Tag Archives: dessert

Heart-healthy panna cotta

It figures I’d start the low-fat, low-sodium posts with a dessert.  Those of you who know me in real life are aware I don’t do deprivation well — particularly when it comes to sweets.  So yes, dessert was the first thing I tried to transform.

The good news is, I think I’m on the right track.  I would almost serve this to guests — ALMOST.  It is still very much a work in progress, but I can assure you of this: it is a welcome substitute for the non-fat yogurt and jam we’ve* been stuck with lately.   I’ve basically started with a low-fat panna cotta recipe, which replaces the typical cream and sugar component of the dessert with low-fat milk and yogurt, and transformed it into something more exotic.  Does it work? Well — as I said before, almost. I would use pineapple or bananas instead of strawberries (or at least saute the strawberries with a little bit of nice balsamic or brown sugar), steep the basil in the coconut milk as opposed to liberally adding slivers of it to the dessert, and would skip the black pepper (which I will not mention in the recipe, of course) in favor of vanilla or toasted coconut.  Beyond that, though, it actually does seem worthy of dessert, which is exactly what I was going for.  If you want to make it a little creamier, you can either use full fat coconut or low / full fat yogurt.  But then you might as well use real cream, no?

If you prefer, you can also use regular milk. I’ve done this as well, and it works. It’s just a little less exciting.

Forgive the photos, which sort of remind me of faux foodie glamour shots. It is 11 pm and my nice camera lacks battery power, so I’ve decided to improvise.

* Err… well, James has. Until yesterday, I had my private stash of Girl Scout Cookies. Shhh, don’t tell!

Low-fat strawberry basil panna cotta

Serves 4.

  • 1 c. low-fat coconut milk
  • 1 c. non-fat greek yogurt (Fage or Skyr are the best)
  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin (have yet to try this with agar agar for the vegetarians out there, but if I get around to it, I will report back. If you try it out and it works, leave a comment!)
  • 2 t. honey
  • 3 basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 6 strawberries, cut into small chunks

Sprinkle the gelatin over the coconut milk, and let stand for a couple of minutes minutes.  Heat briefly over a medium-low burner, stirring rapidly, until the gelatin dissolves.  Add the honey, and stir until that also dissolves.  Remove from heat. Stir in basil chunks, and set aside.

Evenly distribute strawberry chunks between four ramekins or small bowls.  Pour coconut milk mixture over the strawberries.  Chill mixture for a couple of hours, or until the mixture has firmed.  Serve cold, either in the ramekins or turned out and topped with some sort of decadent berry sauce (which I have yet to make).

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Filed under coconut, dessert, strawberry, Uncategorized

When you need chocolate

I’m not one to actually try recipes from other blogs most of the time.  I tend to quit reading the ingredient list halfway through, or start improvising madly upon discovering that I only have two out of the five ingredients I need for some particular concoction.  But this time, I had all the ingredients, I really didn’t improvise*, and I wasn’t disappointed.

So what are you waiting for?  Try this recipe.  Now.  You will thank me** later.

*I substituted vanilla sugar for the vanilla extract and sugar.  Vanilla sugar = sugar that has been sitting in a bowl with a vanilla bean or two for a week or longer, and if you’ve never made it, I suggest you go buy a vanilla bean and try it.  The vanilla bean can be reused for multiple batches of sugar, and the scent makes me deliriously happy every time I start baking something with it.  If you must, think of it as cheap therapy for the winter months.

** … err, Smitten Kitchen, actually.

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Filed under baking, chocolate, dessert

Pumpkin cake

I know what you’re thinking. Pumpkin cake? In spring? Yes, it’s a somewhat odd choice, especially given the 30 degree (Celsius) weather we had this weekend.  For some reason, I woke up Saturday, inhaled the slightly humid New Haven air, and thought squash in dessert form would be a good idea.

Please, someone, I need an intervention.

Ok, so there’s a back story to this. I love pumpkin. We have a party planned for October. And this? it’s the start of our attempt to sort of feel out the menu.  And for your purposes, this is actually quite adaptable.  Swap pumpkin for grated carrot or zucchini, and I think you’ll end up with a semi-healthy and delicious dessert.  Turn it into cupcakes, each with a frosty peak.

Or just do what I really wanted to do and forget healthy: just make the cream cheese frosting.

You will notice we didn’t frost the outside of the cake. We couldn’t have — there wasn’t enough of it left.

Recipe after the jump.

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Filed under baking, dessert, eggs, frosting, ginger, pumpkin, squash, vegetarian

Pie-eating hypocrite

The infamous breakfast slice

The infamous breakfast slice

I promised vegetables, healthy dishes, and quick meals, and have totally failed you. But my intentions were good, and yes, I will get there. We’ve been doing well on reducing the amount of meat we eat, despite long hours and not much time to cook.  And I have the makings of a gorgeous onion soup in the works, if the smell of the stock I’m cooking in the next room tells me anything.  For now, though, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m horrible at making pie crusts.

Pie in the making

Pie in the making

It is the one thing that I don’t usually think twice about buying, even if it does cost about 5 times as much as it would for me to make at home.  But as a wannabe food person, I still felt this lingering guilt. I mean, it should be easy as … pie. Right. Whoever came up with that phrase obviously didn’t have to actually make the stuff.

Good thing James seems to have the touch. He’s patient, and meticulous, and apparently has cooler hands that I do, because he made this crust, and it was gorgeous.  Either that or it was the homemade butter (I swear — It was the store’s fault all along).  Anyway, I won’t give you the recipe for the crust, because it’s the same as all the other recipes, and why would I ever pretend to be an expert when I can send you here, here, and here?  I will tell you that we used 5/8ths homemade butter, 3/8ths shortening (it was on sale, what can I say), and the leftover buttermilk (not the same as the stuff in the store!) instead of water.  I will also tell you that she is sooo right about keeping the butter VISIBLE in your crust.

The filling recipe is posted here, however. It is beautiful, not too sweet, a little tart, and incredibly simple. And you don’t even need to blind bake your crust! It’s a double crust anyway, so that’s probably not exactly unexpected, but hey, celebrate the little things.  This recipe is adapted from The King Arthur Flower Baker’s Companion All-Purpose Baking Cookbook (phew, that’s a long title).  So, in that spirit, I’ll give you another one:

Sweet tart cherry pie (or why Mr. Washington shouldn’t have chopped down that cherry tree after all, even if that story was a myth)

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Chocolate and physics

Mexican drinking chocolate in Poland

Mexican drinking chocolate in Poland

Poland began with a bumpy, five-hour bus ride that felt like it was designed to weaken our resistance at the start of what would prove to be a very long week. Not a bad week — just a long one. I was there for a conference, so the bus was full of physicists from all over the world, and once the castle filled, conversations on cocktail napkins and in dungeon “night clubs” were impossible to avoid.  Ryn, where the conference was held, was literally a few corner markets and bars at the edge of one of the Mazurian Lakes. The castle — built by Teutonic knights — was first mentioned in 1377, though the renovations for the hotel had just been completed in 2006.  What, you may ask, did Ryn have to offer? Well, not much … We ate a buffet in the hotel every day, three times a day, and walked out to the undeveloped shore on our breaks. Occasionally, we’d get a local bar to stay open late, and order piwa (beer) after piwa until we got chased out into the night. Physicists are serious drinkers, for the most part.  But what else do you do when the most exciting thing you see all week is a goat?
The famous goat

The famous goat

Yah. Well, the people I met on this trip happened to be great. My roommate was awesome, which I was pretty happy about, and the people I ended up hanging out with were a lot of fun.  So yes — a week in Ryn wasn’t so bad after all. But you’re probably wondering at this point why I’m going on and on about Ryn and this conference when I’ve placed a picture of a lovely looking hot chocolate up at the top. Well, I had an evening in Warsaw, after yet another bus ride. I’m getting to the chocolate in a bit.
Old Town Warsaw

Old Town Warsaw

Warsaw itself wasn’t the greatest thing I had ever seen. I can’t say I’d seek it out as a prime tourist spot. It feels like a Soviet construction, which it is.  It is Soviet style block architecture crumbling with age, mixed in with its grand Palace of Culture and a million fast food-filled underground passages, and the meticulously rebuilt Old Town section, which was beautiful but sterile, somehow. I sort of like the appearance of age on buildings — the way the dust and grime of hundreds of years settle into the cracks just so, and manage somehow to be charming despite its dirty origins. There was none of that here, as Warsaw was leveled in the war.  I’ve been told Krakow and Gdansk are better destinations. But Warsaw had one thing going for it: excellent drinking chocolate.
E. Wedel Chocolate Shop

E. Wedel Chocolate Shop

We visited the E. Wedel chocolate shop and cafe in Old Town, which reminded me of the coffee shops in Vienna with its luxurious decorations old-fashioned feel. Their specialty was a traditional drinking chocolate, which we (my roommate from the conference, one of her colleagues, and me) sampled. They were delicious — rich and thick and proper dessert, if you know what I mean.  It was a proper end to a long trip, I think, and when I got on the plane the next day, I was quite happy to be heading back home.
Chocolate shavings

Key ingredient.

I did bring a little something back for all of you, of course. Here’s my Mexican drinking chocolate recipe. It’s simple, actually, and really, really tasty. But of course, the better your chocolate, the better this tastes.
Mexican Drinking Chocolate

Mexican Drinking Chocolate

Mexican Drinking Chocolate

  • 1 c. whole milk
  • 1.5 oz. chocolate, chopped into slivers.
  • Chipotle or chili powder, to taste (start with a small amount and work up!)

Heat the milk slowly in a heavy saucepan over low heat until a decent amount of steam rises from the surface. Place the chocolate shavings in a bowl. Pour the hot milk over it, stirring the chocolate/milk mix, and continue stirring until all the milk has been added and the chocolate has melted. Add in the appropriate amount of chili. Drink immediately.

You can experiment with other spices and flavors. For mint drinking chocolate, steep a decent peppermint tea bag in the hot milk for a minute or two until mixing with the chocolate. Try a bit of cinnamon. Or try something a little more adult — ammaretto, schnaps, etc. Just make sure to add any alcohol or flavor syrups to the milk first.

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Filed under chocolate, dessert, stories, travel

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

Beautiful

I thought I’d share this one while strawberries and rhubarb are still in season. We had a pile of each sitting in our house, wilting in the humidity, and I decided to take matters into my own hands and do something about it before they both went to waste. A good thing, too, given that strawberries were $6 a quart last week, and they weren’t even that tasty.

Compote

I can’t blame them, really — with all this rain, we haven’t managed to actually harvest any of ours before they’ve started rotting. But onto more pleasant things…

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My first Pav

I think I finally figured out how to get James to eat some fruit.

Pav

Seriously — this is it. Those kiwis? He bought those about three weeks ago. I’m shocked — shocked — that they’re still intact (and tasty). And the strawberries? Leftovers from a cart I bought at TJ’s a whole two days ago. Why I still buy fruit at TJ’s is beyond me — I swear every “fresh” thing that comes from that store goes bad within a few days. But the ones we did manage to salvage were tasty, especially after I glazed them with some passionfruit pulp in syrup that James brought all the way back from Perth.

Pavlova in the oven

So, this is definitely my first pavlova. You can tell because I somehow wasn’t concerned about the fact that the recipe didn’t seem to indicate whether the pan should have a shape of some sort. Just pour it on a sheet pan and go, right? Um… NO. Not unless you like the smell of burning sugar.

Pav burning!

Despite the mishap, though, it turned out pretty well. Mostly, it just didn’t have the body I was hoping for. (Kidding! I’m trying to see the bright side of all the footy going on in our house right now … Cut me some slack?) Ok, seriously, though — use a cake tin lined with parchment paper, so you’ll have a pretty cake-like thing to decorate. Just don’t forget the parchment; you need to flip it upside down to decorate it, and the underside will be spongy, a bit sticky, and almost marshmallow-like:

Pavlicious

Not to mention delicious. And after you’re finished devouring this (decorations and all), you’ll have the energy to make the whole wheat challah I’m working on as I type. Stay tuned? In the meantime, counteract this dessert with Rachael’s awesome bran muffin recipe. Here’s my version, with chunks of marzipan and dried cherries in place of bananas:

Rachael's muffins

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Filed under baking, dessert, kiwi, passion fruit, strawberry