Guru Rabbit

Turn a new leaf (and EAT it)

On the Twelfth Day of Yum: DONE! December 23, 2011

Filed under: Interestin' Food Info,Recipes — rabbit @ 2:39 pm
Tags: , ,

Just in time for the holiday weekend.  I can’t wait to finish sending off all the desserts I’ve made.  I can’t wait to make something without sugar…

So let’s talk about eggnog and its relatives.  All around the world, you will find various versions of the stuff.  In general, they are made with egg yolks, creating a custard base, and then flavored with a variety of ingredients, depending on where you are– a twist of orange or lemon, vanilla, cocoa, coffee, coconut, rum, brandy, whiskey, sherry, marsala wine, etc.  Mexico’s version is called rompope, and is often flavored with different kinds of nuts.  I thought about making some this year.  But we don’t typically have eggs on hand, and I don’t have the financial wiggle room to buy some (especially since my conscience will force me to buy the expensive free-range ones).  I could certainly try a vegan version, but when it comes to recreating the velvety egg yolk custard… more solid desserts are one thing, but I’m a little wary about a beverage.  (Lolz, I fooled you, no eggnog here!)  That’s a project for another day.  I figured I would just wing something anyway…

I combined a cup of sugar, half a cup of almond meal, half a cup of brown rice flour, and whisked into it a quart of rice milk.  I put it over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it began to simmer and thicken.  Then I strained it (twice), and after it cooled, added a cup of rum.  Chilled overnight…

And then I realized, due to the use of a rice base, I essentially made spiked horchata.  Hey, that’s kinda cool, I’ll take it!  Granted it’s not how horchata is traditionally made, but it’s a hell of a lot easier (yes, I’ll probably make an authentic one some day).  But it’s a lower-fat, no-cholesterol, and slightly stronger alternative to eggnog.  I imagine one could skip the almond meal, and use some amaretto (almond flavored liqueur) in combination with the rum (or brandy).  And that is that.  Enjoy with a plethora of holiday desserts and pass out under the tree.

Cheese-and-rice, I’m pooped.  And in serious need of some garlic-dill pickles and spicy mustard…

 

Advertisements
 

On the Eleventh Day of Yum: When I Grow Up, I’m Gonna Be a Crazy Cat Lady December 22, 2011

Filed under: Recipes — rabbit @ 11:18 am
Tags: , ,

It seems as though my cat and I now have three things in common: napping; basking in our own glorious being; and pumpkin.

Turns out he enjoys winter squash mixed in with his food.  I used to think he was kind of a jerk, but now I guess I can say he’s got good taste.  (He must know I’m talking about him because he just walked into the room…)

Ever heard of Sticky Toffee Pudding?  It’s a classic British dessert consisting of date-studded cake, covered in toffee sauce.  And often topped off with a bit of ice cream, custard, or cream.  Although it’s a cake, the term “pudding” in British cuisine can refer to dessert in general.  I’ve made it once before, many moons ago, and I always think to myself that I should make it again.  This time around I thought pumpkin would be an excellent addition to the cake.

Sticky Toffee Pumpkin Pudding

(adapted from this recipe)

Ingredients:

Cake-

1 1/4 cup flour (all-purpose, whole wheat pastry, or white whole wheat)

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp fine-grain sea salt

6 oz dried pitted dates, chopped

1 cup water

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 cup faux butter

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

1 tsp vanilla

Toffee Sauce-

1 tsp arrowroot starch

2 cups non-dairy milk

1/2 cup turbinado or demerara sugar (or some other brown sugar)

2 1/2 Tbsp molasses, agave, or a mix of both

pinch of salt

2 Tbsp faux butter

1) To make the cake, preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease an 8 inch pan or baking dish.  In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

2) Place the dates and water in a saucepan, and bring to a boil.  When it starts to bubble, remove from heat and stir in the baking soda.  It will foam up like so…

3) In a medium bowl, beat together the butter and sugar.  Mix in the pumpkin and vanilla.  Gently fold in half the flour, then the dates.  Follow with the rest of the flour.  Spread into the prepared pan and bake about 40 minutes, or until when you insert a toothpick, it has a few moist crumbs.

4) For the toffee sauce, reserve a couple of tablespoons of the milk and mix it with the arrowroot in a small cup.  Set that aside.  Then, in a saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients, except the butter.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently, to melt the sugar and evaporate some of the liquid.  Here you can adjust the consistency by adding the arrowroot mixture (as much or as little as you want).  Once you pour it in, the heat will activate the starch’s thickening power.  If you find its still not thick enough for your liking, you can add more arrowroot, but make sure to mix it with cold milk before mixing it in.  Once you got the sauce the way you like it, remove from heat and stir in the butter.

To serve the cake, there is but one rule: it must be warm.  Otherwise, it’s pretty casual.  You can poke holes in the cake and pour the sauce over, letting it soak in.  Whoa, baby.  Or, you can slice or spoon the cake out and drizzle the sauce all pretty…

Oh ehm gee.  I was so right about the pumpkin.

In your face, cat, you can’t have any.

Damn you, human… Damn you.

 

On the Tenth Day of Yum: You Shouldn’t Eat Babies December 21, 2011

Filed under: Recipes — rabbit @ 11:18 am
Tags: , ,

There are two particular confections that, apparently, I shouldn’t enjoy so much.  Whenever I tell people that I love these candies, they make faces at me.  And then I get sad.

One is candy corn.  I know, you’re making the face.  But with this one I understand.  It really is just ridiculous.  I must’ve been born with a defect.

The second is marzipan, which, in reality, is kinda similar to candy corn, but it’s not as punch-you-in-the-teeth-sweet, and features almond paste as its main ingredient.  Now, not as many people make the face when I mention this one, but I often feel surprised when someone tells me they enjoy marzipan as well.

Marzipan is most commonly used to make little fruits and other figures on cakes.  Or, disturbingly, babies.  Ew.

You can also find it covered in chocolate.  Yaaay!

I will say, however, that more than marzipan itself, it’s the almond paste I really love.  Although almond paste already comes sweetened, and is perfectly suited for molding into shapes, marzipan contains even more sugar, and some other stabilizing ingredients, such as egg whites.  Both almond paste and marzipan are used frequently in European cakes and pastries.  Almond paste is also whipped with butter and eggs to make tart fillings.  Ees nice.

Here, I’ve used almond paste as part of a crumb topping for apple bars.  It imparts a delicate flavor to the crunchy crumb.

Marzipan Crumb Apple Bars

Ingredients:

Crust-

1/2 cup faux butter or non-hydrogenated shortening

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 cup flour (all-purpose, whole wheat pastry, or white whole wheat)

Filling-

2 large baking apples (I used Golden Delicious.  Granny Smith or Honey Crisp are just a couple other suggestions)

2 Tbsp sugar (brown or white)

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Crumb Topping-

5 oz almond paste (about 1/2 a cup.  You can find it in the baking section of the supermarket, or in bulk at cake supply stores)

1/2 cup sugar

6 Tbsp faux butter or non-hydrogenated shortening

3/4 cup flour (again, all-purpose, whole wheat pastry, or white whole wheat)

1) To make the crust, preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line an 8×8 inch baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil (this is not really necessary, but it will make cutting the bars easier).  Beat together the butter and powdered sugar until well mixed.  Mix in the flour until just incorporated, and press the mixture into the bottom of the pan, and a little up the sides.  Bake for about 15 minutes, or until it is lightly browned.  Leave the oven on.

2) To make the filling, peel the apple if desired (I didn’t), and chop into small pieces.  Mix with the sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon.  Cook over medium heat for about 15-20 minutes, until the apples are tender.  It’s pretty much like apple pie filling.

3) To make the crumb topping, tear the almond paste into chunks and place them in a food processor.  Add the sugar, and mix well.  Then add the butter.  You’ll have to help the process along with a butter knife.  Then add the flour.  Do not process too much when you add the flour.  Use the butter knife mostly to mix it in.

4) Spread the apple filling over the crust, keep it within the edges.  Then top with the crumbs.  I used some crumbs as border patrol, to keep the filling nice and tidy.  You’re going to have a lot of crumb topping.  If you don’t want to use it all, you could save it for a pie, coffee cake, etc.

A schtickle of cinnamon doesn’t hurt either.

5) Bake 20-25 minutes, or until the topping is lightly browned.  Allow to cool completely.  I refrigerated mine, which made the cutting process even easier.  Use the parchment paper or foil to lift it out, and then cut.

It’s like eating a little piece of apple pie with a hidden twist of almond.  A bit of European pastry tradition meets American fare.  When I ate this one, I felt, for lack of a better word, classic.  You could use other fruit in this bar cookie, such as berries, peach, apricot, plum, pear, or mango.  Additionally, you could actually make an apple pie (or lots of other fruit pies) with this crumb topping.  In reality, that was my first thought.  But these are a lot easier to give away :)

 

On the Ninth Day of Yum: The Schlemiel and The Schlemazel December 20, 2011

Filed under: Recipes — rabbit @ 11:45 am
Tags: , , ,

As a child, I was raised Catholic.  It always puzzled me.  Church, that is.  I didn’t quite understand the little vessels of water at each doorway, didn’t really get the moral of the story they were trying to tell through the stained glass windows, why the holy communion tasted like newspaper, or why everything seemed so damn scary.  Plus, it was annoying to worry about whether we might have to go to church at midnight on Christmas Eve.  Screw that!  My mom even nudged my brother and me into being altar servers.  For those who were raised in some Protestant denomination of Christianity, I won’t bother to explain all this in psychoanalytical detail, for various reasons.  Just read Angela’s Ashes.  That about covers it, even if you’re not Irish.

In spite of this upbringing (or perhaps because of it), I not only deviated from Catholicism, I eventually found myself somewhat attracted to Jewish culture.  Lolz.  But hey, it’s not my fault my family always went for bagels after church…  And living in South Florida, it is inevitable that you will, at some point, find yourself surrounded by Jewish retirees from the motherland: New York.

In short, I’m secular now.  But I do know a bit of Yiddish (mostly impolite phrases).  I fall for just about any guy with a nice schnoz.  And my best friend, Rachel, is Jewish (though to my liking, she’s very un-kosher, in various senses).  So there’s always a place in my heart for Jewish cuisine.  Back in middle school, Rachel was at my house one time, and we found a random box of matzoh in the pantry.  I don’t think I had ever heard of chocolate-covered matzoh before we tried a piece with some chocolate frosting… chocolate always brings us together.

And during my twelve days of dessert madness, I’d hate to neglect Chanukah (I like the phlegmy pronunciation of the “ch”).  And Kwanzaa… that starts the day after Christmas, so we’ll see about that…  Pfft, who am I kidding, I’m not doing a Kwanzaa recipe.

So for this year’s dreidel fest, I wanted to go back to rugelach, which I’ve only made on two other occasions, ever.  It’s not that typical of a Chanukah food, but it is super Jewish, and who’s not gonna eat one of these lovely little rolled up treats on any holiday?  Usually, the dough is made with cream cheese (though there are variations to accommodate the cookies to a kosher meal).  But I had the idea to use goat cheese.  Because duh, goat cheese is awesome.  I thought that maybe I was onto something unique, until I Googled it and found a recipe that not only uses goat cheese, but goat BUTTER as well.  Somebody had me beat…  Damnit!  I hate when that happens.  But on the bright side, at least I had a recipe to work straight from, so that’s convenient.  Delectable Desserts posted the recipe from a book called Goat: Meat*Milk*Cheese, by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough.

I really just used the recipe for the dough.  When it comes to rugelach, you can fill it with pretty much anything– various jams, nuts and nut butters, dried fruit, chocolate, spices, etc.  As long as the filling is spreadable, or chopped finely enough to be rolled.

Capricious Rugelach (if you look up “capricious” enough, you’ll get it)

Ingredients:

8 oz goat’s milk butter (I found it at Whole Foods.  The brand was Meyenberg, which also produces other goat milk products nationwide)

8 oz soft goat cheese (chevre)

1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour (I stuck to the recipe.  Whole wheat pastry flour should work, but regular whole wheat will probably result in a tough cookie)

1/4 tsp salt

I want to note that, although the goat butter was a splurge ($5 for 8 oz), it was totally worth it, just to discover how amazingly tasty it is.  Creamy, tangy, and slightly sweet.  I am now thoroughly convinced that I one day need to have my own dairy goats.

1) Cut the butter into 1 or 2 inch pieces and throw into a large bowl.  (Another benefit to goat butter is that while cow butter needs a prolonged period of time to soften, this stuff needs just a few minutes).  Toss in the goat cheese and start your electric mixer.  Beat until smooth and luscious, kinda like cream cheese frosting.

2) Add the flour and salt, and mix on low speed until just about all the flour is incorporated.  Then take a rubber or silicone spatula and mix by hand until the dough is homogenous.

3) Then, using your spatula, gather it all together.  Divide the dough evenly into three and place each third onto a piece of wax paper.  Form each piece of dough into a 1-inch thick round disk, wrap, and chill, for at least three hours or up to three days.  (I’m sure you could freeze this dough for a longer period of time.)

4) When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Take out only one disc of dough at a time (they soften quickly).  Sprinkle flour on the counter and a little around the dough.  Roll into a 12-inch circle.  Remember, work from the center outward, not back and forth all the way across the circle.

5) Now for your fillings.  For this one, I used some fig jam, a mix of ground almonds and walnuts, and finely chopped bittersweet chocolate.

Looks like pizza…

6) Then cut the round into twelve triangles.  This is easiest by first cutting it into fourths, and then cut each fourth into three.  Carefully roll each piece, starting from the widest part of the triangle, and place onto the cookie sheet.

And yes, they will be naturally messy.

7) Once your baking sheet is full (the cookies should be an inch apart, by the way), bake 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown.  Your kitchen will smell deliciously of warm goat cheese.

And if Rachel doesn’t like these tender, flaky, sweet and savory little packages, she can kiss my toches!  With love…

Chappy Chanukah!

 

On the Eight Day of Yum: Fueling Your Inner Snoopy December 19, 2011

Filed under: Recipes — rabbit @ 10:36 am
Tags: ,

Today’s treat has much in common with Snoopy.

It’s of an easy-going nature.

It appeals to everyone.  Except jerks.

There’s no fuss to it (i.e., it’s a lazy day kinda thing)

It has a long shelf life.  Though not as long as Snoopy…

If you’re in the mood, you can add a little Red Baron to it.

It kinda makes you wanna dance.

Half-Assed Brownie Truffles

Basically, I had a gallon-sized bag in the freezer, stuffed to the Ziploc with some plain brownies.  Typical of me.  And I’m of the waste-not-want-not attitude.  You could also call it the I-don’t-want-to-make-yet-ANOTHER-dessert-from-scratch attitude.

So I let them thaw.  Then I squished them.  I squished them good.

Then I poured in a miniature bottle of Frangelico– aka, hazelnut liqueur.  Of course, my brownies are dense and fudgey enough on their own, and do not require extra moisture to make them wont to being rolled into rich little orbs.  But I gotta doctor them somehow, right?

Should you find yourself with a tray of brownies and need something to do (or if you’re into that whole cake pop craze), other fantastical mix-ins for these simple treats would include, but not be limited to: extra melted chocolate (dark, milk or white); Nutella; almond, hazelnut or peanut butter; fruit preserves or jam; orange, lemon, or lime zest; apple or pumpkin butter; a few dashes of chili powder and/or cinnamon; a shot (or two or three) of espresso; a bit of strong brewed hibiscus, rooibos, or black tea (Earl Grey, Assam, chai, vanilla, etc.); and of course, various spirits– Kahlua, Irish cream, amaretto, chocolate liqueur, brandy, bourbon, rum…

What doesn’t go with chocolate?

After you’ve rolled the “truffles”, dip them in cocoa powder, confectioner’s sugar, ground nuts, sprinkles, or melted chocolate.  If you dip them in chocolate, place them on wax paper until they cool.

Bring them to a party, enjoy while watching A Charlie Brown Christmas, or just eat and dance.

 

On the Seventh Day of Yum: Cheeeeeese December 18, 2011

Filed under: Recipes — rabbit @ 1:37 pm
Tags: , ,

I’m pretty sure cheese is in the top three most fun and delicious ingredients to experiment with.  It’s difficult to go wrong, as long as you find the right cheese(s).

And I don’t think there are enough sweet cheese recipes out there.  Yes, I know there’s like, a bazillion cheesecake recipes.  I just don’t really care about cheesecake.  Over.  It.  It’s the cream cheese.  Anything but cream cheese, please.  Mascarpone is nice.  It’s typically used in tiramisu, and sometimes cannoli.  It’s super mild and has a hint of sweetness.  Then I had the idea to combine it with brie.  I love brie… Even though I’m sick of restaurants serving it all drenched in honey, making it overly sweet.  Feels like they’re taking away from the loveliness that is rich, creamy, classy brie.  So I decided my little experiment would not be so cloyingly sweet.  Besides, we’ve got plenty of sugar to deal with this week, right?

Since I was experimenting, and cheese is expensive, I only made seven of these.  I doubled my original measurements, so you should get 14-16 mini tarts.

Mascarpone & Brie Mini Tarts

Ingredients:

2 cups hazelnuts (almonds or pecans will work nicely here too)

agave syrup, enough to make a malleable crust with the nuts

an 8-oz container of mascarpone

6-8 oz brie

about 1/2 cup raw honey (depending on how sweet you’d like it.  You want a thick, spreadable honey for this.  You could probably use powdered sugar instead if you want)

fruit topping (fresh berries, figs or any kind of preserves, jam, etc.)

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line a muffin pan with those cupcake paper thangs.  To make the crust, finely grind the hazelnuts in a food processor.  Add agave until the mix becomes malleable.

2) Lightly wet your hands and press the mix into the cupcake liners, first on the bottom, and then a little up the sides.  Bake 8-10 minutes, or until they just start to brown a bit.  Allow them to cool.

3) Remove the rind from the brie.  If you’re like me, you eat it.  Mmmm, mold.  In a large bowl, beat the brie with an electric mixer to knock the shape out of it.  Add the mascarpone.  Then the honey.  Go gradually until you achieve the sweetness that is right for you.  If you use powdered sugar, I suggest sifting it into the cheese.

I actually just mixed it all at once, before realizing that beating the brie first would be better for texture.  Ah well, came out nice anyway.

4) Spoon the cheese into the crusts.  Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.  Top with the fruit.  In this particular case, cranberry jam…

I was reeeally satisfied with this.  For one, it’s cheese.  Duh.  And a nice combination at that.  Second, the particular honey I used imparts a sophisticated floral taste and aroma.  Keep that in mind when deciding which honey to use, as they all have different profiles.  Third, the crust was successful and kept intact.  If you wanted to make a single large tart, I would suggest making sure the layer of cheese is not too thick, to prevent it from gooping out once you start cutting it.  Haha… cutting the cheese…

 

On the Sixth Day of Yum: Not for Children… Well, Maybe… December 17, 2011

Filed under: Recipes — rabbit @ 11:41 am
Tags: , , ,

Sometimes I try to think back on the presents I received as a tiny person/child, and recall which ones excited me most.  The first thing that comes to mind is The Littlest Pet Shop.  Some kids collected Pogs.  Some collected dolls (I kinda did, I was more into stuffed animals).  My brother collected Ninja Turtles.  But I was absolutely OBSESSED with these tiny plastic animals and their supplies.  They were just SO. Goddamned. CUTE.  Key word here is “were”.  They’re stupid now.  They all have those gigantic Bratz Doll eyes.  They’ve turned my adorable, relatively realistic animals into whores.  This is what they looked like when they first came out.  I had all of those!  And the rabbit family, and hamsters and gerbils, and puppies…  And then one Christmas I got the actual Pet Shop case.  I crapped my PJs.

It’s really sad…  I think I was more excited about The Littlest Pet Shop than when I got my first bike.

“I’m scared, what the hell is this?”

I mean, I was excited.  It was a freakin’ bicycle! (Biiicycle…)  I was gonna go places!  But, y’know… it was bigger than me…

I’m not scared of much any more.  Raaah.  I am, however, intimidated by liquor.  Beer and wine, no problem.  But rum, vodka, whiskey, tequila… it’s all territory I step lightly in.

Unless I put it in food, in which case, I’ll go as nuts as I did over my Littlest Pet Shop.  Biiiicycle…

Gingerbread Rum Balls

adapted from Joy of Baking

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups toasted pecans (I used a blend of pecans and almonds)

1 1/4 cups graham crackers or cookies*

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 Tbsp cocoa powder

Several heavy dashes of ginger, cinnamon, and cloves

2 Tbsp molasses (or if you’re hesitant about molasses, sub half agave, honey, or maple syrup)

2 Tbsp spiced rum

2 Tbsp marsala wine (you can also use Port, Sherry, Madeira, etc.  Any kind of sweet liqueur, basically)

*In regards to the cookies or graham crackers used, I did a gluten-free version, using rice crispy cereal, but I measured by weight, and used a little more powdered sugar.  If you need tips on that, e-mail me.  Otherwise, I’ve usually used graham cookies/crackers in the past.
 

1) In a food processor, finely chop the pecans (you want them to be as powdery as possible).  Transfer them to a bowl, and then process the cookies and powdered sugar.  Mix with the pecans, and add the cocoa powder.

2) Add the molasses, rum and wine.  Mix it aaaalllll up.  Add more booze if necessary, you want all the dry ingredients to be moist.

3) Now cover with plastic wrap and chill for an hour or so.  Then, in a medium or large bowl, whisk together one to two cups of powdered sugar and a spoonful of cocoa powder.  No need for exact measurements, or even getting all the clumps out of the sugar.

4) Wet your hands and roll the rum ball mix into… you guessed it, balls.  Whatever size you like, but approximately one inch around is a good size (to all the pervs, shut up).  You’ll have to occasionally rinse your hands, but the water will keep the mixture from sticking in a very annoying manner.  Gently toss them in the powdered sugar to coat them all over.

And you’re done.  These boozy babies have a good shelf life if kept in the fridge.  Up to about two weeks.  Maybe longer.  This gingerbread version is a bit of an experiment.  Definitely not for the faint of heart, as it is dark, spicy, and of course, boozy.  Pretty much what you’d think though– gingerbread meets spiced rum.  I always use half Marsala wine because it tames the intensity of the rum, resulting in a smoother alcohol flavor.  The first time I tried the original recipe with all rum, and it was like, “Ouch, baby”.  If you want to try the original version, replace all the molasses with agave, and skip the ginger, cinnamon and cloves.

Give one of these to a child and watch their facial expression.  That should be fun.