Wednesday, November 30, 2005

BV Coastal Estates - Pinot Noir

(The next three posts are from our other blog. I thought it would be nice to incorporate our wine reviews with the other foodie don't go thinking we've been drinking on a Wed afternoon. They are just copied and pasted from another blog)

Over the past couple days we've had a glass of BV Coastal Estates, but this time it's the Pinot Noir. What a difference that type makes! Keep in mind that we are certainly not wine connoisseurs. The Cabernet hit harder on the tongue, and in its wake was a sort of heavy, peppery, assertive taste.

The PN’s flavor is smoother, right off the bat. It’s harder to quantify exactly what the predominant tastes are, because no one thing really stands out for me – but I’ll get to the cauldron in a moment. In terms of the aftermath of a sip, this wine fades away in a truly subtle fashion, leaving the mouth not quite as dry, and certainly not as bitter. It’s rather pleasant in comparison.

Now, however, it’s time for flavor country.

Adam’s Black Cauldron (or rather this time, just some general thoughts):A mad scientist tried to make a perfume derived from some sort of flower, but screwed it up. Instead, it turned out tasting like dirt, powder, and dust…but somehow in a really tasteful, satisfying sort of way.

Monika’s Thoughts:“Monika’s sophisticated pallet detects the subtle smell and flavor of red wine…alcohol and…are you writing this? Sniff it, swirl it, sniff again…[pondering] strawberries, [rolls eyes]…earthy strawberries. Done! Dusty earthy strawberries!”

Haha, that was much too hilarious to edit.

Stag's Leap Wine Cellar

We just busted out another bottle of wine, so here's the review:

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars
Cabernet Sauvignon
2002 Napa Valley

Phew, that was a lot of information. Taking the type of grape aside, I find it incredibly hard to believe that any person will ever *really* know the nuances of all the different brands/types/years/etc. There is just too much information. Otherwise...

This is great stuff - the smoothest we've had so far. The flavor remains fairly consistent throughout - no particular burst or absence of flavor on the back-end.

Adam's Black Cauldron:Plum, blackberry, lotus blossom*

*I have no idea what lotus blossoms smell like, but this wine has a hint of what I imagine they'd smell like.

Monika's Thoughts:"Sweet, smooth, clean, and crisp. So far of all the wines I've tried, this is my favorite."

BV Coastal Estates - 2002 Cabernet Sauvingnon

-Chock-full of alcohol
-Leaves the mouth feeling dry
-"Earthy" as opposed to "fruity"; the first thing I thought of was grass.
-Pungent...I can smell the scent of the wine from further away than usual.
-After a sip, I think of black pepper. And "man, this stuff is going to make me drunk."
-I quasi-broke the cork in the removal process. Luckily, only the top 10% - no "wine fouls" committed with cork getting inside the bottle. We really need a decent bottle opener.

The Black Cauldron - every time I try a wine, I'm going to rattle off a bunch of random tastes that I detect because hey - pretending like you tasted a plum in a man's hat in these wines is half the fun. So...
//edit, Monika wants her opinion separated :)

Adam's Black Cauldron: grass, oak, black pepper, dirt

Monika's Black Cauldron: blackberry, wood, dust, fig

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Retro Snoballs

When I was little, er, younger, I would eat these Hostess Snoballs that were pretty good. I remember the frosting was hard and more of a foam texture than a cupcake frosting. I always thought that was wrong.

So when I found a recipe for Mashmallow frosting, I thought it would be a great chance to make this classic dessert all over again...but with a gourmet twist.

These were an absolute BLAST to make.

The cake batter is made with 70% Cocoa by Valhrona. It's a gooey & rich chocolate cake. The frosting is made with butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and Marshmallow Fluff.

I piped the frosting on to the cupcakes after the cooled and was so impressed!

Then it was topped and shaped with some coconut that I colored with 3 food drops of red food coloring. I am sorry for the bad picture; it didn't do the cupcake justice.

The frosting made WAY too much and next time I will probably cut it in half. Wait...I take that back, next time I will double the cake recipe and make more cupcakes. This recipe only made 12.

I think these are going to be a HUGE hit at the office tomorrow.

Okay - WAAAAAAY too much frosting & sugar for me tonight...Off to the gym!

UPDATE :: I actually got an email requesting the recipe for our super Retro Snoballs and how can I keep my fans waiting ;)

8 tbls unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used Valhrona)
1/2 c. Dutch-processed cocoa
3/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
3/4 c. sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp table salt
1/2 c. sour cream

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan with baking cup liners. (this made 12 cupcakes)

Combine first three ingredients in medium heatproof bowl. Melt ingredients using a double-boiler or a saucepan over simmering water. Whisk until smooth and combined. Set aside to cool, until just warm to the touch.

Whisk flour, baking soda and baking powder in small bowl to combine.

Whisk eggs in medium bowl to combine; add sugar, vanilla, and salt and wisk until fully incorporated. Add cooled chocolate mixture; whisk until fully combined. Alternate about 1/3 of flour mixture with the sour cream into chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. End with remaining flour mixture and whisk until batter is homogenous and thick.

Divide batter among muffin pan cups. Bake until toothpick comes out clean, 18-20 minutes.

Cool in pan on wire rack, about 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature before icing, about 30 minutes.

And the goodness that is frosting:

1 can of Fluff 16 oz. (use actual Fluff not marshmallow cream)
4 sticks of unsalted butter at room temp.
2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Cream the butter then add the sugar. Once fully incorporated add the fluff. Beat until mixed.

Pink Coconut:
1 bag coconut sweetened
3 drops of red food coloring.

Mix until pink!

Monday, November 28, 2005

C&C Cookie

My two favorite food groups are coffee & chocolate. And as my favorite food groups, I try to incorporate these into my diet each day. So you can imagine my excitement when I found a cookie recipe made with dark chocolate and espresso powder.

Thankfully I had all the supplies at the house, so before I hit up the gym (I'm doing chest & tri's tonight) I had to make this recipe! Call it an obsession...

1/2 c. butter (I used unsalted)
1 c. light brown sugar
3 tbls granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1-3/4 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 tsp instant espresso coffee powder
1 bag chocolate chips - 60% Ghiradelli Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cream the butter with the sugars using an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy.

Beat in the egg and the vanilla extract for another 30 seconds.

In a mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and beat into the butter mixture at low speed for about 15 seconds. Stir in the espresso coffee powder and chocolate chips.

Using a 1 ounce scoop or a 2 tablespoon measure, drop cookie dough onto a greased cookie sheet about 3 inches apart. Gently press down on the dough with the back of a spoon to spread out into a 2 inch circle. Bake for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned around the edges. Bake a little longer for a crispier cookie.

The mixture is pretty dry compared to other cookie dough so I was surprised when I tried the dough. I've got to say that this is some of the best cookie dough I have eaten.

SIDE BAR :: I highly recommend those who do not have an oven thermometer to buy one. I got mine from Williams Sonoma for around $10. I set the oven to 280 and the thermometer read 325. In order to reach exactly 300 degrees I set it to 255. (Just a helpful hint for people who can never get the recipes to come out right). This has been the BEST addition to my kitchen hands down. Even though I love my mixer as if it was my own child, it still doesn't save as many dishes as the thermometer has.

The overall cookie is FANTASTIC! I know I may be biased because I am such a coffee lover, but, wow! With this recipe & my other no-other-chocolate-chip-cookie-is-better-than-this recipe I don't see a need to keep my other recipes in my organizer. The true test of this will be how they hold up tomorrow.

And, in case you are wondering, Sushi is my third favorite food group.

Thanksgiving Pie Recipe #1

I made this last year for Thanksgiving, but used peanut butter instead of mocha chips. It was super delish!!!! Of all the pies on the table (there were 7) this one was the "winner" by amount eaten.

Chocolate Mocha Pie
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup Baking Cocoa (dutch process if available)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
16 oz cappicino chips (I got them at Target)
2 c. heavy whipping cream, divided
2 tsp powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

PREHEAT oven to 350°F.COMBINE graham cracker crumbs, cocoa and granulated sugar in 9-inch pie plate. Stir in butter until all ingredients are moistened; press onto bottom and up sides of pie plate. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle 1/2 cup morsels over bottom of hot crust; let stand for 10 minutes or until all morsels are shiny. Spread chocolate over bottom and up sides of crust. Cool to room temperature.

MICROWAVE 2 cups morsels and 3/4 cup cream in large, microwave-safe bowl on HIGH power for 1 minute; stir. Microwave at additional 10- to 20-second intervals, stirring until smooth. Cool to room temperature.

BEAT remaining cream, sugar and vanilla extract in chilled small mixer bowl until soft peaks form. Fold 2 cups whipped cream into chocolate mixture. Spoon into crust; swirl top. Garnish with remaining whipped cream. Refrigerate until firm.

I topped it with a chocolate ganace. Melt some chocolate chips (any kind will work since it is just for taste) and then use a fork to splatter a design on the top of the whipped cream.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Shepherd's Pie

2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cubed
6 oz softened cream cheese
1/2 cup cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 3/4 pounds beef (I used 1 pound beef & 1 pound turkey)
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup beef stock or broth
4 teaspoons Worcestershire, eyeball it
1 bag mixture of peas & carrots
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 tbls fresh dill, chopped

Boil potatoes in salted water until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain potatoes and pour them into a bowl. Combine cream cheese, dill, and cream. Add the cream mixture into potatoes and mash until potatoes are almost smooth.

While potatoes boil, preheat a large skillet over medium high heat. Season meat with salt and pepper. Brown and crumble meat for 3 or 4 minutes. Add carrot, peas, and onion to the meat. Cook veggies with meat 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

In a second small skillet over medium heat cook butter and flour together 2 minutes. Whisk in broth and Worcestershire sauce. Thicken gravy 2 minute. Add gravy to meat and vegetables.

Preheat broiler to high. Fill a small rectangular casserole with meat and vegetable mixture. Spoon potatoes over meat evenly. Top potatoes with paprika and broil 6 to 8 inches from the heat until potatoes are evenly browned.

Adam's review: "Very moist. Very flavorful. Yummy!"

This meal will probably make about 5 Adam sized lunches. This was a 30 minute meal recipe, but I changed a few things and added dill.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Thanksgiving Day Fun

On the menu this Thanksgiving, or at least my contribution, is the following:

Key Lime Meringue Pie
Chocolate Caramel Pecan Pie
Chocolate Lovers Mocha Pie
Peanut Brittle (the one I made a few days ago)

I've made Key Lime pie before, but this time I decided to add a meringue topping. I've never made meringue before so this was an aggressive move on Turkey Day.

From the looks of it, I think it came out okay although it doesn't looked solidified as I think pie should be. I guess we will see tomorrow.

Yes, tomorrow. For as long as I can remember, my mom and step dad have been celebrating Thanksgiving on Wednesday night instead of Thursday so that I can eat lunch with my dad.

Anydangways, the chocolate lovers mocha pie was next on the menu and it was a task. I made this last Thanksgiving and it was a hit. It is super easy to make too. But, tonight seemed to be bad-luck day for Monika & baking. I couldn't even get the cream to whip. I was so upset.

I had to take a baking break and hit up Target for some more supplies. I think the problem with the cream was I used powdered sugar instead of sugar and this new Whip-it stuff.

The next batch of whipped cream turned out okay, but it definitely wasn't my best effort. How disappointing. I put the cream in the pie and it's setting in the fridge as we, uh, speak (?).

The pecan pie is in the oven baking. I think this one is a winner. The recipe made a little too much filling, but it was corrected early on.

Tomorrow is judgement day. Recipes that are well recieved will be posted. The ones that are ho-hum will be tossed in the garbage ;).

Monday, November 21, 2005

Peanutty Brittle

This is probably one of my easiest recipes. I've messed around with the ratios and have found out that you can NOT double this recipe. It won't harden if you do. So, I recommend that you just take the extra time and make it in the small batches.

1 & 1/2 c. dry roasted peanuts
1 c. white sugar
1/2 c. light corn syrup
1 pinch salt
1 tbls butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda

Grease a baking sheet, and set aside. In a glass bowl, combine peanuts, sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Cook in microwave for 6 to 7 minutes on High; mixture should be bubbly and peanuts browned. Stir in butter and vanilla; cook 2 to 3 minutes longer.

Quickly stir in baking soda, just until mixture is foamy. Pour immediately onto greased baking sheet. Let cool 15 minutes, or until set. Break into pieces, and store in an airtight container.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies

When we were in Houston a few weekends ago, I stopped by Starbucks and bought a non-fat latte and the Holiday Edition of Bon Appetit. In the magazine, Adam found a recipe he wanted to taste and since it's been a while since I actually made him anything, I thought I would make them.

The cookie part of the sandwich is a basic chocolate cookie and was relatively easy to make. My handy-dandy kitchen aid mixer made the dough with in 10 minutes.

I was a little ticked off at my self for not reading the recipe before I started, because after I made the dough is when I realized I had to chill the dough for 1 hour.

So, to kill some time I made my yummy peanut brittle, which takes all of 15 minutes and did the dishes. Since the dishes were done, I could start on the peppermint filling. This was another no-brainier. Butter + Sugar = Yummy Frosting. I added the peppermint extract and the food coloring and Voila!

I did the dishes yet again and waited for another 10 minutes. (Okay, so only 45 minutes actually passed.)

I followed the directions as described and then decided that I had a better method for making the cookies. I used my cookie scoop and then pushed them down with my hand instead of a cup. When I pressed them with the cup they would get stuck on the bottom and tear off big chunks of cookie dough.

After the first patch of cookies got out of the oven, Adam was already poking his head in the kitchen asking for a cookie. So I took a warm cookie and put a big blob of frosting on it. And yes, the butter started melting right away. So, I had to wait for about 20 minutes before putting the filling on the sandwich bottoms.

I used my new pastry bag I just bought from Williams Sonoma and it made the assembly line run very smooth. I also opted to not use crushed candy canes on the side, because I thought that would be a little too much and decided on a sprinkle of powdered sugar on the top.

Over all these cookies are a fantastic addition to my Christmas Cookie collection. They taste very similar to Thin Mints, but have this nice gourmet flavor.

1 & 3/4 c. flour
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp salt
1 c. sugar
3/4 c. unsalted butter (room temp)
1 large egg

Whisk together the first three ingredients. Use an electric mixer to beat sugar and butter until well blended. Beat in egg. Add dry ingredients, beat until blended. Refrigerate dough 1 hour.

preyed oven to 350. Scoop out dough by level tablespoon. Place balls on parchment lined cookies sheet about 2 inches apart. (I used a slilpat mat instead of parchment paper). Flatten each cookie with the bottom of a glass. Bake cookies for about 11 minutes. DO NOT OVER BAKE or they will be too crisp.

Wait for 5 minutes before removing the cookie from the sheet and then let them cool completely on a wire rack.

1 c. Plus 4 tables powdered sugar
3/4 c. unsalted butter (room temp)
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
2 drops red food coloring

Beat powdered sugar and butter with an electric mixer until well blended. Add extract and food coloring and beat until light pink.

Assemble cookies like you would any cookie sandwich. You'll put about 2 tablespoon flush of frosting on the bottom part of the cookie sandwich.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Mmmonika's Chocolate Cake

Mmmonika’s Chocolate Cake

1 package chocolate cake mix
1 package instant chocolate pudding mix
16 oz sour cream
1 cup melted butter
5 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (not really necessary, at least Adam doesn't think so)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease pan.

In a large bowl or your trust-y Kitchen Aid Mixer, stir together cake mix and pudding mix. Pour in sour cream, melted butter, eggs and vanilla. Beat on low speed until blended. Scrape bowl, and beat 4 minutes on medium speed. Blend in chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan.

I always turn the pan 180 degrees half way through to even things out.

Bundt Pan - Bake in preheated oven for 50 minutes. Let cool before removing and frosting
Cupcakes – Bake 23 minutes. Let cool before removing and frosting.

1/4 cup margarine, melted
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

In a large bowl, beat margarine and cocoa together until combined. Add milk and vanilla; beat until smooth. Pour in powdered sugar and beat for about 5 minutes. It should be light and fluffy.

This cake always turns out. It's a great one for any chocolate lover because it is super gooey in the middle.