Sunday, September 21, 2014
if you read the serving instructions, they tell you to thaw the fruit and discard the juices. can somebody tell me why you would want to do that? in reality, the freezing process destroyed the cell walls and as the fruit thaws, all of the liquid once held in place by those walls is now separating from the solids. as it is released, it takes a lot of the flavor with it! so when i began noticing that 25 pounds of frozen blackberries produced too much liquid for my cobblers and it looked more like soup, i began to reserve some of the juice that wept from the thawing fruit. to make it easier on myself, i would thaw the fruit in two separate pans; one pan of 15 pounds and one pan of 10 pounds. the juices that collected in the 10 pound pan were strained off and set aside. thus began my hoarding of juice.
my husband began to wonder about me. "what are you going to do with all of this juice?" he asked, repeatedly as my stash in the fridge grew and grew. ten pounds of thawed blackberries produces about 6 cups of juice. so began my experimentation with juice. first i made some vinegar. then some sorbet, followed by jelly and syrup and more jelly and even more jelly. as the containers of juice collected in the fridge, i made jelly and gave it to friends and neighbors. we also began to eat lots of toast with jelly.
now that i have landed here in virginia, i am eating toast with jelly on a daily basis; it is so much easier than trying to cook in a toy kitchen. we close on our new home tomorrow afternoon and the movers are supposed to arrive on tuesday. my days will be full of unpacking boxes and putting things into new places. toast and jelly will be on the menu for a while, and as soon as i can, i am going to make a loaf of homemade bread to eat with it...
a great chart on their website to help you figure out how much pectin, juice and sugar you need as well as instructions on how to make jelly. this is such an easy thing to do that i may never buy jelly again!
disclaimer: i was not compensated in any way by kraft for this post, nor do i suggest you use their pectin. however, the chart is very accurate and easy to use and if the directions on it are followed, you should be successful.
Sunday, September 14, 2014
remember how i mentioned i was cleaning out the cupboards? i came across some odds and ends that i normally might not have thought to add to brownies. first of all, i am not a fan of milk chocolate; i love the bitter flavor of nearly unsweetened (think 75% to 85%) chocolate. as i pulled out the contents of my baking stash in the pantry closet, i came across a partial bag of milk chocolate chips, roughly 2/3 cup and then i found 3 milk chocolate hershey bars (1.75 oz each) with almonds. what on earth would i do with them??? no time for smores and no smoldering fire or marshmallows...i kept digging and pulled out an opened bag of golden raisins that were a little dry. i put the milk chocolate chips, the hershey bars and the raisins on the counter and gathered the rest of the ingredients for the brownies.
raisins are another ingredient that you either love or hate. personally, i prefer golden raisins because they taste less raisiny and i almost always have a bag in the pantry. even though i was a little skeptical, i decided to go ahead and blend my dark, fudgy brownies with milk chocolate chips and candy bar pieces along with some golden raisins. before i could proceed, the raisins needed to be plumped so i put them in a pot, covered them with water and brought them to a simmer. after letting them soak for 5 minutes, i drained them and prepared the recipe. while you may not notice them in the pictures, the raisins are there and they add the perfect amount of chewiness to the bars without being obvious; from now on, they will be my secret weapon in brownies!
one last note, since i am in the middle of preparing for a move from nashville, tn to williamsburg, va, i was only able to use a scale for this recipe so the weights are in ounces with the digital conversion-sorry, no cups this time!
decadent triple chocolate brownies
makes 1 (9"x13") pan
32 (1 1/2"x 2") bars
8 ounces (.50#) unsalted butter
4 ounces (.25#) unsweetened chocolate
2-3 ounces (.12#-.18#) golden raisins (measure before plumping)
15 ounces (.94#) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
6 ounces (.38#) all purpose flour
1 1/2 ounces (.15#) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 (1.75 ounce) hershey's milk chocolate bars with almonds, chopped
3 ounces (.18#) milk chocolate chips
preheat the oven to 350. grease a 9"x13" pan, line the bottom with paper or foil and grease the paper. set the pan aside while you prepare the batter.
place the butter and the unsweetened chocolate into a heat proof bowl and carefully melt it over a pot of almost simmering water. take care not to let the bowl touch the water or receive direct heat from the flame/heat source. while that melts, place the golden raisins into a sauce pot and barely cover them with water. heat the pot over a medium flame until it starts to simmer. turn the heat off and let the raisins sit for 5 minutes. drain the raisins and let them cool while you finish preparing the batter.
when the chocolate is melted, remove it from the heat and stir in the sugar and vanilla. whisk in the eggs, one at a time, and continue mixing until completely combined. place the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into a sifter or mesh strainer and sift over the batter. fold the batter together until no flour streaks are visible. finally, fold in the raisins, chopped candy bars and the chocolate chips and scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
bake until the brownies rise up about 1/4 inch above the pan and a crust forms across the top, about 40 minutes. remove from the oven and cool completely before cutting. for the best results during cutting, chill the brownies for at least 2-3 hours or overnight. by chilling them, you will get nice, smooth cuts without crushing the brownies.
if you chill the brownies, the best way to get them out of the pan is to gently heat the bottom of the pan a bit and flop them out onto a cutting board. remove the paper from the bottom of the brownies and place a second board over the brownies. invert the boards, remove the top cutting board and cut the brownies, marking them first using a ruler to get a consistent size and smooth cut.
Thursday, September 11, 2014
New Milford, New Jersey is a small town, a very small town. As a child growing up there, the town boasted two grocery stores, several bars and convenience stores, a few gas stations and of course, the usual banks, pizza places, churches and fire houses. The majority of school age children attended public schools and the entire town was served by five elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. Yes, it was a bit like Podunk with one large exception; we were 8 miles out from Manhattan as a bird flies. Taking a quick ride up to the Palisades meant you could be standing on the cliff looking across the mile wide Hudson River clearly seeing the lights from Yankee Stadium illuminating the sky.
We lived so close to the big city, but it was hard to believe we could be so near that center of the universe without being part of it. We were just like everybody else in the world; we lived the New York City life in tv sitcoms, news broadcasts and movies. From Mayor Koch to Son of Sam, the Brownout of 1977 and disco dancing at Studio 54, we read about life in the Big Apple as if it were in a foreign country and we were convinced that none of that stuff could ever happen over here in Jersey.
One of the biggest events from my childhood was the completion of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. Briefly, it was home to the worlds tallest buildings but for many of the folks looking across the river at New York City’s skyline, the towers were a bit like the mythical Emerald City. Growing up, I never gave the buildings a huge amount of thought. Yes they were there, yes I knew of them; my grandfather worked in one of the towers. That was as far as it went. Honestly, I didn’t think of them that often. Then I grew up and graduated from The Culinary Institute of America, and suddenly found myself working in building 3, the hotel that sat between the two towers.
To get to work each day, I took the Path train in from my apartment in Jersey City to the World Trade Center. After a quick ride under the river, the train stopped at a platform deep down under the street. Commuters would have to climb about two stories just to get up to the basement of the towers. From there, a long and steep escalator would climb slowly up about 4 stories just to get to street level on the concourse between the towers. The seemingly endless crowd of people would file onto the escalators, some standing patiently to the right while others passed them on the left side of the slowly rising treads. Still, others preferred to walk up the less crowded staircases that also rose up to the concourse; the tapping of their shoes echoed loudly. The concourse was a destination in itself since it was the only enclosed shopping mall in Lower Manhattan. And like the rest of New York City, if you could think of it, you could probably find it in the many shops that lined the walkway between the towers.
|looking down from the indoor observation deck|
First time visitors to the World Trade Center were easy to spot; they were looking straight up in the sky at the top of the towers, mesmerized by their size. At first glance, the center seemed to be a never ending collection of staircases and escalators leading to concourses and elevators that took you higher and higher. It was the big city equivalent of a country corn maze made of plate glass and polished stone. Both towers consisted of 110 stories that were nearly an acre apiece and when added up, it was well over seven million square feet. By some accounts, 50,000 people worked in the towers each day and it required its very own zipcode, 10048.
|the view of the East River, the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge from the indoor observation deck|
Working second shift as a pantry cook in the hotel, then known as the Vista International Hotel, I would arrive at the hotel about 2:30pm each day. Because of a lack of seniority, I had to take my break no later than 5 o’clock. Considering that I started my shift at 3, I frequently was not ready to walk out for an hour break but had little choice in the matter and had to make the best of the situation. The employee cafeteria was down in the basement, 2 floors below street level and it was often smoky since tobacco free zones were not yet the norm. Having relatively few real friends to sit with during my break, I frequently chose to go outside during nice weather.
There were many outdoor areas perfect for sitting and reading and watching the passersby. After a quick trip to the locker room, I would head outdoors to soak up the sun before having to jump back to the line and the dinner rush. Just after 5pm, Monday through Friday, the doors to the plazas and the buildings would open and a steady stream of people would make their exit. Like a swarm of bees or termites, they would head out of the towers and walk to the various buses, taxis and subway stops that surrounded the entire center.
|the plaza between the buildings and the Sphere sculpture|
One by one, two by two, or in some other configuration, they walked, quickly. They had homes to get to, dinners to prepare, families to spend the evening with. Not a minute was wasted while making their escape. Just as surprising was the fact that they also entered the buildings each morning with that same sense of purpose and urgency. This I learned on the few rare occasions that I wandered through the center in the early morning hours while covering a vacationing co-worker’s scheduled shifts.
It was like a beehive in almost every way. Workers focused on getting to the office on time and getting the job done so that they could make their way towards home again. And like bees, if you impeded their progress at any point, you got stung. It was best to keep moving and moving quickly at that. People watching had to be done from the sidelines where you could minimize the risk of being run over. What I saw, who I watched, I cannot recall much. A vague recollection of a few of my co-workers lingers but I have been gone for so long they no longer have names I can recall. The buildings are gone too and that is something I still find hard to believe even though I traveled there and saw the pile of rubble that must have stood 8 stories tall. However, I don’t dwell on that much since it feels like part of my heritage, part of my history fell with the towers. But when it is quiet and I do take a moment to think about that place and that time in my life, echoing through my memory is the sound that so many thousands of shoes make as they strike polished stone concourses and concrete sidewalks.
|my husband, Darry, on one of our many trips up to the outdoor observation deck|
Saturday, September 6, 2014
by now, you should have figured out that i have a thing for pennington's strawberry rye. yes, i was given a bottle for free, but, and that is a big but, i am not being paid or compensated in anyway to do this. the truth is, i am a light weight; i cannot drink large amounts of alcohol and one drink is usually my limit when it comes to mixed drinks. as a result, i generally prefer to use it in a dessert where i can savor the flavor without getting a hangover. and if you saw the other two recipes i posted that feature pennington's strawberry rye, ice box cake and strawberry tea-ramisu (links below), you know how well it blends with other flavors. so just imagine how well it blends with chocolate...
pennington's truffle brownie bars
makes 1 (8"x8") pan yielding 32 (1"x2") bars
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 whole egg plus 1 extra yolk
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder-either dutched or natural
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
preheat the oven to 350. lightly grease the 8"x8" pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
carefully melt the butter with the unsweetened chocolate so that they do not scorch-a microwave may be the best options for such small amounts.
in a mixing bowl, whisk the egg with the sugar and vanilla until combined. add the melted chocolate and whisk until smooth.
place the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder in a sifter or a mesh strainer and sift it over the batter in the bowl. fold it together gently taking care not to over mix the batter.
fold in the chocolate chips last and scrape it into the prepared pan. bake until the top feels slightly firm but not at all stiff or hard, about 20-25 minutes. allow the brownie to cool completely in the pan.
1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/3 cup pennington's strawberry rye
2 ounces white chocolate, chopped
place the bittersweet chocolate into a heat proof bowl with the 3/4 cup heavy cream. set the bowl over a pan of nearly simmering water without allowing the water to come in contact with the bowl. stir the chocolate occasionally to help it melt.
while the chocolate melts, prepare the brownies by removing them from the pan by inverting them onto a platter. line the pan with clean paper so that it comes up the side of the pans by at least an inch; you will need the excess to help you remove the brownies after the ganache sets. replace the brownies in the pan on top of the clean paper and set the pan aside.
when the chocolate is mostly melted, remove it from the heat and stir in the pennington's. whisk it until smooth. scrape this mixture into the prepared pans and smooth it out so that it is level across the top.
prepare the white drizzle by placing the white chocolate in a small microwave save bowl with the 1 tablespoon of heavy cream and carefully heat it on the lowest setting for 10-15 second intervals until it begins to melt. stir the mixture to finish the melting process. drizzle the mixture over the top of the chocolate ganache in a random pattern and use a toothpick to swirl it. place the pan in the fridge for several hours or overnight to set it completely.
to remove the brownies from the pan, gently heat the bottom of the pan on the stove top and lift them out using the excess flaps of paper. carefully peel away the paper away from the sides and bottom of the brownies. using a sharp knife, cut the brownies into 1" strips and then cut each strip into 2" pieces. to keep the bars looking neat, clean the knife with hot water between cuts and wipe it dry before cutting again. serve at room temp but store them in the fridge-if they last that long...
like cooking with booze or want some quick and easy no-bake desserts? check out the other recipes with pennington's strawberry rye!
Thursday, August 21, 2014
it was early by most standards, barely 7am, but not early to me since i am generally at work before 4am each day. although this was rush hour, there were hardly any cars around-something i am sure will change once classes start again next week. as i walked along the sidewalk that parallels the university grounds, i noticed the moss and lichen covering the brick walls that border the property. while i do not know how long the brick walls have stood along the walkway, it was obvious that they have been here quite some time.
the different colors and textures blend together beautifully.
this little guy let me get just close enough before he dropped his breakfast and ran
bruton parish church building which dates back to 1715 was no exception; it was attended by george washington, thomas jefferson and patrick henry to name just a few. to walk the grounds which really are little more than a cemetery, is also a sobering experience. modern medicine has made childbirth safe for women and the likelihood that a child will grow to adulthood is something we take for granted.
the inscription of this tomb reminded me how lucky we are to be living in this day and age. young mathew whaley only lived to be 9 years old and he "lyes interred here within this tomb upon his father"
the dewitt wallace decorative arts museum and the abby aldrich rockefeller folk art museum, both which are entered through the old public hospital. don't let the name fool you, it was not a typical hospital but one where they housed the insane and treated them in the hopes of "restoring them to their lost reason..."
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
after a busy day of driving in endless loops looking for a place to live, we wandered back to colonial williamsburg to see the village. something to keep in mind, you can enter the village freely and wander the streets without buying a ticket. many of the gardens and exhibits allow you to enter for free as well but to see and experience the entire village, you will need to buy a ticket since many areas require it for entrance. we had only an hour or so to walk the village and decided to wait to buy tickets on a day that we could truly stay and experience it all.
after spending much of our time just wandering gardens, we ventured back to merchant square and into the dog street pub for what we thought would be a drink in the bar and a chance to cool off and get out of the hot sun. we sat at the bar sipping drinks; a glass of pinot grigio for me and a glass of the founders pale ale nitro for darry. since we were a bit tired from all of the time spent driving, a little overheated from the hot summer sun and apparently hungry, darry decided to order something to snack on. we started out with house made hummus. the lovely presentation of a glass jar and freshly baked croutons was almost too pretty to dig into. the light, creamy hummus was made with just the right amount of garlic and lemon and was just what we needed to accompany our drinks.
many thanks to the bartenders on duty during our visit, they gave us great service and answered all of our questions-even those about where they lived; well, we are trying to find a place to live...to see the menu, and the beer list check out the website.
and one more thing, we were not compensated in any way for this, we paid for our drinks and food ourselves!
Monday, August 18, 2014
part of that process included getting to know the area. sure, i visited colonial williamsburg as a kid but this is the first time i have done so as an adult. my father will be proud to know that this time, i truly appreciate the historical aspect of the city and i am looking forward to getting to know all i can about this beautiful place.
during the summer, the historical merchants square is home to a weekly farmers market. each saturday morning, the street is filled with vendor booths stocked with products ranging from flowers, baked goods, chocolates and produce to meats, cheeses and honey. if you cannot find it here, it just isn't in season! be sure to check out the website as it lists the vendors who will be in attendance each week-yes the website is updated weekly, so you can plan your trip in advance if there is a specific item you would like to purchase. darry and i spent the morning wandering from booth to booth while listening to live music courtesy of a local group of what we assumed were very talented high school students. the best part about the market, you can purchase wooden nickels, tokens if you will, for $5 each and then spend them all season long at the market-a great idea if you want to stick to a budget or if you happen to pop in at the last minute and are short on cash. these tokens spend like cash and if your total is less than $5, they will give you change in cash.
having lived in tennessee for a while now, i was a little surprised to see such a small variety of tomatoes. it seems that the folks in nashville are much more tomato crazy-must be the tomato sandwich that drives it. only one vendor had cherokee purples-a tomato that darry is completely hooked on, and rightly so! we settled on a basket of mixed tomatoes to snack on.
nothing like fresh berries from the market-just picked and juicy!