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Romance in the Air and On the Plate, Part 4 – Soft Chocolate Mini Cakes

To wrap up our Valentine’s Day meal, of course there had to be a chocolate dessert. This dessert recipe, from Williams-Sonoma, is easy enough that you can make this at any time. You only need a few ingredients on hand and you can have an elegant chocolate dessert in under 20 minutes any night of the week or for a quick dessert when you have last-minute guests or need something for a dinner party. The soft chocolate mini cakes are a lot like chocolate lava cakes as they have a nice crunchy chocolate exterior with a soft, velvety interior.

Soft Chocolate Mini Cakes

5 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes, plus more for greasing

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Whipped cream, vanilla ice cream or creme fraiche for serving

Position an oven rack on the lowest level in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly butter six 1/2 cup oven-safe ramekins.

Put the butter and bittersweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl and place over (but not touching) simmering water in a saucepan. Heat until the butter and chocolate have melted, then stir the mixture until it is smooth. Remove the chocolate mixture from the heat and allow it to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and salt. Using an electric mixer set on high-speed, beat the mixture until it is thickened, about 3 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low. Gradually sprinkle the flour over the batter and continue beating just until it is combined. Using a spatula, fold the egg mixture into the cooled chocolate mixture until it is combined.

Divide the batter among the prepared ramekins. Place the ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the tops are puffed and dry and a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the cakes comes out with some soft batter clinging to it, about 10 minutes.

Serve the cakes hot, in the ramekins, or inverted onto individual plates. Top with a dollop of whipped cream, vanilla ice cream or creme fraiche if you like and serve.

This is a really elegant looking dessert that takes little effort and no time at all. If you love chocolate this is a good for you to remember. You could also try dusting the cakes with a bit of confectioner’s sugar when they are done and maybe top with a raspberry, strawberry and a mint leaf for some added elegance. It was a great dessert that we all gobbled up and I had a few extra so we had them for dessert the next day as well. I just popped them in a 350 degree oven for a couple of minutes to warm them through and they were perfect.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. That’s the end of the Valentine’s Day recipes so it is back to regular recipes tomorrow. Don’t worry, I have a lot of them to share that I have made lately, including some great  chicken dishes, some pork, a new risotto, turkey breast, lamb and more. until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on February 18, 2014 in Cakes, Cooking, Dessert, Holidays

 

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Romance in the Air and On the Plate, Part 2 – Garlic-Thyme Smashed Potatoes and Sauteed Spinach with Garlic

A nice romantic meal needs some good side dishes, but you also want to keep in mind that you want the meal to be elegant but easy too. It’s not much fun if you have to spend hours in the kitchen cooking and then by the time you eat you are too exhausted to enjoy it. That’s why these sides were great to make. They go perfectly with the beef we had for the meal (recipe to come tomorrow) and both were made very easily. The first is for garlic-thyme smashed potatoes that you can do simply on the stove top with just a few ingredients.

Garlic-Thyme Smashed Potatoes

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound baby Yukon Gold potatoes, each about 1-inch in diameter

1 cup water

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

In a large nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat, melt the butter with the olive oil. Add the potatoes and water and season the potatoes generously with the kosher salt and ground black pepper. Cover the skillet and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Remove the skillet from the heat and smash the potatoes lightly with a spatula or potato masher. Return the skillet to medium-high heat and cook, uncovered, until the potatoes are beginning to brown underneath, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook, stirring constantly, until the herbs are fragrant, about 1 minute. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and serve.

The potatoes get a great crust on them that make them nice and crunchy and the taste of the garlic and thyme goes perfectly with the rest of the meal. You can make these any time and I think they would go perfectly with any beef, pork or poultry meal.

The next dish was a very easy sautéed spinach with garlic. We make spinach pretty often and this is probably my favorite way to have it. You can cook this in under 5 minutes and have it on the table and it is a great, fresh alternative for a vegetable that night.

Sautéed Spinach with Garlic

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 1/2 pounds fresh spinach, trimmed and washed

Kosher salt, to taste

In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil until it is shimmering. Add the sliced garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the spinach in batches and cook until it is wilted, about 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt to taste and serve.

A couple of things about the spinach. Make sure you wash it in a salad spinner or rinse it off before you cook it. Even the stuff that comes in a bag and says it is washed can still be gritty, so it never hurts to give it an extra rinse and dry it off. You also want to make sure you stir the garlic well when you put it in so it does not brown, burn and get bitter. It might not seem like all of the spinach will fit in one pan but spinach cooks down very quickly so you should have no problem. Spinach and garlic go together really well so this is the perfect side dish any night of the week, and is a classic side dish with steak or beef.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. I’ll be highlighting the main point of our Valentine’s Day dinner, the rib-eye steak and the broiled lobster tails. Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on February 16, 2014 in Cooking, Dinner, Holidays, Potatoes, Side Dishes, Vegetables

 

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Romance in the Air and On the Plate, Part 1 – Roasted Beet Salad

Even though the weather around here has been absolutely atrocious this week, I had planned Valentine’s Day dinner late last week, of the ingredients I needed last week or early in the week and I was completely prepared to make everything. I even put extra hours of work in so I could be sure I had enough time to cook everything and spent the better part of the afternoon preparing everything. We had a nice, elegant meal for the three of us, something we do not do too often and it tasted great and was fun. I’ll be sharing the recipes I made over the next several days, so we may as well start off with the salad. The original thought for the recipe comes from Williams-Sonoma, but I actually ended up changing quite a bit of it because Michelle is not a big fan of a couple of the ingredients, so I did switch some things around for this roasted beet salad. I’ll give you the original recipe and then let you know what I did to change it around.

Roasted Beet Salad

3 golden beets, trimmed and washed

6 red beets, trimmed and washed

1/2 cup olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

5 tablespoons creme fraiche

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

2 teaspoons minced shallots

4 cups baby watercress

4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

1/3 cup toasted chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the golden and red beets on a baking sheet. Coat the beets with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and season them well with the kosher salt and black pepper. Cover the baking sheet with aluminum foil and roast until the beets are fork tender, about 1 hour. When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel the beets and cut them into 1-inch wedges.

Meanwhile, combine the lemon juice, creme fraiche, the remaining 5 tablespoons of olive oil, the dill and the shallots in the blended or food processor. Blend or emulsify the ingredients until they are well mixed and season the vinaigrette with kosher salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange the beet wedges in a layer on a platter and top them with the watercress. Garnish with the goat cheese and toasted walnuts. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and serve.

Okay, looking back at this I made quite a few changes to the recipe. First, I could only find red beets in my area so that is what I used. I would have loved to have the golden ones too, but it just wasn’t happening this time. Next, I omitted the goat cheese and the toasted walnuts. Michelle doesn’t like either one of them so they both went out. I also couldn’t locate any creme fraiche in the area so I had to make my own using equal parts of sour cream and heavy cream and mixing them together. It turned out just fine and was perfect to use. Finally, I hated to waste the beet greens so I decided to use them in the salad with the watercress. One thing to not about beet greens – they are very dirty and need extensive washing and spinning in the salad spinner if you have one. Also, they can be quite bitter when they are raw so if you don’t like the bitter flavor you can try blanching them or even wilting them a little in a saute pan for a few minutes. They are too tasty to waste though and make a nice addition to the meal if you can use them. We all loved the beets and always forget how great roasted beets can taste. I really need to buy them more often to make them. I really enjoyed the dressing as well with the shallots and dill adding some great flavor and I can see how the goat cheese and walnuts would add a lot to this salad. It was good as we had it, but the additions would make it even better. The picture I took does not have the dressing on it yet and you can really only see the beets and beet greens so it doesn’t do it justice.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for the next part of the dinner menu. I’ll be going over the two sides we had with the meal – sautéed spinach with garlic and garlic-thyme smashed potatoes. Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on February 15, 2014 in Cooking, Dinner, Dressings, Holidays, Salad

 

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BA-Approved Valentine’s Day Menus for All Kinds of Couples: BA Daily: bonappetit.com

BA-Approved Valentine’s Day Menus for All Kinds of Couples: BA Daily: bonappetit.com.

Okay, this is my last pre-Valentine’s Day posting, so it’s your last chance to find some recipes for your meal tomorrow night. Bon Appetit offers up 9 different menus to cover everyone’s tastes and desires. Check it out and see if you find something you like!

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2013 in Cooking, Cooking Websites, Holidays

 

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Cooking a Valentine’s Day Meal at Home – NYTimes.com

Cooking a Valentine’s Day Meal at Home – NYTimes.com.

With Valentine’s Day coming next week, many people are looking to make a nice romantic meal at home. The New York Times put out this quick and easy menu as a suggestion of a nice steak, potatoes, salad and a one ingredient chocolate mousse. Check it out and see if it is something you might like to try!

 
 

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Repas de Saint-Valentin (Okay, A Valentine’s Day Meal)

Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone out there. There’s nothing more romantic than a quiet dinner with your sweetie, whether it’s out at a restaurant or at home.This dinner menu, which I got from Williams-Sonoma, is French-themed and requires a little more work than what we have cooked lately, but not much, and the rewards will be worth it. I have also included a dessert today, which I don’t normally do, but heck, it’s a special day, so why not?

The first course is a Riesling onion Soup with Herbed Croutons. It’s a variation on the classic French Onion Soup. It takes a little bit (about an hour in total) to prepare and cook, but it’s a nice touch to start off the meal and you could always make the soup a day ahead of time and re-heat it when you are ready to serve it for your meal.

Riesling Onion Soup with Herbed Croutons

3 tablespoons butter

4 large yellow onions, thinly sliced

2 leeks, including pale green tops, sliced

1 garlic clove, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves, chopped

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups Riesling (use a dry Riesling, not “late harvest”) 6 cups chicken stock (I am using homemade, find my recipe here)

Salt and pepper, to taste

For the Herbed Croutons:

1/2 baguette, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter, melted

2 tablespoons mixed fresh herbs, such as tarragon, parsley, thyme or rosemary, in any combination 1/2 pound of Italian fontina cheese, cut into small cubes

In a large, wide saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions, leeks, garlic and tarragon and cook, stirring often, until the onions are soft and golden, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes more. Pour in the wine, bring to a simmer and cook until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Pour in the stock and return to a simmer, reduce heat to low and cook, uncovered, until reduced slightly, about 45 minutes.

To make the herbed croutons, preheat an oven to 300 degrees. Arrange the baguette slices in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. In a small bowl, stir together the olive oil, butter and herbs. Lightly coat each bread slice on both sides with the oil mixture. Toast the bread in the oven, turning occasionally, until crisp and golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. (The croutons can be made up to 24 hours in advance and stored, tightly covered, at room temperature.)

Preheat a broiler. Arrange individual ovenproof bowls on a baking sheet and ladle soup into the bowls. Top each serving with 2 or 3 croutons and an equal amount of the cheese. Place the baking sheet under the broiler 7 inches from the heat source and broil until the cheese melts, about 1 minute. Remove from the broiler and serve immediately.

This recipe is for a service of 6, so you may want to cut it 2/3 if you are only making it for 2.

For the entrée, I am making Steaks with Shallot-Red Wine Sauce. I have made this before and posted the recipe in an earlier blog, so if you want to check it out, just click here and you can see the recipe for it. It’s very tasty and the only difference this time is that I am using bone-in ribeyes instead of boneless, but you can whatever cut of steak you like best.

I am making two sides with tonight’s meal. The first is Sautéed Spinach with Pine Nuts. I am making a slight variation of this, as pine nuts are quite expensive and I won’t use them very often. A good, cheaper alternative is slivered almonds, so I am going with those instead.

Spinach Sautéed with Pine Nuts

1/4 cup pine nuts (I am using slivered almonds instead)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

2 pounds spinach leaves, tough stems removed and leaves well rinsed (this sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t. Spinach cooks down significantly when you saute it)

Salt and pepper to taste

If desired, toast the pine nuts (or almonds) by heating them gently in a dry, small, heavy fry pan over medium heat, tossing them every so often as they become golden and fragrant, 2 to 4 minutes. Watch the nuts closely as they can burn very easily. When toasted, immediately pour them onto a plate.

In a fry pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and saute lightly until golden, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute more. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

Put the spinach with just the rinsing water clinging to the leaves in a saucepan over medium-high heat, cover, and cook until the spinach is bright green and wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain well in a colander, pressing the spinach with the back of a spoon to remove excess moisture. When the spinach is cool enough to handle, chop it coarsely.

Add the spinach and nuts to the onion and garlic in the fry pan and return to medium heat. Stir until the spinach and onion are heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot or at room temperature.

To go with the steak and spinach, I opted for Twice-Baked Potatoes tonight. You could easily go with roasted potatoes or mashed potatoes, but the twice-baked sounded like something different to try and you can use a variety of toppings, if you like.

Twice-Baked Potatoes

russet potatoes (7 to 8 ounces each), scrubbed, dried, and rubbed lightly with vegetable oil

2 ounces sharp cheddar cheese , shredded (about 1 cup)

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup milk

1 tablespoons butter , room temperature

2 medium scallions , white and green parts sliced thin

1/4 teaspoon salt

 Ground black pepper

 Put an oven rack to upper middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Bake the potatoes on foil-lined baking sheet until skin is crisp and deep brown and skewer easily pierces the flesh, about 1 hour. Setting the baking sheet aside, transfer the potatoes to a wire rack and let sit until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Using an oven mitt or folded kitchen towel to handle the hot potatoes, cut each potato in half so that the blunt sides will rest on work surface. Using a small dinner spoon, scoop the flesh from each half into medium bowl, leaving a 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch thickness of flesh in each shell. Arrange the shells on a lined sheet and return to the oven until dry and slightly crisped, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mash the potato flesh with fork until smooth. Stir in remaining ingredients, including pepper to taste, until well combined.

Remove the shells from the oven and increase the oven setting to broil. Holding the shells steady on a pan with an oven mitt or towel-protected hand, spoon the mixture into crisped shells, mounding slightly at the center, and return to the oven. Broil until spotty brown and crisp on top, 10 to 15 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Serve warm.

You can always use a different cheese instead of cheddar to change things up for yourself and the shells should come nice and crispy, not soggy, in this recipe.

Finally, on to dessert. I am not a dessert person and very rarely make them myself, but tonight I will give it a shot and this recipe is pretty easy to use and great for the chocolate lovers. You need to use a double boiler for this recipe, but if you don’t have one(and I don’t) you can use a makeshift one. Choose a saucepan and a heatproof bowl(preferably glass) that rests securely in the top. Fill the saucepan with water to a depth of about 1 to 2 inches. Once the bowl is placed atop the pan, the water must not touch it. Remember that boiling water bubbles up, so check the water level before setting the bowl in place. Bring the water to a boil, set the bowl in place, and reduce the heat so the water simmers gently. If the water bubbles up and is hitting the bowl, you’ll get condensation in the bowl, your chocolate will end up seizing, and you’ll end up having to start over.

Warm Molten Chocolate Cakes

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

4 egg yolks

6 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder, sifted

1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest (optional)

3 egg whites, at room temperature

Preheat an oven to 400°F. Lightly butter six 3/4-cup ramekins and dust with cocoa powder. Set the ramekins on a small baking sheet.

In the top pan of a double boiler, combine the chocolate and butter. Set the pan over, but not touching, barely simmering water in the bottom pan and melt the chocolate and butter, then whisk until the mixture is glossy and smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks, 3 tablespoons of the sugar, the cocoa powder and the orange zest on medium-high speed until thick. Spoon the chocolate mixture into the yolk mixture and beat until well blended. The mixture will be very thick.

In a bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until they are very foamy and thick. Sprinkle in the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and increase the speed to high. Continue beating until firm, glossy peaks form. Spoon half of the beaten whites onto the chocolate mixture and whisk in until just blended. Add the remaining whites and stir gently until just blended. Spoon into the prepared ramekins, dividing evenly.

Bake the cakes until they are puffed and the tops are cracked, about 13 minutes. The inside of the cracks will look very wet. Remove from the oven and serve immediately in the ramekins. Or run the tip of a small knife around the inside of each ramekin to loosen the cake, then invert the cakes onto individual plates.


You could serve these with a little dusting of powdered sugar and some raspberries or strawberries and maybe a dollop of whipped cream or creme anglaise (which I’m not adventurous enough to make, but some might be), or even a little vanilla ice cream with some shaved chocolate.

Okay, that’s it, my Valentine’s Day meal. It’s not as hard as it may seem, trust me. It’s just a matter of organizing your time and space so everything is done on time. You could even have everything set up to make the dessert and make it after you finish eating the dinner if you want. Enjoy your meal and your time with your special someone, have a nice glass of wine and snuggle by the fireplace. Tomorrow’s meal is back to simplicity with Cream of Cauliflower Soup. It’s our meat-free meal of the week so feel free to check it out. If you have any questions, comments, would like to let us know what you are making or eating tonight, please do! Have a great day everyone!

 

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