Category Archives: sweets

A Tahini Chocolate Pie for Mikey

It seems that sometimes food bloggers can get a bad rap. Some people are quick to draw a line between real writer and blogger. And many people joke at the enormous number of folks who now own a web address and talk about the delicious nature of food. Which is pretty on point. Because really, who doesn’t own a food blog these days?

But over the past two years of being a part of this community, I have witnessed something extraordinary.

Whenever a disaster strikes, no matter where or to whom, this group of strangers, all connected by their love of making and sharing recipes, gathers together. They rally. They support. They fundraise. They bake sale. They give back, no questions asked and no thank yous necessary. And whether or not these people are real writers or even cooks, they are truly all generous.

Perhaps it is the nature of the subject.

Food is about gathering one’s community. And when you share food with others, you are telling them you care. And when you eat what you have been given, you are sending that love right back.

Food is about connecting. Food is comfort.

The first time I ever lost a loved one was when I had just turned thirteen and my grandmother passed suddenly of a heart attack. There are three parts of those first days of mourning that I remember most. I was at my friend’s bat mitzvah when my parents came to tell me the news. I saw my father cry for the first time. And a friend brought over fried chicken.

The chicken came in a picnic basket with a note. This was a special recipe, one that only appeared when someone was experiencing loss.

Without having to say anything, this fried chicken expressed all the condolences, hopeful thoughts, and juicy words of wisdom that anyone could impart. And that first night, we sat silently as a family, chewing through that basket. Left alone to simmer in our thoughts, yet constantly hugged by the warmth and care of others with every bite.

That’s how I get to this pie.

A few days ago a loved member of this food blog community suddenly lost her beloved. Out of no where. No explanation.

One day they were walking hand-in-hand. And the next, she was letting his go.

Tweets, facebook posts, comments, and other 14o words of support have been flooding the internet. Some people are close (both in proximity and in friendship) to Jennifer.  And others, like myself, have had mere exchanges online. But everyone has once again come to the rescue, pouring out affection and a desire to help in anyway they can. Heartbreaking and uplifting all in one breath.

In a moment of inspiring strength and clarity, Jennifer left the community a note on her blog.

For weeks, she says, she was planning to make her husband his favorite peanut butter pie. And every day she would promise herself that this day, she would finally sit down and make it…

And today, her one request is for everyone to make that peanut butter pie. To hug those you love. And to share it with those you hold dear.

So this is my pie. For you all, for Jennifer, and for Mikey.

This is my pie that helped me slow down and enjoy the traffic. To revel in the fact that I had a to-do list and that even if I didn’t cross off all the items, I enjoyed the ones I accomplished. A pie that I made with my mother. And a pie that I ate with friends I don’t see often enough, many of whom have also experienced untimely loss.

This is my pie that reminded me to live in the moment. To always tell people that you love them. To never go to bed mad. To not sweat the small stuff. And to replace stress with chocolate and whipped cream.

This is my pie that celebrates life. The flakey crust, the bittersweet chocolate, and the rich filling.

And this is just one pie out of the hundreds, maybe even thousands, that celebrates Jennifer and Mike.

So today, I implore everyone to be a food blogger, a real writer, a cook, and rescuer. To join this community at our big, ever welcoming virtual table. To cheers to Mikey and to appreciate eachother, one bite of pie at a time.

Chow on.

adapted from Jeniffer Perillo’s Peanut Butter Pie

….if you do make a pie, and you’re on Twitter, the hashtag is #apieformikey. If you tag your post with that, Jennie will able to find them all someday

Salt-Free, Nutty Chocolate Pie for Jennie and Mikey

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup ground matzo crackers or matzo meal (about 5 large crackers)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
  • 5 tablespoons ice cold water
  • 4 ounces chopped chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 8 oz plan Greek (FAGE) yogurt
  • 1 cup tahini butter
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Directions
1. Place the matzo crackers, brown sugar, and chilled butter cubes in a food processor and pulse until it forms fine crumbs. Add the cold water (1 tablespoon at a time) until the crumbs come together to make a dough. Then press the mixture into the bottom and 1-inch up the side of a 9-inch springform pan.
2. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or a microwave. And then pour it into the bottom of your matzo cracker crust, spreading to the edge with a spatula. Place it in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.
3. Pour the heavy cream into a bowl and beat using a stand mixer or a hand mixer until stiff peaks form. Transfer the whipped cream to a small bowl and store in the fridge. Place the yogurt and tahini buter in a deep bowl. Beat on medium speed until it gets light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in the confectioner’s sugar. Add the coconut milk, vanilla extract, and lemon juice. Increase speed to medium and beat until all the ingredients are combined and filling is smooth.
4. Stir in 1/3 of the whipped cream into the tahini filling mixture and then gently fold in the remaining whipped cream. Pour the filling into the springform pan (over that melted and now hardened chocolate). Drizzle more chocolate on top or use a microplane to grate chocolate dust over the pie.
5. Keep in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours before serving or place in the freezer 15 minutes before you’re ready to eat to make sure the filling is firm. Eat with loved ones and enjoy.
and for more amazing pies and people, check Food Network’s FN DISH blog for the ever growing list
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Crispy Rice and Green Tea Pops

A few things happened this past month. I rediscovered root beer (hello, Hansens) which led me to rediscover ice cream (thank you, So Delicious). Which ultimately brought me to today’s post. And these crispy rice and green tea pops.

You see, when foods – that you thought were permanently off your safe-eating list – make a grand re-entrance, the possibilities suddenly feel endless. And when one salty-barrier is broken down, I generally experience a flooding of new ideas.

Edamame pate. “Shrimp” and grits. Dolmas. There have been so many new projects filling my brain that it was hard to focus. Until the idea of a homemade, low-sodium “mochi”-ish treat hit me.

The traditional dessert’s doughy coating and luscious dairy makes a delicate purse of delicious. And while a lot of store-bought versions can be low in sodium, I just thought this idea would be a great excuse to play with my food and come up with something new. A version of my own. Less doughy covering. More crisp.

And the next thing you know, I’m crumbling a salt-free rice cracker into a bowl, scooping out a spoonful of coconut-based green tea ice cream, rolling it in the rice crumbs, and forming a little pop with my hands.

Yes, you will get your fingers dirty. Yes, it’s ok to lick them clean. And yes, it is totally worth it.

And there you have it friends. A new way to ice cream. Fun and whimsical and a total surprise to the palate.

You can make these right before serving them. And your guests of any age will love the sweet taste and crunchy texture of the rice with the more savory (and still sweet) green tea. It is playful (you did what with your hands?) and impressive (you did what with rice cakes?). And it could be a fun project to take on with some little culinary munchkins.

Or you know, just by yourself at 11 am on a Friday.

Pop on.

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How to Float

It’s finally summer. Really. I swear.

The sun has been shining for at least a few days in a row and I even got burned (burned I tell you!) just by sitting outside for more than an hour. And I didn’t mind one bit. Cause summer is finally here.

Which brings up thoughts of pools and floaties and root beer floats. Which suddenly reminded me of an old friend: Hanson’s Natural Soda.

Now I can’t believe it has taken me this long to write about Hanson’s, which has been making sodium-free pop since long before low-sodium food was hip.

I grew up drinking Hanson’s. Gallons of it.

My grandparents had an extra fridge in their garage which, it seems looking back, was kept plugged in with the sole purpose of chilling a million Hanson’s sodas. There was a rainbow of flavor choices, from cream soda, kiwi strawberry, mandarin lime, and root beer. And because they were “natural,” I thought drinking these was akin to eating my broccoli.

Now if you haven’t turned a can of root beer around lately, let me warn you that it is usually high in sodium. Higher than other big favorites like Coca-Cola and 7-up. So I usually skip the stuff.

But Hanson’s has nada. Which means it is perfect for us low-sodium sippers and even better for a big scoop of sodium-free ice cream.

And with 4th of July around the corner, it seems like the perfect time to get to know your new best friend, Hanson. Pick up some cans  and some carton’s of Coconut Bliss ice cream, and get fizzing. Or jazz it up the traditional combo with some mandarin lime and sodium-free sorbet. With this line of soda, you can make any fountain dream come true.

Float on.

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Pomegranate Molasses Granola Bars, Sort Of

I’ve always been pretty good at making up my own rules.

When my grandparents babysat me, I convinced them that we always ate cookies before dinner. It helped prep the stomach for the nutrients to come. When it rained, I never wore shoes. What’s the point? My feet were going to get wet anyways. And in college, I pretty much majored in the art of rule making. They called it Creative Writing.

From early on, I gave myself license to do what I wanted. Which, turns out, is a very important life skill. Because the truth is, most of the time, things don’t often go quite like you’ve planned. That’s not to say that things won’t eventually work out. They always work out. But just when you think you’ve built a straight and narrow path from point A to point B, something’s bound to gently nudge you off the road and force you to re-imagine your route to that final destination.

Which, yesterday, was a pan of granola bars.

I began my Thursday with the intention of creating a chewy, low sodium, salt-free granola bar that I could munch on for breakfast, during a bike ride, or while hiking in the hills.

I had grand plans for this granola bar. I was going to take oats, chopped dates, apricots, and cranberries and mix them with honey, brown sugar, and pomegranate molasses to make a treat that was full of sugary calories, but not too sweet to eat. I mixed, I melted, I baked, and I waited. These granola bars were going to be great.

And then, from the oven they came. A golden brown block of granola. That, much like my achey body on some mornings, refused to budge from its baking bed.

I knew that as soon as I tried to remove the granola, it was going to crumble and fall apart. Dreams of a perfectly rectangular piece of granola were shattered.

And as I stared at my brick of toasted fruit oats, I knew I had two choices: give up and crumble apart myself, or, come up with a new plan. Redefine the path from A to B. Reinvent the rules. And decide that this recipe was never meant to be for granola bars. This was for making granola bites.

If you live with a chronic illness or any kind of health limitations, this is the same choice you are faced with everyday. You wake up each morning with your grand plans and then, something – whether it is a doctor appointment, the need to find a low sodium snack in a salty world, or the fact that your joints just won’t move like you want them to – will cause those plans to get derailed.

But like my granola, you have a choice. You can either view the disruptions as impermeable road blocks. Or you can simply go build a ladder out of wood or marshmallows (remember, you make the rules) and climb right over them.

Sure, there are plenty of times I’m faced with moments where I can’t do things like I want to. But it doesn’t mean I can’t come up with a different solution that gets me to the same end goal.

So go ahead, find control in making up your own rules and in making some granola this weekend. Feel free to not follow my directions. Maybe your version will even successfully come out of the pan.

Happy weekend. Chow on.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup diced dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup diced powdered dates
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
  • 1/4 cup of orange juice and zest from entire orange
Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 dg F.

Place your oats in a baking pan and toast in the oven until they turn lightly golden and begin to smell oaty, 10-12 minutes. Take out of the oven and place in a large mixing bowl.

While your oats toast, chop your dried apricots and dates, either with a knife or a quick pulse in the food processor. Add them and the cranberries to the mixing bowl with the oats.

Lower oven to 300 dg F and cover an 8×12 inch baking pan with parchment paper (or grease well with unsalted butter).

Then, in a small pot, melt the butter and allow it to brown and smell nutty, 5 minutes. Add the sugar, honey, molasses, orange juice and zest, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook for 2 minutes and then pour immediately into your mixing bowl. Stir the contents until well combined and pour onto your parchment covered baking pan.

Place pan into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. The granola will be a darker brown when it is done and it will still be soft when you take it out. Allow to cool and harden at least 1 hour before cutting. Whether it comes out in squares or chunks, it will be delicious.

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Passover Pie

Apologies for the whisper. I’ve lost my voice to a nasty head and chest cold. I’ll do my very best to annunciate and hopefully you can still hear me.

But definitely do not worry about me, because I’m going to be fine in no time. Because tonight is Passover dinner with the family. And Passover dinner means matzo ball soup. Which is Yiddish for magic whisper-voice potion.

And here’s another wonderful thing about Passover – it is filled with a lot of flavorful and useful sodium-free ingredients. Like horesradish, parsley, and of course, matzo.

For a few years now, I’ve been using matzo to replace saltier bread crumb mixes in savory dishes. Like my matzo ball meatballs, sausage pepper poppers, and the famous birthday beefcake muffins.

But sweet dishes. Why, I have never dared.

Until yesterday.

Thinking of both Passover and key lime pie, I naturally began to wonder, could this low sodium, unleavened cracker successfully replace a higher sodium graham cracker crust?

Well, if Moses could part the Red Sea than I could certainly give this a try.

And here’s the best news. It worked. It totally, deliciously, crunchy sweetly crackly worked. It was a Passover miracle.

I chose to fill my crust with a standard lemon chiffon.

But with this graham cracker-like crust, you could go multiple pie directions.

My friend made a key lime pie. A S’more version, with a chocolate filling and marshmallow or meringue topping, would be bonkers. And you could even skip the pie altogether and simply use the batter to make sodium-free graham cracker cookies instead.

The possibilities are now endless.

So as a Passover surprise, here is the recipe for a low sodium Matzo Cracker crust.

Thou shalt eat pie.

Chow on.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cup ground matzo crackers or matzo meal (about 5 large crackers)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
  • 5 tablespoons ice cold water
  • 2 teaspoons orange marmalade
Directions:

Preheat your oven to 325 dg F.
In a food processor, add the ground matzo crackers (or if they are still in cracker form, this is a good time to pulse them to a fine breadcrumb), the brown sugar, and the butter. Pulse until the butter chunks disappear into the matzo cracker crumbs.
Then, one tablespoon at a time, add the water to the mixture as you continue to mix the dough. It will start to stick together. Add the orange marmalade and continue to mix. The dough will eventually form a ball – this is a good sign that it is ready.
Remove the dough from the food processor and cover in plastic wrap. Place into the fridge for 30 minutes.
Just a like a graham cracker crust, this dough requires no rolling. So when you’re ready to get your pie on, simply put 2/3 of the dough into your pie pan. Then, using your hands and fingertips, begin to spread the dough evenly throughout the pan, pushing from the center outwards. Add the remaining dough as necessary to form a 1/2-inch thick crust throughout the pie pan. Gorgeous.
Place the pie crust into the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes. The dough will still be slightly soft to the touch when you remove it from the oven, but it will harden as it cools. Wait at least 20 minutes before filling with your chosen pie custard.
Enjoy.

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Smooth Moves

I’d like to begin by thanking Gale Gand – acclaimed pastry chef (you may have seen her as a guest judge on Top Chef Desserts) and host of the once-on-air show, Sweet Dreams.

It was the summer before college, I was wrapped up in a blanket at an unreasonably early time of day, flipping through the infomercials and other A.M. television fodder, when I happened upon Gale, her adorable brunette bob, and an incredible milk shake recipe.

Frothy, light, and luscious, the milk-based treat was irresistible. But this is far from the end of the story. Because there wasn’t a scoop of ice cream to be found in that glass. No, not even a drip.

Gale had used frozen green apples as the base of the shake and with a cup of milk and a drizzle of vanilla, she turned the doctor’s nemesis into a fountain shop dream.

Inspired? You bet.

It was the perfect example of culinary trickery and it proved that, when you pair unexpected ingredients with a traditional recipe, it gets elevated to new levels of awesome.

So that brings us to the creamy concoction you see below.

Want to know what’s in it? Here’s a hint: there isn’t a drop of dairy, only one fruit, and a vegetable. Yes, a vegetable. And it still tasted like a vanilla smoothie shake.

As a result of getting obsessed with juicing – I’m not talking about steroids, but my new compact Breville magic machine – I’ve begun blending leftover vegetables when an extractor cannot be found. I find it to be a great way to give my bod the nutrients it needs and to experiment with unexpected food combinations as well.

So when I found myself with half of a yellow squash to enjoy, instead of throwing it in a frittata or a bowl of pasta, I threw it in a blender with a banana, a squeeze of orange juice, 1/4 cup of coconut milk, and a drizzle of vanilla (in honor of Ms. Gand).

That was it. A perfect way to start the morning or cure that afternoon snack attack. It will satisfy your sweet tooth without the guilt of eating an entire bag of skittles by yourself before 9am. Not that I did that yesterday. And just imagine serving these sunrise stunners to a table of brunch guests, only revealing the true ingredients once the glasses had been slurped dry.

Impressed? You bet.

Blend on.

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Oscar Worthy Apps

So the Academy snubbed you out of an Oscar nod. Again.

And apparently Wolfgang Puck is busy on Sunday evening. Already.

That leaves you, your gaggle of pals, and your own creativity to turn this weekend into an award winning celebration – with or without Hollywood’s help.

If you plan on hosting an Oscar Watching Party, there’s no need to go into a Black Swan panic. The recipes below will surely turn you and your treats into the stars of the evening – watch out Anette Benning. And between the top-shelf snacks and your expert analysis of this year’s fashion (or missed-fashion) trends, James Franco is going to wish he had given you his plus one.

But silver screen hunks aside, what makes this list of recipes so darn studly is that each one is ridiculously simple to put together. So go ahead, judge these books by their covers. We all know that in Hollywood, looks count. A lot. And these dishes have got them.

But beneath their beautiful exterior, the real surprise is that they are also packed with a lot of sodium-free flavor. Like an unexpectedly intelligent movie or actress – like Hot Tub Time Machine or Natalie Portman. I’m joking about Hot Tub Time Machine, it is as bad as it sounds. But I hear that Ms. Portman is actually quite smart. But now we are just getting sidetracked.

The first recipe (a new one!) is all about natural flavor. No Botox, no facelifts, no salting necessary. It is a simple Beet and Avocado Carpaccio that can be expertly stacked with the top of a food processor and a spoon. No special tools necessary. Take that, Wolfgang.

Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 red or yellow beets, ends cut off (64 mg of sodium for 1 large beet)
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 lime

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 dg F.

2. Wrap each beet individually in tin foil. Place in oven and cook for 30-40 minutes or until slightly soft to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool until you can comfortably touch the foil, 5 minutes. With the beets still wrapped, use the foil to rub off the outer layer of skin. Place “peeled” beets aside to cool and rinse off foil to save or recycle.

3. While beets cool, cut avocado in half and remove seed and skin. Dice the avocado into small cubes and divide into 4 to 6 piles, depending on how many carpaccio towers you want to create. Divide each pile in half.

4. When they are cool, dice the beets into cubes that are the same size as the avocado. Then, divide them into piles that match the avocado piles. You may have some beets left over so you should eat them. You deserve it.

5. Place the top of the food processor on a cookie sheet or a serving platter. Using a spoon, carefully fill it with one pile of avocado bits. Press down lightly with the bottom of the spoon. Then, layer a pile of beets on top of the avocado, pressing down lightly again. Finally, add a second pile of avocado on top of the beets, pressing down with the spoon as you gently pull up off the food processor top. Ta da. You have a beet carpaccio tower. Repeat until you have made all the towers and if you built them on a cookie sheet, use a spatula to carefully transfer them to a serving dish.

6. Grate some lime zest over the towers and squeeze a bit of the juice on top for added brightness. Serve with salt-free chips or a lightly oiled rocket/arugula salad.

Now that you have mastered that recipe, round out the menu with the following crowd pleasers:

Kalua Pork Lettuce Wraps

Babaganoush Bites

Yuba Rolls

and to finish, Lemon Meringue Pots

So roll out the red carpet and start prepping for an evening of good water cooler fodder and truly satisfying low sodium treats.

Be sure to thank the Academy and your parents, and chow on.

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