White Chocolate Raspberry Mousee and Getting to Know You

Thank you, thank you Mandy!  I haven’t been keeping up with my posts lately for a few reasons – we’ve been busy finalizing all of the design and selection details for the kitchen remodeling project (just a few more details and then about a month wait for the cabinets); we’ve had such glorious weather here in Massachusetts that I’ve had to get out and make hay while the sun shines (no, I don’t have hay, but I’ve got plenty of weeds); and I have a nice batch of photos to share but alas, they are stuck in that black hole called Windows 8 (I’m going to try tipping the computer upside down to see if they’ll fall out).  So when I saw Mandy’s idea to do a post on “Getting to Know You” I thought it would be a great idea to reconnect with my blogging friends and sneak in a little, tasty treat at the end.  I loved Mandy’s idea of a no pressure, if you feel like it, post of answers to a list of questions to get to know each other better.  If you’d like to join in just add your post and link to Mandy at The Complete Cook Book.   Oh, and if you do…. be sure to ask her about her new and exciting bay and olive wreath making business!

1.  What is your favourite non-alcoholic drink?

Coffee

2.  What is your favourite alcoholic drink?

Mimosa

3.  What is your favourite food?

Lobster – boiled dipped in butter

4.  What is your least favourite food?

Tofu – is that even a food?

5.  What do you eat that others think is really weird?

Chicken liver

6.  What is your favourite thing to cook/bake?

Cinnamon rolls

7.  If you could only chose one, would it be sweet or savoury?

Savoury

8.  What time do you usually eat your dinner during the week?

6:30 or 7:00 pm

9.  What kitchen item/s have you never owned?

A pressure cooker but I only got a food processor a year ago

10. What tip would you give to a newby cooker / baker?

Let other’s help you

11. What is the best vegetarian dish you have eaten?

Eggplant armesan

12. What is the easiest meal you can cook?

American Chop Suey

13. If you could only grow 3 herbs in your garden, what would you grow?

Basil, parsley & chives (chives aren’t really an herb are they?)

14. What would you use as a substitute for salt?

Got to have salt

15. What 5 items would you pack for a quick and easy picnic or day out?

Cheese, fruit, crackers, Genoa salami, and a bottle of wine

Now about that Raspberry Mousse…

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Ingredients:

2         Large bars of white chocolate, chunked up into pieces
1 1/2  Cups of fresh raspberries
1        Cup of whipping cream

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–  Puree raspberries in food processor or blender
–  Melt chocolate in a double boiler (or use microwave in 30 second intervals)
– Whip cream
– Set aside the melted chocolate in the top of the double boiler & set  raspberries over the bottom half in a heat resistant bowl to warm the raspberries
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– Slowly stir the melted chocolate into the warmed raspberry puree – I did end up putting this back into the food processor to really blend the chocolate & raspberries
– Fold the raspberry chocolate mixture into the whipped cream
– Refrigerate for about 4-6 hours and garnish with raspberries…maybe a little mint leaf

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Sultry Summer Days and a Teenager’s Quest for the Perfect Job

I always wanted to be a lifeguard.  I guess every teenager wants a summer job where you can be outside all day, especially on the beach.  Mowing lawns, landscaping and construction were out of the question for girls in my day, plus that was a lot of hard, sweaty work… but being a lifeguard – that was the dream job.

Unfortunately, my father had to sit me down and give me the bad news.  Yes, the man who always told me that I could do and be whatever I wanted if I put my mind to it sat me down and told me that I couldn’t be a lifeguard!    What? Why?  Okay, other than the fact that I don’t know how to swim and that there aren’t any places around that hire lifeguards.  How often do lifeguards actually have to jump in the water to rescue someone anyway?  Plus if someone was drowning, I could always scream for help.  I tried to argue with my father but he finally convinced me that even if I were to talk my way into a job, that a lifeguard wearing swimmies on her arms probably wouldn’t instill a lot of confidence in people.  I don’t even know why I bothered to argue with him anyway since he was the guy who had tried to teach me to swim from the day I could walk.  I remember starting with the back float.  He’d position me and as soon as he pulled his arms away from me – blub, blub, blub – Diane was on the bottom sucking pond water.

Driving aimlessly around one day just looking at different places around town that I could work, I pulled in to the Esso station in town for gas and realized….hey, this is outside!  I cornered the owner and asked him to hire me to pump gas that summer.  After he was done laughing and I was still standing there waiting for an answer, he must have realized the marketing potential of having the only girl gas jockey around.  I also knew my way under the hood of a car after handing tools to my father for years.  After agreeing to wear a mini skirt, I had the job and sure enough Peter got his free advertising when the local newspaper came around for pictures.  I was trying to make out what the price of gas was back then and couldn’t but it was probably around 35 cents if I remember correctly.  I do know that you couldn’t get any free stuff by filling up a Volkswagen Beetle because you usually had to spend $5.00 to get anything and unless you were running on fumes the tank didn’t take $5.

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Keep in mind though that back in the 60’s the customer did not pump his own gas – that was my job in addition to hustling around to get your front and rear windows washed, offering to check the oil, tire pressure and washer fluid.  Credit cards were hardly used so I also had to make change the old fashioned way – taking the sale amount and counting up to the amount of money the customer handed me.  Oh, and for steady customers we handed out a free spice rack with the first $5 purchase and a free bottle of McCormick spice with every purchase after.  So it wasn’t a bad summer job but then I was asked to stay on part time after school.  That was fine until winter hit.  As everyone knows how much fun it is pumping your own gas now, imagine doing this in a good old New England blizzard.  Thus ended my gas jockey career.

I considered pumping gas again the following summer but then got a great opportunity – work outdoors, set my own schedule, no boss hovering over me…I got an ice cream truck route!  Yes I did.  I had my own little white truck – not the big fancy things that you see now but basically a pick up with a freezer on the back so I had to get out at each stop and get the ice cream bars from a little door in the back.  No soft serve type cones, just the novelty bars – ice cream sandwiches, Italian ice, crunch bars, push ups, Nutty Buddy’s…

My father even installed a special outlet in the back of our house so I could plug my truck in each night and not have to drop it off every night at the place where I restocked my truck.  Of course that did bring out the neighborhood kids at all hours, knocking on the back door but it was a small price to pay for the convenience (plus I think my father felt a little guilty for not being able to teach me how to swim).  It was a great job!  I mean who doesn’t love the ice cream lady?  Well, other than a very few cranky parents but I was always careful to not come around at lunch or dinner time.  The only scare I had was on my third stop the first day of my assigned route.  Standing at the back door while the kids came running I saw this gigantic, slobbering beast galumphing at me from the back of a house.  I yelled at the kids to stay back and was ready to bolt for the cab of the truck when one of the little kids told me not to worry – “that’s just Klondike, just wait for Mrs. Carlson to come”.  Sure enough ol’ Klondike, who was the biggest Newfoundland I’ve ever met,  stood with his massive front paws on the back door until Mrs. Carlson came running up with 25 cents.  All the kids waited in line behind Klondike until he got his ice cream sandwich, then they each got theirs.  Every day, Klondike got his ice cream sandwich then went back to the little pool behind his house.  As I say, I loved that job and you cannot believe how much money there is in ice cream.  The only downside to it was that damn non-song – my truck didn’t have any particular song, it just went da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da all day long and I’d hear it in my sleep.

I don’t know if my tastes have changed much over the years or if I just got my fill of the ice cream bars but now although I still love ice cream, I favor plain old ice cream.  I love just about every flavor but my favorite ice cream treat, especially on these incredibly hot, humid days we’ve been having here in Massachusetts is this:

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A good old fashioned root beer float – A&W root beer with Bryers French vanilla ice cream.

PROFITEROLES – Under 200 calories- I did it!

Have you ever read a book and the author mentions some kind of food…and you suddenly get a craving for that food?  That just happened to me while reading a Michael Palmer book that involved poisoned profiteroles.  The image of the profiterole (minus the poison) stuck in my mind and kept me awake that night.

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Mascarpone ricotta profiterole with melted Nutella & whipped cream

Eating a profiterole was still on my mind the next day when I read Anastasia’s Spicy Chocolate Fudge Brownies and her skinny challenge to post a dessert recipe under 200 calories per serving.  There’s still time to participate (by this Thursday, 3/21) so just post your dessert idea and let Anastasia know that you’re in.  I know that I’m lucky to not have to watch calories and after researching every ingredient in this recipe I can tell you I wouldn’t last long on any diet – it’s too much damn WORK figuring all that out.  But I wanted a profiterole and it had to be good…just under 200 calories.  I probably shouldn’t have gone to Giada’s website for something like this but I love everything Giada.  People confuse me with Giada all the time…okay, other than the hair.  Well, our eyes and nose are a little different and she fills out a dress a little better than I do…okay, so the only thing I have in common with Giada is that we both end up in the kitchen sometimes.

Anyway, I didn’t want a boring cream puff with whipped cream filling.  After looking at the ricotta & mascarpone cheese filling in her recipe I had to find a way to get one of these under 200 calories.  My initial calorie count was somewhere around 236 calories so I had some ideas to bring that down:

1.  Get skim milk ricotta.  I did that and I’ll never do it again – bleh! – especially after finding out that it’s only a difference of 7 calories/serving for “real” ricotta.
2.  Cheat a little – make 13 instead of 12 pastries (I did that but turns out that I didn’t need to after all)
3.  Change up the topping from Nutella to whipping cream & berries (I tried both & actually prefer whipped cream with raspberries on top).

Now the funny thing is, after spending all day Sunday trying to figure out how many calories in each ingredient, come to find out you can go with the whole milk ricotta, make 12 pastries, AND put just about any topping on AND you can enjoy ONE of these for under 200 calories.  Personally, I’d go for 2 of them (the whipped cream & berry version, it’s only 116 calories). To help you out with that I’ve researched how you can burn off 100 calories:

1.  Shoveling snow: 15 minutes (we’ll be doing it again tomorrow)
2.  Carrying an infant: 24 minutes – if you don’t have an infant, take someone else’s but get permission first
3.  Cooking: 34 minutes – just about the prep time for this recipe!
4.  Rearranging furniture: 14 minutes – now that’s not bad at all and you can always do it for 7 minutes if you have to put it all back where it was.
5.  Playing with children: 23 minutes – are you kidding me?  This depends on the kid & whether you’re playing soccer or Candyland (who comes up with these things?)

I found another website that was a little more creative – how about these:

1. Slather on lip balm 765 times
2.  Wiggle while you watch TV for 40 minutes
3.  Use the remote to channel surf for 68 minutes
4.  Bounce a volleyball on your knee 600 times
5.  Swing a lasso over your head 375 times or…
6.  Milk a cow for 34 minutes

PROFITEROLES w/Ricotta Mascarpone Filling

Pastry (67 calories):
½         Cup water
¼         Cup unsalted butter
1 ½      teaspoons sugar
            Pinch of salt
½         Cup all purpose flour
2          Eggs

*  Combine water, butter in slices, 1 ½ teaspoons sugar and salt in heavy sauce pan.  Bring to a boil, stirring while the butter melts.  Slowly add flour over medium-low. Heat for about a minute, remove and let cool for 5 minutes.
*  Beat each egg into mixture one at a time, stirring until you get a very yellow, sticky mixture and all of the flour has been combined and smooth.

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*  Using a pastry bag or teaspoon, make 12 small mounds leaving about 2” between each -the pastry will double in size.
*  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and bake at 375° for 30-35 minutes, until pastry is browned.  Allow to cool completely before cutting & filling.

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Filling (37 calories w/skim ricotta; 44 calories w/whole milk ricotta – go for it) :

8          oz. (1 container) mascarpone cheese
¾         Cup ricotta cheese
1          teaspoon vanilla extract
3          Tablespoons sugar

*  Mix mascarpone, ricotta, vanilla, and sugar in medium bowl (I used the mixer to get a fluffy texture.  Refrigerate until cooled.

ricotta  mascarpone mixture

ricotta mascarpone mixture

*  Using a serrated knife, cut tops off pastry and fill each cavity with cheese mixture.

Most will have this little air pocket in the middle

Most will have this little air pocket in the middle

TOPPING SUGGESTIONS:
Variation 1 (70 calories):
½         Cup Nutella hazelnut spread
¼         Cup whipping cream

*  Put Nutella and whipping cream in a small bowl & microwave for about 30 seconds.  Drizzle on top of filled pastry or…

whipped cream (slug of Frangelico) & raspberries

whipped cream (slug of Frangelico) & raspberries

Variation 2 (10 calories):
¼         Cup whipping cream
            Fresh raspberries

*  Whip cream then top pastry with a small mound & add fresh raspberries

Sugar Dusted Macaroon Trees and Snow

It hasn’t been too harsh a winter here but we did get about 4″ of snow the other day.  I’m definitely not a huge fan of cold and am counting the days until spring but I have to admit it does look pretty just after a snowfall.

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My little tree in front reminded me of macaroon trees that Niki and I made for Christmas from a Martha Stewart recipe.  I did a double take reading that recipe because it had just a few ingredients and only a couple of steps to make.  What?  A Martha recipe that doesn’t go on for 3 pages AND can be done in less than 8 hours?  But it’s true, this mixture can be done in a flash and then you can just play making little macaroon trees.  I’m not going to tell you which ones I made and which Niki made, but the person who was drinking the most wine made the blobs that look more like shrubs than little pine trees….

macaroon trees before cooking & with too much vanilla

macaroon trees before cooking & with too much vanilla

I was also ready to argue with Martha over her suggestion for the amount of vanilla extract to use – she said 5 TEAspoons – and my mixture was really wet.  Now that I’m writing this I can actually picture the TABLEspoon in my hand but I’m not positive (could have something to do with wine) so my suggestion is to dump the coconut in & try teaspoons, then add more if it’s not wet enough to hold together.  Too much vanilla could also be why my trees are dark brown.  But after you bake them, you sprinkle with powdered sugar & look how cute these are…Fun to make with kids of all ages…should be 21 or older for the wine.

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Sugar Dusted Macaroon Trees

2 1/2    Cups shredded coconut
3/4       Cup granulated sugar
2          Egg whites, slightly beaten
5          TEAspoons vanilla (that’s what Martha says)
Pinch of salt
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

– Preheat oven to 350°.  Combine coconut, granulated sugar, egg whites, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl.  Use about 2 tablespoons of mixture to form 2″ high trees.  Bake until edges are golden and trees are firm – about 12 to 14 minutes.  After cooling, dust with confectioner’s sugar.

Apple Crisp and the whipped cream that got away

Chock up another birthday for Niki.  Birthday girls get to chose their dinner menu and since she was looking for a quiet family celebration, Niki asked for Lobster Risotto with Apple Crisp (recipe follows) as her birthday “cake”.

Now I’m beginning to think that I should rethink my blog to something like gardening or basket weaving because it seems as if I’ve had one kitchen disaster after another lately.  I’m afraid no one’s going to dare try any of my recipes if it means trashing your kitchen but if you can trust me on the ingredients and ignore my execution, the taste is great – just be more careful than I am.  And if any of you have suggestions for getting bad juju out of a kitchen, please pass them on.  I’m making a garlic clove necklace for when I step into that room but I might need more backup.

I think a big part of the problem is this:

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I have a love/hate relationship with my mixer.  It’s almost as old as I am and works fine but I think I’m supposed to be ashamed that I don’t have a KitchenAid.  In all honesty the problem really hasn’t been the mixer’s fault, it’s been more of what the manufacturer would call “operator error”.  The flying mussels incident was definitely my bad for expecting it to be an immersion blender.

If you look at the photo above, you’ll see that one beater is rounded and the other has a squared off bottom.  Round on the left, square on the right and all is well.  If you’re not paying attention and reverse those beaters, then dump in a pint of whipping cream, set it on high, and walk away then you have the makings for a funnel cloud of whipped cream which, just like a tornado, is totally unpredictable and leaves the bowl splattering whipped cream all over the walls, cabinets, and yourself. It’s pretty amazing to watch – as everyone did!  Nope, did not get any photos of that mess and I’m glad the camera was out of range.  But the apple crisp was delicious and after trying dozens of recipes, this is “the one” – nice crispy topping with tart apples on the bottom.

The excitement of the flying whipped cream was super fun for Lola but I’ve mentioned before how the sound of ripping paper kind of makes her brain go crazy.  Our paper shredder broke years ago and we just don’t have a need to replace it.  There’s one wastebasket for paper that she checks every night and handles all of our shredding needs.  This is what happens if you don’t beat her outside to grab the newspaper:

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Her all time favorite though is birthday and Christmas wrapping. If you’re having a party and it gets boring, I’ll loan you Lola.

The APPLE CRISP that was a birthday cake:
(so fast and easy, no excuse to not make it)

4 Cups    Apples
¾ Cup    All purpose flour
1Cup      Granulated sugar
1 teas     Cinnamon
½ teas    Salt
½ Cup    Softened butter

Peel, core, & slice apples evenly
Layer apple slices into buttered baking dish (8” or 9” square)
In small bowl, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, & salt
Cut in butter w/pastry cutter or 2 butter knives until mixture is coarse
Sprinkle mixture over top of apples
Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes.
Top with whipped cream (if possible)

Succulent Storm Scones

Well, the Boston area survived Hurricane Sandy with minimal damages and just spotty power outages, unlike New Jersey and New York which still resemble Venice.  We lost power for just a few hours when a transformer blew up down the street but lucked out because it happened pre-storm so the work crews were just hanging around looking for something to fix.  Today we’re just starting in on a very bitterly cold Nor’Easter that’s already causing accidents everywhere with winds that should be picking up later tonight.

The storm that I am most happy to have behind us though is the election!  Seriously, did anyone enjoy any of that?  I think it got to the point where no one even cared who won – just get it over, stop the ads and stop the endless phone calls.  For those of you overseas, we do have a “Do Not Call List” but conveniently politicians exempted themselves from that restriction.  To all politicians:  Do you REALLY thing that annoying me on the phone is going to make me vote FOR you or perhaps vote for the person who leaves me in peace?  Believe me if we weren’t in a dead spot for cell phone reception, we would have gotten rid of the landline long ago – 8 to 10 calls every day for the past 2 months is a bit much and frankly didn’t influence my decision in any way.  It was nice hearing from Bill Clinton though – glad you’re doing well.  Frankly I thought Pat Boone was dead, but guess he’s still “writing love letters in the sand” and thoughtfully called me.

The one call I really did appreciate though was from Matt Damon 

who not only urged me to vote but left a phone number for me to call if I needed a ride. I didn’t call him yesterday, but thought I might give him a call today to see if he wanted to go for a drive and hang out a bit.  So, now that the phones are quiet today I can finally concentrate on completing a sentence and would like to convince you to vote for whipping up a batch of these excellent scones.  Up until I found this recipe, I’d only tried a scone once in my life and wasn’t sure if I was eating a dog biscuit or a hockey puck.  These are unbelievably moist and you can add any type of fruit or nut to make your mouth happy.

CREAM SCONES

2 ½     Cups flour
2          Teaspoons baking powder
1          Teaspoon baking soda
½         Cup sugar
1           Stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter (cold, cut into pieces)
½         Cup sour cream
¼         Cup heavy cream
1          Egg
Chopped pecans
Blueberries

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar in mixer or food processor bowl.  Add in pieces of butter until mixture is crumbly.  Mix in sour cream and egg, then pour heavy cream on top and blend until dough becomes sticky.  Add nuts and blueberries by hand.

Lay parchment paper on baking sheet and place scone mixture in the middle, smoothing it out until it’s about 1 or 1 1/4″ thick.  Bake in preheated 400° oven for about 30 minutes or until top is golden & toothpick comes clean.

Streusel Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Perfect for an afternoon break, but look at the ingredients… milk, egg, Bisquick – sounds like a breakfast to me.  This is so easy to put together that you can’t have any excuse for not trying this.  Although it’s got Bisquick, it’s not at all heavy but very light & well… crummy.

Streusel Mixture:
1/2    Cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
2       Teaspoons cinnamon
1       Teaspoon nutmeg
1/3    Cup finely chopped pecans
3       Tablespoons melted butter

Coffeecake:
1        Egg
1/4     Cup granulated sugar
1        Cup milk
2-1/2  Cups Bisquick mix
2        Tablespoons melted butter

*  Preheat oven to 375°. Grease 9×9″ pan or Corningware dish
*  Combine Streusel using all ingredients & mix with fork
*  For Coffeecake mixture:
In mixing bowl, beat egg, sugar, and milk.  Add Bisquick mix and
and butter until well combined (do not over beat).
*  Stir in 1/2 Streusel mixture
*  Spread batter into prepared pan, then sprinkle remainder of
Struesel mixture over the top.
*  Bake for about 25 minutes until top is golden. Test center
with toothpick. Cool for about 15 minutes, cut while warm.