Friday, April 24, 2015

Vanilla Passion Fruit Brigadeiros

Party planning is an essential part of running my charity, Be the Light of the Party Foundation.  Since we "give parties," it's the core of our service organization.  And the big focus of course is FOOD!  The goal of any event is to find and serve at least one delicious morsel that is memorable (in a good way!) and also easy to prepare for a large crowd.  When I entertain for family and friends, I like to choose bold flavors with an exotic flair. 

Brigadeiro is a Brazilian candy that's very easy to make and quite memorable.  In today's post, I put a spin on the traditional recipe by using vanilla powder instead of cocoa.  I also added passion fruit syrup for a little taste of the tropics.   

Vanilla Passion Fruit Brigadeiros

3½ tablespoons pure vanilla powder
1 tablespoon butter
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup passion fruit pulp
Decorating sugar or sprinkles

1.  Combine vanilla powder, butter, and milk in a medium saucepan.  Place over medium heat.  Cook and stir until mixture thickens and begins to loosen from the side of the pan.  This should take about 10 or 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool. 

2.  Combine sugar and passion fruit in a small saucepan.  Cook and stir over medium-low heat until sugar has dissolved.  Remove from heat and set aside. 

3.  When brigadeiro mixture is cool enough to handle, form candy into small balls and roll in cooled passion fruit syrup and then in decorating sugar.  Store on wax paper or parchment paper in the refrigerator. 

Makes about 24 brigadeiros. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Molten Lava Cheesecakes with Champagne Sabayon

Happy Foodie Friday Everyone!!  Today I'm going "back to my roots" so to speak and presenting you with one of my cheesecake recipe creations.  I began my journey down the recipe writing path many years ago by experimenting with the versatility of cheesecakes.  I'll admit this dessert is time consuming, but well worth the effort!  I suggest serving these decadently delicious cheesecakes for a special occasion, a dinner party, or an upscale afternoon tea. 

Molten Lava Cheesecakes with Champagne Sabayon

1 ¼ cups chocolate cookie crumbs
¼ cup butter, melted
½ cup finely chopped macadamia nuts

3 pkgs. (8oz. each) cream cheese, softened
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
½ cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
6 tablespoons flour                                                                         

½ cup champagne
4 large egg yolks
4 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup heavy cream

Garnish:  (optional)
12 strawberries

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Put on a kettle of water to boil.  Coat 12 (oven-freezer safe) custard cups or ramekins (6 ounce size) with cooking spray.  In a small bowl, mix crumbs, butter, and nuts.  Press about 3 teaspoons into the bottom of each cup.  Set aside.  

  1. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla at medium speed until well blended.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.  Pour about a heaping ⅓ cup of cheese mixture over crust in each cup.  Place cups in a deep baking or roasting pan.  Add enough hot water to the pan to come half way up the sides of the cups.  Bake for 20 minutes or until center is set.  Remove cups from oven and water bath and transfer to a baking sheet.  Set aside.  Increase the oven temperature to 425°F. 

  1. Microwave chocolate and butter in large bowl on high power for 1 minute.  Stir until chocolate is melted.  Stir in sugar until blended.  Whisk in eggs and egg yolks.  Stir in flour.  Top each cheesecake cup with a heaping ⅛ cup of chocolate filling and bake for 6-8 minutes or until sides are firm, but centers are soft.  Remove from oven and place cups in freezer for 5 minutes.  Carefully run a knife around edges and down sides of each cup.  Invert cakes onto individual serving dishes.  Let cool about 10 minutes or until warm, but not hot. 

  1. Place sabayon ingredients (except for cream) in top of double boiler and whisk until well mixed.  Set over bottom of simmering water and continue to whisk until mixture thickens and is fluffy, about 4 minutes.  Immediately place top of double boiler in ice-water bath and continue whisking until cool.  In a small bowl, beat cream to soft peaks and fold into sabayon.

  1. Serve cakes with sabayon and garnish with strawberries, if desired.  Refrigerate any leftover cakes.  To reheat “molten lava,” place cake in microwave (crust side down) and heat on 50% power for 20-30 seconds or until center is soft or “melted” to the touch. 

Serves:  12




Friday, April 10, 2015

Spaghetti Squash with Apple, Sage and Walnut Pesto

Spaghetti squash is a healthy alternative to pasta and a great option for gluten-free living.  It can be prepared like traditional spaghetti with red or white sauce and is also delicious when tossed with a little pesto.  Today's dish puts a spin on pesto by featuring sage, apple, and walnut instead of basil, cheese, and pine nuts.  It is lower in acid than traditional tomato-based sauces and lower in fat than Alfredo sauce.  And the sage gives this spaghetti a culinary kick, so the cheese is optional. 

This is one of my most versatile dishes.  It is gluten-free.  It can be prepared vegetarian or vegan.    You can add meatballs for the meat-lovers in your family (hint: pork works well with sage!).  And if you are on a low-acid or GERD diet, you can leave out the raisins and lemon juice to reduce the overall acidity.  So many options and so easy to make - ENJOY!!!     

Spaghetti Squash with Apple, Sage and Walnut Pesto

1 medium spaghetti squash
¼ cup walnut halves or pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ tablespoon lemon juice
1 medium-sized red apple, cored and chopped
⅛ cup sage leaves
1 tablespoon raisins
1 tablespoon brown sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
Romano Cheese, optional

1.  Preheat oven to 350°F.  Use a fork to poke holes all over the squash.  Place on a foil-lined baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 1 hour or until the squash is fork-tender.  When cool enough to handle, cut in half lengthwise and remove the seeds.  Scrape squash with a fork to remove the strands.  Place strands in a large serving bowl.  Set aside. 

2.  In a food processor or mini chopper, finely grind the walnuts.  Add olive oil, juice, apples, sage, raisins, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt.  Process until smooth. 

3.  Toss warm spaghetti squash with pesto.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Sprinkle with cheese, if desired. 

Serves:  4


Friday, April 3, 2015

9 Ways to Easy and Elegant Vegetarian Antipasto

I'd like to focus on easy entertaining today since it's a holiday weekend.  How about an appetizer that can be customized to meet the needs of any diet?  An antipasto board can be a great party pleaser.  Although it traditionally contains meat, a delicious antipasto can be vegetarian and still satisfy all of your dinner guests.  Here are five ways to ensure vegetarian antipasto success: 
1. Sweet - Always choose something sweet to include on your board.  It will balance out the other ingredients and appeal to children and/or sweet-loving-adults at the party.  I like roasted figs, dates stuffed with nuts and rolled in sugar, and fresh fruit. 
2. Salty and Tart - Select a food or two from the salty and/or tart category.  I usually include pickles and a few different types of olives. 
3. Crunchy - Sweet and salty are all about taste, but let's not forget about the other senses.  You want to hear your food too!  Add some crunch appeal!  Nuts, carrots, or breadsticks will make some noise. 
4. Protein - Adding a protein to your antipasto board will help guests with pre-dinner hunger cravings.  This will also satisfy non-vegetarians looking for meat.  Cheese and vegetarian pepperoni are easy options. 
5. Color - Try to pick foods that vary or contrast in color.  You want your board to come alive and be visually stimulating.  If you have green pickles, for example, and want to include a vegetable, choose the orange carrots instead of the green celery. 
6. Texture - Bumpy pickles, soft cheese, and creamy dip are good examples of "feel" variety.
7. Aroma - Include a fragrant food item to "wake" things up.  You could purchase blue cheese or even roast some garlic. 
8. Spice - Spices enhance flavor.  The same is true in antipasto.  Choose spicy buffalo cheese or cinnamon-sugar coated nuts. 
9. Uniqueness - Do you have anything unusual on your board?  Pick something to impress your guests and get them talking.  How about pickled watermelon or dried star fruit?