Wild Blueberry Hibiscus Breeze Smoothie

By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the Wild Blueberry Association of North America and I am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

As each New Year rolls around, I always have the best of intentions to eat healthy, get fit, and lose a bit (or a lot) of excess weight that has crept up on me.  In my case, this is often accompanied by some sort of overly regimented eating plan that is unrealistic for the long haul.  I diligently follow said eating plan for about a week (maybe two) and then move on to focus on an enlightened eating plan that is more about eating super healthy foods, feeling great, and limiting processed goodies.  I am in that place right now, and it perfectly aligned with this fun smoothie contest that highlights one of my favorite ingredients, frozen Wild Blueberries.

I seriously always have frozen wild blueberries on hand (I usually buy Wyman’s brand at Wegmans, but have also gotten Trader Joe’s brand).  I actually had two bags stashed in my freezer already.  Why do I love these tiny superfoods?  Let me count the ways!

  1.  I love these in smoothies, but also in baked goods.  Because they are tiny, you can add them frozen into your pancakes. Muffins, waffles, etc…and they will cook quickly, but not turn your batter purple.
  2. They have a more intense blueberry flavor than fresh berries. They taste amazing!
  3. They have double the antioxidants of fresh berries.
  4. They are good all year round and keep in the freezer for a very long time, with no compromise of quality.
  5. They are small, so they blend very easily into smoothies, rather than larger chunks of frozen fruit.  No need for ice!

 

Frozen Wild Blueberries

Not to toot my own horn, but I came up with the best smoothie EVER with these gorgeous berries!  Plus it has protein, antioxidants, and probiotics. I think that because it is currently sleeting her in VA, my mind went on a much needed tropical vacation with this recipe… The taste is exotic, but easy for even children to love.  I am in love with this smoothie!  Here’s how to make one for yourself:

First, steep 2 hibiscus flavored herbal tea bags in 3/4 cup very hot water.  The mixture will be very concentrated.  Remove teabags and let cool.  This step can be done ahead of time or you can add an ice cube to chill the mixture quickly.

Next, add 1-1/2 cups wild frozen blueberries to blender.  Chop up one fresh mango and add it to the blender, being careful to remove the skin and pit.  You could also use frozen mango in this recipe.  Throw in one small container of your favorite Greek yogurt.  I recommend coconut flavored yogurt, but vanilla, plain, or  blueberry would also be great!  Pour in your hibiscus tea concentrate, 1/2 cup of coconut milk (or your favorite milk), the zest of 1 lime plus 1 teaspoon lime juice, and blend on High until very smooth.  If you like things a little sweeter, you can add a teaspoon or 2 of honey.  Totally optional though- The Blueberries and mango are already sweet!  Enjoy with a parasol and pretend you are on the beach….

Wild Blueberry Hibiscus Breeze Smoothie

Ingredients:

2 herbal Hibiscus teabags

3/4 cup hot water

1-1/2 cups frozen Wild Blueberries

1 cup fresh or frozen (thawed) mango chunks

1 container (4-6 ounces, depending on brand) coconut Greek yogurt

1/2 cup coconut milk

zest of 1 lime

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

1-2 teaspoons honey, optional

Pour 3/4 cup boiling water into a heatproof measuring cup.  Steep 2 teabags in the hot water for 3-4 minutes.  Let cool completely or add an ice cube to cool quickly.  Set aside.

In a large blender, combine frozen Wild Blueberries, mango, yogurt, coconut milk, Hibiscus tea, lime zest and juice, and honey (if desired).  Blend on high until very smooth.  Pour into 2 large glasses and enjoy immediately.

 

Sushi Dessert Crepes: A Story of Love and Loss at the World Food Championships

It is 2am, and I just woke up in a cold sweat thinking of crepes.  It has been 2 months since I prepared these crepe-tastic visions at the World Food Championships, but they linger on my mind like a bittersweet relationship.  No other dessert has ever gotten under my skin (literally and figuratively), haunting me and yet filling my heart, mind, and waistline.

You see, I worked tirelessly for 2 months testing and re-testing every aspect of these crepes.  Making and eating a batch of crepes for lunch regularly, until I could barely stand it.  Our assignment, if you will, was to make Orange Dessert Crepes in the first round of competition.  I knew that my crepes would be up against 40-50 other teams, and I had to do something creative and beautiful and delicious to stand out.  It had to be weatherproof (as we worked outdoors) and had no idea what the weather would bring.  I considered temperature, wait time before serving, size of one perfect bite, ease of eating, highlighting orange as the main ingredient…scrutinizing every possible aspect of this one dessert until it was failsafe.  Since the competition was at the beach, I even added a nod to the ocean with Hokusai’s “The Wave” chopsticks.   It is my manifesto in Crepe form.CBDDF67B-94B2-4795-92B1-570C3A158572

Kim (my sous chef) practiced timing, mastering Triple Sec Caviar using molecular gastronomy, squeezing droplets of thickened booze with a syringe, like a magical surgeon bartender.  We only had an hour, and Grace (my other sous chef and niece) was simultaneously making the dessert for our second round.  We were in a small area, but we had practiced, fine-tuned our movements.  We were a well oiled machine.  It was beautiful.  I am so proud of what we made, like really, really proud.  Of course, we ran into a couple of small glitches, as one does in competition, but we mostly overcame and served what I still consider a stunning representation of my vision.

Maybe I was too egotistical going in.  Maybe I overthought this one, as I have a tendency to do.  It has always paid off for me in the past.  This may sound incredibly silly to those of you that have been to the WFC before, but I went into the awards ceremony fully expecting to be in the top ten that night after competition.  They called name after name, and when some of my incredibly talented friends were called in number 9, 7, then 2nd place….I held my breath.  They called number 1, and it wasn’t me.  I went through the stages of denial, disbelief, anger, shock…all in a mater of seconds.  I know this isn’t life and death…I do have some sense of perspective, but this was my art.  I created a conceptual dish that I believed in, and I thought it tasted great as well.  Maybe Alabama wasn’t ready for Matcha, or dessert Caviar….but this is what I am still wrestling with.  I put my best out there, and it was crushed by other crepes that frankly were not as creative or interesting to eat as mine.  Maybe they kicked my butt on flavor.  I can accept that.  All I can do is dust myself off and try again next year.

Thank you to Rodelle Vanilla for believing in me and my vision.  I am still proud of this recipe, and I will always think of it as the one that got away.  It is complicated and involves some unusual ingredients, so I don’t expect anyone to actually make it, but I am just going to leave it here as my sonnet ode to orange crepes.

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Orange Matcha Poppyseed Crepe Sushi with Triple Sec Caviar

Ingredients

For the crepes:
1 cup whole milk
1 large egg
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon Rodelle vanilla extract
1-1/2 tablespoons Rishi Sweet Matcha powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tablespoon orange zest, finely grated
3 tablespoons unsalted Challenge butter, melted
1 scant tablespoon poppyseed
Non-stick spray

For the macerated strawberries and kiwi filling:
16 ounces strawberries, cut into planks
1/4 cup fresh orange juice or blood orange juice
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon Rodelle vanilla
1/3 cup Triple sec
3 kiwis, cut into planks

For the sweet ginger:
I large knot of ginger, sliced paper thin (fast on mandolin)
1/4 cup blood orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup Triple sec

For the mascarpone cream:
8 ounces mascarpone
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1 teaspoon Rodelle vanilla extract
1 packet whipped cream stabilizer
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon Matcha powder (for the Matcha cream)

For the Triple sec Caviar:
1/2 cup Triple sec
1/4 teaspoon sodium alginate
1 teaspoon calcium chloride
Bottled Water
Orange food coloring, 2 drops

For the orange butter sauce:
1/2 cup tangerine and blood orange juice
2 tablespoons sugar
Remaining thickened Triple sec from above
3 tablespoons unsalted Challenge butter
1/2 teaspoon Rodelle vanilla
Directions:
Zest and juice all oranges- 1-1 1/2 cups total. Place zest in small bowl, and juice in measuring cup. Slice ginger paper thin on small mandolin. Cut strawberries and kiwi into rectangular planks.

Combine all crepe ingredients except for Poppyseed in blender. Blend for 20-30 seconds until smooth. Transfer to separate bowl. Stir in poppyseeds. Heat crepe pan and non-stick skillet over medium heat. Coat pan lightly with non-stock spray. Ladle approximately 1/3-1/2 cup batter into pan, swirling and tilting until coated evenly. Let cook until edges just begin to brown. Flip and cook on other side for 20-30 seconds. Repeat for at least 6 crepes. Set aside crepes to cool.

To macerate strawberries, place all maceration ingredients in bowl (except for kiwi) and stir to combine, set aside.

To make the sweet ginger, place all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook on medium low for 10-15 minutes. Remove ginger from pan, dry on paper towels. Reserve a small amount of the liquid to place in sauce later while reducing (approximately 2-3 tablespoons).

To make the Caviar, combine triple sec and food coloring with sodium alginate with an immersion blender for 20-30 seconds until well combined. Set aside. Prepare water bath with calcium chloride, and separate bath with bottled water. Place a small strainer in the sodium bath. Using a syringe loaded with Triple sec mixture, make droplets in the calcium bath. Let sit for 15-30 seconds, remove to water bath. Save 1/2 Triple sec mixture for the sauce. Repeat making Caviar in batches. After draining strawberries from maceration liquid, place water washed Caviar in maceration liquid to take on a bit of the strawberry flavor.

To make sauce, in medium saucepan over medium-high heat, reduce orange juices, reserved ginger liquid, and sugar until thickened. Add thickened Cointreau left over from the Caviar. Add butter, Cointreau, and vanilla, whisking constantly until thickened. Remove to bowl to chill. Place chilled mixture in squeeze bottle.

In a mixing bowl with an electric hand mixer, beat mascarpone until creamy and smooth. Add all other mascarpone cream ingredients, except for Matcha. Beat until smooth and thick. Place remaining cream in refrigerator until ready to assemble.

Remove 1/4 cup of cream mixture and mix with Matcha powder. Place Matcha cream in ziplock bag and set aside. Snip corner.

To plate, spread each crepe with thin layer of mascarpone cream, top with macerated (drained) strawberries and kiwi in a line down one side of the crepe. Roll up as tightly as possible. Cut off ends of crepe, discard, then cut remaining crepe roll into 4 slices of sushi. Squeeze sauce on the bottom of each plate in a zigzag. Place sushi rolls on top of sauce, garnish with Caviar on top of each piece, and ginger and Matcha cream on side. Serve with chopsticks.

World Food Championships, Thanksgiving Pie, and a Vanilla Giveaway!

A lot of exciting things have been going on for me lately.  I have been so busy developing secret recipes and doing some public speaking that I haven’t blogged for a while, and I do apologize, but I am about to share what I have been working on with you.  I was lucky enough to qualify for The World Food Championships in Orange Beach, Alabama in the Dessert category.  The World Food Championships is the largest cooking competition around, and their mission is to bring Food Sport front and center in a multi-round, multi-category live cook off.  Each category narrows down to a top 10, then ultimately the #1 chef, and then the top competitors from each category compete to find an ultimate champion who wins $100,000.  It is intense!  Thank you so much to my sous chefs Grace and Kim, and to my sister-in-law Sherylyn for managing our time and doing Live Facebook videos for us.  You guys rocked, and I couldn’t have done it without you all.

The fabulous company, Rodelle Vanilla, was kind enough to sponsor me!  I can’t thank them enough for their support!  They sent me a bunch of amazing products, t shirts, and a beautiful display as well for the WFC.  I would love to share the wealth, so to speak, and give away some of these Rodelle products for you to try.  Please go to Rodelle Vanilla on Facebook or Rodelle Vanilla on Instagram and/or  Rodelle Vanilla on Twitter and Like or follow their pages for an entry into my drawing for free Rodelle goodies.  I will be giving away a combination of extracts, Baking Cocoa, vanilla beans, and/or vanilla bean paste to at least 3 lucky followers.  You will get 1 entry per page you “like” or follow.  Just let me know how many entries you qualified for in either the comments here, or on my Facebook page hereLauren Katz.  If you have never tried Rodelle, I urge you to order some of their products, because they really are top notch and make a big difference in your baked goods.  Best of luck to everyone!

Now, on to my desserts!  The recipe I am going to share first is near and dear to my heart.  It was my “signature” dessert in the competition, but it is a twist on something I make every Thanksgiving for my family.  Because my son is highly allergic to nuts, we needed an alternative to pecan pie.  A few of my friends had mentioned that they had recipes for a “Faux Pecan Pie” (we affectionately call it “Faux-can Pie” in my house) using pretzels instead of the pecans.  Well, the first time I made it, I was blown away.  I actually liked it more than pecan pie, which is saying a lot, because pecans are my favorite.  The recipe for that pie is at the bottom of this post, and is more beginner-friendly than my WFC tarts.  I also want to mention that I really enjoyed working with Challenge Butter for all of my WFC recipes, as they were a sponsor of the dessert category.  This is some great butter to work with, and will be my brand from now on!  It is high quality, super creamy, and free of additives.

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My turn in tray for the signature dessert round at WFC!

So for the competition, I decided to turn the Faux-can pie into individual tarts, substitute a shortbread crust, and “Southern it up” a bit with Bourbon, Chocolate, and a salted Bourbon caramel.  We added a lot of salt to balance the sweet, and a special whipped cream made with the addition of sour cream, brown sugar, Bourbon, and vanilla bean paste to give a slight sour twang to the recipe.  You definitely don’t have to make all of the components.  Just the tarts are fabulous with some vanilla ice cream.  Just the caramel sauce is fabulous as an ice cream topping as well.  The whipped cream is great on pretty much anything from pumpkin pie to apple cake.  Really this is a recipe with a lot of components, but none of the pieces are difficult to make.

So, here is the recipe for approximately 7-8 tartlets.  My sous chef, Grace, recommends making them in disposable muffin tins, so that you can pop them out afterwards easily.  We used egg custard tart tins for the competition which are less than a dollar each at Bed Bath and Beyond.  I will also include the original pie recipe below, so that you can make this for Thanksgiving with either a homemade pie crust or a store bought crust!

 

Black Bottom Bourbon Pretzel Shortbread Tarts with Salted Caramel and Sour Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream

makes 6-8 muffin sized individual tarts

These individual tarts are sweet, salty, creamy with just a hint of sour, and perfectly balanced with a rich Bourbon and brown sugar filling. A buttery shortbread crust envelops a hint of chocolate as well as a crunchy pretzel topping that adds the perfect salty note. This all sits atop a homemade Bourbon caramel sauce and is studded with a brown sugar sour cream and vanilla bean whipped cream.

Ingredients
For the shortbread crust:
1/2 cup unsalted Challenge butter
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
Bakers joy non-stick spray

Tart Filling:
2 eggs
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar (granulated)
6 tablespoons unsalted Challenge butter, melted
1/3 cup corn syrup (light)
2 tablespoons Bourbon
1 teaspoon Rodelle vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
Chocolate chips (6-8 per tart)

Tart Pretzel topping:
1 1/2 cups thin twist pretzels, crushed
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar

Brown sugar sour cream vanilla bean whipped cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 pack whipped cream stabilizer (optional, but used for potential competition heat)
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon Bourbon
1 teaspoon Rodelle vanilla bean paste or Rodelle vanilla extract
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Salted Bourbon caramel:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
6 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup heavy cream (go with 1/2 cup cream if you want this to be a liquid caramel sauce and have time for it to cool completely)
2 tablespoons Bourbon
1 teaspoon fine kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon Rodelle pure vanilla extract

Garnish:
1/2 cup dark Chocolate melts (ghirardelli)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray tart tins with Baker’s Joy non-stick spray, if desired.
For the crust: Place all ingredients in a stand mixer or a large food processor and pulse or mix until the dough comes together into a ball. Remove from processor and pat into tart tins, trying to shape a thin layer up the sides of the tin. Place tins on silicone-lined baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, let sit for 1 minute and press with pastry tamper or back of a spoon to reform tart shells, as they will puff and settle slightly. They will only be partially baked at this point. Place 6-8 chocolate chips in the bottom of each tart. Set tart shells aside until ready to fill.

While tarts shells are baking, make filling. Combine all filling ingredients (except for chocolate chips) in large bowl, whisking until smooth. Pour into tart shells, leaving a slight bit of room at the top of each tart for pretzel topping.
In a small bowl, combine pretzel topping ingredients, tossing well to coat. Place a small amount of topping on each tart. Bake for 24-26 minutes (still at 350 degrees) or until just set in center and golden brown at edges. Let cool. Place in freezer to cool faster, if necessary.

Make the caramel sauce: Heat sugar and water in a small saucepan until sugar begins to bubble and caramelize. Do not stir caramel while it bubbles. You can swirl the pan gently, if necessary. Remove from heat just when sugar turns dark amber. Add butter immediately, whisking constantly. Add cream, whisk well. Add Bourbon, salt, and vanilla. Pour into bowl and chill. Pour into piping bag, if desired.

Make the sour cream whipped cream: In a stand mixer with the wire whip attachment, whip cream and stabilizer until stiff peaks form. In a separate bowl, combine sour cream, brown sugar, Bourbon, and vanilla bean paste. Whip sour cream mixture in with whipped cream. Place mixture in a large star tipped piping bag. Chill until ready to use.

To make garnish: melt chocolate in microwave safe bowl in 30 second intervals. Pour melted chocolate into piping bag with writing tip. Snip tip and pipe chocolate in daisy shapes onto wax paper. Place in fridge to harden.

To plate: drizzle caramel decoratively on plate. Place 1 tart on end of drizzle, top center of tart with more caramel, 1 large dollop of cream on top, and dots of whipped cream on the drizzle as well. Garnish with the chocolate daisy and serve.

Now, if that recipe is a bit daunting, this one is so simple, anyone can’t make it:

Lauren’s Thanksgiving Faux Pecan Pie

1 prepared deep dish pie crust or homemade dough for single deep dish pie crust, unbaked

For the Filling:
4 eggs
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted Challenge Butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 teaspoons Rodelle pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons Bourbon
1/3 cup semi-sweet or bittersweet Chocolate chips

For the Pretzel topping:
1-1/2 cups crushed thin twist or wheel shaped pretzels (I like to still have bigger bits of pretzels in there!)
3 tablespoons unsalted Challenge Butter, melted
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. I use the convection setting on my oven with great results.
Press pie crust into deep dish pie dish (I love Pyrex for the see-through and sturdy aspect of it). Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all filling ingredients except for the chocolate chips. Whisk well until smooth. Sprinkle chocolate chips onto the unbaked pie crust and evenly arrange across the bottom. Pour pie filling over top until about 1/4 inch from the top of the crust.
In a small bowl or bag, combine the Pretzel topping ingredients and toss them together well to coat. Sprinkle mixture on top of pie filling evenly. Bake for 45-55 minutes, covering with foil if top browns faster than the bottom. Pie is done when crust is golden brown and center is set but still has some give to it when pressed.
Let cool completely. Can be done up to 2 days ahead and stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

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Enjoy, and don’t forget to check out Rodelle Vanilla and “Like” or follow to enter my product giveaway!

Salted Caramel Apple Rugelach

Rosh Hashanah is coming soon, and luckily it is a bit late this year.  I always appreciate the years that I don’t have to pull my kids out of school on the 1st or 2nd day of the school year.  So, since I have a bit of free time on my hands (ha!), here is a little recipe that I created as a mash-up of my 2 favorite recipes from The Great Holiday Baking Show last year- my Rugelach and my Salted Bourbon Raisin Caramel Apple Pie.  I will be teaching a group of women this recipe in Massachussetts next week and can’t wait to share this one!

Many people are intimidated by making rugelach from scratch, and it really needn’t be daunting.  I like making this simple, quick dough in the food processor.  It really only takes a minute to throw together.  First, add your flour, powdered sugar, and salt to the processor and pulse to combine.  Then add cubed cold butter and cream cheese to the mixture.  Process and pulse until a coarse consistency dough forms, and starts to pull away from the edges of the bowl (3rd photo).  Divide dough into 2 balls.  Roll out each dough ball into a thin, 9 inch circle.  I like to do this between 2 well floured pieces of wax paper or parchment.  Stash discs in the fridge for at least 15-20 minutes, but even overnight is fine.

Now, the filling:  You can definitely make your own caramel, like I did on the show.  This Bourbon caramel was Mary Berry’s favorite thing I made (I think).  She kept coming back between shots and grabbing a spoonful of it!

So, the alternative to making caramel is buying a good quality salted caramel from a jar.  That is what I did today.  Smuckers makes a nice, affordable one.

In a small food processor, combine nuts (optional), caramel, and apple butter.  Add a tablespoon of bourbon.  Process well until smooth and spreadable.  You will see fine bits of nuts, and that is okay.  Spread 1/2 filling in a very thin layer with an offset spatula, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edge.  Repeat with other dough disc and the rest of the filling.

Now, I like to divide this into 12 wedges.  You could do 16, if you would rather have smaller cookies, or 8 if you want to have large ones.  Here is how I cut my rugelach, using a pizza wheel.

Then, I roll each wedge up as if it were a crescent roll.  Place on parchment lined baking sheets and bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown at edges.

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Now you have some options.  You could just sprinkle these with powdered sugar and call it a day.  Or you could make a caramel drizzle.  Here’s how you do it:

Combine powdered sugar, a bit of your caramel (homemade or store bought), some salt, and thin it with milk or cream until it is a thick drizzling consistency.  If too thin, add more sugar.  If too thick, add more cream.  Easy peasy!  Now, transfer the mixture to a ziptop bag, snip the very edge of cone corner, and drizzle over the cooled rugelach.

Voila!  At this point, you could sprinkle with a little sea salt (very sparingly) or even sprinkle a bit more chopped nuts.  Really, whatever you want works.  Enjoy!

Salted Caramel Apple Rugelach

For the dough:

1 cup flour, plus additional for dusting
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces cream cheese, cold
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cubed
honey-bourbon caramel (optional, or buy salted caramel from a jar):
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons water
6 tablespoons butter, sliced
1/4 cup heavy cream
1-2 tablespoons bourbon
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

For filling (per 2 rounds):
1 tablespoon bourbon
1/2 cup toasted pecans or walnuts, finely ground
1/2 cup apple butter
1/4 cup of prepared caramel (from recipe above or jar)

For icing drizzle:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup caramel (from recipe above or jar)
1-2 tablespoons milk or cream to thin to desired consistency

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
To make the dough, combine flour, powdered sugar, and salt in a large food processor. Pulse to combine. Add cold butter and cream cheese to processor, and pulse until dough begins to form a ball and pull away from sides. Divide into 2 equal pieces. Sprinkle parchment paper and top of dough with approximately 1 tablespoon of flour each, to prevent sticking. Roll out both dough balls to 9 inch diameter circles. Leave on parchment and place in fridge until firm. Can be done ahead.

To make the caramel sauce, in a medium-sized saucepan, bring sugar, water, and honey to a simmer without stirring. Let mixture boil until it becomes caramel in color. Immediately turn off heat and whisk in butter, vigorously. Add cream, bourbon, and salt. Whisk well until smooth. Set aside in clean bowl. Can be done ahead and refrigerated. Prepared salted caramel sundae topping can also be used, if desired. Just add 1-2 tablespoons of bourbon if using jarred caramel.

To make the filling: Combine all filling ingredients, mixing in a small bowl with whisk or spoon or process in a small food processor.  Divide, using half to spread on top of each dough round.

To assemble: Spread chilled dough with a thin layer of the filling, leaving a 1/4 inch border around the edge. Using a pizza wheel or knife, cut dough in quarters. Then, cut each quarter into thirds. Starting at the outer edge, roll each triangle into the center to form the rugelach. Place on parchment lined baking sheet at least 2 inches apart.  Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden at edges. Let cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the icing drizzle ingredients, adding milk until desired consistency is achieved. Place in a piping bag or plastic zippered bag and snip one corner with scissors. Drizzle in back and forth motion across cooled rugelach.
Let dry for 10-15 minutes to set icing.

30 Second Chunky Monkey Cake

Sometimes it is 9pm, the kids are in bed, the dishes are done, and one suddenly feels the intense urge to consume a decadent ooey-gooey PB and Banana and chocolate and marshmallow…cake.  Stat.  Okay, so maybe this is not true for everyone, but I am here to say that it happened to me last night.  I borrowed the base recipe from this lovely blogger….http://backtoherroots.com/2011/07/09/sweet-saturday-one-minute-peanut-butter-cake/

But being me, I embellished a bit.  You’re welcome.  Cake in 30 seconds!

First, spray 2 ramekins, Pyrex dishes, or mugs with nonstick spray.  Generously.image

Then, mix together 1 egg, 2 tablespoons of soy nut butter (or peanut, or almond, or whatever-you-want butter)

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Then, cut up about 1/4 of a banana.  Note that I am too lazy to use a cutting board, so instead used the banana peel as a cutting board.  I am not making this up….I really did.

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Add the heaping tablespoon flour, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, pinch salt, bananas, and any type of chip you want (chocolate, butterscotch, or PB are recommended.  Highly.)

Stir it up until everything is well mixed.

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Divide between the two prepared ramekins.  Microwave for 30 seconds.  Mine looked like they were just about to overflow, but then miraculously didn’t.  I am thinking about naming a holiday in honor of said miracle (It is what my people do).

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Now, you have options.  You could make a simple glaze, icing, stick a marshmallow on top and torch it, or just go with a healthy dollop of marshmallow fluff.  Whatever floats your boat…  Just run a knife around the edge of the ramekin, turn it upside down onto your plate.  Top with your favorite thing and enjoy warm.

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30 Second Chunky Monkey Cake

  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 2 tablespoons Wowbutter (or peanut, almond, or any other faux or real nut butter!)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon (about 1-1/2 tablespoons) flour (or gluten-free flour blend)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch kosher salt
  • 1/4 banana, diced
  • 2 tablespoons chocolate chips (substitute butterscotch, white chocolate, or peanut butter chips)
  • 2 tablespoons marshmallow fluff (optional)

Coat bottom and sides of two (individual serving) ramekins or glass bowls with non-stick spray.  In a small bowl, whisk together egg, brown sugar, and soy or nut butter until well combined.  Whisk in flour, baking soda, and salt.  Fold in chopped banana and chips.  Divide evenly amongst ramekins.  Microwave on high for 30 seconds.  Cake might look slightly underdone, but resist the urge to cook longer.  There will be some carryover cooking time, and it will become dry if heated longer.  Run a knife around edge of cake and invert onto serving plate.  Top with marshmallow fluff, and enjoy warm with a cup of decaf before bed.

 

 

Mayan Spiced Chocolate Chewies (for Passover and beyond)

I have a strict rule about Passover desserts:  One should never try to make cakes or cookies with matzo meal or any of it’s derivatives.  They always taste like matzo and the bondage of my people, rather than dessert.  I am only partly kidding, people, so please don’t try to convince me that you made a delicious Passover cake with matzo cake meal.  You didn’t.  So, my approach to Passover baking is to instead choose desserts that are flourless by nature, like pavlovas, flourless chocolate torte, and macarons/macaroons.  These Mayan Spiced Chocolate Chewies are a spicy variation on the popular gluten-free favorite that can be found at Whole Foods.  The spices were inspired by another old favorite of mine the “Mayan Mystery Cookie,”  which is a well-known recipe that has been circulating for a while.  My version is a bit more interesting with warm spices and lots of ginger.  Of course, if you like the original or are serving kids, feel free to omit all the spices and the crystallized ginger.  These cookies are made in one bowl, quick, easy, gluten-free, can be dairy free, Parve, nut-free, and very low in fat.  Enjoy!

First you want to sift your powdered sugar and cocoa into the bowl of your mixer (you can definitely use an electric hand mixer).  Add your dry spices at this point, if using.  Give it a mix on low, just to combine.  Then, just add your egg whites and vanilla.  Mix on medium speed for ablout a minute.  Fold in chocolate chips and minced ginger by hand, if using.

This is the crystallized ginger that I minced.  It is optional, and only suggested if you are a ginger lover or hosting adults only.  Kids tend to think it is too spicy.  I like to cut it with kitchen shears.image

Drop by tablespoonful onto parchment or silpat lined baking sheets.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes or until set and shiny on top and still a bit soft in the center.

Let cool completely and peel off of parchment.  Happy baking and Happy Pesach!

Mayan Spiced Chocolate Chewies

Parve, perfect for Passover, gluten-free/dairy-free/nut-free diets, and for all year round.

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar (find the Kosher for Passover variety)
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Small pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 cup egg whites (approximately 3 large eggs)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips (parve and K for P variety)
2 tablespoons crystallized or candied ginger, finely minced (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine powdered sugar, cocoa, salt, ground ginger, cinnamon, and cayenne. Mix on low to combine.
Add in egg whites and vanilla, mixing well for 1 minute on medium speed, scraping down sides of bowl. Fold in chocolate chips and minced ginger (if using). Spoon by the tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets, leaving at least 2 inches between cookies. Bake for 12-14 minutes until tops are set and shiny. Let cool for 10 minutes on parchment. Peel cookies off parchment and serve or store in airtight container.

Pink Grapefruit and White Chocolate Curd

When I was pregnant with my third child, my only craving was for pink grapefruit juice. Odd, but true. I don’t know why pink grapefruit tastes better than yellow, but there is just something magical about the pink sweet-tart fruit. It is so refreshing.  In an effort to create a new dessert for a contest the other day, I ended up inadvertently creating this surprisingly versatile Pink Grapefruit and White Chocolate Curd. As is sometimes the case when I am experimenting, the actual dessert was a failure, but I realized just how many other options I would have with this special treat. If you have never had a “curd,” and think that I am talking about cheese…I am not. The most common type would be lemon curd, and it is a sweet, thick spread that you have probably had before. Lemon bars and lemon meringue pie tend to use variations on a lemon curd. You can really make curd with almost any fruit juice, but citrus fruits are perfect with their tartness that can hold up to a bit of sugar, butter and eggs. My main tips for a successful product (and not making accidental scrambled eggs) is to use a double boiler, and to whisk constantly and vigorously. Happy curdmaking!

First, zest your grapefruit(s) and combine your freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, zest, egg, egg yolks, and sugar. I like to use a large measuring cup for this. Whisk it together well. Now it is time to set up your bainmarie (or double boiler). You do not need any fancy equipment. Just a saucepan and a stainless steel mixing bowl that fit together pretty well. The bowl needs to be large enough that it rests on the top of the saucepan without the bottom touching the inch or so of water that you will put in the saucepan. Before beginning, make sure that you set out your white chocolate and butter, cubed. Also have your vanilla, an oven mitt, and pink food coloring gel (if using). Once you start cooking, you can’t leave, so it helps to be prepared.

Heat your liquid mixture in a bowl on top of a saucepan with an inch of water on medium-high.  It will seem very liquid-y for a long time, and then suddenly it starts to thicken.  Whisk constantly for about 5-10 minutes or until mixture gets thick (like a pudding) and slightly frothy. Remove from heat and immediately whisk in the white chocolate until it is smooth. Add the cubed butter and again whisk vigorously until all of the butter has melted and emulsified with the rest of the mixture. Add in your vanilla and a drop or two of pink food coloring (optional). If you are concerned about any egg bits or not wanting the zest in the mix, strain the curd into another bowl. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or until set. Overnight is best.

image
So, now that you have this fabulous curd, what to do with it? Pour it into a tart shell or even a store bought graham cracker crust. Top with whipped cream or a meringue and call it a day. A pretty good day.  Or just scoop it up with a butter waffle cookie (and maybe some sprinkles on top).  I seriously ate a million of these the other day.  You could also use it as a cupcake filling, an eclair filling, or  top a shortcake.  It would be delicious on a pavlova, pound cake, or angel food cake….The list goes on and on.  Enjoy!

Pink Grapefruit and White Chocolate Curd

1/2  cup freshly squeezed juice and zest from 1 ruby red grapefruit

1/4-1/3 cup sugar (depending on desired level of sweetness)

1 large egg

4 large egg yolks

1/4 cup white chocolate, chopped (can use good quality white chocolate chips)

6 tablespoons butter, diced

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-2 drops pink food coloring gel (optional)

Combine freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, zest, sugar, egg, and egg yolks in a large measuring cup.  Whisk well.  In a mixing bowl over a double boiler on medium to medium-high, whisk mixture constantly until thickened to the consistency of a pudding, approximately 5-10 minutes.  Add white chocolate, whisking well.  Taste for sweetness.  If mixture is too tart, more white chocolate can be added at this point.   Whisk in diced butter vigorously until melted and emulsified.  Whisk in vanilla and 1-2 drops of pink food coloring, if desired.  Strain mixture through a sieve into a bowl.  Chill for 4 hours.  Mixture could also be poured into a tart shell and chilled overnight.*

*If making a tart, you might consider adding a small amount of unflavored gelatin.  About 1 teaspoon should be plenty.  Bloom gelatin for a few minutes in 1/4 cup cold liquid (more grapefruit juice would work).  Heat gelatin in microwave for about 15-20 seconds or until gelatin looks more translucent.  Whisk this into curd before placing in tart shell.

 

 

 

Recipe: (Peanut-Free) Soynutty Pie Crust Clusters

(Peanut-Free) Soynutty Pie Crust Clusters

(Peanut-Free) Soynutty Pie Crust Clusters

Ingredients

    For the Clusters:
  • 1 pillsbury pie crust, room temp and unrolled
  • 1/3 cup toffee bits (recipe follows) or crushed hard caramel candies like Werthers
  • 1 cup pretzels (Rold Gold is nut-free), broken into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1 bag (2 cups) white chocolate baking chips (Trader Joes)
  • 1 tablespoon crisco (butter flavored or plain)
  • 1 tablespoon Soynut butter, golden peabutter, or sunbutter
    For the toffee:
  • 2/3 cup salted butter
  • 1 cup sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Cut pie crust into tiny squares or16 rows in each direction.
  3. Place on parchment lined baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 6-8 minutes or until light golden brown.
  5. Let cool.
  6. Meanwhile, make the toffee by combining the butter and sugar in a saucepan over medium to medium-high heat.
  7. Whisking occasionally, heat to 305 degrees or until toffee colored (about 10 minutes).
  8. Pour out onto a lined baking sheet covered with parchment or a silpat .
  9. Spread out with an offset spatula and let cool completely.
  10. Break up into tiny pieces with a mallet or rolling pin.
  11. Place the pretzels into a zip topped bag.
  12. Crush into small pieces with a rolling pin.
  13. In a large, microwave safe bowl, heat white chips, crisco and Soynut butter on high in 30 second intervals, until melted.
  14. Gently fold in pretzels, toffee bits, and pie crust pieces.
  15. Make sure that everything is coated.
  16. Dollop by heaping tablespoon onto parchment paper and place in refrigerator for 15 minutes.
  17. Store covered, if they last more than 10 minutes!
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Recipe: Herbed Compound Butter

Herbed Compound Butter Recipe

Herbed Compound Butter Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 shallot
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 sticks salted butter, at room temperature
  • Large handful of herbs (any combination you like)
  • 4 ounces brie cheese (optional variation), at room temperature

Instructions

  1. Add shallot and garlic to a food processor and pulse until finely minced.
  2. Throw in the butter, herbs, and brie (if using).
  3. Process until well blended.
  4. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate.
  5. Let come to room temperature before using in a thousand delicious ways.
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Recipe: Savory Wine Braised Brisket with Mushroom Gravy

Savory Wine Braised Brisket with Mushroom Gravy

Savory Wine Braised Brisket with Mushroom Gravy

Ingredients

  • 1 large or 2 small beef briskets (about 5-7 lbs total)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 ounces mushrooms, whole or halved
  • 8 ounces baby carrots
  • 2 ribs celery, sliced in 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3 large shallots or 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 bottle dry red wine (I used Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • 1 box beef stock (might be a little left over)
  • 1-2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Heat a large roasting pan on the stove (might take two burners) over medium-high heat with the olive oil.
  3. Season brisket(s) with salt and pepper liberally.
  4. Sear fat side down for 5-7 minutes or until a deep brown crust forms.
  5. Flip and sear for 5 more minutes.
  6. Add the mushrooms, carrots, celery, shallots, and garlic.
  7. Brown the vegetables for an additional 3-5 minutes.
  8. Add the bay leaves, thyme, tomato paste, wine and beef stock until liquid comes about 1/2 inch from the top of the brisket.
  9. Season sparingly with sugar and additional salt and pepper (about 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper).
  10. Cover tightly with foil.
  11. Braise in oven for 3-4 hours.
  12. Remove meat to cutting board.
  13. Let cool for 15 minutes.
  14. Slice against the grain, about 1/4 inch slices or thinner.
  15. Remove half the vegetables and braising liquid to a large pot.
  16. Blend well until smooth with an immersion blender to make the gravy.
  17. Season with salt and pepper, if needed.
  18. If gravy is too thick (is this possible?), thin with a little beef stock.
  19. Set aside.
  20. Remove remaining vegetables to a serving bowl and set aside.
  21. Place brisket slices side by side in remaining braising liquid in the roasting pan. (If doing a day ahead, cover and refrigerate all components at this point).
    The next day or when finishing-
  1. Cover tightly with foil and braise for 1 1/2- 2 additional hours at 300 degrees.
  2. Serve hot brisket slices with reheated gravy and vegetables on the side.
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