Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Choc Almond Tartlets

Looking for a dessert to get you in the mood?  Perhaps you just like almonds, avocado, chocolate, figs and honey?  Either way this treat is for you!

Perhaps this would have better post for Valentine's day, but I'm a fan of celebrating in your own way and on your own time!  Full of good-for-you ingredients that also happen to be touted as aphrodisiacs, I'd say these are healthy enough for any day :)

Chocolate Almond Tartlets (raw)
Recipe by Shannon
yield:  12

I made these using a mini cheesecake pan, however if you don't have one you can make them without.  Simply divide the dough into twelve even balls, and then form a little pocket for the filling with your thumb.

For the crust:
1 1/2c raw almonds
2/3c chopped, pitted medjool dates
1/4t sea salt
1t vanilla
1T water

For the filling:
1 ripe avocado
2oz dark chocolate, melted (the darker the better, 70-85%)
1/4c almond butter
2T honey
pinch sea salt
2t vanilla
1/4t cinnamon
2T water

For assembly:
figs, thinly sliced

To prepare the crust, add almonds to the bowl of a food processor.  Process until the almonds are ground and crumbly, but not too far (we don't want almond butter!).  Add in dates, salt, vanilla and water.  Pulse until well combined.  Divide evenly into the 12 openings of a cheesecake pan and press along bottoms and side of the pan to form a shell.

For the filling, add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and process until smooth.  Fill date-nut shell with chocolate avocado pudding.  Remove the tartlets from the pan by pushing on the removable bottom.  Top the tartlets with a fig slice and a drizzle of honey.  These keep well in the refrigerator for a few days.

Have you tried chocolate avocado pudding or tried other creative ways to use it??

Friday, April 26, 2013

BLT {Blueberries, Leeks & Toscano}

This month the Creative Cooking Crew is at it again, this time working their magic on the BLT sandwich!  Our challenge: create a new sandwich around ingredients that start with the letters BLT but are not bacon, lettuce and tomato.

When I started brainstorming ideas, I used some Blueberry jam as my inspiration.  Of course, this wasn't just any blueberry jam, but a savory version, complete with balsamic vinegar and rosemary.  My sandwich quickly become a BLT grilled cheese...

B- blueberries (in the form of a savory blueberry jam with balsamic vinegar and rosemary)
L- leeks (sauteed in a little butter and lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper)
T- Tuscano (Tallegio or Triple Cream Brie were other top contenders)

The sweetness from the blueberry jam and sauteed Leeks were nicely balanced by  some sharp notes from Tuscano cheese.  This was one delicious sandwich!

Thanks again to Laz and Joan for hosting and be sure to check out the roundup on Lazaro Cooks next week!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sweet Potato & Lentil Pot Pie

Just a quick thank you for your thoughts on my post about the events in Boston last week.  Following Fridays turn of events I no longer feel scared, but still have a heavy heart.  Bear with me as I try to get back into a blogging routine!

We may be well into spring, but this is a dish I'd eat anytime of year.  A chipotle-spiced mixture of sweet potatoes and lentils hides under a nice flaky crust.  If you need a little something to cool off from the spice, a cilantro-goat cheese dipping sauce works perfectly.

There's a little something else hiding in there- stout!  I used a breakfast stout brewed with oats, coffee and chocolate to complement the smoky chipotle in the filling and it worked out quite well.  Add in individual-sized portions, and this dinner was a winner all-around :)

Sweet Potato & Lentil Stout Pot Pie
inspired by Lindsay
Serves 4-6

For the pot pie:
2c low-sodium vegetable broth
1/2c black beluga lentils
3T unsalted butter, divided
1 onion, chopped
1 large sweet potato, 1/2" dice (4c)
1 chipotle in adobo, chopped
salt and black pepper, to taste
1 1/2T whole wheat pastry flour (or whatever you have on hand)
12oz stout (I used Founder's Breakfast Stout)
1/4c heavy cream  (I used almond milk with a little arrowroot mixed in)
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed in the fridge (1/2 package)

For the sauce:
1/4c creme fraiche
2oz goat cheese, crumbled
juice of 1/2 lime
2T almond milk (or whatever you have on hand)
1/2c packed cilantro leaves
salt and black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375deg.

In a medium saucepan, add vegetable broth and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Stir in lentils and reduce heat to medium low.  Cover and cook for 18-20min, until lentils are just al-dente.  Remove from the heat.

While the lentils are cooking, melt 1T butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until softened, ~4min.  Add sweet potato and chipotle and stir, cooking for another 5min.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add lentils and their cooking liquid, stir and continue cooking until liquid is mostly evaporated and sweet potatoes are just tender, ~3-5min.

In the same pot used to cook the lentils, melt the remaining 2T butter over medium heat.  Add flour and whisk until combined.  Continue whisking as you add in the beer, 1/4c at a time.  Finally, whisk in the heavy cream and remove from the heat.

Add the stout mixture to the sweet potatoes and lentils and mix well.  Transfer the mixture to a baking dish.  Top with puff pastry and gently fold along the edges of the baking dish.  (Depending on the size of your baking dish, you may need to roll out and cut your puff pastry.  I used two smaller baking dishes, each holding ~2 1/2c of the filling, and needed to roll out the pastry a little bit to make two squares large enough to cover the dishes.)  Brush the tops with milk or an egg wash, if desired.

Bake for 35-40min, or until the puff pastry is golden brown.  Remove from the oven and let cool at least 10min before serving.

For the sauce, add creme fraiche, goat cheese, milk, lime juice and cilantro to a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth and well combined.  Season to taste with a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper.

Serve pot pies with sauce on the side.

Have you added any sort of spirit to your cooking or baking lately??

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


At the report of acts of violence, I am immediately saddened.  As a runner, and a Boston Marathon volunteer, Monday's attack felt personal.

The first year I moved to Boston I couldn't wait to go watch my first Boston Marathon.  Marathon Monday lived up to the hype, inspiration abounds.  I've cheered every year since, but in a volunteer jacket.  The first year I was at the finish line.  Yup, right there.  The one you've seen in the videos.

This year I was working the 10k elite water stop, so I was in Framingham all morning and not at the finish line.  If it wasn't for a need to go into work Monday afternoon, I surely would've continued cheering...  from where?

I don't have many words, but as I stare at the footage of the bombings I can't help but see so many heroes.  The first responders, volunteers, and even runners who rushed to those in need after the attack, they are all incredible.  I think Marathon Monday just became even more inspirational.

My next run with be with a heavy heart, but will be for the victims and their families.  My thoughts go out to everyone affected.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Raspberry Coconut Macarons

These have flaws.  But I think that makes me love them even more.

With lime curd burning a hole in my pocket refrigerator, I wanted to come up with a great way to use it.  Of course I had to come up with something nice and easy, macarons!  Ha.  While my first attempts at macarons seemed successful, they weren't without failed batches that didn't make it to the blog.

I got pointed to Annie, who used a slightly different technique to make macarons- that is, to make an italian meringue to fold into the dry ingredients (thus known as the Italian method).  Her claims- more consistency, convenience, flexibility and a desirable texture- seemed attractive enough to give this technique a try myself.

You'd think I'd leave well-enough alone and just try her recipe as-is, right?  While that would've been the right thing to do, I did not.  To accompany the key lime curd, I went for a raspberry coconut macaron shell, substituting half of the almond flour with finely shredded coconut and dried raspberry powder.  While the flavors certainly shined through, I think these substitutions made the batter a bit dry even after adding all of the italian meringue and resulted in rather ugly and not-smooth macaron shells.  That said, I have to agree with Annie on all her points, and will be using this method for my next batch!!

Raspberry Coconut Macarons w/White Chocolate Buttercream & Key Lime Curd
adapted from Annie's Eats
yield:  think I got about 70 using this template

I think that freeze dried strawberries or even mango would work well instead of raspberries!  There's no need to age egg whites when using this method, so once you have all your ingredients you can get to baking.

For the macaron shells:
106g almond flour
86g unsweetened coconut, finely shredded
20g powdered dried raspberries (I just ground freeze dried raspberries in a coffee spice grinder)
212g powdered sugar
82 and 90g egg whites, divided
236g and a pinch of granulated sugar, divided
158g water

For the filling:
White Chocolate Buttercream (I made 1/2 recipe and didn't use it all)
Key Lime Curd (I used ~1/2c)

Preheat the oven to 350deg and make sure the rack is in the middle of the oven.

Combine the almond meal, coconut, raspberry powder and powdered in a large bowl and whisk together to blend well and break up any clumps.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the 82g of egg whites and blend into the dry ingredients until evenly mixed, forming a thick paste.

Combine the 236g granulated sugar with the water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.  Keep a candy thermometer attached to the side and be watchful! We're heating up the syrup to 248deg, but when it hits 200deg, begin whipping the 90g egg whites with a pinch of granulated sugar in a mixer on medium low speed.  Continue whipping the egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form.  If soft peaks form before the syrup reaches 248deg, reduce the mixer speed to low to keep the egg whites moving.

Immediately remove the syrup from the heat when it hits 248deg.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and pour the syrup down the side of the bowl in a slow drizzle until fully incorporated.  Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and whip the meringue until stiff, glossy peaks form.

Add the meringue to the almond mixture in thirds, folding in each addition gently until smooth.  Annie notes that you may not use all of the meringue, so add it gradually.  The desired end-point is a smooth batter that runs in thick ribbons off your spatula. [Note: I used all the meringue and the batter was not yet smooth enough.  Things turned out alright, but next time I'll try to make a little extra meringue!]

Add the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip with a 1/2" opening (or a ziploc bag with a corner cut off to a 1/2" opening).  Holding the bag perpendicular to the baking sheet, pipe rounds onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.  I find a template slipped under the parchment works well for even piping, just be sure to remove the paper before putting it in the oven!  Small peaks that you may see immediately after piping should smooth out if the texture of the batter is correct.

Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 325deg.  Bake for 9-12min, until the tops are smooth and set and feet have formed around the bottom.  Let the shells cool briefly on the baking sheet (~5min), and then peel them away from the parchment and place on a cooling rack.  They should come away easily and fully intact.  Repeat as needed with the remaining batter, replacing the parchment paper with each batch (I was feeling thrifty and used both sides) and bringing the oven temperature back up to 350deg before each batch.

Once the shells are baked and cooled, match them up in pairs by size.  To one macaron shell, add a layer of white chocolate buttercream and a dollup of key lime curd, then top with the paired shell.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  These get better with a little time in the fridge, so don't hesitate to make them a day ahead!

What flavor macaron should I make next?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Key Lime Curd

On the heels of juicing all my Florida key limes for some pie, I had some remaining key lime juice.  Key lime curd seemed like quite a good fit, and I got right to it!  Spruced up with a good amount of zest, this fruit curd comes out delightfully tart and a little sweet :)

Key Lime Curd
adapted from Annie's Eats
yield:  ~8oz

3 large eggs
1/2c evaporated cane juice (or granulated sugar)
1/4c freshly squeezed key lime juice
4T unsalted butter, cut into chunks
pinch salt
2t key lime zest

Add the lime zest to a small bowl and place a fine metal strainer over the bowl.  Set aside while you make the key lime curd.

In a small (non-reactive) saucepan, combine the eggs and sugar.  Whisk until well combined, and then add the key lime juice while you continue to whisk.  Being careful not to heat the mixture too quickly (to avoid scrambled eggs), place the pan over medium-low heat, whisking constantly.  Add in the butter and salt and stir well until melted.  Continue to cook, whisking frequently, until the mixture becomes opaque and thick.  A spoon or spatula should be able to leave a path when drawn through the curd.

Remove the pan from the heat and immediately pass through the strainer set on top of the bowl.  Mix strained key lime curd with the zest and allow to cool.  Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate.  This should keep a couple of weeks in the refrigerator.

How should I use my key lime curd??
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