Friday, September 17, 2010

Chocolate anyone

It was recently brought to my attention that there are people who don't know about the Chocolate Brunch at the Langham hotel. Well, you're in for a treat. The chocolate brunch happens every Saturday from Fall to Spring at the Langham and it is always a little bit different. Imagine a huge room filled with every chocolate delight you can think of. Now imagine that there is also a crepe stand and cotton candy. And you might be coming close to the Langham's chocolate brunch experience. This year I was invited to a preview event we got to sample some of the experimental goodies planned to roll out at this years brunch. This event was eclipsed only by my visit to the brunch itself when I went with family about a month ago. We went for my cousin's birthday. It was amazing. The preview allowed me to know just what chocolate delights to head for. Sometimes all of that chocolaty goodness can be overwhelming. I mean that's a lot of chocolate. And the waiters will give you strategies on what beverages to drink to get the most out of your experience (I usually go with sparking water and tea). This year they changed it up a bit, adding different textures and tastes to the normal array of cakes, tarts and crepes. There was ice cream, cotton candy and even some options that included a savory element.
My favorites were the banana chocolate bacon tartlett. Not flavors I expected to go together but man were they delightful, the salt in the bacon kept the banana from being too sweet and veered the whole thing into a totally different taste direction. The crepe station was as always amazing and the people working it were deligtful as people asked for different combinations of crepe batter and fillings. Mine was chocolate crepe batter with mixed berries and grand manier, which they lit on fire! I love some fire with my Saturday morning chocolate. Another favorite was the chocolate and passion fruit mousse cup. The tart intensity of the passion fruit mingled perfectly with the smooth creaminess of the chocolate and the tiny crunchies on the top added the perfect texture addition. Another favorite was the raspberry mousse creamy and tart it added a palate cleansing interluded between bites of bitter, rich and creamy chocolate treats. New this year, there was also a truffle bar. These are lovely, the flavors are inventive and the chocolate is such a high qualtiy that it just melts in your mouth leaving residual flavors that will have you craving them again in a week. (Well, I was anyway.) And of course, anyone who gives me fresh cotton candy in the middle of the city is a winner in my book. So, my assessment is GO to the Langham Hotel Cafe Fleuri's Chocolate Bar. Bring your girlfriends, your parents, your boyfriend. Just go. You won't be disappointed.


A few weeks ago I somehow snagged an invitation to a Starbucks coffee tasting. I tasted the Galapagos blend. To be honest much of what was going on was a little over my head. The coffee we drank was brewed on the Starbucks Clover machine. Which I have ignored up until now because I feel like if I ordered a Clover coffee and asked them to put chocolate in it they might give me a sarcastic look. However, as a woman who normally likes her coffee light and sweet I can say that this Galapagos stuff is really good. After sampling it straight without sugar at Starbucks (believe me this alone is a shocking development) I brought a bag home and brewed it in my tiny one cup french press. It was really good! The coffee itself is rich without being overpowering more of a medium roast than a bold and intense roast. It has chocolate undertones and the aroma is intoxicating. It was great alone or with a touch of sugar and just a splash of milk. Or it became a rich delightful treat with a spoonful of Starbucks mocha powder and a little more milk. I have to say as someone whose never gone in for gourmet coffee before I may have been converted by this rich and chocolaty Starbucks blend. Thank you cavecibum for getting me invited and thank you Bjorn for such a delightful experience. I recommend this coffee blend to anyone who likes their coffee with a hint of chocolate

Monday, July 26, 2010

Zucchini Bread

When I was in college, every morning for breakfast I would go down to the campus coffee shop and have an iced mocha and a big slice of zucchini bread. I loved that bread and nothing I have had since (though to be honest not a lot of coffee shops or bakeries sell zucchini bread) has compared. So this year when I pulled an enormous zucchini out of my garden I was determined to make zucchini bread (what I'm going to do with all the yellow squash I have no idea).
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups zucchini, skins on and shredded
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
Beat eggs until foamy. Add sugar, oil, zucchini and vanilla. Beat well. Combine dry ingredients then slowly incorporate them. Pour into 2 greased and floured loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Sprinkle the tops with decorating sugar or pecans. 1 cup of Chopped pecans or 1 cup of chocolate chips, or 1/2 a cup of both can also be added to the batter before putting it into loaf pans.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Zack and Katie project: Shrimp and Sausage skewers

This meal was inspired by my friend Melody. I wanted to make something new one night but I had no inspiration. So I asked my friends what they wanted to eat. Mel responded with Strawberry Spinach salad and baked oven fries. So all I had to come up with was the meat. Out came the most recent issue of Bon Appetit and a promising Shrimp and Sausage skewers recipe. I was even more excited when I realized that this could be a Zack and Katie project meal. I am not normally a spicy kind of gal so I wanted to add another dimension to this meal. So I picked up some Orange apricot marmalade at the same shop where I bought the sausage and glazed half of the skewers with that. This meal is more filling than you would expect and stands up just fine when only paired with some corn, or a simple salad. But you can go all out and make potatoes and veggies to go with it as well.

Shrimp and Sausage Skewers adapted from Bon Appetit

¾ cup olive oil

4 large garlic cloves, pressed

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme + 1 T dried thyme

3 teaspoons smoked paprika

6 teaspoons Sherry wine vinegar

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

1 1/2 lbs uncooked extra-large shrimp (13 to 15 per pound), peeled, deveined

4 pieces of pre cooked sausage 1-inch-long pieces

12 cherry tomatoes

12 2-layer sections of red onion wedges

1 jar of orange marmalade or other sweet preserve

Special Equipment

6 long metal skewers

6 long bamboo skewers soaked in water

View full recipe

Whisk oil, garlic, thyme, smoked paprika, Sherry wine vinegar, salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper in medium bowl to blend for glaze. Transfer half of glaze to small bowl and reserve for serving.

Alternately thread shrimp, sausage pieces, cherry tomatoes, and sections of onion wedges on each skewer. Arrange skewers on large rimmed baking sheet. DO AHEAD Can be made up to 6 hours ahead.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Brush 6 of skewers on both sides with glaze from 1 bowl. Brush the remaining 6 skewers with the orange marmalade. Grill until shrimp are opaque in center, turning and brushing occasionally with more glaze or marmalade, 6 to 8 minutes.

Arrange skewers on platter. Serve with remaining bowl of glaze and marmalade.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Zack and Katie project, Gluten free AND Onion free

You all may know about my GFF by now, well, having her involved in my life gives me a good excuse to be creative when I'm coming up with new menus. Over the years I have developed a variety of different menus that can be pulled out at the mere mention of a dinner party. Vegetarian menus, no red meat menus, no chicken menus, no pork menus, no gluten menus, no vegetable menus, no spice menus, I am even working on some no onion menus. The only group I haven't really had to accommodate thus far is vegans. And I really hope I don't get any vegans cause if I can't cook with dairy along with all of the other restrictions, I will be one sad chef. So, this one falls into the no gluten and no onion menus. It is also part of my 45 minutes or less collection of easy and attractive dinners. So here it is. The polenta recipe is adapted from cooks illustrated.

Marinated Shrimp with Parmesan Polenta
For the shrimp
2lbs large shrimp, uncooked shelled deveined and rinsed in cold water
1/2 cup Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine (cooking wine is fine)
juice of one lemon
3-4 large garlic cloves pressed/diced
2 Tbs minced fresh parsley
dash salt
dash pepper
2 dozen bamboo skewers soaked in water

For the polenta
7 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
Pinch baking soda
1 1/2 polenta ( I use quick polenta)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Ground black pepper
butter (can use a non dairy butter like substance.
2 cups parmesan cheese (can use pecorino romano)

For the shrimp
combine all ingredients in a bowl. add the shrimp and let sit for an hour. DO NOT LET THEM SIT for longer than an hour and 15 minutes or they will start to cook in the citrus juice.

let bamboo skewers sit in water for 10 minutes while the shrimp are marinating.
Skewer the shrimp there is no real rhyme or reason to this though I usually try to stick the skewer two times through each shrimp to ensure stability.

grill the shrimp for 5-10 minutes on each side or until they look done.

For the polenta
Bring the water to a boil
once the water is boiling, add the salt and the baking powder ( this helps keep the polenta from clumping)
Then slowly pour in the polenta while stirring. Make sure you keep stirring until all of the polenta is thoroughly wet. Continue to stir continuously for 1 minute
then turn down the heat and leave the polenta to simmer for 5 mins stirring occasionally. pour in the cheese and incorporate. turn off the heat and stir in the butter.
It is now ready to serve.

Put big spoonfulls of the polenta in the bottom of a regualr or salad bowl. Then liberate the shrimp from the skewers and arrange on top of the polenta.
garnish with leftover parsley.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Zack and Katie project

I've been absent for a long time I know, and this post doesn't even have pictures. What the hell. But I am back for a very specific purpose. Bwecause my brother in law is getting married to an absolutely lovely girl. For their wedding I've decided to put together a cookbook. And the only way it will get done is if I hold myself accountable to the internet. :) So over the next several weeks I will be posting as often as I can about different recipes that are going into this book. Some will have pictures, some won't whatcha gonna do, we are working on a deadline here people.
If anyone out there who reads this has recipes that meet the following criteria please link me to your blog or send me the recipe. I am desperate to give my soon to be sister in law as many recipes as possible.
The recipes cannot contain:
Apples or any apple by product
Cow dairy
onions or green onions (shalotts are ok onion powder is not)
Yellow squash.
I know its a strange list but she is allergic to all of these things which makes eating out miserable, so I'm trying to make eating in more fun.

No post today while I get myself organized but from tomorrow on, posts can come from anywhere any time, and if a few non cookbook related posts happen, well then we know I'm back into blogging. :)

Sunday, February 21, 2010


I swear to god this is how this piece of bacon came out of the pan and ended up on the plate. There is no manipulation here. I felt the need to share this with everyone.
Back to my crack scones and bacon. mmmmm... bacon.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Coconut cupcakes

Normally, my cupcakes have two speeds. Chocolate and vanilla. Now don't get me wrong, I have about three different chocolate and vanilla cupcake recipes appropriate for all occasions. But recently I have decided that I am a Baker, with a capital B. I think this means that I need to be willing to try new things even if they aren't what I would eat, and I should especially try them if they are outside my normal comfort zone. So when my mother-in-law Julie (who I adore) said she wanted coconut cupcakes for her choose anything birthday confection my brain immediately said, challenge accepted!

After much searching through cookbooks and the lovely internet, I found that Martha Stewart's cupcake recipe was the most highly recommended. So onto her site I went. And aside from a few modifications, these are some damn fine and lovely cupcakes. First try out they came out light and fluffy and moist and kinda perfect. With just enough coconutty flavor. Martha's recipe calls for sweetened coconut shavings to be added to be batter but I forgot them, however, I think the cupcakes are better for the omission. I think the coconut would weigh them down and make them too sweet instead of the just sweet enough that they come out without the coconut. If you want to add the coconut in I would take away 1/4 of a cup of the sugar.

But I haven't even gotten to the interesting part of this story yet. The icing. Like cupcakes I generally have two icing flavors, VERY chocolate and vanilla. You will never see the recipe for my icing on this site because there simply isn't one, and it changes every time I make it. butter, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, salt, vanilla and milk are utilized in varying degrees that depend on everything from the weather to whose coming to dinner.
I thought that the coconut cupcakes required something a little different in the icing department, something outside my comfort zone. So, I decided to try Martha's 7 minute icing.

There are times when I believe Martha to be the genius everyone else does. When one of her recipes that is so easy comes out perfectly. Better than you ever thought something like that could taste. I also appreciate her genius around Halloween, cause she's just as crazy about it as I am but she has a lot of time and money on her hands to make it AWESOME.

And then there are the times when I truly believe that Martha is THAT grandmother. You know, the one who says she's given you the recipe for her famous sugar cookies, but has deliberately left out or mislabeled the key ingredient so that when you make them they come out like CRAP. Then she gets to say that only SHE can make them "the right way" (I speak from experience here folks.) This is how I felt about Martha while attempting to make her 7 minute icing. This was an unmitigated disaster. First, I misread the directions and added the sugar to the egg whites too soon. Then I got the sugar and the egg whites to the appropriate soft peaks, but when I added the sugar syrup it turned into lots of tiny pieces of hard sugar inside a meringue like icing. Yummy/dangerous. (I was later informed by my pastry chef friend that this happened because the sugar had gotten just a little too hot. Apparently you have to be careful with sugar, yet another reason I have no interest in making candy.)

By this point I had wasted half a dozen eggs and was cursing everything from chickens to Martha. And I was running late for the birthday dinner the cupcakes were meant for.

So, I ventured down another path, one I am more familiar with, one that did not involve any cooking in my icing prep. A simple cream cheese icing, not something in my everyday repertoire because my husband hates cream cheese with a burning fiery passion. but the random recipe I found on the internet was flawed so I embarked on a cream cheese frosting journey that I think turned out rather well. Thankfully the successful execution of the cream cheese frosting returned me to my normal zen baking state and I will undoubtedly be back in the kitchen this weekend for some new adventure rather than asking my husband if we can order out again so I can have time to recover from the trauma.

Here is the coconut cupcake recipe along with an approximation of the cream cheese icing recipe (play around with this one until it feels right)

Coconut cupcakes ( Adapted from the Martha Stewart recipe)

Makes 2 dozen

  • 3 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 4 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 8 large egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded sweetened coconut (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two standard 12-cup muffin pans and one small 12 cup mini muffin pan with paper liners.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt
  3. Using an electric mixer beat butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy
  4. Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until just combined. Transfer mixture to a large bowl, huge if you have it, you will be folding in egg whites.
  5. ( Yes you have to clean your mixing bowl which sucks but, In the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites on low speed until foamy. With mixer running, gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar; beat on high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form.
  6. Gently fold a third of the egg-white mixture into the butter-flour mixture until combined. Gently fold in remaining egg-white mixture. the batter will be pretty light and fluffy. This is one instance where I would recommend actually scooping the batter into the cups rather than using the old plastic bag piping trick, the cupcakes turn out rougher if they have to be transferred this way. Again, messy and a pain, but better in the long run.
  7. Bake for 18 to 25 minutes depending on your oven. These go from liquidy to done pretty quickly so watch that you don't over-bake them.
Cream cheese frosting this one is all me baby
1 block cream cheese
12 Tablespoons butter
1 and a half -2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 Tbs+ coconut milk
1/4 tsp salt

Throw room temperature, butter and cream cheese into the mixer with the vanilla and salt. Add the powdered sugar 1/2 a cup at a time alternating with the coconut milk until the desired flavor and texture are achieved.

After you have iced the cupcakes pour some sweetened coconut flakes into a bowl and roll the iced tops of the cupcakes into the coconut. This makes for a great snowball presentation.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ham and cheese croissants at home, you never need to go to Au Bon Pain again

Every year for MLK weekend my husband goes on a family skiing trip. I am invited every year, I even went one year but it was so freaking cold the break fluid in my car froze. NOT OK!

So last year, when I was still recovering from hip surgery, my friend Pam stayed with me all weekend. It was awesome, one of the best things about that weekend was that she made croissants. I had never thought of croissants as a thing you made at home. They are something that you buy. That was the end of my ruminations on croissants. Then she made them for me and I was in love. I honestly don't think I had eaten a croissant since sampling her delectable creations.

So, this year for christmas breakfast when I was wracking my brains for something delicious to make, I settled on croissants. I figured ( as I do with many of our more adventuresome food prospects) if Pam can make them then maybe I can too. She makes things less scary when I watch her effortlessly pull off pastries or create a loaf of bread from nothingness.
For my first foray into pastry making I decided that we would have plain, chocolate, and ham and cheese croissants, I even went so far as to purchase special cheese and ham.

Then the fateful day before christmas arrived and my husband and my friend April, who was visiting from out of town, marveled as I beat the crap out of not one butter block, but two. ( The first one crumbled and I forgot the flour.) As I beat the butter into the dough, Nathaniel asked, "Is that it? Are you done?" To which I replied, "No, I have to let it sit for two hours and roll it again, and then do it again, and then shape the croissants and let them sit in the fridge for 10-16 hours." To which my husband who knows me as a woman of little to no patience replied, "Yeah, right."

But, as the day wore on, and we watched an entire season of Big Bang Theory, I continued to get up every few hours and roll out the dough and carefully fold it back in on itself and let it sit in the fridge. You would think with all that work when it came time to cut the dough that I would be extra careful. Nope!

I didn't pay attention to the directions ( after 12 hours I can't be expected to pay attention to directions right?) And instead of cutting mostly rectangles ( for the chocolate and ham and cheese) with only a few diagonal pieces for the regular croissants I cut way too many rectangles. So I decided to dedicate most of my rectangles to the chocolate croissants and only a few to the ham and cheese and to risk dribbling by adding ham and cheese to some of the diagonal cut pieces. Then we waited, And as we opened presents the next morning buttery goodness puffed and baked away in the oven. It turns out that the leaky meltyness happened in the rectangular ham and cheese croissants where the triangular cut ones had a perfect distribution of savory goodness.

Would I recommend making these every day? No. But I would recommend keeping yeast in your fridge because these are perfect for a New England snowed in weekend when there is nothing to do but bake, watch TV, and enjoy being snowed in.

Croissants (I totally lifted this recipe from Cave Cibum but I don't think she'll mind :)
3 cups plus 2 Tbsp flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp instant or rapid rise yeast (about 1 1/2 packets)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup warm milk
3 sticks unsalted butter
1 large egg, beaten
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (optional)
4 small pieces ham ( about 1/2 an inch thick)
4 slices of muenster cheese.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine 2 3/4 cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. With the mixer at low speed and the dough hook installed, slowly add milk and mix until the dough begins to pull together, about 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium-low and mix until dough becomes sticky and elastic, about 8 minutes. If the dough isn't forming roughly into a ball by about 5 minutes, add 1/4 cup more flour, 1 Tbsp at a time. Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl and put the dough into a lightly greased bowl. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Lay out a large sheet of parchment paper on a counter. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp of flour on the parchment, then lay the 3 sticks of butter side by side on the flour. Sprinkle 1 more Tbsp of flour on top of the butter, then top with another sheet of parchment. Working with a rolling pin, gently pound the butter until it is softened and the flour is incorporated. Roll butter into a 12-inch square. Keeping the butter in the parchment, refrigerate for 1 hour.

On a floured surface, roll out dough so that the butter square will fit diagonally in the center. Place the butter in the center of the dough in a diamond shape, with the corners of the butter at the middle of the sides of the dough. Fold the dough over the sides of the butter so that they meet in the middle and press to seal shut. Roll the dough out to a 14-inch square, sprinkling on more flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Once dough is rolled out, fold the square into thirds, like a letter, to form a rectangle, then fold that rectangle into thirds to form a small square. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Roll out the dough again, lightly dusting with flour to prevent sticking. Repeat the previous folding process, folding the dough into a rectangle and then a square. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper (rimmed baking sheets are best). Roll the dough into a 20-inch square. Cut the dough into two halves down the middle.

For regular croissants, cut each half into 3 rectangles, then cut each of those pieces diagonally into 2 triangles. Cut a small slit into the wide end of the triangle, then gently roll the dough, starting at the wide end and moving towards the point. Place the croissants on the baking sheet and curl the arms around to form the crescent shape.

For chocolate croissants, cut each half into 6 even rectangles. Place a tablespoon of chopped chocolate at one end, then roll the dough up around it into a log shape. Arrange on the baking sheet with the seam on the bottom.

For ham and cheese croissants cut each half into 3 rectangles, then cut each of those pieces diagonally into 2 triangles. lay the cheese slices down first starting at the wide end of the triangle and placing them to about halfway to the tip of the triangle. If you are using deli cheese slices you want to cut them in half lengthwise so they don't stick out the sides when you roll the croissant. Then, place the ham at the wide end of the triangle ( 2-3 strips about 1/4 of an inch wide and 2-3 inches long).Then gently roll the dough, starting at the wide end and moving towards the point.

Loosely cover shaped croissants with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 to 16 hours.

Preheat oven to 400°. Brush the croissants with egg wash and place the sheets in the oven, using both racks. Bake until golden, 18 to 22 minutes. Rotate and switch the baking sheets halfway through baking. Serve warm or at room temperature. For chocolate croissants, wait until the croissants have cooled, then drizzle with melted chocolate.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cocoa Metro

Ok, so last week I was browsing with a friend at Russo's when I noticed one of my favorite things. Chocolate milk in a glass bottle. Intreigued, I of course bought a bottle of the thick silky looking concoction. When I got it home I opened it right away and poured a little into a glass. I have to say, this stuff is AMAZING. It's thick and packs enough rich chocolaty punch to satisfy even the most demanding chocolate craving. My husband compared it to melted Haagen dazs ice cream. And then, this morning, after french pressing a pot of godiva coffee, another chocolate lovers delight, I decided to try Cocoa Metro in my mocha. Best decision ever!
In fact, it was so delicious that I was inspired to march right up stairs and write about its awesomeness. So, In conclusion if you are a chocolate fan, a mocha fan, a milk fan or a fan of amazing feats of foodie goodness, go out and buy a bottle of Cocoa Metro, you won't regret it.