Tag Archives: cream

Eating Healthy in the New Year…Brussels Sprouts!

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Brussels sproutsIt’s hard to believe that 2014 is about to draw to a close. I feel like the year has just flown by. It was an eventful year for us…new jobs, travel, and excitement. Oh, and I started this blog, which has been a ton of fun. So, now as the year comes to a close, if I believe all of the January issues of magazines, and every commercial since Christmas, we’re supposed to focus on healthy eating and taking care of ourselves. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a this “healthy” recipe. Of course, it combines delicious Brussels sprouts cooked in butter with a creamy rich Parmesan cream sauce and toasted pumpkin seeds. But it’s a vegetable…so it has to be healthy…right??? 😉

blanchedTo ring in the new year, we’re heading to the new home of our friends. There will be about 10 of us, and everyone was assigned something to bring for dinner. Of course, I was a little disappointed that I was assigned a side. After all, how can I let my cooking talents shine with just a side. However, this recipe is a keeper, and it’s incredibly easy. Surprisingly enough, the recipe comes from the November 2013 issue of the Spirit Airlines inflight magazine. Who would have thought a recipe from an airline magazine would be so good, but this one surprised us!

To start, blanch 1 1/2 lbs Brussels sprouts in boiling water for about a minute. They’ll become bright green and soften a little. Drain, and soak in ice water until cool to stop the cooking. Once they’re cool, drain again and cut into quarters.coolingdrainslicedIn the meantime, heat 2 cups heavy cream in a saucepan over medium high heat until simmering. Allow to simmer for about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cream reduces by half. Make sure you keep an eye on the cream, as it could boil over. Once the cream has reduced, remove from heat and add 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Stir to combine, then set aside.creamboilingcheesesauce readyHeat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread out 2 oz pumpkin seeds on a cookie sheet. Toast the pumpkin seeds in the oven for about 10 minutes until brown. You’ll want to check on them frequently, and shake the pan to stir. Set aside once toasted.beforeafterIn a large saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat until melted. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook until toasted, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.butteradd sproutsbrowned sproutsTo serve, pour the toasted Brussels sprouts into a serving dish. Top with the Parmesan cream and sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds. The Brussels sprouts are buttery and flavorful, the sauce is creamy and salty from the cheese, and the pumpkin seeds are nutty and crunchy. It’s the perfect mix of flavors and textures, and I’m sure it will wow the crowd tonight.

Whatever you are doing to celebrate the new year, whether it’s a huge night out, quiet celebration at home, or an early evening in bed, have a safe night. And have a very happy, healthy, and prosperous 2015! Happy New Year!

Learning How to Make Macarons from the Expert…My French Friend!

MacaronI love macarons.  They are so perfect.  The sandwiching of two amazingly crisp, crunchy cookies on the outside with a chewy inside, and a filling, oh the filling.  Whether it be ganache or buttercream or whatever you like, they are just amazing!  For those of you who are not familiar, they are a French cookie made with almond flour and whipped egg whites, light and crisp, sandwiched with some sort of decadent filling.  If you aren’t familiar with them…you need to be!

While I have loved the macaron for a while, I Almond Flourhaven’t attempted to make them until recently.  They seemed incredibly intimidating, but after spending an afternoon with a friend of mine, learning her tricks, I realized that they really aren’t that difficult if you know the tricks.  And, as with anything, sometimes they turn out perfect, and sometimes they don’t.  But no matter what, they’ll be delicious.

CookedMy friend Estelle has been to classes, read books, and has made macarons many times.  She also used them to completely show me up at a cook-off contest at work.  I don’t blame her, I was the reigning champion, and it seemed I couldn’t be beat.  I had won so many times…my caramel walnut tart took home first place, as did my sausage stuffing, and my chocolate cannoli cookies.  You get the picture…and she was determined to win.  And then, she brought her macarons, and, well, I didn’t stand a chance.  She very quickly dethroned me (and rightfully so, they were SO GOOD), but I knew IEgg Whites needed to get that recipe.  Thankfully, a few weeks ago, she taught me her tricks!  And now, I’m sharing them with you!

The recipe we made was for chocolate macarons with chocolate ganache.  She explained that she has had best luck with chocolate macarons because you can see the color change and know when everything is properly mixed.  Also, they are her favorite.  We also used weighted measures for the dry ingredients.  The important thing for macarons is to have them dry, so the weight helps adjust for dampness in the flour.  And, her advice, don’t ever make them Whippedon a humid day…you will be doomed!

To start, beat 100 milliliters egg whites in a mixer with a pinch of salt.  We used 3 eggs to get to 100 milliliters.  Also, she left the eggs out so they were room temperature.  Beat those until they start to foam, then add 75 grams sugar.  Beat until soft peaks form.

In a food processor, mix 120 grams almond flour, 200 Ribbongrams powdered sugar, and 14 grams cocoa.  You want to be sure you’re getting rid of any lumps and getting the mixture consistent.  If you don’t want to make chocolate macarons, you can substitute almond flour for the cocoa.

Fold the flour mixture into the egg white mixture.  You want to continue to fold until it is a consistent color, so you know everything is mixed.  But you also want to mix it until it is pretty smooth and runs off the spoon in ribbons.  It took more folding than I thought it would, but it was a pretty smooth mixture, with just some small specks from the almond flour.

Make a template for the macarons on parchment Templatepaper.  Trace 3 centimeter circles onto the parchment, about 1 inch apart.  Then put the template in a cookie sheet and cover the template with another sheet of parchment.  Pipe the macaron mixture into the circles.  We used a plain 804 piping tip.  Try to stay within the circles.  Then, let them rest at room temperature for about 30-60 minutes.  This helps to dry out the macarons.  Bake at 325 for about 10-12 minutes, but, leave a wooden spoon in the door of the oven so it’s Feetopened a bit.  This lets the steam escape, again helping to dry out the cookies.  When they are done, they should be crisp on top and pretty easily peel off of the parchment.  And, hopefully, you’ll have those great “feet”, knowing that they rose up.  If they don’t peel off easily, they may need more time.

Meanwhile, you can make the ganache.  You want equal parts cream and chocolate.  For this recipe, we used 200 grams heavy cream Ganacheand 200 grams chopped chocolate, half dark and half milk.  Heat the cream until boiling, then pour over the chocolate.  Let it sit for a few minutes to melt the chocolate then stir until combined and smooth.  Let that sit for a while so that it cools and becomes spreadable.  Once it’s ready, and the macarons are cool, just pipe some ganache on the bottom of one and sandwich two together…that’s it!

Finished MacaronThankfully Estelle was willing to share her secrets!  These really are delicious, and not as hard as I thought.  You do need to be precise and patient, but they turn out great.

Oh, and a side note, you’ll notice I keep saying macarons, not macaroons.  From what I’ve read, it seems more and more people are using the French spelling to distinguish from the also delicious coconut confections, macaroons.  But, they’re pretty much interchangeable.

A Great Spring-Summer Dessert…Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries

It’s so nice to have the warm weather back.  The sun stays out longer, the birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming, and I love it.  After such a long winter, it’s so refreshing to finally be in the heart of spring, with summer right around the corner.

StrawberriesWith the warm weather, I get excited about summer clothes and outdoor activities, but I also get excited about summer food.  Just like swapping sweaters for t-shirts, I think most people also change their eating habits in the summer, even if they don’t realize it.  Instead of the heavy stews, we start eating dinner salads and lighter meals.  We start to replace the starchy vegetables for fresh summer produce.  And, we no longer crave the rich desserts like bread pudding, but start to focus on lighter desserts with fruit, like panna cotta with balsamic strawberries.

Cream and SugarI’m not sure if you’re familiar with panna cotta, but it’s a delicious, creamy dessert that’s surprisingly simple to make.  Panna cotta literally means cooked cream in Italian, and the cream is really the star of the dessert.  It’s delicious sweetened cream that takes on a creamy, semisolid texture.  And ok, ok, I’ll admit it, it does have cream, so I guess it’s not as light as I said.  But it’s cool and has a light, creamy texture that’s perfect for summer.

Cooked CreamTo start, you’ll need 1 quart heavy cream.  Pour about a cup of it in a bowl and sprinkle in 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin.  It ends up being a total of .5 oz of gelatin.  Let that begin to dissolve while you heat the rest of the cream in a saucepan over medium heat with 1 cup sugar.  You want to heat this mixture until the cream warms and the sugar dissolves.  It should only take a few minutes, but make sure you stir so the cream doesn’t burn.  Once the sugar is dissolved, add the gelatin mixture.  Continue to stir until the gelatin dissolves in the cream.

Ready for UnmoldingOnce the gelatin has dissolved, you can remove the cream mixture from the heat.  Add 1 teaspoon vanilla, and that’s it.  Your panna cotta is done.  You just need to pour the mixture into molds and allow it to chill.  You can pour the whole thing into a big bowl, so that you just scoop out the solidified mixture once it’s cooled, or you can pour the mixture into single serve molds that you can then unmold for a great presentation.  I just used small 1 7/8 cup rectangular Pyrex containers, but you can really use anything you like.  Once you pour the mixture into whatever container/containers you’re using, put them in the refrigerator for a few hours to cool and solidify.  I made mine the night before.  And don’t cover them when they are hot, or you’ll end up with water in your panna cotta.

Balsamic GlazeWhile that is chilling, you can make the strawberries.  Simmer 1 cup balsamic vinegar for 10-15 minutes until reduced and thickened.  Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons honey.  Allow the mixture to cool, then add 1 lb sliced strawberries.  That’s pretty much it.  Let the strawberries stay at room temperature for a while so the flavors meld.

After several hours or overnight, when the panna cotta has solidified, you can unmold (or scoop and serve if you’re not unmolding).  UnmoldedSimply run a knife around the edges to loosen, then set in warm water for a few seconds.  That should melt the edges just a bit and loosen the panna cotta.  Just put a plate on top of the mold and flip it.  You may have to tap a bit to get it out.  To serve, scoop some of the strawberries with the balsamic reduction around the plate, and that’s it.  Enjoy!

Oh, and this recipe is great, but really, the panna cotta is great with anything.  It’s delicious with some chocolate sauce, or just some fresh fruit or berries, or just plain, on it’s own.  It’s cool, creamy, and delicious.