CHOCOLATE COVERED MARSHMALLOWS

So all these Valentine's Day posts are wreaking havoc on my diet. I don't usually eat with such gluttonous delight however much I want to.  After the holiday blitz is over, I'm starting my elimination diet again.  Essentially I eat like this as much as possible, no gluten, no dairy, no red meat, no sugar.  It sounds like a drag but it's actually pretty easy and makes me feel great. The goal is to eat things that are natural and easy on your digestive system. So essentially I'm trying to clear out my pantry of all things on the no-no list.  Crackers with cheese, ginger cookies, chocolate, marshmallows and 3 bags of tortilla chips we've some how accumulated by throwing parties. I've got a lot of work to do since I'm not one to waste food.

I have a major sweet tooth so I obviously reached for the marshmallows and chocolate first.  On my path to try to make all things cute, I decided to dip the marshmallows in dark chocolate and cover them in sprinkles. This is the easiest quick treat you can make with some leftover pantry items.  You literally need 3 things.  Marshmallows, chocolate chips  and sprinkles for good measure. Your kids (or discerning adults) will love them!

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Melt 1 cup of chocolate chips in a microwave safe dish at 20 second intervals, stirring in between until melted.

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Once melted, skewer or put your marshmallows on a fork and dip your marshmallows in 3/4 of the way in.  I like showing a sliver of undipped marshmallow to show people what they're getting into.

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Tap the excess chocolate off on the side of your dish.

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Put your sprinkles on for cuteness sake. Let cool and chomp away!

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Adorable and even great for gifting!

BOURBON PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE

Now here for the star of the meal, Brian's absolute favorite, cheesecake.  Of course, you don't have to use alcohol, but what would be the fun in that?! This bad boy is physically heavy, but it's a surprisingly light and airy cheesecake.The crust is phenomenal and tastes like pralines! It's a real showstopper.

Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake (from Gourmet Magazine)

For crust
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (from five 4 3/4- by 2 1/4-inch crackers)
1/2 cup pecans (1 3/4 ounce), finely chopped
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For filling
1 1/2 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin
3 large eggs
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon bourbon liqueur or bourbon (optional)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature

For topping
2 cups sour cream (20 ounces)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon bourbon liqueur or bourbon (optional)

Garnish: pecan halves

Make crust: Invert bottom of a 9-inch springform pan (to create flat bottom, which will make it easier to remove cake from pan), then lock on side and butter pan. 

Stir together crumbs, pecans, sugars, and butter in a bowl until combined well. Press crumb mixture evenly onto bottom and 1/2 inch up side of pan, then chill crust, 1 hour.

Make filling and bake cheesecake: Put oven rack in middle position and Preheat oven to 350°F.

Whisk together pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, cream, vanilla, and liqueur (if using) in a bowl until combined.

Stir together granulated sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt in large bowl.

Add cream cheese and beat with an electric mixer at high speed until creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, then add pumpkin mixture and beat until smooth.

Pour filling into crust, smoothing top, then put springform pan in a shallow baking pan (in case springform leaks). Bake until center is just set, 50 to 60 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool 5 minutes. (Leave oven on.)

Make topping: Whisk together sour cream, sugar, and liqueur (if using) in a bowl, then spread on top of cheesecake and bake 5 additional minutes.

Cool cheesecake completely in pan on rack, about 3 hours.

Chill, covered, until cold, at least 4 hours. Gently separate the sides with a butter knife and unlock the sides of the pan, bring to room temperature before serving.

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ALICE WATER'S APPLE TART

Up next is a quite simple apple tart or galette if you feel like going free form. It is a little time consuming but the results are beautiful and delicious. It really makes the apple a star and it is not too sweet. To make it more fall like, I sprinkled cinnamon all over the apples with the sugar. I also served it warm with vanilla ice cream and I drizzled the leftover apple glaze over the ice cream. It's like an intense apple honey. I also made this tart with pears (sans cinnamon) and Hello Amazing! If you're short for time, you can use pre-made pie dough, it saves time but you won't have the delicious light buttery and flaky dough as you would homemade. It really is a thing of beauty!

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Alice Water's Apple Tart
Dough: 

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, just softened, cut in 1/2-inch pieces 3 1/2 tablespoons chilled water

Filling: 
2 pounds apples (Golden Delicious or another tart, firm variety), peeled, cored (save peels and cores), and sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
5 tablespoons sugar

Glaze:
1/2 cup sugar

Mix flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl; add 2 tablespoons of the butter. Blend in a mixer until dough resembles coarse cornmeal. Add remaining butter; mix until biggest pieces look like large peas.

Dribble in water, stir, then dribble in more, until dough just holds together. Toss with hands, letting it fall through fingers, until it’s ropeywith some dry patches. If dry patches predominate, add another tablespoon water. Keep tossing until you can roll dough into a ball. Flatten into a 4-inch-thick disk; refrigerate. After at least 30 minutes, remove; let soften so it’s malleable but still cold. Smooth cracks at edges. On a lightly floured surface, roll into a 14-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Dust excess flour from both sides with a dry pastry brush. Place dough in a lightly greased 9-inch round tart pan, or simply on a parchment-lined baking sheet if you wish to go free-form, orgalette-style with it. Heat oven to 400 degrees. (If you have a pizza stone, place it in the center of the rack.)

Overlap apples on dough in a ring 2 inches from edge if going galette-style, or up to the sides if using the tart pan. Continue inward until you reach the center. Fold any dough hanging over pan back onto itself; crimp edges at 1-inch intervals.

Brush melted butter over apples and onto dough edge. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over dough edge and the other 3 tablespoons over apples. (I only used about 3 tablespoons, 5 would have been nuts! So 1 tb over the crust, and the rest over the apples. It was also organic sugar so the crystals have a larger more raw appearance. I also added cinnamon at this stage for a yummy cinnamon/apple taste).

Bake in center of oven until apples are soft, with browned edges, and crust has caramelized to a dark golden brown (about 45 minutes), making sure to rotate tart every 15 minutes.

Make glaze: Put reserved peels and cores in a large saucepan, along with sugar. Pour in just enough water to cover; simmer for 25 minutes. Strain syrup through cheesecloth.

Remove tart from oven, and slide off parchment onto cooling rack. Let cool at least 15 minutes.

Brush glaze over apples in the tart, slice, and serve. The glaze gives the tart a beautiful glossy appearance.

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CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT MOUSSE TORTE

This particular dessert is amazingly easy and delicious.  It's perfect for any occasion you want to look exceptionally culinarily accomplished. There is barely any baking is involved which leaves your oven free for other things. The results are amazingly decadent. It taste like a light creamy Nutella pie with a cookie crust.

Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Torte (adapted from Everyday Food)
For crust:
16 honey graham crackers

1/4 cup of chopped hazelnuts, plus more for garnish
tb. of brown sugar
1/2 tsp. of salt
1 stick of butter melted and cooled

For filling:
1 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream
5 oz. of bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

 

 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Pulverize all the dry ingredients, graham crackers, sugar, salt, and hazelnuts in a food processor. Funnel in the melted butter and stop when just combined. Pour in a 9 inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Use the bottom of a glass to flatten the bottom and push the crust evenly around the sides of the pan. Bake in oven until golden and fragrant, about 20 minutes. Let cool COMPLETELY.
To make the filling, pour 3/4 cup of heavy whipping cream into a medium saucepan. Cook until simmering. Turn off heat, pour in chocolate. Let it rest for 5 minutes and then whisk to combine.
While the chocolate and cream rest, whip up remaining heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form, gently fold the chocolate mixture in. Pour into cooled pie crust, and garnish with remaining hazelnuts (toast for extra flavor). Cover and chill in fridge for at least 2 hours. Can be made 2 days ahead of time. Enjoy!

ROASTED CHESTNUTS

I have really great memories of my mom roasting chestnuts for us.  Nothing warms your freezing cold mitts like these naturally sweet buttery morsels! 

Slice an "x" mark through the skin of chestnuts (be careful, they're slippery!), cut them on a dishtowel. Roast at 425 degrees for 20-30 minutes stirring them occasionally. Let cool slightly and peel while still warm.

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LEMON PLUM CAKE

Chilly weather is FINALLY here so turning on the oven doesn't give me anxiety anymore. I have made this cake plenty of times and it is always a hit.  This lemony plum cake is to die for and you can make it with any stone fruit.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream and you'll have a new favorite on your hands.

From Everyday Food:
1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, plus more for pan
1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour, plus 2 tb (spoon & level)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp of salt
1/2 cup of packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp of vanilla extract
2 tsp of finely grated lemon zest
1/4 cup of sour cream
3 plums, halved, pitted and cut into eighths
confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, butter an 8-9 inch cake pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment. In a large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of flour, baking soda, and salt.
Using an electric mixer, beat butter, and sugars until light and fluffy. With mixer on low, beat in eggs one at a time until incorporated; beat in vanilla and lemon zest. Beat in half of the flour mixture, then sour cream. Add remaining flour mixture and mix until just combined.
Spread batter into pan and smooth top with a knife. In a bowl, toss plums with 2 tb of flour and sprinkle over batter.
Bake cake until golden, about 30 minutes; loosely tent with foil and bake until cake pulls away from side of pan and a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 35 minutes more. Let cake cool completely in pan. Run knife around the edge and remove cake from pan. Dust with confectioner's sugar before serving.