Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Festive Timeout

More posts coming soon! please come back in a couple of days once the (cocoa and cinnamon) dust has settled from the holidays.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Delightful Decadence

Apparently there is a big event happening in about 2 weeks time that has everyone in a tizzle and it involves a lot of eating and drinking....sounds like it might catch on. I'm in.
I've been making a lot of savory foods the past few weeks, I don't make a lot of desserts for 2 reasons:
1)Most desserts worth eating contain eggs, cream, or both. Not on my eatable list.
2)I will probably eat all of anything I do make, especially if it's chocolate based.

But despite this, every year, Ms P and I get together for our traditional baking/cookie date just before Christmas where we make several things which then get distributed to various friends, co-workers etc as, of course, any true foodie loves giving foodie gifts. We do this as we listen to cheesy Christmas music. It's the essential ingredient, besides love of course, which goes into everything I make.

This year I chose 3 recipes. All chocolate based. No co-incidence. I actually had most of the ingredients handy, except funnily enough, the chocolate. Chocolate generally does not last long in my house. All of the recipes were "no bake" and I had never made any of them before either but they seemed simple and decadent.

Dark Chocolate Cashew Fruit Clusters
(recipe from Thriftyfoods.com Click here for direct link))
350g dark Belgian Chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup unsalted roasted cashews
1 cup dried cranberries

Melt chocolate in a heat proof bowl over simmering water. Stir and heat until just melted. Remove from heat and add cashews and cranberries. Drop heaping tablespoons onto parchment lined baking sheets, ensuring they don't touch, and refrigerate until set. Store in air tight container at room temperature. If stacking, separate layers with parchment paper.

I made a double batch and used 1 cup cashews and 1 cup almonds. You could use milk or white chocolate or try other nuts and dried fruits. Pretty much anything goes.
Oh, and they are delicious and it's pretty hard to stop at one. You've been warned. I am not responsible for any chocolate cluster overdosing that may result from this post.

Spicy Cocoa & Cinnamon Dusted Almonds

(Recipe from GLOW magazine, Holiday 2010 edition)

2 tbsp cocoa, sifted
4 tsp icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional for you softies out there)
170g whole natural almonds

Mix all dry ingredients together ( I did not feel the need to sift them and nothing bad happened). Add almonds and toss to coat. I tasted them at this point and added extra cinnamon and cayenne. Remove to bowl,shaking off excess powder. They will keep well stored in an airtight container for up to a week.

Dark Chocolate Truffles

(Click here for link to Canadian Living Website)

8oz oz semisweet chocolate or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2/3 cup cup whipping cream
1/4 cup cup butter, cubed
1 tbsp tbsp vanilla
8 oz semisweet chocolate or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I rolled mine in cocoa powder)

Place chocolate in heatproof bowl. In saucepan, heat cream with butter just until butter melts and bubbles form around edge of pan. Pour over chocolate; whisk until smooth. Whisk in vanilla. Cover and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

Using melon baller or teaspoon, drop by rounded teaspoonfuls (5 mL) onto 2 waxed paper-lined baking sheets. Gently roll each to round off completely. Freeze until hard, about 1 hour. (Make-ahead: Cover and freeze for up to 1 day.)

Coating: In heatproof bowl set over saucepan of hot (not boiling) water, melt half of the chocolate, stirring. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Remove 1 pan of the truffles from freezer; using 2 forks, dip each into chocolate, tapping forks on edge of bowl to remove excess. Return to waxed paper-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate until coating is hardened, about 2 hours.

In clean bowl, repeat with remaining chocolate and truffles. (Make-ahead: Layer between waxed paper in airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months.) Place in paper candy cups.

These are ULTRA decadent. I made mine quite big and found that even 1/2 a truffle was enough. I didn't follow the recipe exactly. I did the melting part and then let it set. Then I made the balls and rolled them in cocoa rather than in the melted chocolate. They are still amazing. I bought some small metallic truffle cases to put them in so they looked all pretty...they are now in the freezer and the only thing I found hard was rolling them into balls as they started to melt. I had to then lick the chocolate off my hands when done. Such hardship I endure for the sake of my foodie art.

Stick to your ribs Pulled Pork

Last time I checked it was still Fall outside. No sign of Summer so I am embracing my slow cooker to the max. I am also very busy with work, seasonal social gatherings and starting my triathlon training for a race I hope to do in early March. Not that far away but I feel I have a strong enough base coming off my recent 10k race and the Fall netball season. The only area I am lacking in, actually non-existent in, is the swimming. I will be starting that this week. I am not looking forward to the swim part of the race but I’m pretty sure it will be a whole lot easier if I try to get in the pool and train a couple of times a week. Anyway, getting off track, my point was that I am very busy and so planning meals is very important if I want to stay energized, healthy and away from my no-go foods.
I’ve wanted to try pulled pork in the slow cooker for a while but wondered if it would indeed come out as soft and melt-in-your-mouth tender as it does when pit roasted for days on end. I pulled out a recipe which seemed way to basic to be a hit but I thought it best to start with the basics. I literally bought a joint of boneless pork shoulder and put in the slow cooker. No spices, no liquids, no oils. Just a hunk of raw meat. The recipe said to slow cook it for 12 hours. Perfect, I had a mammoth day of tasks and errands ahead of me so I’d be out of the house for that long and likely famished when I did get home.
I was right and how awesome it was to walk in the door and smell dinner already cooked. I looked in the pot and sure enough it was cooked and lots of liquid had come out in the process. I poked the joint and wasn’t sure what to expect. It was perfect. The meat pulled away at a feather touch of the fork and conveniently fell into my mouth. Delicious and perfectly cooked. For part 2 of the recipe I had to take out the meat, pour away the liquid and then shred the pork. Easier said than done. The pork was so tender that I couldn’t get it out without it falling apart, despite the string casing holding it together. This is already a success! I shredded the meat using about 10% of my muscle power and then returned it to the pot and stirred in some BBQ sauce (1 14oz bottle...store bought-busted!), a chopped onion, 1 teaspoon brown sugar and 1 tablespoon lemon juice.
It went back on High for 1 hour but I’m pretty sure it would have tasted phenomenal at that point without the additional melding time. Anything remotely edible would have tasted phenomenal at that point. I was starving and being tortured by the dish evolving before my eyes. I spent the hour catching up on emails, paperwork and doing the dishes so that when I did tuck in to dinner finally, I would be able to fall into a food coma state without having to drag myself up afterwards to do all that stuff.
The resultant concoction was worth waiting 13 hours for…a perfect meal for a perfectly hectic day that never seemed to end. And I have enough for several lunches and to share with some work peeps too. Not bad for a total cost of $22 for meat and BBQ sauce.