D’Anjou Pears in Vanilla Brandy Syrup (with Canning Instructions)

2

20181004_174241.jpg

These delicious and pretty poached pears could be your new holiday treat! This recipe showcases the pears natural delicate flavor but adding a few spicy peppercorns and anise, along with the richness of the vanilla and brandy to the sugar syrup creates a wonderfully flavorful dessert.  These lovely pears can be served just as they are, or with a dollop of whipped cream, creme freche or ice cream, or with a slice of angel food cake to soak up the juices. Yum!  Of course, if you don’t have the sudden urge to can, you can follow this recipe and serve right away or refrigerate for a week or so.  Just simmer the pears in the syrup (with all the ingredients) for about 30 minutes, until they are tender but not falling apart.

20181004_155805.jpg

It takes time to can fruit, but the effort really pays off.  Just open a jar of your poached pears and serve in a pretty bowl and you have a fabulous dessert, hassle free. I adapted this recipe from Put Up or Shut Up , a canning blog filled to the brim with great canning ideas.  The blog name is a cute reference to canning. When people can goods, they refer to it as ‘putting up’ something.  Don’t be afraid to try canning.  Once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy.  Just follow the guidelines for headspace (amount of space to leave at the top when filling) and processing (boiling) time.  When I canned applesauce for the first time, I called my Mom for help.  She told me to relax and follow the directions AND to watch out, because after this, I was going to be looking around to see what I could can next.  She was so right! Smile…

There is another practical reason to can your extra fruits and vegetables.  You can freeze many fruits and preserves but then your freezer gets full and there is no room for ice cream.  Frown…  Canned goods can be stored practically indefinitely at room temperature.

20181004_142209.jpg

These canned pears make a pretty hostess gift as well.  People seem to appreciate home made gifts.  Maybe because we rarely take the time to make things any more when it’s so easy to just pick them up from the store.  Its fun to snazz  up your jars with a cute label and some decorative tape or ribbon.   For wide mouth jars, I use a round 3.33″ label from Onlinelabels.com.  For regular mouth lids, I use the round 2.75″ labels. You can download a printing template right from their website and create your own label. It’s easy!

20181014_130543.jpg

I always have a selection of colorful tape handy to decorate the lid edge.  My colors, of course, go with goodmotherdiet, red, white and black.  You can find the tape in craft stores like Michaels or The Container Store.

20181014_131629

20181014_131551

TOOLS REQUIRED:

20181014_130827

Canning Pot with wire rack

20181014_131333

Mason Jars:  4 Quart jars, 6 Pint and a half jars or 8 Pint jars with lids and rings

20181004_143637

Wide mouth funnel, pot grabber, tongs, melon baller, sharp knife or potato peeler

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 gallon cold tap water
  • 1 teaspoon citric acid or 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 8-10 lbs firm pears
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  •  6 cups cold water
  • 1 vanilla bean, cut into 4 pieces (or one for each jar)
  • 24 peppercorns (preferably pink)
  • 4- 8 tablespoons brandy (optional)

20181004_143251

1. Fill your canning pot with 4 clean quart, 6 pint and a half, or 8 pint canning jars fully immersed in the water.  Bring to a simmer.  Immerse lids, but not rings, in a shallow pan of water. Bring to a simmer.

20181004_144926

20181004_154859

2.Mix the water and citric acid or lemon juice together in a large bowl. Peel, halve lengthwise and core the pears and place them in the water mixture to prevent browning. I like to use a melon baller to cleanly remove the core.

20181004_155236

3.Meanwhile in a large saucepan combine the sugar and the water. Bring to a boil over medium heat stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat to low and add the split vanilla bean.

20181004_155645
4.Place pears in a single layer (you may have to do two batches) in syrup. Cook over medium low heat for 5 minutes until fruit is heated through. Turn once.

20181004_160208
5.Use the pot grabber to remove a hot jar from the water. Put six peppercorns and 1 – 2 tablespoons of the brandy in the bottom of the jar.

20181004_160440

6.Using tongs or a slotted spoon pack pears into jars as snugly as possible (the fruit shrinks while cooking). Before filling completely, slide 3 star anise and one piece of vanilla bean down the side of the jar to make sure they are visible from the outside. Then fill to the top with pears, squeezing in an extra half pear if possible.

20181004_160624
6.Cover the pears with the sugar syrup leaving 1/2 inch headroom. Remove any air bubbles. Wipe rims with a wet paper towel to make sure you get a tight seal and place lids on using tongs, screwing rings on only finger tight.

20181004_162752

7.Place jars in canner covering with more hot water, if necessary,to submerge the jars by at least one inch. Bring to a boil and process for 25 minutes (timed from the boil). Process pints for 20 minutes. Turn off heat,  remove canner lid and wait 5 minutes before carefully removing jars  using the jar grabber. Don’t try using tongs or anything else or you will end up with a face full of boiling water. Place jars on towels or a cooling rack. Let cool undisturbed for 24 hours.  You may hear a pinging sound as the jars seal themselves but you may not. Both are normal.

20181004_174241

TIPS:

I prefer the look of wide-mouth jars, partially because they take a larger label and I like to include storing and serving instructions on my labels. However, canned fruits or tomatoes fare better in the regular jars as the small opening helps keep the fruit submerged. With the wide mouth jars the fruit rises up to the top sometimes leaving you with an inch or two of liquid on the bottom of the jar which does not look quite as pretty.

Poached D'Anjou Pears in Vanilla Brandy Syrup

  • Servings: 4 quarts
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

20181004_174241

TOOLS REQUIRED:

  • Canning Pot with wire rack
  • Mason Jars:  4 Quart jars, 6 Pint and a half jars or 8 Pint jars with lids and ring
  • Wide mouth funnel, pot grabber, tongs, melon baller, sharp knife or potato peeler

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 gallon cold tap water
  • 1 teaspoon citric acid or 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 8-10 lbs firm pears
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  •  6 cups cold water
  • 1 vanilla bean, cut into 4 pieces (or one for each jar)
  • 24 peppercorns (preferably pink)
  • 4- 8 tablespoons brandy (optional)
  1. Fill your canning pot with 4 clean quart, 6 pint and a half, or 8 pint canning jars fully immersed in the water.  Bring to a simmer.  Immerse lids, but not rings, in a shallow pan of water. Bring to a simmer.
  2. Mix the water and citric acid or lemon juice together in a large bowl. Peel, halve lengthwise and core the pears and place them in the water mixture to prevent browning. I like to use a melon baller to cleanly remove the core.
  3. Meanwhile in a large saucepan combine the sugar and the water. Bring to a boil over medium heat stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat to low and add the split vanilla bean.
  4. Place pears in a single layer (you may have to do two batches) in syrup. Cook over medium low heat for 5 minutes until fruit is heated through. Turn once.
  5. Use the pot grabber to remove a hot jar from the water. Put six peppercorns and 1 – 2 tablespoons of the brandy in the bottom of the jar.
  6. Using tongs or a slotted spoon pack pears into jars as snugly as possible (the fruit shrinks while cooking). Before filling completely, slide 3 star anise and one piece of vanilla bean down the side of the jar to make sure they are visible from the outside. Then fill to the top with pears, squeezing in an extra half pear if possible.
  7. Cover the pears with the sugar syrup leaving 1/2 inch headroom. Remove any air bubbles. Wipe rims with a wet paper towel and place lids on using tongs, screwing rings on only finger tight.
  8. Place jars in canner covering with more hot water, if necessary,to submerge the jars by at least one inch. Bring to a boil and process for 25 minutes (timed from the boil). Process pints for 20 minutes. Turn off heat,  remove canner lid and wait 5 minutes before carefully removing jars  using the correct tool.  Don’t try using tongs or anything else or you will end up with a face full of boiling water. Place jars on towels or a cooling rack. Let cool undisturbed for 24 hours.  You may hear a pinging sound as the jars seal themselves but you may not. Both are normal.

 

Rustic Berry Tart

0

20150702_184453 - Copy

Dessert or Breakfast?  You decide.  This beautiful tart is my new favorite throw-together fruit dish, made with fresh summer berries, lemon zest and just a bit of sugar, folded into a whole grain crust made with white whole wheat flour.  For a tart it’s pretty healthy, so I have actually made it for breakfast when I’ve had guests.  Either way, it’s a crowd pleaser and you won’t have any leftovers!

20150702_161900 - Copy

I have made this tart three times now.  Twice with store bought crusts and once using the following recipe for white whole wheat crust.  The store bought crusts were perfectly fine and made it super quick – five minutes to prepare and right into the oven.  However, I really preferred the homemade crust, which was slightly thicker and had more of a rustic feel.  It also contained the juices better.  The crust was surprisingly easy to make but requires chilling time, which must be taken into account. I have also used coarse sanding sugar, which adds a ‘professional’ look to the tart and a nice, crunchy sweetness to the crust, but regular granulated sugar works fine too if that’s what you have.

.20150716_175956

So what is up with white whole wheat flour?  I love to use whole grain flour whenever possible for cooking but sometimes taste or texture is compromised because whole grains are often heavier and have a stronger taste. I have recently started using an unbleached white whole wheat flour from King Arthur.  The flour is milled from 100% organic hard white spring wheat, a lighter-colored and more mild tasting grain than traditional red wheat, which means that baked goods taste better but still have all of the nutrition and fiber of whole grains.

20150702_144208

TIPS:  This recipe can be personalized to your liking with almost any fruit.  Just use four cups of fruit:  whole small berries or thinly sliced peaches, apricots, pears, plums, apples or strawberries.  Or combine two fruits for an interesting combo.  Some fruits are sweeter than others, so adjust the sugar as necessary, and otherwise follow the recipe below.

You can easily make 4 individual mini tarts from this recipe instead of one large one.  When you’re finished mixing the dough, divide it into four equal pieces before pressing them into disks and wrapping them in plastic; refrigerate. Roll the dough into rounds about 7 inches in diameter and portion the fruit evenly among the rounds. Pleat the dough around the fruit to make a 1-inch rim. Bake as directed.

20150702_184453 - Copy

Recipe Adapted From Fine Cooking/Summertime Eats 2015, Rustic Fruit Tart

RUSTIC BERRY TART

2 cups fresh raspberries
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup fresh blackberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp lemon zest, finely grated
1 Tbsn flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbsn coarse sanding sugar, or granulated sugar

CRUST (Or your favorite pre-made crust)

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (or all purpose flour)
2 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
5 1/2 oz cold unsalted butter (11 Tbsn), cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 large egg yolk
3 Tbsn whole milk

20150702_150358

  • If using your own homemade dough, prepare that first.  Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a stand mixer or food processor.  Add butter and pulse on low until the mixture looks sandy and no large pieces of butter remain. The flour should hold together when you pinch it with your fingers.
  • In a small bowl, mix the egg yolk and milk.  With the mixer on low, add them to the flour mixture and pulse until the dough just comes together, about 15 seconds.  The dough will be somewhat crumbly and dry.
  • Dump dough onto a clean counter and work it with the heel of your hand until the dough comes together.  Press it into a flat disc, wrap it with plastic and let it rest in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes before rolling it out.
  • Preheat oven to 350.  Remove dough from refrigerator and let it sit 10 to 15 minutes, or until it’s pliable enough to work with.  Roll it out on a floured surface into a 13 to 14 inch round.  Don’t worry about ragged edges.  They only make the tart look more rustic.

20150702_150558

  • Transfer the dough circle to a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment.

20150702_144746

  • In a large bow, toss the raspberries, blueberries and blackberries with the sugar.  Taste and add up to 2 Tbsn more or sugar, if needed.  Add lemon zest, flour and salt and gently combine.

20150702_151434

  • Heap the fruit mixture into the center of the dough circle, leaving a 2 inch border.
  • Fold the edges of the dough over the fruit, overlapping and pleating as you go.

20150702_151320

  • Brush the dough, with beaten egg (even under the folds) and sprinkle with sugar.

20150702_151505

  • Bake until the dough is golden brown, 40 to 55 minutes.  Let cool.

20150702_161735

  • Transfer to a serving platter and serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Rustic Berry Tart

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

 20150702_184504 - Copy

2 cups fresh raspberries
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup fresh blackberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp lemon zest, finely grated
1 Tbsn flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbsn coarse sanding sugar, or granulated sugar

CRUST (Or your favorite pre-made crust)

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (or all purpose flour)
2 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
5 1/2 oz cold unsalted butter (11 Tbsn), cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 large egg yolk
3 Tbsn whole milk

  • If using your own homemade dough, prepare that first.  Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a stand mixer or food processor.  Add butter and pulse on low until the mixture looks sandy and no large pieces of butter remain. The flour should hold together when you pinch it with your fingers.
  • In a small bowl, mix the egg yolk and milk.  With the mixer on low, add them to the flour mixture and pulse until the dough just comes together, about 15 seconds.  The dough will be somewhat crumbly and dry.
  • Dump dough onto a clean counter and work it with the heel of your hand until the dough comes together.  Press it into a flat disc, wrap it with plastic and let it rest in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes before rolling it out.
  • Preheat oven to 350.  Remove dough from refrigerator and let it sit 10 to 15 minutes, or until it’s pliable enough to work with.  Roll it out on a floured surface into a 13 to 14 inch round.  Don’t worry about ragged edges.  They only make the tart look more rustic.
  • Transfer the dough circle to a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment.
  • In a large bow, toss the raspberries, blueberries and blackberries with the sugar.  Taste and add up to 2 Tbsn more or sugar, if needed.  Add lemon zest, flour and salt and gently combine.
  • Heap the fruit mixture into the center of the dough circle, leaving a 2 inch border.
  • Fold the edges of the dough over the fruit, overlapping and pleating as you go.
  • Brush the dough, with beaten egg (even under the folds) and sprinkle with sugar.
  • Bake until the dough is golden brown, 40 to 55 minutes.  Let cool.
  • Transfer to a serving platter and serve warm or at room temperature.

No Bake Mini Cheesecakes with Raspberry Sauce

0
20150531_144324
Monday Morning Confessional:  I had cheesecake for breakfast.  Yep, it was a lovely mini cheesecake with raspberry sauce. Sorry not sorry. I hosted a bridal shower for my future daughter in law last night and never got around to having dessert, so decided to have it this morning with my coffee.  It might be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and what a great way to start the week!
20150531_143832
I fell in love with these pretty little cheesecakes from Spoonful of Flavor and decided they were perfect, all pink and pretty, to serve at a ladies only party.  Of course, now that I’ve actually tasted them, I can think of many occasions where they should, and probably will, end up on the menu.  They are delicious, cute and very easy to make, although I need to work on my drizzling skills.  It only takes about fifteen or twenty minutes to assemble them but they do require at least thirty minutes chilling time.  I made them the day before and added the raspberries and raspberry sauce before serving.  Don’t skip the raspberry sauce which is the perfect blend of tart and sweet. My leftovers are going on ice cream or plain yogurt, yum!
20150531_143758
I followed the Spoonful of Flavor recipe for the graham cracker crust and the raspberry sauce.  Her original recipe calls for creme fraiche and heavy cream in addition to cream cheese which I’m sure is delicious, but I opted to make a filling with cream cheese and Greek yogurt and I was pretty happy with the results.  Greek yogurt is more nutritious than cream and its easier to find in stores than creme fraiche.  Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium, potassium, protein, zinc, and vitamins B6 and B12. What distinguishes Greek yogurt is its thicker, creamier texture because the liquid whey is strained out. Also, it contains probiotic cultures and is lower in lactose and has twice the protein content of regular yogurts.  It’s thick creamy texture is what makes it work in this recipe.  Of course it wouldn’t be cheesecake without cream cheese, but hey, it’s dessert….
20150531_192445
TIP:  Make sure your yogurt is very thick.  You can test it by sticking a spoon into to it.  If the spoon stays up, you should get a good result. I don’t think regular yogurt would work very well in this recipe.  You could end up with a filling that is more like pudding or custard than cheesecake. I recommend removing the graham cracker crusts from the plastic while still frozen to prevent crumbling, however, once the cheesecakes are assembled, you can store them in the refrigerator before serving.
20150531_143712 - Copy
NO BAKE MINI CHEESECAKES WITH RASPBERRY SAUCE
20150530_132559
CRUST

3 tablespoons sugar
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 14 graham crackers)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

20150530_133911

FILLING

2 – 12 oz packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 Tbsn vanilla
2/3 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar

20150530_144425

RASPBERRY SAUCE

2 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup water
12 ounces frozen raspberries, thawed
fresh raspberries, for garnish

20150530_131949

  • Line 12 muffin tins with plastic wrap

20150530_131919

  • If you are using graham cracker crumbs, combine them with the sugar and stir in melted butter. If you are using graham crackers, break them into smaller pieces and process in a food processor or blender into crumbs.  Add sugar and melted butter and process on low until combined.

20150530_132411

  • Divide the graham cracker mixture among the prepared muffin tins.  Using the back of a spoon, press mixture into bottom and sides, forming a small cup. Place in freezer to chill while preparing filling.

20150530_133911

  • Place cream cheese (at room temperature), yogurt, vanilla and sugar in a bowl or food processor and stir until well blended.

20150530_134737

  • Spoon or pipe about a quarter cup of the filling into each muffin tin.  If you don’t have a piping tool, you can cut the corner off of a plastic baggie, fill it with cream cheese mixture and squeeze  into cups.

20150530_135804

  • Cover and place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

20150530_141659

  • While the cheesecakes are chilling, prepare the raspberry sauce. In a small saucepan, combine the cornstarch, sugar and water. add the raspberries and cook over medium heat. stir constantly until the mixture boils.

20150530_142039

  • Once boiling, cook and stir for one additional minute.

20150530_142251

  • Carefully strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve placed over a bowl to remove seeds. Cool to room temperature or chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.

20150531_142053

  • Remove cheesecakes from muffin tin by gently pulling up on the plastic wrap. remove from plastic.

20150531_142912

  • Place a raspberry on top of each cheesecake.

20150531_143712 - Copy

  • Drizzle with raspberry sauce.

20150531_192434

  • Serve with extra raspberry sauce on the side.

No Bake Mini Cheesecakes with Raspberry Sauce

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

 20150531_144324

CRUST

3 tablespoons sugar
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 14 graham crackers)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

FILLING

2 – 12 oz packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 Tbsn vanilla
2/3 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar

RASPBERRY SAUCE

2 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup water
12 ounces frozen raspberries, thawed
fresh raspberries, for garnish

  • Line 12 muffin tins with plastic wrap
  • If you are using graham cracker crumbs, combine them with the sugar and stir in melted butter. If you are using graham crackers, break them into smaller pieces and process in a food processor or blender into crumbs.  Add sugar and melted butter and process on low until combined.
  • Divide the graham cracker mixture among the prepared muffin tins.  Using the back of a spoon, press mixture into bottom and sides, forming a small cup. Place in freezer to chill while preparing filling.
  • Place cream cheese (at room temperature), yogurt, vanilla and sugar in a bowl or food processor and stir until well blended.
  • Spoon or pipe about a quarter cup of the filling into each muffin tin.  If you don’t have a piping tool, you can cut the corner off of a plastic baggie, fill it with cream cheese mixture and squeeze into cups.  Cover and place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.
  • While the cheesecakes are chilling, prepare the raspberry sauce. In a small saucepan, combine the cornstarch, sugar and water. add the raspberries and cook over medium heat. stir constantly until the mixture boils.
  • Once boiling, cook and stir for one additional minute.
  • Carefully strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve placed over a bowl to remove seeds. Cool to room temperature or chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.
  • Remove cheesecakes from muffin tin by gently pulling up on the plastic wrap. remove from plastic and drizzle with raspberry sauce. garnish with fresh raspberries, as desired.

Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse – Party Sized

0

Chocolate Mousse13

I’m not sure why but once kids head back to school, the parties start – Oh wait, I think I just answered that.  Party season has definitely begun!   Invitations are flying in for birthdays, housewarmings, fundraising events, anniversaries, weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, even  a Harvest Party – and we aren’t even to Halloween yet.  My friend, Tracy, and I just co-hosted a bridal shower for our beautiful friend, Karin, who is getting married up in Sonoma this weekend.  My job was coming up with a dessert festive enough to honor the special bride.  I didn’t want to try to rival her spectacular wedding cake (and not being a frequent baker anyway, because I end up eating it all myself) my thoughts immediately turned to chocolate, the ultimate crowd pleaser.  I have made a decadent but super simple bittersweet chocolate mousse in the past for special occasions but never for a crowd.  So I revamped my Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse Recipe, which only makes four small servings, to serve a dozen and updated the presentation to adapt for any occasion.

Chocolate Mousse14

If you can boil water and you have a food processor, you can make this foolproof, no-cook chocolate mousse. You just have to plan ahead by at least three hours because it needs chilling time to set.  I didn’t have a dozen of any appropriate dessert dish so I ran down to my local hardware store and bought a box of half pint wide mouth glass canning jars, also commonly known as ‘jelly jars’, which are inexpensive and re-usable.  Best of all they are easy to decorate. (Thanks Dawn!).

Chocolate Mousse15

This was for a bridal shower so I went with White Tie and Bridal Veil Bow, using white satin cording and wired organdy ribbon, but it’s very easy to adapt for any holiday.  The ribbon you choose really sets the theme. Or you can leave the glass jars plain for a rustic look.

Chocolate Mousse18

  •  Candy cane ribbon for Christmas.  Blue snowflakes for Hanukah.

Chocolate Mousse17

  •  Be creative and tuck small spoons or candycanes into the ribbon or lay a pirouette cookie across the top for fun.

Chocolate Mousse19

  • Celebratet Halloween with Trick or Treat ribbon and a dollop of whipped cream.

Chocolate Mousse12

What You Need: 12 half pint wide mouth glass jars, 12 strips of ribbon and sharp scissors.  Do a trial run on one jar, then remove it and measure the length of the ribbon necessary and pre-cut the other 11.  Don’t tie them until after the mousse has been poured to prevent staining from drips.  Better yet, tie the ribbons just before serving if time permits.

Chocolate Mousse1

Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse

8 Tbsn sugar
4 1/2 Tbsn unsweetened baking cocoa
8 tsp powdered instant coffee or espresso
3 cups semisweet chocolate pieces or dark chocolate bar, chopped
2 cups boiling water
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
8 eggs

strawberries, raspberries or whipped cream for garnish (optional)
pirouette cookies (optional)
  •  Pre-measure everything and have sitting out at room temperature, including the eggs.  Get a several cups of water boiling
  • In this order, place sugar, cocoa, coffee powder and chocolate pieces in blender or food processor.  Flick motor on and off until ingredients are completely powdered

Chocolate Mousse5

  • Turn motor on, then pour boiling water through opening in cover and process until it shows no solid bits

Chocolate Mousse6

  • Turn on motor again and add vanilla and eggs.  Process about 15 seconds.Pour mousse mixture into 4 individual glass dessert cups. or jelly jars  Place on a tray (I used the box the jars came in) Cool, then chill about 3 hours or until firm.

Chocolate Mousse16

  • Before serving, tie ribbon around the neck of each jar for decoration.
  • If using strawberries, wash and dry keeping the stem intact.  Turn it on it’s stem and make three slices, vertically, not cutting all the way through the stem.  Gently spread into a ‘flower’ shape.

Chocolate Mousse8

Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse

  • Servings: 12-14 small
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Chocolate Mousse13

 8 Tbsn sugar
4 1/2 Tbsn unsweetened baking cocoa
8 tsp powdered instant coffee or espresso
3 cups semisweet chocolate pieces or dark chocolate bar, chopped
2 cups boiling water
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
8 eggs
strawberries or raspberries for garnish (optional)
pirouette cookies (optional)
  •  Pre-measure everything and have sitting out at room temperature, including the eggs.  Get a several cups of water boiling
  • In this order, place sugar, cocoa, coffee powder and chocolate pieces in blender or food processor.  Flick motor on and off until ingredients are completely powdered
  • Turn motor on, then pour boiling water through opening in cover and process until it shows no solid bits
  • Turn on motor again and add vanilla and eggs.  Process about 15 seconds.Pour mousse mixture into 4 individual glass jelly jars.  Cool, then chill about 3 hours or until firm.
  • Before serving, tie a ribbon around the mouth of each jar to decorate
  • If using strawberries, wash and dry keeping the stem intact.  Turn it on it’s stem and make three slices, vertically, not cutting all the way through the stem.  Gently spread into a ‘flower’ shape.
  • To serve, garnish with berries or whipped cream and a pirouette cookie, if desired.

Wheatless Wednesday – Peach Berry Almond Crisp

0

Peach Crisp14

I’ve been home on my own for the past week and have succumbed to the temptation to eat dessert for breakfast.  I mean who wouldn’t, given the choice of a regular breakfast or a lovely fruit crisp warm from the oven?  My husband and three sons are scattered to the edges of the country.  One son is beginning law school, another taking an experiential year and the third, recently engaged and ensconced in the working world.  So my job is done NOT , rather my day to day job as a Mom has greatly diminished. My day began with a kitchen that smells like heaven.  When I walked out to the street with my dog to get  my newspapers and then walked back into the house, mmmm!  Even if I didn’t eat a bite – worth it.

This is a super easy recipe.  You can use any fruit you have on hand.  If its sour just add a bit more sugar.  If its really ripe add a bit less.  I used peaches, raspberries and blackberries because that is what I had. The beauty of a crisp is that there is no bottom crust to add calories and carbs.  It’s really all about the fruit.   I topped the fruit with a sweet crunchy oat almond topping but pecans and walnuts are also good options.  For a more streusel-like topping use  half flour, half oats.

Peach Crisp1

TIP:  The quantities listed below are for a large rectangular glass baking dish.  The quantities can be reduced to accommodate the size of the pan or use what fruit is available.  Just roughly estimate adjustments..  If it’s not perfect just top warm dessert with cinnamon or vanilla ice cream and all is forgiven.

Peach Berry Almond Crisp

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Filling
6 cups peeled sliced fresh peaches (2 -3 peaches)
2 cups mixed berries
1/2 cup sugar or 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3 Tbsn oat or other non-gluten flour, 2 Tbsn wheat flour or 2 Tbsn corn starch (as thickener)
2 tsp cinnamon

Topping
1 cup rolled oats (or 1/2 cup oats and 1/2 cup any kind of flour)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
6 Tbs butter
1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds (optional)

Peach Crisp2

  • Peel, pit and slice peaches and place in a large bowl

Peach Crisp4

  •  Add the flour, sugar and cinnamon to the peaches.

Peach Crisp5

  •  Mix to coat all slices.

Peach Crisp6

  •  Add berries and gently fold into the peach  mixture.

Peach Crisp7

  • Pour fruit mixture into baking dish or casserole pan.

Peach Crisp9

  •  To prepare topping, cut cold butter into small pieces.

Peach Crisp10

  •  Using a fork mix oats, cinnamon, sugar and butter into a crumbly mixture.

Peach Crisp12

  • Bake at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes or until the fruit is bubbly and the top golden.  Deeper casseroles may take longer to cook.

Peach Crisp14

  • Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.   It’s a yummy  bowl of summer…

 

Vanilla – Brandy Pear Galette

0

Pear Galette14

After spending a month or so in Maine, I returned home to an overgrown vegetable garden, loads of tomatoes and a fruit tree heavily laden with Asian Pears. In fact, the branches were so heavy that some of them were almost on the ground. Someone I didn’t do a very good job thinning the baby fruit in the spring.  I know it’s better for the tree and the quality of the fruit but I have a hard time doing this task, deciding who stays and who goes.  I apologize to the few that I can stand to remove.  I know, silly me!  Quite a few ripe pears had fallen to the ground, so I gathered those first to see what was salvageable. Some of them had to be thrown out (or given to the chickens next door) but many of them were still good even though they had a few bad spots. Last year I made Asian Pear Butter with the less fortunate pears but I haven’t dragged my canning equipment out yet, so I decided to make a Pear Galette that I love. It’s based on a recipe for Canned Pears in Vanilla Syrup (Stay tuned – that recipe coming soon!) which is absolutely delicious and I created a pie last year using some of those flavors.  I used Asian pears but any kind of pear (or apple) will work.  Now the house smells lovely and we have a gorgeous dessert for later!
Pear Galette1

Vanilla Brandy Pear Galette

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust (How to make a Homemade Pie Crust)
2-5 pears (any kind)
2/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 Tbsn flour
1 Tbsn vanilla extract
2 Tbsn brandy
2 Tbsn slivered almonds (optional)

Pear Galette2

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Pear Galette3

  • Press the pie pastry into the bottom and up the sides of a 9 inch pie plate. Let the edges fall over the side for now.

Pear Galette4

  • Half the pears and core them using a melon baller.  Peel and place the pear halves in a bowl of cold water with a lemon squeezed in to prevent browning.

Pear Galette7

  • Dry the pear halves and slice them into the pie crust.  You can arrange them in concentric circles starting at the outside and working your way into the center (with the small ends toward the center).  Or you can throw them in free form.  It will taste the same.

Pear Galette8

  • Start outside and make your way to the center, until the slices are all gone.  Slide any mis-shaped slices toward the outside where they will be covered by the crust.

Pear Galette6

  • In a medium bowl, mix the butter and sugar together until smooth.  Stir in flour, vanilla and brandy.  If you want a more custard-like dessert, double the flour and add two eggs that have been beaten until fluffy

Pear Galette9

  • Pour mixture over the top of the pears, coating them evenly.

Pear Galette10

  • Fold the extra pastry over the pears to form a crust.

Pear Galette11

  • Continue folding until the circle has been completed

Pear Galette12

  • Brush the pastry with beaten egg to prevent over browning

Pear Galette13

  • Bake for 1 hour in the preheated oven, until pears are soft and bubbling. Softer pears like Barlette should be done.  Firmer pears like Asian or D’Anjou may need another 10 minutes or so.

Pear Galette14

  • If you are topping your tart with almonds, toast them in a dry pan over medium high heat for a few minutes until golden brown.

Pear Galette16

  • Let cool slightly and sprinkle on top of the tart.

Pear Galette17

 

Tgif – Fun With Fruit!

0

grid-cell-8473-1372698485-33

With fruit at it’s peak right now and plentiful, don’t be afraid to be creative.  Check out this collection of 16 Ideas For Amazing Fruit Salads from BuzzFeed which includes this charming fruit salad using a hollowed out citrus bowl and a wonderful watermelon grid salad.  Don’t miss the Pineapple Palm Tree Buffet.  It could be just what your next summer party needs…

Happy Friday!

 

Photo Credit:  charmingtrinity.com

 

Cupcake Love

4

Cupcake Love6

I don’t do a lot of baking and (spoiler alert!) I did not bake these cupcakes.  It was just my birthday, which, of course means I got to indulge myself.  Sometimes you need to go with delicious over nutritious and I thought cupcakes would be the perfect dessert to serve at the lake.  It’s easy to mix and match several flavors so you can please everyone. Plus, people will often say no to a slice of cake but not hesitate to eat a cupcake. People love cupcakes, which are quite the food craze of the moment.  There is even a reality show, ‘Cupcake Wars’ on Food Network which pits bakers against each other for prize winnings, so I guess we’re on trend.

Cupcake Love9

These yummy treats are from Cupcake Love, a cute little cupcake shop on Maine Street in Bridgton, Maine. The owner and baker extraordinaire, Shannon Lyon, puts her creative spin on traditional cupcakes taking them, literally, to new heights.  For someone like me who enjoys making my food into fun edible towers, her cupcakes are simply irresistible, like this Brownie Sundae.

Cupcake Love2

Or this Vanilla Chocolate Chip which is almost too cute for words.

Cupcake Love4

I love coconut cake so ordered a dozen Coconut Cupcakes and was not disappointed with the yummy coconut buttercream topped with toasted coconut.  Hard to resist?  Why even try?

Cupcake Love8

Cupcake Love10

So you might think it is cruel and unusual to post this when you might be too far away to just pop in and pick up some of her cupcake creations.  On the other hand, those of you that are bakers can consider this inspiration.  Go tall!  Check out Cupcake Love on Facebook for hours or more yummy flavors.  Stop in if you’re anywhere near Bridgton but go early since she usually sells out.

Cupcake Love5

 

 

Happy 4th!

1

red-white-and-blue-fruit-skewers

Still looking for some inspiration for your Fourth of July celebration?  Buzzfeed Food has collected 29 fun recipes from around the internet to help you get started.  I particularly love the fruit skewers from Skinnytaste.com and Weelicious.com although there are many cute  (and kitschy) ideas here .  If you have a star cookie cutter you’re halfway there!  Check out the recipes here  BuzzFeed Food Fourth of July Treats.  Have a happy and safe Fourth of July!

Fourth-of-July-Wands-2

 

Wheatless Wednesday – Santa Rosa Plum Crisp

3

Plum Crisp8

Looking for a simple 4th of July or summer dessert?  How about an easy Stone Fruit Crisp? Plums are in season right now as are other stone fruits like peaches, cherries and nectarines. Crisps are very forgiving to make as there is little that can go wrong, no crust to make or fruit to arrange. Just cut up your favorite fruit, sprinkle it with a yummy topping and bake. The beauty of this dessert is it’s simplicity.  This recipe is easily made vegan and gluten free and for a dessert, it’s pretty nutritious.  The oats and almond flour combined with the fruit and dates are loaded with vitamins and minerals ( and fiber, of course).   As an added bonus, your kitchen will smell divine!

I have a wonderfully prolific Santa Rosa plum tree in my garden in California.  Usually I make plum jam which I put on toast or in my yogurt for the rest of the year.  This spring in California has been so dry and warm that my plums were ripe and falling off my tree almost before I realized I was losing my crop.  So right before my summer move to Maine, I gathered everything I could reach and decided to take them with me since I didn’t have time to do anything with them in California.  I ‘smuggled’ the plums and some Meyer lemons, also from my garden, to Maine in my suitcase which I checked. I didn’t dare carry it on, since one of my friends once took home some of my lemons in her carry-on and security thought they were hand grenades. (Well they are rather large lemons!)   I decided it was not worth the risk of possibly having to dump them so packed them in with my shoes and extra clothes and hoped for the best.

Preserved Lemons2

The lemons made the trip very well but a few of the plums got a bit bruised on their journey and are no longer quite as perfect for eating, so I decided to make a plum crisp.  Since I have yet to do a complete restocking of my pantry, I had to make do with what I had on hand, even tearing open individual sugar packets to toss with the plums (after which, of course, I found the tin of sugar hiding up on the top shelf).  Like I said, this is a very forgiving dessert…

Plum Crisp1

TIPS:  Most fruit crisp recipes call for wheat flour but I opted to go grain free and use almond flour, although almost any flour would work as a thickening agent and in the topping as well.  I added pecans and almonds to the topping for added crunch as well as dates for extra chewy sweetness but both are optional.  If you don’t use nuts, just add a bit more flour and oats so there is enough topping to cover the fruit.   I usually prefer desserts that are one dedicated fruit but crisps are also good with a mixture of cut up fruits if that is what you have on hand.  This is  great way to make an amazing dessert out of leftover or less than perfect pieces of fruit.  Instead of throwing them out, just cut out the bad spots.  They will still taste delicious!

Santa Rosa Plum Crisp

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Plum Crisp2

4 cups plums, pits removed and chopped

1 Tbsn coconut, oat or almond flour (white or wheat work too)

2 Tbsn sugar (honey, agave necter, etc.)-more if your fruit is under ripe or sour

1 tsp vanilla or almond extract

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Topping:

1/2 cup flour (made from any grain or legume)

1/2 cup oats (not instant or fast cooking)

1/2 cup pecans or almonds, finely chopped(optional)

1/4 cup dates, pitted and finely chopped (optional)

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1/8 tsp salt

1/4 cup butter or coconut oil, melted

Plum Crisp3

  • Combine plums, flour, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon together in a medium bowl.  Pour into an ungreased baking dish or pie pan

Plum Crisp5

  • Mix together all topping ingredients with a fork until crumbly.

Plum Crisp6

  • Spread topping evenly over the plum mixture
  • Bake for 40 to 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Plums should be bubbling and the topping a golden brown.
  • Serve with vanilla ice cream (optional)

Plum Crisp7

Passover Redux – 2014

2

2014-04-09-matzo-recipes-main

I’m heading out of town for the weekend to go to a family wedding, so won’t be in my kitchen or in my garden, but ran across a wonderful blog, “Nosh On It”, with some truly inspired Passover menu ideas. This article includes some traditional dishes like Matzo Brie and Matzo Ball Soup and also some very creative new treats. Highlights (for me) are Dark Chocolate-Toffee Matzo Bark, Matzo Lasagna and Coconut Rocky-Road Matzo. I’m pretty sure that  Deep Fried Matzo Balls with Wasabi Cream Sauce has my son, Eric’s name written all over it as an appetizer this year.  It sounds pretty good to me too!   Since Passover is next week, I thought I would help you WOW your guests, or at least get you through eight days of matzo.  Happy Passover!
Click on the photo or the following link to get the recipes and see the original post from Noshon.It:  Lotsa Matzo: 13 Creative Matzo Recipes for Passover

nosh-logo-165x165

Wheatless Wednesday – Flourless Chocolate Brownie Cookies

3

Flourless Chocolate Brownie Cookie1

Chocolate is one of the world’s favorite foods and GoodMotherDiet  is not immune.  Sometimes we need a break from cauliflower, quinoa and butternut squash.  Can dark chocolate really be part of a healthy diet (and not just wishful thinking)?   There are reputable claims  that dark chocolate is good for your heart (lower blood pressure +),  brain (improved cognitive function), blood sugar (what?), teeth (no way!) and even your cells (antioxidants). Dark chocolate is also high in vitamins and minerals (copper, potassium, magnesium and iron).  For specific nutritional data (or if you don’t believe me that dark chocolate is good for your teeth) click here:  http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/6-health-benefits-of-dark-chocolate.html

Sometimes we do know what we need.  So now the question is Cookies or Brownies?  Why choose?  These tasty morsels are a cross between a fudgy brownie and a chewy chocolate chip cookie. Need I say more?  They are also flour free and gluten free (as long as you are using a powdered sugar that doesn’t have flour added for fluffiness – yes they do that so check the label).  Should I go on or do you just want to make them now?

Flourless Chocolate Brownie Cookie

  • Servings: 24
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Flourless Chocolate Brownie Cookie2

3 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp kosher salt
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate or 2/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
3 Tbsn dark chocolate (70% or higher cacao)
 
Flourless Chocolate Brownie Cookie3
  • Chop chocolate into small pieces.
  • Mix powdered sugar, cocoa powder and salt in a large bowl, then whisk in egg whites and egg.

Flourless Chocolate Brownie Cookie4Flourless Chocolate Brownie Cookie5

  • Fold in chopped chocolate.

Flourless Chocolate Brownie Cookie6

  • Spoon batter by the tablespoonful onto parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 2″ apart.
  • Bake  at 350 degrees until cookies are puffed, cracked, and set just around the edges, 14-16 minutes.
  • Transfer baking sheets to wire racks and let cookies cool before removing them from parchment.

Flourless Chocolate Brownie Cookie7

Limoncello

11

Limoncello1
“I believe when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade…and try to find someone whose life has given them vodka, and have a party.” (Ron White, Author)

…Or you can combine the two and make Limoncello! I am lucky to have a beautiful, and bountiful, Meyer Lemon tree right outside my kitchen door. Most citrus trees bear two crops a year, a smaller one in the summer and the heaviest crop in winter.  Meyer lemon trees, however, are known for bearing fruit all year long, although their largest crop is now. With such an abundance of fruit, I am always looking for ways to use lots of lemons at once. I don’t mind sharing but I hate when they are wasted. Limoncello is an easy way to use extra lemons, although is not instantly gratifying since there is a considerable wait time until you have a final product. Limoncello is a crowd pleaser and makes a great gift, so our problem is that it goes too quickly. For that reason, as soon as I bottle one batch, I often start another.  Even if you don’t have a tree in your backyard, its easy to find Meyer lemons this time of year at your supermarket or even at Costco. You can also use regular lemons with good results, so use what you have.   It’s not too late!

The Limoncello I have made in the past is more “California style”, rather than Italian. I found the recipe on the internet from someone in Berkeley who has a prolific meyer lemon tree in her backyard and came up with a recipe in an attempt to use up her lemons. Sounded familiar so I gave it a whirl. I can’t credit her for the recipe since I could never find her post again. I liked the fact that she uses whole lemons and not just the peel. The results were good and I’ve had no complaints, however, after our trip to Italy last summer, I decided to attempt the Italian version, which uses only the peel. Purists believe that this makes the best quality limoncello, so I decided to put it to the test.  Here are a couple of photos from the ‘California style’ batch.

  1. making limoncelloLimoncello

In selecting the lemons, try to get organic since the peel is where most of the insecticides reside and often they are waxed to give them a longer shelf life. If you can’t find organic lemons, just scrub them with warm soapy water and dry them with a towel.   I have divided the process into two steps. Since the limoncello needs to sit for 6 to 8 weeks before bottling, you don’t have to have everything on hand just to get started. The large Bell containers are easy to find at hardware  or department stores like Target.   The Container Store and Pier One Imports both carry a nice selection of flip cap bottles that are perfect for bottling. Lastly, think about ‘your’ label which is the finishing touch and gives it personality and helps to make it the perfect gift. http://www.onlinelabels.com has pretty much every size and shape label you could ever want and they have a downloadable template which makes it very easy.

Limoncello

  • Servings: 8-12 oz bottles
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

STEP 1

 What you Need:

18 Meyer Lemons
1 handle or 2 fifths of grain alcohol or vodka
2 gallon glass jar with a lid(found at most hardware stores)
Potato peeler or microplaner (to zest)
• Wash and dry lemons. If not using organic scrub them with a vegetable brush in warm soapy water. Drying helps remove any remaining residue.

Limoncello3 Limoncello4

  •  Using a potato peeler or a microplaner, carefully remove the peel trying not to get any of the bitter white pith. I used a potato peeler to cut long strips and then scraped any white from the back with a sharp knife.
  • Place all of the peels in the glass jar and pour the alcohol/vodka over the top to fill. Cover with a tight lid. (Note: The photo below shows a double batch.)
  • Squeeze the juice from the lemons.  Add sugar and water to make lemonade or freeze in ice cube trays, then put in baggies when frozen and save for another use.

Limoncello5
• Let sit covered with a kitchen towel or two for 6 to 8 weeks. I like to give it a little shake every few days for the first couple of weeks, just to make sure it’s evenly mixed. After that you can store it somewhere dark and out of the way.

STEP 2

What you Need:

Funnel
Fine mesh strainer
2 or 3 paper coffee filters
large bowl
ladle
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups water (filtered preferred)
8 12 oz bottles
labels (optional)
  • Wash and air dry bottles.  Can be done in a hot dishwasher. (Drying with a towel can reintroduce germs.)
  • Heat water and sugar in a pot until the sugar dissolves and the simple syrup is clear. /Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Limoncello8 Limoncello9

  • Line your mesh strainer with coffee filters and place it over the large bowl (or have someone hold it for you).  Carefully pour lemon/vodka mixture over the strainer, taking care not to let the liquid go over the top of the filters.

Limoncello7

  • Discard lemon peels.
  • Clean Bell jar and pour filtered vodka mixture back into the jar (I would filter at least twice).

Limoncello10

  • Pour simple syrup into the jar and mix to combine.
  • Place a funnel into one of the bottles (with a coffee filter if you want to filter again) and carefully ladle limoncello into the bottle leaving 1 inch clearance at the top.

Limoncello12

  • Seal the cap and repeat with remaining bottles.

Limoncello13Limoncello15

  • The Limoncello will continue to mellow and improve over the next several weeks.
  • Label the bottles if desired. I’m testing a new label.  What do you think?
  • Store in a cool place.  Serve icy cold from the freezer.

So what was the final verdict?  The Italian style version requires more preparation time, in the peeling of so  many lemons,  but the final product is smoother and tastes more like the Limoncello we had in Italy, although less sweet since we also reduced the amount of sugar.   I think its worth the extra effort.  Cheers!

Wheatless Wednesday – Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse

6

Chocolate Mousse10

This week it’s all about Valentines Day, which means………………chocolate!

Dark Chocolate is known to make people happy by releasing hormones that create euphoria.  Chocolate can relieve a host of ailments, including depression, fatigue, pain and PMS, as well as rev up your sex drive!  Sounds like something we should be eating every day!  So make this decadent dessert for your sweetie and feel free to indulge knowing its all good…

Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse was the first fancy dessert I ever made.  Back in the 80’s  I signed up for a series of cookbooks from Time-Life, Great Meals in Minutes.  I received a different cookbook every month through the mail, each with a theme and wonderful, quick and easy to follow recipes.  I really enjoyed thumbing through each new book and getting great ideas. (This was before we could google everything). As a new cook, I learned how to put together a complete meal and end up with everything ready at the same time, which is really the biggest challenge in cooking. Looking up the recipe again was a bit of a walk down memory lane.  The page is now adorned with a big circle of chocolate, as if a young cook in a hurry put the Cuisinart lid down on top of the open cookbook. Another page with a favorite pasta recipe is splattered with red wine vinegar, remnants from a meal long past.

Many of the recipes I still use came from these books even though over the years I’ve made them my own.  I rarely go back and follow a recipe twice (unless I’m baking and every drop and crumb makes a difference). The Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse recipe by Helen Witty came from the Great Meals in Minutes, “Pasta Menus” cookbook.  I was a newlywed at the time and figuring out what to cook for my new husband.  I came from a large family where chili and casseroles were king and he grew up with meat and potatoes.  To make it even more of a challenge, he doesn’t like foods with mayo or any kind of cream, so it was hard to find recipes that worked for him that were still yummy to me.  I remember feeling lucky to find a dessert recipe at all that isn’t loaded with heavy cream or cream cheese.  I have made this bittersweet mousse several times since then when I’m looking for a special dessert.  It has a nice creamy texture and wonderful flavor.  It looks very elegant, yet it’s deceptively simple.
Chocolate Mousse1
Although this recipe needs several hours in the refrigerator to chill, you can prepare it in just a few minutes with a food processor or blender. The recipe only makes about 2 1/2 cups (2 large or 4 small servings) so chocolate lovers may want to double the recipe.  When I made this so many years ago, I used regular semi-sweet chocolate chips, because that was what was available,  and it was delicious.   You can use regular chocolate chips but a dark chocolate with at least 60% cacao will make it even more divine, as will using real vanilla and a good quality coffee or espresso.  There are so many high quality chocolates available now, Green & Black’s, Divine, CocoaVie and one that is perfect for Valentine’s Day, Chocolove xoxox that even comes with a love poem inside (to name only a few of the many).  Ghirardelli now makes a 60% Cacao bittersweet chocolate chip that is perfect for baking. I made this mousse twice, once with Ghirardelli 60% chips and then with Green & Black’s Dark 85% bar (3.5oz).  Both batches were pretty good but the Green & Black mousse was slightly less sweet and a little more bittersweet.  My taste testers this time (the Zubers) declared the first better with fruit and the second with a bit of whipped cream.  This recipe goes fast so I would recommend having everything pre-measured and ready at room temperature, especially the eggs which are more elastic and create more volume at room temperature.

This mousse would be delicious in a regular dessert dish, but the proper presentation will elevate it to something special.  You can make an exquisite dinner  but slop it on the table and it won’t get the credit it deserves, or conversely, you can beautifully arrange a few random things you have in your kitchen into a pretty nice looking tray for an impromptu gathering and people will think you’re an amazing hostess.  For this romantic and sentimental holiday, I have prepared my husband’s dessert in one of the wedding goblets in which I served the original mousse and mine in one of the beautiful crystal and gold dessert cups that I recently received from my mother in law.  These beautiful crystal dishes belonged to my husband’s grandmother, Nana Rosella and  I thought it perfect, in a time of love to remember  “Big Nana” as she was called among our family, even though she was  4’10” on a good day, because she was very generous and loving and we keep her in our hearts. As we all know, Valentine’s Day is a holiday of hearts.

Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse

  • Servings: 4 small
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Chocolate Mousse9

Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse

 2 Tbsn sugar
1 1/2 Tbsn unsweetened baking cocoa
2 tsp powdered instant coffee or espresso
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate pieces or dark chocolate bar, chopped
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
strawberries or raspberries for garnish
pirouette cookies (optional)
Chocolate Mousse3
  • Pre-measure everything and have sitting out at room temperature, including the eggs.  Get a couple of cups of water boiling

Chocolate Mousse4

  • In this order, place sugar, cocoa, coffee powder and chocolate pieces in blender or food processor.  Flick motor on and off until ingredients are completely powdered.

Chocolate Mousse5

  • Turn motor on, then pour boiling water through opening in cover and process until it shows no solid bits

Chocolate Mousse6

  • Turn on motor again and add vanilla and eggs.  Process about 15 seconds.

Choclate Mousse7

  • Pour mousse mixture into 4 individual glass dessert cups.  Cool, then chill about 3 hours or until firm.

Chocolate Mousse7 Chocolate Mousse8

  • To prepare strawberries, wash and dry keeping the stem intact.  Turn it on it’s stem and make three slices, vertically, not cutting all the way through the stem.  Gently spread into a ‘flower’ shape.
  • To serve, garnish with berries and a pirouette cookie, if desired.

  valentine_heart_1-929px

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Wheatless Wednesday – Oat Nut Bars

10

Oat Nut Bars

WARNING – HIGHLY ADDICTIVE!  I am often looking around the kitchen for something quick to eat with my morning coffee without making a whole production.  Most  convenience foods are not very good for you, even if the packaging tells you otherwise.  So when I saw this recipe in Bon Appetite (January, 2014) I thought it could be just the thing.  Boy was I right (or wrong)!  These are so delicious that its hard to eat just one.  Luckily, they are loaded with nutrition.  They are made with 100% whole grains, seeds and nuts which means the bran and the germ are left intact which is where most of the nutrients are. I used whole almonds, sesame seeds and added coconut flakes, since I love all things coconut, and really like the result.  I would also recommend having coconut oil in your pantry as one of the ‘good’ oils with many health benefits.  The maple syrup, even though it’s natural, is mostly sugar, but unlike white sugar it is also a very good source of zinc and Manganese and the dates add multiple vitamins and minerals.

When I first tasted them, I thought chewy was the way to go, until I re-baked half of the slices and tried them crunchy.  Wow, they got even better!!  My taste testers also preferred the crunchy over the chewy by a slight margin.  I can easily see these oat nut bars becoming an easy breakfast go-to as well as a great energy boost to get through the afternoon slump.  Try them toasted and topped with yogurt or cream cheese or my favorite way, just on their own.

Oat Nut Bars

  • Servings: 16-18 bars
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Oat Nut Bars 9

Oat Nut Bars with Coconut

Nonstick vegetable cooking spray

6 large Medjool dates, pitted and finely chopped

1 cup pure maple syrup

2 Tbsp unsalted butter or coconut oil

2 cups old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup raw almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts or cashews

1/2 cup shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

2 Tbsp amaranth or sesame seeds

1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (optional)

1/2 tsp kosher salt

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly coat an 8 1/2×4″ loaf pan with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on long sides. Spray parchment.

Oat Nut Bars 10Oat Nut Bars 7

  • Bring dates and maple syrup to a boil in a small saucepan, reduce heat to medium-high, stirring often, until dates are very soft and maple syrup is slightly reduced, 8-10 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in butter/coconut oil until it is melted.  You can mash the dates with a fork or blender if desired.

Oat Nut Bars 6Oat Nut Bars 5

  • Toss all other ingredients in a large bowl.  Pour date mixture over the top and mix until evenly coated.  Scrape half of the mixture into prepared pan and press very firmly and evenly with a wooden spoon or spatula to compress it as much as possible (Important)
  • Add remaining oat mixture and press until very tightly packed into pan.
  • Oat Nut Bars 2 Bake until loaf is darkened in color and firm around the edges, and center gives just slightly when pressed, 45-50 minutes. Tent with foil if browning too quickly.

Oat Nut Bars 3

  • Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool in pan before turning out (it can even sit overnight).  Cut into 1/2’thick slices with a serrated knife.

Oat Nut Bars 11

  • For crisp bars, lay slices on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees until golden brown 8-10 minutes (turning once), or toast in a toaster oven.
  • Makes about 16 bars.  Bars should keep five days, tightly wrapped at room temperature (if they last that long!)