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Sweet surrender February 22, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Drinks News.
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Jewel-like fruits, aromatic ice creams and cream-coated puddings, Mediterranean desserts and sauces are a ray of sunshine on the tongue

The Mediterranean has a sweet tooth. You might know the crystallised fruits, fruit pastes, fruits in syrup and in alcohol, marzipan sweetmeats, almond pastries and pastries soaked in syrup. I can sometimes pass on these, but I find it difficult to resist the desserts.

For me, Mediterranean desserts evoke a landscape of colours fading into pastel tints in the dazzling light, the houses white or rose or rusty gold, the vegetation pale, not vivid green, with the electrifying colours of spring flowers. They evoke the scent of lavender and wild herbs, of pines and fig trees, and they trigger a certain joie de vivre. One of my fondest memories is of a summer spent in Lacoste, in the Vaucluse, where an old art school friend, the Dutch sculptress Ans Hey, was building a house on a hillside. I had put up a tent for myself and my three children. While friends and pupils from the art college where she taught were helping Ans to build, I cooked for them. That is when I first discovered real Provencal cuisine.

Saffron and Honey Ice cream
This speciality of Provence is made with lavender honey, but you can use other fragrant honeys such as orange blossom or acacia. Make it the night before so that it has time to freeze properly. You can serve it straight from the freezer. Serves 6.

500ml milk
1/4 tsp saffron threads
4 egg yolks
150g of your preferred clear perfumed honey
150ml double cream
Bring the milk to the boil with the saffron and infuse for a few minutes. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks to a pale cream, then beat in the honey, the cream, and finally the hot milk. Return the mixture to the pan and stir over boiling water or very low heat until it thickens slightly, but do not let it boil or it will curdle. Let it cool, then pour into a serving bowl lined with clingfilm. Cover with clingfilm and freeze overnight. Turn out before serving, peeling off the clingfilm.

Apple Omelette
Calvados or Armagnac give this simple French omelette an elegant touch. Use eating apples such as Golden Delicious or Coxes. Serves 4.

4 large dessert apples, peeled and quartered
1 tbsp lemon juice
100g caster sugar, or to taste
6 tbsp calvados or Armagnac
6 eggs, lightly beaten
knob of unsalted butter
Put the apples in a pan with the lemon juice and about 3 tbsp of water. Put the lid on, and steam for about 15 minutes or until they are very soft. Mash them with a fork, add the sugar, and cook, stirring, with the lid off, until the apple sauce is reduced to a thick dry paste. Let it cool, add the calvados or Armagnac and the eggs, and mix well. In a large frying pan, heat the butter until it sizzles. Pour in the apple and egg mixture, and cook on a low heat for about 10 minutes, until the bottom of the omelette has set. Put under the grill and cook until firm and lightly browned. Serve hot, cut into wedges.

Ricotta Cake
This rich Sicilian cake is a bit like a souffle. The orange-blossom water is a legacy of the old Arab occupation of the island. Serves 8.

500g ricotta
150g caster sugar, or to taste
5 eggs, separated
2 tsp orange-blossom water or a few drops of vanilla essence
grated zest of 1/2 a lemon
75g diced candied orange peel
Heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. In a food processor, blend the ricotta with the sugar, egg yolks, orange-blossom water or vanilla essence, and the grated lemon zest to a consistent cream. Then fold in the orange peel. Beat the egg whites stiff and fold into the ricotta mixture. Pour into a greased and floured – preferably non-stick – cake tin (about 20cm) and bake for 45 minutes or until brown on top. Let it cool before turning out.

Pear and Almond Pudding with Apricot Sauce
An old Provencal speciality that can be served hot or cold. The pears must be ripe but not over-ripe.
If they are rock hard, boil them in their skins first for 15 minutes or until they are not quite tender. The apricot sauce is optional. Serves 6.

75g unsalted butter, softened
3 eggs
150g caster sugar
150g coarsely ground almonds
2-3 drops almond essence
4 Comice pears, peeled, cored and quartered
2 tbsp icing sugar

for the sauce:
200g smooth apricot jam or jelly
2 tbsp kirsch or apricot brandy
Heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Blend the butter, eggs and sugar in a food processor. Add the almonds and blend to a soft creamy paste, then pour into a 30cm baking dish. Arrange the pear halves on top, rounded side up, pressing them into the almond paste. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the paste is firm and lightly coloured. For the sauce, heat the jam with 3 tbsp of water and the brandy, and stir until it melts. Let it cool if you are serving the pudding cold. Sprinkle the pudding with icing sugar and serve with the sauce and cream.

Frozen Cream with Prunes and Armagnac
This Chantilly-type cream can be served from the freezer. Use moist Californian prunes. Serves 4.

200g Californian pitted prunes, coarsely chopped
85ml Armagnac brandy
300ml whipping cream
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 drops vanilla essence
Chop the prunes coarsely in a food processor and leave them to soak in the Armagnac for an hour. Beat the cream till it peaks, beat in the sugar and vanilla and fold in the prunes. Cover with clingfilm and freeze for at least 4 hours before serving.


Hey you, Chocolate Lover! > II February 22, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Chocolate, Food Recipes.
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We tend to think of chocolate as a sweet candy created during modern times. But actually, chocolate dates back to the ancient people of Mesoamerica who drank chocolate as a bitter beverage. For these people chocolate wasn’t just a favorite food, it also played an important role in their religious and social lives. I have to admit chocolate is one of my favorite foods, but I do find the history of chocolate fascinating. Read on to see how chocolate is more than just a kiss, especially when added to a savory Mole!

As good as some of the pastes can be, many moles must be made from scratch, a very rewarding experience and is fun to do with a friend or two. Moles are better when prepared a day ahead and also freeze very well. Makes 3 cups.

Ingredients >
1 cup blanched almonds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 teaspoon crushed cumin seeds
2 to 3 dried Ancho or Pablano chilies
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 cup tomatoes oven roasted, then chopped
4 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
4 tablespoons bitter sweet chocolate powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
1-2 teaspoons dry chili flakes
1 tablespoon fresh coarse ground black pepper

Method >
In a cast iron skillet lightly toast the almonds and the seeds. Remove from pan and set aside. Lightly toast the chilies. Remove stems and seeds from the chilies and put into a bowl and cover with about a cup of hot water until softened. Put almonds and seeds in a blender or food processor and pulverize. When the chilies are soft, put them and their soaking liquid in the blender and crush. Then force through a sieve to remove any bits and pieces.
Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet and lightly sauté the onion, garlic and tomatoes. Add the chili, seed, nut puree, oregano and broth. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Continue to simmer until the mixture has reduced by about half. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes. Cool slightly, then process in a blender or food processor. Add sauce to seared chicken, pork or it’s original turkey and cook slowly to allow flavors to be absorbed.

This sweet was created in my restaurant my years ago as a hot dessert to satisfy chocaholics. Wherever your addiction level is, once served hot with cool ice cream it will satisfy the most ravenous of any addiction. Makes 8-10

Ingredients >
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 teaspoons grated orange peel ¾ cup semi sweet chocolate, chopped

Method >
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a medium bowl combine the flour, 1 cup sugar, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and mix well.
Combine the milk vinegar in a separate bowl and allow to stand 5 minutes for the milk to sour. Add the oil, egg, and vanilla and mix well.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just moistened. Do not over beat.
In a small bowl combine the cream cheese, remaining 1/3 cup sugar, orange peel and chopped chocolate and mix until well blended.
Pour the batter evenly into four or six ounce buttered ceramic ramekins or cupcake tins. Divide the cream cheese mixture into 10 equal balls and drop one into the center of each batter. Bake for 7-8 minutes. Remove the ramekins, let stand for 2-3 minutes, and unmold if desired, or eat right out of the ramekin. Note: batter can be prepared ahead of a dinner party by pouring into ramekins and storing in refrigerator for 3-4 hours.
OPTIONAL: Prior to baking, drop 3-4 raspberries with cream cheese inside each cupcake.

Hey you, Chocolate Lover! > I February 22, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Chocolate, Food Recipes.
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By 1400 the Aztec empire dominated a sizable segment of Mesoamerica. The Aztecs traded with Maya and other people for cacao and often required that citizens and conquered people pay tribute in cacao seed, a form of Aztec money. Chocolate also played an important part in both maya and Aztec royal religious events. Priests presented cacao seeds as offerings to the gods and served chocolate drinks during sacred ceremonies.

Like the earlier Maya, the Aztecs also consumed their bitter chocolate drink seasoned with spices-sugar was an agricultural product available to the ancient Mesoamericans. Cocoa, when mixed with water, chile peppers, cornmeal and other ingredients made a paste into a frothy, spicy chocolate drink.

Europeans drank their chocolate with sugar and milk. As with the Spanish, most Europeans liked their chocolate sweetened with sugar, another expensive and exotic import from faraway plantations. And in the late 1600s, Sir Hans Sloane, president of the Royal College of Physicians, introduced another culinary custom: mixing the already popular chocolate drink with milk for a lighter, smoother flavor.

In 1879, Rodolphe Lindt created another important device: the conching machine (so called because the earliest machines resembled a conch shell). It churned the paste made from cacao seeds into a smooth blend perfect for rich, creamy chocolate bars. “The divine drink, which builds up resistance and fights fatigue. A cup of this precious drink permits a man to walk for a whole day without food.

Hundreds of new chocolate factories and flavors have come and gone. Over the years, many creative confectioners developed lots of new varieties and flavors of chocolate. A few icons of the early 1900s still survive today. Hershey got his start making chocolate-coated caramels in 1893. And his competitors, the father-and-son team of Mars, created the malted-milk-filled Milky Way after an inspiring trip to the local drugstore soda fountain. Milton S. Hershey stated, “Caramels are only a fad. Chocolate is a permanent thing.” During World War II, American soldiers introduced the Japanese to chocolate, where its popularity continues to rise today.

Chocolate syrup was used to represent blood in the famous 45 second shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, “Psycho” a scene which took 7 days to shoot.

Once upon a time, money did grow on trees. Cocoa beans were used as currency by the Mayan and Aztec civilizations over 1400 years ago. When they had too much money to spend, they brewed the excess into hot chocolate drinks.

The Swiss consume more chocolate per capita than any other nation on earth. That’s 22 pounds each compared to 11 pounds per person in the United States.

Rumor has it that Napoleon carried chocolate with him on all his military campaigns for a quick energy snack.

The word “chocolate” comes from the Aztec word “xocolatl”, which means “bitter water”.

The amount of caffeine in chocolate is lower than most people think. A 1.4 ounce piece of milk chocolate contains about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of decaffeinated coffee. There is an average of 6 mg. of caffeine in both an ounce of milk chocolate and a cup of decaffeinated coffee, while a cup of regular coffee contains between 65 and 150 mg. of caffeine.

HOT CHOCOLATE CARAMEL > Makes 6 servings

1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup water
8 milk-chocolate-covered round caramels
6 cups milk
mini marshmallows or fresh whip cream
1 ounce brandy (optional)

In a large saucepan combine sugar, cocoa powder, and water. Cook and stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Add candies until melted. Stir in milk. Heat through . Top with brandy. Pour into mugs, top with mini marshmallows or whipped cream.

Curl up on a chilly night with this great after-dinner beverage. Mix a splash of Hazelnut Liqueur to a cup of gourmet hot chocolate.

Popcorn > An Oscar-worthy snack February 22, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Drinks News.
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Whether you are hosting a dazzling Hollywood-style gala or a small gathering with close friends and family for the 79th Annual Academy Awards show on Sunday, February 25, one movie-favorite food, popcorn, is a must-have, Oscar-night treat. Most wouldn’t view a movie without those large fluffy kernels, and the Oscars should be no different.

Red Carpet Party Pops, a festive and fun popcorn treat, is a clear winner for any celebration. The party pops are made with Jolly Time Blast O Butter, the only popcorn to be called “Ultimate Theatre Style Butter Microwave Pop Corn” and a top choice for movie night. Add some luscious, creamy melted caramel to lend the “stick” needed to shape these chocolate truffle-style treats. Top them off with a drizzle of sweet chocolate and pretzel “handle,” and these party pops bring pizzazz to any party.

These yummy pops are a new twist on an old favorite and will make Oscar night, or any movie night with your family, a sweet treat.

Red Carpet Party Pops
Ingredients >
1 3.5-ounce bag Jolly Time Blast O Butter Microwave Pop Corn, popped
2 cups thin pretzel sticks broken into 1/2-inch pieces*
1 14-ounce package caramels, about 48, unwrapped
2 tablespoons water
Butter or margarine
About 72 whole thin pretzel sticks
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
Preparation >
1. Line 3 large cookie sheets with waxed paper; set aside. Spray inside of large mixing bowl with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Pop popcorn according to package directions. Open bag carefully and pour popcorn into large bowl; discard any unpopped kernels. Add broken pretzels to bowl; stir well.
3. In large microwave-safe bowl, microwave caramels and water, uncovered, on high 2-1/2 to 3 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring every minute. Pour over popcorn and pretzels; stir until evenly coated. Let stand 5 minutes.
4. With buttered hands, shape popcorn mixture into 1-1/4-inch diameter balls; form each around a whole pretzel stick leaving bottom half of stick extending beyond popcorn ball to form “handles.” Place on cookie sheets. Let popcorn balls stand until firm, about 15 minutes.
5. Melt chocolate chips according to package directions. Let cool 2 minutes; pour into a sandwich-size resealable plastic food storage bag. Squeeze out air; seal. Cut off small corner of bag. Holding by pretzel stick “handles,” squeeze chocolate decoratively over popcorn balls. Return to cookie sheet. Let stand until chocolate is set, 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Store in tightly covered container. Makes: about 6 dozen.

Related Links > http://www.jollytime.com

E-Mail Is Like > February 22, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Entertainment, Lifestyle.
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Top 10 Reasons Why E-Mail is Like a Male Reproductive Organ >
10. Those who have it would be devastated if it were ever cut off.
9. Those who have it think that those who don’t are somehow inferior.
8. Those who don’t have it may agree that it’s neat, but think it’s not worth the fuss that those who have it make about it.
7. Many of those who don’t have it would like to try it (e-mail envy).
6. It’s more fun when it’s up, but this makes it hard to get any real work done.
5. In the distant past, its only purpose was to transmit information vital to the survival of the species. Some people still think that’s the only thing it should be used for, but most folks today use it for fun most of the time.
4. If you don’t apply the appropriate measures, it can spread viruses.
3. If you use it too much, you’ll find it becomes more and more difficult to think coherently.
2. We attach an importance to it that is far greater than its actual size and influence warrant.
1. If you’re not careful what you do with it, it can get you into a lot of trouble