Thursday, May 21, 2009

Onto the dessert portion of the evening...

Start with my homemade truffles.  These are a huge success because everyone thinks they are so difficult to make, no way! They were so easy and the ingredients are so inexpensive.  

Dark Chocolate Truffles and Strawberry Chocolate:
1 cup heavy cream
12 ounce semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1/4 of a Hershey's special dark chocolate bar (or choc. bar of choice could be bittersweet or milk whatever you prefer)
1/4 cup of chopped nuts or a mixture of cocoa powder, cinnamon, sugar and a hint of nutmeg, or any ground spiced you want to roll your truffles in!
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1 cup strawberry jam

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  In large mixing bowl add vanilla to all of your chocolate.  Then in a small sauce pan bring the heavy cream to a boil.  Immediately after it boils pour into the chocolate mixture, stir completely.  Place mixing bowl in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.  Remove and with a tablespoon place dollops of chocolate onto a separate sheet of parchment and place in the refrigerator again for about 20-30 minutes until they are cold and firm.  While they are starting to get hard place your spices or crushed nuts onto a cutting board.  I dusted my cutting board with dark cocoa powder, cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg and and spread out so you can quickly roll truffles into powder or nuts before they get too soft.

Remove the chocolate from the refrigerator and as quickly as you form dollops of chocolate into balls while coating it with your nuts or powder mix.  When you have finished covering all your truffles place onto your baking sheet with parchment paper and refrigerate for at least an hour.  

For Strawberry Chocolate truffles follow the recipe above but when you pour the heavy cream into chocolate mix in 1/2 cup of strawberry jam. 

When storing the truffles place in a Tupperware container and layer with a row of parchment paper in between truffle layers so they don't stick to each other.


Last nights drink of choice...

So for the drink last night I chose to make a granita.  This is such a fantastic summer type of drink, it is super easy and so yummy.

For my Champagne granita:
1 bottle of Champagne ( I used Freixenet PJ got me hooked on this extra dry champagne)
1 cup simple syrup (store bought or make it yourself, see recipe below)
2 lemons juice and zest
1/2 pint of berries of choice ( I went with strawberries and blueberries with a little sugar and lemon juice on top)

Simple syrup:
1 1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cup sugar

Bring water to boil then add in sugar until dissolved.  Place in glass jar to cool then stick in the fridge till you will use, I recommend to make this a day or so in advance.

In a glass baking dish add the bottle of Champagne, lemon zest and juice and sugar together and mix completely.  Cover with saran wrap and place in the freezer over night.  The day of use take our right before you are going to serve it and chop it up a little so that it starts to melt a little bit.  Then place in whatever type of glass or dish you want and top with some berries and your guests will love it!  

On the menu last night was....

For PJ's 32nd birthday we had some of his close friends over for a casual dinner, dessert, champagne get together.  I spent a lot of time trying to out-do myself cooking and baking for PJ.  From the response I think I was very successful.  Below are the recipes I created for the party.  I don't have pictures so you will have to make them yourself to see what they look like!

For the 4 Cheese Veggie Lasagna:
(a side note, when I cook I don't measure everything exactly I measure by taste so you can spice things the way you like or go with what I did)
1 package of  ready-to-bake lasagna noodles
1 package baby spinach
3 tbs garlic minced
1 lb. mushrooms, whichever mushrooms you like best, i used baby portobella, shiitake adn porcini, cleaned and sliced
1/2 lb fontina, grated
1/2 lb parmigiano reggiano, grated
1/4 percino romano, grated
12 ounces ricotta 
1 package quorn or morningstar crumbled beef (or for those meat eaters ground beef)
6 cups soy milk (or for those with indestructible stomachs you can use real milk)
1 1/2 stick unsalted butter
3 tbs of Kate's spice mix (which is salt, european ground pepper, ground mustard, nutmeg and  garlic powder)
1/2 cup flour
1 cup tomato sauce 
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In large saute pan melt 1 stick butter on medium-low heat, when butter is melted add the flour and stir until smooth texture.  Add the soy milk  and the cheese, make sure to continue to stir this as the cheese and milk will want to stick to the bottom of the pan and brown which would ruin the sauce so make sure to pay attention.  Then add spices to taste.  I add about 3 tbs of my little spice mixture I came up with.  I like to buy glass spice jars and fill them with essential mixtures that I use with different meals.  But the spice mixture I used in this dish works great with any pasta dish.  When the mixture is nice and thick and everything is melted together add your tomato sauce to give it a little extra flavor.  You can put it aside at this point or even freeze to reheat another day.

Next in a large saute pan add 1/2 cup butter and minced garlic, after the garlic has begun to give off an amazing aroma you can add your sliced and diced mushrooms.  You can use as many or little as you want but remember that mushrooms shrink down in size when you cook them, since PJ loves mushrooms I like to use a little more than necessary.  Then once your mushrooms begin to shrink in size you can add your vegetarian ground beef or your real ground beef and maybe some more of my spice mix completely up to you and let cook into the good mushroom juices for about 5 minutes on low heat.  Once the meat has almost fully cooked add in your spinach, let this cook for about 2 minutes and finally add in your Ricotta cheese saving enough to sprinkle on the top of the finished lasagna. 

Now it's time to build up this mouth watering masterpiece.  In an 8x8 baking dish place enough sauce at the bottom to fully cover the dish.  Then add a layer of lasagna noodles.  Next pile on thick some of your mushroom, meat and spinach mixture.  Then add more sauce and then repeat process till you have no more filling and sauce.  On top of the last layer of noodles add the last bit of your sauce and sprinkle ricotta cheese on top (or parmigiano  reggiano, whichever you prefer, I sprinkle with ricotta because parm. sprinkled on top of food is over played). 

Bake this for about 50 minutes and then let cool a bit and serve.  Enjoy!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Peajmas dessert No. 1

In case any of you haven't heard of Peajmas I will explain.  So Peajmas is the month long celebration of the birth of Paul James Chaykin, PJ for short (my boyfriend).  PJ has made the day after my birthday (April 12th) to the end of May a celebration of himself.  PJ needs to be showered with chocolate, presents and food.  

I am very good at this, other than sewing my favorite things to do are cook and bake.  This past Sunday we celebrated his 32nd birthday at his sisters house in Bucks County.  I decided to make dessert.  I made a classic cheesecake but gave it a little twist, literally a twist of 2 lemons! 

I made the graham cracker crust thicker than every other cheesecake I've ever had.  I cannot stand when the ratio of crust to filling is not equal.  I need just as much crunch as creaming filling.  Below is my recipe for my Strawberry Lemon Cheesecake and my Roasted Berry with Vanilla bean sauce.

For the Crust:
2 1/2 Tbs. sugar
16  graham crackers (crushed in food processor)
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
cinnamon to taste

Mix all dry ingredients together in a food processor or by hand.  Then add the melted butter to the mix and crumble together with hands.  Place parchment paper in the bottom of a square baking dish and mold the crust mixture along the parchment paper to the sides of the pan.  Make sure your crust mixture is about 1/2 inch thick.  Place in a preheated oven of 350 degrees for about 15 min. or until golden brown.  Set aside to cool.

For the Filling:
18 ounces of cream cheese at room temperature
2 eggs
2 lemons ( less or more depending on your taste) juice and zest
1/2 cup sugar
2 containers of strawberries, sliced
Vanilla to taste

Combine cream cheese, lemon juice and zest, vanilla and eggs into a bowl and mix together.  Then add the sugar and mix till all the ingredients are blended.  

Pour mixture into the graham cracker crust (make sure the crust has cooled completely).  

Place all your sliced strawberries on top make sure you cover the whole cheesecake.  

Place in over for around 35-40 minutes.

Take out of oven and cool completely.  Refrigerate for 2-4 hours and then serve.

Roasted Berry with Vanilla Bean sauce:
1 pint of strawberries sliced
1 pint of blueberries 
1 pint of blackberries
1 pint of raspberries
1 vanilla bean (split to remove seeds)
1/2 cup sugar

Mix all the berries, sugar and vanilla beans together in a baking pan.  Then place the Vanilla bean on top and roast in the oven set at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  Let cool and then pour on top of cheesecake!

I'm done with prom season!

Finally a picture of the finished product!!

As most have already heard, everything that could possibly go wrong with this dress did, from the waistband fabric having so much glue in it that it would break down my thread to the undergarments not being the ones my client was wearing with the dress, to our fit sessions. I am so happy to be finished this dress. In the end the dress was a success to the client. Taking on this project I wasn't very excited about the style of the dress on the body type of the client. However, I did what she wanted and at the end she was very happy. I guess that's really all that matters in the end.

(The pictures below are the dress pinned to a small sized dress form. Still awaiting actual pictures of the dress on the client, the pictures aren't great but I will be getting a new camera soon)