Sunday, February 27, 2011

Throw a Party....Cafe Coco Style!

Just a little teaser post--

My sweet little baby turned one last week and we threw her a birthday party yesterday!  I was one BUSY mama busting my rear end baking to get this party together!

Here is a picture of the 'dessert' table in the middle of assembly.

More to come!


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Flourless Chocolate Torte with Raspberries and Cream

My husband isn't much for celebrating Valentine's Day.  I'm sure he probably thinks it's a stupid excuse for Hallmark to make a few extra bucks.  Truthfully, I love to celebrate EVERYTHING.

I celebrate life everyday, but a holiday that is based around love?  Count me in!  I wouldn't say I go overboard with crazy gifts and expectations, but it certainly gives me a chance to remind my husband how much I care about him and of course, make a special themed dinner.

I had all these great plans to do this elaborate dinner, invite friends over and eat chocolate all day long.  But--as nature would have it, my daughter came down with croup the week before.  I came down with bronchitis.  By the time Valentine's Day rolled around, I was dog tired from not sleeping and the last thing I wanted to do was cook an elaborate meal, and secondly, entertain anyone.  I talked myself into making this cake on Valentine's Day in the late afternoon.  My daughter was napping and I was starting to feel a bit better after my z-pack, so I figured, what the heck.

I have been eying this cake recipe from Williams Sonoma in my recipe binder for nearly 2 years (I know that is exceptionally long but I have A LOT of recipes on my wish list).  This was super easy to make!  It's very very chocolaty and it is very dense (due to the lack of flour).  You need quite a bit of chocolate for this recipe.  I used one of those really large chocolate bars from Trader Joe.

The verdict:  I really enjoyed this cake.  It was perfect for Valentine's Day!  I will say I cooked it for 10 extra minutes than the recipe said to, even though it said 'Don't over cook'.  Truth is, my oven typically cooks fast; but for whatever reason the center of this was pretty runny even when I finally pulled it out.  The cake is almost pudding/mousse like but more dense.  It was the perfect accompaniment to an indulgent night (watching The Bachelor while drinking a glass of wine).

Please excuse the 'nighttime' pictures as this wasn't ready to be sliced until late evening.  Man...I can't wait until summer!

For the recipe, click here.

Alterations:  I used instant espresso dissolved in water instead of the liquor.

Monday, February 7, 2011

New Discovery: Millet Polenta

While reading my December issue of Fine Cooking Magazine I was enticed by the grain article.  I'm always looking to try something new so when I read you could use millet grains instead of corn meal to make polenta....I decided it was worth a trip to the grocery store.

Now let me forewarn you, millet, isn't really something you may find at your corner store but I would imagine at most fancy grocery stores, you should be able to find it.  I found mine at our local fancy grocer, Plum Market.  I would imagine a place like Whole Foods would have it also, although I didn't look the last time I went.  It's relatively inexpensive, and its a good source of iron.  It's also easy to make!

The verdict:  Absolutely YUMMY!  The grain has a nice nutty flavor with a smooth, buttery but, grainy texture.  You can top it off with a bit of butter or a good quality olive oil (I always use Katz for finishing).  In this case, I am showing it with the olive oil.  I actually paired this with a pot roast I made in my slow cooker and the au jus from the beef was fabulous!  I would totally make this again and again!

I changed the recipe quite a bit, for simplicity sake from the original, but I would definitely try it next time with the vegetables.

For the original recipe, click here.

Here is how I prepared it:

Millet Polenta
Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine

5 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup millet
1 1/2 cups cheddar (I used a mix of leftover nubs of cheese in my cheese drawer- havarti, farm house cheddar, manchego)
sea salt to taste

Rinse and drain millet.  In a large saucepan over medium heat, add the millet.  Toast for about 7 minutes, stirring frequently until fragrant.  Add butter and stir in until melted.  Add stock and bring to a boil.  COVER and simmer for 20 minutes.  Stir, recover for another 10 minutes.  Stir again and cover for another 5 minutes.  Stir in cheese and salt.  Serve.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Homemade Limoncello

The last time my husband and I went to Italy, we came home with a suitcase full of Italian souvenirs---including a few bottles of limoncello.

As nature would have it, I found out 10 days after returning home that I was pregnant. So my vision of sitting on my patio sipping on my limoncello was left at just that...a vision. I made my husband swear that he would not touch the last bottle of limoncello until after our baby was born so that I was able to enjoy those last sips and memories of our trip to Italy.

Once our daughter was born, the limoncello was fair game--and is now a distant memory.

We were able to hunt a bottle down at Dean and Deluca while in Napa for our 3 year anniversary and even though it was very good--it just didn't compare to what I found in Italy.

Most Italians make their own housemade limoncello. In fact, many of the mom and pop restaurants we went to served the best limoncello we ever had. So when I found a recipe for limoncello in my local newspaper...I was on it like white on rice!

Keep in mind- this is a sipping drink for after dinner. Pour a small amount into a shot glass and that should be all you need. The real purpose of the drink is to break down the food in your gut for easier digestion. Not sure if its true, per se but I will tell you it's worked for me when I've eaten a bit too much! ;)

The outcome: Totally lemon, totally delicious...and warning....totally strong!

Tip: Use my vegetable wash for the lemons!

For the recipe:

Homemade Limoncello
by: Cafe Coco

1 liter GOOD quality vodka (preferably something with a higher alcohol content) I used Kettle One
2.5 cups sugar
2 cups water
Zest of 15 fresh lemons, washed

Wash lemons well with a vegetable wash.  Pat dry.

In a clean gallon glass jar, add 1/2 liter (about 4 cups) vodka.  Zest lemons with a zester and add to vodka.  Stir and cover.  Let sit at room temperature for at least 10 days or up to 40 days (you want a cool, dark environment but not the refrigerator).

In a large saucepan, add water and sugar.  Heat over medium high heat until mixture becomes thick and sugar is disolved, about 5 minutes.  Take saucepan off heat and let sugar syrup cool.  Add syrup to the vodka, zest mixture and stir to combine.  Add the other half of the vodka (about 4 cups), stir.  Cover the glass jar again and let it rest for another 10-40 days.

Strain zest from vodka with cheesecloth and pour into clean glass containers.  Store in the freezer and serve as needed!