Friday, December 30, 2011

Au Revoir 11 Martini

I am not sure how you feel about the year coming to an end but I am happy to say goodbye to 2011 and hello to 2012.  It was a year of many trials for me, from running injuries to loss of loved ones and breakups as well as unexpected expenses...all things I am putting behind me and moving forward looking forward to the joys of the new year and what it promises.  I strive to be a positive person, and although some things in the past year were unpleasant, I learned valuable lessons from them and that is what was important.  The year wasn't all bad, I had a lot of good times with friends, spent a lot of time in the kitchen creating many successful recipes, traveled to some interesting places. 
I made myself a martini tonight in the spirit of saying farewell to 2011. I thought it was an appropriate thing to celebrate tonight on the eve of New Years Eve, since tomorrow night I will be celebrating the arrival of the New Year at midnight. 

I called it "Au Revoir 11" or goodbye 11.  I used a base of berry acai vodka I had bought over the Holidays, and added a bit of St. Germain for a floral note as well as a bit of sweetness. 
Some lemon juice was needed as well to balance the sweet, and something bubbly to top it off so I used some sparkling blueberry juice instead of the usual champagne (since I am not a champagne fan). 

It needed some berries and lemon zest for garnish and voila!  It was such a fragrant and beautiful drink, perfect to say "Au Revoir" to the past year.  It was well balanced and heavenly to sip. 
Here's to saying goodbye to 2011!  Cheers to you all, and hope you all have a fabulous New Years!

"Au Revoir 11"
(berry elderflower martini)
Makes 1
6 large ice cubes
4 oz berry acai vodka
1 oz fresh lemon juice
2 oz St. Germain elderflower liqueur
sparkling blueberry juice
lemon zest twist
a few berries

To make drink, in a martini shaker add the ice, vodka, St. Germain, lemon juice, and place top on shaker. Shake until well blended. Pour the drink through a strainer into a the prepared martini glass, top it off with the sparking blueberry juice garnish with lemon zest and a few berries and serve!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Vanilla Scented Citrus with Coconut Cream

I don't know about all of you, but I have been guilty of indulging a bit much on the Holiday goodies lately.  After last weekend, I have wanted nothing more than to have light desserts featuring fruit, or just a glass of wine.  The citrus is so good right now, I have been enjoying grapefruit like crazy, simply with greek yogurt and honey and something crunchy like toasted coconut or cashews.  I like something creamy with my fruit, and I like that yogurt is a lot healthier than whipped cream.  Although if whipped cream were healthy I would be all for it everyday.  I have been looking for a "healthy" way to have something as good as whipped cream for years, and recently in the Foodbuzz Top 9, there was a blogpost by A Thought For Food on "Coconut Milk Whipped Cream".  You should all visit his blog, so I have included the post:
I could not have been more excited to see this! 

What a great idea, the coconut milk lover that I am, I couldn't wait to try it and serve it with some fresh fruit.  So tonight I decided to try it out and serve it with some vanilla scented citrus and toasted coconut for a light dessert.  It was wonderful! 

The creamy coconut milk whipped cream was amazing, and it complimented the tart citrus and fragrant vanilla perfectly!  I topped it off with a bit of crunchy large flake coconut for crunch and it was delicious!  I have a feeling I will never go back to real whipped cream...

Vanilla Scented Citrus with Coconut Cream
Serves 2

2 grapefruits, cut into supremes and juice reserved
2 medium oranges, cut into supremes and juice reserved
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup grapefruit juice
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 vanilla bean, slit lengthwise and seeds scraped out

1/4 cup full fat coconut milk, chilled (from the top of the can, the thick part)
1 tsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup toasted large flake coconut

Set supremes aside and keep cold in the fridge. 
In a saucepan, combine orange juice, grapefruit juice and any juices from the supremes plus maple syrup, vanilla bean seeds, and pod and bring to a low boil.  Let simmer until reduced to a syrup consistency, about 15-20 minutes and remove from heat and chill until cold.  Remove vanilla bean.
To make coconut whipped cream, chill a bowl and beaters in the freezer until very cold.  Add coconut milk to the bowl, and whip to soft peaks, then add maple syrup and vanilla and continue to beat to stiff peaks.
To assemble, place supremes into two martini glasses or dishes, and drizzle each with the vanilla scented citrus syrup.  Top each with the whipped coconut milk and sprinkle toasted coconut over.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pomegranate Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

I love it when the sun is setting and the sky is painted the colors of mango and blackberry sorbet, raspberry sherbert and strawberry ice cream!  We have had many spectacular sunsets this fall, and I have been able to enjoy many of them as Minnesota is so mild this winter.   

Monday night was no different.  I got off work and it was 50 degrees so I had to take advantage of the "almost tropical" (hey, it should be below zero right now, so yes it was for this time of year) weather and go for a walk.  About half way through I was bummed that I didn't bring my camera because the sky was spectacular!  Only the memory in my mind of the beautifully colored sky.  Luckilly I have had plenty of chances this year to take photos of sunsets. 

I love going for a walk with only the sound of the breeze and the beauty of the sky, it takes all the stresses of the day and melts them away.  I instead think of things like how the sky looks like frozen desserts.  Which brings me to my pomegranate vanilla ice cream. 

It was the color of the pink in the winter sunset, and so delicious I decided to share it with you!  I recently had some leftover pomegranate juice reduction and I thought it would be a wonderful sweetener for my vanilla ice cream, sort of a winter twist!  I also stirred in some pomegranate seeds for pops of flavor and it was delicious!  

It was smooth and sweet a beautiful light pink with ruby-like tart sweet seeds, needing only to be served by itself for a light dessert after all the heavy holiday food.  Afterall, if there was ever a winter to be eating ice cream this is it with the warmer weather!  Here is the recipe if you would like to experience it for yourself!

Pomegranate Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Makes about 4+ cups

3 cups organic pomegranate juice
3 cups organic full fat coconut milk, chilled
1/2 cup agave nectar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
seeds of one vanilla bean
1/8 tsp sea salt

2 cups pomegranate seeds

Place pomegranate juice in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and cook until it is syrupy and reduced to between 3/4 and half a cup.  Remove from heat and chill until very cold.  Pour into a blender and combine with all ingredients except seeds, and process until well blended.  Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and process according to package directions (mine takes about an hour, and is still a little soupy like the consistency of a malt, but firms up in the freezer later). Once processed, stir in seeds and pour into a freezable container with a lid and place in the freezer for at least a few hours, or overnight to firm up for best results.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

My Delicious Fruit Cake

Fruitcake.  It has a reputation for being the unwanted gift given at Christmas every year, the cake that is regifted due to nobody wanting to eat it.  The cake that has unnaturally colored fruits in it and is so dense it could be used as a doorstop.  Poor fruitcake, so unloved.  Alright, so I admit that I have never been given fruitcake and never eaten it...until this year.  Last week I had a dream that I was eating the most delicious fruitcake. 

It was filled with fruit soaked in bourbon and tasted of caramel and toasted nuts, and it was so good I ate the entire thing.  I woke up thinking maybe the boozy cocktail I had had the night before had gotten to me.  Afterall, isn't delicious fruitcake an oxymoron? 

I decided that I needed to put all previous fears of fruitcake aside and make one that was actually delicious.  Afterall, I knew it could be done, I had tasted it in my dream! 

I didn't want my cake to be dense as a doorstop, so I used an apple cake base that I have made before which I knew would be delicious with all the add ins.  I stirred into it cherries, crasins, and golden raisins soaked in bourbon, as well as a bit of the soaking liquid, and the batter itself was quite tasty.  Yes, I admit I licked the bowl, no risk of contamination with vegan cakes afterall! 

It smelled wonderful while baking, filling my home with the most heavenly aroma of cake that smelled faintly of vanilla and maple.  Once it was cool enough, I drizzled it with a bit more of the fruit soaking bourbon...afterall, fruitcake should be a little boozy should it not? 

I had originally planned on topping the cake with a frosting, but decided on toasted almonds and a caramel instead to preserve the beautiful character of the fruit filled cake.   

It was delicious, soft apple cake laced with bourbon, and studded with jewel like fruits, topped with a buttery gooey caramel and crunchy toasty nuts.  

It was the best fruitcake I have ever eaten! Well, also the only fruitcake I have ever eaten, but had everyone been exposed to this instead of the other stuff we would all be loving fruitcake.  I guess we cannot judge a cake by its name, or all cakes by one.  Just proves that if you have a good baker, you can have a delicious fruit cake!  Hope you all are having a lovely Christmas weekend :)!

Amy's Fruit Cake
Makes 2 6 inch cakes

1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dried cherries
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup maple sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp grated organic orange zest
3/4 cup apple sauce
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp maple extract
1/2 cup apple cider
2 Tbsp reserved fruit soaking bourbon
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 Tbsp reserved fruit soaking bourbon

1/4 cup maple sugar
5 Tbsp Earth Balance vegan butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp agave nectar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp reserved fruit soaking bourbon
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup toasted almonds, chopped

Place dried fruit in a jar and cover with just enough bourbon to submerge.  Let sit at least 4 hours or overnight.  Drain fruit, reserving liquid.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and position rack in center of oven. Line two six-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides with parchment paper. Coat parchment paper and pan sides with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, baking soda, orange zest, salt, and sugar in a large bowl to blend well. Whisk apple sauce, oil, maple extract, vanilla extract, and cider  and 2 Tbsp fruit soaking liquid together in small bowl to blend well, then whisk into the flour mixture until well blended. Whisk in cider vinegar and stir quickly (pale swirls will be in the batter, which is the baking soda reacting with the vinegar, which allows the cake to rise since there are no eggs) stir in dried fruit. Transfer cake batter to prepared pans and bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on rack, about 1 hour. Cut around sides of pan to loosen. Turn cakes out onto platters, and peel off parchment paper. Let cool completely, and drizzle each with 1 Tbsp reserved fruit soaking bourbon.
To make caramel, combine maple sugar, butter, agave nectar, and sea salt in a saucepan over medium heat.  Heat until brought to a boil, cook one minute, then remove from heat and whisk in vanilla and bourbon.  Scatter nuts over each cake, then drizzle caramel over each. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Dark Chocolate Shortbread with Toasted Almonds and Smoked Sea Salt

I have to admit, although I am a vegetarian I love the smell of bacon.  I was discussing it with a coworker recently who also doesn't eat it and we agreed that the aroma it gives off when cooking is wonderful, probably more enjoyable and satisfying than if actually eaten. 

I don't know of many people who don't agree.  It doesn't make me want to actually eat it however, because I realize that the things about bacon that appeal to me is the saltiness and the smokyness.  So when I came across some smoked sea salt at a store last weekend I couldn't pass it up! I figured it could be added to savory dishes, but I most wanted to pair it with chocolate! 

I thought it would be wonderful with dark chocolate and toasted almonds in a shortbread cookie.   I am on a cookie kick as of lately with the Christmas baking. I don't know if these qualify as "Christmasy" but I decided they needed to be made now because I couldn't wait. 

I knew they would be amazing when I tested some of the dough (ok a lot of the dough).  They had a rich deep flavor with a hint of smokyness.  The finished product however was even better, almost like a cross between a brownie and shortbread.

The cookie itself was melt in your mouth, intensely chocolaty due to the chocolate dough as well as the chopped dark chocolate I had added.  They had a hint of smoke which paired beautifully with the richness and nutty crunchy almonds which contributed wonderful texture. 

I enjoyed some with red wine and it was a beautiful combination.  In fact, it would be perfect to give as a gift with a bottle of wine, I know I would love to recieve it!  Here is the recipe if you would like to enjoy some for yourself! 

Dark Chocolate Shortbread with Toasted Almonds and Smoked Sea Salt
Makes 12 shortbreads

1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Ghirardelli)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 stick plus 3 Tbsp Earth Balance vegan butter
2/3 cup plus 1/4 cup maple sugar or brown sugar
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp regular fleur de sel
1/2 tsp smoked sea salt
6 oz good quality vegan chocolate, chopped, or chips
1 1/2 cups toasted coarsely chopped almonds

2 oz good quality vegan dark chocolate
additional smoked sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda.  In a large bowl, beat together butter, maple sugar, vanilla, and salts until light and fluffy. Mix in dry ingredients until well combined, and then the almonds and chocolate until well incorporated.  Turn out into a 10 inch tart pan with removable bottom, and press firmly into the bottom to the sides, and flat.  Score the dough into 12 triangles, sprinkle with turbinado sugar (press in) and a little fleur de sel and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until set.  When done baking, score again, and cool on a wire rack completely before unmolding.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

White Christmas Martini

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas...hey, a girl can dream even though it has been 40 degrees in Minnesota, it is brown outside and there is no snow in the forecast in the next five days.  It just doesn't seem right to not be going nordic skiing, for walks in the snow, and staring out at the glittery white beauty.  I went for a walk after work today and saw a guy in shorts!  Really? 

Last year at this time we had plenty of fluffy white goodness outside and I was skiing at this point.  Since I can't have my snow and I can't control the weather, I thought I would create my own "White Christmas" in the form of a delicious drink. 

Eggnog sounded good, but I wanted a non-dairy version that didn't come from a carton.  So I came up with my own twist on the classic made creamy with coconut milk, spiced with a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg and scented with vanilla and almond. 

It seems that people like different types of liquor in their eggnogs, but I decided to skip the rum and do a combination of cognac and bourbon which is what I have on hand.  It was the best eggnog I have ever had (if you can really call it that, but it is my blog so I will)! 

It was smooth and boozy but also contained light and beautiful flavors due to the vanilla and almond.  I garnished it with some nonpareils because I could and I just couldn't resist!  It tasted like Christmas, and a snowy White Christmas at that!  If I hadn't looked out the window I could have sworn we had snow.  If you are snow deprived as well, I have included the recipe if you wish to make a "White Christmas". If you have snow I am jealous, but you should still make yourself one.  Cheers!

White Christmas Martini
Makes 1

2 Tbsp colored red and green nonpareils
1 Tbsp agave nectar

4-6 large ice cubes
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
3 oz bourbon
1 oz cognac
2 Tbsp vanilla bean syrup*
1/4 cup full fat coconut milk
a dash of cinnamon
nutmeg for sprinkling

To make rim, Spread sugar out on a small plate. Coat the rim of the martini glass with the agave syrup by dipping it into it on a plate, then dip the agave coated rim into the nonpareils and set aside. In a martini shaker add the ice, vanilla, almond extract, liquors, vanilla bean syrup, coconut milk, cinnamon and place top on shaker. Shake until well blended. Pour through a strainer into a the prepared martini glass, dust with a little nutmeg and serve!
*Vanilla Bean Syrup:

1/4 cup water
1/4 cup agave nectar
seeds of one vanilla bean

Heat water until boiling, remove from heat and whisk in agave nectar and vanilla beans, until nectar is dissolved. Chill well before using in drinks. Makes 1/2 cup syrup

Monday, December 19, 2011

German Chocolate Bourbon Balls

Every year my Mom requests that I make some form of bourbon balls.  They end up being a little different every year, because I make them based on what type of cookie, brownie or cake crumbs I happen to have on hand.  Last year she decided to take a bunch of them to work with her to share with coworkers, and it was quite a large batch, so there were about half left over on her desk in a container.  She left them there overnight figuring they would enjoy them the next day, but when she arrived at her desk in the morning, someone had devoured them!  It is the joke now with her and her coworkers that she made the cleaning crew very happy that night.  It is very likely because most everyone else had gone home...or maybe a very stressed coworker walked into her cube and ate them all!  Either way, someone was happy because my bourbon balls aren't tame, they are quite boozy and pack a punch! 

This year she again requested the bourbon balls, and I had saved half a batch of brownies from last weekend to make them so it worked out perfectly!  I decided to make German chocolate bourbon balls with pecans and toasted coconut in the boozy chocolate base.  They were quite delicious, and I feel like I have added just the right amount of boozy. 

I should know because I took many samples while I made them to make sure they are good!  I lovingly refer to these as "Dirty Snowballs" because they look like it with the toasted coconut, chocolate and pecans.  They are decadent and flavorful, nutty and rich...perfect if you are feeling like something a bit naughty. 

I gave my Mom a large container of them, but after she had one she told me she wasn't sharing this year...although she told me they were really good, the fact that she is not sharing them tells me she loves them.  If you would like to make some for yourself, here is the recipe, and you don't have to share if you don't want to!

German Chocolate Bourbon Balls
"Dirty Snowballs"
makes about 18

1 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped
1 cup toasted finely shredded unsweetened coconut
2 1/2 cups vegan brownie crumbs
3 Tbsp bourbon
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup toasted finely shredded unsweetened coconut for rolling

In a large bowl combine pecans, 1 cup coconut, brownie crumbs, bourbon, and vanilla and squish together with hands until a mass is formed and it is all well mixed.  Form into 1 1/2 inch balls, and roll in the remaining cup coconut.