Thursday, April 28, 2011

Salted Caramel Sauce

You know that awkward moment when 4 cars arrive at a four way stop at the exact same time? Then you begin that offbeat dance of courtesy, you go, no you let me flash my lights at you to signal what exactly? You go, no you go, okay I will go, wait why are you going? So funny. Now don't take this the wrong way, but when you are in the South or Midwest this happens. Then you go to the East Coast and the drivers all just go, no courtesy stop-go dances there...just accidents. : ) What does this have to do with Salted Caramel Sauce...well nothing, I just always think it is funny and wanted to tell someone. Thanks for listening. In gratitude for listening I am giving you this Salted Caramel Sauce recipe. You are welcome.

Now I have to dedicate this post to my sister Karmel. Some people call her "Karmel sauce"...or "Hips", but that is another story. : ) I guess I should also dedicate this to my sister, Mimi. Both sisters are not coffee drinkers, but when they go to Starbucks they always get the Caramel Frappacino...a nasty way too sweet drink in my opinion...but to each their own. I tried to make our own Caramel Fraps at home, I liked them, but Mims was not satisfied. We did however agree on the Caramel sauce being a winner. I originally made this sauce to accompany a cake I had made for my Grandfather's birthday. I thought that it wasn't sweet enough for his crazy sweet tooth so I made this sauce to pour over it. This sauce is great on Ice cream, drinks, cakes, as a fruit dip, or just straight up plain out of the jar. I like this sauce for two reasons, 1) It has salt, and I love salt; and 2) It has no corn syrup. Wow, is that like Christmas or what?

Since I am in such a giving mood I will share even more with you...some more good songs. All three of my sister's have very different taste in music. Kirsten likes folksy bohemian music. Growing up she loved the Gypsy Kings and Shakira. Now she like Victoria least I think she does. Karmel has always been into Jack Johnson, and Pop music. Mimzer is the most into music and is always finding new artists for us all to listen to. She likes Christina Perri, and Death Cab for Cutie.

So check out these songs, make this sauce, and call it a day.

Victoria Vox
Jack Johnson, Upside Down
Christina Perri, Arms and Priscilla Ahn, Dream

ps. do not be afraid of making caramel. You will burn a few batches before you get it right, no worries. If it smells burnt, it is burnt. Just start over. Just be confident and vigilant and it will happen. Read over the entire recipe before starting just so you know where you are heading.

Salted Caramel Sauce
adapted slightly from Ina Garten

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Mix the water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the sugar dissolves. Do not stir. Increase the heat to medium and boil uncovered until the sugar turns a warm brown, usually 5 to 7 minutes, gently swirling the pan to stir the mixture. Watch the mixture very carefully at the end, as it will go from caramel to burnt very quickly. Turn off the heat. Stand back to avoid splattering and slowly add the cream, vanilla, and salt. Don't worry, you are doing it right - the cream will bubble and the caramel will solidify.

Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the cream dissolves and the sauce is smooth, about 2 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. It will thicken as it sits.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Toasted Coconut Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Lent is over folks, so roll out the red carpet for all things sugar! Keep in mind though that summer is right around the corner and you might have to wear a bathing sugar it up in moderation. Personally I am in major detox mode from all the over indulging of the Easter festivities...I think I ate half of the chocolate Turtle cake that I made...I am doing you all a favor by NOT sharing that one with me, it is for your own good. I made and sold a million Easter Shortbread cookies over the last week and really wanted to make something non-iced, and non shortbread. This cookie was excellent! You can omit the coconut if you like and it will still be excellent, but don't because coconut is a gift and should be loved and appreciated by all. I must apologize if you are allergic to coconut, I do realize that many of my recent posts have included coconut...I will try to work on that...well, maybe. : )

We concluded Easter Sunday by watching the cheesy predictable chick flick, Leap Year. Super sappy, but cute. Guys with European accents really don't have to be cute, they just have to speak and they win a girl's heart. How unfair is that? Poor American guys, they never had a chance. We liked it, and the music was really good. So much so that I am going to share one of the songs with you. Don't worry I'm not going to sing it is. Check it out.

Brown Butter Toasted Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

recipe adapted from this smittenkitchen recipe, then slightly adapted from Joy the Baker

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and browned

1 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1/2 cup toasted unsweetened coconut

1 1/2 cups chocolate chunks or chips

Preheat to 350 degrees F. On baking sheet, spread out shredded coconut. Toast coconut for about 6 minutes, until browned. Remove from the oven, place in a small bowl and let cool.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. The butter will begin to foam and crackle. That means that the water is evaporating from the butter. Once the crackling subsides, keep an eye on the butter. The butter solids will begin to brown. You’ll smell the butter as it browns. Once well browned, immediately remove the butter from the heat and place in a small bowl. Removing the butter from the pan will ensure that it doesn’t continue to cook and burn in the hot pan. Allow the butter to cool for a few moments.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, measure granulated and brown sugar. Add the brown butter and beat together, on medium speed, for about 2 minutes.

Add the egg and egg yolk and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. The mixture should become silky smooth. Add vanilla extract and beat.

With mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients. Beat until just incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a spatula to fold in the toasted coconut and chocolate chips. Dough will be thick.

Cookies can be baked immediately, or the dough can be left in the refrigerator to chill for 30 not chill longer otherwise the dough becomes dry and doesn't stick together.

Spoon balls by the tablespoonful onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden brown but still slightly soft in the center. Remove from the oven. Allow the cookies to cool on the pan for 5 minutes, before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Happy Easter! These were my most popular sellers this year...aren't they cute?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Falafel...the lunch of champions

The dried chickpea before and after being soaked, look at how much it grew!

Every time I say the word "Falafel" I laugh. I don't know why exactly...but to me it kind of sounds like a curse word. Next time you are inclined to swear try inserting the word "Falafel" and tell me I'm right. If you have met me you know that I am a non-swearing person. No, I have not lived in a box my entire life...well, at least not all of it. Back when I was an awkward 11 year old girl living in suburbia Texas I was moved by the evil spirit to curse at my Mom as I angrily stomped away from her. Little did I know that 2 4-letter words could change my speech for the rest of my life. Now, I was a bratty little girl, I lied, I cheated, I stole, I disobeyed, and then I lied some more. For this reason punishment was not foreign to me and I was ready to accept the consequences...or was I? Bring it on. I was expecting the usual, lines - writing 1,000 times "I will not curse at my Mother", going to bed without supper, folding laundry until I was dead...just the usual. I was wrong. Instead my parents decided to try something new and grounded me for 3 weeks. No friends, no outings, no anything for 3 whole weeks. Normally this would have been fine and I could have handled it, but no, not this time. During these 3 weeks I was invited to 3 birthday parties, the only 3 I had been invited to all year. Were these parties an exception to the punishment I had been, they were not. So while I sat at home wallowing in my misery while my friends tea partied away I decided that cursing was not worth the consequences that came with it, and I would never again curse, so help me God.

Strangely enough I have stuck true and fast to this vow I made so many years ago. If my parents wrath was so painful and awful how much worse was God's going to be when I died? So parents with young ones take this story to heart and when your kid swears for the first time punish them, punish them something fierce and maybe you will scare the swear out of them for good. Now, this is not to discredit the use of swearing, because believe me there are times when I think swearing is definitely merited...but really, your beeping beeping did beeping what? Shouldn't we leave the beeping to our cars? Now onto the Falafels!

Falafels originated in Egypt, and are typically deep fried. Some say they were first made as a meat replacement on Fridays during lent. Vegetarians also use falafels as a meat replacement. Just so you know, you don't have to be Catholic or a Vegetarian to enjoy these! Since Falafels are primarily made with chickpeas they are a high source of protein and fiber and are a healthy addition to any meal!


1 lb. of dried chickpeas

Rinse chickpeas with water and put into large bowl. Cover the chickpeas with cold water at least 2" above the level of the peas. Soak for 18-24 hours. Rinse and drain.

Place soaked and rinsed chickpeas in a large food processor and pulse until ground, not smooth. Add the following:

1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp ground coriander

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp paprika

1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Pulse the food processor a few times and then add the following:

1 large onion diced
3 green onions (scallions)

6 cloves garlic chopped

2 handfuls fresh parsley rinsed
1 handful fresh cilantro rinsed
1 TBS lemon juice

Pulse together until smooth and herbs are no longer whole. Chill in fridge for at least 15 minutes. Coat bottom of saute pan with olive oil or coconut oil and heat of medium high heat. Using an ice cream scoop or a spoon, scoop Falafel mixture and press into patties and place in heated oiled pan. Cook a few minutes each side until golden brown, flip and cook on other side. Enjoy with tahini or with Greek yogurt, or a quick Greek yogurt sauce - Greek yogurt, lemon, garlic, and paprika. You can freeze this mixture pre baking, or it will keep in the fridge for up to 7 days. I found that the longer into the week it sat in the fridge the better it tasted.
This is not a Falafel. Do you know what it is? Bet you don't. I will give you a hint, it is a fruit.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Chubby Hubby From Fig Tree Cafe

Growing up my older sister and I had clear roles in the family. For decorating, fashion, or sewing advice you would speak to her. For cooking or cleaning you would speak to me. I always felt as if she was the Mary, and I was the Martha. Ironically Martha is the bitter questioning one who works too much and doesn't take time to enjoy the little things...Mary is the one who appreciates the finer things and loves spending one on one quality time with people. Kind of just worked out that way for us. Now the real question is who are the Cain and Able of the family... but I will leave that for another day...or maybe I won't...things didn't really work out all too well for them. : )

After my New York visit to little sister, I hopped on a bus and headed to Newburyport, MA to visit the eldest sister of our clan and her hospitable husband. After a long bus ride all I wanted was hot food and a warm bed...and that is exactly what I got! My older sister never could cook when we were younger. I remember writing down instructions for her on how to make spaghetti for dinner...boil the water for the noodles and simmer the sauce on medium low. Lord knows how, but we came home to a dinner of crunchy noodles that had been cooked on low topped with crunchy burnt red sauce. I do believe that was the last time she ever made dinner in our home. Somewhere along the line after she had grown up and moved out of the house she learned how to cook. I was shocked to see her cooking in a kitchen! Never thought I would see the day! Lucky for her she married an excellent cook and has a lifetime of good meals to look forward to with him. My older sister made really good oatmeal one morning that she topped with ground up almonds, unsweetened coconut, and really good local yum!

Coconut Cupcake from Fig Tree Cafe

One of the days I was there we ventured North to a farmer's market inside a green house. We snacked on yummy food from all the vendors and enjoyed a very satisfying lunch. We got a Falafel wrap and a breakfast burrito from the nice folks at White Heron Tea Company. They have some pretty sweet teas that are really nice and different. Then we bought a bunch of things from the Fig Tree Cafe, which is located in Rollinsford, NH. We got a meatloaf sandwich which was off the hook good, a pretty little coconut cupcake, a Chubby Hubby chocolate chewy cookie with peanuts in it, a Southwest Quinoa salad, and a nice little shortbread. All very bueno!!

Southwest Quinoa Salad

We also ate dinner late one night at Loretta's in Newburyport. It was really late and we were hoping we would be able to find a place still open. Thank goodness their light was on. They were about to close but they graciously stayed open for us. We shared a scrumptious grass fed beef burger with home cut fries, winter rolls, and chips and guacamole. All very satisfying. The next morning we woke up and headed to breakfast at Stella's.

Delicious Breakfast Sandwich

We visited the local Newburyport farmer's market and feasted on a yummy breakfast sandwich from Mary who is about to open Enzo's in Newburyport. The sandwich was scrambled eggs with cheese on nice crusty Stecco bread. Can't wait for her place to open up. Another morning I slept in and woke up to a fresh local sausage, fresh eggs, and Abraham bagel sandwich my brother in law made...Best thing ever. Good job brother in law. My sister also made a nice fresh grapefruit juice with their fancy new juicer. We finished off the trip with a light lunch from the Purple Onion. I got a nice hearty chili with lots of toppings, very very good. My sister got an eggplant chili that looked equally as delicious; and the brother in law got a grilled veggie sandwich and a sweet and sour tomato soup. I really liked the affordable prices and taste of all the food, and look forward to eating there again one day.

Hot Chili from the Purple Onion

My last night for dinner we feasted on cheese, pasta, and veggies. My sister recommended Midnight Moon Goat cheese, and Piave Vecchio. Both incredible cheeses!

Overall Newburyport is a quaint little port town with lots of charm, and lots of good food. I understand why my sister loves living there so much. There are more good places to eat in a 3 mile radius there then there are in a 300 mile radius here. Good thing I don't live there, my wallet would be smaller, and my belly bigger. Goodbye Newburyport, until we meet again.I heart New England Apple Cider

Monday, April 11, 2011

Pasteles, Argentinean Caramel Coconut Filled Crescents

I miss school projects. I miss writing papers. Does that make me weird? My 14 year old brother often comes home with assignments that are a burden and trial for him, but seem so exciting and adventurous for me. Who doesn't like to make a large replica of the solar system with Styrofoam and fun fun! The project this week was learning about South America. Nick was assigned Argentina as his focus, and he had to make a dish of food that they eat there. He wanted to make meat, but of course I convinced him dessert was the way to go...isn't it always? : ) This recipe may look daunting, just like a dreaded school project, but really it is easy and well worth it. My mom found this recipe on Allrecipes, and I tweaked it by making my own caramel filling instead of using store bought candies.

Totally okay if some of the filling spills worries : )

Now this may look and sound complicated, but it isn't. You can do it! To help I drew some pictures to show you whats steps you will be taking. Please note, I almost failed art class.

Pasteles - Argentinean Caramel Coconut Filled Crescents

adapted from Allrecipes, yield 50 pieces

The dough:

Basically this is a pie dough recipe and you follow the same method

In large mixing bowl whisk together the following:

4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp salt

Using paddle attachment run the mixer on low and add:

1 1/2 cups cold diced butter

Once butter is incorporated and broken down to pea sized pieces slowly add the following with mixer running:

10 1/2 TBS ice cold water

Mix only until dough comes together. Separate dough into 4 pieces flatten into a disk shape, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for 1 hour.


Caramel Coconut Filling:

In large saucepan combine the following and whisk together:

8 oz granulated sugar, or 1 cup + 2 TBS
8 fl oz heavy cream
4 oz corn syrup

Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until 245 degrees. If you don't have a thermometer this will take a few minutes and the caramel will be done when it changes into a caramel color. Work quickly as the caramel can burn fast. Then add 3 TBS butter and return to a boil. Remove from heat and add:

1 TBS vanilla
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut

Whisk to combine. Allow to set a few minutes before filling dough. Remove dough from fridge and on a well floured surface roll out each dough piece individually to an 1/8" thickness. Make sure you turn the dough many times, re flour, and make sure it isn't sticking to the surface or the rolling pin. Cut out 3-4" rounds using a circle cookie cutter or a kitchen cup or glass. You can re roll the dough scraps 3 times, make sure you chill them a few minutes before re rolling. Set circles on parchment lined pan. Place 1/2 tsp of filling onto each circle. Brush edges of circle with beaten egg and press to seal. Using a fork work your way around the edges and press down to ensure a tight seal. Brush the top of each pastry with the egg wash. Cut three small slits in the top on each pastry with a knife so the steam does not get trapped inside. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Some filling may spill out while baking, that is okay don't worry. Allow to cool and enjoy!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Greek Lamb Meatballs

"What do you mean he don't eat meat? Oh, that's okay, I make lamb."

I learned how to make Tzatziki. This knowledge empowered me to make more Greek food. I did...and it was good. Why did I wait so long to learn the Greek way of food? How many years of goodness have I lost! My favorite Greek movie of all times, and the only Greek movie I know of... is My Big Fat Greek Wedding. My Junior year of college I was an RA and My Big Fat Greek Wedding was one of the 20 movies we rented out to my fellow students. It also happened to be the most popular movie of the year on our campus. I swear, every single night that darn movie was playing in our common room. By the end of the year I was fully versed in all things My Big Fat Greek Wedding. If you haven't seen this movie yet, you should make these meatballs and watch it.

"The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. And she can turn the head any way she wants."

Greek Lamb Meatballs

2 pounds ground lamb, or ground beef
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tsp dried oregano leaves
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients together. Form into small meatballs. Heat saute pan to medium high, coat bottom of pan with coconut oil or olive oil. Cook meatballs, flipping every minute or so until meatball is no longer pink and thoroughly cooked. I served this along with the Tzatziki recipe I posted a few weeks ago, some paprika hummus, fresh spinach, and homemade pitas. The pitas were easy to make, and tasted good, but they were a little too hard in texture. I am going to try a few more recipes and then post a good one that yields a softer pita.

"Ian, are you hungry?...Uh no, I already ate...Okay, I make you something."