fascinated by her new "lifestyle", and i asked her for some of her pointers and tips.  Meantime, that evening we were at Beth's, and Beth told me to try this delicious granola that Becky makes.  I've always liked granola, but never thought about making it.  In fact, i rarely buy it because i find it's usually very high in calories.  Let me tell you, Becky's granola is delicious!  Not too sweet and contains no salt, so how bad could it be for you?  I'm now addicted to it and I've been eating it in my yogurt or cottage cheese and fruit mixture just about every morning.  I LOVE IT!!! And each time i've made it i do a little something different - whether it's the variety of dried fruit, or adding some extra grain.  The last batch i added flax seed, which added a nice dimension.  Anyway, you can't go wrong with this.  Oh... my friend Kevin tried it and thought it was delicious, so the next time i made it i doubled the batch and brought some in for just about everyone.  It's been a hit!

Ingredients -
4 C Oats
1/2 C Sliced unsalted Almonds
1/3 C Pepitas (raw)
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp cinnamon (add more cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice if you like)
1 heaping tsp Raw sugar
1/3 C Organic canned pumpkin- Trader Joe's
1/4 C Honey
2 Tbsp Agave
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 tsp vanilla extract

Extra Honey if needed

In a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients except raw sugar (first 5), together in a large bowl and put aside. Combine wet ingredients and raw sugar in a small bowl then combine dry and wet ingredients. Spread on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Cook at 300 degrees for about 40 min. turning every ten minutes or so until medium brown. Taste granola, if it isn't sweet enough drizzle some honey over hot granola. Let cool. Note- finished granola will be slightly sweeter with the dried fruit. Usually, it is sweet enough.

When cool, add in
10 chopped apricots
1/3 C raisins
1/2 C of any other dried fruit you would like- I used cherries, cranberries and blueberries but apples would be good and if you can find dried sweet pumpkin that would be good, too.

I love mine in the morning with yogurt and chopped fruit.  Here i've used chopped persimmon and dried figs.  Yummy in the tummy!