Monday, December 5, 2011

Twix for Grown-ups

Words can't explain the yumminess of these things.  I was looking for something amazing to bring to a dinner party at a friends, so I naturally turned to Annie's Eats - one of my favorite cooking blogs.  If you haven't explored her blog, I highly recommend it.  The photographs are gorgeous, and the food; delicious. 

These are really sweet so I cut them into tiny squares and they were the perfect bite.  I put them in the freezer, because I was running out of time, and left them in there a little too long.  I tried cutting them frozen and it wasn't pretty.  Also, not pretty trying to eat them when they are frozen.  I was a little impatient and totally tore up my gums, the roof of my mouth and the floor of my mouth.  They were much easier to cut when they came to room temp.  Annie suggests serving them chilled, but I like them room temp.  Personal preference...

These would be such good treats to give away for Christmas.  The little box below is my iPod Nano box.  I told Zak that we need to buy about 50 iPod nano's so I can use the boxes to package the treats because they are perfect.  For some reason, he said we didn't have it in the budget and that maybe I should write Apple and ask them to send me some boxes in exchange for some home made candy.  Maybe I'll just go to Michael's craft store and look for something similar (or maybe even better).

Anyways, here is the recipe courtesy of Annie's Eats:

Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars

Yield: about 5 dozen small bars

For the shortbread layer:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
For the caramel layer:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup sugar
4 tbsp. light corn syrup
2 cans sweetened condensed milk
For the chocolate layer:
8 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tsp. light corn syrup
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Fleur de sel or sea salt, for sprinkling 

To make the shortbread layer, preheat the oven to 325° F.  Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.  In a small bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir with a fork to blend, and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until well blended, about 1-2 minutes.  With the mixer on low speed blend in the dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan and press in an even layer over the bottom of the pan.  Bake 15-18 minutes or until golden.  (If the crust puffs up a bit while baking, just gently press it down while it is cooling.)  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely.  

To make the caramel layer, combine the butter, sugar, corn syrup and condensed milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter is melted.  Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, stirring constantly.  Continue simmering and stirring until the mixture turns an amber color and thickens slightly.  Pour the mixture over the shortbread layer, smooth the top, and allow to cool completely and set.  (I chilled at this stage to ensure that the caramel layer would not melt when the warm chocolate was added.)

To make the chocolate glaze, combine the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth.  Pour evenly over the caramel layer and use an offset spatula to smooth the top.  Allow to cool for a minute or two and then sprinkle with fleur de sel.  Chill, covered, until ready to slice and serve.  

I hate that they have sweat on them, but it was the day after I made them...

The nano box was perfect!

Seriously, one of these babies is enough

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash Dip

I was so proud of how this came out.  I'm sure if the powers that be gave away a prize for "The most life changing dip", I would be crowned the winner.  I really think this dip might win me the Nobel Peace Prize or something.  It is so so so good and it has lots of different applications too.  We served it with crackers for the wedding, but we had quite a few leftovers and here are some of the things we have done/are planning on doing.

1.  Use it as a filling for ravioli.  Fry the boiled ravioli with butter, sage and top with candied walnuts.  It reminded me of one of my favorite dishes from one of my favorite restaurants, J. Timothy's. 
2.  I made fresh pasta (boxed would be fine too), put the squash in a separate pan and thin it out with some of the pasta cooking water.  Add the cooked pasta and toss to coat.  Serve with sage fried in brown butter if desired.
3.  I haven't tried this one yet, but I can't wait to - Get some nice grainy bread, spread the squash dip on one slice of bread.  Top with sliced turkey or chicken, crisp apple slices and Havarti cheese.  Top with another piece of bread and grill the whole thing panini style.  Sounds like a winner to me.
4.  Thin it out in a pot with water or chicken stock, warm it all up and viola!  Soup!
5.  Just eat it with a spoon out of the container.

So, I guess I should give you the recipe now. 


  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into about 1 inch cubes
  • 1 small onion, peeled and cut roughly the same size as the squash
  • 1 large apple (I used cortland, but any type would do), peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt (or to taste)
  • black pepper, a few good grinds or to taste
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, toss the squash, onion, apple, olive oil, brown sugar, salt and pepper until the fruit and vegetables are evenly coated.  Pour into a roasting pan and roast in preheated oven until squash is tender and caramelized (30-45 minutes), tossing every 15 minutes or so. 

When squash is roasted, remove from oven.  Place the squash mixture into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade.  Whiz is all up until there aren't any large lumps.  Add the cream cheese and spices and grind again till really smooth.  Taste and adjust seasonings to your taste (I usually end up putting in my ginger, but that's just me). 

Serve room temp with sage fried in brown butter if desired. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fancy Food

I catered a wedding this weekend.  It's amazing how you cook for 2 weeks and it's all over in 3 hours.   The thing with me making food is, I like to make everything from scratch.  I mean EVERYTHING.  Seriously... I am the exact opposite of Sandra Lee (not that I have anything against Sandra Lee).  Anyways, this proved to be difficult what with me being only one person and all, but I pulled it off with the help of my life sidekick, Zak and my mom and brother.  Mom and brother helped by taking on the baked ziti.  They are masters at baked ziti for a crowd.  I bow to them.  Watching them make baked ziti in large quantities is like watching a masterfully choreographed ballet.  They had 3 huge pans of ziti made and delivered in 2 hours.  They have all of the quantities and ratios memorized.  Amazing. 

Anyways...  Every day this week (well, it might actually take longer), I am going to post a recipe from the wedding.  For today, I thought I'd start out the week with a bang by posting these mini cheesecakes.  When we had our initial meeting, the bride said she wanted mini cheesecakes.  Well, I thought and thought and thought about how I can make them really cute, but not super hard to make.  There's always the mini muffin route, but I hate how the muffin papers get all greasy and moist with condensation on the outside.  Not to mention how they leave a little circle mark of grease/water on the tray you are serving them on.  It's as if they are saying "I was here".  I hate that.  I like to use the Boy Scouts anthem of "leave no trace" when it comes to things like that.  Also, the papers cover up the pretty layers. 

Inspiration struck when I was walking through Ikea.  I found these little glass votive holders.  I bought them and made some cheesecakes in them that night.  They were good, but I thought they were a little bit too small.  Also, I didn't want to wash all of those. 

These were my first try.  Really cute, but a little too small and not practical.

Finally, I thought the best route would be the no bake route.  I searched the webs and the first site I found had these little cups for a decent price so I got them and the little spoons to match.

Behold the glory!  I'm proud of these guys.


1 cup finely ground graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons white sugar

12 ounces cream cheese; room temperature
1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons  sugar
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped

1. In a bowl, mix together the graham crackers with melted butter and the 2 tablespoons sugar.
2. Evenly distribute the crust amongst your dishes.
3. In another bowl, beat cream cheese with the 1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons of sugar.
4. In yet another bowl, whip cream the heavy cream with a stand mixer or hand mixer until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold into cream cheese mixture being careful not to deflate the whipped cream too much.
5. Using a pastry bag, pipe the cream cheese mixture on top of the graham cracker crust.
6. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.

On top of the cheesecakes, we added some raspberry sauce.  This was just frozen raspberries cooked with sugar, whizzed up in a food processor and strained.  I was super concerned it was going to look like blood so I added some corn starch (about 1 tablespoon) mixed with 2 tablespoons water and added it to the raspberry puree and cooked it until it was thick.  That step isn't necessary but it is almost halloween afterall.  Maybe the bloody look is what you are going for. 

For the lemon curd cream I used the recipe for lime curd found here but used lemon juice and zest instead of the lime.  Then 1 qt whipping cream whipped until stiff peaks formed and folded it into 1 batch of lemon curd.  So delicious!  I've been eating the leftovers with a spoon. Which brings up another point... this made a ton of lemon curd cream.

Monday, October 3, 2011


For some reason, I feel the need to confess a couple of things to my loyal blog followers (yes, both of you).  As you might have noticed, I took a little break.  Then I said I was back, but I really wasn't.  Let me tell you what was really going on.  There are 3 major things:

1.  I got a part time.  It's really early in the morning and I'm finished early, which is nice, but by the time 8pm comes around, I'm totally exhausted.
2.  I'm addicted to Grey's anatomy.  I started from the beginning a few weeks ago and I'm on the last episode of season 2 right now.  Pretty much instead of blogging, I've been watching Grey's.  Stupid, I know.
3.  My family is having a biggest loser challenge so I've been on a diet.  Having sweets in the house is really hard for me so I haven't been making any, thus I haven't really had much to blog about.  My meals have been a bit boring because I've been trying to cut calories where I can.  Just FYI, the challenge is going really well for me except for that day I went to the fair.  I guess it wasn't that bad.  There were 5 and 1/2 of us and we got one of everything and shared it - with the exception of the lobster rolls.  We each got our own.  Get this... Lobster rolls for $9.  Seriously so cheap.  And it wasn't that nasty lobster salad roll.  It was real lobster with butter on a roll.  I heart the Big E.  I heart New England.  Just to make you jealous, here is what we had to eat:  fresh apple cider, lobster roll, maple cream cone, maple cotton candy, funnel cake, a famous cream puff and eclair, frozen lemonade, french fries, grilled chicken dinner from the Lions club with salad and a roll, deep fried oreos, and frozen custard. 

I'm getting into a good groove with my days and have been managing my time better so get ready for lots of blog posts!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Satan's Eggs

I'm making the food for a wedding in a couple of weeks and I've been busy practicing and testing recipes.  When discussing the menu with the bride and her family, the bride didn't seem to really care what was on the menu.  Her only request was that there be deviled eggs present.  No offense, Ashley, but I've never really been a fan of deviled eggs.  Ever since I was a child I hated anything with hardboiled eggs in it.  Egg salad, deviled eggs, American potato salad (I grew up on German potato salad, but that's another post)... all grossed me out.  I think it's from when my mom would pack egg salad in our lunches for weeks after Easter because of all of the leftover colored eggs.  Taking egg salad for lunch in elementary school was like committing social suicide.  It was all funky colored from the dye seeping into the eggs and it smelled like farts.

Anyways, I was trying to think of how to update the humble deviled egg so it would look a little more contemporary.  This is what I came up with.  Since I was the only one sampling the eggs, I filled it with all kinds of stuff... eggs yolks, whole grain mustard, minced onions, mayo, and I think I put some relish in it and of course some paprika sprinkled on top.  Then I placed a chive right on top.  I kind of liked it and I even made myself egg salad the next day for lunch.  And I hate to admit it, but I've kind of been craving it. 

I don't know if you can really tell from the pictures, but instead of cutting the eggs in half length wise, I cut them crosswise on a diagonal.  They looked better in person.  I couldn't find my big star tip so I had to use the small one.  For the wedding, I will use the big star tip.  I think it will look better. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dulce De Leche

Maybe I'm behind on the times on this, but I just discovered it and my life will never be the same.  One ingredient... that's all it takes.  It's pretty dangerous.  My only saving grace is that it takes 2-3 hours to make.  But there are endless uses for it!  Here's how I made mine:


1 Can sweetened condensed milk

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Take the label off of your can of milk.  Place the whole, unopened can in the boiling water on its side.  Turn heat to med/low just to keep the water at a simmer.  Simmer for 2 1/2-3 hours checking the pot every once in a while and adding water when necessary.  I turned my can over every 30 minutes to keep it cooking even.  When the 2 1/2 hours was up, I ran my can under some cold water because I couldn't wait to open it.  Carefully open the can.  Mine kind of burped a bit and some of the caramel milk came oozing out when I pierced the can.  And that's it!  

We ate it with apples to which Zak said was too healthy.  Here are some other (less healthy) ideas we came up with:

Put it on apple pie ala mode
Pour it over apple cider doughnuts
Over cheesecake
As an ice cream topper
Dip McDonald's apple pies in it (that was Zak's contribution)
On brownies

Whatever you do with it, I'm sure it would be delicious.  I also saw a recipe where they put the can in a crock pot of water for 7-8 hours.  Haven't tried it yet, but it sounds pretty easy.  Do you have any ideas on how to use this edible gold?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

To start, I just wanted to remind you that I rarely follow a recipe 100%. Probably half of that percentage is because I just misread something or didn't read the directions at all until I was done. I know... such a rookie mistake. Rule 1 of following a recipe is to read the whole thing before you start cooking. I guess I just like to live on the edge.

Anyways, I had a half of a fresh pineapple left over from making BBQ chicken pizza the other day (it was really good, btw) and I dreamt of making a beautiful pineapple upside down cake with fresh pineapple. I found a recipe here. I didn't bother reading the recipe and just figured that I had everything on hand. Well, I started making it, got halfway through and realized that I didn't have pineapple juice. Or rum. Wow. It was around 10pm at that point and I didn't feel like going out. I looked in my fridge, but after consulting with my family, I found out that beef stock is not an acceptable substitution for rum and Koolaid is not interchangeable for unsweetened pineapple juice. I had to get creative. I used coconut milk instead of pineapple juice and made a pina colada cake of sorts. For the rum, I used brandy. I could have just left the alcohol out all together. I don't think it did that much to the flavor. Guess what? It turned out really well. Super moist and delicious. Oh, and I don't have a cast iron skillet. I just used a 10 inch cake pan.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

For topping:
  • 1/2 medium pineapple, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cored
  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

For batter:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum for sprinkling over cake

Special equipment:
  • a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Make topping:
Cut pineapple crosswise into 3/8-inch-thick pieces. Melt butter in skillet. Add brown sugar and simmer over moderate heat, stirring, 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Arrange pineapple on top of sugar mixture in concentric circles, overlapping pieces slightly.

Make batter:
Sift together flour, cardamom, baking powder, and salt. Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in granulated sugar. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and rum. Add half of flour mixture and beat on low speed just until blended. Beat in pineapple juice, then add remaining flour mixture, beating just until blended. (Batter may appear slightly curdled.)

Spoon batter over pineapple topping and spread evenly. Bake cake in middle of oven until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let cake stand in skillet 5 minutes. Invert a plate over skillet and invert cake onto plate (keeping plate and skillet firmly pressed together). Replace any pineapple stuck to bottom of skillet. Sprinkle rum over cake and cool on plate on a rack.

Serve cake just warm or at room temperature.