Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ginger Lime Macaroons


So what's the deal with Passover? To get the full effect of that sentence, read it with your best Seinfeld inflection...

Once again Passover has crept up and is here to stay for the next eight days. This holiday commemorates when the Jews had to haul tuchus out of Egypt, and in the rush their bread was unable to rise. To celebrate this, we eat Matzoh and other unleavened delights. The next week is completely devoid of wheat, oats, barley, spelt or rye. Think of it as Atkins with a religious twist.

Macaroons - yes, with two O's, not one - are coconut based staples that traditionally provide some sweet relief for starch starved Passover revelers. Many Passover desserts lack the punch that you really want, when you are craving a donut, cake, pretzels or cookies. No time like the present to give a standard a taste tuneup.

A note before embarking on any Passover recipes; many items may be marked as Kosher, but that does not mean they are Kosher for Passover. If your intent is to stick to the letter of Jewish law, invest the time to get the proper, certified Kosher for Passover products.

Ginger Lime Macaroons
3 egg whites
2/3 cup sugar
3 cups shredded coconut
1 tsp fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tsp lime zest
2 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, finely minced
2 oz semisweet chocolate (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat egg whites until light and fluffy. Add sugar and beat until stiff peaks have formed. Fold in the coconut, lime juice, lime zest and ginger by hand. Scoop rounded, packed Tablespoons of macaroon mixture onto wax paper lined baking sheets*. Bake for 16-18 minutes, and cool completely before serving.

To add chocolate, melt chocolate over a double boiler. Drizzle chocolate over macaroons with a teaspoon, and top with lime zest if desired. Makes 18 macaroons.

Notes:
*Between scoops, dip your scooper into warm water. This will prevent excessive stickiness and result in consistent, rounded scoops.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Gratitude.


There isn't a day that passes that I don't shake my head in amazement over where this blog has gone. Nearly a year ago, I set out on a whim to make a blog, not even sure what that meant or entailed. All I wanted was a place to post pictures that I hoped weren't too awful and recipes that were mildly palatable and interesting. To this day it amazes me that people read my little piece of the blog world.

So here I sit, the humble recipient of two awards. They're both from gals named Jenn who are both from Canada. Apparently, I'm huge there. :)

The Sunshine Blog Award is awarded to bloggers whose positivity and creativity inspire others in the blog world. I received this from Jenn at Defunkt Gourmet, my international foodie pen pal.

The Rules & Regulations of The Sunshine Blog Award:
1. Put the logo on your blog or within your post
2. Pass the award on to 12 bloggers!
3. Link the nominees within your post
4. Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog
5. Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award

Here goes!

1. Jenn @ Sweet Water
It was a no brainer that the lovely Jenn be a recipient for this cool award. She is an amazing writer, with freeing honesty and brutal truth about her challenges, cooking adventures and life North of the border. If you haven't checked out her Top Chef challenge series, where she recreates some of the most memorable dishes from the show, you're missing out on some serious brilliance.

2. Noelle @ An Opera Singer in the Kitchen
I always enjoy how Noelle incorporates her love for music through her posts. She is a recent vegan who shares amazing recipes suitable for both vegans and carnivores alike. I always pick up fun new facts when I hang out on her page... for example, did you know Guinness isn't vegan? Who knew!

3. Natasha @ 5 Star Foodie Culinary Adventures
An East Coast gal with an eye for tasty, unique ingredients. I've loved vicariously globe trotting through through her blog, between posts about her traveling adventures and amazing stops along the 2010 Culinary Tour Around the World series. Gorgeous pictures, and I always learn something new from her posts.

4. Joanne @ Apple Crumbles
Joanne provides a lovely taste of home, blogging from Upstate New York. An avid healthy lifestyle endorser and believer, and her honey glazed salmon with butternut squash and lemony asparagus rocked my world.

5. Josie @ Daydreamer Desserts
What I love about Josie's blog, aside from the drool worthy images, Josie is passionate about a cause. Through her work with the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund (OCRF), she's gotten to hang out with Cake Boss star Buddy Valastro and Kelly Ripa for a phenomenal "Cake off" earlier this year. A gal who has ridiculous kitchen skills with delicious desserts and takes a stand against Cancer is a sure winner in my book.

6. TasteStopping
Oh TasteStopping, how I love thee. Providing consistent, humorous reassurance that all aspiring photographers can and should be published, even when those other sites don't agree. It's also a great resource to learn from and check out other bloggers web worthy pics.

7. Liren @ Kitchen Worthy
This fabulous Bay area foodie is also a former East coast gal with a love for all things food. She blends gorgeous recipes with fun family adventures to make for fantastic, smile inducing posts.

8. Cat @ NeoHomesteading
Cat is a Pennsylvania mama who embraces all the things I want to become as an urban homesteader. She shares her love for canning, homebrewing, artisan breads and a smattering of fantastic unique dishes on her site.

9. Julia @ Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body
Julia is a super prolific local OC food blogger. She puts once a week posters like me to shame! Her balance of healthy meal options and tasty recipe remakes (awesome thin mint AND samoas knockoffs!) makes a fantastic addition to your blog reading list.

10. Donalyn @ DessertStalking
Another upstate NY'er who I am so happy to have "met" through blogging. Dessertstalking is a fantastic site to submit photos of all things sweet, and unique to this site, there are no comments. I love that this was done purposefully to encourage DessertStalkers to hop over the submitters blog and leave a comment. Bringing the blog world closer one tasty photo at a time!

11. Alta @ Tasty Eats at Home
I love the voice that Alta brings to her writing. She has a huge eclectic mix of recipes, with an international flair and she has recently gone gluten free. Tasty Eats is a great resource for us gluten gobblers looking to see how the other half lives!

12. David and Luise @ Green Kitchen Stories
This super talented couple from Stokholm, Sweden has a site that is to die for. This truly is a visual feast to behold, with gorgeous vegetarian creations and a penchant for chocolate goodies, a huge plus in my book. They have also just welcomed a beautiful baby girl into their kitchen.. congrats!



The Circle of Friends award is given for the connections and friendships you make through the blog world. It was passed on to me from Jenn @ Sweet Water (see above). As she so eloquently stated in her award post, its difficult not to perpetuate the inbred cycle of award reciprocation and pass it right back to the award giver. Fantastic statements like that are a large part of the reason I really enjoy her and her always chuckle worthy writing.

Without further ado, here are my 5 recipients.

1. Jenn @ Defunkt Gourmet
My Canadian foodie penpal and I were brought together through a Beastie Boys quote, a mutual love of Ben Folds and a similar sense of humor. Like many other bloggers, she is in search of the perfect macaron and well on her way to its discovery!

2. Claudia @ What's Cookin' Italian Style Cuisine
What I love about Claudia is her ability to jump in and be a fearless leader. She was largely responsible for shepherding the lost masses after the infamous Foodbuzz "change" a few months back. She has provided constant encouragement and has been a generous resource in my blogging adventures. She also has a fabulous blog with great step by step recipes that weave tales of her family through her writing.

3. Mia @ Mia King
This lovely Hawaiian gal is the true definition of multitasker. Mom, cook, workshop speaker, blogger and National Bestselling Author are found among the many bulletpoints on her most impressive life resume. Her writing is like a casual, comfortable conversation with an old friend, and my interactions with her in the blog world are just as kind and comfortable. She truly illustrates how much the blog world levels the playing field, allowing newbies like me to virtually hobnob with best selling authors and cooking standouts.

4. Rachael J @ Laptops and Stovetops
The fabulous Ms. Rachael is a Florida girl who always, without doubt, cracks me up. Her blog has just undergone a serious facelift and is looking divine. I think if Rachael and I hung out in the real world, we might cause some serious trouble together.

5. Dara @ Cookin' Canuck
There aren't many food blogs out there that I consistently am interested in making every single dish featured. This is one of them. Dara just makes me shake my head and smile each time I read a new post, as I think "she did it again!" Check out her creative takes on classic dishes, easy to follow instructions and fantastic photography.

I hope that my little blog continues to entertain you, and thanks as always for your support and kind words. My hope that this space will always brings a little bit of sunshine into your day. You all certainly bring it into mine.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Irish Coffee Marshmallows


St. Patrick's Day is upon us, and the blog world is all aflutter with the best traditional Irish eats to commemorate the holiday. Pages are flooded with corned beef, stout based confections and green iced delights everywhere you look. Earlier this week I posted Wee Little Irish Soda Bread, a traditional hearty staple of the day. As per my usual creative streak, which admittedly has been a bit lackluster lately, I needed to throw caution to the wind and fire up the old Kitchenaid. You never know what mysteries will appear when that happens.

Back around the holidays, I got on a bit of a marshmallow kick, which you can check out here and here. As delicious as they are, I couldn't justify putting another Guinness cupcake out into the world today. Enter my recently earthquake shaken brain putting together an old favorite with a touch of the good stuff. These are bound to get your Irish eyes a smilin'.

Irish Coffee Marshmallows
Recipe adapted from the Food Network and Ina Garten

3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp coarse salt
3/4 cup cold water
2 tsp coffee extract* or 3 Tbsp very strong coffee
2 Tbsp Irish whiskey (might I recommend Jamesons?)

Topping
1/2 cup Bailey's Irish Creme
1/4 cup Irish Whiskey
1/2 tsp butter

Combine the gelatin and 1/4 cup of cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and allow to sit while you make the marshmallow syrup.

Combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Cook at a steady rolling boil for one minute, continuing to stir, and remove from heat.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the marshmallow syrup into the dissolved gelatin. As mixture begins to thicken, add in whiskey and coffee extract. Put the mixer on high speed and whip until the mixture is very thick, about 15 minutes.

Oil the sides of the a large casserole dish thoroughly with nonstick spray or vegetable oil. Pour in the marshmallow batter and smooth the top of the mixture with damp hands. Refrigerate while making Bailey's topping.

In a small saucepan, combine Bailey's and whiskey. Over medium high heat, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Stir constantly until mixture has thickened to the consistency of caramel. Let cool slightly, and swirl over top of marshmallows.

Remove the marshmallows by inverting the pan onto a baking sheet. Cut marshmallows into squares and store uncovered at room temperature. Makes 25-30 marshmallows.

*I couldn't locate coffee extract, so I went with super strong coffee. I used 4 scoops of coffee with 1/4 cup water, left to steep in the French press overnight.

If you were looking for something St. Patricks Day worthy that's a little different, you might also like these Moonshine Whoopie Pies from awhile back. Pillowy soft Guinness flavored whoopie cookies with a rich Bailey's Irish Creme filling... these are sure to bring you the luck of the Irish.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Wee Little Irish Soda Bread


I've only learned of the true joy of Irish Soda bread in recent years. That fact is entirely due to Mr. SoCal and his deep Irish roots. Last year, before SoCal Sustenance existed, I embarked on a quest to make a great St. Patricks Day feast for us. I had to call in the big guns and get this recipe from his dad, and it was well worth it. It was a bread making adventure unlike any I've had before, complete with the stickiest dough known to all mankind and a near disastrous chemical reaction that would have made Mr. Wizard proud. The corned beef was salty and the soda bread was good, but it was nothing compared to what I tasted this year.

Breadmaking has been a St. Patricks Day tradition for Mr. SoCal and his dad for years, often making dozens of loaves over the course of a week to give to family, friends and colleagues. This year I got to watch the magic first hand, as the first six loaves have already been cranked out. I love knowing that there is history and tradition in this bread, that this is the same recipe and technique that his great grandmother made while back in County Kerry. It is truly a labor of love and persistence, and I'm happy to be able to pass on the tradition to you.

Wee Little Irish Soda Bread
(makes two wee little loaves)

Wet ingredients:
1 1/3 cups 2% milk
1 egg
4 Tbsp white vinegar

Dry ingredients:
5 cups King Arthur all purpose flour
2 sticks margarine
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease two small 2 quart cast iron pans or dutch ovens with butter or margarine.

In a large bowl, combine vinegar, milk and egg. Mix to ensure yolk is broken, and set aside to allow the milk to sour.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together 4 cups of flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. Cut in the margarine until the mixture is like cornmeal or damp sand. Add the raisins until they are completely covered with flour.

Add the baking soda to the bowl containing the milk and eggs. Stir gently and allow mixture to react for a minute or two. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and add wet ingredients.

Work the mixture thoroughly until a dough is formed. If dough is sticking to your hands, add 1/4 cup of flour and continue kneading. Repeat until dough is no longer sticky and can be formed into a ball.

Divide dough into two portions. Cut a cross in the top of each loaf to minimize cracking. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the bottom has a firm brown crust and makes a solid sound when you tap on it. Cool on a baking rack and enjoy.

This recipe comes from the Boston Cook Book, but more recently has been published in the Pasadena Rugby Cookbook. This was compiled two years ago and includes favorite recipes from players and coaches, including clever writing and commentary on rugby. They are available for $5 plus shipping, if interested please comment below.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Peanut Butter Cups


After a healthy food failure in the kitchen earlier, these seemed like the perfect way to soothe a broken cook's soul. Plus, I may have been subconsciously steered towards these by the recent influx of Easter candy commercials invading TV. The one I blame directly involves an innocent chocolate bunny inching towards a jar of peanut butter while "Let's Get it On" tenderly serenades the duo. I think these would even make Marvin Gaye proud.

These were surprisingly easy to make, and I did not do one bit of fancy chocolate tempering. That's right, I'm a risk taker. There is no baking, and the only necessary accoutrement are baking cups or muffin liners. The milk chocolate had a wonderful gloss when chilled and firmed, but had more instant melt on your fingers quality than your store bought Peanut Butter Cups. All the more incentive to eat them quickly!

Peanut Butter Cups
3/4 cup chunky peanut butter
2 Tbsp confectioners sugar
12 oz milk chocolate
1/3 cup crushed graham crackers

Microwave peanut butter for 20 seconds until softened. Mix in confectioners sugar and crushed graham crackers until uniform.

Melt chocolate over a double boiler. Spoon a teaspoon of melted chocolate in the bottom of a baking cup. Tilt and rotate the baking cup to spread the melted chocolate up the side of the cup slightly. Scoop large rounded teaspoons of peanut butter mixture and press into a half dollar size patty. Place in baking cup, and cover with peanut butter.

Place in muffin tin to maintain shape, and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. Makes 15 cups.

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Parmesan Orzo with Greens and Garlic


I've been craving the creamy goodness of something hearty, rich and altogether not so good for you lately. The urges have been fluctuating between a decadent risotto and creamy, thick, stick to your arteries soup. This was my best attempt at a compromise that wouldn't cost me three days at the gym. Lucky for me, it quashed the creamy craving and is reasonably healthy to boot.

Parmesan Orzo with Greens and Garlic
1 cup orzo
3 oz fresh spinach (1 container)
6 oz fresh asparagus, cut in 1" pieces
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
6 oz chicken breast
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Salt
Pepper

Prepare orzo until cooked al dente and drain in a colander. When drained, transfer cooked orzo into large bowl.

Pour Olive Oil in non stick skillet and saute spinach and asparagus over medium heat. Add minced garlic to mixture. Saute all until spinach is wilted and asparagus is fork tender. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer cooked veggies to bowl with cooked orzo.

Cut chicken breast into small pieces and saute in the same non stick skillet until browned. When cooked, transfer chicken to bowl with orzo mixture.

Add grated Parmesan cheese to orzo mixture and stir thoroughly, incorporating Parmesan evenly through the entire dish. Plate, serve and enjoy.

Just a quicky from here in SoCal, but too tasty not to pass along! Hope you all are having a delicious day.

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