Peaches Flambéed

There’s just something about dessert and booze?

Am I right? Am I right?

I think I am.

When I was younger if ever there was a dessert that thought had liquor in it I would savor each bite, convincing myself that the boozy flavor was in fact getting me tipsy. Much as I tried though, I never started to feel the telltale symptoms of being drunk. Poor little Kristina, I was just tryin’ to have a good time.

Despite my cravings for said boozy desserts the one after dinner treat I never tried was Bananas Flambéed I can’t for the life of me figure out why since I am all about sticky sweet bananas cooked in brown sugar, butter, and let set aflame with the help of rum or brandy. I mean, I totally get why people are obsessed with them. So why the hell haven’t I ever tried them?!

It’s a real mystery.

For those of you who don’t know, Matt doesn’t like desserts too much. He’s a fan of ice cream but not much else. He’s just not a sweets kinda guy, when I make cookies, I purposely put less sugar and try to add nuts and raisins so that they are more his style. Which is fine – more for me – but I thought to myself, maybe, just maybe, he would indulge in a little dessert that included booze. Plus, he’s sick right now, so I wanted to do something to make him feel better, cause that’s what doting girlfriends do when their boyfriend, who-only-gets-sick-once-a-year gets sick.

So I made him Bananas Flambéed and wouldn’t you know it folks, he loved it! Like big ol’ smile on his face fighting me for the plate of it love it. Oh man, I was tickled.

The trick to getting your non-sweet loving boyfriend to like flambéed fruit is to make it as non-sweet as possible, but putting it over some crusty crispy sourdough bread for instance and by adding some not to sweet vanilla ice cream. The bread ended up being the best addition ever, it soaked up some of the sauce but still provided the texture and flavor contrast necessary to keep a sweet dessert from becoming cloyingly sweet. (Even I don’t like desserts like that).

Well, we still had extra rum from my first attempt and I was craving peaches, so I started thinking, what if I made Peaches Flambéed? I was willing to bet it would be just as tasty, if not tastier. So I ran to the corner market and grabbed a couple yellow and white peaches, for variety, and scooted back home to make it and take pictures before it got too dark.

*On that note – the above photo was taken at night, so you can really see the flames, however the other photos I have of the peaches were taken during the day so the flames don’t look quite as brilliant, I apologize my friends.

What you’ll need:

2 Peaches, one white, one yellow (or two of the same)

1/2 stick butter, plus enough to smear on the bread

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup rum, preferably dark

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 slice of sourdough bread

Vanilla ice cream

What to do with it:

Slice peaches into medium sized strips – not too thick, cause that will be awkward to eat, but not too thin cause they will get mushy after being cooked too long

Heat pan on medium and add butter, allowing to brown EVER so slightly

Add brown sugar, let simmer

DON’T turn your back for a second to go check on your sick boyfriend, your sugar will burn and look like this. It’s a proven fact

Add peaches and cinnamon, to your not burned bubbly buttery sugar sauce, let them simmer for just a few minutes

While they are simmering though, lightly butter both sides of the bread and crisp up in another pan

Cut the crispy bread in 2 pieces and arrange at the bottom of a shallow bowl

Now its time for the real fun…

Remove the simmering pan from the burner that’s on – THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP

Once its off that burner, pour the rum into the pan and THEN put it back on the flaming burner, tilting the pan slightly so that the flame may jump to the liquor. Watch it ignite!

It will flame for a minute or so, during which you can leave the pan alone, when it’s done flaming you can start plating, which should look a little something like this

 

What’s my verdict? Bananas are amazing, dense, and hold up to the butter rum sauce deliciously. But peaches, well peaches work with the sauce, taking it in and becoming something so damn delightful I just wanted to squeal like a little girl.

I did prefer the yellow peaches to the white in this recipe, though most of the time I am partial to white. So, you try both and figure out which one you prefer!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I still have a few more peaches around here somewhere

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Fresh Ricotta

If you had to pick your favorite food group, which would you choose?

Carbs are pretty wonderful

Salty sweet snacks like chocolate covered pretzels are addicting in a really scary way

But in my opinion, nothing pulls at my heart strings more than cheese does

Soft cheeses like fresh pulled Mozzarella, smooth and sour Chevre, rich Mascarpone, subtly sweet Buratta, whole milk Ricotta, tangy goat’s milk Feta, and creamy, oh so creamy, Brie. Not to mention hard cheeses like cave aged Gruyere, smoked Gouda, sharp Cheddar, and thinly grated Parmesan

If I could spend my life making and testing cheeses I would choose this career above all else. Probably.

I would also like to name paint colors – but I’ll save that story for another day.

Since I have had more free time this summer, I tried my hand once again at cheese making. Remember when I made Chevre?

I thought I would try again with a soft cheese so I set my sights on Ricotta.

Sweet Ricotta Spoon Bites – 1. Ricotta, Sliced Strawberry, and a dash of Dark Chocolate Cocoa Powder 2. Ricotta, Salted Pumpkin Seeds, with a drizzle of agave nectar

To make: Mound fresh ricotta into a Tablespoon or teaspoon, depending on your preference. Slice strawberry on the diagonal and place on top. Sprinkle dark chocolate cocoa powder on top for that finishing touch!

To make: Mound fresh ricotta onto Tablespoon or Teaspoon. Cover top of mound with lightly salted pumpkin seeds. Drizzle with agave nectar or honey – depending on your preference!

Why ricotta? Because pretty much every store bought ricotta is really flavorless, grainy, clumpy mush disguised as ricotta. And this is me putting my foot down.

Before embarking on my experiment, I did a little research on different cheese making techniques, types of milk, the differences in using white vinegar to curdle the milk versus lemon juice. I did this all while I was supposed to be helping Matt make a glass rack for our developing home bar. He was all like “hey get off the computer and help me saw these pieces of wood” and I was all like “CHEESE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN LIFE.”

So we compromised.

I grabbed my laptop and sat in the backyard with him, all the while complimenting his sawing skills.

So here’s what I learned about ricotta making

Milk Options:

First off, try to use organic milk when at all possible, most stores offer it these days and organic dairy means no added hormones. That being said, let’s continue.

Raw, unpasteurized milk will produce the most curds. And it’s the closest you will get to milk fresh off the farm. This is the most expensive milk, and it is often times hard to come across, but I believe it will give you the best chance at making good cheese because of its pure form.

UHT Milk (Ultra High Temperature), milk that has been heated to 275 degrees, should NEVER be used because the pasteurization process has killed every shred of life in the milk. Using this kind of milk will kind you tiny weak curds that don’t stick together.

Pasteurized milk is your best option if you’re on a budget, or if you don’t have access to raw milk.

Acid Options:

Buttermilk is a good option, other than the fact that you need to add a significant amount to make your milk curdle. 1 cup of butter milk to every 4 cups of milk. So what? This just means that your cheese will end up having a distinct sour tangy flavor, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, unless you are planning to use the ricotta in a sweet application or if you just don’t want your cheese sour.

Lemon Juice is one of the most popular choices, and I have used it many times due to the fresh flavor it imparts into the cheese. But there are a few arguments against using it as well. First, because not all lemons were born equal due to growing conditions and the variety of the fruit, their acidity levels can vary greatly creating a guessing game about ratios and leaving you will a potentially inconsistent product. Also, if you end up having to use more lemon juice your cheese will have a strong citrus tang – which is pretty delicious and lends itself to a ricotta that you will want to dress with fresh herbs and eat by the spoonful, but like with the buttermilk, this cheese won’t do your sweet dishes or your ravioli any favors.

White Vinegar is my favorite acid to use. It has a consistent acid level so the measurement will be the same every time. You also won’t have to use a significant amount so your ricotta will have an ever so slight tang, but not enough to overpower the gorgeous clean flavor of the milk.

Temperature Options:

Some people swear by a specific temperature of 180, which is all good and fine, but I have discovered that there is virtually no difference between 170-185. I just aim for 180 and hold it right around that temp.

Too much lower than 170 and the curds won’t set correctly, anything higher and you risk scalding the milk – and trust me, nothing is worse than try to clean burned milk from the bottom of a pan.

This is what you want your pot to look like, easy clean up means more time to stare at your baby ricotta curds.

Ok, now that I have given you all a brief lesson in cheese making, let’s get started!

What you’ll need:

1/2 gallon of milk

8 Tbs. Distilled White Vinegar

1 tsp. Salt

Cheesecloth

Thermometer

Colander

Pot

Bowl large enough to hold colander

What to do with it:

Place milk in a pot with your thermometer and heat on medium to roughly 180 degrees, this will take about 20 minutes

Make sure to stir every minute or so to decrease the chance of your milk burning on the bottom OR boiling over

Remove from heat and add vinegar, one tablespoon at a time, stirring gently

Add salt, stir once more, very carefully

Let sit for 5 minutes

Line a colander with cheesecloth and place inside a large bowl

Slowly pour what is now curds and whey into the cheesecloth and allow the whey to drain for 20 minutes

I would say 20 minutes is the ricotta sweet spot, at this time you will have small, tender curds that will spread with ease and won’t be super runny. This is the ricotta to use in things like ravioli, lasagna, or on pizza.

For even softer cheese, only allow to drain for 5-10 minutes. This will give you extremely creamy ricotta that you will probably eat straight from the cheesecloth…and without a spoon. That’s how wonderful it will be.

If you want your ricotta to be super firm, let it sit and drain for about an hour. I haven’t ever let my ricotta sit this long, but from what I’ve read this is the best ricotta to use for pastries and gnocci.

Don’t let it drain for much longer than an hour otherwise you will end up with ricotta that is just too dry.

Tip: If you accidentally drain your ricotta too much for your liking, you can use some of the whey that has drained out to rehydrate your cheese. Simply pour it back over and allow to drain for just a minute. It’s not the perfect solution, but it definitely will improve your ricotta more than anything else.

You can also save your excess whey, because you will have a ton of it, and add it to your oatmeal for an extra protein boost. I’ve also heard of people mixing it with fresh pressed juice and even with powdered chocolate milk and Tang. I’ve never done any of these things, so if you do, please let me know what you think!

Sauteed Zucchini, Fresh Ricotta, and Lemon Rind
Get the recipe here

Homemade ricotta will last for about a week in the fridge…but mine has never lasted more than a day.

And I suspect yours won’t either.

Blueberry Scones

Up until recently, I have not been a big breakfast person.

I love cereal, but usually in the afternoon, or as a midnight snack.

The typical breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast, and hash browns followed by an overwhelming food coma is a rare occurrence for me.

It was really only after doing my raw food challenge that I discovered the beauty of raw overnight oats and have since incorporated Greek yogurt, nuts, almond flour, and berries into the mix. Some variation of this is now my breakfast staple. I love the crunch of the nuts and oats, the bright tartness of the berries and the rich and filling creaminess of the Greek yogurt.

Isn’t it just gorgeous?

BUT something must be said about a breakfast pastry every once in a while. Not the overly decadent ones with globs of glaze or doughnuts that have sprinkles or Lucky Charms adhered to the top.

Although sometimes pastries like this Apple Pecan Bun with a maple glaze is much appreciated.

No, no, I talking about a good old fashioned pastry, like a scone.

A blueberry scone, to be exact.

Perhaps a scone with a fantastic blueberry goat cheese spread.

Yes, that’s my kind of pastry.

I adapted this recipe from my homegirl, Martha Stewart, ’cause sometimes, nobody does it better than Martha.

What you’ll need:

2 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar, plus more for sprinkling tops

1 tablespoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1/3 cup low fat milk (2%)

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Here’s what you do with it:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

In a bowl, mix together flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt

Make the work easier by cutting up the butter into small pieces and incorporate

Then toss in your blueberries and zest

In a separate bowl, whisk together cream and egg

Slowly incorporate your wet mixture into your dry mixture

Stir lightly with fork just until dough comes together

Place mixture onto a floured cutting board and knead gently a few times

*I opted to make round scones by scooping out a heaping tablespoon of batter onto a baking sheet

Brush tops with cream, and sprinkle with sugar

Bake for 20-22 minutes

 

Aren’t they beautiful?

Now, onto the spread!

These are rough measurements, but basically:

4-5 oz goat cheese, softened

3/4 cup blueberries

Release the days frustrations on these blueberries, squishing them in your hands letting the juice drip onto the goat cheese

Then scrap the peels and seeds off your hands and add that to the cheese

Mix together with a spoon

That’s it

Spread generously on top of your cooled halved scones

Yea, they were perfection in the morning.

And in true breakfast food form, I ate them in the afternoon, and at midnight too.

What’s your favorite breakfast, pastry and otherwise?

What A Food Blogger Does on Her Day Off

As I many of you know, I am still in college, I work part-time, I’m on my school’s magazine, I am part of the organization, ShareFood, and I run this blog.

Doesn’t really leave much time for a crackin’ social life.

But I manage. Just barely.

I really do try to make the most of my free time, ESPECIALLY if its nice outside.

What do I do?

Well, my favorite thing as of late is walking 3 blocks down from my house into the San Francisco Botanical Garden to hike, picnic, or just plain hang out.

Yea, I live 3 blocks away from all this gorgeousness.

There are about a million trails like this all throughout the garden for people to explore. I swear, I’ve never taken the same path twice.

This past year, Matt bought me this amazing picnic basket that came stocked with dishware, glasses, and cutlery, so we often pack it full of goodies to enjoy on our blanket (normally we sit on the grass, but it had rained the night before, so the grass was pretty damp and muddy)

Homemade garlic hummus with a sweet potato crisp anyone?

After we eat, we like feeding the squirrels brazen enough to scoot up to our blanket. Matt likes taking pictures of me taking pictures of squirrels

Matt also likes taking pictures of me just plain feeding squirrels

Look at this little man! How the heck could you not love him?! I was not zooming on my camera by the way, this is how close he was.

I too like taking pictures of my cutie boy feeding the squirrel cutie boy. This little man seriously couldn’t get enough of our fruit, he just kept coming back for more. It was great, he would even come if I call him. It was so sad feeding him our last strawberry, cause then he scampered off, leaving only the stem and leaves behind.

THIS IS REAL?!?!?! I love nature.

Geese do the weirdest things when they clean themselves, don’t you think?

The garden has a bunch of ponds and streams everywhere with tons of benches, so sometimes its nice to just sit and watch the birds flock about.

Again, I didn’t even have to zoom for this shot.

I love the Botanical Garden – its phenomenally gorgeous, its free, its close to me, and we know where the back gate is so we can sneak in and out whenever we please.

What do you like to do on your days off?

Emmy’s Organics

I believe there are two types of people in the world

Those who reach for a salty snack when a rough day has gotten the best of them

And those who crave a sweet treat after a similar experience

I would place myself pretty firmly in the latter category, only occasionally dipping my toes on the salty side.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a sugar addict, the general extent of my sweet intake consists of a few spoonfuls of ice cream before bed every once in a while.

Ok, you got me, sometimes its more than just a few spoonfuls.

So when I began my raw food challenge, I was a wee bit concerned about the lack of sweet stuff that would be available to me after what I was expecting to be a pretty stressful week with school and work.

Which is why I was thrilled when I discovered Emmy’s Organics a few days into my challenge.

What is Emmy’s?

“At emmy’s we are committed to YOU having it all. We pride ourselves on the quality, creativity & sustainability of the products we offer. In respect for our bodies & the earth, we use the finest non-GMO ingredients in everything we make & biodegradable, earth-friendly resources for our packaging. Our food is derived from nature, which in return nourishes us in the best way possible. Vegan & Gluten-free foods are our passion, so you can always feel good about choosing emmy’s. All of our goods are made in a certified vegan & gluten-free kitchen.”

The plot thickens, pretty much everything on their site is also RAW.

Yea, I know, AMAZING. I was so excited about the possibility of being able to indulge a little on this challenge, but also because I knew that if Emmy’s was as delicious as I had heard, I would acquire a new favorite snack!

The company also sells other products such as almond milk, granola, and super-fudge, but I was on their websites for two reasons: Chocolate Sauce and Macaroons.

Oh baby.

Original Dark Chocolate Sauce, uh huh, I ordered some of that.

I went a little crazy when I got to the macaroons.

I started off slow, but before I knew it I had 6 bags of macaroons in my cart! (They were just sampler bags, thank God).

Then I was patient and played the waiting game until my package arrived at my doorstep.

Sadly, it didn’t make it in time for my raw challenge. No matter, I still got down with them a few nights ago.

I started with the chocolate sauce

I took my first taste, letting it sit on my tongue for a moment enjoying the creamy rich texture and the sweet, but not cloyingly sugary flavor.

I took a second taste and was really blown away. THIS STUFF IS BETTER THAN THE UNHEALTHY VERSION.

Seriously. This chocolate sauce is incredible. Its smooth and chocolatey in the best kind of way. It tasted natural and not overly processed the way a lot of commercial chocolate sauces taste.

This stuff is heaven on earth. Its Chocolate Gold. In a jar.

After pairing it with a simple spoon the first time, I figured I should get a little more refined so I indulged during my midnight midterm study sesh and got down with some Granny Smith apple slices and the sauce – beautiful.

Buy it, love it, order more.

Now on to the macaroons!

My package arrived when Matt and I were about to leave to go to lunch with our friends Sohini and Kati, so I ripped the box open quickly and pulled a sampler out for all of us to try.

While waiting for our food to arrive I passed around a piece of the Dark Cacao flavor. And then begged Matt to take a pic of us girls holding our treat.

We all took our first bite, it was magic. Like the chocolate sauce, they didn’t taste raw at all. I forgot how good macaroons were and these, I would claim, are better. These macaroons tasted like Nutella and the coconut wasn’t too dry, so you didn’t choke on it when you tried to swallow.

Kati even commented, “are you sure these are actually raw?”

The others were all equally as scrumptious.

I know some people aren’t a fan of citrus and chocolate combinations, but I am. I’m pretty much a fan of chocolate and anything combinations, but that’s neither here nor there. This orange-choco combo was perfection, the citrus came through clear and bright, because its raw it was a very pure citrus flavor, none of that candied orange business going on in this lil’ macaroon! The smell and accompanying taste gave an overall fresh spring taste to the treat.

The Mint Chip – WOW! My mouth literally felt cold and fresh after biting into this. Who needs an after dinner mint when you can snack on this?! SO fragrant and delightful with the cacao nibs. I did notice though that after eating too much of this macaroon, I was left with a bit of a toothpaste aftertaste. I’m all for toothpaste aftertaste, after I brush my teeth, it was just a little odd knowing it was coming from a dessert this time. Overall though, very tasty.

Biting into this was like sticking my nose into the sweet shelf of an Indian spice cupboard, and I mean that in the best way. This was fantastic. Cinnamon, Ginger, Cardamom, Nutmeg, and Clove – OH MY! This had such a rich and warm flavor, the cardamom came through as the flavor frontrunner, but each spice played a beautiful note. This was Matt’s favorite, and I think visually this was mine with the abundance of spices visible atop the coconut.

The Choco Chili Macaroons, oh baby, they will get ya. When I opened the package, the macaroons smelled spicy, warm, and cinnamony all at once. I took my first bite of these and was like “ummm what the heck? They aren’t spicy at all.” Then the heat hit me, oh lordy, did it hit me. The Himalayan salt really came through in this one, balancing the heat. Don’t be afraid of this macaroon, it is absolutely wonderful if you like the spicy and sweet flavor contrast, Emmy’s does it oh so well. I would just recommend having a glass of milk nearby!

Lemon Ginger, Lemon Ginger, Lemon Ginger, you were hands down my favorite. This flavor was light and refreshing, a little light on the ginger, and heavy on the lemon, but I think I prefer it that way. These little things reminded me of the lemon bars of my childhood, sweet but unadulterated lemon tartness. Its love.

The Final Review: Basically folks, I love Emmy’s. They make great products at reasonable prices and best of all, they are a sweet snacks that leave you feeling guilt free! After I ordered online, I discovered that a market in the city sells them, so from now on you can bet I will be making a trip down there and stocking up on all this raw goodness! I’ll have to pick up some of their super-fudge and granola and let you all know what I think, but based on what I’ve tried so far, I’m expecting nothing less than excellence!

Have you ever tried Emmys? If so, what’s your favorite macaroon flavor?