Pizza Hamantaschen

Folks are doing amazing things with hamantaschen nowadays and are creative as can be. Lately I’ve seen rainbow hamantaschen as well as challah hamantaschen and even cupcake hamantaschen, which are all in good fun. If you are looking for a traditional hamantaschen recipe (this one has a feminist spin), then there is no shortage of those as well.

But while you are branching out, why not make pizza hamantaschen, since the only thing that kids like as much as cookies is pizza? And you want to make them happy. After all, it’s Purim!

Pizza Hamantaschen--Be Happy!

Pizza Hamantaschen–Be Happy!

Pizza Hamantaschen  (Pictures follow)

  • ·         1 package biscuit dough, such as Pillsbury or Trader Joe’s,  preferably one that has flaky layers
  • ·         1-14 ounce can pizza sauce (you will use about 6 ounces)
  • ·         Shredded mozzarella cheese (about a cup)

 

1.       Preheat oven to 350° F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.      Open biscuit package and separate the dough into 8 rounds.

3.      Peel each biscuit in half horizontally so you have 2 rounds of dough.

4.      Lay them out on a work surface, and top with a dollop of pizza sauce. Do not spread the sauce, and be careful not to put too much or you won’t be able to seal your hamantaschen.

5.      Top with a pinch of cheese.

6.      Fold into the traditional hamantaschen shape by folding up one side and pinching the dough closed, and then lifting up the other side and pinching the other two corners closed. You should be able to see a little bit of the filling peeking through.

7.      Place on the baking sheet and cook for about 9 minutes until the edges of the dough are golden brown and the pizza hamantaschen is puffed. Eat while hot, and don’t forget to be happy!

Biscuit dough

Biscuit dough

Peel apart horizontally

Peel apart horizontally

Lay flat on work surface

Lay flat on work surface

Put a dollop of sauce on each

Put a dollop of sauce on each

Top with a sprinkle of cheese

Top with a sprinkle of cheese

Fold one side up and pinch to seal

Fold one side up and pinch to seal

It will look like this

It will look like this

Then do the second side

Then do the second side

And the third side

And the third side

Voila

Voila

Repeat

Repeat

Ready to bake

Ready to bake

Bake at 350 F for about 9 minutes or until golden

Bake at 350 F for about 9 minutes or until golden

Pizza Hamantashen 16 Pizza Hamantashen 17 Pizza Hamantashen 18

Pizza Hamantaschen--Be Happy!

Pizza Hamantaschen–Be Happy!

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Chicken Pot Pie

Snow day has followed snow day, and frankly I don’t mind a bit. The icy roads and sub-zero temps have given me permission to stay home with my family in my cozy house and cook. The biggest challenge on those days is to decide if I will put on clothes or pajamas after a shower, and pajamas always seem to win.

Comfortable clothes lead to comfort food, and this chicken pot pie is an old favorite.

There are varying degrees of how challenging this recipe can be—sometimes I make my own crust and add wine and a bay leaf to the filling ( ask me if you want to know when to add what), other times I use store bought crust and frozen veggies. It all depends on how much effort I feel like putting into it, and honestly, it is always delicious no matter which way I choose to go.

I will give you all of the variations and you can decide for yourself the next time you are snowed in, whether to put on pajamas or clothes, or make or buy a pie crust.

Comfort food equals comfort cooking, so have it your way.

I have made this when company comes, when bringing dinner to sick friends, and when I have bits of this and that leftover in the fridge. It never disappoints, so if winter has you down, this will pick you up!

Chicken Pot Pie Recipe (pictures follow)

  • 2 pie crusts, store-bought, I used Pillsbury, but any frozen crust will do, except Trader Joe’s brand which is too sweet, or homemade (sift 1 cup flour into a bowl, cut in 1/3 cup butter or shortening and mix with fork, sprinkle on 2 tablespoons cold water and blend again with fork, shape into a ball, wrap with plastic and chill in fridge until after you cook the filling)
  • 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil, or butter, or whatever you like to sauté onions with
  • 1 medium onion, about 1 cup, chopped
  • For the veggies: 1 diced potato or 1 cup chopped cauliflower florets, ½ cup diced carrots, ½ cup frozen peas. On a lazy day I might use a  bag of frozen veggies such as Trader Joe’s Vegetable Melange, cooked in the microwave for twice as long as the directions say, and added after I sauté the onion.
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 ½ cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups diced chicken

To make filling:

  1. Heat oil and sauté onion, peas, carrots, and potato or cauliflower until tender. Stir in flour, salt and pepper and mix well. Gradually stir in the broth, stirring constantly to make a thick, creamy sauce. Add diced chicken and stir to combine.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F. Let the filling cool for a bit while you prep the crusts. Roll out both pieces of dough and place one in the bottom of the pie dish, letting it hang over the edge a bit. Set the second piece of dough aside. Pour in the slightly cooled filling, and cover it with the second piece of rolled out dough. Pierce the top crust with a fork to vent, and tuck the edges of the crust under to make a neat edge.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes, or until crust is golden. Let stand for 15-30 minutes to let the filling thicken a bit before you cut into it.

Pot Pie 16 Pot Pie 15 Pot Pie 12 Pot Pie 14 Pot Pie 13 Pot Pie 11 Pot Pie 10 Pot Pie 9 Pot Pie 8 Pot Pie 7 Pot Pie 6 Pot Pie 5 Pot Pie 2 Pot Pie 1 Pot Pie 3 Pot Pie 4

Love!

Love!

Heart-Shaped Meatloaf

The Things We Do For Love: A Valentine’s Day Blog Post

It started back in 1995 when I first met Jesse—being in love suddenly made me want to cook. Although I loved to cook, there was no real point to it since I lived in NYC and considered all of the restaurants in town my own personal pantry. Instead of opening the door to the fridge, I would open the front door to my apartment, and there were a multitude of cheap great eats to choose from.

But on Valentine’s Day 1996 something in my universe shifted. I had an idea, and as goofy as I knew it was, I knew I had to do it. I made my super- cool, crazy-handsome, rocker husband-to-be a heart shaped meatloaf.

Heart Shaped Meatloaf Circa 1996

If this isn’t love, what is?

When I pulled it from the oven I channeled my best June Cleaver, my inner Marion Cunningham, and even my own wonderful mom. Meatloaf to me means more than just that you love someone, it means that you are a family.

Some other V-Day fun:

Salad with Red Pepper Hearts

Salad with Red Pepper Hearts

Heart Shaped Corn Bread Muffins

Heart Shaped Corn Bread Muffins

Guess what these are? Beets cut into hearts...wait for it...Heart Beets

Beets cut into hearts…wait for it…Heart Beets

Well, all these year later, I will be keeping with the tradition that I started way back when, and will make my 19th heart shaped meatloaf for my love. But now I must make it bigger because there are five of us. You know the childhood taunt, “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.” Well three babies and 19 Valentine’s Days later, we look forward to it as our family V-Day tradition!

Valentine’s Day Meatloaf

  • 2 pounds ground meat (I use half ground chicken and half ground beef, 85/15)
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ cup dry oatmeal, ground in a food processor
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • For the glaze mix together: ¼ cup ketchup, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon spicy brown mustard and set aside.
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the dry mustard powder and the water. Add the egg and stir again. Add all of the remaining ingredients: ground meat, ground oats, garlic, ketchup, salt, and thyme and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined.
  3. Transfer the meat mixture onto the prepared baking pan and using your hands, shape into a big, wide heart, smoothing the top.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes, top with the glaze, and return to the oven and bake for another 30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
  5. Serve to someone, or a few someones, that you love.
Smile

Smile

Mexican Chocolate Sauce

It is Cinco de Mayo weekend and time for a fiesta!  For me, Cinco started last week when I was on two morning news shows promoting Mrs. Wages salsa, guacamole, and queso dip. What fun!

See the clips here:

This one is my favorite! Tim Ezell and April were a hoot!

http://fox2now.com/2013/05/02/easy-salsa-guacamole/

Elliot politely refused my sombrero but it didn’t stop me from having a blast!

http://fox2now.com/2013/05/03/three-amigos-of-cinco-de-mayo-snacks/

For my own Cinco celebration at home with friends, I wanted to do something special after the tortilla chip crumbs were brushed away—so, for dessert, I served  Ibarra Mexican Chocolate Sauce over vanilla bean ice cream!

Ibarraaaaaah!

Ibarraaaaaah!

Ten years ago I went with my husband to a conference in San Diego. We stayed at a hotel that overlooked the bay and had a view of Coronado Island.

At the time, my boys were little, 2 and 5, and my girl was not yet on the horizon. It was the first time I was getting on a plane to go somewhere without my kids. It was just two years after 9/11 and getting on a plane was still a little anxiety provoking, to say the least.

The third Lord of the Rings movie had just come out in theaters, and I was almost done reading Return of the King, rushing to finish before seeing it in the theater, which we planned to do on New Year’s Eve on our trip.

We lived in a small town at the time, Winona, Minnesota, and the New Yorker in me was desperate to go to a city, any city, and eat great food and be around hoards of people. So off we went.

It was an icy December, and getting on a tiny propeller plane from La Crosse, Wisconsin, to the Twin Cities was no comfort as it shook and shivered to get off of the ground. I watched the blinding whiteness of snowy Minnesota disappear as we headed to what I hoped was a lush, green California.

When we got to San Diego we were told they were having the coldest winter in recent history. I pulled my coat tightly around me and braced myself for the chilly California weather and an exciting week without my two loves I had left far behind at home.

Return of the King weighed heavily on my mind—I fretted as I read.  Frodo had risked everything to travel far and away and save Middle Earth. Surely I could make it through the week without going to pieces over missing my boys. Frodo and I, we were in this together.

On December 31 we took the bright red trolley to Old Town. A couple of stops further and we would have been in Tijuana. I wouldn’t have dared to travel over any borders with my kids so far behind, so Old Town was as far as we went.

We spent a very enjoyable day browsing ceramic lizards and other hand painted pottery in the Mexican art galleries. We ate delicious Mexican food and drank wide and wobbly glassfulls of margaritas rimmed in salt with clinking cubes of ice. We sat outside under a chilly sky with brightly colored restaurant décor and lively music playing all around us.

That night we would ring in the New Year by sitting through a late showing of Return of the King, too excited to do anything else. But first we would shop at a the Mexican stores—our Minnesota house was too tiny for more art, but the grocery store was pure delight. One of the things I purchased that day was a large box of Ibarra chocolate with plans to make hot cocoa as soon as we returned home from our trip. It was something I could share with my boys from our trip that would warm us up together from the harsh Minnesota cold.

Ibarra

Ibarra

I kept the bag of Ibarra on my lap during the movie that night, and clutched it tightly as I watched Frodo destroy the ring and restore balance to his world. We would go home the next day.

Home was filled with hugs and kisses and joy and cups of hot Mexican cocoa.

All of these years later I rediscovered the yellow box of Ibarra, 5 more paper-wrapped discs waiting patiently to be transformed into more cocoa. But instead I made something much, much better: Mexican Chocolate Sauce.

Ibarra disc

Ibarra disc

On our table I put out the sombreros from my TV cooking demo from earlier in the day. I hung the paper Mexican flags from our window and made bowls of queso, salsa, and guacamole. We had our Cinco de Mayo dinner with friends, and for dessert, little white bowls of vanilla ice cream topped with warm Ibarra chocolate sauce: the flavor rich and spicy; the texture enhanced by the slight sugary crunch and the subtle hint of cinnamon; the chocolate flavor deepened by a splash of Kahlua and silky cream.

Ooooo

Ooooo

We were transported to magical places…

Ibarra Mexican Chocolate Sauce

  • 5 large disks or a scant pound of Ibarra chocolate
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons Kahlua
  1. Place the chocolate and the cream in a microwave safe glass bowl. Microwave it for 1 minute, stir, and microwave it for another minute. Continue to heat in 20 second increments, stirring each time until the cream is very warm and the chocolate begins to melt. Let stand for a few minutes and stir until smooth.
  2. Let cool to room temp and serve over vanilla ice cream.
Yum!

Yum!

Almond Macaroon Cookies, Two Ways

Chocolate Almond Macaroon Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3 ounces chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup ground almonds (I use Trader Joe’s Almond Meal but you can grind your own using blanched almonds)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 egg whites

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325° F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Mix together the almonds and the sugar, then mix in the egg whites.  Next, gradually add the cooled chocolate, stirring until mixture is smooth.
  3. Make twelve 1-inch balls of batter and place them on the baking sheet. Or you can use a medium cookie scoop and drop them onto the baking sheet if you prefer.  Flatten them slightly, so they have a smooth round shape.
  4. Bake for 12-14 minutes. Remove macaroons from the oven and cool on a rack. When completely cool gently peel them from the parchment paper and enjoy!

Simple Almond Macaroon Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups ground almonds (Trader Joe’s Almond Meal works great or you can grind your own using blanched almonds)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 egg whites

Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 425°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
    2. Mix the almonds with the sugar and extract.
    3. Add the egg white and and work the mixture very well holds together in a stiff paste.
    4. Make twelve 1 1/2-inch balls of dough and flatten them slightly, or you can use a medium cookie scoop and drop the batter onto the parchment paper.
    5. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until very lightly colored.  They will be soft, but they will harden as they cool.  Leave on tray until firm before removing from parchment paper.

 

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Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart with Almond Macaroon Crust

Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart with Almond Macaroon Crust

For the crust:

  • 2 cups almond meal ( I get it at Trader Joe’s but you can grind your own)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg white

For the caramel:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt

For the chocolate:

  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • Flaky sea salt for sprinkling on top 

To make the crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F. Generously butter a 9-inch tart pan and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the almond meal, sugar, vanilla, and egg white.
  3. Spoon it into the prepared pan and gently press it into the bottom and up the sides. Bake for 10 minutes and let cool on a rack. While crust is cooling, make the caramel.

To make the caramel:

  1. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the sugar on medium-high heat. Stir constantly with a heat-proof rubber spatula until the sugar melts. Caution: melted sugar is very hot! Once you have started to melt the sugar do not stick your finger in or lick the spoon to taste—you will get burned!
  2. Heat the sugar until it turns a golden caramel color. If you have an insta-read or candy thermometer it will be ready at 350F. If you don’t have one, just go by the color. But be careful—the caramel will go past that point very quickly and burn fast. Remove it from the heat as soon as it turns to caramel—it will continue to cook even after removed from the heat.
  3. Add the butter and whisk until butter is fully incorporated. The caramel may bubble up as you to do this.
  4. Add the cream and whisk until the caramel becomes smooth. Add the vanilla and salt and whisk again.
  5. Let cool slightly and pour into the macaroon crust to completely coat the bottom. Now you are ready to make the chocolate glaze.

To make the chocolate glaze:

  1. Put all chocolate glaze ingredients into a bowl and microwave for one minute. Let stand for a minute or two and then stir until smooth.
  2. Pour the chocolate glaze over the caramel filling and lightly sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Let chill in the fridge until firm about two hours, but take out and leave at room temperature after that.

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Lemon Tart with Coconut Macaroon Crust

This one speaks for itself!

Lemon Tart with Coconut Macaroon Crust

For the crust:

  • 3 ½ cups sweetened coconut
  • 3 large egg whites
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling:

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1-14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large lemons, juiced (1/2 cup) and zested

To make the crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously butter a 9-inch tart pan. In a medium bowl mix together the coconut, egg whites, and vanilla extract. Lightly press mixture against the bottom and sides of the tart pan to form the walls of the crust.
  2. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the crust is lightly golden. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack while you make the filling. Lower oven temp to 325°F.

To make the filling:

  1. In a medium bowl whisk together the egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Pour the filling into the cooled shell and bake until just set 15-20 minutes. Set on a rack to cool, then refrigerate until chilled.

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Matzah Ball Soup with Herbes de Provence Mini-Matzah Balls

“Of soup and love, the first is best.” ~Old Spanish proverb

I have to confess, I don’t have a family recipe for chicken soup. Nothing has been handed down from generation to generation. No one carried a recipe over to Ellis Island sown into the lining of their coat.

Not my actual family

Not my actual family

There wasn’t a magic formula with my name on it either. Until now.

Matzah ball soup with the works

Matzah ball soup with the works

I did have my grandma Esther’s knedelaich recipe, in her handwriting too! But one day I was reading the recipe and measuring the matzah meal from the box, and noticed that her recipe was THE SAME EXACT ONE AS ON THE BOX!!! Well, either she was a trendsetter, or she got it from there as well. So much for my family recipe!

Grandma's recipe on the back

Grandma’s recipe on the back

There are many different permutations for matzah balls, light and fluffy, egg white only, ginger and almond, baking soda and seltzer. Well my friends, you could use ol’reliable on the side of the box of matzah meal, or you can use this recipe for matzah balls seasoned with Herbes de Provence which I make for special occasions. If you aren’t keen on something so adventurous (it is pretty subtle, really), then just leave out the herbs and you will have a light yolk-free matzah ball.

Herbs de Provence

Herbs de Provence

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Keen on Quinoa

Before quinoa became popular, my mother had it in her pantry when I was growing up. Back in the ‘70’s, it was hippie dippy health food and had a picture of a Native American on the box to show how natural it was. I am sure my mother made it once, and it was either tolerated at one weeknight dinner, or rejected entirely, and then left for dead on the shelf, in memory of mom’s attempt to try something new.

But now it has made a re-appearance in grocery stores, and healthful minded people are turning to it for a low-carb, gluten-free substitute for other grains. Understanding what it is and how to cook it can keep its popularity stats up at your dinner table.

First thing you should know is that it is not a grain, although it looks a lot like couscous.

Uncooked quinoa

Uncooked quinoa

My husband thinks it looks a lot like bird seed and jokes that we are sharing dinner with our pet parakeet.

Bird seed

Bird seed

Our parakeet, Happy Love

Our parakeet, Happy Love

Quinoa is related to beets and spinach and is high in protein and iron. It is the seed of its plant, and, if you look closely at it after it is cooked, has a lot of personality—it is curly, just like me!

Curly when cooked!

Curly when cooked!

It is also accepted as kosher for Passover—just think, it is the only kosher food that has a curly tail!

Curly close-up

Curly close-up

During Passover I leave a big bowl of it in the fridge, and it will save me from sobbing into my matzah on day 3 of the holiday because I can’t go one more day without my beloved couscous, rice, or pasta (carboholic in the house, yo).

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Slow & Low Kale Chips

“Slow and low that is the tempo.” ~ Beastie Boys

By gollly, I’ve done it! After many misleading tips on the interent (who woulda thunk!), I have finally cracked the kale chip code.

It is not like roasting other vegetables. It is its own thing entirely.

More like meringues (well, only sort of), it is a drying out process of properly spaced items on a baking sheet.

To make a lot, two bunches of kale, about 8 ounces each will do it. My local grocery store has curly kale for 99 cents per pound. It also carries organic dino kale, which I love, for $5.98 per pound! It doesn’t seem fair, but it is what it is. I went with the more affordable option for today.

Remove the kale from the stem and rip it into little bite sized pieces. Wash it well, and spin it in your salad spinner to remove excess water.

Wash

Wash

Into the salad spinner

Into the salad spinner

Spin dry

Spin dry

Lay it on clean kitchen towels or paper towels to air dry completely.

Air dry

Air dry

You can store the washed and dried kale in Ziploc bags in the fridge for a few days. Or, if you are ready to cook ‘em, then do so now.

Preheat the oven to 275°F. Line 2 half sheet sized baking trays with foil. Place the kale on the trays. Drizzle each tray with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with course sea salt. You don’t need much, just a little to give the chips some flavor and offset some of the pleasant bitterness of the kale. Toss with clean hands and then make sure the kale pieces are scattered about on the tray in a single layer with space between them.

Place the kale on the tray

Place the kale on the tray

Two trays full

Two trays full

Add oil, salt, toss, and spread

Add oil, salt, toss, and spread

Bake them, one tray at a time (I have a double oven so can do two at once) for a total of 30 minutes, stirring halfway.

Let cool on tray for a few minutes and pour them into a serving bowl.

Cooling

Cooling

Taste for salt and devour!

Start snacking!

Start snacking!

Any leftovers can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge and snacked upon as necessary. If you need to crisp them up you can just put them back in a low oven for a few minutes.

Slow & Low Kale Chips

  • 2 bunches kale, any kind, about 8 ounces each
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Course sea salt
  1. Remove the stems and discard. Tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Wash and dry very well, leaving out to air dry on kitchen towels or paper towels if you must.
  2. Preheat oven to 275°F. Line 2 baking sheets with foil. Divide the kale between them and drizzle each batch with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle with a little of the sea salt.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring halfway. Let cool for a few minutes on baking sheet and then taste for salt and serve.

    Slow & Low Kale Chips

    Slow & Low Kale Chips

Hard-Boiled Eggs: You’re Doing it Wrong

I like to help (queue theme from Superman). And I’m here to save you. 🙂

I’m guessing that 9 out of 10 of you have never had a properly hard -boiled egg. I know this is true because until recently, neither had I.

I thought I had, but then as I was watching Food Network, I noticed that Nigella’s eggs did not look like mine. Her yolks were gloriously golden. Mine were yellow. And I thought that was what they were supposed to be.

Wrong.

With Passover and Easter right around the corner, now is the time to set things straight this Spring, as they are officially the “hard-boiled holidays.”

If you find yourself choking down chalky green-tinged egg yolks and rubbery whites, or cursing out loud in front of the kids as you struggle to peel a hard-boiled egg and gouge out chunks of it as you go, or you are just unsure of when your eggs are done, then keep reading folks!

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Whoopie Pies: Whoop! Here it is!

If you haven’t noticed, I have a lot of opinions about food. My opinion about Whoopie Pie is, that it is good. But these, my friends, are great!

Whoopie pie!

Whoopie pie!

These can be made hamburger-sized, bun and all, but you can make them smaller if you are into mini things. Part of their charm, if you ask me, is the size, and are not necessarily meant to be delicate. But do as you will.

I say make them big and eat one for lunch.

Lunch is served

Lunch is served

The soft, moist, fluffy chocolate cake will stick to your fingers, reminiscent of the cream filled snack cake in little plastic packages from your childhood, but fresh and homemade.

Chocolatey good

Chocolatey good

The cream is somehow very un-marshmallow-like and more the stuff that dreams are made of, if one were to dream about cream-filled dessert.

I do…

Dreamy

Dreamy

They are just about foolproof, so go ahead and mis-measure a little, sift or not, substitute here and there–it is entirely up to you.

The only few things I will insist upon, is that you must use vegetable shortening & butter when specified to get the proper texture of cake and cream; and it is the Marshamallow  Fluff  brand I recommend since both the brand and the dessert are classics.

This is the shtuff

This is the shtuff

So experience a little high, and get it on with these Whoopie Pies.

Classic Whoopie Pies

For the chocolate cake:

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk
  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt onto a sheet of wax paper.
  3. Into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (yes, you can just use a hand-held mixer instead), beat together the butter, shortening, and brown sugar on low speed until just combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes.
  4. Add half of the flour mixture and half of the milk mixture to the batter and beat on low until just incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining flour mixture and the rest of the milk and beat until completely combined.
  5. Using a cookie scoop (sm, med, or lg), drop batter onto one of the prepared baking sheets, spacing them at least 2 inches apart (1 Tablespoon for 2” cakes, 2 T for 3”, and 3 T for 4”).
  6. Bake one sheet at a time for about 10 minutes each, or until the cakes spring back when pressed gently. Remove from the oven and let the cakes cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.

Makes about 48 two-inch cakes which will make 24 Whoopie Pies, or 36 three-inch cakes which will make 18 W.P.’s., or like I did, 24 four-inch cakes for 12 hamburger sized W.P.’s!

For the marshmallow filling:

  • 1 ½ cups Marshmallow Fluff
  • 1 ¼ cups vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the Marshmallow Fluff and the vegetable shortening, starting on low and increasing the medium speed until the mixture is smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low, add the confectioners’ sugar and the vanilla, and beat until thoroughly incorporated. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes more.

To assemble:

  1. Using a cookie scoop or a spoon put a large dollop in the center of half of the cookies. Top with another cookie and gently press down to help the cream spread. Eat right away or store between sheets of wax paper in a sealed container large enough to fit the Whoopie Pies.
Flour

Flour

Cocoa

Cocoa

The sifter

The sifter

Adding cocoa to the flour

Adding cocoa to the flour

Ready to sift

Ready to sift

Sifting in progress

Sifting in progress

Done sifting

Done sifting

Ready to cream butter and sugar

Ready to cream butter and sugar

Creaming

Creaming

Vanilla

Vanilla

An egg

An egg

Mixin' it up

Mixin’ it up

Add egg and vanilla

Add egg and vanilla

Add half the milk

Add half the milk

Add half the flour mixture

Add half the flour mixture

Batter mixing

Batter mixing

Almost done

Almost done

Scrape down the sides

Scrape down the sides

Beautiful batter

Beautiful batter

Get the scoop

Get the scoop

Drop it

Drop it

Ready to bake

Ready to bake

All lined up

All lined up

Transformed

Transformed

Chocolatey good

Chocolatey good

All fluf

All fluf

Whip it

Whip it

Add vanilla

Add vanilla

Dreamy

Dreamy

A scoop

A scoop

Filling in place

Filling in place

Beginning to look like dessert

Beginning to look like dessert

Yum

Yum

Lookin' good

Lookin’ good

mmm...

mmm…

The topper

The topper

Whoopie pie!

Whoopie pie!

A small army of dessert

A small army of dessert

Heavenly

Heavenly

Whoopie!

Whoopie!

Yum

Yum

Lunch is served

Lunch is served

Happiness

Happiness

On Top of Spaghetti Squash

Winter squashes have it hard.

No really, they do. But only on the outside.

I know some folks choose to struggle to saw through the shell with their sharpest kitchen knife or workshop tool.Others flirt with the produce man at the grocery to get him to slice one. While still others, may microwave the squash for a few minutes to be able to cut through the tough exterior.

But I have  a better way. And in this case, it is to cook spaghetti squash:

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In the mood for pasta? Of course you are! I am too, but I am trying to make sure I eat healthfully since New Year’s is just a few paces behind us and I can still see it glaring at me and my resolutions when I glance over my shoulder.

So spaghetti squash will stand in for noodles, this strange pale-yellow orb, uncanny in its ability to almost trick the eater with its ribbon like strands and its talent for holding on to butter and parm even better than actual spaghetti.

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It has an added benefit of having a high amount of beta carotene which will be better absorbed by your body if you have a little fat to help it along. No,by fat I mean the butter you will put on the squash, silly, I was not implying that you, my beloved reader has any fat at all.

OK, I’ve rambled on long enough– here is my trick for easy spaghetti squash cookery:

Take a long narrow sharp pointy knife and make 5 deep slits all around the squash, making sure that your knife plunges down to the center of the squash. Cue theme from Psycho now.

If you have trouble getting the knife back out, envision yourself as a young King Arthur pulling Excalibur from the stone. Awesome, you are now king of the realm.

If you don’t pierce the squash down to the center, it will explode in the microwave and crack in half like an egg. I know this because some of my friends have told me it is so (Right, V. P. & E.P.?). Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Put it on a plate and put it in the microwave for 20 minutes.

Take it out and let it cool until you can handle it without burning your hands.

Cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and discard them.

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Then using a fork, scrape out the strands of squash that look eerily like spaghetti and place them in a bowl.

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Toss with a couple of tablespoons butter, a couple of pinches of kosher salt, and a few spoonfuls of grated parm.

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You are almost fooled! And no power tools required!Image

Microwaved Spaghetti Squash with Butter and Parm

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • Butter, a tablespoon or two
  • Grated parmesan cheese, a few spoonfuls, to taste
  • Kosher salt, a few good pinches, to taste
  1. Pierce the squash with a long narrow knife 5 times around, making sure to plunge the knife deep into the middle.
  2. Place on a dish to catch any escaping juices
  3. Cook in the microwave for 20 minutes and then let cool for about 15
  4. Cut in half, discard  the seeds, scrape out the strands of squash into a bowl using a fork.
  5. Top with butter, parm and salt.
  6. Eat!

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Bombshell Blondies

We all know blondies have more fun and I’m here to prove it to you.

Now, I like a good brownie now and again, but I will tell you there is not too much variation when the point is chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate.

But blondies on the other hand are like a blank canvas, waiting for the artist to color it in.

And usually folks fall on one side of the camp or the other, and I am on Team Blondie all the way.

I am not a chocoholic as many people proclaim to be.

Carboholic, yes (see All Hail Kale), but chocolate, not so much, and prefer it as more of an accent to something else rather than the main attraction.

I’ve been asked what the difference is between these and a “pan cookie” and I can tell you that this isn’t any old drop cookie recipe shoved into an 8 x 8 pan. Instead, it is a carefully thought out combination of ingredients, each having its own special job, but together create a taste explosion.

The texture, chewy and dense, will satisfy the most hardcore brownie lover (you are a tough bunch, btw).

The sugar and butter caramelize and people will ask what your secret ingredient is, and even try to guess (butterscotch, caramel, toffee). But no, alas, it is just the transformation of seemingly everyday things that creates this illusion.

And as for the kosher salt, well, this in fact is key here. It gives the blondies balance so they do not come off cloyingly sweet or garish in their dessert-ness, and instead create a depth that brings out all of the other flavors, especially enhancing the bit of chocolate that goes in.

These are buxom blondies, that eat like a meal with their hearty, toothsome, cakey texture, the meatiness of the nuts, the ever-pleasant burst of chocolate in every bite. They sit in all their glory on their plate waiting for someone to fall game to their voluptuous appeal, laden with deliciousness.

This is dessert after all and it doesn’t play fair.

But alas, life is not always fair, and blondies really do have more fun. Feel free switch it up and add raspberries and coconut, or chopped peanut butter cups, or nothing at all.

But this is how I like it and I am a fun gal, after all.

Me being fun

Me being fun

 

Bombshell Blondies

2 sticks unsalted butter

2 1 ½ cups firmly packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cups all-purpose flour, spooned into the measuring cup and then leveled

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt, slightly rounded

¾ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (okay, make it heaping if you must)

¾ cups chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 square baking pan. Line the pan with a piece of parchment paper, leaving an overhang on 2 sides; then butter the parchment (the butter here will help form a crisp exterior).

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2. In a large bowl, melt the 2 sticks of butter in the microwave and let cool for a few minutes.

melt the butter

melt the butter

 

3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, the baking powder, and salt; set aside.

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4. Into the large bowl with melted and slightly cooled butter, whisk in the brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth.  Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined (do not over mix). Fold in the chocolate chips and pecans.

add the sugar

add the sugar

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yin yang of chocolate and pecans

yin yang of chocolate and pecans

stir to combine

stir to combine

 

4. Spoon the batter in the prepared pan and even out the top.

scoop the batter on the parchment paper

scoop the batter on the parchment paper

spread evenly

spread evenly

5. Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 minutes for a 9 x 9 pan, and 45 minutes for an 8 x 8. Let cool completely in the pan on a rack.  Holding the paper overhang, lift out the blondies. Cut into 16 squares (or cut them again to make 32 slices or triangles).

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We are all fun over here at my house!

We are all fun over here at my house!

Perfect Potato Pancakes: A Latke Tutorial

My favorite electric skillet!

Now come on, don’t be shy, raise your hand if you have never attempted to make your own latkes. That’s better.  It feels good to share, doesn’t it.
Or more likely, you have made latkes, and year after year you wonder why they are not turning out crispy outside and melt in your mouth creamy inside. And why, oh why, don’t they taste like Grandma’s???
Don’t worry, help is here!
I have a foolproof latke recipe for you, and it is low-fat!  Okay… I am totally lying about the low-fat part.
You can read this blog, or you can watch me make them live on TV here, or both:
Aura Makes Latkes on KMOV’s Great Day St. Louis
Tis the season to make latkes, so either way, get out your food processor, your frying pan, and let’s go!
Latke 101
The goods:
Potatoes. You can make these with any kind of potato and any kind of vegetable, really. Cooks are always throwing in everything from zucchini and carrots to sweet potatoes and curry. But for traditional latkes, I recommend using Russet potatoes because of their high starch content.
Onions. You can’t make a good latke without a good onion. Use a 2 potato to 1 onion ratio here folks.
Eggs. Keep it together folks. I know the onions made you cry, but in this case I mean the latke. It will help hold it together.
Salt. Yes, mmm… good. You can’t make a decent latke without the proper amount of salt. Besides, the right amount will help the water drain from the potatoes and onions. I’m a fan of kosher salt.
Flour vs. Matzo Meal vs. Potato Starch. Ok, sit down for this one: I don’t add any flour or matzo meal to my batter. I find it makes the batter gummy and heavy and you will still have liquid in the bottom of the bowl as the potatoes and onions will continually give off water. Instead, I use the potato starch that naturally comes out of the potatoes in my bowl (instructions and photos follow). And the liquid, well, you just keep mixing it back in. If you find you absolutely must add flour and can’t accept the concept of a flour-less potato pancake, then go ahead and add a little, you have my blessing. But don’t keep adding when you see liquid in the bowl, just mix it back in.
And oil. This is the most important part here. You want to use peanut oil. It is the best. Its high smoke point allows you to get through the whole batch of lakes without setting off the smoke alarm. You can also use canola or vegetable oil, but it won’t have the same results. Peanut will give you the crispiest texture. See below for more on oil.
Helpful tips:
Skin the potatoes. But someone I know leaves them on and boy does that save a lot of work, not to mention keep some extra nutrients in. But I haven’t tried it myself, so for now I say skin ’em.
Use a food processor. I know plenty of people swear by hand-grating. But the people I know who usually do this, well, the latkes are the only thing they will cook all year so they have energy to spare. You grandmother grated by hand. She suffered so you don’t have to.
You can double or triple this recipe. But if you do I recommend crushing a vitamin C tablet and adding it to your mixture to keep the batter from turning brown.
Make sure your oil is hot, hot, hot, like the Buster Poindexter song. You can put in a wooden chopstick as the oil heats, and when bubbles form around it and are moving rapidly you will know your oil is ready. Pretty cool, huh? And I def don’t advise throwing droplets of water into your oil to see if it spatters–it will, and you will have a mess and could possibly get burned.
Flip once, not twice, unless you want to give your latke a bath in the oil. Yuck.
Don’t press down with the spatula. You want it to have a little body, not be an oily potato chip. And the expression “flat as a pancake,” well don’t press down on those either.
Feel free to make these ahead and freeze. They are extra crispy when reheated. Try 375 degrees F for 6-8 minutes per side.

Need more help? Ask me!

Aura’s Traditional Potato Latkes

  • 2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered lengthwise
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup peanut oil

1. Using the grating disc of your food processor, grate the potatoes and the onion.

2. Remove the shredded potatoes and onions and put them into a mesh colander sitting over a large bowl.

3. Change the blade of the food processor to the chopping blade. Put most, but not all of the shredded potatoes and onions into the work bowl of the food processor and pulse until you have a smoother texture.

4. Put the mixture back into the colander over the bowl and press down to help the potatoes release their liquid.

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5. Remove the colander from the bowl and you will see the liquid from the potatoes with the white starch settled at the bottom. Pour off the water being careful to save the potato starch.

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6. Put the potato-onion mixture into the bowl with the potato starch, add the egg, salt and pepper, and mix well.

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7. Pour the oil into a large frying pan and heat to medium high. Place a wooden chopstick into the oil and when bubbles form around it you know the oil is the right temperature for frying.

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8. Carefully drop spoonfuls of batter into the hot oil. Let the latkes cook for about 3 minutes until golden and then carefully flip and cook on the other side.

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9. Remove them from the pan and place on paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining batter.

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10. Serve with applesauce or sour cream.  Makes 18 latkes.

Aura is interviewed about Chanukah Traditions and cooking in the Ladue News