Events

And the winner is. . .

Posted on Updated on


Alright, so I have been really busy lately, not that I have anything to show for it.  So that explains why I haven’t been keeping up with my blogging responsibilities.  The truth is that (like an idiot) I have started working out again.  Well, since I am apparently unemployable, might as well be constructive with my time.  But I am remembering how much working out takes out of me — time-wise (takes me about 2 1/2 hrs. each time), recovery-wise (I’m not in undergrad anymore and all that extra work hurts!), plus all the extra shower and laundry time!

Here is "The Bowl of Choosing". Very scientific methodology!

But I digress. . . I’m here to announce my first blogiversary giveaway winner.  And the winner is. . . Sarah at The Cook’s Life!!!  Congrats to Sarah!!!  And check out her blog where she shares her thoughts on cooking, family, and all adventures in between!

Here's what she wins -- Look! It's Michigan!

 

And here's the cookbook

So I will try to catch up with some posts.  I have several in the pipeline, including a couple focusing on Chef Eve Aronoff, who was the big subject of my giveaway!

Quick cocktail party appetizers #3 — Gluten-Free Black Forest Cakelets

Posted on Updated on


The layers are kinda hard to distinguish, but there are four layers of cake and three of filling.

Yes, yes — this isn’t an appetizer; that’s confession #1.  But this is Part 3 of my “series” about a not-so-recent bourbon tasting / cocktail party.  This was my dessert offering and it’s gluten-free!  Confession #2 — this really isn’t a Black Forest Cake.  Actually this is a version of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Chocolate Feather Bed, which is the background image of my blog.  One variation is that I have a middle layer of cherry preserves — so not a real Black Forest cake.  I do make a mean Black Forest Cake though!  And Black Forest Cake Day is on March 28th (which is my blogiversary in case I didn’t mention it before 🙂  And I think I’ve figured out my blogiversary give-away, but more on that later).  Confession #3 — it’s not exactly quick.  The cake itself bakes in 16 minutes, so that part is quick, but there is a lot of chilling involved, which takes time.

In my opinion, this cake is definitely better presented pre-sliced, as opposed to whole.  If it was whole, it would look like a giant chocolate slab covered with chocolate curls.  Which might not be too bad, if that’s what you’re going for.  But again — just my opinion.  It might be nice to have a giant chocolate block on your table; it could be reminiscent of the monolith in Kubrick’s 2001:  A Space Odyssey.  What a great theme party!!!  Everyone could wear space suits or ape suits, you could use one of those pod things as an entry portal, or maybe make one of those warp-light-tube thingies, and just play the Blue Danube on a loop.  But I digress, here’s what you need:

My ganache was a little bit grainy here. If that happens to you and you want to fix it, just re-melt the ganache and re-chill and re-whip. It's very forgiving. This is from a cake I made a while ago, but it stays truer to the original recipe (sans cherries).

For the cake:  (you will need 2 batches)

  • 4 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1/4 c. sugar, plus 2 T.
  • 3/4 t. cream of tartar
  • chocolate curls (for garnish — I used dark, milk, and white chocolate just to add some visual interest)
  • Cherry preserves

1.  Coat a half sheet pan (17 1/4″ x 12 1/4″ x 1″) with shortening and line with parchment with a 2″ overhang.  Spray parchment with baking spray with flour (like Baker’s Joy or something like that).

2.  Preheat the over to 350 degrees F.  Place the oven rack in the lower third of the oven and allow to heat for about 20 minutes, which should be more than enough time to put together the batter.

3.  Melt the chocolate in a bowl (either in the microwave or over a double boiler).  Allow to cool until still fluid but no longer warm to the touch.

4.  Beat the yolks and 1/4 c. sugar in the bowl of a mixer on high for 5 minutes, until ribbon stage.  Scrape the chocolate into the bowl and mix on medium until fully incorporated, scraping the sides of the mixing bowl as needed.  Transfer to another bowl.

5.  In a very clean bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy.  With the beater off, add the cream of tartar; beat on medium until soft peak stage.  Raise the speed to medium high and gradually add the 2 T. sugar, beating until stiff peaks form.

6.  Mix in about 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten.  Gently fold in the rest of the meringue and when incorporated, scrape into prepared pan.  Level off with an off-set spatula.

7.  Bake for 16 minutes; until .  In the meantime, prepare the batter for the next cake so it is ready to go when the other cake comes out of the oven.  Cover with a dry towel and allow to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

8.  Gently remove cakes from the pans using the overhang to lift.  Stack the parchment-lined cakes one on top of the other and cover with plastic wrap.  Place in the refrigerator to chill for about 30 minutes.  This makes the cakes easier to work with.

It's a sea of cake!

For the chocolate whipped ganache:

  • 8 oz. dark chocolate, chopped fine
  • 2 c. heavy cream
  • 1 t. vanilla

1.  In the bowl of a food processor, chop chocolate until very fine.

2.  Scald the cream and with the motor running, gradually add the cream to the chocolate.  Process until smooth, just a couple of seconds.  Chill until cold, either in the fridge or in an ice bath.  Stir while chilling, about every 30 minutes; if using an ice bath you need to stir frequently.  Ideal temp is around 65 degrees F / 20 degrees C.  If it is too cold, it will not aerate well; if it is too warm it will not stiffen.

3.  In the chilled bowl of a stand mixer, add the vanilla to the cream and beat on low for about 30 seconds, being careful not to overbeat.

Assemble the cake:

There are a couple of ways that you can do this depending on what you want to do.  You could assemble this on a serving plate and treat it as a regular cake (hold it in place with some frosting and then assemble).  I just kept the bottom section on the parchment, trimmed it after I assembled it, cut it into slices, and then served it.  Rose trims the cakes before assembly; I do it after because I wanted that very very clean edge.  Again, all depends on what you want.

1.  Using a sharp knife, cut the cakes into equal rectangles so that you have four equal layers.  Dislodge the cakes using a long metal spatula.

2.  Spread a layer of the ganache about the same thickness of the cake on top of the first layer.  Top with a second layer of cake.  Spread with a layer of the cherry preserves.  Top with another layer of cake, followed by the ganache, and the final cake layer.

3.  Spread a layer of the ganache on the top of the cake.  I sliced it into servings / cakelets at this point and then covered the tops with the curls.  You could just keep it whole and cover everything with the curls.  Serve!

Be sure to visit my page on Facebook!  You get access to exclusive content!  Jeez, I can’t say that without laughing.  But I do some quick posts, share some links and resources, and share some local events / retailers that may be of some interest to folks.  My bakery has a page as well; stop by there for a quick visit too!

Quick cocktail party appetizers #2 — Cheese and Endive

Posted on Updated on


This is round #2 of my cocktail party appetizers.  Now I don’t necessarily recommend making all of these at once, especially if it’s just you hosting because there is a lot of assembly involved with everything I made (check out my last post for the full listing).  Even if all the prep work is done, getting things to look right takes time.  But taking these in small steps and you should be alright.  Or you could be better at planning than me even though timing really was a non-issue since everyone was at least an hour late!

Anyhoo, the  quick recipes in this post revolve around goat cheese.  One is a double cheese Napoleon and the other is Endive with Herbed Goat Cheese.  What makes this easy is that the goat cheese filling is the same for both!  So I don’t know if this then actually qualifies for 2 recipes, but I’m going with it.

Endive with goat cheese.

This serving tray seemed like it was designed especially with this dish in mind.

The big step here is making the herbed goat cheese.  Which, again, is also a step for the napoleons, so essentially one step = 2 appetizers.  And it’s not even a big step — you just mix everything in a bowl.  This one I adapted from Martha (again!  but that’s a good thing!).  Here’s what you need:

  • 1 11-oz. pkg. goat cheese
  • 1/2 c. cream
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 T. chopped herbs (I used oregano and tarragon)
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 4 heads endive, washed and separated into leaves

1.  In a medium bowl, mix together the cheese, cream, and oil until smooth.  You can use a food processor if you like or even a hand mixer, but I didn’t want to have to wash extra things afterwards.

2.  Gently mix in the herbs, salt, & pepper.  Place a teaspoon on the individual endive spears and serve.

Double Cheese Napoleons.

These definitely look pretty. Tasted pretty good, too!

The two cheeses here are parmesan and goat cheese.  You make tuiles of parmesan and have some herbed goat cheese in between the layers.  I am not really sure how I came up with this one, but i really wanted something with some height.  These look a little rough, but again, I felt pressed for time since I had several things to assemble.  No real specifics here; I just grated some parmesan and kept on making crisps until I ran out.  You can use any extra ones as croutons on salads or in soups.  Or just eat them as is.  Here’s what you need:

  • herbed goat cheese (see above)
  • grated parmesan

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2.  Drop 1 t. grated parmesan onto Silpat lined baking sheets.  Slightly flatten the cheese and bake for about 5 minutes or until nice and golden.

3.  Allow to cool for about a minute and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

4.  Assemble napoleons starting with a parmesan crisp.  Place a small amount of the goat cheese, about 1/2 teaspoon.  Gently press another crisp on top and repeat until you have three layers of each.  You can put a garnish of herbs on top, but I just served them as they are.  If you want to be extra fancy, you can use a pastry bag with a star tip to place the goat cheese.

March Foodie Holidays

Posted on Updated on


Here's Daisy and Cooper with this month's holiday announcements!

Happy March everybody!  It’s another big month for foodie holidays — including my 1st blogiversary (can’t believe that it’s been a year already, not that that’s a foodie holiday).  I was thinking about having an anniversary giveaway but I’m not sure yet.  Maybe I’ll post something on Facebook (11 likes so far!  check out the bottom of the side menu)!  More on that later, but check me out on Facebook anyway.  Anyhoo, here’s what we have in store for this month (check out some of these links):   Celery Month, Flour Month, Frozen Food Month, Noodle Month, Nutrition Month, Peanut Month, and Sauce Month.  Now here are some of the special days that we can celebrate in March:

Peanut Butter Lover’s Day, Fruit Compote Day

2  Banana Cream Pie Day

3  Cold Cuts Day, Mulled Wine Day

Poundcake Day

Cheese Doodle Day

6  Frozen Food Day, White Chocolate Cheesecake Day

Crown Roast of Pork Day, Cereal Day

8  Peanut Cluster Day, Agriculture Day

Crabmeat Day

10  Blueberry Popover Day

11  Oatmeal Nut Waffles Day

12  Baked Scallops Day

13  Coconut Torte Day

14  Potato Chip Day

15  Peanut Lovers’ Day, Pears Helene Day

16  Artichoke Heart Day

18  Lacy Oatmeal Cookie Day

19  Poultry Day, Chocolate Caramel Day

20  Ravioli Day

21  French Bread Day

23  Chip and Dip Day, Melba Toast Day

24  Chocolate Covered Raisins Day

25  Lobster Newburg Day

26  Waffle Day (in Sweden), Nougat Day

27  Spanish Paella Day

28  Black Forest Cake Day1st Blogiversary!

29  Lemon Chiffon Cake Day

30  Turkey Neck Soup Day

31  Clams-on-the-Half-Shell Day

I have no idea how these two ended up hugging like this. I could just barf it's so cute.

February Foodie Holidays

Posted on Updated on


Punxy Phil is so friendly!

So this is a little late, and I apologize.  As I said in my last post, I’ve been having issues with the editing software on here.  I did a little adjusting of the settings here and there and I think I’m set.

No pictures of Daisy or Cooper this time.  But since Groundhog Day is February 2, I did include some pics from Punxsutawney, PA.  We made a stop there on the way moving from Maine back to Michigan.  It was a little bit out of the way (well a lot out of the way, and it was especially difficult driving a moving truck on those twisty mountain roads), but I couldn’t resist meeting the famous groundhog!

In addition to Groundhog Day, we celebrate National Cherry Month, National Grapefruit Month, National Hot Breakfast Month, National Macadamia Nut Month, and National Snack Food Month.  Plus we get National Pancake Week during the last week of the month!  Here are some of the fun holidays (along with some links, as always) we have this month:

The origins of Groundhog Day

1 – Baked Alaska Day

3 – Carrot Cake Day

4 – Stuffed Mushroom Day

7 – Fettuccine Alfredo Day

8 – Molasses Bar Day

9 – Bagels and Lox Day

10 – Cream Cheese Brownie Day

11 – Peppermint Patty Day

12 – Plum Pudding Day

13 – Tortellini Day

14 – Cream-filled Chocolates Day, Valentine’s Day

15 – Gumdrop Day

16 – Almond Day

We knocked, but Phil wasn't home. As you can see, this was no where near Groundhog Day when we stopped by.

17 – Indian Pudding Day

19 – Chocolate Mint Day

20 – Cherry Pie Day

21 – Sticky Bun Day

22 – Cook a Sweet Potato Day, Margarita Day

23 – Banana Bread Day

24 – Tortilla Chip Day

25 – Chocolate-Covered Peanuts Day, Clam Chowder Day

26 – World Pistachio Day

27 – Strawberry Day, Kahlua Day!

January Foodie Holidays

Posted on Updated on


Here's Cooper and Daisy with the monthly holiday announcements!

It’s good to be back after taking a little bit of time off for the holidays.  So I do apologize that this is a day late.  Hopefully all the hangovers and “bad-decision juice” has been worked out of everyone’s systems.  But with all the focus on physical recovery and recuperation, let’s not forget all those National Holidays that are taking place this month (there is another “National Pie Day” this month on the 23rd; the other one was last month).  I know when we think of January, New Year’s Day is always on everyone’s mind.  It is also National Hot Tea Month, National Oatmeal Month, National Slow Cooking Month, and National Soup Month.  Here are some of the National Holidays that we should be celebrating this month:

Buffet Day, Cream Puff Day

Chocolate Covered Cherry Day

Spaghetti Day

5  Whipped Cream Day

Shortbread Day

Tempura Day

8  English Toffee Day

Apricot Day

It's obvious these two don't get along! At least they're cute when they're trying to stay warm

10  Bittersweet Chocolate Day

12  Marzipan Day

13  Peach Melba Day

14  Hot Pastrami Sandwich Day

15  Strawberry Ice Cream Day

16  Fig Newton Day

18  Peking Duck Day (yum!)

20  Buttercrunch Day, Cheese Lover’s Day

21  Granola Bar Day

22  Blonde Brownie Day

24  Peanut Butter Day

25  Irish Coffee Day

26  Peanut Brittle Day

27  Chocolate Cake Day!

28  Blueberry Pancake Day

29  Cornchip Day

30  Croissant Day

31  Popcorn Day

December Foodie Holidays

Posted on Updated on


Just slowly working away at what's left of the holiday pumpkin

Happy December everybody!  Been out of commission for a while due to an increasingly packed schedule.  But it’s the first of the month and it’s time to learn about our disavowed national holidays from Mr. Squirrel (or is it Mrs?  maybe Ms.?).  It really is the holiday season, but there are other days that deserve recognition, like World AIDS Day which is on the 1st.  Of course, there are the biggies that (mostly) everyone knows (and these are in chronological order according to my Just Chocolate Labs calendar) — Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Eve.  But here are some of the other national holidays that we should incorporate into our regular rotation.

1  Pie Day

2  Fritters Day

4  Cookie Day

Sacher Torte Day

Gazpacho Day

7  Cotton Candy Day

8  Brownie Day

Pastry Day

10  Lager Day!!!

11  Noodle Ring Day

12  Ambrosia Day

13  Cocoa Day

14  Bouillabaisse Day

15  Lemon Cupcake Day

16  Chocolate Covered Anything Day

18  Roast Suckling Pig Day

21  French Fried Shrimp Day

23  Pfeffernuesse Day

24  Egg Nog Day

25  Pumpkin Pie Day

26  Candy Cane Day

27  Fruitcake Day

30  Bicarbonate of Soda Day

There are lots of links for folks to check out this month.  Personally, my favorite is “Chocolate Covered Anything Day”, but how can you not love a holiday all about Baking Soda?