Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes

February 15, 2011 § 1 Comment

This Valentine’s Day, I decided to attempt lava cakes for the first time.  Knowing the gooey goodness that resides inside the decadent chocolate cake, I have always been intimidated by this heavenly concoction.  I decided to take on the challenge and make these little darlings for my little darling.  To my astonishment and delight, this recipe was one of the easiest I have made and given that I think I put in too much chocolate than the recipe called for, it seems fool proof to boot.  Highly recommended!!!!

This recipe was adapted from The Pioneer Woman’s blog.

Ingredients:

  • 4 pieces (squares) Semi-sweet Baking Chocolate
  • ½ cups Butter
  • 1 cup Powdered Sugar
  • 2 whole Eggs
  • 2 whole Egg Yolks
  • 6 Tablespoons Flour

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Butter and cover 4 custard cups with cocoa powder and place on cookie sheet.
  3. Microwave chocolate and butter in two separate bowls until each is melted and then whisk together. (Make sure mixture is not too hot, otherwise you will cook the eggs when you mix them in).
  4. Whisk in sugar until well blended. Whisk in eggs and egg yolks. Stir in flour.
  5. Divide between 4 oven safe ramekins.
  6. Bake 13-14 minutes until sides are firm and center is soft. Let stand 1 minute.
  7. Dust with powdered sugar. (Note: to make heart shaped sugar design, simply cut out the shape you want on an index card, place on top, and dust on the powdered sugar.)

 

Scandinavian Cardamom Apple Pie

February 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

This recipe is inspired by Scandinavian baking.  Cardamom is a popular ingredient in the Scandinavian baking style and it also happens to be one of my most favorite spices.  Apples highlight cardamom perfectly and I just love the rustic look and elegant flavor balance of this pie.  Best of all, this pie has three ingredients in addition to the dough (which I usually have prepared ahead of time anyway) — it is so easy to make that you are sure to have a stress-free baking session.  I love this pie for entertaining!

Ingredients:

  • 2 – 10″ pre-prepared pie crusts (you can use your favorite recipe or buy frozen crust)
  • 6 cups apples (peeled, cored, and sliced) — I used 2 lbs of organic Granny Smith apples and it was the perfect amount
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tspn cardamom
  • 1 tspn cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp flour (for dusting pie pan)
  • Butter (for buttering pie pan)
  • Small amount of sugar, cardamom, and cinnamon for sprinkling on top

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine apples, cardamom, cinnamon and sugar in a bowl and mix to make sure all ingredients are evenly distributed.
  3. Place bottom crust into a buttered and floured pie pan and pour spiced apple mixture into the pie crust.
  4. Place top crust on top and seal edges (make sure you seal them well otherwise, apple juices will bubble out).
  5. Cut 4-5 slits away from the center of the pie (this allows the apple juices to evaporate out) and sprinkle cinnamon, cardamom, and sugar on top of the crust.
  6. Cover pie with foil loosely and bake on middle rack for 20 minutes.  Then remove the foil and bake for another 20-30 minutes until the pie is brown and crusty.  Sprinkle some more sugar on top.

Basil Yogurt Smoothie

February 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

We have been having a very hot winter here in Los Angeles, so I decided it was time to cool down with a smoothie.  But not the super sugary kind that gives you a sugar high and causes you to crash by 4pm.  This smoothie is as good for you as it is good!  With yogurt, basil, and honey it is a fabulous mid-day snack for relaxing on a weekend or even to serve with a sweet breakfast — AND you can’t beat the color!  It is simply beautiful!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 1 cup ice
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (I love to use Greek)
  • 1 tablespoon of honey, dissolved in 3 tablespoons of warm water)

Directions:

This smoothie could not be easier to make – so simple!  Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  Pour into tall glass, garnish with basil leaf, and serve!  Yum!

Organic Sweet Corn Pudding

February 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

When I am figuring out a menu, I always try to find flavors and colors that balance each other out.  For example, when I serve something heavy as a main course, I like to offset it with either an extremely light side or a very sweet accompaniment.  With this simple corn pudding, the bright color and intensely sweet taste is a great accent to a boldly flavored main course, such as a rack of lamb or a Mexican feast.  The shot of golden color is like a ray of sunshine on your plate.

There are also two ways I would serve this as a side: either bake it off in a large baking dish and then serve family style or make individual portions in little ramekins so that everyone gets his or her own little portion.  For a casual dinner, I would go with the former; but for a little bit more formal feel, I would serve individual portions.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups organic sweet corn kernels (either cut off a cob or you can sometimes find organic sweet corn kernels in the freezer section)
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup shredded Parmesan or quattro formaggio cheese, separated into 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup portions
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a medium buttered skillet, saute the onions until they become clear, then add the corn.  If you are using frozen corn, you can put the frozen kernels right in without defrosting. Saute the onions and corn for about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  3. While the corn is cooling, combine eggs, milk, cream, salt, and pepper in a bowl and beat together with a fork.  Stir in the 1/2 cup of Parmesan.
  4. When the corn is cooled, put it into a medium baking dish or individual ramekins, filling either about 2/3 deep (so that you have enough room to pour in the custard mixture).  Pour in the custard mixture and sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan.
  5. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until the pudding is golden brown on top.  Serve.

Serves 6.

I would love to know if you tried making this and what you served it with!

Butternut Squash Soup

January 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

This recipe was inspired by a newer addition to my cookbook collection: Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Vegetables.  I love this book (along with its accompaniment Chez Panisse Fruit) – it has become my go-to reference when I return from the farmers market with bags full of veggies and want to try something new.  The book is organized by vegetable and has mouthwatering creations that showcase each vegetable’s unique flavors and qualities.

My favorite thing about this soup is that it is not a pureed.  Don’t get me wrong: I love pureed butternut squash soup, but there is something about the texture of the squash that makes me appreciate it more.  The butternut squash is certainly the star here – all other ingredients are intended to highlight the essence of the squash.  This soup is hearty enough to be served on a cold winter night, but also elegant enough to be served in a shot glass before a dinner party.

This recipe is simple and delicious.  Let me know if you enjoy it as much as I do!

Ingredients:

  • 2 small to medium butternut squash
  • 1 quart vegetable stock (or chicken stock)
  • 1 head garlic
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Cut each squash in half and scoop out seeds.  Pour about 1 tablespoon of olive oil over each squash half and season with salt and pepper.  Place the squash flat side down onto a baking sheet.  Place 1/4 of a garlic (in its casing) and 1/4 of the rosemary into the cavity of the squash.  Place into oven and bake for 30-50 minutes or until squash is soft.
  • When squash is done, the stock to a simmer in a pot.  Gently scoop out the inside of the squash into the simmering stock.  Add the rosemary and squeeze out the garlic from its casing into the stock as well.  Season to taste.
  • Mash the squash bits inside the soup with a large fork until the mixture is a consistent quality.  Add butter and mix in.
  • Serve.

Rustic Balsamic Potatoes

January 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

When looking for a fast and crowd pleasing side, I frequently turn to potatoes.  So when friends gathered at our place last weekend, I found myself wanting to dress the potatoes up without adding more prep time.  I decided to experiment with balsamic vinegar – it turns out that it gets along well with the potatoes, garlic, onions and spices in this recipe.

The idea behind this dish is to get the potatoes to a daringly dark color that toes the appearance of being burnt.  The balsamic adds an intense depth of flavor, as well as a glorious mahogany color to the plate.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium yellow onion (cut into large pieces)
  • 4 cloves of garlic (roughly chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon of thyme
  • 1 cup of balsamic
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F.

Combine ingredients in a baking dish and toss together.  Make sure that the olive oil and butter coat the potatoes evenly.  You will probably feel like you have added far too much balsamic vinegar, but not to worry – there is a method behind the madness!  The balsamic vinegar is what gives this dish character.

Place on top rack of preheated oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until top layer of potatoes appears very dark and almost burnt.

Remove from oven and toss.  Serve.

Holiday Breakfast: Panettone French Toast

December 22, 2010 § 1 Comment

I am a huge French Toast fan and am always looking for ways to spruce up the classic.  I am always pondering ways to give the classic a twist – whether it be by using a new kind of bread or croissants.  Given that we are in the middle of the winter holiday season, Italian Panettone seems to be the natural choice to stand in for the trusty French bread.

Panettone are a traditional Italian sweet bread that is made for Christmas and New Year (Italians out there, correct me if I get any of this wrong).  It traditionally takes on a round cake or cupola shape and weighs about one and a half pounds.  I dream of the day I find myself in Milan around Christmas time so I could enjoy a fresh baked Panettone in its natural habitat.

But even here in the states, Panettone are easily acquired if you know where to look.  You can seek out an Italian family member or friend to ship you the original (I am still working on this option myself), pick one up at your local Italian deli (I am fortunate to have this option) or grocery store (some have them handy in time for the holidays), or you can order them online.

I used my usual classic French toast recipe for the egg mixture — whenever trying new recipes I like to switch up one major ingredient at a time so that I know which substitution yields which result.  My husband was the guinea pig this time and I he was certainly not complaining.  The Panettone is so fluffy and soft that it absorbs the egg mixture perfectly.

The final result is one of the fluffiest French toast textures I have ever tasted – the delicate texture is a perfect accompaniment to the raisins in the Panettone and the fruit topping gives it that little something extra.  There is almost a bread pudding type of quality to the middle sections of each slice.  In fact, I might try this as a bread pudding next time.  Will share when I do…

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did — let me know how yours turns out!

Ingredients:

French Toast

  • 1/2 of a Pannetone cake, sliced into evenly cut slices
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2-3 tablespoons of unsalted butter

Topping

  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries
  • 3 tablespoons sugar (or raw sugar)
  • powdered sugar

Directions:

French Toast

Topping

To serve

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