Thursday, December 27, 2012

Happy Birthday Nana!

My grandmother's birthday is today, a mere two days post-Christmas.  She's never really liked having it so close as people tend to lump the two holidays together (really shabby of them, honestly).  But this year, having her birthday so soon is letting me fix a major Christmas gifting oversight.

You see, my grandmother loves coconut.  And because we all know this, she got coconut scented soaps and lotions and even lip balms for Christmas.  Which is why it broke my heart a little when she said "but, I can't eat any of it".  This is a very fair point.  Determined to fix this injustice in time for her birthday, I headed to Whole Foods to pick up some type of coconut treat.  They had chocolate with hazelnuts, coffee beans, pink peppercorns, ginger, but not a single chocolate+coconut=happiness treat.

So I took matters into my own hands and made her some special coconut birthday treats.  They were super easy and taste delicious, although the chocolate does overpower the coconut a bit.

adapted only slightly from Not Enough Cinnamon.  My deepest thanks to her for the recipe.

1 C unsweetened shredded coconut (I used the dried coconut flakes from Whole Foods) 
  +  extra coconut for toasting
5 oz Ghiradelli 60% Chocolate (Bittersweet) bars
5 T sweetened condensed milk

Mix the cup of coconut together with the condensed milk.  Prepare a cookie sheet by laying down a sheet of parchment.  Roll small balls of the coconut mixture and place on the cookie sheet.  Not Enough  Cinnamon strongly recommends rinsing your hands every few balls or so and it does a lot to prevent sticking.  Pop the tray into the freezer for about 20 minutes.  I only left them for 15 but you know I'm lazy.  

Toast a few tablespoons of coconut.  I used my toaster oven for 2-3 minutes on toast.  Set aside.

Using a double boiler, or a metal bowl over a pot, heat all but about an ounce of the chocolate.  I chop the chocolate before putting it in the bowl, but your reserved piece should be in just one or two chunks. Heat the chocolate to 105 F, stirring to melt.  Remove it from the heat and keep stirring.  As the chocolate temperature lowers, add the reserved pieces and keep stirring until the temperature drops to 88 F.  Grab the balls from the freezer and using two forks, dip them in chocolate, coating completely and then replace on the tray and sprinkle with the toasted coconut.  Cool in fridge and store in an airtight container (not in fridge) for about 5 days).

Some words of warning/tips - your chocolate will cool FAST once it hits 88 F.  You'll need to speed.  It's hard to sprinkle the coconut before the chocolate has hardened, but also have enough time to toss all the balls in the chocolate before it's too sticky.  Also, if you have any gaps that didn't get fully coated by the chocolate the evaporated milk will leak out these holes making it sticky and less pretty.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Hungry Hippo 2012 Gift Guide

I have made solid progress on the Christmas front.  Enough progress in fact, to give you a list of wonderful things you can buy for me anyone on your list who loves to cook!

So for the first time ever, here's your Hungry Hippo Gift Guide!

1. Adorable Pot Guards from Huset:  At only $7.00 it's easy to tuck a small critter into a stocking. Obviously, my favorite is the hedgehog.

2. A State Cutting Board:  My wish is for Massachusetts, but my family insists they are only practical if you live somewhere squarish like Pennsylvania or Colorado.  Not cheap at $48.00 but original!


3. Chef Page Flags:  When I get a new cookbook, the first thing Ryan and I do is go through the recipes and mark the ones we want to try with post-its.  Imagine how much better it would look (and how helpful it would be) with these adorable page markers!  At $5.00 they won't break the bank.

4. Protect your Tablet:  Williams-Sonoma has these admittedly pricey protections for your iPad ($15.00 for the protective sheets and $50 for the stand).  But then again, if you're messy in the kitchen, you're really just saving yourself from buying a new iPad.  Right? Not on my wishlist, because I am a luddite with no such technology, but I expect many a chef would love it.

5. Two 6 Inch Cake Pans:  I heard a rumor that if you make 2 layers of a 6" cake, it will use the same amount of batter as half of a standard round layer cake.  Meaning, you can make a cake without worrying about whose going to eat the whole thing.  $13.00 minus whatever coupon you can scrounge at BB&B.

6. A Beary Good Place to Put That Cake:  I currently own 2 cake stands. But, I loooooooove this one.  I need more cabinets because I might cry without it.  $34.00 from West Elm (who is not only offering discounts and coupons every time I open my e-mail but free shipping as well!)

7. Farm Stand Baskets:  In the dead of winter, it's hard to remember those summer days at the farmer's market where you make your purchase and they pour your goodies out of the handy dandy baskets and directly into a paper bag.  But wouldn't it be so nice to restore them to their proper place with an adorable porcelain basket?  On sale for $9.80.  Yellow's probably my favorite color...

8. Canine Coasters:  Just in case the chef is allowed out of the kitchen for a celebratory drink, protective pooches will keep the tables free from rings.  Added bonus, one of the pups looks suspiciously like Dexter. $18 from Furbish.

9. Ideal for New Parents:  I couldn't resist adding this cookbook by Debbie who is the very first food blogger I ever followed.  Her book even has some sources naming it one of the best cookbooks of 2012.  I can't vouch for any of the recipes in this book, but I've been delighted with everything I've ever made from her blog.  As a special bonus, Debbie will even sign a bookplate for you. At under $12, it's a steal.

10. If You're Sick of Fishing Stuff Out of Pots: This spice infuser will allow you to have a bouquet garni without having to find string or cheesecloth.  Perfect for the chef that never can find basic kitchen supplies.  Possibly overpriced at $28, but reusable!


Any of these items catch your eye?  The ones I'm asking Santa for are #1, #3 and #6, even though most of them would delight me beyond reason.

Any kitchen items you want that aren't on my list?  I especially want to hear if you're yearning for cookbooks because I have none on my list right now and it makes me sad.  We're also tough to buy for because of all the random dietary restrictions, so I kind of have to flip through to see if they're any good.

Also, if you are a company whose product I listed here and you mind that I borrowed your picture and linked your item, please tell me and I will make whatever changes you request.

Happy Shopping!!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Comfort Food

It's early yet, but so far, this holiday season is a fail.  The weather here has been wildly swinging between 50-60s and vaguely below freezing, but the precipitation insists on coming only on the warmer days, leaving us with a damp, foggy December.  My best Christmas CDs have mysterious gone missing and not a single decoration graces my home.  Plus, for the first time I no longer have a working VCR so I can't watch Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland dance the Nutcracker.  Bah Humbug.  At least I can have some comforting warming potatoes.  Not nearly as good as having elves come and deal with my shopping, wrapping, decorating, baking and movie viewing situation, but delicious and soothing nonetheless.


2 Russett Potatoes, sliced thin (use a mandolin if you're unsure of your knife skills)
1/2 C half and half
1 C whole milk
1/8 t nutmeg
1 t salt
pepper to taste
1 C grated cheese (cheddar is what I used, but jack would be great too!)

Preheat your oven to 400 F.  Thoroughly butter an 8 by 8 baking dish.  Arrange the slices of potato in layers in the baking dish.  In a bowl, whisk together the half and half, milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Pour this over the potatoes.  Pop in the oven for 20 minutes.  Check. If the milk seems to be evaporating too much you can cover it.  Otherwise, leave it uncovered.  Bake another 30 minutes.  Sprinkle the cheese over the top and pop it back in until the cheese is melted and bubbling.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

BLT Pizza

When I was growing up my parents were seriously into food.  Most of the time this meant Julia Child level French cuisine.  When I was particularly lucky, it was various cuisines of the world - my birthday picks were usually enchiladas or moo shu pork.  But I think it was impossible for anyone to make it through the eighties unscathed, and my parents were no exception; they certainly owned cookbooks that were dead on trend (Martha Stewart Entertaining, I'm looking at you).  Among the most dated was a book of pizza recipes.  Shot on a black countertop and served up by a man in a bright yellow short-sleeved dress shirt, the pizzas almost always had the ingredients arranged in geometric patterns.  I can't quite imagine how that works from a flavor standpoint...BUT  despite all that, many of the recipes actually look, dare I say it? tasty!

Although I didn't use the recipe at all (true confession: I also didn't really write a real recipe either), my BLT pizza was completely inspired by this book.  And it was completely amazing. I will make this again, and again and again.  And if it is this good with runty little winter cherry tomatoes, just think of how it will be when the real Jersey tomatoes of summer are in.  I can't wait.

Right. So about that recipe...


dough - buy some or use 1/3 of my usual recipe
mozzarella cheese, shredded (a few cups)
6-8 slices of bacon (or turkey bacon) cooked until crispy
1/2 bag of pre-washed baby spinach
cherry tomatoes (no clue how many)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil

Crumble or chop your cooked bacon.  Set it aside in a bowl.  Rinse and halve your cherry tomatoes.  On a baking sheet, toss them with the garlic and a bit of olive oil.  Put in the oven at 350 for 15 minutes.  I'm not sure exactly how long.  You want them nice and roasty.   Roll out the dough and prebake it for 5-7 minutes.  While it's cooking rewash your spinach if you're compulsive like that and saute it up with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper.  Just long enough to wilt it. Pull the dough out cover it with mozzarella.  Then top with the bacon, tomatoes and spinach.  Pop in the oven for another 2-3 minutes until the cheese is melty and delicious.  Enjoy the spoils of the 80s.


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