Sunday, January 31, 2010

{paulette's macaroons review}

macarons, oo how much i love thee...why? its this delicious round cookie with a crispy outer shell, chewy inside, and a delicious filling. what is the best part of these lovely creations? the flavors!!

over the holidays, Alice mentioned a little gift was coming my way. {ooooo-what was it?! so exciting! i love surprises!}. after receiving the gift, i gently untied the ribbon to discover a giant box of macarons from Paulette {a macaron bakery in Beverly Hills that i've been meaning to try}. can we say thoughtful?! {big nod-nod} it was a box of 24 cute little vividly colored macaroons that were like powerful flavor explosions for my tastebuds-framboise, carribean chocolate, coconut, caramel, lemon, columbian coffee, madagascar vanilla, sicilian pistachio, earl grey tea, violet cassis, passion fruit, and rose. wowie!! the fun part, was taking a bite of each macaron and guessing what flavor it was...{its like eating a box of chocolates and biting each one to see what flavor it is!} my favorites? ooo so hard to choose, but i loved the caramel, earl grey tea, coffee, coconut, violet,...oh i listing all of them? heehee.

i attempted making these bad boys once a few months ago and found it to be labor intensive but well worth the work. {but, it is definitely a skill to make macarons and to have them come out perfect. needless, to say, its a skill i need to work on. {grin}. here's the link for pistachio macarons {link: Chow Chaser} if you're interested in attempting to make some. :)

thanks alice, my dear friend, for this wonderfully satisfying gift!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

{cold wintery nights with a steamy bowl of chipotle-chocolate chili}

as the days become colder, the more i begin to crave a big steaming bowl of chili for dinner. i've made chilis a few times in my life, but, there's always something lacking...although don't get me wrong, they were quite tasty. i've tried ones with beer, ones in a slow cooker, ones over a stove top... i can never seem to get it quite to my liking. in my continual quest to find new chili recipes, i stumbled upon this recipe for chiptole chocolate chili on a food blog...exotic sounding. hm! I figured i would try the recipe and review it on my blog.

now this chili is quite spicy. be prepared! so, for the faint of heart, consider cutting down the spicy ingredients {chipotle sauce, chili powder, cumin}. I used nearly the exact amounts the recipe called for, except that i left out the red wine vinegar since i didn't have any on hand and made notes along the side of the original recipe if i made any changes. the only other thing i changed was that i added a smidge of a 1:1 flour/water mixture to thicken the sauce and then cooked it for a bit to get rid of the raw flour taste. why? because i love thick chili and despite cooking it for a long time, it never thickened.

i actually really enjoyed the recipe, as well as my family. there is depth to the flavor profile of this chili. the chocolate is a subtle note on your tongue. and honestly, it is not something you would notice immediately if noone told you that it was in the recipe. the heat from the chili is powerful. and it tastes even better with time. i'll definitely make it again...maybe for care group? :) if you serve this, i recommend making it with a side of the Trader Joe's Cornbread mix. Easy and a-must-compliment to the chili!

if you have any recommendations of other awesome chili recipes, please leave me a comment with a link to the recipe. i'll give it a whirl!

Chipotle Chocolate Chili {taken directly from Our Best Bites}

1 lb. lean ground turkey {i would consider making it with beef next time}
1 large onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans {no salt-added} diced tomatoes
2 cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can beef broth
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. chili powder {i added only 1 to 1.5 Tbsp}
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (NOT Nesquik! That would be very bad!)
1/2 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
Chipotle sauce (from the can of chipotle chilies) {i could only find the san marcos chipotle peppers in adobo sauce}
1/2 oz. unsweetened chocolate (1/2 unsweetened baking cube), chopped (optional; use to taste as needed; be careful, because too much will make your chili bitter)
Light sour cream
Chopped green onions
3-4 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
Shredded cheddar cheese

-Heat some olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Saute onion, garlic, bell pepper, and ground turkey until meat is cooked through.
-Add salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, brown sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder {i would add the seasoning first to the meat, before you add the liquid. i'm not sure if it flavors the meat more..but in my mind, it would}
-Add tomatoes, beans, and beef broth.
-Add all of the chipotle sauce from a small can of chipotle chilies. Heat to boiling and then reduce to a simmer (uncovered), stirring occasionally, until thickened as desired (I like it about 30-40 minutes). If desired, add some chopped chipotle chilies.
-Add 3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar and a small amount of chopped chocolate at a time until desired richness is reached. If necessary, add more red wine vinegar to cut the sweetness of the chili. This is where you can play around a little with the flavors.
-When thickened and seasoned as desired, serve with chopped onions or green onions (green onions, though not pictured, are better, in my opinions!), sour cream, and shredded cheddar cheese.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

{i heart red velvet cupcakes}

red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. {drool}. i served them at my wedding in lieu of wedding cake because of my love for red velvet cupcakes. the proverbial question is "what is in red velvet cake?" i like to see it as a hybrid between a vanilla and chocolate cake. its composition includes cocoa powder, vanilla extract, buttermilk, red food coloring. there is a frightening amount of red food coloring that is used...brushing your teeth after eating one of these babies looks like your spitting out blood. hehehe. ok, maybe thats a little dramatic. but, here's an interesting factoid though-red dye (natural food coloring) can be made from extracting a dried female cochineal insect. {will you ever think of red colored foods the same again?}

A friend, Natalie C, received a tin of Sprinkles red velvet cupcake mix as a gift. Delightfully, she decided to come over for the holidays and make this with me, using my trusty fire-engine red KitchenAid mixer. Surprisingly, the mix turned out exactly like the ones at Sprinkles. It is a little cheaper than going to Sprinkles, but you have to buy quite a bit of ingredients. And why do their cupcakes taste so yummy? Butter! A little twist on their frosting recipe was that I added a touch of vanilla bean paste to the cream cheese. Not only yummy, but also looks nice with the bean specks! Anyways, its a fun gift and the results were...delish! and they even come with those adorable colored dots that taste like cardboard!! :)

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