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S’more Style Chocolate Whiskey Pudding

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from:  Baked Elements
makes: 6 to 8 servings

Pudding may seem like an old-fashioned dessert, or a snack for a child’s lunchbox, but pudding is a delicious dessert in its own right. It is one of the easiest desserts to make, it’s soul-satisfying, and you can pop one out of the fridge when you’re in the mood for something sweet. This rich and decadent pudding recipe from one of my beloved Baked books is a crowd pleaser for sure. Creamy, dark chocolate pudding with a toasted graham cracker layer and toasted marshmallow-like topping- S’more in a glass anyone?

GF option: substitute gluten-free graham crackers, like Kinnikinnick S’moreables. Their conisistency is closer to shortbread, but they taste like grahams and work well in this recipe.

graham-cracker layer

4 1/2 whole graham crackers, coarsely broken
1 ounce (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

chocolate whiskey pudding

1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
pinch of salt
3 large egg yolks (refrigerate two of the whites for the marshmallow topping)
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
8 ounces good-quality bittersweet chocolate, (60-72 %) coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons good-quality whiskey
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature

whiskey marshmallow topping

2 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/4 teaspoons good-quality whiskey

make the graham cracker layer

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the graham crackers, butter, sugar, and cinnamon in a food processor and pulse until coarse crumbs form. Turn the crumbs out onto the prepared baking sheet, spread to form an even layer, and bake, stirring once, until the crumbs are crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

make the chocolate whiskey pudding

In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and salt. Add the egg yolks and whisk to blend (the mixture will resemble wet sand). Gradually whisk in the milk, then the cream. Place the saucepan over medium heat, and cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until it comes to a boil. Boil for 30 seconds, remove from the heat, and continue to whisk for 15 seconds to release excess heat. Add the chocolate, whiskey, and butter; whisk until the chocolate and butter are melted and the mixture is smooth. Let the pudding cool slightly, about 10 minutes, whisking occasionally.

Spoon 1/3 cup pudding into each of six (small and wide or sundae-like) glasses; smooth out the tops. Divide the graham cracker mixture equally among the glasses, sprinkling it on top of the pudding. Top each glass with another 1/3 cup pudding; smooth out the tops. Cover each glass with plastic wrap, making sure to press the plastic directly onto the pudding surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill at least 2 hours, until ready to serve.

make the whiskey marshmallow topping

In the heatproof bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites, sugar, 1/4 cup water, corn syrup and whiskey. Set the mixer bowl with the egg white mixture over a saucepan of simmering water. Using a hand whisk, whisk the mixture constantly until an instant read thermometer inserted into the mixture registers 160 degrees F, about 6 minutes. Return the bowl to the standing mixer (still fitted with the whisk attachment) and beat on high speed until the marshmallow topping forms stiff peaks, about 6 minutes.

Top each chilled pudding with 2 large spoonfuls of marshmallow topping, covering the top of the pudding completely and creating peaks, if desired.

Use a torch (a kitchen torch is fine, but I prefer my BernzOmatic torch which you can find in any hardware store. The flame produces browning quickly whereas kitchen torches take much longer.) to toast the topping to your liking. Serve immediately.

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Tagliatelle with Shrimp, Clams, and White Wine Sauce

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Sometimes one is in the mood for a nice pasta with white wine sauce and seafood. David and I were in such a mood the other night, and this lovely pasta dish from Giada de Laurentiis was just the thing we were craving. This is one of those dishes that is easy to tweak to your own preferences. You can choose the type of noodle, the type of white wine, the seafood (I think pan-seared scallops would be delicious in here), a sprinkling of pepper flakes at the end, you get the idea.

* Gluten-Free option- I must tell you about Jovial Gluten-Free pasta. Having had pretty nasty GF pastas in the past that turned mushy & gummy before I could blink an eye, this pasta brand is in my opinion your best choice for GF pasta. I was very pleasantly surprised. The pasta turned a perfect al dente while still maintaining it’s shape and it tasted pretty darn close to regular wheat pasta. But just like any pasta (especially gluten-free noodles) don’t let them go beyond al dente, or they get mushy. I used Jovial Tagliatelle which is made with 100% whole grain brown rice which I found at Whole Foods. They also have other pastas that would be great in this recipe like spaghetti and capellini.

adapted from: Giada de Laurentiis
serves: 4-6

1 pound tagliatelle pasta, or pasta of choice
1/4 cup olive oil
3 shallots, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2-3/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes ( I don’t love these, so I used closer to 1/2 cup)
1 1/2 cup Pinot Grigio (or other white wine)
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 pounds clams, washed multiple times in fresh water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 handfuls arugula
shaved or grated Parmigiano Reggiano, to taste (optional)

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Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally. Drain pasta.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and the garlic and cook for 3 minutes, until tender but not brown. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and cook for another minute. Add the wine, shrimp, and clams. Bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the shrimp are pink and the clams have opened, about 7 minutes. Toss any clams that did not open.

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Add the pasta to the seafood mixture. Add the salt and pepper, parmesan cheese if using, and stir to combine. Add the arugula. Stir gently and place on a serving platter. Serve immediately. Top with additional parmesan if desired.

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Kentucky Special

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I’m sorry to tell you my friends, I just had no time this week to make a mint julep for the upcoming Kentucky Derby. I even got my first pretty julep cup and all, but time just seemed to slip through my fingers- not a bad thing when the busy week has been fun and full of friends. Next year though, I promise. The pretty julep cup will be filled with sweet bourbon, a mountain of cracked ice, and handfuls of fragrant mint. If however, you are looking for a fun drink for derby time, let me introduce you to this lovely cocktail. It has the required spirit of bourbon, and sweet smokiness from cherry Heering infused with Lapsang Souchang. Lapsang Souchong is a tea whose leaves have been smoked-dried over a pinewood fire. I’m typically not one for smoky drinks, I have no affinity for mezcal and things of that nature, but this gently infused liqueur works perfectly for me in this case. Just a faint wisp of smoke. I have loose-leaf lapsang souchong and I estimated 2 grams was close to the equivalent of a teabag. I plan on doubling that next time to concentrate the flavor even more. It may not be a mint julep, but it is a lovely version of an old fashioned and one pretty fantastic derby cocktail.

slightly adapted from: Food + Wine
serves: 1

1 Lapsang Souchang teabag or about 2 grams of loose (a scant 1 tablespoon) for more flavor, use 2 teabags or 4-5 grams
6 ounces Heering Cherry Liqueur
ice
1 1/2 ounces bourbon
1 dash Angostura bitters
2 brandied cherries skewered on a pick, flaky sea salt, and a lemon twist, for garnish
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 In a glass combine the tea leaves (or teabag) and cherry Heering and steep for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, either press the extra liquid from the teabag, or use a fine-mesh strainer to strain the tea leaves out of the cherry Heering. Each cocktail only calls for 1/2 ounce, so store the leftover Heering in a glass jar at room temperature for up to 1 month.

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Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker with ice. Add the bourbon, bitters, and 1/2 ounce of the infused Heering; stir well. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Dust the skewered cherries with salt. Garnish with the cherries and lemon twist.

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Mac & Cheese & Greens

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Although this recipe tips toward the decadently rich side of the scales, it is one of the tastiest mac’n cheeses I’ve had in a while. It is comfort food at its finest. For lack of more eloquent terms, I like my macaroni and cheese more “saucy” and less “glutinous”- by glutinous I mean baked macaroni and cheeses that have very little sauce, or it is too thick, thus making the noodles sticky. I used my GF flour blend, which contributed to the sauce not thickening up too much, but if you use all-purpose flour, it will thicken up more. The sauce in my GF version definitely worked for me, and thickened up perfectly when my steaming portion cooled off a bit. Bacon in mac ‘n cheese shouldn’t need an explanation other than, “well, of course”,  but you might be wondering about the collard greens. They are sliced thin and sautéed in a garlicky oil then tenderized in coconut milk. It brings an interesting and delicious note of coconut to this global soul-food party.

to make this gluten-free: use gluten-free pasta (Jovial fusilli, penne, or caserecce ), soy sauce, flour and bread for the breadcrumbs.

serves: 10-12 (I halved this recipe for David & I and baked in an 8×8)
from: Marcus Off Duty

for the collard greens

1/2 cup coconut milk (from a can)
2 tablespoons soy sauce (shoyu, for GF)
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
6 slices bacon, cooked, drained, and crumbled (I bake on a rack over a sheet pan at 400 until crisp)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
4 cups thoroughly-washed collard greens, stems removed and discarded, and collards rolled and sliced thin

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for the mac & cheese

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (or GF Flour Blend)
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
8 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
4 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
4 ounces Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/2 cup crème  fraîche
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon mustard powder
kosher salt & freshly ground white pepper
1 pound orecchiette or other small, sturdy pasta, cooked until just tender (or similar GF Pasta)

for the topping

1/3 cup toasted bread crumbs (or GF bread crumbs, from Udi’s gluten-free white bread)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoons grated Gruyère cheese
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

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make the collard greens

Bring the coconut milk and soy sauce to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and stir in the mustard and crumbled bacon.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pot over low heat. Add the garlic and slowly toast to flavor the fats, about 5 minutes, then discard.

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Add the collard green to the oil and cook, stirring frequently, until the greens start to wilt.

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Stir in the coconut milk mixture and cook, partly covered, until the greens are tender and the sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes.

make the mac & cheese

Preheat the broiler. Oil a 9-x13-inch baking dish.

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and cook until they’re tender and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the minced garlic and flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the heavy cream and milk, making sure there are no lumps. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, then add all the cheeses and the crème fraîche. Whisk until the cheeses are melted and fully incorporated into the sauce. Mix in the nutmeg, mustard, and salt and white pepper to taste. Add the cooked pasta and collard greens to the sauce and toss to combine. Transfer to the baking dish.

make the topping

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and process until the herbs are minced.

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Sprinkle the topping over the pasta. Broil until the topping is golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Serve immediately.

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Cucumber Basil Mocktail

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adapted from: Serious Eats
makes: 1 mocktail

In my opinion it’s hard to beat a well made cocktail, especially this time of year when you can muddle seasonal fruits and herbs for drinks like caipirinhas, smashes, and mojitos. However, sometimes a booze-free drink is in order. Perhaps you’re hosting a baby shower, you want a more hydrating drink but not necessarily plain old water, or you’re that cool parent who makes fake cocktails for their kids.  I had some leftover basil and English cucumber from another recipe and I always have club soda in the fridge, so I thought I would treat myself to a drink that is fresh, pleasantly tart, and sweetly refreshing. This is one of those recipes that is easily tailored to your own taste. I would start with 1 ounce of lime juice (2 ounces ended up being too tart in my opinion) and 1 tablespoon of simple syrup and go from there. Shake, taste, then add more lime juice and/or simple syrup if necessary, shake again and proceed with the recipe.

This version suits me:

2 inch piece of English cucumber thinly sliced
5 basil leaves
2 tablespoons simple syrup
1 1/2 ounces fresh lime juice
ice
club soda

In a cocktail shaker muddle the cucumber slices and basil leaves with the simple syrup. Add lime juice, ice and shake vigorously for 20-30 seconds.

Strain into a cocktail glass, top with sparkling water and garnish with a thin slice of cucumber.

 

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Gluten-Free Banana Bread

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Looking for a moist and delicious banana bread that happens to be free of gluten? Look no further. Yet another gem from my favorite GF cookbook. I love to grab a slice or two for breakfast and have another with my afternoon cup of coffee.

The best bananas are black bananas. For maximum flavor, be sure to use very ripe, heavily speckled (or even black) bananas. If you like, you can freeze overly ripe bananas, one at a time, and save them expressly for use in this recipe. Thawed frozen bananas will release their liquid without the need for microwaving, so you can skip that step and put them directly into the fine-mesh strainer, then continue as directed.

In case you’re wondering about the 3rd step: The liquid released from the bananas that is then cooked down acts as an intensely flavored syrup that packs a punch of banana flavor without adding extra watery liquid that would turn out a mushy loaf.

from: The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook
makes: 1 loaf

9 1/2 ounces (2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) gluten-free flour blend
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
5 large very ripe bananas (about 1 3/4 pounds) I used 6 medium bananas for the same weight
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
5 1/4 ounces (3/4 cup packed) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped (optional)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar

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Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 or 9 by 5 inch loaf pan. Whisk flour blend, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and xanthan gum together in a large bowl.

Microwave bananas in a separate bowl, covered, until they have softened and released liquid, about 5 minutes. Transfer bananas to fine-mesh strainer placed over a medium bowl and let drain, stirring occasionally, about 10-15 minutes. (you should have anywhere from 1/2 to 1 cup of liquid).

Transfer the banana juice to a medium saucepan and cook over medium high heat until reduced to a syrupy consistency, about 5 minutes. Measure 1/4 cup of the reduced banana syrup and add to bowl with the bananas. Mash with a potato masher or fork until mostly smooth. Whisk in the melted butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.

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Using a rubber spatula, stir banana mixture into flour mixture until thoroughly combined and no lumps remain, about 1 minute. Gently fold in walnuts, if using. Scrape batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over loaf.

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Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 55-75 minutes. Let bread cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove bread from pan and let cool for at least 1 hour before serving. Banana bread is best eaten the day it is baked, but bread can be cooled, immediately wrapped in plastic wrap, and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days. To serve, warm in a 300 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.

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Fregola with Green Peas, Mint, and Ricotta

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I have never cooked Fregola before, and I have to say it was a delightful experience. Fregola is a type of Sardinian pasta similar to Israeli (or pearl) couscous. It is made up of semolina dough that has been rolled into tiny, little balls and oven-toasted. If you can’t find fregola I think pearl couscous would work, but I’m not sure it would have that same toothsome bite. I felt this pasta was a nice transition from Winter to Spring. To me, the warm flavors of bacon and onion bring out the Winter flavors I love, and the peas and fresh mint usher in the first tastes of Spring. The dollops of ricotta provided a luxuriously creamy element. Spring must be here (finally!) because David and I enjoyed this meal on the patio with glasses of Pinot Gris. There is something about the first meal of the season eaten outside that brings me great happiness. To me, there is nothing quite like dining al fresco. Cheers, Bon Appetit, and here’s to some lovely Spring weather and cuisine!

serves: 4
adapted from: Bon Appetit

1 1/4 cup fregola
kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving
2 ounces bacon (about 3 slices), chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup shelled fresh peas (from about 1 lb. pods) or frozen peas, thawed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, plus more for serving
4 ounces ricotta

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Cook fregola in a large pot of boiling salted water until very al dente (you can just barely bite through it-it will cook more later), 6-8 minutes. Drain pasta (do not rinse), reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

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Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook bacon, stirring often until bacon is brown around the edges, about 5 minutes. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until bacon is crisp and onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.

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Add wine, bring to a simmer, and cook until skillet is almost dry, about 5 minutes. Add broth and bring to a simmer. Add fregola and cook, stirring often, until pasta is just al dente (tender, but still firm) and broth has thickened, about 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add peas and chopped mint and cook, stirring, until peas are warmed through, about 2 minutes. Add pasta cooking liquid as needed to adjust consistency. (I didn’t end up needing any.)

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Serve fregola topped with dollops of ricotta, chopped mint, and cracked pepper, and drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil.

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