Pumpkin Spiced Granola with Chocolate

This is the time of year that is both incredibly cheerful and magical with the twinkling lights on all the houses and sweet aromas filling our kitchens, it can also be incredibly stressful as we all rush to make a dish for the office potluck we forgot or shop til we drop for the perfect gift for all our loved ones. While we know there are so many people in our life we want to show that we appreciate, some can slip through the cracks until it’s too late. With Christmas inching closer, Amanda and I wanted to share our answers to some homemade tokens of friendship to give to someone in your life even if that person is yourself (hey, it’s yummy ok?). Plus, with everything else we have to worry about this season, we definitely didn’t want you to have to log any extra kitchen hours then you already are. Granola was my low effort, but still glamorous was my answer to this challenge.

Granola is something that is widely enjoyed but people don’t tend to have it that often or bother with making it themselves. With the pumpkin and wintery spices, it is the perfect festive treat that dresses up nicely in a jar and a ribbon. The ingredients are fairly inexpensive as well so it won’t break the bank, and it’s a nice change of pace from all the Christmas cookies going around (although I love those as well). This granola goes so well topped on a bowl of plain yogurt, which might be a nice switch after all those family slightly heavier family breakfasts that seem to go with the season, or it can be enjoyed as a little sweet snack after dinner. It keeps for a while in the fridge as well so it’s something that can be enjoyed long after the season ends.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup of pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup steel cut oats
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup of chocolate chips

Instructions: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  2. Combine the oats and almonds in a large mixing bowl.
  3. On the stove over low heat, combine the pumpkin puree, maple syrup, spices and salt and stir until everything is warm and well mixed.
  4. Remove the pumpkin mixture from the heat and pour over your oats. Stir the oats with a wooden spoon until the pumpkin mixture is fully combined.
  5. Spread the oat mixture over a lined baking sheet as flatly and evenly as you can.
  6. Pop the baking sheet in your oven and cook for 45-50 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so. This will ensure that the granola doesn’t burn.
  7. After baking, allow the granola to cool fully and then stir in your chocolate chips. You may then transfer to an airtight container and your granola will keep in the fridge for up to two months.

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Chicken Nuggets

Merideth and I’s schedules got a little crazy in the month of October, so instead of our usual Saturday night Skype date, we made quick weeknight dinners! Nothing better for some comfort food than chicken nuggets and some cut up veggies. This easy and versatile chicken nugget recipe came in handy for a breakfast biscuit (more on that soon!)

Ingredients

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • Canola oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Set aside a plate covered in a few layers of paper towels to absorb oil after frying.
  2. Cut chicken breasts into bite size chunks.
  3. Set ingredients into three bowls, left to right: flour, eggs, and bread crumbs.
  4. Dredge chicken nuggets first in flour, then egg mixture, and then bread crumbs until thoroughly covered. Set aside.
  5. Using tongs, place nuggets into hot oil and heat for approximately 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Note: the oil will lose heat, so wait for oil to reheat in between batches and keep a close eye on the frying process.
  6. Place nuggets on paper towel-lined plate to remove excess oil. Enjoy!

 

Mushroom and Potato Galette with Manchego

Still on the heels of our favorite food competition shows, Amanda and I were looking for a new challenge. This time, we wanted to see if we could use a single ingredient in three different courses. Of course, one would want something that could be used both in a savory and sweet capacity, which does limit some options. Being an ingredient that I love in basically all forms, I chose the lovely, yet humble potato. I am quite sure I would be able to and enjoy going off on a Bubba-esque from Forrest Gump speech regarding all of the potato forms and how delicious each one is. So, for this challenge, the potato seemed like a natural and budget friendly choice.

For the appetizer, I was still feeling the effects of watching one too many Food Network chefs create some fancy tasting menus and so I wanted a delicate and pretty appetizer for the first course. While this one is a bit labor intensive, they are very delicious and would for sure impress at a gathering. The savory mushrooms and cheesy potatoes make for a lovely combination. Stay tuned for the other two courses!

Ingredients:

  • 1 potato, shredded and kept in a bowl of water until ready to use
  • 1 lb mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 oz manchego cheese, shredded
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • High smoke point oil for frying (like vegetable or canola)
  • Green onion for garnish

Instructions:

  1. In a small skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 tbsp of butter and add the shallots, garlic and the whites of the green onion. Saute until the shallots become translucent, about 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add the mushrooms to the pan and continue cooking until the mushrooms have released their moisture and have turned more brown, about 5 minutes.
  3. Mix together your shredded cheese and potatoes.
  4. Heat a cast iron skillet with about 2 tbsp of oil until the oil is shimmery.
  5. Spoon about 1 tablespoon worth of the potato/cheese mixture into the pan and flatten, and repeat until the skillet is full, but none of these potato beds are touching. You may be able to cook about 4-5 at a time.
  6. When the edges of the potatoes are beginning to look brown, after about 1-2 minutes, flip with a spatula and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
  7. When crispy and brown, remove the hashbrown beds and drain on a cooling rack with a paper towel underneath.
  8. Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, plate with a spoonful of the mushrooms on top and garnish with the greens of the green onions. Enjoy!

Wine Pairing: The manchego cheese would probably go nicely with something simple, like Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Witchy Kale Hummus with Tomato Garlic “Snake” Sticks

Halloween and October is always a fun time for me, and I love to get fun with the spooky theming of the holiday. While last year Amanda and I made something sinfully sweet to celebrate the day, this year we wanted to go “Spooky savory.” Amanda went incredibly brave with a scarily unfamiliar protein to our kitchens, but I decided to go a different route. I’m not sure if I would have had the access to such a disparate delicacy, but I certainly did not have the enthusiasm or fortitude to seek it out. Instead, this dish is a much more accessible in terms of grocery availability and friendliness of flavors to all palates.

This white bean and kale hummus is as easy to make as it is crowd-pleasing. The green color, while also packing a nutritional punch throughout the year, is easy to incorporate into an Halloween party plans as a very appropriate, on theme, munchie. The breadstick snakes, while a bit more time consuming, really accent this dip with both visual and flavorful contributions. The tomato and herbs in the bread, while also making these “snakes” more colorful, pair excellently with the lemony-garlic flavors of the hummus. Whether you’re dressed as Frankenstein or Wonder Woman, this appetizer is sure to keep the horrors of “Hanger” away.

White Bean Hummus:

  • 1 can of great northern beans rinsed and drained
  • 3 tbsp tahini
  • juice from one lemon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 1/2 cups packed kale (stalks removed–about 3 stalks)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Hummus Instructions:

  1. Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend until the kale is incorporated to your liking, and the mixture is smooth. I did mine for at least 5 minutes, so settle in.
  2. If you like room-temperature hummus, this is ready to serve immediately. However, I prefer mine chilled and allowed it to sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving. Could be made up to 3 days in advance and will last in the fridge in a sealed container for up to 5 days. Serve with “Snake” sticks or any hummus accompaniment of your choice.

Snake Breadsticks Ingredients

  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 1/4 tsp (1 packet) instant yeast
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp dried rosemary
  • Black sesame seeds for eye garnish
  • 1 egg+1 tsp water

Snake Bread Stick Instructions:

  1. Add the lukewarm water and the yeast to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Allow the yeast to sit with the water for 2-3 minutes while you prepare the rest of your ingredients.
  2. Add the flour on top of the yeast/water. then the salt (be sure it does not touch the yeast), tomato paste, garlic powder, basil, and rosemary. Turn the mixer to low speed for 1-2 minutes everything is mixed together. Then, mix on medium speed for 4-6 minutes until the dough is elastic and smooth.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to sit for 45 minutes at room temperature.
  4. After those 45 minutes, preheat your oven to 300°F and turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 25 equal portions and roll into long strips. Make one end taper slightly to form the tail and keep the other end wide and flatten slightly to form the face. Repeat with all portions and place on a baking sheet in your preferred pose (slithering waves, coils, etc).
  5. Whisk the egg and water together in a small bowl and brush the egg wash over the prepared breadsticks. Add two black sesame seeds to the snake faces to form the eyes after the egg wash is applied.
  6. Bake at 300°F for 50 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Enjoy with the Witchy Hummus or as a spooky accompaniment to any dinner.

Wine Pairing: With the Mediterranean flavors of both the hummus and the bread, a refreshing Sangiovese would be a nice choice, but if you want to go all out, check out this “I’m Ready for Fall” cocktail that would be a great addition to any Halloween party.

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Sushi Two Ways–Fish free

Well, it’s the middle of summer and it…is…HOT! As if the outside temperature weren’t enough, my giant kitchen windows face west. While having the setting sun’s rays streaming across my prep areas is aesthetically pleasing, it certainly raises the temperature of the kitchen noticeably. This, combined with the fact that the oven loves to radiate heat in any way it can makes for a sweaty dinner preparation. After a long day, any recipe that allows me to keep my cool is welcome in my house in the peak of summer for sure.

While my spring rolls are also a great choice, I do like to look towards sushi in times of serious heat. While it does involve cooking the rice, those of us lucky enough to automatic rice cookers (you’ll have to pry that appliance from my fingers–I’m never living without one) means that we can push the button and run away.

Since my palette has not quite graduated to raw fish, and living in a landlocked state hardly places confidence in any fish available, I love to make this fruit sushi as inspired from DK Sushi in Austin. About once every few months I get a craving for these flavors that can only be quenched by bringing out the sushi mat. For a more savory version, I have also made a cucumber and turkey roll that showcases the regional favorite, provel cheese.

If this post has ignited a need for sushi but you’re still craving that fish, I’d suggest checking out Amanda’s too-hot-to-cook post, the Poke Bowl with Avocado Rice, for some fish marinade suggestions that can easily be incorporated into a roll of your choice. For now though, enjoy these alternative options!

Yogurt Drizzle Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of strawberry yogurt
  • 2 tbsp pineapple juice
  • 1 tsp sugar

Instructions:

  1. Stir together the yogurt, pineapple juice and sugar until you have a smooth consistency and sugar is dissolved. Chill until ready to serve.

Sushi Rice Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of uncooked, short grain white rice
  • Water
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp salt

Instructions:

  1. Rinse the uncooked rice in cold water until the water is clear (this is very important!). I usually like to add rice and water to the pot in which I’ll be cooking and then use my hand as a claw to agitate the starches. Then drain the starchy water and repeat until the water is clear.
  2. Add 2 cups of fresh water to the rice pot and either cook using a rice cooker or the traditional method (bring to boil over stove, cover and cook on low heat for 15 minutes and fluff).
  3. Add the sugar, rice wine vinegar and salt to the rice and stir until well incorporated. Traditionally these are heated together to form a syrup but we’re trying to use heat as little as possible here and I find the residual rice heat can help dissolve the granules.
  4. Allow rice to cool for 15-20 minutes. It can still be slightly warm when you are ready to assemble.

Sushi Assembly Ingredients:

  • Fresh Pineapple, thinly sliced
  • Apple, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
  • Avocado, sliced
  • Fresh Mango
  • Strawberries, sliced
  • Nori Sheets
  • Black sesame seeds

Instructions:

  1. Sprinkle the black sesame seeds over your sushi mat and then spread 1/3 of your rice evenly onto the mat it in a square, about 1/4″ shorter than the nori height. Then add the nori, shiny side down.
  2. Place the slices of avocado, apple and pineapple about 2/3 of the way down the nori sheet trying to fill in as many gaps as possible. However, try not to overfill.
  3. Roll your mat over the filling ingredients and continue to roll. s you complete a rotation, press to make sure the roll is coming together. Pull the mat away from the roll as you keep going.
  4. Slice the roll into 8 equal portions.
  5. Using a vegetable peeler, peel slices of mango so you have a small 1 inch sheet of mango.
  6. With a pastry brush or your finger, brush a little bit of your yogurt drizzle onto the mango sheet and lay it over the top of one of your sushi pieces. Place a slice of strawberry on top.
  7. Once all pieces are assembled, drizzle the yogurt over top and enjoy!IMG_2880IMG_2882

Quick Cucumber and Turkey Sushi

  • Sushi Rice
  • Nori Sheets
  • Cucumber, seeded and sliced into matchsticks
  • Provel cheese (can also use cream cheese)
  • Sliced turkey, deli meat.

Instructions:

  1. Place the nori sheet, shiny side down on your sushi mat. Spread a thin, even layer of your sushi rice over the nori sheet and leave about 1/4″ of the nori visible at the top.
  2. Place the cucumber, turkey and cheese about 2/3 down the nori sheet avoiding gaps.
  3. Roll your sushi; when you get to the top, brush some water onto the nori to help it seal itself.
  4. Slice into 8 equal portions and enjoy.

Wine Pairing: Obviously, we’re going for refreshing here so a chilled white or rose wine sounds fitting. Something like a riesling is an excellent choice!

A Trio of Tea Sandwiches

While reality television has never quite captured my attention, Amanda has recently gotten me hooked on a little show about the elite of Charleston called Southern Charm. The fourth season recently premiered and the Amanda household was kind enough to include me via Skype for their premier-watching party. Naturally, I wanted to make a meal that allowed me to feel the elegance and flavors of the south and to celebrate with the Florida crew in spirit.

I wanted to make something light, summery, and fancy-feeling that both touched on a southern classic (pimento cheese! yum!) but also represented the class of our favorite character on the show. Therefore, this trio of tea sandwiches–two savory and one sweet–was the perfect option for a viewing party (even if it was a party of one) and let me pretend I was one of the Southern Charm gang at one of their fancy garden parties (but without any drama or drinks thrown in faces).

Spicy Cilantro Cucumber Sandwich:

  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 4 oz can green chiles
  • 1 cup spinach leaves
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, freshly shredded
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled and sliced thinly

Instructions:

  1. Combine cilantro, spinach, chiles, jalapeno and lime juice in a food processor and pulse until you have a fine puree. Add this mixture to a small bowl with the cream cheese and stir until combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Spread the cream cheese mixture onto 3 of the white bread slices and top with cucumber slices. Top with the other 3 slices of bread to form 3 separate sandwiches.
  3. Trim edges and slice into triangles, and they are now ready to serve!

Pimento & Pulled Chicken Tea Sandwich:

  • 4 oz of cream cheese
  • 2 cups cooked chicken breast, shredded
  • 4 oz jar of pimento peppers, drained and rinsed
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp hot sauce
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 6 slices of white bread

Instructions:

  1. Mix together the all ingredients (it does make it a bit easier if the chicken is still warm).
  2. Spread onto 3 slices of the white bread as thick and even as you can manage.
  3. Top with the other 3 slices of white bread to form 3 sandwiches.
  4. Trim edges and slice into triangles. Ready to serve!

Sweet Strawberry Mascarpone Tea Sandwich

  • 3/4 cup of strawberries, trimmed of greens and roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 8 oz mascarpone cheese
  • Loaf of angel food cake or pound cake
  • 3-4 large strawberries, trimmed of greens and sliced longways-thinly

Instructions:

  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the strawberries, sugar and salt and cook for about 5 minutes until the sugar is liquified and the strawberries are mushy
  2. Pass this mixture through a fine sieve to filter out the seeds and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Once cooled, mix together the strawberry puree and the mascarpone cheese until fully incorporated and there are no white specs in the cheese.
  4. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the cheese to cool.
  5. Slice the angel food cake/pound cake into 1/4″ thick slices.
  6. Spread the strawberry mascarpone onto one slice of bread and then top with sliced strawberries. Add another slice of the cake to the top. Trim edges and slice into triangles. Ready to Serve!

Drink Pairing: With these yummy sandwiches, I decided to forego wine this time in favor of a more Charleston representative cocktail: 2 parts firefly sweet tea vodka, 2 parts pink lemonade and 1 part firefly peach tea moonshine. Be warned though, these little numbers are tasty and dangerous. 

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Lemon Basil Petit-Fours with Strawberry-Red Wine Filling

As Amanda mentioned in her amazing Guava Cake recipe, the prodigal return of the Great British Baking Show to Netflix has taken us by storm. This show has an amazing ability to make me crave baking like no other, and many a Saturday have been surrendered to bread proofing and pie making after even a small binge Baking Show session. As you have probably seen, Amanda also caught the bug. So, for this Distance Dishes date, we wanted to try a bake we’d never done, and play with some techniques we might not have tried.

I’ve been wanting to try petit-fours for a long time, and when I had my first taste one earlier in 2016, I knew I wanted to try to make it for myself. This was the perfect excuse to do it! I also had a basil plant growing out of control and wanted to incorporate it with complementary flavors and now here we are.

The cake is tart and fresh, the strawberries and wine add berry notes which are all to be tamed by the added sweetness of the pourable fondant. Since this was my first attempt, I did not want to invest in a special cutter, but thankfully with a sharp knife and a ruler, we can still achieve some cute little cakes.

Lemon Basil Pound Cake Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
  • 5 eggs
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, shredded and chopped finely
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, either with a stand or hand mixer, beat together the sugar, butter, and eggs, first on low speed until everything comes together, then on high speed for 5 minutes. Incorporate the milk and lemon juice into the sugar mixture, then add your flour mixture slowly. Beat until smooth. Gently fold in basil leaves.
  4. Spread your cake batter thinly and evenly over the lined baking sheets with an offset spatula.
  5. Bake for about 15-20 minutes until springy when touched.
  6. Allow cake to cool completely before assembly.

Strawberry-Red Wine Filling:

  • 8 oz strawberries, roughly chopped and greens removed
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/3 cup fruit forward red wine (I used a red blend with mentions of notes of berries on the label)
  • Pinch of lemon zest, if available

Instructions: 

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat all ingredients over low heat until the sugar granules are dissolved. Increase to medium heat so that the mixture is simmering.
  2. Stir over the heat for about 10 minutes until the strawberries lose their shape and the mixture thickens. The temperature should be around 220°F when finished.
  3. Strain through a sieve to help remove the seeds from the jam mixture.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until ready to use for the cake. Can be stored without canning procedures in the fridge for up to 3 weeks or frozen for up to a year.

Pourable Fondant Icing Ingredients:

  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup hot water (I used plantation lemonade tea for something different, but not necessary)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • food coloring if desired
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips

Instructions: 

  • Melt the white chocolate chips over low heat in a saucepan or in 10-20 second increments in the microwave stirring in between each session until very smooth.
  • Add the powdered sugar, corn syrup, and hot water into a large bowl and stir gently until smooth. You can also use a stand mixer on low if you have one.
  • Add the melted white chocolate and vanilla and stir until smooth. If you’re using food coloring, this is also the time to add until you get the desired effect.
  • It is important to make sure this is still warm when you’re ready to use so make this immediately before you’re ready to dip your cakes (see assembly).

Assembly

  1. Once your cakes have cooled, trim the crust-type edges from the cakes so that you have clean sides.
  2. Portion and cut the remaining cake rectangle into three equal sections as these will make your three layers.
  3. Spread a layer of jam onto one of the new portions. Place another one of the portions on top, and top with additional jam. Top with the final cake portion.
  4. Repeat the trimming, portioning and layering with your other sheet of cake and then freeze all newly layered cake portions for 30 minutes.
  5. Once the cakes have hardened a bit, get out your ruler and a sharp knife and cut the cakes into equal, bite-size squares. I aimed for about 1.25″x1.25″ but however you’re able to portion these equally and what looked right to you will work.
  6. Freeze the cut cakes for another 15-30 minutes and make your pourable fondant just before you are ready to remove them from the freezer.
  7. Once you have your fondant ready, using a fork, slowly lower the mini-cakes into the fondant until submerged and shake off the excess. Carefully lower onto a cooling rack (with liner underneath) to harden. Repeat with all your cakes.
  8. You can decorate your new petit-fours with more melted chocolate drizzled over, sprinkles, or get crazy with traditional fondant if you’d like. Whatever makes you happy!
  9. Enjoy!

Wine Pairing: The obvious choice for this would be to suggest the rest of the bottle you used to make the jam. However, if you’re like me and that bottle is looking a little low because you needed something to do while waiting for the jam, cakes and fondants to harden, then I’d suggest checking out Amanda’s Giggle Water Recipe since it’s a light, refreshing beverage perfect for an afternoon treat. 

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Custard Buns (Lai Wong Bao)

Real talk – I totally messed up this recipe the first time. Putting together a few recipes, I finally found one that works for these Chinese custard buns (lai wong bao, or egg yolk buns). The trial and errors were totally worth it though to relive my favorite snack from my time in Boston! I worked on the outskirts of Chinatown, and picked up one of these custard buns every day on my walk back to the bus. Yum!

There was one special ingredient and special piece of equipment that I had to get for this recipe: custard powder and a bamboo steamer. Custard powder, an uncommon ingredient in American recipes, is a starchy vanilla powder cooked with milk to create a custard. The bamboo steamer, while helpful, could probably be improvised with a colander and wire rack.

Ingredients

Custard Filling

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch or wheat starch
  • 3 tbs cream
  • 1/4 cup custard powder
  • 2 tbs butter

Steamed Bun

  • 1 tsp yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 tbs powdered sugar
  • 6 tbs milk, divided
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions

Custard Filling

  1. Heat several inches of water to simmer in a large pot to be used as a double boiler.
  2. In metal or otherwise heatproof bowl, beat together eggs and powdered sugar.
  3. Add milk and heavy cream and combine.
  4. Add flour, cornstarch, and custard powder and whisk until there are no lumps. Add butter and combine.
  5. Place bowl over simmering water and stir continuously until custard has thickened to about the consistency of dense cake batter.
  6. Remove from heat and, once cooled, refridgerate until ready to use in an airtight container.

Steamed Bun

  1. Dissolve yeast in warm water. Let sit for 10 minutes until mixture becomes frothy.
  2. Stir in flour, sugar, 3 tbs of milk, and salt. Combine thoroughly.
  3. Add additional milk 1 tbs at a time until a dough is formed. Knead for 3-5 minutes until dough is smooth.
  4. Coat with oil and allow to rise for a little over an hour or until dough has tripled in size.
  5. Remove custard from fridge and spoon balls of the custard onto a sheet of parchment paper.
  6. Pinch a ball of dough onto cutting board and spread into a thin circle about 4 inches in diameter. Put a custard ball in the middle of the dough and wrap. Roll around to ensure that the bun is sealed.
  7. Heat bamboo steamer over simmering hot water. Place each bun on a square of parchment paper to prevent sticking. Cover and steam for 15 minutes.

 

Dark Chocolate Avocado Mousse Eclairs

When Amanda and I had this Distance Dishes date, Valentines Day was just around the corner so we wanted to make some recipes that were insanely decadent. To me, that meant something incredibly chocolatey. While an eclair might not seem like the logical first choice, I had some leftover raw cacao paste kicking around my pantry and I thought this might be the perfect vehicle to incorporate some.  I also wanted to do something a little different with the filling, so an avocado mousse seemed like a great experiment.

The result was this celebration of dark chocolate that was so rich, and had a chocolate flavor more pure than I’d experienced in a pastry before. The topping and the filling themselves seemed like they might be too much when combined in one bite, but the buttery pastry breaks it up perfectly and adds in another dimension of flavor. If you have some time to make these, I highly recommend it.

Pate a Choux

I used this recipe without the extra salt: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/sweet-or-savory-pate-a-choux-recipe

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 stick butter (6 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar plus 1/8 teaspoon salt (for sweet)
  • 5 3/4 ounces flour (about 1 1/4 cup)
  • 4 large eggs and 2 whites

Instructions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, boil the water, butter, salt and sugar.
  3. Add the flour and remove from the heat. Stir until a ball forms and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  4. Transfer the ball to a stand mixer and turn on to the lowest stir setting.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time making sure each one is fully incorporated before moving on to the next.
  6. Once all the eggs are added you can check to make sure your dough is the right consistency by checking if it falls off the paddle to your mixer in v-like sheets. If it is too thick, you may need an additional egg white.
  7. Transfer dough to a piping bag or a plastic zip top bag with a hole cut in one corner, and pipe onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper into lines about 3-4 inches long, 2 inches apart.
  8. Turn the oven down to 35o and cook for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  9. Once they are cooked, upon removing them from the oven, pierce the sides with a small knife to release steam. This will help them not to collapse in on themselves.
  10. Allow to cool fully and they will be ready for assembly.

Avocado Mousse Filling

Ingredients: 

  • 3 Ripe avocados
  • 1/2 cup of raw cacao paste broken into chunks or cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup of agave syrup or maple syrup (granulated sugar will also work)
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions: 

  1. Peel and mash the avocados in a food processor or blender.
  2. If using cacao paste, heat it over low-medium heat until the chunks are melted. Be careful to keep stirring so that the chocolate does not burn. Add in your sweetener of choice and stir. If using cocoa powder add it and the sweetener directly to the food processor.
  3. Add the cacao mixture to the food processor along with the vanilla extract and salt and pulse until everything is blended.
  4. If the mousse is too bitter for you, feel free to add more sweetener as needed. This can be enjoyed by itself as a tasty dessert treat, or can be the delicious filling for our eclairs.

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Dark Chocolate Ganache Icing

Note: You can find a more traditional recipe for ganache from my previous Chocolate and Peanut Butter Pie post–this is an alternative using raw cacao paste, but feel free to substitute the other recipe as it may be easier to acquire the ingredients. 

Ingredients: 

  • 2/3 cup of raw cacao paste, broken into chunks or cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup agave syrup or maple syrup (granulated sugar will also work)
  • 3/4 cup of heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Instructions: 

  1. Heat the heavy cream over medium low heat so that it is close to but does not boil. Be sure to stir frequently to ensure that it does not burn.
  2. Reduce the heat to low and add the cacao and sweetener to the pan and stir frequently until all the chunks are melted and the mixture is fully incorporated.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Keep warm for eclair assembly.

Assembly: 

  1. Transfer the avocado mousse to a piping bag or something with a piping tip.
  2. Using the side you pierced with a knife already, pipe the mousse into the end of the choux pastry. Be sure to full them as much as you can without overfilling them.
  3. Once all are filled with the mousse, dip the tops into the ganache and allow to cool in the fridge.
  4. After all your hard work, these are ready to be enjoyed! To save yourself one long stint in the kitchen, the choux shells freeze well when they are unfilled so you can make them in advance. In addition, the mousse can also be made one day in advance, but just make sure you don’t eat it all if you want to save some for piping. Enjoy!

 

Wine pairing: With this ode to dark chocolate, you definitely want something bold with notes of chocolate and cherry to go with this decadent dessert. I’d recommend a Zinfandel with those undertones if you can find one, but an Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon are good choices as well ( I mean it’s wine an chocolate–hard to go wrong right?) Happy snacking!

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Herb Saffron Rice

While couscous is a traditional and delicious accompaniment to the wonderful Beef and Beet Tajine recipe Amanda and I recently tried, I decided to make some flavorful rice to go along with it this time.  I think it’s fairly clear that Amanda and I are fans of rice in general but this rice really is a showstopper.

The herbs used in this recipe are customizable to your tastes, although I’d probably stick within the leafy, more subtle family with this one. You might not want to use Basil or rosemary but Dill, parsley and cilantro (coriander leaves) would probably be delicious in your own preferred ratios. I received a hydroponic garden for Christmas and have been working on growing my herbs for a little while so this was the first dish in which I was able to use bits of my own plants in my food, so I used a lot of parsley and a bit of dill as well to equal the below measurement. I found this probably to be a little too exciting and should get out more. It was yummy though!

I absolutely love my rice cooker and I don’t know if I could live without it. However, I think it’s been established that not everyone enjoys grains as frequently as I do, so I have provided the stovetop method as well below. The stovetop method may actually produce better results since you’ll be able to control when you’re adding ingredients but either way, you’ll be rewarded with a delicious base for your tajine dinner or any other meal for sure.

  • 2 cups basmati or Jasmine Rice
  • Pinch of Saffron (about 15 threads)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil or even better, ghee
  • 1/2 onion minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2  cups vegetable or broth
  • 1 cup chopped, fresh herbs, I chose curled parsley and dill
  • salt

Stovetop Method:

  1. Rinse your rice in cold water until the water runs clear. Drain.
  2. Add the pinch of saffron to the 1/2 of water and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Add oil/ghee to a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  4. Ad the minced onion and garlic to the saucepan and saute until the onions are semi-translucent and the smell is fragrant.
  5. Add the rice and stir for about 1 minutes to bring out the flavor of the rice.
  6. Add the saffron water, broth, herbs and a heavy pinch of salt to the saucepan and bring to a boil.
  7. Once boiling, turn the heat down to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed (don’t check on it before the 20 minute mark though).
  8. Fluff (gently) with a fork and serve with extra herbs if desired.

Rice Cooker Method:

  1. Rinse your rice in cold water until the water runs clear. Drain.
  2. Add the pinch of saffron to the 1/2 of water and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Add oil/ghee to either a pan or if your cooker has a “brown/saute” option, add it directly to the pot.
  4. Saute the minced onion and garlic in the oil until semi-translucent and the smell is fragrant.
  5. Add the rice and stir for a few moments to bring out the flavor. If this step is done outside the cooker, transfer the rice, onion and garlic to the rice cooker.
  6. Add the saffron water, broth, herbs and a heavy pinch of salt to the cooker and start the cooking.
  7. Once your rice cooker has indicated it is finished, give everything a good (but gentle) fluffing and it is ready to serve warm.