Something To Feel Good About... Well kinda

>> Thursday, December 31, 2009

As the New Year approaches, I always get so tired of the binging. Man, all the Christmas cookies, sweets, desserts, and rich foods get to ya, and you start to want to try eating better. But not good enough that you want to give up desserts. At least not yet, that comes after January 6, since cake is a must on your birthday! :) This one lets you feel better about yourself because of several things - berries: filled with antioxidants and gotta get your fruit; whole wheat flour: alternate to the white processed stuff and gives it a nuttier, more filling flavor; decreased sugar: way less sugar in this recipe than most desserts. I first made this recipe when my good friends Laurel and Mandy came to visit in the summer for Laurel's 30th birthday. She had been hinting around to Mandy that she might like some kind of berry dessert, so Mandy sneakily brought a few recipes along, we rounded up the ingredients in secret, and surprised her at her birthday dinner with some yummy berry crisps! I have since made this recipe many times, and changed it quite a bit to make it healthier, and better suit what I like. So, this recipe is dedicated to many things: 1)Wishing I could have one of our fabulous dinner parties to celebrate New Year's with Mandy and Laurel and our Charleston fun crew 2)Yummy foods that still make you feel okay about yourself, and 3)Desserts being around 250 calories!!

Individual Berry Crisps (Adapted from
Makes 4 servings (can easily be halved)

For the filling:
1/2 cup raspberry jam, with seeds (not sugarless fruit spread)
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups blackberries or a mix of raspberries and blackberries. You can use frozen, but defrost and make sure to drain extra juice before mixing into recipe

For the topping:
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/8 - 1/4 cup firmly packed golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter
Whipped cream for topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Stir raspberry jam and 2 tablespoons flour to blend in a medium bowl.

Carefully fold in berries.

Divide berry mixture among four ramekins or 6 oz baking dishes. Place ramekins on a baking sheet to catch spill over.


Stir flour and brown sugar to blend in small bowl. Add butter.

Blend butter into flour mixture using fingertips until mixture resembles meal.

Sprinkle topping over berries, dividing evenly.

Place in preheated oven. Bake until topping is golden brown and berries bubble thickly at edges, about 30-35 minutes. Cool Slightly and serve with whipped cream.



Mastering The Art Of Julia

>> Sunday, December 27, 2009

The hubby and I had a P.J. day today. We rented movies, turned off the phones, and stayed in. It was fabulous. We watched Julie and Julia for the first time. What a great movie!! In the middle of the movie, Julie attempts Julia's Raspberry Bavarian Cream dessert for the food editor. Something about it was calling my name. Or maybe it was the fact that I'm still craving comfort food because the New Year hasn't hit yet. I happened to have all the ingredients on hand, the hubby encouraged the yumminess, so, here I am, attempting my first ever Julia Child's recipe. I'm actually surprised this is my first Julia recipe, but I guess there's a first time for everything. I've made a lot of custards/puddings, but never a Bavarian cream to this extent. It wasn't actually too hard, and I was pretty pleased with the outcome, however I do wish it was a LITTLE bit creamier. Not sure if it was my fault or if I'm just used to chocolate flavored custards which end up being a little creamier. I also adapted the recipe a bit for what I had on hand, the biggest changes being raspberries/blackberries making it mixed berry instead of just raspberries (I didn't have enough raspberries) and 1/8 cup of egg nog in with the heavy whipping cream secondary to not having enough of the cream. I also halved the recipe since the hubby and I DO NOT need 8-10 servings. Lastly, in the movie, Julie makes it in a mold (if you haven't seen the movie, there's a small spoiler alert), but I didn't want to risk the crazy falling over/out or only half of it coming out of the mold, so I made it in cups as how the adapted recipe did. Hope you enjoy!

MIXED BERRY BAVARIAN CREAM (Bavarois aux Framboise - sounds much fancier!)
-adapted from A Bowl of Mush

The Ingredients:
* 1/2 cup orange juice
* 1 1/2 tablespoons gelatin powder
* 5 egg yolks
* 1 cup granulated white sugar
* 2 teaspoons corn starch
* 1 1/2 cups boiling milk
* 5 egg whites
* pinch of salt
* 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
* a tray of ice cubes
* 1/2 cup chilled whipping cream (I used half whipping cream, half egg nog)
* 1 pint fresh raspberries (and extra for decoration) (I used defrosted frozen raspberries and blackberries)

1. In a bowl add the orange juice and the gelatin powder and mix together and set aside to soften.

2. In a large bowl beat the egg yolks, cornstarch and sugar together until pale yellow.

3. Beat the boiling milk into the bowl pouring very slowly.

4. Pour this mixture into a sauce pan over a medium heat, stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture is thick enough to coat the spoon.

5. Immediately remove the saucepan from the heat and add the orange/gelatin mixture and beat all together until dissolved completely.

6. In another bowl beat the egg whites, salt and tablespoon of sugar until it forms stiff peaks.

7. Fold the egg whites into the custard cream mixture gently
Rinse out the previous mixing bowl and pour the custard cream in.

8. Set the bowl over another bowl filled with the ice and water.
Allow this mixture too cool down without setting, mix a few times.

9. In another bowl whip the whipping cream until it doubles in volume. Fold the whipped cream into the cooled custard mixture.

10. Push the raspberries through a sieve into a bowl to make 3/4 to 1 cup of puree.
Fold the raspberry puree into the custard cream mixture.

11. Add the cream to individual serving glasses, top the cream with fresh raspberries and place in the refrigerator to set for approximately 3 hours or until they are ready to be served.


Once A Year Guilty Pleasures

>> Saturday, December 26, 2009

Do you have those foods that you just LOVE... that you CRAVE.... one's that are full of guilt, but are just so darn good. You know, the ones you make like one time a year, and completely gorge yourself with because you know you only get them one time a year. I made one of those for Christmas dinner this year (I have tons of these recipes, but I just made one). Of course, getting away with a recipe like this clearly calls for the excuse, "It's Christmas"! World famous caramelized onion cornbread stuffing from Tyler Florence. It's just that good! I also made mashed potatoes, and played around with an old recipe to change it up a bit with what I had on hand, and let me tell you... they turned out amazing! Hope everyone had a fabulous Christmas!

Caramelized Onion Cornbread Stuffing

* 2 tablespoons butter
* 2 onions, chopped
* 6 large cornmeal muffins, cubed
* 1 egg
* 1/4 cup heavy cream
* 1/4 cup chicken stock
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place cubed cornbread muffins in a large bowl.

Saute onions in a pan with butter until golden brown and caramelized. Then, mix onions together with cornbread.

In a separate bowl, whisk together chicken stock, egg, and whipping cream until well blended, then pour over cornbread and onion mixture and mix well.

Place in a buttered 8" x 8" baking dish and bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 min or until golden brown. Then, divulge and enjoy!!!!

Smashed New Potatoes
I usually make my mashed potatoes with warm cream, but wanted to try a version with cheese, and had the mascarpone cheese on hand. Thought it sounded delicious, and so I replaced the cream with the cheese. They turned out super creamy and velvety, and were a big hit!

~3 lbs new red potatoes, cubed with skins on
1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
4 oz. mascarpone cheese
drizzle olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Place diced potatoes in a large pot covered with 2" water. Boil on medium high heat for ~ 15 min or until knife goes through them easily. Drain and return to pot.

Using hand held mixer or wooden spoon, mash potatoes together until slightly lumpy.

Add Parmesan cheese, mascarpone cheese, drizzle of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Using hand mixer, continue to mix until cheeses are melted and potatoes smooth. Transfer to serving bowl and sprinkle with extra Parmesan cheese if desired.

And Tada! The finished product!

What's your favorite once a year guilty pleasure?


Sweets, Treats, and Eats

>> Thursday, December 24, 2009

Well, it is that time of year. The time when you can't get away from sugar anywhere you look. It's inevitable. No matter how hard you try, what diet you're on, what self-control methods you pretend to use, you have to try at least one of every yummy thing that comes your way. My husband and I are right in the middle of a pretty heavy exercise program called P90X (ever heard of it!), and so I thought to myself that I would have the willpower to resist all of the crazy treats and recipes that came my way, but it was ridiculous to think about. Here's a few things I've been making and baking up.

For our anniversary a few weeks ago, we went to Sausalito and took an amazing chocolate making class at Cavallo Point Lodge. It was a wonderful class at this gorgeous inn right by the bay.

We took a class with Michael from Recchiuti Confections in San Francisco and made the BEST chocolate I've ever had. Burnt Caramel Almonds, Honeycomb Malt Truffles, and Fleur de Sel Caramels, oh my! Plus we were able to taste chocolate from all over the world. Did I mention this doesn't fall into the P90X diet! :) We were able to watch him make them, and then got the recipes to take home and try ourselves. I used these as my goody bags to give away to friends and neighbors this year. Here's some of the yummy chocolate.

Chocolate from around the world

Fleur de Sel Caramels

Gingerbread cookies were next on the list. I always have so many activities and events to go to this time of year, as I'm sure you do too. You're always asked to bring a little something, and it gets overwhelming. So I made these to take, and stretched them out to about 3 activities. The recipe comes from Martha Stewart, and I made a common royal icing frosting. The dough was a little gooey even with the refrigeration and freezing, but they still turned out very yummy. I also substituted fresh grated ginger in replacement of the ground ginger powder.

Lastly, it's been Archie and my yearly tradition to host a dinner party for the band at church. It's our favorite thing to do at Christmas time, and we put a lot of thought and planning into it. Or should I say, I do! :) Not that he doesn't help, but cooking is generally my area. Creativity and anything artistic is his. I was really excited about trying out some new recipes this year, and the afternoon of blog searching did not disappoint! I found some great recipes to use, and can't wait to share them with you. Bakerella is one of my new favorite places to hang out, and her specialty, cake balls, are super easy and amazing and perfect for impressing! Her recipe calls for Red Velvet cake, but there must be a conspiracy in San Jose against Red Velvet since I checked four stores and no luck!! So I replaced with Fudge Butter Cake mix, and they turned out just as well.

Cake Balls
1 box cake mix - your choice (cook as directed on box for 13 X 9 cake)
1 can cream cheese frosting (16 oz.)
1 package chocolate bark (regular or white chocolate)
wax paper

1. After cake is cooked and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl.
2. Mix thoroughly with 1 can cream cheese frosting. (It may be easier to use fingers to mix together, but be warned it will get messy.)
3. Roll mixture into quarter size balls and lay on cookie sheet. (Should make 45-50. You can get even more if you use a mini ice cream scooper, but I like to hand roll them.)
4. Chill for several hours. (You can speed this up by putting in the freezer.)
5. Melt chocolate in microwave per directions on package.
6. Roll balls in chocolate and lay on wax paper until firm. (Use a spoon to dip and roll in chocolate and then tap off extra.)

I also only melt a few pieces of chocolate bark at a time because it starts to cool and thicken. It’s easier to work with when it’s hot.

Hope these wonderful goodies keep you festive and bright, and you enjoy a wonderful and Merry Christmas!