Black Bean Chilaquiles

I have come to some conclusions recently.

Conclusion #1: I need to post on here once in awhile. I had dinner with some food bloggers, some of whom post something every day! I should be able to handle posting at least every couple of weeks….right?

Conclusion #2: I am crazy. My husband says so, and I can’t disagree. The recipe below calls for crushed baked tortilla chips, so what did I do? I made my own tortillas, baked them, and then crushed them. What could have been a 45 minute dinner took me twice as long. Hopefully you are saner than I am. If not, see here for tortilla making instructions.

This recipe for Black Bean Chilaquiles from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites is one of my favorite dinner recipes. You could easily alter the recipe to use different vegetables, add in meat in place of (or in addition to) the beans, or use a different kind of cheese.

Black Bean Chilaquiles
from Moosewood Restaurant Low-fat Favorites

  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1.5 c black beans (15 oz. can drained and rinsed)
  • 1 c frozen corn
  • 1.5 c diced tomatoes (I used canned)
  • 2 c crushed baked tortilla chips
  • 8 oz. fat-free cheddar cheese, shredded (I used Cabot 50% Light Cheddar)
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 c chopped fresh spinach or Swiss chard
  • 2 c salsa
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350. In a large frying pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute for about 8 minutes, or until onions are translucent. Add in black beans, corn, tomatoes, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Cook for 5-10 minutes or until heated through.

In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add in chopped greens and cook for 1-3 minutes. Immediately drain and set aside.

Lightly spray an 8×8 dish with cooking spray or oil. Layer 1 cup of crushed tortilla chips in the bottom of the dish. Spoon the black bean mixture over the chips and top with about 2/3 of the cheese. Spread the chopped greens evenly over the cheese. Spread 1 cup of salsa over the greens, then top with the remaining 1 cup of chips, 1 cup of salsa, and remaining cheese.

Cook for 35-40 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

The slice doesn’t really hold together on the plate, but it still tastes good!

Honey Vanilla Bean Marshmallows

Oh hi, it’s me. I’m here. Did you think I forgot about my little blog? No, I didn’t forget. I’ve just had a difficult time making it a priority, but a friend asked me when I was going to post the recipe for marshmallows that I made a few weeks ago for a camping trip, so I figured that I should get my butt in gear.

The truth is, I don’t love marshmallows, but they are cool because many people only know them as the store-bought variety. I made chocolate marshmallows a few months ago and was looking for a reason to make vanilla ones. Our annual camping trip was coming up, and I thought that s’mores with homemade marshmallows would be fabulous. The marshmallows tasted great on their own, but didn’t hold up very well for s’mores. Instead of bubbling and toasting the way that store-bought ones do, they kind of just melted and dripped.  I’m not sure if this is true of ALL homemade marshmallows, or specific to my version.

I’ve been (very) slowly working my way through Peter Greweling’s Chocolates & Confections, so I decided to try his marshmallow recipe. He describes them simply as “marshmallows,” but I thought that the honey and vanilla bean flavors were fairly pronounced, so I describe them as “honey vanilla bean marshmallows.” All measurements are based on weight, so it is best to use a food scale. As Greweling does, I am listing both grams and ounces for each ingredient.

Marshmallows

From Peter Greweling’s Chocolates and Confections (with a couple of my notes)

Ingredients

  • 40 g (1.5 oz) Gelatin
  • 230 g (8 oz) Water, cold (for hydration)
  • 680 g (24 oz) Sugar
  • 340 g (12 oz) Glucose syrup (I use light corn syrup)
  • 110 g (4 oz) Honey (The flavor really comes out, so don’t use a honey that you don’t like the flavor of!)
  • 110 g (4 oz) Invert sugar (I made my own using sugar and lemon juice. I don’t have the exact instructions, so you will have to Google it or buy it)
  • 170 g (6 oz) Water
  • 20 g (1 oz) Vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean
  • 1:1 confectioner’s sugar/cornstarch blend

Instructions

  1. In a heat-proof bowl, add gelatin to cold water.
  2. Combine sugar, glucose syrup, honey, invert sugar, water, and (if using) vanilla bean (whole pod, sliced open with seeds scraped into the pot) in a heavy saucepan and cook to 122°C/252°F. (I use a digital candy thermometer). Remove vanilla bean pod.
  3. Pour mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer and allow it to cool to 100°C/212°F.
  4. While sugar mixture is cooling, place bowl of gelatin over simmering water until melted.
  5. Mix the gelatin into the sugar mixture. Whip on high speed for about 8 minutes, or until well aerated. It will greatly increase in volume. If using vanilla extract instead of vanilla bean, add at this time.
  6. Line a half sheet pan with oiled parchment paper. Don’t be shy about using oil. The marshmallow mixture is VERY sticky as it sets. It’s ok to use any pan that will give you the right depth for your marshmallows.
  7. Pour marshmallow mixture into the pan, and place another piece of oiled parchment paper on top of the marshmallow, oil side down. Flatten the top by hand until smooth and allow to set overnight.
  8. Combine equal parts cornstarch and confectioners’ sugar. Using a well-oiled chef’s knife (because most people I know do not own a guitar), slice marshmallow into pieces the size of your choice (mine were about 1.5 inches square).
  9. Toss each piece in the sugar/cornstarch mixture and then shake in a fine mesh sieve to remove excess powder.
  10. Enjoy!

A chocolate birthday!

I’m a bad blogger. I’ve had so many things in the past couple of weeks that I wanted to write about, but I just haven’t been able to find the time, so I’m backtracking a bit because I want to tell you how awesome my husband is. My 28th birthday was exactly 2 weeks ago. While I was busy thinking about how far I am from where I thought I would be at 28, my husband was busy showing me how much he supports my hobby and how much confidence he has in me. Even though it was a weekday, he came home from work, made me a fabulous dinner, treated me to a chocolate peanut butter cupcake from a local bakery, and showered me with gifts.

First up was the set of chocolate dipping tools that I have needed for far too long. He also got me Peter Greweling’s Chocolates and Confections at Home. I’ve been using Greweling’s Chocolates and Confections: Formula, Theory, and Technique for the Artisan Confectioner since I received it last Christmas, and his “At Home” version is a slightly simpler version that uses more accessible ingredients.

And…a new camera!!! Woo hoo!!! Honestly, the camera does a lot of the work for me, which is good. As I’ve explained before, I can use all the help I can get!

And last but not least….

A box full of materials to package my chocolates in! I see this chocolate thing as a hobby that I still have a lot to learn about, but it’s really nice that he believes in me enough to want my chocolates to have a more professional presentation.

BUT THERE IS STILL MORE!

The following Saturday, he treated me to the Chocolate Bar at the Langham Hotel in Boston. We got to eat our way through Boston at their neighborhood-themed buffet. Stations were set up for North End, Chinatown, Faneuil Hall, Beacon Hill, Back Bay, South End, and Fenway Park. It. was. amazing. An entire room filled with desserts and a special occasion to celebrate so that I didn’t feel completely guilty about it? Heavenly. My favorites were the chocolate croissant pudding and the cinnamon sugar beignets. Here are some highlights. My memory is a little fuzzy, so I apologize if my descriptions are not totally accurate.

Clockwise from the top: Hazelnut biscotti, beignet, espresso profiterole, chocolate covered banana, chocolate dipped strawberry, chocolate cheesecake, blackberry lychee torte, and chocolate mousse.

Clockwise from the top right: Raspberry panna cotta, pistachio caramel torte, French macaroons, chocolate raspberry torte, beignet, peanut brittle, milk chocolate truffle, crackerjack, and in the middle are chocolate chip banana bread and peanut butter fudge.

Chocolate pasta with chocolate sauce, raspberry sauce, raspberries, and blackberries.

Lotus seed dim sum (the white blob), chocolate croissant pudding (OMG-AMAZING!!!), caramel sauce, pizza w/3 types of chocolate, pineapple, and candied ginger, hazelnut biscotti, chocolate peanut crunch cake.

Beignet, peanut brittle, gelato, and hot apple cider.

In conclusion, I had a wonderful birthday 🙂

Operation Homemade Snickers

When thinking about the next confectionery project to tackle, I am often overwhelmed by the possibilities. I am still such a newbie to the confectionery world that there are so many basic things that I have yet to make. Having people make requests is helpful in providing me with some direction, instead of having to agonize over the decision (and agonize, I do). Recently, my husband’s co-worker requested homemade dark chocolate Snickers bars. My husband thought that I would laugh at the request, finding it too complex and intense to handle. I, however, am not one to shy away from a culinary challenge. Many hours later, my back aches, my feet feel like they have daggers in them, I’m exhausted, and the kitchen is covered with splatters and smears of chocolate, but hey, look what I made!

Dark Chocolate "Snickers"

Freshly Coated Dark Chocolate "Snickers"

Milk Chocolate "Snickers"

Explanations of each step are to follow.

Fun with our 6/10/10 CSA pickup- Swiss Chard and Chioggia Beets

The first night, the kohlrabi was a side dish for Baked Cheese Polenta with Swiss Chard from www.cookinglight.com. We had leftovers of the polenta dish, so the second night, I made a salad with the Chioggia beets and pea tendrils. Our CSA gave us pea tendrils last week, but we weren’t that impressed. They were tough and kind of difficult to work with. I saw smaller ones at the Copley farmers market and decided to give them another try. I thought that the delicate flavor of the pea tendrils would compliment the sweetness of the beets nicely.

Roasted Beet Salad (for 2 people)

  • 3-4 roasted Chioggia (or any) beets
  • 3 cups of pea tendrils
  • 1/4 cup goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup baby carrots
  • 1/3 cup orange muskat vinegar (or combine regular vinegar with orange juice)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Cut stems of beets so that only about 1 inch is still attached. Wrap beets (including skins) in foil and roast for about 45 minutes. Once you can easily pierce them with a fork, remove them from the oven and let them sit until cool enough to handle. I got impatient and threw mine in the freezer for a few minutes. Once cooled, you should be able to easily slip the skins off. I chose to slice mine, but wedges would work just as well.

Wash pea tendrils, coarsley chop and arrange beets on top. Add baby carrots and crumbled goat cheese. Mix together the olive oil and vinegar with some salt and pepper. I am in love with the Orange Muskat vinegar from Trader Joe’s, but I would think that mixing some orange juice with white vinegar would work too. Once mixed, drizzle over salad.

Baked Cheese Polenta with Swiss Chard (from www.cookinglight.com).

Preheat oven to 400.

Chard:

  • 2 bunches Swiss chard*
  • Cooking spray
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp water

Polenta:

  • 1 3/4 c water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 14.5 oz can vegetable broth (or equivalent w/veggie bouillon)
  • 1 c yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 c (2 oz.) crumbled goat cheese
  • 3 tbsp grated fresh parmesan
  • 1/4 c reduced fat sour cream

*Note: If you make this recipe with the beet salad, you could replace one bunch of chard with the beet greens, if they are still in good shape.

Wash the chard and remove stems and ribs. Discard the stems and coarsley chop the ribs, along with the leaves. Spray a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add the ribs and water and cook for 5 minutes. Add the leaves, cover, and cook for about 5 minutes, or until wilted.

In a large saucepan, combine water, salt, and broth. Whisking constantly, gradually add cornmeal. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and cook for about 8 minutes. Whisk in cheeses until thoroughly combined.

To assemble, spray a 2-qt. baking dish with cooking spray. Spread half of the polenta into the dish. Top with chard mixture. Spoon sour cream on top of chard. Spread remaining half of polenta on top of sour cream layer. Baked for about 20 min. and let it stand for 5 min. before serving. Recipes makes 6 servings, but we cut it into 4.

Fun with our 6/10/10 CSA pickup- Kohlrabi

I’m still really excited about our CSA. Can you tell? This week’s share (from L to R) included broccoli, bibb lettuce, cilantro, kohlrabi, Chioggia beets, and Swiss chard. Along the top are Romaine lettuce, red leaf lettuce, and Asian turnips.

Kohlrabi? What the heck is that? Kohlrabi is part of the cabbage family, but the globe of it looks more like a crazy turnip variety. People use the leaves of the plant, but hubs and I weren’t crazy about the flavor. The globe has a fairly mild, sweet flavor with a tiny bit of kick to it. When sliced, it looked a little like a granny smith apple. Honestly, I was skeptical. A lot of people eat it raw, but I didn’t see the appeal, so I decided to roast it with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roasted, this stuff was like crack. I couldn’t get enough! I don’t even know how to describe its wonderfulness, but I highly recommend trying it.

Chocolate Marshmallows

Wait, wait, wait. You can MAKE marshmallows? That’s crazy!

And make them, I did. In early May, I picked up my trusty Chocolate and Confections book by Peter Greweling, and attempted to make marshmallows for the first time. I find it especially satisfying to make things that people typically only know as store bought. After this project, I set out to make graham crackers, but that project was a giant failure. Anyway, the marshmallows went well. See, look!

Dark chocolate filled with coconut butter ganache

Mmm….coconut and chocolate…I really wanted to make some sort of chocolate, so I was browsing through my bible (aka, Chocolates and Confections by Peter Greweling). I have yet to purchase certain key confectionery ingredients that I can only get online, so that limited my options. I wanted to do a molded chocolate because my molds have been feeling neglected, but I also wanted to try a new filling. I came across the “Butter Ganache” section of the book and decided to give it a try. I’m not going to post the exact recipe because the recipes in Greweling’s book have such technical components behind them that I feel like it’s a disservice to just post the recipes by themselves (and I’m too lazy to explain the techniques). As time goes on, hopefully I will figure out the best way to blog about the projects. I’m still learning.

The filling included: Melted and tempered white chocolate, room temperature butter, cream of coconut, coconut extract, and shredded coconut.

This particular project presented some challenges. For Christmas, I was fortunate to receive several pounds of Callebaut semi-sweet chocolate. Because I’m still learning how to work with chocolate, I typically buy the Trader Joe’s Pound Plus chocolate. It is inexpensive, easy to work with, and easy to obtain. After many months of using the TJ’s chocolate, the Callebaut chocolate certainly was a treat…or so I thought. I melted it down and went through the tempering process. I couldn’t believe how thick it was. It seemed way too thick to be able to pour into the molds. I was certain that I had done something wrong. It didn’t help that it was extremely hot and humid the entire time that I tried to work with it. I tested the chocolate for temper and it just didn’t seem to be setting up. I tried tempering it 2 or 3 more times and finally said, “I give up. I’m just going to pour it in the molds and see what happens.” Well, it turned out to be fairly well tempered. I had some minor marbling, perhaps from the heat/humidity, or maybe due to the several attempt at tempering, but in the end, it turned out better than I had predicted.

Fun with our first CSA share!

I’ve been terrible about updating this. I’ve just been too lazy to really figure out how to use it. That’s why most people have seen me plastering Facebook with pictures of various things, but I should probably learn to contain it all here so that everyone doesn’t have to be subjected to my nonsense. I’ve actually been making a lot of things lately, so I have some things to post.

One of the things that I’m really excited about is our CSA. It stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Basically, we paid a flat fee when we signed up a few months ago. Starting last week, every week, we pick up a share of produce directly from a farmer. The share consists of whatever he’s able to harvest that week. Hubby and I LOVE our veggies, so we’ve both been pretty excited. Last week’s share contained 1 head of bibb lettuce, 1 head of red leaf lettuce, 1 bunch of mizuna, 1 bunch of pea tendrils, 1 bunch of spinach, 1 bunch of chicory, 1 bunch of Red Russian kale, and 1 head of bok choy. It was overwhelming to first figure out how to fit everything into the refrigerator, and then figure out how to use it all.

Stir-fry with pea tendrils, tofu, shiitake mushrooms, and noodles

Aside from a couple of great salads, our first meal using CSA veggies was a stir-fry made with tofu, shiitake mushrooms, pea tendrils, and fresh Asian noodles. Honestly, it didn’t quite hit the mark. The pea tendrils were tougher than we expected. I don’t know if we needed to trim them differently or cook them differently or what, but it didn’t quite work. Also, the flavors that I added in of sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger, kind of overpowered the delicate flavors of the pea tendrils. The next night, we added some bok choi to it, and we enjoyed it more.

Pizza x 2

The mizuna was a bit of a challenge as I had never heard of it before. It is a delicate Asian green that is often compared to arugula due to its slightly peppery quality. After a string of Asian-inspired dishes, I was ready for a change, so I decided to try the mizuna on pizza, knowing that there are plenty of pizzas out there that use arugula. The first night, I bought pizza dough from the Shaws supermarket right down the street. This pizza had: garlic, caramelized onions, mizuna, grape tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella. It was generally pretty good, but a little on the dry side.

The next night, I decided to try it again with some changes. I decided to make my own dough, using a recipe that I found on the Pete Bakes blog, originally from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, which, by the way, I think I may need to purchase. I love bread! Honestly, I don’t know if it came out the way that it was supposed to. The dough was extremely delicate and the resulting crust was a little too crunchy, but generally not bad. I decided to replace the tomatoes with black mission figs, add some fontina cheese and drizzle it all with a balsamic reduction.

Raspberry filled chocolate hearts


Chocolate heart with raspberry fondant filling
Originally uploaded by guava6982

Chocolate FAIL. This project had potential. It certainly didn’t taste bad, but for whatever reason, my chocolate bloomed. Working with chocolate is no easy task sometimes, especially if weather conditions are less than ideal, thermometers aren’t working, or if I get distracted. I’m not totally sure what went wrong with this one, but it’s something that I’m working on. I also haven’t mastered the art of getting rid of air bubbles, as you can see. Despite the apparent failure of the project, I was still proud that I made fondant from scratch for the first time, flavored it with raspberry jam, and filled chocolate shells for a delicious end product, even though it’s not the prettiest.

Making the fondant (Sorry, I can’t get things to line up correctly!)

After mixing and cooking the sugar syrup, I poured it onto a marble slab (the top of a kitchen cart, in my case), to begin the crystallization process.

I worked the sugar syrup on the marble slab using a bench scraper. At this stage, the sugar has begun to crystallize and has taken on a ribbon-like pattern, similar to salt water taffy. It also has become slightly opaque.

The syrup continued to crystallize as I worked it on the marble slab, becoming more and more opaque and taking on a glue-like consistency.

The end result? FONDANT!! Woo hoo!!! When finished, the fondant is uniformly white and resembles a mass of that glue paste that we all used as kids. It is now ready to go into a sealed container to “ripen” overnight. Ripening will improve the texture and flavor.