Sunday, May 24, 2009

Homemade Chocolate Chips

So my mom, little brother, and I are doing this yeast detox diet for 28 days. All I can say is...this is the closest to hell I have ever been. I have decided that a life lived without wheat, dairy, and sugar is not a life at all. I fully intend to stick to my 28 day commitment, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. I am doing this for the sole purpose of figuring out what food allergies I have. After the 28 days are over you slowly add the food groups back in one at a time while monitoring your reactions. I have no doubt it will work, but 5 days in I pray that the 28 days will go by sooner than later. As a student of the art of making sugar and wheat into something that is truly good, true, and beautiful I feel as if my mission in life is not complete and there is still much to learn.

This "plan" eliminates basically all carbs - no potatoes, rice, bread, pasta, wheat, corn - nothing - zilch. Oh, we can eat quinoa - which is very weird tasting to me, and I am trying to like it - really I am. Also - limited fruit - and definitely no bananas, or grapes. Lots of veggies...big whoop there. No dairy - milk, cheese, yogurt, - not even rice or almond milk is allowed. The hardest has been no sugar. No honey, no maple syrup. We can however use this natural sugar look alike..."xyitol". I still haven't figured out exactly what it is, but apparently it is safe for diabetics. In a desperate search of something to quench my sweet tooth over the next 23 days I finally came upon an acceptable "cheating chocolate" solution. I made my own chocolate chips...well I guess they were more like chocolate bits. Very excited about this recipe. I am also a huge fan of carob so I made mine with carob powder. However, it should work just as well with cocoa powder. Also, it calls for coconut oil - which is awesome, but I imagine you could also use butter if you don't have coconut oil on hand. I have never used coconut oil before this recipe, so I am not sure if it will yield the same results, but it is worth a try.

This recipe is from Nourishing Traditions, a book my friends so graciously gave me with the hopes of converting me to the "healthy" way of life. Nice try guys, but I think I will stick with my refined sugar. : )

Carob or Chocolate Chips:
adapted from Nourishing Traditions
Makes 1 cup

3/4 cup carob powder or cocoa powder
1/4 cup of rapadura or xyiltol
1 cup coconut oil or butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon chocolate extract (optional)

Place all ingredients in a glass container and set over pan of simmering water until melted. Mix together well. Spread mixture on a piece of buttered parchment paper and allow to cool in the refrigerator. When hardened, remove parchment paper and cut into chips. Store chips in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Because the coconut oil does melts easily, keep this in the refrigerator.

Good luck!

Monday, May 18, 2009

German Chocolatekake

I have now been tasked with making monthly birthday cakes for 40-50 people at work. This is a good thing, because cake has never really been my forte and it is forcing me to improve my cake making skills. One reason I don't make a lot of cake is because my family tends to not eat it that fast...thus it is up to me to finish it off. Not a good thing for my trim and perfect waistline. : ) I had requests for German Chocolate cake this month...and the timing just felt right. In the past I have always used the recipe on the back of the baker's German chocolate box - this always yielded a nice result, but I wanted more out of my cake this time. Although I like that recipe, I feel the cake was always a little too light, too fluffy, too original for my fine gourmet pallet...ha. I googled tons and tons of recipes for German Chocolate cake - websites, blogs, cake experts...etc. I finally found a recipe that called for all the things I wanted in my cake...buttermilk for moisture, coffee for richness, and a nice combination of cocoa powder and melted chocolate. Coffee was the selling point for me, I think coffee and chocolate make the perfect marriage of flavors - sweet, subtle, comforting, and just plain darn beautiful - everything a marriage should be! I used the original baker's coconut pecan icing - because it rocks and is incredible. I wanted to take a picture to show you all how wonderful this cake came out, but I was too slow, and a 1/2 eaten cake with random fork and teeth marks in it is not that appealing looking. Yeah, it was that good. The cake was slightly brownie-ish in texture - smooth, semi-dense but light, sweet. It was so good you could eat it sans the icing if you wanted...but the icing was so good I had to use it. I found this recipe on the Joy of baking blog...I had never been there before, but was very pleased with this recipe and intend to return in the near future.

If you have never eaten a perfect cake before today,
This is bliss, that is all I can say.

Some tips or pointers:
- I used Baker's German chocolate squares instead of semi-sweet chocolate.
- I don't like cake flour. It is too bleached for my likes. I used 2 cups all purpose unbleached four and 1/4 cup corn starch...sifted of course.
- If you don't have buttermilk you can do two things. One - add 1/2 tsp. vinegar, or lemon juice to one cup milk - let it sit for a few minutes - voila - buttermilk - nice and tangy...of course I prefer the thick stuff from the store. Also, you can use yogurt or sour cream if you want instead of the buttermilk. Ultimately you want the tangy flavor and the acidity that will tenderize your cake.



Enjoy, and please share this cake I don't want to be partially responsible for sending anyone to their grave early : )

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Some stuff I made that was pretty much awesome!

Okay - here are a few things I have made this month. First we have a Lime tart in a coconut shortbread shell. I am not the biggest fan of citrus and all the sourness it has to offer the world. Let's put it this way - If citrus was the last food on earth I probably still wouldn't eat it. Unfortunately, one of my chef's loves citrus and has to add zest to everything he teaches us to make...on most days I will spend at least 10 minutes trying to convince him to go without it. : ) However, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I actually liked this tart - I think the subtle coconut in the shell really complimented the citrus flavor. I also reduced the lime juice by 1 ounce...take that Chef! : ) Also, most people decorated the top of their tarts with the traditional Medusa look - covering the entire top of the tart. I thought the filling was so pretty and deserved to be seen. I also thought the lime zest made it pretty obvious that it wasn't a lemon tart, but was indeed a lime tart. As you can see, I am still working on my torching skills. : ) I was just playing around with the meringue and came up with this sun flower like pattern that I was pleased with. Kudos to originality!

Next we have a Sour cream Oreo cheesecake. Cheesecake tends to be so heavy tasting and really sits in your stomach - by using 1/2 sour cream and 1/2 cream cheese it really lightens cheesecake up. I made a chocolate tart bottom ahead of time and baked my cheesecake separately in a spring form pan. Then placed the cheesecake on top of the shell and covered it with crushed oreos. I was very pleased with the end product and will definitely make this one again with the addition of a fudge sauce drizzled on top.

Last, but not least we have a simple yet elegant tea cookie - Diamante Cookie. This is an easy icebox cookie that is mixed and then rolled into a log, chilled, brushed with egg wash, rolled in raw sugar crystals, sliced, and then baked. So delicious! Last year for my birthday my friend Maggie gave me some shortbread cookies from Dean and Deluca similar to these, but they had crystallized ginger bits in them. Next time I plan on adding ginger to mine. These are awesome and would make a sweet gift for anyone! They also freeze well.

Wild rice a la risotto

I am constantly in search of a good side dish to accompany my main entrees. What will go with roast chicken, roast roast, grilled shrimp, or turkey? Plain old potatoes or plain old rice just never did cut it. I decided to try something new and make wild rice using the traditional risotto method. Most people think that risotto is an Italian dish made with Arborio rice...however risotto is actually a method, that is traditionally made with shorter grained rice like Arborio. Interesting. Anyways, for Mother's day we boiled some awesome shrimp and paired it with a crisp salad and my new favorite...wild rice a la risotto!

Wild Rice A La Risotto:
Recipe by moi.

Olive oil
4 slices of bacon (optional...but makes it oh so much better...I did it without and it was still yummy)
1 medium-large onion - diced small
2 cloves minced garlic
3 cups wild rice
1/2 white wine
6 cups good quality chicken broth
salt and pepper = sap

Heat chicken broth in sauce pan on low heat. Meanwhile - Coat bottom of deep skillet with olive oil. Fry bacon slices until crisp. Remove bacon from pan and chop into bits. Add diced onion to pan and saute until nice carmelization is achieved. Add garlic and constantly stir 1 minute - be careful not to burn the will taste bitter if you do. Add rice to pan and toast over medium=high heat for 2 minutes. Pour wine over rice and deglaze (scrape bits off bottom of pan) for 30 seconds. Slowly add a ladle of warmed chicken broth at a time to skillet of rice - stir constantly until liquid is absorbed, and then add another ladle. Continue this process while constantly stirring until rice is tender. Return bacon bits to pan. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy! It is so good!!!