Thursday, September 6, 2012

Chocolate Fruit Cups

Here's my little disclaimer - if you are an impatient cook, or easily disappointed in yourself as a vicarious response to any of your culinary attempts failing - don't try this :) When you're a bit more patient, and more flexible with yourself - then try this.

These little fruit cups are amazing for bridal showers, baby showers, and lingerie parties - ladies love them! And appreciate their prettiness - don't serve these at a Super Bowl party or World Cup final.

I'm sorry I don't have more pictures - hopefully my instructions are clear enough, and next time I make them, I promise to take better pictures and add them to this recipe.

Chocolate Fruit Cups:
1 bag chocolate chips
2 Tbs butter
4 c of assorted fruit
muffin tin
paper muffin cup liners (silicon would also work amazingly well, I would think - though I haven't tried it).

Using a double boiler, or a microwave, melt the chocolate chips and butter. The key to this is to stir frequently, and don't let your chocolate over-heat. If it overheats, it separates and turns into an unusable (and unsavory) mess. You can actually remove the chocolate from the heat (or microwave) when there are still some small pieces of chocolate left - the heat from the already melted chocolate will finish the job. Stir until your chocolate is smooth.

Before you begin the next step - make sure your chocolate isn't too runny. If it is too runny, let it sit for a few minutes. You want it to be the consistency of a runny hummus - sounds delicious, huh? I couldn't think of a better example, sorry.

Using a pastry brush (or I used a teaspoon because I didn't have a pastry brush), put approx 1 Tbs of chocolate in a muffin cup, and gently spread around the bottom of the cup and up the sides until your chocolate is evenly distributed. You'll probably have to pick up the muffin cup and delicately turn it as you spread the chocolate evenly. The main goal is to have your chocolate evenly distributed - you don't want it to be so thick it's difficult to eat, but you also want it to be thick enough it can hold it's shape. See the finished picture if you want to double check suggested thickness.

Once your chocolate is evenly spread in the muffin cup, place the muffin cup inside a muffin tin. Repeat until you've used all of your chocolate. Place the muffin tins, full of pretty little chocolate muffin cups, in the refrigerator for about 2 hours - or until the chocolate is hard.

Remove from fridge and try to take a chocolate cup out of the tin. If it sticks you can either wait for your muffin tin to warm to room temperature, or use a 9x13 with warm water and lightly dip the bottom of your muffin tin in the water - essentially offering a quick shot of heat to the muffin tin, which will release the muffin cups. Very carefully, and being sure not to grip the chocolate too tightly (it will melt in your fingers), begin peeling back the muffin cup. Some muffin cups will almost pop right off, other needs a bit of persuading. Just have patience, peeling the cup back until you have a pretty little chocolate cup!

Once you've finished, put your undressed little chocolate cups back in the fridge for about 20 minutes to let them set. They can stay in the fridge for a few days if they are in a sealed container.

Immediately before serving, fill each cup with approx 1/2 c fresh berries. Serve with pride :)

Let me know how this works for you, and don't be discouraged if it takes a few times - these were my 3rd time making this recipe! I've done this recipe both with and without the butter - the butter makes the chocolate a bit smoother, and potentially the muffin cups a bit easier to pull off...but it's 2 more Tbs of butter. Then again, we're talking about chocolate cups - we probably aren't worried about 2Tbs of butter :) Good luck!!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Flour Tortillas

I love burritos - especially homemade ones. Everything in a burrito should be homemade - the beans, the guacamole, the salsa (ok, you can buy cheese) and especially the tortilla shells. Now, I know, I know - it is just SO convenient to buy them from the store. It is, I'm not arguing. But they taste fake - like a combination of playdoh and some week old bread product. Anyway - you get the point, I'm not a fan.

And here's the truth - homemade tortillas are incredibly easy to make. Rolling them into a perfect circle is a different story, unless you have one of those nifty tortilla presses (which I'm putting on my list for Christmas) but even with the use of a rolling pin (or a beer bottle or wine bottle) you'll eventually perfect your circles. In the meantime, no one needs a perfectly round tortilla to make a delicious burrito. And if they are terribly shaped, eat them plain or make them into tortilla chips.

Homemade tortillas made into quesadillas - great leftover use for remaining burrito ingredients! Also featured - homemade salsa.
So - here you go, the decades old flour tortilla recipe from my Indiana-grown/African-lived mother's kitchen (so obviously authentic):

Flour Tortillas
yields approx 8 9" tortillas

2c flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 c shortening (don't try and substitute this for oil - they turn out  greasy. Sorry)
1/2 c warm water

In large mixing bowl, combine flour and salt. Using a pastry blender (or two knives) - cut the shortening into the dry ingredients until the shortening is pea-sized or smaller.

Add 1/2 c warm water - usually about 2Tbs more depending on how accurately you measured your 2c flour.  Mix, using your hands, until all the dry ingredients are absorbed - you may need to add more water than directed, but do so slowly - you don't want to over water your dough! You want your dough to be soft, not rubbery, and smooth. Rubbery dough is a result of over-kneading, so resist the urge to knead this recipe. This isn't bread. Just add the water and mix until all of your ingredients are smoothly combined.

Cover the dough with a damp towel and let sit for 2 hours. (If you're working ahead, you can cover tightly - in a sealed container, for example - and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. If you do this, pull out the dough an hour or so prior to use to allow the dough to come to room temperature - it will make it much easier to roll out).

Divide your dough into eight equal pieces - they should should be the size of golf balls, or a bit bigger. Flour your rolling surface and roll each ball out individually, being sure to rotate and flip the tortilla to make sure it doesn't stick to the counter (and because this will greatly improve your chances of achieving a round tortilla). Roll until you've reached your desired thickness - I like very thin tortilla shells, some people like them a bit thicker. I'm sure you've had a tortilla at some point in your life if you're considering home making them...make it as thin or as thick as you like.

Warm a non-stick skillet (cast iron is awesome - but not necessary) over med-low heat. Place your tortillas in the skillet (one at a time) and let cook until air bubbles begin to form, flip and allow the air pockets to re-form. Remove from skillet and put on a plate. Cover with a dry towel. This towel will help keep your tortillas hot, and very soft. I actually put the towel directly on the plate, the tortillas on the towel, and fold half of the towel over the tortilla. This prevents the bottom tortilla from getting wet with any condensation that forms as the tortillas cool.

Serve with homemade salsa, and all of your other favorite burrito fixings! (I recommend refried beans, seasoned ground beef, guacamole, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, and red onions).


Storage note:: homemade tortillas freeze exceptionally well. Whenever I make them - I quadruple the recipe (or more). For freezing purposes: when cooking them, I highly recommend flash cooking your tortillas - in other words, prepare the tortillas exactly as directed above but when you get to the cooking phase only cook each side of the tortilla for 5-10 seconds. Just long enough to dry the outside so when your frozen tortillas are thawing, they don't stick together. If you freeze them just as rolled out dough, or even as balls of dough, they will stick together. Not fun.

You could cook them all the way and freeze them, but then they don't re-warm as well and are often quite dry or even brittle. Flash cooking allows you to thaw them without fear of them sticking together, and then you can finish the cooking process (as mentioned in the original recipe) just before your meal. Your tortillas will taste as if they had just been made, even if they were frozen for up to 2 months.

When you freeze them, I recommend wrapping your stack (I usually freeze them in sets of a dozen) in foil and then sealing in a ziploc.

Last side note - ground beef and refried beans can also be frozen - you can have homemade tacos on the table in 20 min if you double your quantities on your next taco night and freeze half of it!!! 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Mango Chutney

This is an incredibly easy recipe! I've looked at a bunch of chutney recipes, and had never attempted them. Then, I was staying at beach house in lovely Watamu, Kenya when the chef offered to make a mango-chutney to go with the delicioso!! feta & coriander samosas I was making. Here's the low-down on homemade fruit chutneys (at least for use within a week or two - not sure how much longer it would last): it's basically cooked fruit, a bit o' vinegar, and a bit o' brown sugar.

Knock your socks off Mango Chutney
makes approx 1/2 cup (so I recommend doubling)

1 ripe mango - cut into medium size pieces
1 Tbs cider vinegar
2 Tbs brown sugar

Put all ingredients in a skillet. Saute until the mango is completely soft, stirring frequently and mashing mango as you go. The end.

It's seriously that easy.

Now - a few notes:
* if it burns just a little bit, don't worry. I think it adds a delicious burnt flavor. Who doesn't love burnt sugar? Creme brulee, anyone?
* you can add ANY complimentary fruit - I've done apple and pineapple so far. And it can be in any shape - I had old pineapple, it made an awesome addition to the chutney. My kids didn't eat all the apple slices I served at lunch. At dinner - I added their leftover apple slices to the chutney I was making. It was awesome. Here's a suggestion - anytime you have fruit that's on it's way out, freeze it! You can always toss it in muffins, and now you can toss it in chutney, too!
* I think green onions are a delicious addition to this mango chutney, especially if you are eating them with the Feta & Coriander Samosas.

Ok - enjoy!! Let me know how you like it and what fun chutneys you create!

xo - sarah

Feta & Coriander Samosas

Sorry it's been so long! I'm trying to revamp my blog's an attempt at putting up a new recipe each week.

SO - SAMOSA TIME!!! If you've never had a samosa, keep reading...then make this delicious recipe and the mango chutney recipe I'll put up next, call over some of your best friends, bust out a bottle or two or three of red wine and ENJOY!

Feta & Coriander Samosas

When making samosas, please don't cheat and use puff pastry for the dough. It's just not the same, and you're better off putting in a bit of extra elbow grease. These aren't super healthy, and you're going to eat a lot of them - so the more calories you burn making them, the better.

For the dough, I'm just gonna refer you to this fantastic samosa recipe - I hope that's ok! Follow her directions for the dough - though I roll mine out a bit bigger, between 9-10 inch diameter (that's the width from one side to the other, for those of you who hated geometry). Cut as she directs, right in half. She folds hers in half, which works great. I've included pics below of the process I use. There are other methods, which you can do a quick search for, but the basic idea is to make an ice cream cone, put the filling in just as you would ice-cream, then seal the top.

Ok, for the filling:

Feta & Coriander (Cilantro) Samosas
 yields 16-20 samosas

2c crumbled feta cheese
1 medium sized red onion, sauteed in 1Tbs butter
1/3 c chopped green onions (the smaller, the better)
2-3 Tbs fresh lime juice
2/3 c chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
1 Tbs powdered cumin

2 Tbs flour
2 Tbs water
* combine into a paste - should be the consistency of glue, set aside.

Mix the above Filling ingredients together, making sure everything is mixed in well but taking care not to turn your delicate feta into too much of a schmear. Prepare the aforementioned dough recipe, rolling out your dough as if you're rolling tortillas.

Follow any version you prefer of folding - here are pics of my method (please ignore my horribly unmanicured fingers...a girl can only keep up with so much):

Cute your samosa round in half. Then, taking the bottom corner closest to you, fold the dough diagonally up to the opposite side (see pic below).
Using your finger, spread a bit of the flour paste across the edge closest to you.
Fold the opposite side across so your straight edges line up, press gently along the seam.
Open up the top of your samosa, leaving good room for putting in the filling. Using a spoon, put in the filling (sorry no pic!).

Spread a bit of flour paste across one side of your top opening.
Pinch your edges shut securely.
Almost ready for the pot! just needs edges trimmed.

Trim off any excess edges - being sure not to re-open your nicely sealed samosa.
 If you have a hole, pinch it shut. If it won't stick, use some of your flour paste to hold it shut. If you have a huge hole, consider using some back up dough as a band aid - and use the glue to hold it in place as necessary. Set aside. Prepare all of your samosas.

Pour enough sunflower oil into a deep pot guessed it...deep frying samosa time!!! Once your oil is hot enough (drop in a little extra piece of dough to test. The oil should immediately start bubbling, and the dough should turn brown within 30 seconds or so) drop in as many samosas as can comfortably fit in the pan. You'll need to flip them after about 30 seconds, so take care to not overcrowd. Fry each samosa until both sides are a nice, golden brown - approx 30 seconds each side.

Remove and let excess oil drain off. I actually put a cookie sheet lined with newspaper under a cooling rack - works really, really well. Once drained, put in a dish with a lid - the extra moisture from the samosas cooling will help take away the unsavory over-crunch that can occur with deep frying thin dough.

Serve warm with homemade mango chutney & a glass of red wine. Or two. Enjoy!!!

ps - I know this seems like a brief recipe for what could be a complicated can do it! Feel free to write with questions, and next time I make these, I'll try and take some pics to enhance this entry. Let me know how they turn out!!!

xo - sarah