Friday, October 30, 2009

Mocha Pumpkin Brownies with Strawberry Frosting

***Please vote for my brownies in the Starbucks Via Recipe Contest. Vote Today! Thank you :) ***

Remember those French Macarons us Daring Bakers posted for the October challenge? Well, maybe not us. I, for one, did not complete this challenge when I had a complete macaroon melt down. Truth be told, I rushed it but I did get feet so I am not a total, utter failure. Its just that I couldn't pipe circular or uniform shells rendering Hunchback of Notre Dame macaroon shells (with feet) instead of smooth and demure shells we have come to know and love. My macaroon filling, a strawberry cream cheese frosting, was chilling for days looking at me with the lonely, longing eyes to be a part of an Autumnal dessert. How could I deny this frosting a place atop an artfully crafted confection; the crown on top of a Princess? I could not muster this kind of negligence and with the office Halloween party just around the corner, to the dessert drawing board I went.

As per usual here at L&S, I found my inspiration for Mocha Pumpkin Brownies with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting through the exceptional pumpkin brownies posts floating around the foodie blogosphere this October like StreamingGourmet's pumpkin brownie, Natalie'sKillerCuisine peanut butter pumpkin brownie, and BakingBites pumpkin brownies with pecans. I wanted in on the pumpkin brownie club, so I went to the cupboard and got to work.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
1 80z. strawberry flavored cream cheese
1/2 butter softened
3 cups confectionery sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
(I add ground cocoa roasted almonds leftover, so I added 2 tblsp of those to add an allusion of seeds in the frosting. This is entirely optional.)

Pumpkin Batter
1 1/2 cup pumpkin pie filling or pumpkin puree* (Amount spices and sugar amounts depending on your choice. The following is for the filling, you will increase the sugars and spices with puree).
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/4 melted unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Mocha Batter
3.5oz. 85 % dark chocolate
1.5 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup pack dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Starbucks Via Colombia instant coffee packets
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder

Directions (you will need several bowls and counter space galore, fyi.)

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting: This can be done days or hours before baking the brownies. The chill time is necessary to firm it up.

Beat the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and salt until smooth. Add confectionery sugar one cup at a time thoroughly mixing after each cup.

Optional: mix-in ground almonds.

Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator to chill. For best results, chi
ll 3 hours.

Mocha Pumpkin Brownies
Preheat to 350 degrees and grease a 9" x 13" pan with butter. My mom taught me to save butter wrappers because they are perfect to grease pans with, so there is my little nugget baking tip for you!

Melt the two chocolates and butter together in whatever kind of double-boiler you can configure. Whisk constantly to melt the mixture together. Whisk until smooth and remove from the heat and let come back up to room temperature.

Mix the dry ingredients for the mocha batter and the dry ingredients for the pumpkin batter separately.

In a larger bowl, beat the eggs and sugar for the pumpkin batter until fluffy. Add the pumpkin pie filling and vanilla and mix until combined. Next, add the melted butter and spices; mix well again.

To complete the wet ingredient batter for the mocha portion, mix the brown sugar, Starbucks Via Colombia Instant Coffee, and vanilla to the melted chocolate. Beat in the eggs
and combine thoroughly.

To mix the 2 mocha batters, gradually fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Use a spoon so you mix it well enough but you don't over mix.

To mix the 2 pumpkin batters, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients using whatever kind of mixer equipment you got. Again, do not over mix.

Pour the mocha batter into the greased pan and be sure to evenly spread it around. Pour the pumpkin batter evenly on top.

Using a large tablespoon, swirl the batters together gathering mocha batter in the spoon and pulling it up to the top and vice versa. Also don't over-swirl which mixes the two batters together.

Bake for 30 minutes. Test with a toothpick.

Let brownies cool completely and ice the brownies evenly using a butter knife. Chill the frosted brownies for at least 1 hour to let them firm up.

Cut into small squares and serve to hungry Halloween-ers! :-)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Trick-or-Treating Orlando Events

Dear Greater Orlando Area Parents,

We know you are concerned about your childrens' safety this and every Halloween. However let's remember from your kid's point-of-view, Halloween is almost as awesome and amazing as Christmas.The promise of copious amounts of free candy consumes their little minds for weeks on end. I should know; I was once a kid obsessed with Halloween. I also was a kid who was tricked, and therefore ended my tenure as a trick-or-treater. By the eighth grade at age fourteen I might have been too old to be out and about dressed in full Army fatigues going door-to-door asking for candy, but that didn't give local high schoolers the right to drive haphazardly through the neighborhood egging young revelers from the bed of thier pick-up truck. As they whipped around a corner, I was struck directly on the crown of my head with a egg hurled with such force I fell right down like a sack of stones. Dangers can be afoot during this year's Halloween holiday too, but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of trick-or-treating options open to the public where the priority of safety is second only to the priorty of the fun of free candy. To see the listing, visit Kid-Tested, Mother-Approved Trick-or-Treating Events.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Blogger Awards from Laura @LittleChef&I

What is the best way to start a Tuesday? I think a new, shiny award is the best way to start a Tuesday. The lovely Laura from Little Chef & I across The Pond named L&S as one of her fav blogs and passed on the following two awards to me:

Per my acceptance speech, here are 7 things about moi:

1.) I have 3 tattoos and I want more. My tattoo-artist boyfriend and I are coming up on our two-year anniversary. Yay!

2.) One day I think I'd like to attempt stand-up comedy. In short, I want to Single-White-Female Tina Fey.

4.) I can't turn down curry at anytime of the day.

5.) I'm kinda pissed I can't put down candy like I used too on account of the hypoglycemia and all. Too much sugar makes we whoozy.

6.) My Great-Grandmother was not only an astounding Italian cook, her name was Elviria which I find alluring.

7.) At first, I hated Twitter so much I mocked it and now I am addicted.

Now onto my 7 Award-Worthy blogger friends:

1.) Mardi my Canadian Comrade @Eat, Live, Travel, Write

2.) Dara, another Crafty Cook hailing from Canada @Cooking Canuck

3.) Linda, a saucy lady saavy in the kitchen @SaltySeattle

4.) Silvia, a super creative chef in San Fran @Citronetvanille

5.) Miranda, a super mom and cook @My Food and Life Encounters

7.) DoggyBloggy a super fun food enthusiast, @Chez What?

Thanks to everybody in the foodie blogosphere for being you. Don't go changin'!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Stoner from Stardust Coffee

If I told you there is a coffee drink out there with more calories than a full steak dinner would you believe me? It exists. The legend goes by the name of The Stoner, and you can find out what is in this mythic drink at my latest article, Fall Coffee Preview Stardust Coffee & Video.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sesame Chicken 2x's Thanks to Asian Food Grocer

Once again, Foodbuzz Tastemaker's Program has rained down gifts from the food gods in the form of a $30 FREE coupon to Asian
FoodGrocer. Just like the Japanese, I was super-awesome-mega-ultimate-excited because I have never, ever made any type of Asian dish from scratch. Eating Asian food has never been a problem. Well, eating anything in general isn't a problem for me; except for Wing Wah candy. A co-worker of mine just brought back some of Hong Kong's popular candy called Wing Wah, or at least that's the part of the package in English making it now called Wing Wah. There are various flavors of plum and licorice and, um...tuna. Yes, candy made of tuna the fish. At first everyone in our lab thought it was made from tuna via the smell and tiny info Danielle brought back with her to the West. Then we did the smart thing and asked one of our researchers whom is from China. He told us is the candies are probably made from tuna meat, but it is flavored with beef as indicted by the symbol for cow on the wrapper.

So, is that still candy? In our actual lab of science, we scientist-type people have come to a consensus that it is indeed not at all a candy but a bouillon cube. And instead of sucking on it, we should make soup. Or, give it out to kids this Halloween as a really mean trick. Speaking of tricks, right now Wing Wah is spread out in front of a carved pumpkin on the reception desk in our building duping technologists and other scientists into thinking its delicious Halloween candy. MOOO HA HA HA!

Wing Wah candy was exotic and fun, but it's not part of the Asian Food Grocer grab bag. Until now I shied away form the big scary beast that is Asian cuisine telling myself without a wok and the right ingredients, me cooking Asian will never come to be. Sure, I dabbled in a semi-homemade curry or two but that was it! I made my mind up to respect the Eastern giant from afar. However serendipity had other plans. With a little generous push from Foodbuzz and Asian Food Grocer, I am able to take a prepared leap into my first Asian dish-Sesame Chicken.

(My Asian Food Grocer Bounty from left to right: mirin, Sriraci, rice flour, fish sauce, sesame oil, an *extra free* set of 10 tiny tea cups (in box), dry nori, curry power, and pickled ginger.)

The cardinal rule when beginning to write anything is, "Write what you know." I think that is true in some ways for taking on new cooking challenges as well. Sesame Chicken is one of my all-time, favorite Americanized-Chinese dishes so I set my sights on making a sesame chicken dish that could be passable as for reals take out. In addition to the online coupon for Asian Food Grocer, Foodbuzz is running a Tastemaker recipe contest for best recipe using the ingredients chosen from the promotion. Personally I don't think I am in the running. The recipe for my dish is not my own. I followed the Flawless Chicken Sesame recipe from I'm not going to start exploring with map! I can be adventurous but I'm not stupid.

I ended up making the dish twice because the yield of the sesame sauce was whhaaay more than then needed for the chicken portions. Not wanting to waste and thinking I could always use more practice, I fired up my fryer again and re-used the stored sauce.

(Batter Marinade of batch #1-Above, Battered batch #1-Middle, Battered batch #2-Below.)

The only difference really between attempt 1 and attempt 2 was rice flour vs. regular flour in the batter. I used rice flour first because, well, I just got it in and wanted to try a new flour! The outcome wasn't nearly as crispy as the batch made with regular flour, which came out much closer to the take-out we know and love. The other alterations to the recipe are:
  • In the Marinade: Marsala for the cooking wine.
  • In the Sauce: cider vinegar instead of rice or white vinegar & Sriracha for the chili paste.
  • For Frying: vegetable oil instead of peanut oil.
(Mmmm, Sesame Chicken 2X's, batch #2.)

Lastly, in the heat of the moment I forgot to toast my sesame seeds in attempt 2 rendering that element they were left out all together. The second dish was much better over all. In the first dish, the rice dish was flavored with ginger.

(Sorry about the blurry photos. Too anxious to eat to take a proper picture! Dish #1-Above, Dish #2-Below.)

The spice of the ginger and the spice of the sauce clashed instead of complimenting. The broccoli was a bit rubbery from over cooking plus the chicken was only semi-crispy and crunchy. In dish two, I used regular flour in the batter, cooked the rice in a combo of vegetable broth and white wine, and quickly braised the broccoli in water over a high boil.

Re-heating the sesame sauce to change it from a congelled, squat cylinder to a velvety smooth sauce was a bit tricky. First, before I started frying my chicken, I put the solidified sauce in a small sauce pan over medium heat. In between frying batches, I returned to the sauce and with a whisk, vigorously stirred the sauce as it bubbles. At the point where the sauce is more liquid than solid, I gradually began adding hot water and lowered the heat. I added approximately 1/3 cup of hot water incrementally to the sauce whisking all the time. The method really seemed to work, and by the time the broccoli was up and I pulled the warming chicken out of the oven, my sauce reached the proper coating consistency.

Thanks one last time to the folks at both Foodbuzz and Asian Food Grocer for making this possible.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Caribbean Club with Lime Butter

What is better than than free food to try? Nothing. Literally. Receiving products from Foodbuzz's Tastemaker Program during the office grind 9-5 workday is like hitting a foodie lottery. Just this past week, "Eureka!" I shrieked when I tore open a box to find 2 loaves of Nature's Pride Bread. The moment needed to be recorded, so I did.

As a Foodbuzz Tastemaker, it is a sworn duty, an oath, to take the free product and turn into a creative, delicious dish and share it with the world. I take my task seriously and let my mind find it's center of flavor. It just so happened that my flavor center currently is hanging around the Caribbean. But, why? Maybe it's because two of my old friends just got married and both headed to the islands to honeymoon, or maybe it's because I was doubly fortunate to have the pleasure of indulging in a new salsa line out of Maine called Shipwreck Galley Salsa, or maybe it's because I once was an outstanding Sandwich Artist, or maybe, just maybe it's because of all of these reasons I crafted The Caribbean Club with Nature's Pride Whole Wheat Bread.

2 slices Nature's Pride 100% Whole Wheat Bread
2 slices Swiss Cheese
3 slices Cooked Ham
4 slices Smoked Honey Turkey Breast
1/4 Avocado
2 Teaspoons Peach Salsa (mango salsa could substitute)
1 stick Butter, melted
1/4 cup Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
1/2 tsp. Grated Lime Zest
Light Cooking Spray

Lime butter: To yield 1/4 lime juice takes about 1 and 1/2 limes. Grate for the zest first, then slice the limes into quarters and juice them. Melt a stick of butter in the microwave half-way; about 20 seconds. Using a fork, whip the lime juice and lime zest until the butter mixture is completely constituted. Add salt and pepper and mix again. (You will have leftover lime butter, but cover it and keep it in the fridge. It goes great on

Caribbean Club: Bring a pan to temperature over medium heat. Lightly spray pan with the light cooking spray. Butter one side of the Nature's Pride Bread with the lime butter and set the slice of bread directly in the center of the pan. Add the 4 slices of turkey on top, followed by the ham, the Swiss cheese, the 1/4 of avocado sliced, and the 2 tsp. of peach salsa. Butter another slice of bread on put it on top; butter side up. Let cook 1-2 minutes and then flip the sandwich to cook on the other side, about 2-3 minutes until browned. Slice it up, and serve-THAT'S IT!

An easy, quick, and delicious taste of the islands in an old familiar sandwich. Tastemaker Mission? Accomplished!