"Potted Herb" Pot de Creme Parfaits

April 14, 2014



Nothing beats the Springtime. With gardening underway, flowers blooming, and sunny weather, mother nature has definitely been an inspiration for any menus I've been dreaming up, especially for Easter Sunday. What is cuter to serve as an Easter dessert than potted herb parfaits? Ditch the chocolate bunnies for this refined take on the "mud pie" dessert we would beg our moms to make on our childhood birthdays. These pot de cremes are made with rich, luxurious Belgian chocolate, and are paired with chocolate wafer crumbs and mint leaves to resemble potted mint plants. Did I mention these heavenly, decadent parfaits contain booze? Enough said.

"Potted Herb" Pot de Creme Parfaits
Makes 8 parfaits

Ingredients:
10 ounces dark Belgian chocolate (I used 70% cocoa chocolate)
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
6 large egg yolks
6 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. Baileys Irish cream
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup heavy cream
chocolate wafers, crushed into crumbs
Mint leaves

Directions:
1. Chop the chocolate with a knife and put into a large bowl. Whisk the milk, cream, eggs, and sugar in a medium sauce-pot. Heat the mixture on medium, while constantly stirring with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon (about 6-8 minutes). 

2. Pour the heated milk mixture over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Pour the mixture into desired serving vessels about 3/4 of the way up(*keep 1/3 cup of the mixture in a separate bowl for assembly). Put the pot de cremes in the refrigerator to chill and thicken (minimum 2 hours, up to overnight).

3. Whip 1/2 cup heavy cream to stiff peaks. Once the separate 1/3 cup of the chocolate mixture that you had set aside has chilled and thickened (about an hour), fold into the whipped cream mixture. Set aside in the refrigerator to chill.

For Assembly:


1. Top each pot de creme with a dollop or two of the chocolate-whipped cream mixture.


2. Add the chocolate wafer crumbs, make sure the entire top is covered. 
3. Stick the mint leaf into the top, to resemble a potted plant. **I used the tops of mint leaves for a more "potted plant" look.

Bon Appetit!


Mini Lemon Loaf Cakes

April 11, 2014


Since from when I was young I always have loved Starbucks' lemon loaf cake. Even from before Starbucks had swapped to the delicious La Boulange baked goods, I was always drawn to the sweet & tart lemony goodness. I've been wanting to make a variation of it for quite some time now, and when I found these adorable mini loaf pans, I knew exactly what to use them for. This recipe gets its moisture from a combination of greek yogurt and sour cream and from soaking in a lemon-sugar mixture after after baking. The lemon extract and zest add a little zing, while the sweet glaze balances the tanginess out.



Mini Lemon Loaf Cakes
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa's Recipe
Makes 3 mini loaf cakes

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup plain whole Greek yogurt
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs
zest of 2 lemons
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. lemon extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup lemon juice

For glaze:
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice


Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

1. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk yogurt, sour cream, eggs, 1 cup of the sugar, lemon zest, vanilla and lemon extracts. 

2. Gradually whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Fold the vegetable oil into the batter (make sure it's all incorporated). 

3. Pour batter into mini loaf pans that have been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Bake 45-50 minutes, or until center is set, and when tested with a toothpick, comes out clean.

4. While the cakes are baking, combine the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and 1/4 cup lemon juice into a small pan on medium heat, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

5. When the cakes are done, let rest for 10 minutes.  While the cakes are still warm, pour the sugar-lemon mixture over the cakes and allow them to absorb the liquid. Let cool.

For the glaze:

Whisk together the confections sugar and lemon juice. Pour over cakes. Serve cakes with a dollop of whipped cream and lemon zest.

Take the cakes out of the loaf pans and set on a baking rack over a sheet pan.




Hope everyone enjoys the sunny weekend!


Pinspiration: Gold Flatware

April 8, 2014


Many of my friends can confidently label me as Pinterest-obsessed. It's dangerous, really. I can spend hours on end pinning tablescapes, mouth-watering food, and DIY projects (find my boards here). Pinterest really does inspire my everyday life - I often browse my pins when I am stumped on an idea for dinner, or want to browse a color palette for a dinner party. Lately, I have been lusting over gold flatware.


Gold flatware really pops when paired with bright hues. A vibrant, striped napkin (left) or rich, emerald green (right) are picturesque backdrops for brushed gold flatware.


Using bronze, brushed flatware within a rustic tablescape adds a touch of modern-chic to the table. 


Shiny, polished gold flatware adds a strong dose of elegance to a setting.


Rose-gold, copper utensils are a stylish, modern twist. 


Dip-dye gold flatware can be sophisticated or whimsical - whether it's luxurious DVF flatware (left), or a DIY project (right).


Blackberry Blintz Cake

April 3, 2014



Cheesecake is one of my favorite desserts - but it's often far too decadent to indulge in often. This blackberry blintz cake does get that creaminess of a cheesecake, but is lightened-up when combined with a airy cake with citrus essence and a tart-blackberry topping. I utilized the farmer's cheese I made (here) in the cake, but if you are crunched for time, store-bought farmer's cheese or ricotta also works well in this cake. This sweet treat is an ideal spring dessert, as a brunch cake, and even a great weekend afternoon snack.

Blackberry Blintz Cake
makes 16 small squares

Ingredients:
For Cake:
2 (8 oz.) packages of softened cream cheese
15 oz. farmer's cheese (Ricotta will work as well)
5 eggs, divided
3/4 cup granulated sugar
zest and juice one lemon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup flour
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup milk
1 Tbsp. baking powder

For Blackberry Topping:
8 oz blackberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup orange juice
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
zest and juice of 1 lemon

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.


1. Beat softened cream cheese, farmer's cheese, 2 eggs, 1/4 cup of the sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Set aside.


2. In a separate bowl, combine melted butter, 3 eggs, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, milk, baking powder in a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or use an electric mixer). Begin whisking and slowly add in the 1 cup flour. Whisk until the batter is combined. **The batter with look a little runny (seen above).




3. Spray a 13x9 baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Spread 1/3 of the batter at the bottom of the dish and spread evenly. Layer the entire cheese mixture atop that and spread evenly. Top the cake with the remaining batter and spread evenly.

4. Bake for 45 minutes at 325 degrees F. Then turn the oven up to 350 degrees F and bake an additional 15 minutes (or until the center is set). Set the cake aside to cool after baking.

For blackberry topping:

Toss the fresh blackberries with the cornstarch, so all the blackberries are lightly-coated. Then add the blackberries and the rest of ingredients into a sauce-pot. Turn the heat on to medium, and let the mixture cook/boil for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Assembly:
Once everything has cooled, top the cake with the blackberry mixture. Cut into squares and enjoy!




Cheers to the almost-weekend!

Retail Round-Up: West Elm Goes Nautical-Chic

April 2, 2014

West Elm always has a such chic approach to home decor. And, when injected with a dose of nautical-beach flair, the result is a perfectly balanced relaxed-stylish look. Here are a some of my current West Elm favorites:



1. Velvet Ikat Embroidered Ogee Pillow Cover, $39.00
2. Tile Print Bowl, $10.00
3. Velvet Ikat Embroidered Geo Pillow Cover, $34.00
4. Coral Jewelry Tree, $59.00
5. Framed Print - Carpe Diem, $99.00
6. Framed Print - Lobstah, $99.00
7. Stripe Duvet Cover + Shams, $24.00-$89.00
8. Sequin Cutwork Pillow Cover, $39.00
9. Enamel Serves, $29.00


Prosciutto & Swiss Savory Crepes

April 1, 2014

I love crepes. And, while I know that nutella and banana are a match made in heaven in the crepe world - prosciutto and swiss are the equivalent in the savory crepe sphere. The slight saltiness from the prosciutto pairs flawlessly with the creaminess of the melted swiss - making for an ideal weeknight dinner or brunch when coupled with a simple green salad.

Prosciutto & Swiss Savory Crepes
Makes 6 crepes

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 eggs
pinch of salt
12 ounces prosciutto
6 slices swiss cheese
vegetable oil

Directions:

 1. For the crepe batter, whisk together the milk and eggs. Add the flour, gradually, and continue to whisk. Sprinkle in a pinch of salt.
 2. Coat a 8-10 inch pan with vegetable oil and heat on medium-high. Ladle the batter (about 4 ounces) into the center of the pan. Swirl the pan around in a circular motion so the batter spreads and coats the pan evenly.


 3. Cook the crepe until the bottom is golden brown, about two minutes. Flip over to begin cooking the other side. Place two ounces of the prosciutto and once slice of swiss cheese onto the crepe. Fold the crepe in half, then fold in half, this time the opposite way, once again.



Bon Appetit!

Homemade Farmer's Cheese

March 31, 2014

Homemade bread? Sure! Jam? Absolutely. But making cheese? Most people have a conception that making cheese from scratch is a laborious task that is complicated and drawn-out. And, while I cannot tell you making an aged cheddar or Parmesan debunks these conceptions - farmer's cheese does. Farmer's cheese, very similar to Ricotta, is a mild, soft cheese made from milk. It has a smooth texture and buttery, creamy taste and is extremely versatile to use. I grew up tasting it in Slovakia (and from my mom's cooking), where it's used in sweets, to add as a filling in cakes or other desserts, or even just tossed with pasta and salt and pepper for a quick weeknight meal. It's even delicious to mix with your favorite herbs and pop it on a cheese plate for a quick appetizer. Either way, you will definitely impress your guests when you tell them you've made the cheese in your dish all on your own - it'll just be our secret that it's as easy as pie to make!

Farmer's Cheese
Yields 8 ounces

Materials:
Cheesecloth
Butcher's twine
Thermometer

Ingredients:
2 quarts whole milk
3 1/2 Tbsp. white vinegar
3 Tbsp. sour cream
2 1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. lemon juice


1. Heat the milk on medium to 185 degrees F. While heating, add salt. Continue to whisk constantly to prevent the bottom from scorching. 


 2. Once the milk reaches 185 degrees F., switch to a wooden spoon or silicone spatula and stir in the sour cream, then vinegar, and turn off the heat. Off the heat, add the lemon juice and sir in a circular motion until curds begin to form. Once curds form, let the mixture rest for 10 minutes (no touching!)

3. After 10 minutes of rest, pour the mixture into a medium-large strainer that is lined two pieces of cheesecloth to catch the curds (have larger bowl placed under the strainer to catch the whey liquid that will drain off). Let the cheese rest here for another 10 minutes so the whey can drain.


(This liquid is the whey - it can be tossed, or is great to use in making bread!) 

4. Gather up the cheesecloth and twist to form a tight bundle, squeeze it to get any remaining whey out. Secure the bundle by tying with a piece of butcher's twine. Tie the cheese bundle to a wooden spoon that is placed over a large, deep pot or bowl (make sure the cheese bundle does not touch the bottom of the bowl). Place in the refrigerator and let the cheese hang for at least 4 hours (mine hung overnight).


After hanging, remove the butcher's twine and cheesecloth and transfer the cheese to a container. The cheese is good to use for up to 5 days.

And voila! That's it - you made cheese! Just four simple steps and a little bit of waiting, easy right?!