Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hazelnut Praline Truffles

Hi everybody! How are things in your neck of the woods? We had a good day here. Lots of rain on and off, but Ben and I went out and cut up/hauled brush and firewood today. I played with fondant a little bit, and read more of Kitchen Confidential. Tomorrow is my bike ride/and walk to work day, so I hope it's not raining then! 

I'm also super excited because the plans are final for my mom and sister to visit between Christmas and New Years! I haven't seen them in a really long time, as they live in California, so it will be so enjoyable! I think we'll be going to the Butchart Gardens to see all of the lights. We also might go to the Empress Hotel to see all of their Christmas trees! I can't wait! Anyway, back to the food!

Are you ready for more candy? I thought you might be! This is one tasty recipe! You can just make the praline and eat it as-is. It makes a great hard candy. You can also cover the whole praline in tempered chocolate, then break it up into shards. Very pretty and tasty! Or, you can grind it up and put it into truffle filling, which is what we're doing today. This stuff is delicious beyond words!

Use a large sauce pan, as the sugar likes to bubble up quite a bit. This will also take a bit of time, so don't become too impatient! Sugar takes it's time, but it will burn quickly if you aren't paying attention!

Hazelnut Praline by Cathy Burgett
2 1/2 cups skinned hazelnuts (16oz)
1 1/2 cups sugar (10 1/2 oz.)
water to cover (use as little as possible, while still covering the sugar, as you will then have to wait for all of it to cook off again)

Bring the sugar and water to a boil, and cook over high heat until light caramel in color.

Add the hazelnuts and continue cooking until all the nuts are well separated into the caramel and it is light brown.

Pour the mixture onto a well-oiled baking sheet, or silpat, spread nuts to one layer, and leave it to harden.

At this point you can do any of the things listed above! I used mine in truffles, so if you want to do that too, continue on! Make a half batch of this basic truffle filling and let it cool in the fridge. Break up the praline a bit and put it into your food processor.

 Grind it until it becomes very fine granules.

Put the truffle filling into your mixer, and beat it on medium until light. Add the ground praline and beat until well incorporated.

 Now you can scoop it into little balls, roll it between your hands, or pipe it into tempered chocolate molds.

 If you want rustic looking truffles you can roll them in finely chopped toasted hazelnuts, or quickly dip the refrigerated balls of filling into tempered chocolate.

I sold these at our local craft fair, and they were a hit! I think we ate a good amount of them ourselves, too! These would make wonderful hostess/workplace/friend gifts for the holidays. Incorporate a few onto a cookie plate for a pot luck! Have them around for you own holiday guests to enjoy, or just eat them all yourself! It's ok, I won't tell! 

Movie Monday

Hi guys! Our power has been out for hours, and I had given up on getting anything posted today. Instead of worrying about that, I've been lounging around in my PJ's and slippers, listening to crazy wind and rain, and reading Kitchen Confidential. I'm almost done. It just keeps getting better, and, unfortunately, makes me want to get back into a restaurant kitchen. Flitting thoughts of pastry chef jobs, raunchy kitchen banter and cocky friends with knives stream through my head as I read. But then I remember that I get to work at a bakery, and that I make all kinds of fun stuff, every week! That's the place for me! It is a good book though ;)!

Here's a quick rundown of our movies for the week.

Movie Monday
Elf- This has become on of my FAVORITE Christmas movies!!! Will Ferrell plays Buddy the elf, who's actually a human raised by elves. He goes to NYC in search of his father. This is hilarious, cute, and very festive. It makes me want to answer the phone "Buddy the elf, what's your favorite color?!". A must see, if you haven't already!

Miracle on 34th ST.- This is a Christmas classic! If you haven't ever see this movie, well, I'll claim I don't know you, you deprived child! This one is from 1947, and is black and white. A movie in the true Christmas spirit, about a man who claim to be the REAL Santa Claus, is put on trial for being insane, and who is trying to win over a mother and daughter who "don't believe". Love this one!

Dr. Dolittle- I'm talking the 1967 Rex Harrison version here, none of that Eddie Murphy crap. This is long, and a bit hokey, but i love it! There's an unfortunate amount of singing, but the cute animals strewn throughout the movie make up for it. There's also some hilarious things like the pushmepullu, the giant pink sea snail, and the lunar moth! Harrison is Dr. Dolittle, a vegetarian veterinarian who doesn't do well with people. He's out to find the giant pink sea snail, and takes a few friends, a talking parrot, and his chimp along for the ride. Worth seeing at least once!

Ghost Writer- Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor star in this drama/mystery about a writer who is hired to finish the memoirs of a former prime minister. Things get dicey as more information is uncovered, and McGregor starts to worry that he'll go the way of his predecessor who supposedly committed "suicide". Great story line, good acting, keeps you on edge and wondering! This is a pretty smart movie, and Ben and I both liked it. Nothing amazing, but a good movie.

Easy A- The always charming Emma Stone stars in this high school comedy about a girl with a virginal reputation, who accidentally starts a bad rumor about herself. Things snowball from there, with some hilarious results! Yeah, it's another high school goofy movie, but it's smarter, and is pulled off rather better, than lots of others. Great entertainment value! We liked it a lot!

Shrek Forever After- I liked this one better than the third shrek, but not nearly as well as the first two. This time around Rumplestiltskin tricks Shrek into never being born, creating an alternate world where Rumple rules with the witches. It's still funny, but is nothing spectacular. If you really liked the other movies then you would probably enjoy this. If not, then you can skip it. Nothing new here.

Sherlock Holmes- This is the 2009 version. I bought it on blu-ray, cuz we liked it so much! Good action, good acting, interesting storyline, and great use of the books characters. This is an exciting, adventurey, big budget movie.Lots of fun!

What movies did you guys watch this week? Anything good that I should check out?

Congrats on surviving you Monday! Good night!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Crofters Superfruit Spread and Kitchen Confidential

Hello friends! How's the weekend treating you? We've been holed up in our cozy house with the dogs, rain outside, and lots of Mario Kart Wii tournaments! 

I also just started reading Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. Fantastic book!!! It is smart and hilarious, mostly because it's all true! I grew up as a kitchen brat, following my dad through many restaurants where he was head chef. My babysitters were the guys on the line who made me tip'n'tail green beans, the bar tender who let me behind the counter to make my own shirley temples (they went through a lot of cherries!), and the waitresses who let me squirt the whipped cream on pie slices and fold napkins in the back room. I have witnessed much of what Bourdain talks about in his book, and it makes me love it even more!!! If you are a foodie, have a high tolerance for bad language and being disgusted, and love smart anecdotes pertaining to awesome food and bad behavior, then this book is for you!!!

Besides enjoying my new book, I've also been enjoying Fruit spreads from Crofters!!! They sent me 3 flavors of their superfruit spread, and I've been powering my way through these jars! 

The Asia spread is by far my favorite. It's smooth, tangy/sweet and delicious! The best way to enjoy it is on toast.


But it's really good stirred into oatmeal for some extra fruity flavor! I added vanilla and sliced almonds too!

Yeah, not the prettiest, but oh so tasty!

My new favorite? Crofter's Superfuit spread on waffles! Oh yes, this is a must try!

The other flavors are good too. The North America spread has nice little berry bits in it, and the South America spread is mouthwatering as well! I especially like that they are not gelatinous like jelly. It spreads smoothly. You can buy Crofter's products at most large grocery stores, I just saw some at our local Super Store. There is no excuse! These organic jars of antioxidant rich fruity flavor have great ingredients like morello cherry, passion fruit puree and fair trade cane sugar! It'll be a perfect addition to your breakfast table! Yum! They also have great info and recipes on their site! Hope you guys get a chance to try it out!

Speaking of trying things out, I'm thinking of sharing more candy posts. Does that sound good to you guys? I got a lot of enthusiastic responses from the truffle post. Plus, it's just that time of year! Cookies and candy are flowing out of my kitchen, and unfortunately often into my stomach! I'll see what I can come up with next! Hope your Monday is a good one! 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving with POM!

Hi everyone! Hope all of those who celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday had a wonderful time! I am still not used to Canadian Thanksgiving, it seems so early! Ben and I had the house to ourselves, so we celebrated U.S. Thanksgiving in our own way.
This is Magic Lake, all frozen over. It got coated in snow overnight!

We slept in, and woke up to more snow! We had nutella in our oatmeal, then went to visit our pigs. Tobogganing  down the hill got lots of snow up my back, but it was SO fun! I took Izzie down with me a few times, and Ben and I went together. Tons of fun!
You can see our sledding tracks all down the hill!
Bird prints in the snow! Too cute!

Then we came in, put on Miracle on 34th St., and Ben made a pumpkin pie. We played Mario Kart Wii, then I made us some dinner. We had pan fried chicken breasts, parmesan mashed potatoes, and roasted asparagus. I also roasted a head of garlic. YUM! For the chicken I made a great sauce using red wine, dried cranberries, and POM. It had that perfect festive color, and a great savory/sweet contrast of flavor. I think the POM really made it!

Red Wine Cranberry POM sauce (inspired by America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook)
1/4 yellow onion, finely diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 Tbs. flour
3/4 cup red wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 Tbs. honey
1/3 cup regular POM pomegranate juice

Once you have pan fried your chicken

(breasts dried, tossed in flour s&p and fried in canola oil until golden and cooked through) remove it from the pan and keep it warm.

 Add the onion to the pan and saute until softened. Add in the garlic and stir until fragrant.

 Stir in flour and cook 30 seconds, then pour in wine, stock, cranberries, thyme, honey and POM juice. Scrape bottom of pan to loosen browned bits.

Bring to a simmer, and cook until sauce has thickened and reduced slightly, about 3-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over the chicken.

This was the perfect easy meal, that tasted and looked like Thanksgiving without the hassel! I've been using POM juice in other ways too! I made a spritzer out of it with lime juice and seltzer! Yum!

After dinner we had Ben's pumpkin pie and watched the new Star Trek movie.

Then it was off to work for us! I got to decorate this birthday cake! It was really fun! I think piping is my favorite! So many things you can do!

Hope everyone's work week was good, it's Friday!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Basic Truffles

Hi there bloggy friends! Before we get to the chocolate, I wanted to let you know that I will soon have the opportunity to review an item from one of the CSN family of online stores! I will probably choose a food related item, but they also have things like tv tables, baby items and games in their selection of over 200 stores! I'm not exactly sure what I'll be getting yet, but I'll show you as soon as it gets here!
 I thought you might like another installment in the candy series! Here is another staple recipe for you. Truffles! Everyone loves them, and they are disgustingly simple! You can, of course, make them as complicated as you like, but they don't have to be hard!

This is another recipe from school. I have used it countless times! I'm sure you will too!

Chocolate Truffles
1 lb. semisweet chocolate
1 cup cream
6 Tbs. butter (3 oz.)

Bring the cream to a boil in a small sauce pan. Remove from the heat and stir into the chocolate and butter.

Stir until smooth.

Refrigerate until firm. Beat the mixture with the paddle attachment on the mixer on medium speed until light. Add liqueur if desired.

Form into balls with your hands or a scoop,

 or pipe into small rounds onto parchment-lined sheets. Freeze until firm before coating, rolling in nuts, or rolling in cocoa powder.

Liqueur: Before chilling the mixture, add 2 Tbs. grand marnier, brandy, kahlua, or other desired liqueur.

Nuts: Before chilling mixture, add 3/4 cup ground nuts such as hazelnuts, walnuts, or almonds.

Coatings: Cocoa powder, melted, tempered dark or white chocolate, finely chopped nuts.

You can also pipe this filling into tempered chocolate coated molds to make snazzy truffles!

This filling melts easily and quickly, so don't handle too much, and store somewhere dark and cool. The options are endless here! Use any liqueur, Stir in all kinds of nuts, candy cane bits, praline or whatever! Just try not to eat all of it out of the bowl! Don't worry, you can lick that when you're done! ;)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Movie Monday and Some Chocolate!

Heeey, look! It's actually Monday! I remembered! I think it's a miracle. Anyway. We've been having lots of crazy weather here. Temperatures below freezing, snow flurries, and some really strong winds! Everything is pretty cozy though, and we're actually enjoying the excitement!

 The power is amazingly still on, despite a few brown-outs and flickering. The fire is roaring and there are lots of fuzzy little bodies napping in front of it.

I have hot tea, slippers, and a good book. Plus a little chocolate! I am enjoying some of the chocolate that was sent to me from Alter Eco Fair Trade, and it is delicious! There is a plain 85% dark chocolate, and some dark chocolate with crystallized orange peel.

Both have a nice snap when you bite into them, and a very creamy and silky texture. I am totally a fan of dark chocolate in general, but the flavor of this, especially the 85%, is really intense while not at all bitter. The dark chocolate with orange is the perfect mix. The fresh flavor of orange is strong but not overpowering, and the little nuggets of crystallized orange peel create an interesting texture with a flavor burst.

 Just a little bit goes a long way, so it's perfect for my "behaving myself" dessert nights. I love finding new chocolate, especially when it's really good. You guys should try this. You won't be sorry! Check out their website to order some of your own!

We've all been sick/fighting the flu, plus all of the crazy weather, power outages, and the craft fair this weekend. Needless to say we haven't watched as many movies as we usually do. Nevertheless, here's the list!

Movie Monday
Ella Enchanted: This stars Anne Hathaway when she was younger. It's definitely made for young girls, but I have to say I enjoyed it anyway. Ben didn't even complain. Go figure. Ella is under a spell that causes her to always be obedient. She has funny friends, goes on a quest, and meets a handsome prince. Magic, singing and comedy fill out this cute little movie. It's a fun lightweight watch.

Mission Impossible 3: This one wasn't as good as the other two. It still had good action, an actual plot, and reasonable acting, but it didn't suck you in as much as the first one. Ethan Hunt now has a girlfriend, and doesn't go on real missions anymore. He's asked to do just one more, and of course it gets bigger and more involved than anticipated. It's a good one time watch action flick.

The Man in the Iron Mask: I just finished reading the book, by Alexandre Dumas. It was a pretty good book, although I liked the first two better. This movie is supposedly based on the book, so I waited to watch it until I was done reading the original. No need. This was nothing like the book at all. Leonardo DiCaprio plays the king of France, and the man in the iron mask. It's a pretty good movie, but not fantastic. Good period drama, nice costumes, alright plot considering it's all new. The main thing that bothered me in this was John Malkovich. He's a good actor, but he really is wrong for period pieces. Every time I heard him talk it ruined the scene. All in all, it was entertaining, especially if you haven't read the book!

The Sorcerer's Apprentice: We both really liked this one! Nicholas Cage is Balthazar, one of Merlin's three apprentices. He looks for a thousand years for a special boy, and finds him in modern times. Dave is a goofy science nerd, who now also happens to be a sorcerer's apprentice! Funny, light, with a unique twist on the original story. It also has a great throw-back to Mickey and the brooms! This is a fun one!

The Muppets' Wizard of OZ: This was probably my least favorite muppet movie ever. Don't get me wrong. I still watched it, and enjoyed it too. It just wasn't up to par with things like Muppets' Christmas Carol, or the Great Muppet Caper. Ashanti is the star of this, and I can't say that she is a great actress. She does have a great singing voice though! There is the usual muppet hilarity, great characters, and the expected songs. It's a fun one timer, but I don't think I ever need to see this one again.

That's it for tonight folks! I just finished reading The Man in the Iron Mask, and I just started reading Stardust by Neil Gaiman. It's great so far! Time to curl up in front of the fire with all of those dogs! G'night!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Kilimanjaro Wot Sauce Chicken and SNOW!

Well hello there! This has been one busy week! We got tons of snow!!! This is supposed to be the snowiest/coldest winter in the last 50 years! I am so excited, being from California and not so used to the snow. It made driving a bit difficult, and we ended up walking 7 miles in the snow in the middle of the night for a work shift, but it's still fun!

Snow everywhere!Our deck, yard, and water view were all covered!

Lots of beautiful shots. This is at the Driftwood Center, where the bakery is, at about 4am! Like the cat tracks across the bridge?

Ben took this one. So cute!

Saturday was also the craft fair that I've been working towards! Most of my items were not so popular, but my candy went really well and I made back all i'd spent, plus a little profit!

I think I'll be doing the next craft fair, on December 12 th too. Admittedly, the power was out, and lots of people couldn't get there because of the snow, so it wasn't ideal selling conditions.

I had tons of fun though, and had lots of friends wander by, say hello, and buy things. I got to meet lots of new islanders too!

With all of this cold weather, and a house full of sick people, we wanted something a bit spicy for dinner. I had just the thing! The nice people over at Kilimanjaro Foods sent me a package with some fun new things to try! They have a great selection of African and African-inspired sauces and gourmet items, all full of flavor and enthusiastic inspiration. One item was this Wot sauce, a spicy tomato based sauce that's good for soups, stews, meat...anything!

I decided to try it over chicken and rice. I browned some drumsticks in a pan to bump up their flavor.

Then I poured half the jar of sauce over them, added about 1/3 cup water, and let them simmer until done.

I made a pot of rice, and  baked some cauliflower (425*, covered in olive oil and salt, bake until browned about 20 minutes). We put it all into one bowl and made sure everything had sauce. My whole family raved about this! Everyone in the house agreed that it is just delicious!

It was just right! Such a simple meal, easy and fast to prepare, and SO much flavor! The house smelled wonderful from all of the herbs blended in the sauce. There was a good spicy kick to the Wot sauce, but I could totally handle it, even being the spice-wimp that I am! I can't wait to try other Kilimanjaro products! You can try them too, by ordering online from their website! You'll be amazed by the intense range of flavors, and how easy it makes your dinner preparation!  If you have their products, and want some inspiration, then check out their recipe page for tons of good ideas!

We are expecting more snow, and some seriously cold weather here in the next few days. Time to break out the snow gear! Hope everyone enjoyed their weekends. I'll be posting more candy recipes soon. Stay warm!