Saturday, August 31, 2013

Hatch Tomatillo Guacamole

 This post will be brief, because I’m busy and so are you.  This is about preparedness in the face of crisis, namely, how to present surprise guests with something tasty to nosh on when the cupboard is bare. 
Here is a picture of the inside of my fridge.  This rather austere state is not unusual.  In fact, it’s the norm.  I don’t keep things on hand that I’m not going to immediately use because I cannot stand to see anything go to waste.

You may think there is nothing here and feel that you would panic should people knock at your door with plans to stay the afternoon to watch the game.  No need.  A couple of refrigerator mainstays and you have the problem licked.
 One of my new favorite products, recently sent to me by the good people at Melissa’s Produce is a container of their Tomatillo Sauce.  I’m now on my fourth tub of this stuff and think it will join their Fire Roasted Sweet Red Bell Peppers as pantry/refrigerator must haves. 

I have used the Tomatillo Sauce mixed with Ranch Dressing on salads (sooo delicious), on top of omelets, poached eggs, stirred into avocado soup, to garnish chili, and mixed with mayonnaise as a sandwich spread.  I’m sure there are twice as many uses as these; I’m still discovering them all.  
Today I needed something fast, so remembering this recipe that had been posted on their website, I grabbed a bag of tortilla chips from the freezer (yes, they freeze beautifully, do not need thawing, and keep forever, so the next time there is a sale, buy ten bags and freeze them.  Preparedness!) and went to work.

I added chopped roasted red peppers, chopped cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice to the mix.  It was inhaled by guests.  Let this be a lesson to you, keep this delicious and versatile sauce on hand.

This post is linked to: Metamorphosis Monday

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Chocolate Waffles with Fresh Strawberries

If your idea of breakfast does not include something chocolate-y, this may just change your mind. While it is indeed chocolate, it is the rich, dense, deliciousness of chocolate and not something that is cloyingly sweet. Based on an Alton Brown recipe, I lightened up the cocoa, added a pinch of espresso powder, and used mini chocolate chips to better spread the joy. Topped with fresh strawberries it is a decadent breakfast treat. Still not convinced this is the breakfast for you?  A softened scoop of vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two of these is dessert bliss. Whatever time of the day you choose to have these, do certainly have them!

Chocolate Waffles with Fresh Strawberries
Adapted from a recipe by Alton Brown

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder
Pinch of espresso powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 whole eggs, beaten
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat waffle iron according to manufacturer's directions.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. In another bowl beat together the eggs, cooled melted butter, and vanilla. Add buttermilk all at once, and stir to combine. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry until blended; stir in the mini chocolate chips just until incorporated.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Ladle the recommended amount of waffle batter onto the center of the iron. Close the iron top and cook until the waffle is crispy on both sides and is easily removed from iron. Serve immediately with fresh strawberries. 

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Monday, August 26, 2013

Chocolate Éclair Dessert Squares

 I am not a particular fan of the “no bake dessert.  Nor am I a fan of non-dairy toppings or frosting in plastic containers. But in the same way that I do not like either gin or tonic, when the two of them come together with a wedge of lime, it is magic. Such is the case with this assortment of prefab ingredients and the end result.  

This is a recipe that my mother used to make, and dates back to the seventies.  It was the requested dessert at the birthday dinner that I prepared for my number one son last Friday. Easy to assemble, often with ingredients on hand, it has the added bonus of needing to be made 1-2 days in advance of serving. 

My grandson puzzled over the layers.  

How did you do this grandma (and I absolutely love being called 
grandma!)?  Is it a Pop Tart, then pudding, then a Pop Tart, then pudding, and chocolate?  

Inasmuch as I cringed at the thought of my dessert tasting like a Pop Tart, the clever boy wasn't far off. It is graham crackers layered with pudding blended with non-dairy topping, twice, and then chocolate frosting. They really do taste like éclairs!

Chocolate Éclair Dessert Squares
Yields 14 servings

2 (3.4-ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding
1 (8-ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
3 cups whole milk
1 (16-ounce) box graham crackers
1 container dark chocolate frosting

In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry pudding mix, whipped topping, and milk until it begins to thicken; set aside. Arrange a single layer of graham crackers in the bottom of a 9" x 13" pan. 

Carefully spread half of the pudding mixture on top of the graham crackers. Top with another layer of graham crackers and the remaining pudding. Top this with a final layer of graham crackers. 

Microwave the can of frosting (lid and foil covering removed) for about 30 seconds on the highest setting until pourable. Pour over graham crackers and, using an offset spatula, spread evenly over the dessert, including corners and edges. Cover and chill for 8-24 hours before serving. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Camden Market

I thought it was time for another travel post, so today I am taking you to yet another wonderful market in London, the Camden Markets.  Popularly referred to as Camden Lock, it is located in Camden Town near the Hampstead Road Lock of the Regent’s Canal.  Now, you’re probably saying to yourself, gee, this woman goes to a LOT of markets.  I do.  I find when travelling that markets such as this one, the Borough Market, and Portobello Market really give a taste of what a neighborhood is all about.  I like mingling with locals and tourists alike, and always enjoy seeing what people eat and buy.

 The fourth most popular visitor attraction in London, Camden Market attracts nearly 100,000 people each weekend.  You can find quite an interesting variety of things here, among them crafts, clothing, bric-a-brac and fast, and ethnic foods. 

Trying to find just the right outfit for that special occasion?  Check this out. 
Are you hard to fit when it comes to buying shoes?  I think this shop can accommodate you.
 No, these are not gumballs, these are rocks.  A chart hanging behind the dispenser explains it all.  As a former geology major, I quite enjoyed this.
 T is for toilet, not Mr. T. and I wouldn’t want him staring at me when I’m in the bathroom.  I can’t imagine anyone wanting one of these toilet seat covers.  Scary! 

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Breakfast Guacamole

Breakfast can get boring.  If you’re tired of the same old, same old, here is something that will give your morning some kick.  Another fabulous recipe from the equally fabulous book, Guac Off!, when paired with a glass of vegetable juice or a virgin Bloody Mary, this early morning eye-opener will get you on your way in fine fashion.  Why be boring?

Breakfast Guacamole

2 eggs, hardboiled and shelled
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup finely chopped green onion
Cayenne pepper
Black pepper
2 slices bacon
2 large avocados, diced (about 2 cups)

Chop the eggs and place in a medium bowl.  Stir in the mayonnaise and green onion, and lightly season to taste with the paprika, cayenne, and black pepper.  In a medium frying pan fry the bacon until very crispy.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.  Crumble the bacon and then stir into the egg mixture.  Gently fold in the avocados.  Season to taste with salt.  Serve immediately.

Makes about 3 cups.

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Fresh Basil Jelly

The abundance of fresh produce is one of the things that makes summertime so much fun.  In my garden, the herbs seem to be at their peak, the basil towering over them all.  After making batches of pesto, mounds of Caprese Salad, and canning tomatoes with basil, I was looking for more.  It was then that I decided to try something that has long been of interest -- basil jelly.  I thought I had died and gone to heaven after making green pepper jelly, so had hoped that this would be almost as good.  It exceeded my expectations!  Refreshingly sweet, with a light taste of basil and hint of peppery kick, this is my new favorite jelly.  Served atop cream cheese and spread on crackers, it makes an excellent snack, but pair it with homemade Boursin and you will swoon!

Don’t let the thought of making jelly put you in a catatonic state; you must give this a try.  It is really very easy, can be made and in jars processing in under an hour, and will dazzle your guests with its novel deliciousness and your creativity.  One thing that I find to be key when making jelly is employing the use of a candy/jelly thermometer (inexpensively found at Michael’s – use your coupon), and always use LIQUID pectin, Certo® if you can find it.

If you prefer not to use the food coloring, eliminate it and your jelly will be almost clear.  Personally, I love the beautiful shade that a few drops bring.

Fresh Basil Jelly

1-1/2 cups fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
1 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cups water
6 1/2 cups sugar
2 (3 ounce) envelopes Certo® liquid pectin
(more or less, to taste), optional
2-3 drops green food coloring

Put basil leaves, vinegar, and lemon juice into a large (8-10 quart) stock pot.  Meanwhile, measure out the water and the sugar.

Add the water and bring almost to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Add sugar all at once; stir to dissolve.  Bring mixture to a hard boil.  When it reaches a hard boil (so that the boiling cannot be stopped by stirring), add both pouches of Certo
®.  Stir to blend, and return to a hard boil.

Boil for until jelly point (220
°F) is reached, approximately 1-3 minutes.  Remove from heat. Pour mixture through a heat-resistant sieve to remove basil leaves, or, that lacking, quickly remove basil leaves with a slotted spoon.

Stir in hot sauce (if using) and food coloring.  Pour immediately into hot sterilized jars.

Seal and process for 10 minutes in boiling water bath.

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