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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Candy

The University of Oregon defeated Ohio State University 46–33 in 1939 to win the first-ever NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The Final Four, as the tournament became known, has grown in size and popularity since then. Today, the NCAA basketball tournament has become the most popular sporting event, after the Super Bowl.

For the first 12 years of the men’s tournament, only eight teams were invited to participate. Today, the tournament breaks into four regions of 16 teams. The winning teams from those regions comprise the Final Four, who meet in that year’s host city to decide the championship.

The NCAA held its first women’s basketball tournament in 1982. The women’s tournament started with 32 teams, but now the women’s format echoes the men’s, with play in four regions culminating in a Final Four held in a single location. The championship is played the day after the men’s, concluding the college basketball season.

Yesterday was Selection Sunday and the madness begins on Thursday. Here are some recipes to help you cheer.

Cheesesteak Sandwiches

4 large sandwiches

Ingredients

1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
Half a green bell pepper, finely chopped
8 very thin sandwich steaks (usually sirloin)
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 slices American cheese or your favorite cheese
4 long hoagie rolls, about 8 inches long (I like Martin’s for these sandwiches)

To make the toppings:

Heat a griddle or a large, heavy frying pan, over medium heat. Add oil to the pan and, when it begins to shimmer, add the garlic, onion and green peppers and stir to combine.

Cook, stirring every so often, until they begin to soften, approximately 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, remove to a bowl and set aside.

To make the steaks:

Place the steaks between pieces of plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet until uniformly thin.

Turn the heat to high until nearly smoking. Season the meat aggressively with salt and pepper.

Place the steaks on the griddle, working in batches if necessary, and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until well browned but very rare. Remove to a serving platter and allow to rest.

To make the sandwiches:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Place the sub rolls in the oven to warm.

Return sliced steaks to the griddle or frying pan, over medium heat, and place the onions and peppers on top of the steaks. Turn heat to low and cover each steak with sliced cheese.

To serve:

Remove the rolls from the oven and fill each sub with a mixture of 2 steaks, vegetables and cheese. I usually cut these sandwiches in half and arrange on a serving platter.

If serving to guests, keep them warm on a hot plate.

Deviled Eggs and Smoked Salmon

Ingredients

6 large eggs
¼ cup finely chopped onion
¼ cup finely chopped celery
¼ cup olive oil mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
6 oz smoked salmon slices
2 tablespoons chopped chives

Directions

Place the eggs in a saucepan just large enough to hold the six eggs. Cover with cold water and place the pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat and cover the saucepan.

Let the eggs rest in the hot water for 12 minutes. Drain the water from the pot and add some ice cubes and cold water to cover the cooked eggs.

Let them cool until you can handle the eggs without burning your fingers.

Gently tap the eggs in several places and remove the shells. Place the peeled eggs on paper towels to dry.

Cut the eggs in half lengthwise. Carefully remove the yolks and place in a mixing bowl. Mash the yolks with a fork. Add the onion, celery, mayonnaise, mustard and salt and pepper. Mix well.

With a spoon fill each egg where the yolk had been with some of the mixture.

Place the eggs on a platter and chill.

To serve:

Arrange the eggs and salmon on a serving platter. Sprinkle chives over both and serve.

Spanakopita Triangles

Let the package of fillo dough sit in the refrigerator overnight to defrost. Any remaining dough can be kept in the refrigerator well wrapped in plastic for four weeks or be refrozen, so don’t worry that you are not using the entire package.

Makes about 16 triangles

Ingredients

One 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
3 scallions (green onions), minced
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
1 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
48 sheets Fillo Dough, thawed
Olive oil
Tzatziki, recipe below

Directions

In a mixing bowl, combine the spinach with the scallions, parsley, dill, cheeses, eggs, salt and pepper until smooth.

Keep the fillo dough not being used, covered with a damp cloth to prevent drying, while you work on the triangles.

Spread one sheet of the dough on a cutting board and brush with some olive oil. Place a second sheet of dough on top and brush with oil. Repeat with a third sheet.

Cut the layered fillo in half lengthwise. Place one tablespoon of filling about 1″ from the corner of each strip. Fold one corner of fillo diagonally across to the opposite edge to form a triangle.

Brush lightly with oil. Continue to fold the triangle onto itself. Brush the outside of the triangle with oil and place the triangles seam side down on parchment covered cookie sheets at least 1” apart.

Repeat until all the filling is used up.

Bake in a preheated 350ºF oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Rolls can be made ahead and reheated just before party time.

Serve hot with Tzatziki Sauce.

Tzatziki

Ingredients

1 cup peeled and seeded cucumber, finely chopped
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Place the chopped cucumber in a fine mesh colander and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon of salt. Place the colander over a bowl and let the cucumbers drain for one hour.

Turn the cucumbers over on paper towels. Squeeze all the water out.

Combine the cucumber and remaining ingredients in a small bowl; cover and chill at least 1 hour.

Quick and Easy Almond Bark

Ingredients

16 ounces slivered almonds
16 ounces high quality baking milk or dark chocolate (such as Valrhona )

Directions

Toast the almonds in a 9″x 13″ baking pan at 350 degrees F for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove to a bowl and cool.

Line the same baking pan with a piece of parchment and set aside.

Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl with a cover in the microwave on high for about 2 minutes. Uncover and stir the chocolate with a spatula until smooth.

Stir in the nuts, a little at a time, until they are all incorporated and covered with chocolate.

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan. Spread the mixture to the sides of the pan and press down with a spatula until smooth.

Cover with another piece of parchment and press down to flatten. Chill in the refrigerator until hardened.

Cut into serving pieces and store in a cool place.

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candy

Treat family and friends to homemade candy this holiday season with these recipes adapted from King Arthur Christmas Candy recipes.

Cranberry Nut Chocolate Bark

candy1

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup toasted diced pecans
  • 2 2/3 cups chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 2/3 cups chopped white chocolate

Directions

Mix the cranberries and pecans together. Set them aside.

Melt the dark chocolate and spread it into an 8″ x 12″ oval on parchment paper placed on a baking sheet.

Allow the chocolate to set, but not harden completely.

Melt the white chocolate and mix it with 3/4 cup of the cranberries and pecans.

Spread this over the dark chocolate.

Sprinkle the rest of the nuts and fruit on top, pressing them in gently.

Allow the candy to cool until hardened; then break it into chunks.

Dark Chocolate Buttercrunch

candy2

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks, 1/2 pound) butter*
  • 1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) diced pecans or slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1 pound semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped or chocolate chips, (you’ll need about 2 2/3 cups)

*If you use unsalted butter, add 1/2 teaspoon salt to the mixture.

Directions

In a large, deep saucepan melt the butter. Stir in the sugar, water and corn syrup and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil gently, over medium heat, until the mixture reaches the hard-crack stage (300°F on an instant-read or candy thermometer).

The syrup will bubble without seeming to change much for a while, but be patient; all of a sudden it will darken and at that point you need to take the temperature and see if it’s ready. (If you don’t have a thermometer, test a dollop in ice water; it should immediately harden to a brittleness sufficient that you’ll be able to snap it in two, without any bending or softness). This whole process should take about 10 to 12 minutes.

Do not leave the mixture unattended – too long on the heat and the syrup will burn.

While the sugar mixture is gently bubbling, spread half of the nuts in a closely packed, even single layer, on a lightly greased baking sheet (a half sheet pan works well here). Top with half the chocolate.

When the syrup is ready, pour it quickly and evenly over the nuts and chocolate. Immediately top with the remaining chocolate, then the remaining nuts. Wait several minutes, then using the back of a spatula, gently press down on the chocolate-nut layer to spread the chocolate around evenly.

While the candy is still slightly warm, use a spatula to loosen it from the baking sheet and move to a piece of parchment paper on the counter top. When cool, break it into uneven chunks. Yield: about 24 big bite-sized pieces.

Salt Caramels

candy3

Ingredients

  • 8 teaspoons (2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (1 pound) unsalted butter
  • 4 cups (1 quart) half & half
  • 2 cups light corn syrup
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Coarse flake sea salt for topping, optional

Directions

Butter two 8″ x 8″ or 10 1/2″ x 6 1/2″ pans.

Measure the vanilla into a small container and set it aside for later.

Cut the butter into 1″ chunks, to help it melt faster.

Combine the cut-up butter, half & half, corn syrup, sugars and salt in a heavy-bottomed, 5- to 6-quart saucepan.
Heat the mixture over medium-low heat until everything has melted, stirring constantly. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan.

Cook slowly, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 248°F, or until a small amount dropped in cold water forms a firm ball.

Remove the pan from the heat and carefully stir in the vanilla; the mixture will bubble and boil.

Quickly pour the caramel into the prepared pans. Don’t scrape any of the residue from the bottom of the pot onto the pans.

Wait 30 minutes, then sprinkle with coarse-flake sea salt, if desired. Cover the candy securely, and refrigerate.

Allow the candy to warm up a bit or it’ll shatter when you bang the pan. Remove the candy from the pan by loosening its edges with a knife or offset spatula and banging the pan on a cutting board until the slab releases from the pan.

Cut the caramel into squares and wrap in waxed paper. Store in the refrigerator for the longest shelf life. Wrapped caramels can also be frozen. Yield: about 10 dozen 1″ caramels.

Panforte

candy4

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups skinned hazelnuts
  • 1 1/4 cups whole blanched almonds
  • 3 cups candied mixed peel (or a mixture of candied orange peel and candied lemon peel)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for topping

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line an 8″ round cake pan with parchment (or foil) and grease the parchment. Set the pan aside.

Toast the hazelnuts and almonds for 20 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown on separate baking pans. It’s best to do this in separate pans as the nuts toast at slightly different rates and you may want to take one pan out of the oven before the other. Remove the nuts from the oven and set them aside to cool. When you can handle them, chop them coarsely.

Put the nuts, candied peel, spices, salt and flour in a mixing bowl. Stir to combine.

Combine the sugar, honey and butter in a saucepan and place an instant-read or candy thermometer on the side of the pan. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently, until it reaches a temperature of about 245°F. This happens very quickly, so don’t walk away; it should take about 2 minutes (or less) from the time the syrup starts to boil.

Immediately pour the boiling syrup over the fruit and nuts in the bowl. Stir to combine and pour into the prepared cake pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. You need to work fast, as the mixture will start to stiffen up. Place the cake pan on a baking sheet.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes; it won’t seem firm, but will set as it cools. Remove the pan from the oven and after 45 minutes loosen the edges with a table knife or heat-proof spatula. Turn the warm panforte out of the pan onto a piece of parchment or foil. The bottom is now the top.

Sprinkle the top of the panforte heavily with confectioners’ sugar, gently rubbing it in, if desired. Let it cool completely before wrapping airtight.

Store the panforte, at room temperature, for up to 2 months. To serve this rich cake, cut it in thin wedges.
Yield: about 20 servings.

To make chocolate panforte:

Add 2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa to the nuts/peel/flour mixture. Melt 1/2 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips; stir them into the nuts/peel/flour mixture along with the honey syrup. Bake as directed in the  recipe above.

Cappuccino Blocks

candy5

Ingredients

  • 1 cup heavy cream, divided
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups chopped white chocolate

Coating:

  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
  • Wooden sticks or stir sticks

Directions

Line an 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil and spray lightly with non-stick baking spray.

Place 1/2 cup cream in a medium saucepan. Add the espresso powder, corn syrup, salt and sugar. Stir over medium heat until the espresso powder and sugar are dissolved and the mixture begins to boil.

Cover the pan and let boil for 3 minutes. Uncover the pan and check the temperature; it should be 235°F to 240°F (soft ball stage). If it is, remove from the heat; otherwise let it boil for a minute or two more.

Once the mixture reaches 235°F to 240°F, add the vanilla. Be careful; it will splash and splutter when it hits the hot liquid. Set the mixture aside for about 10 minutes to cool.

Meanwhile, place the remaining 1/2 cup cream into another saucepan. Heat until it’s just beginning to steam.
Remove from the heat and add the white chocolate. Let sit for about 5 minutes to melt. Then whisk vigorously until the mixture is shiny and smooth.

Add the sugar mixture to the chocolate mixture; stir to combine.

Combine the cocoa and ½ teaspoon espresso; sprinkle the chocolate with half the mixture. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, to set.

Turn the chocolate out of the pan and flip it over; sprinkle with the remaining cocoa/espresso powder blend.

Cut into 1 inch cubes. Stack two or three on a wooden stick and wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap to store.
Yield about 64 blocks, 21 servings.


homemadegifts

When it comes to giving this holiday season, be creative and make a truly personal gift for your friends and family. Homemade mixes are also one of the best Christmas gifts. There’s nothing like a homemade food gift, beautifully packaged along with recipe cards, to add warmth to the holidays.

homemadegifts1

Almond Granola

Makes about 8 cups

  • 1 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 3 cups raw almonds, sliced

Directions

Adjust the oven rack to an upper-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, salt and cinnamon in large bowl. Whisk in oil. Fold in oats and almonds until thoroughly coated.

Transfer oat mixture to prepared baking sheet, spread across sheet into a thin, even layer (about 3/8-inch thick). Using a stiff metal spatula, compress oat mixture until very compact.

Bake until lightly browned, 50 minutes, rotating pan once halfway through baking. Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack to room temperature, about 1 hour. Break into pieces of desired size and package in decorative containers for gifts.

homemadegifts2

Apple Tea Mix

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons loose green tea
  • 2 tablespoons snipped crystallized ginger
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 6 dried apple slices
  • 6 3-inch cinnamon sticks

Directions
In a small bowl combine tea, crystallized ginger, allspice and cloves. Divide tea mixture and dried apple slices among six paper tea filters. Tie the tops of the filters with kitchen string, tying a cinnamon stick at the top of each. Place filled tea filters inside six decorative heat-proof mugs.

Attach the following directions for serving:

To Make Spiced Apple Tea: Add 6 to 8 ounces of hot water to one mug. Add a tea bag and let steep for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove and discard the tea bag. Place cinnamon stick in the mug and serve.

homemadegifts3

Hazelnut Brownie Mix

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 ounces milk or dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped, toasted hazelnuts
  • 1/3 cup mini marshmallows

Directions

In a 1-quart decorative  jar layer sugar, cocoa powder and chopped chocolate. In a small bowl stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Spoon over chocolate in the jar. Top with hazelnuts and marshmallows; fasten lid.

Attach the following directions for making brownies.

To Make Brownies:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 9x9x2-inch baking pan with foil, extending foil over the edges of the pan. Grease the foil; set pan aside.

In a large bowl whisk together 2/3 cup melted butter and 3 eggs until well combined. Add the contents of the jar to the butter mixture; stir until well combined. Spread batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake for 35 minutes. (Moist crumbs will remain attached to wooden toothpick inserted near center of brownies). Cool brownies in the pan on a wire rack. Use foil to lift uncut brownies out of the pan. Place on a cutting board. Cut into bars.

homemadegifts4

Coconut-Pecan Muffin Mix

Makes: 1 gift (4½ cups)

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • One 7-ounce package sweetened shredded coconut (2 2/3 cups)
  • 3/4 cup pecans (chopped)
  • 12 muffin paper cup liners

Directions
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugars and salt. Mix in the coconut and pecans.
Transfer the mix to a resealable decorative paper bag.  Wrap with ribbon and affix with a label and a gift tag with the baking instructions.

Copy the following instructions on a gift tag or label to include with your gift:

“Heat oven to 350º F. In a large bowl, whisk together 3 large eggs and ¾ cup canola oil. Add the muffin mix and stir just until combined. Divide among the cups of a 12-cup muffin tin lined with the paper liners. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.”

homemadegifts6

Chocolate Truffles

4 dozen truffles

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound semisweet chocolate
  • 1/2 pound good-quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream or whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
  • 2 tablespoons coffee flavored liqueur
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Directions

Coarsely chop both chocolates and set aside.

Heat the cream and instant coffee in a saucepan, stirring to blend. When bubbles start to form along the edge of the pan, remove from the heat. Scatter the chocolate over the cream, stirring gently until melted. Set aside for 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the liqueur and vanilla. Stir gently, just until evenly blended. Scrape the chocolate into a shallow bowl. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours or up to 1 week.

Using a teaspoon or a melon baller, scoop up enough chocolate to make balls 1 inch in diameter. Place the balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Thoroughly combine the cocoa and powdered sugar in a bowl, making sure all the lumps are removed. Roll the balls in the cocoa mixture, shaking off the excess, then transfer to wax paper. Place each truffle in a candy paper cup and package in a decorative gift boxes.


party time 6

This is the season for graduations, showers and a host of other occasions – all reasons to have a spring get together with friends and family.  To entertain with elegance, not extravagance, host a dessert party. People will love you for giving them the chance to be just a bit indulgent. A dessert buffet works well in the late afternoon or as an after dinner event. You can easily make the buffet smaller or larger simply by subtracting or adding desserts.

Keep the setting simple: Let single-flower arrangements and the beautiful desserts displayed at interesting levels in plain sight put the focus on what the guests really came for – a good time. Set up the buffet table―minus the desserts and beverages―the night before.

Before setting out your dessert spread, keep these table tips in mind.

  • If you have a cake stand, use it. The height will add visual impact to the table and will offer a bit of extra space on the crowded buffet table.
  • Set out dishes of your favorite chocolates or chocolate-covered nuts.
  • Place the plates at the far end of the table, the desserts in the middle and the beverages, cutlery and napkins at the other end of the buffet table.
  • Depending on how many guests you’ve invited, you may or may not have enough “real” dessert-sized plates, beverage glasses and wine goblets. Disposable serveware is perfectly okay. You could also borrow some plates and glasses from friends—that’s okay too. It’s not essential that all the glasses and plates match
  • You can never have too many cocktail napkins, both on the buffet and on end tables.

Beverages and Desserts 

There’s no need to offer a full bar – regular and decaffeinated coffee, several kinds of tea and a sparkling wine and a fruity white wine are more than enough.

Select desserts with contrasting and complementary textures and flavors. Mix sweet and tart, smooth and crunchy, add a pleasing spice or highlight a big, bold taste — like dark chocolate!

Make one showstopping dessert to dazzle your guests and let the others play minor, but still important, roles.

It’s smart to provide some lighter sweets to go along with the decadent ones — for example, a fresh fruit platter. Cookies are always a big hit — especially if children are present.

Plan as many make-ahead desserts as will work well on your menu. All of the desserts below can be made well in advance of your party.

Preslice cakes, pies and tarts, but do not separate the slices. Arrange cookies in baskets, plates or unique decorative containers.

party time 1

Honey Cheesecake

To keep the cheesecake from cracking, run a knife between the crust and pan a few minutes after removing it from the oven. The cheesecake will cool and condense without sticking to the pan’s sides.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup finely ground walnuts
  • 1/4 cup vanilla wafer crumbs
  • 1 1/2 pounds light cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup honey, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup regular evaporated milk (not low-fat) (you may also use heavy cream)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh berries

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Brush the inside of 8 or 9 inch springform pan with melted butter.

Mix walnuts and cookie crumbs in small bowl; spread evenly in the pan, coating the bottom and sides.

Beat cream cheese and 3/4 cup honey with a mixer at medium speed until smooth, scraping down bowl’s sides occasionally, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time; beat in milk and vanilla. Beat in flour, cinnamon and salt.

Pour into the crumb covered pan.

Bake about 1 hour and 10 minutes or until lightly browned and a little puffed. Cheesecake will jiggle in the center but will set as it cools.

Cool on a wire rack 2 hours. Cover and refrigerate. To serve, drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons honey and garnish with fresh berries.

party time 2

Hazelnut Truffles

Makes 3 dozen

Ingredients

  • 3 dozen hazelnuts
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon hazelnut liqueur
  • 1 (6-ounce) package white chocolate baking squares
  • 2 (2-ounce) chocolate candy coating squares

Directions

Bake hazelnuts in a shallow pan at 350°F, stirring occasionally, 5 to 10 minutes or until toasted.

Microwave chocolate chips and whipping cream in a 2-cup glass measuring cup at HIGH for 1 1/2 minutes or until chips melt, stirring twice. Stir in liqueur.

Pour into a wax paper-lined 15 x 10 inch jelly roll pan; freeze 2 hours or until firm to touch.

Shape 1/2 teaspoon chocolate mixture around each hazelnut, coating completely and place on wax paper.

Microwave white chocolate baking squares in a 1-quart microwave-safe bowl at HIGH for 1 1/2 minutes or until melted, stirring twice.

spring party 1

Truffle Mold

 

Coat plastic candy molds with a thin layer of white chocolate using a small paintbrush; let stand 1 hour or until firm. Place coated hazelnuts in molds; brush with remaining white chocolate, sealing to edges of molds. Let stand at room temperature 1 1/2 hours or until firm.

Invert molds; tap firmly on cutting board to remove candy.

Microwave coating in a 1-cup glass measuring cup 1 minute or until melted, stirring once. Pour into a small heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag; seal. Snip a tiny hole in 1 corner of bag; drizzle over truffles. Let stand until firm.

spring party 2

 

Lemon-Coconut Pound Cake

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut, divided

Lemon Glaze

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Beat butter at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

Stir together flour, salt and baking soda. Add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low-speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in lemon zest and 1/2 cup coconut.

Pour batter into a greased and floured 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes to 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 to 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack and cool completely (about 1 hour).

To make glaze:

Whisk together powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons milk and fresh lemon juice, adding an additional 1 tablespoon milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, for desired consistency

Spoon Lemon Glaze over cake and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup coconut.

Watermelon Salad. Moreton's House 712 Greenwood, Chapel Hill, NC 27514-5923. W: 919 967 2185 C: 919 260 7465 www.nealsdeli.com A100527_F&W_NealsDeli_Sept_2010

Watermelon Salad with Mint and Lime

Lightly salting the watermelon brings out its flavor.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups seedless watermelon chunks (1 inch), from a 6-pound melon
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves, torn
  • Salt

Directions

In a large bowl, toss the watermelon chunks with the lime juice and cayenne. Fold in the mint leaves. Season lightly with salt and chill until serving time.

MAKE AHEAD The watermelon salad can be refrigerated overnight. Fold in the torn mint leaves just before serving.

party time 5

Bourbon-Brownie Petit Fours

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup bourbon 
  • 3 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Milk Chocolate Frosting/Semisweet Chocolate Glaze

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • One 5 3/4 ounce package milk chocolate chips
  • 16 ounce package semisweet chocolate chips or 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Directions

In a medium saucepan melt and stir butter and unsweetened chocolate over low heat until smooth. Remove from heat; cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 x 8 x 2 inch baking pan with foil, extending the foil over the edges of the pan. Grease foil; set aside.

In a small bowl stir together bourbon and coffee granules; set aside.

Stir sugar into cooled chocolate mixture in the saucepan. Add eggs, one at a time, beating with a wooden spoon just until combined. Stir in vanilla and bourbon mixture.

In a small bowl stir together flour and baking soda. Add flour mixture to the chocolate mixture, stirring just until combined.

Spread batter evenly in the prepared baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

Using the edges of the foil, lift the uncut brownies out of the pan. Cut off the edges of brownie and save for another use.

For the frosting:

In a small saucepan bring whipping cream just to boiling over medium-high heat. Remove from heat.

For Milk Chocolate Frosting:

Transfer 1/2 cup of the hot cream to a small bowl. Add milk chocolate chips (do not stir). Let stand for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth. Cover loosely and chill for 1 to 2 hours.

For Semisweet Chocolate Glaze:

Add semisweet chocolate chips to the remaining hot cream in the saucepan, stirring until smooth. Set aside.

When ready to glaze petits fours, reheat Semisweet Chocolate Glaze over medium-low heat to reach pouring consistency, stirring constantly.

For petits fours:

Cut brownies into 1- to 1-1/2-inch squares. Coat petits fours with Semisweet Chocolate Glaze.

For Milk Chocolate Rosettes:

Beat the reserved cooled milk chocolate mixture with an electric mixer about 30 seconds or until fluffy. Spoon frosting into a decorating bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe large rosettes in the center of each petit four.

spring party 7

Oatmeal-Cherry Cookies

Yield: about 60 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup snipped dried red cherries (6 ounces)

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high-speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda.

Beat until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in the remaining flour. Stir in oats and dried cherries.

Drop the dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake in a 350 degree F oven about 12 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Cool on cookie sheets for 1 minute. Transfer to wire racks and let cool.

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violinoAntonio Stradivari (1644-1737) was a crafter, like no other, of string instruments, violins, cellos, guitars, violas and harps. He created about a thousand Stradivarius instruments and about 650 survive today, mostly violins. The violin was originally designed to imitate the human voice and was used for ballet and dance music. It became the most prized instrument for orchestra and melody.

Stradivari or Stradivarius?

Both are used regularly and they actually mean exactly the same. The famous maker’s name was Antonio Stradivari, but it was customary at the time to latinise names, hence Stradivarius. He used Stradivarius on his violin labels and, therefore, it has become almost customary to refer to a violin made by Stradivari, as a Stradivarius. In fact it has almost become a superlative expression, meaning the absolute best, i.e. to be the “Stradivarius” of any field means “to be the best there is”.

Antonio’s ancestry goes back to the 12th century in Cremona, Italy, the capital of violin makers, since the 16th century. Antonio’s parents were Alessandro Stradivari and Anna Moroni. Stradivari likely began an apprenticeship with Nicolò Amati between the ages of 12 and 14, although a minor debate surrounds this fact. One of the few pieces of evidence supporting this is a label in his 1666 violin, which reads, “Alumnus Nicolo Amati, faciebat anno 1666”. However, Stradivari did not usually put the master’s name on his labels, unlike many of Amati’s other students. M. Chanot-Chardon, a well-known French luthier, asserted that his father had one of Stradivari’s instruments with a label stating, “Made at the age of thirteen, in the workshop of Nicolò Amati”. This label has never been found or confirmed. Amati, though, would have been a logical choice for Antonio’s parents, since the master was from an old family of violin makers who were far superior to most other luthiers in Italy at the time.

purfling

An alternative theory is that Stradivari started out as a woodworker because the house he lived in from 1667 to 1680 was owned by Francesco Pescaroli, a wood-carver. Stradivari may even have been employed to decorate some of Amati’s instruments, without being a true apprentice. This theory is supported by some of Stradivari’s later violins, which have elaborate decorations and purfling ( a narrow decorative edge inlaid into the top plate and often the back plate of a stringed instrument).

Assuming that Stradivari was a student of Amati, he would have begun his apprenticeship in 1656–58 and produced his first decent instruments in 1660 at the age of 16. His first labels were dated from 1660 to 1665, which indicated that his work had reached a quality sufficiently high enough for him to sell directly to his patrons. However, he probably stayed in Amati’s workshop until about 1684, so as to use his master’s reputation as a launching point for his career.

antonio

Stradivari was first married to Francesca Feraboschi with whom he had 5 children. After her death, he married Zambelli Costa with whom he had another 5 children. He lived on what is now Piazza Roma 1, where other famous violin-maker’s families lived at the time. Two of his sons, Omobono and Francesco, became violin makers.

Though the violins’ construction was influenced by Amati, Stradivari soon developed his own style. His carved heads showed what a skilled craftsman he was and his violins became very popular throughout Europe. It was said that his secret formula for the varnish gave his violins their unique sound. He experimented with the shape and design of the violins and, in the 1690s, the Long Stradivarius with a larger pattern, flatter form, reclined sound holes and a darker, richer varnish emerged that all proved to be a crtical modifications. There were ornate violins, such as the collection made for the Spanish court in 1687, inlaid with ivory and with scrollwork round the sides. In 1688, Stradivari outlined the heads in black, one of the famous features of a Stradivarius’ violin from that period. Noblemen of the time commissioned him to make instruments for them and, as a result, Stradivari became famous during his own lifetime. Violins were considered fashionable and when the virtuoso violinist, Niccolò Paganini, played a Stradivarius, he was treated like the equivalent of one of today’s rock stars!

Some of the earlier violins are referred to as “Amatise” and the later ones as “Long Strads” or “Grand Pattern.” They are all better known by their interesting names which they acquired due to the fame of the owner and by their appearance and sound. In 1698 Antonio began making a slightly shorter model and, between the years 1700-1720, which is considered his “Golden Period,” the violins had higher quality curves, rich varnish, gracefulness and a number of variations.

stradivari

The violins themselves are like characters, each unique, each having a name and a history, each with its own beauty – names like “Sleeping Beauty,” “Firebird,” “Lincoln,” “Spanish,” “Emperor” and “Leonardo da Vinci”. The “Davidoff” Stradivarius cello is owned by YoYo Ma, the “Barjansky” Strad belongs to Julian Lloyd Webber and “Soil” to Itzhak Perlman. The “Dolphin” is with the Nippon Music Foundation. The “Mendelssohn” sold in 1990 for £902,000, the “Kreutzer” sold in 1998 for £947,500. “Lady Tennant” sold for an enormous $2 million in 2005 through the Christie’s Auction House and “The Lady Blunt” (dated 1721) raised $15.9 million for the Japan Earthquake fund in 2011. The well-known “Molitor” was bought by Anne Akiko Meyers in 2010 at the Tarisio Auctions for $3.6 million, the “Hammer” (1707) sold in 2006 for $3.5 million and in 2012 the “Baron van der Leyen” Stradivarius sold at the Tarisio auction for $2.6 million.

It is not surprising that because of the great value attached to the violins there are a number of forgeries, so these instruments must always be authenticated before purchasing. Museums and orchestras own and house many of the violins and violas but not all the violins are in use. However, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra owns several that are in use. The Library of Congress, the Royal Palace of Madrid, the Royal Academy of Music, the Musée de la Musique (Paris), the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Music Museum (South Dakota) all have instruments safely kept in good condition. The “Messiah” Stradivarius is not played but is housed at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England.

Antonio Stradivari was a master of his trade and for over sixty years he produced suburb instruments. The last recorded violin was produced in 1737 the same year he died at the age of 93. Both Stradivari and Guarneri instruments are highly regarded today and judging by the value placed on them by society, these instruments are considered a treasure. George Eliot, the poet, captured this sentiment in a line from the poem, “Stradivarius” (1873): “When any master holds twixt chin and hand a violin of mine, he will be glad that Stradivarius lived, made violins and made them of the best’’.

Stradivari_statue_cremona

Statue in Cremona honoring Stradivarius.

Cremona, Italy

The city of Cremona is situated in Lombardy, on the left bank of the Po River. It is the capital of the province of Cremona and the seat of the local city and province governments. The city  is especially noted for its musical history and traditions, including some of the earliest and most renowned luthiers. The Province consists of vast plains broken up by woods and large meadows that, thanks to the canals built by inhabitants in centuries past, has been transformed into an extensive, fertile countryside ideal for agriculture. The cuisine of Cremona brings the characteristic tastes of local farms to the table. Cured pork and sausages, including garlic-scented salami, cotechino with lentils, culatello ham and all types of pork that are important ingredients for local recipes.

Pickled fruit (mostarda), made here since the Middle Ages, has become well-known. Large slices or whole candied fruit are mixed with mustard and cooked until thick. Mostarda is served with the rich, boiled meat dishes of the region.

A typical Cremonese pasta is filled with boiled meats, mortadella and liver and it is served in broth. Tortelli are also a popular dish, as are Salva cheese, Bertolina (a sweet focaccia with egg) and the local dessert, Spingarda.

From the ancient origins of this area comes torrone, nougat candy. Torrone was first made in 1441 to celebrate the marriage of Bianca Maria Visconti (the daughter of the Duke of Milan) and Francesco Sforza.

Mostardadicremona

Mostarda di Cremona

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces (300 g) pears
  • 8 ounces (200 g) quinces
  • 6 ounces (150 g) cherries
  • 8 ounces (200 g) apricots
  • 10 ounces (250 g) figs
  • 8 ounces (200 g) peaches
  • 3 tablespoons powdered mustard seed
  • 3 1/2 cups (800 g) sugar
  • 2 cups white wine vinegar

Directions

Preparing the fruit:

Keep the individual kinds of fruit separate. Wash and dry the cherries and figs. Wash the apricots and remove the pits; do the same with the peaches and cut them into halves or quarters if they’re large. Peel, core and quarter the pears and quinces.

Heat a quart of water in a large pot and when it begins to simmer slowly stir in the sugar. When it has dissolved, add the quinces. Simmer 20 minutes, then add the pears. Then the peaches, apricots, cherries and figs, at five-minute intervals. When you’ve added everything, simmer the mixture for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the mixture cool.

In the meantime, heat the vinegar and stir in the mustard. Let the mixture cool.

Transfer the fruit from the syrup to sterile jars with a slotted spoon. Mix the syrup and the vinegar mixture, pour the combined sauce over the fruit, seal the jars in a processing bath and store them in a cool dry place.

tortelli-zucca

Tortelli di Zucca

Ingredients

For the filling:

  • 2 1/4 pounds (1 k) squash (butternut, pumpkin or sweet potatoes)
  • 4 ounces (100 g) amaretti (almond macaroons)
  • 4 ounces (100 g) raisins
  • 4 ounces (100 g) Mostarda di Cremona, recipe above
  • 2 cups (100 g) grated Parmigiano cheese
  • Salt
  • A little (1/8 teaspoon) freshly grated nutmeg

For the pasta:

  • 3 cups (350 g) flour
  • 2/3 cup (100 g) semolina
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 1 tablespoon milk

For the sauce:

  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano cheese

Directions

Peel and cube the squash and roast in a hot oven until it’s fork-tender.

Grind the amaretti in a food processor and mince the raisins. When the squash is done, blend or process until mashed. Combine the pulp with the amaretti, raisins, cheese and nutmeg; mix well. Cover the filling with a damp cloth and let it sit in a cool place for several hours.

Prepare the pasta:

Using an electric mixer with a dough hook, mix the ingredients to obtain a firm dough. Knead quite well, for 10-15 minutes or more.

When you are ready to make the pasta, roll the dough out very thin with a rolling-pin or with a pasta maker (about 1 mm) and cut it into 4-inch (10 cm) squares.

Put a tablespoon of filling in the middle of each square and top with another pasta square tamping down with a fork along the edges to seal them.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and then salt it. Cook the tortelli, a few at a time, for a few minutes, (usually they rise to the surface when cooked al dente) and then remove them with a slotted spoon or spider. They’re delicate and will break if you pour the pot into a colander to drain them. Put them in a serving bowl, sprinkling them with melted butter and grated cheese, as you add more cooked pasta to the bowl.

Beef-With-Fruity-Mustard-Sauce-Mostarda-Di-Frutta

Boiled Beef With Fruity-Mustard Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2-3 lb piece of stewing beef
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 stalk rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • A few dill and parsley stalks, chopped
  • Salt
  • “Mostarda di frutta” to taste

Directions

Put the whole piece of meat into a pan with water to cover. When the meat starts to boil, add some salt and the diced onions and carrots. Add the rosemary, oregano and bay leaves.

Cook the meat, until tender, about 2 hours over low heat.

Add the fresh parsley and dill. Turn the heat off and leave the meat in the pan for another 15 minutes.

Remove the meat and slice it. Put some meat slices on each serving plate and top with some fruit-mustard syrup and slices of fruit.

Torrone

Homemade Torrone

Torrone, the classic Italian nougat. This traditional recipe is scented with honey, orange and almond flavors. As with many egg white-based candies, nougat does not do well in humidity, so try to choose a low humidity day to make this candy. Traditionally, nougat is made with edible rice paper, to make it easier to slice and serve. If you cannot find any, line your pan with foil and spray it thoroughly with nonstick cooking spray. Smooth the top as best you can and skip the compacting step described below.

Ingredients

  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups toasted almonds
  • Edible rice paper

Directions

Prepare an 8×11 inch pan by lining it with plastic wrap that extends over the sides of the pan, then spraying it with nonstick cooking spray, taking care to spray the sides well. (For thinner nougat, a 9×13 inch pan can be used instead.) Place the edible rice paper in a single layer on the bottom of the pan—you may need to cut the pieces to fit the pan.

Place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of a large stand mixer that has been thoroughly cleaned and dried. Any traces of grease on the bowl or whisk will prevent the egg whites from beating properly.

Combine 3 cups of sugar, honey, corn syrup and water in a large, deep saucepan over medium heat. The mixture will foam up as it cooks, so be sure your pan is large enough to safely handle the rising mixture. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to remove any stray sugar crystals. Insert a candy thermometer and cook the syrup, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches 290 degrees Fahrenheit (143 C).

When the syrup reaches 270 F (132 C), start beating the egg whites and salt with the electric mixer using the whisk attachment. When the whites form soft peaks, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, a little at a time, until the whites are shiny and can hold firm peaks. Ideally, this stage should be reached when the sugar syrup reaches 290 degrees F (143 C), but if the whites are at stiff peaks before the syrup is ready, stop the mixer so the whites are not overbeaten.

Replace the whisk attachment with the paddle attachment. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour the sugar into a large 4-cup measuring cup or similarly sized heat proof container with a spout. With the mixer on medium speed, slowly and carefully stream the hot syrup into the egg whites. (If you don’t have a container with a spout, be very careful when pouring the hot sugar syrup directly from the saucepan into the mixer.)

Increase the speed of the mixer to medium-high and continue to beat the egg whites for 5 minutes, until very thick, stiff and shiny. Add the three extracts and beat briefly to incorporate them.

Add the toasted almonds and stir until they’re well-incorporated. The candy will be very sticky and stiff.

Scrape the candy into the prepared pan, then use an offset spatula or knife sprayed with nonstick cooking spray to smooth the top. Cover the top completely with another layer of rice paper, cut to fit. Place a pan of the same size on top of the nougat and place a large book or other heavy object in the pan to weigh it down. Let sit at room temperature for several hours.

When you are ready to cut the nougat, lift it from the pan using the plastic wrap as handles. Spray a large sharp chef’s knife with nonstick cooking spray and cut the nougat into small squares. If the knife gets too sticky, periodically wash it with hot water, dry it between cuts and re-spray.

Nougat can be served immediately or stored in an airtight container at room temperature. It is sticky and will gradually lose its shape once cut, so for storage purposes, wrap individual squares in nonstick waxed paper.

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The most common Valentine’s Day symbols are the heart, particularly in reds and pinks, and pictures or models of Cupid. Cupid is usually portrayed as a small winged figure with a bow and arrow. In mythology, he uses his arrow to strike the hearts of people. People who have fallen in love are sometimes said to be “struck by Cupid’s arrow”. Other symbols of Valentine’s Day are couples in loving embraces and the gifts of flowers, chocolate, red roses and lingerie that couples often give each other.

To celebrate this lovers’ holiday Italians give each other flowers, plan romantic dinners and present each other with chocolates, much like in the United States. The renowned Italian chocolate maker, Perugina celebrates this day by making a special edition of the Baci chocolate candies with a shiny red wrapper and a sweet red cherry and liquid center rather than the traditional hazelnut one. These chocolates are always a favorite and inside the foil wrapper there is a “love note” with a romantic phrase.

In some countries like Vietnam, there is a different way to celebrate it. Couples wear the same style and/or color of clothes.

Japan has its own interesting way, too. For them, there are two Valentine’s Days. On February 14th, girls give dark chocolate to the boys they like. On March 14th, boys give cookies or white chocolate to the girls they like.

In some parts of the Dominican Republic and El Salvador friends and family play games.

In Spain only people in love get and give presents. Friends or family don’t exchange notes or presents.

All over the world people celebrate Valentine’s Day by expressing love to sweethearts, spouses and special ones. However, customs and traditions of celebrating the festival vary in different countries due to social and cultural differences.

So where did the idea of giving chocolates on Valentine’s Day come from? From the moment chocolate was discovered it was considered valuable, divine and decadent, so what better gift to give a woman? The first chocolate candies (as we know them today) were invented in the 1860s by Cadbury, who was also the first to market them in a heart-shaped box for Valentine’s Day.

The brilliance of marketers have certainly helped sales and popularity, but its aphrodisiac effect is surely one of the dominating factors underlying its status as a gift of choice. In addition to the aphrodisiac effects, research suggests that there are many more health related benefits. A healthy component of chocolate is its high level of antioxidant polyphenols. These are the same compounds found in red wine, fruits and vegetables that are touted for their heart-healthy and disease preventing qualities.

A chocolate’s taste, its smoothness and its aroma takes over one’s senses. As a matter of fact, there are few foods that people feel as passionate about as chocolate, a passion that goes beyond a plain old sweet tooth. For the true chocoholic, just thinking about chocolate can evoke a sensation of pleasure. Chocolate is mood-enhancing and, when eaten in moderate amounts, it is harmless to your health.

tiramisu

Chocolate Tiramisu

Ingredients

Serves 10.

  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for garnish
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese (or cream cheese), room temperature
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 24 ladyfinger cookies (from a 7-ounce package)

Directions

In a medium bowl, mix cocoa powder with 1 1/2 cups very hot water until dissolved; set cocoa mixture aside.

In a small microwave-safe bowl, place 1/4 cup cream and chocolate; microwave in 1-minute increments and stir until melted. Cool to room temperature.

Transfer cooled chocolate mixture to a mixing bowl; add cheese and sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat until blended. Add remaining cream; beat filling until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Spread 1 cup of chocolate filling in the bottom of a 2-quart serving dish. One at a time, dip 6 ladyfingers in cocoa mixture, then arrange in a single layer in the bottom of the dish; spread with 1 cup of chocolate filling. Repeat with three more layers, ending with filling.

Cover tiramisu and refrigerate at least 2 hours (or up to 2 days). Dust with cocoa powder or shaved chocolate before serving.

warm cakes

Chocolate Cakes with Apricot-Amaretto Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup apricot jam, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon Amaretto

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350° F and line 4 muffin cups with paper liners. In a medium heatproof glass bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine the chocolate chips with the butter, sugar, cornstarch and vanilla. Stir until the chocolate chips are melted and smooth.

Remove the bowl from the saucepan and let the chocolate mixture cool slightly. Whisk in the whole eggs and the egg yolks.

Spoon the batter into the lined muffin cups. Bake for 10 minutes, until set around the edges and soft in the center. Let stand for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the apricot jam with the Amaretto until smooth.

Invert the cakes onto plates and remove the paper liners. Spoon the apricot sauce around the cakes and serve.

Chocolate bark w/nuts & seeds. A101201 Food & Wine Chef's Diet March 2011

Dark Chocolate Bark with Roasted Almonds

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dark chocolate (60 to 70 percent cacao)
  • 1 1/4 cups roasted whole almonds
  • 3/4 cup salted roasted pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds

Directions

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Using a sharp knife, finely chop the chocolate. In a bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water, heat the chopped chocolate, stirring occasionally, until it is about two-thirds melted; do not let the bowl touch the water.

Remove the bowl from the saucepan and stir the chocolate until it is completely melted and the temperature registers 90° on a candy thermometer. If the chocolate has not melted completely and is still too cool, set it back over the saucepa of simmering water for 1 or 2 minutes longer, stirring constantly; do not overheat.

Stir the almonds and seeds into the chocolate and spread onto the prepared baking sheet in a 1/2-inch-thick layer, making sure the nuts and seeds are completely covered in chocolate. Refrigerate the bark for about 10 minutes, until hardened. Invert the bark onto a work surface. Remove the parchment paper, break into 25 pieces.

MAKE AHEAD The broken bark can be stored in an airtight bag or container at cool room temperature for up to 10 days.

68565-cocoa-cookies-h-2

Chocolate Oat Cookies

Yield: 2 dozens

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup ground almonds (or nuts of choice)
  • 1 1/4 cups ground oats (grind in a blender)
  • 1 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 pinch salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine ground almonds, ground oats, flour, cocoa, salt and chocolate chips in a mixing bowl.

Combine maple syrup and oil and mix with the dried ingredients until well combined and forms a dough.

Scoop out heaping teaspoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes; cookies should be just set. Remove to a cooling rack.

sherbet

Chocolate Sherbet

Ingredients

  • 7 ounces 60-percent-cacao chocolate or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 cups water
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup whipping (heavy) cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pomegranate seeds (optional)

Directions

In a medium saucepan stir together chopped chocolate, sugar, water and cream. Bring to boiling, whisking constantly. Boil gently for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Cover and chill overnight.

Freeze mixture in a 1-quart ice cream freezer according to manufacturers directions. Store in the freezer for a few hours before serving.

To serve, scoop into small glasses or dishes and garnish with pomegranate seeds.

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The benefits of giving homemade holiday food gifts are numerous. They are easy on the budget and ideal for those people on your holiday gift list who have everything. The receiver appreciates the personal touch and effort you’ve put into the gift and, for you, the creative act of putting together a homemade gift is rewarding.

What many people may not know about the benefits of homemade gifts is that they can actually be better for the planet than the standard store bought gifts. Many mass-produced gift items are things that your gift recipients actually do not need. How many times have you received an off-the-shelf Christmas gift that you simply tucked away in a corner of your closet? With homemade gifts, you get to customize your gifts to what your gift recipients might like or use. Homemade gifts can also be less energy-consuming to produce, since you get to cut out the shipping process.

Homemade gifts also have the benefit of giving materials, originally headed for the recycling or trash bin, a new lease of life. For example, a piece of leftover ribbon can now be reused as part of the gift-wrap for a homemade gift. The process of hand-making your gifts can help to contribute to less waste, especially if you seek to reuse materials as much as possible. In the process of making homemade gifts, you might have to purchase some materials. Try to minimize that if you can. Be innovative, find alternatives that already exist at home. Because you have a choice over the type of materials, you can choose the environmentally more friendly or biodegradable versions.

What could be easier than baking a batch of your favorite cookies or mixing mocha drink ingredients or making a container of pickles and giving it as a gift in a fancy jar, complete with recipe and instructions? It is best to use a recipe that has your own special ingredients. Give the recipient a gourmet food jar or container that they might not find anywhere else. The best part about this step is that you can use a variety of jars in different shapes and sizes, adding to the uniqueness of your homemade food gift. Print the recipe and attach it to the food gift. Be sure to include all of the directions and a list of the ingredients the gift recipient will need to finish the recipe.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Toffee

Yield: about 20 pieces

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 sleeve saltine crackers (about 4 oz.)
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread almonds in a shallow pan; bake until lightly toasted and fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes, shaking pan halfway through. Remove to a bowl to cool, then chop.

Line a 15-by-10-inch baking sheet with foil; mist with cooking spray. Arrange crackers in a single layer on sheet, breaking crackers as necessary to fit.

Bring butter and sugar to a boil in a small pan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Spread mixture evenly over crackers. Bake for 13 minutes. Remove sheet from the oven; add peanut butter in dollops. Return to oven until peanut butter begins to melt, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack.

Spread peanut butter evenly. Sprinkle both types of chocolate chips over the mixture on the baking sheet; let stand until chips soften, about 1 minute. Spread chips over peanut butter. Sprinkle with almonds. Let stand for 30 minutes. Place sheet in the refrigerator; chill until the chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes. Break into approximately 20 pieces. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

As A Gift: Fill a decorative coffee mug with toffee pieces.

Peppery Peach Sauce

Yield: 8 half-pint jars

Ingredients

  • Three 16-ounce packages frozen unsweetened peach slices
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 15 1/2 ounce can peach or apricot nectar
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 fresh hot red chile pepper, seeded and very finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen raspberries, thawed and chopped

Directions

Place half of the frozen peaches in a food processor or blender. Cover and process or blend until peaches are very finely chopped. Transfer chopped peaches to a 6-quart pot. Repeat with remaining peaches. (You should have 5 cups pureed peaches.)

Add sugar, nectar, vinegar, lemon juice, chile pepper, salt and garlic to the pot. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in raspberries.

Immediately ladle peach sauce into hot, clean half-pint canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and wipe jar rims; adjust lids. Process filled jars in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes (start timing when water returns to boil). Remove jars from canner; cool on racks.

As A Gift: Tie a ribbon around a filled jar, then slide a basting brush underneath the ribbon. Add a sprig of rosemary to the top of the jar for a festive touch.

Sweet Potato Loaf

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour or whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup light dairy sour cream
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup mashed cooked peeled sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped pitted dates
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat an 8x4x2-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

In one bowl, combine flours, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, combine sour cream, eggs, sugar, milk, oil and vanilla. Stir in sweet potatoes. Add sour cream mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened. Fold in dates and nuts. Spoon batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely.

As A Gift: Wrap the loaf in cellophane or a pretty dish towel and tie with ribbon.

Parmesan Grissini

Yields: 25 to 30 grissini

Ingredients

  • 2 2/3 cups bread flour
  • 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup warmed milk
  • 1/4 cup (about 1 ounce) finely grated Parmesan

Directions

In a bowl combine bread flour, yeast, sea salt, fennel seeds and red pepper; make a well in the middle.

Pour olive oil and warmed milk into the well. Stir until dough comes together. Add Parmesan and mix until incorporated.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes. (You can prepare the dough in a mixer with a dough hook, if desired.)

Shape dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap; set in a warm, draft-free place and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Lightly flour work surface again, then turn dough out and knead lightly for 1 minute.

Using a rolling pin, roll dough into a 12- by 15-inch rectangle about 1/4 inch thick.

Using a sharp knife, cut dough into strips just under 1/2 inch wide. Lightly flour hands, then quickly roll strips until they’re slightly rounded.

Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving space between each strip. Set aside to rise again, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake one sheet at a time on the middle shelf until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes, turning bread sticks halfway through. Let cool completely.

As A Gift: Bundle in wax paper or parchment and seal with gold stickers.

Homemade Spice Mixes

Combine the individual mixtures and package in decorative containers. You can purchase decorative tins or spice jars from any kitchen supply company or use some of your empty spice jars.

Poultry Seasoning

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt free chicken bouillon granules

Fish Seasoning

  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground dried sage
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dried marjoram leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dried crushed rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

Steak Seasoning

  • 2 tablespoons coarse-ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dill seed
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

Italian Seasoning

  • 4 tablespoons dried basil
  • 4 tablespoons dried marjoram
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons oregano
  • 2 tablespoons thyme
  • 2 tablespoons rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon dried sage

Gluten Free Flour Blend

If you have friends with gluten intolerance, they will appreciate having this baking mix handy.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups finely ground rice flour
  • 2/3 cup potato starch
  • 1/3 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum

Directions

Combine all ingredients in large bowl; stir very well. Store mixture in a container with tight-fitting lid in the freezer; stir before using.



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