One Week till Cookie Con!

Desserts and Sweets, Food Adventures, Los Angeles

That’s right, folks. Los Angeles has a Cookie Convention and it’s coming to the Pasadena Convention Center next Sunday! We were floored by this news and quickly went to their website (lacookiecon.com) to get our tickets to this sure-to-be-awesome event. (I believe our exact reaction was “Cookie Con?! How did we not know about this?!”)

Reality TV buffs will appreciate the celebrity lineup of guests from Food Network’s “Sweet Genius” and Next Food Network Star, Fox’s MasterChef, and more. There will be fondant rolling classes, candy apple making for the kids, and demonstrations for new tools and equipment. But most importantly, the website highlights “hundreds of delicious free samples from national and local vendors, offering an extravaganza of cookies, candy, chocolate, coffee, ice cream, beverages, and unique baked savories too.” SIGN US UP!

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies by our friend CCU at Go Bake Yourself!

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies by our friend CCU at Go Bake Yourself!

After our chocolate filled adventure at Indulge LA, we know we have to develop a game plan to synchronize our (precious and limited) stomach space and our (ravenous and unrelenting) sweet tooth. Luckily, we will be attending with a pair of friends with whom to share the bounty. I know Martin is going to keep an eye out for the best chocolate chip (his favorite) while I am always game to try unique variations on the traditional cookie (like our limoncello and semolina version).

VIP tickets are already sold out, so grab your GA passes soon if you want to attend the first annual LA Cookie Con! (Psst — sign up for their e-newsletter for a 10% off coupon code!)

As if you needed more convincing, a portion of the proceeds from the event will benefit Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. You definitely won’t want to miss out on this chance to stuff your faces while helping to support a great nonprofit. (But in case you can’t make it, stay tuned for our post-event recap with plenty of mouth-watering cookie photos!)

cat eated cookie

Disclosure: We were not compensated for this post; however, we did receive discounted press tickets to the event for the purposes of our review. All opinions are our own and were not influenced in any way.

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Vanilla Panna Cotta with Blueberry Compote

Desserts and Sweets, Recipes

The holiday season is upon us and you know what that means — it’s time for a few easy-to-make yet impressive-looking desserts that you can add to your repertoire for wowing guests! Case in point: before I stumbled upon this article on The Kitchn, I had never even considered making panna cotta at home. And now that I’ve seen the light, I could not imagine spending $14 on it at a restaurant ever again (unless there are some really special flavor combinations going on…). It’s that easy and oh so versatile to customize to your liking. I had some blueberries in the freezer from our visit to a pick-your-own blueberry farm in Santa Barbara over the summer, but you are welcome to use any seasonal fruit to pair with the silky smooth pudding. Just a slight note, this basic recipe involves gelatin and refrigeration to set, unlike the traditional Italian recipe which uses egg whites and is baked in a bain marie.

Panna Cotta Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups milk

1 1-ounce envelope of powdered gelatin (or 4 gelatin sheets, bloomed in ice water)

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 vanilla bean, scraped

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Set up a double boiler if you have one, or bring a small pot of water to a boil and nestle a heat-safe bowl (Pyrex, for example) over it. Add milk and sprinkle the powdered gelatin over the surface. Let sit for 1-2 minutes to bloom the gelatin. Add the sugar and vanilla and whisk well to completely dissolve the sugar. It should have a silky texture with no grittiness. Heat the mixture until it is barely simmering. Pour in the cream and continue to cook until the mixture has warmed to room temperature. (If it is too hot, just set aside to cool a bit before pouring into the molds.) Pour into ramekins or serving dishes. Refrigerate for at least one hour or until set. The texture will be wobbly and much more delicate than jello. Serve cold.

Blueberry Compote Ingredients:

2 cups frozen blueberries, divided

3 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons honey

Dash of ground cinnamon

In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup of blueberries with the water, honey, and cinnamon. Simmer over medium-low heat until the fruit starts to break down, about 5 minutes. Using the back of a spoon, gently mash the berries into a coarse puree. Add the remaining 1 cup of blueberries and cook for another 3-5 minutes or until the whole berries are warmed through and the mashed berries have formed a sauce-like consistency. Serve warm.

The blueberry compote also tastes great as a topping for ice cream, pancakes, waffles, even steel cut oatmeal! Once it has cooled, I transferred the leftover compote to a glass jar and kept it in the refrigerator for about a week. It could probably keep longer if you’re into canning jams and whatnot, but the compote is so delicious that it will magically disappear quite quickly!

I know it’s been a long time since we’ve posted a recipe on this blog, but I hope you enjoy this two-for-one. We did not include step-by-step photos this time, but trust me, it’s just THAT easy. If you try either of them at home, please let us know what you think!

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our-growing-edge-badgeThis post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things, and I can honestly say that my life has changed for the better knowing now that panna cotta is just so easy to make!

This month is hosted by Linda at The Orange Bee.

Cheers!

Sweet Marsala Tiramisu

Desserts and Sweets, Recipes

My dad only recently developed his sweet tooth, so back when I was experimenting with recipes in college, I knew he would rarely accept an offer of dessert. I definitely remember one such lucky occasion, however, when I dug up a recipe for tiramisu. It’s one of his favorite desserts and arguably my favorite, at least from Italian cuisine, over cannoli, spumoni, even gelato! Though it took a bit of coercing for him to take that first bite, I can still vividly recall his eyes lighting up as he polished off his serving wordlessly. This recipe has been in my repertoire ever since.

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

Three things. First, you’ll want to make sure you have some strong arm muscles for beating those egg whites to a stiff peak (thanks to the souffle, I’ve had plenty of practice). It’s the aerated whites that really makes this cream filling fluffy and light and not-too-sweet. Possibly among the best tiramisu, or so I’ve been told ;) Second, at six tablespoons of Marsala, this particular recipe is a bit more boozy than others. Have fun with it. (If you do need to cut back, play around with the coffee-Marsala ratio.) Lastly, this tiramisu is topped with grated chocolate just before serving, which truly makes a difference — it tastes way better than the bitter cocoa powder that some restaurants use instead.

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup strong black coffee, freshly brewed

6 tablespoons sweet Marsala wine

1 package of ladyfingers (16-24 pieces)

3 eggs, separated

8 ounce package of mascarpone

Dash of nutmeg

Dark or semisweet chocolate for garnish (about 1-2 ounces, grated)

I got this recipe many years ago from a cookbook that I just cannot seem to track down (it doesn’t help that I’ve made some adjustments from the original proportions). If anyone recognizes the source, please let me know and I will gladly credit it.

Coffee-Marsala Mixture

Coffee-Marsala Mixture

Step 1: Dissolve one-half of the sugar (1/8 cup) into the coffee. Stir in the Marsala; you should end up with about 1 cup of liquid total.

Layer #1

Layer #1

Step 2: Arrange a single layer of ladyfingers in the bottom of an 8-inch round trifle dish (or a 1.75 quart Pyrex round). Drizzle about one third of the coffee mixture. Set aside.

Beating the Yolks and Mascarpone

Beating the Yolks and Mascarpone

Step 3: In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the yolks and the remaining sugar. Fold in the mascarpone.

Adding the Nutmeg

Adding the Nutmeg

Step 4: When the yolk-mascarpone mixture is creamy and fully integrated, sprinkle in the nutmeg. Stir.

Beat the Egg Whites

Beat the Egg Whites

Step 5: In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.

Folding

Folding

Step 6: Fold the mascarpone mixture into the egg whites — first, lighten the mascarpone mixture by stirring in a bit of the fluffy whites, then cut down and scoop over with a rubber spatula, turning the bowl as you go, “folding” the mixture onto itself so as to minimize deflating the whites.

The Setup

The Setup

Step 7: Spoon about one-third of the mixture over the soaked ladyfingers and spread smooth.

Next Layer

Next Layer

Step 8: Continue with a layer of ladyfingers, drizzling with one-third of the coffee mixture and topping with one-third of the fluffy mascarpone cream. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, finishing with mascarpone on the very top layer.

Ready to Chill

Ready to Chill

Step 9: Let chill in the refrigerator, preferably overnight. This will help set the cream.

Shaving the Chocolate

Shaving the Chocolate

Step 10: Just before serving, shave or grate the chocolate over the top of the tiramisu using a microplane. Buon appetito!

Yields: 6-8 servings

Witches’ Hats Cookies – Halloween 2013

Desserts and Sweets, Recipes

It’s finally here – All Hallows’ Eve! One of my favorite holidays of the year! I hope you’ve got your pumpkins carved, costumes donned, candy stocked, and witches’ hats ready. Oh, you don’t have a witch’s hat? Have no fear! These easy-to-assemble snacks are here to save the day!

Witch's Hat Cookie

Witch’s Hat Cookie

Every holiday, I love to browse the recipes on AllRecipes.com for seasonal ideas that had a fun and festive flair to the party table. I always see all sorts of creative ideas in varying from complicated made-from-scratch confections to boxed cake mix tweaks and skill levels ranging from kid-friendly to formal culinary education recommended. But these witches’ hats are incredibly easy and I thought they are oh so clever! Plus I welcome any excuse to buy a package of Fudge Stripes cookies — the lunchbox holy grail of my childhood.

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

1 package Fudge Stripes cookies (approximately 24 cookies per package)

24 Hershey’s Kisses (or the same number as cookies)

Orange icing — I used a bottle of Wilton’s Cookie Icing, but you can buy cake decorating gel or whip up some homemade royal icing

(Adapted from this AllRecipes.com recipe)

Line the cookies up, striped side down

Line the cookies up, striped side down

Step 1: Arrange your cookies on a tray or baking sheet striped side down. I put mine in a 9×13 Pyrex dish which came with a lid (the height is perfect to keep the hats intact).

Pipe the frosting onto a Kiss

Pipe the frosting onto a Kiss

Step 2: if needed, transfer the icing to piping bag with a small round decorating tip (I used a No. 2 round). Pipe around the edges of the bottom of a Kiss.

Affix the Kiss to the Cookie

Affix the Kiss to the Cookie

Step 3: Affix the Kiss to the Cookie. The icing will harden and act as an adhesive. If some peeks out on the edges, don’t worry — we’ll decorate over this later.

Step 4: Decorate the Hat

Step 4: Decorate the Hat

Step 4: Pipe around the base of the Kiss to create a “belt” or “ribbon” on the hat. Get creative. I added little “buckles” as well, though I think they ended up looking a bit pilgrim-like.

Let the icing harden. Royal icing (and cookie icing) will take about an hour. Plate up for the party and amaze your guests with the simplicity and innovative vision of assembling these store-bought goodies.

Optional: serve alongside another easy hocus-y pocus-y accessory. Flip a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Miniature upside-down. Stab a pretzel stick down the center and voila — broomstick! (Thanks, Irene!)

Wishing you all a safe and happy Halloween!

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Friday Fun: Vodka Gummy Bears

Desserts and Sweets, Drinks and Cocktails, Recipes

TGIF, everyone! This week for Friday Fun, I have a simple but fun recipe for your next party to spark the conversation with jaw-dropping excitement and exclamations of “Are those really what I think they are…?” But be warned, they take about 3-5 days of advance planning, so mark your calendars accordingly so you can serve up a batch of alcoholic nostalgia with these vodka gummy bears.

Vodka & Limoncello Gummy Bears

Vodka & Limoncello Gummy Bears

That’s right — vodka gummy bears. These seemingly harmless candies pack a surprising kick, and they can really sneak up on you so I go easy on the liquor, especially if they’re being served at a party alongside a full bar. But wait – a quick Google search will yield tons of vodka gummy bear recipes and tutorials. What makes mine different? A touch of citrus in limoncello. You can omit it if you don’t have it (and make up the liquid with more vodka) but I think the lemony flavor really adds something to the otherwise ordinary Haribo gummies.

Yummmm....

Yummmm….

Ingredients:

1 cup gummy bears

1 ounce vodka

1 ounce limoncello

In a plastic container with a lid, toss in the gummy bears and pour in the liquor. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for at least a few days. Three is pretty good, five is ideal. After the first day or so, you can taste a bear and see if the alcohol level is to your liking. Remember, you can always add more but once it’s in there, the bears are going to soak it all up!

To serve, just transfer them to a dish, grab a few toothpicks (or dig in with your hands if you and your friends are that close), and get the party started!

Soaking in the fun

Soaking in the fun

For alternate versions that will set you apart from the average vodka gummy bear maker, try using a complementary flavored vodka. Vanilla is an excellent choice and can add a “creme soda” like flavor if you use enough of it!

By the way, if you get the brilliant idea to bring a batch of these with you on a group trip to Vegas, be sure that what vodka bears you bring to Vegas, stay in Vegas! Driving them back through the hot desert WILL melt them. Just trust us on this one.

So what are you waiting for?

So what are you waiting for?

So what are you waiting for? Whip together this mini army of fun and be instantly remembered as that awesome person who served alcoholic gummy bears at their party.

Drink responsibly and keep out of reach of children. :)

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