Coffee & Cream Panna Cotta with Warm Chocolate Sauce

coffee and cream panna cotta with choc sauce

coffee and cream panna cotta with chocolate sauce and chocolate covered coffee beans

Who doesn’t like coffee. Yes, there are those who don’t. What is wrong with you people? Seriously. Please. Maybe I’m joking. Maybe not…To each his own. Coffee with cream, first thing in the morning- that first sip is like nirvana to me. I stumble over anything in my way, to make it to the coffee pot. I live for coffee. Right now in Arizona we are experiencing monsoon season and it’s a bit more humid than normal. You can’t really use that phrase- “It’s a DRY heat” right now, but that just means I have to find other ways to come up with treats without using the oven. Enter stage left- panna cotta. It’s the perfect summer dessert because it requires only turning on the burner for a few minutes. It’s cool, it’s creamy, and hits the spot.

Panna Cotta

yield: 6-8 servings depending on size of ramekins

1 package (1/4 oz.) unflavored gelatin (such as Knox)

2 Tbsp. cool water

2 Cups heavy cream

1 Cup whole milk

3/4 Cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla bean paste (1 tsp. vanilla may be substituted also)

2 Tbsp. instant espresso powder

For Serving: chocolate sauce (recipe below) and purchased chocolate covered coffee beans (optional)

1. In a small custard cup or microwave safe bowl place 2 Tbsp. cool water and sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let sit about 5 minutes to bloom. Place 4.5 oz. – 6 oz. clean ramekins on a sheet pan or in a shallow pan that will fit in your fridge level.

Tip: If you don’t have or don’t want to purchase ramekins- save your (small) shallow yogurt containers and wash out and use in place of ramekins.

2. In a small saucepan place the cream, milk, sugar, vanilla bean paste, and espresso powder and whisk to combine. Heat GENTLY over medium heat until very hot but not boiling, whisking frequently. While mixture is heating microwave the gelatin mixture for about 10 seconds until liquid. Once cream mixture is hot (but not boiling) stir in the liquid gelatin mixture and whisk to combine. Pour mixture into each ramekin and place in fridge for several hours or overnight to firm up. Serve cold or cool panna cotta with warm chocolate sauce and chocolate espresso beans.

To turn out panna cotta’s: Fill a shallow pan or bowl with 1 inch of boiling water. Run a sharp thin knife around the edge of each panna cotta to loosen, then set each ramekin in the bowl of hot water for about 10 seconds. Place a small serving plate on top of each ramekin and flip over to unmold. Spoon a bit of warm chocolate sauce around the panna cotta and sprinkle with 2-3 chocolate covered espresso beans.

Chocolate Sauce

4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (about scant 3/4 Cup)

1/4 Cup heavy cream

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 Tbsp. light corn syrup

In a heat proof bowl (such as pyrex) place the chocolate. In a glass measuring cup place the cream, butter, and corn syrup and heat on high in microwave for about 1 minute until mixture is very hot- stopping half way to stir. Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate and let sit for 1 minute then stir until smooth. If necessary you can return the bowl to the microwave and heat in 10 second intervals until mixture is smooth, stirring as you go along.


Strawberry Martini

Strawberry Martini

You know I love a good cocktail. It’s Summer and it’s time for a great fruity drink that calls for sipping on the porch or by the pool. Summer is the best time to explore new drinks as the fruit is ripe and plentiful. If you are lucky enough to have a strawberry plant then you can pluck off a little white or pink flower from the plant and use as a garnish, or simply garnish with a ripe strawberry placed on the rim of the glass.

Strawberry Cassis Martini 2

Strawberry Cassis Martini

yield: 2 servings

4 fresh strawberries, (preferably large size) washed and dried

4-6 ice cubes

4 oz. quality vodka

2 tsp. crème de cassis liquer

2 tsp. fresh lime juice

2 tsp. sugar (preferably superfine sugar)

Prepare 2 martini glasses or other decorative glasses by chilling in the fridge.  Muddle 2 strawberries in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add in the ice, vodka, crème de cassis, lime juice and sugar. Shake vigorously about 10-12 times. Prepare the rim of the glasses by rubbing with lime juice around the rim and dip each one into sugar. Strain and divide the contents into the two chilled glasses. Garnish each glass with a fresh strawberry on the rim by making a small slit into the berry with a sharp knife.


Raspberry Lemonade Bars

Raspberry Lemonade Bar

Happy Independence Day

Raspberry Lemon Bars

raspberry lemonade bars 3

raspberry Lemonade bars 4

Raspberry Lemonade Bars

yield: (about 30-32 bars-depending on the size cut)

Crust:

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp

1/2 Cup sugar

2 Cups flour

pinch of salt

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk the flour and salt together, then add to butter/sugar and beat until combined. Prepare a 9×13 inch pan lined with parchment paper with a 2 inch overhang. Press the crust into the bottom of the pan and chill for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350° F and bake for 15-20 minutes until very lightly browned. Place the pan on a wire rack while you make the filling.

Filling:

2 1/2 Cups sugar

zest of 3 lemons

1/2 Cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 Cup seedless raspberry puree (press fresh or thawed frozen raspberries through a fine sieve).

6 large eggs

1 Cup flour

red and/or burgundy gel paste food color (optional)

Confectioners sugar for serving

1. In a food processor pulse the sugar and lemon zest together several times; about 8-10. Add the lemon juice, raspberry puree, and eggs and combine until smooth. Add in the flour and pulse to combine. The filling is not quite the color that I liked- so I added a few drops of red and burgundy gel paste food coloring.

2. Pour the filling onto the crust and bake in a preheated 350° F oven for about 30 minutes until set; when you jiggle the pan the center should not look loose. Let pan cool over a wire rack. Refrigerate the pan of bars until well chilled before cutting into bars. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar before serving.


Peach Pie

Groovy Peach Pie

There is something about eating a juicy ripe peach hunched over the sink. I am talkin’ about a really ripe peach, the kind that you NEED to eat over the sink because the juice is dripping down your hand and arm. When you get a good one, you feel like it’s finally Summer. If you can score some peaches picked at the peak of their flavor burst then treat yourself and your family and make a beautiful pie.


mini peach pies

Peach Pie 4

 Groovy Peach Pie 2

Peach Pie

1 Recipe Fearless Pie Crust or your favorite pie crust recipe

Filling:

9-10 medium size fresh ripe peaches (about 2 1/2 lbs), peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch wedges

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 Cup flour

3/4 Cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling top of pie

1/4 Cup light brown sugar, packed

3/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. salt

For assembling pie:

egg white, lightly beaten

sugar

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1. Make the pie dough and allow to chill for at least 30 minute before attempting to roll out. Roll out dough and line a 9 inch pie plate. Brush the bottom and sides with beaten egg white and return to chill in fridge for another 30 minutes (the chill ensures that the crust does not shrink, and the egg white ensures that the bottom does not become soggy). While the dough is chilling make the filling.

2. Make filling: In a large mixing bowl combine the peach slices with the lemon juice and vanilla. In a separate bowl combine flour, sugars, spices and salt with a fork. Pour the flour mixture over the peach slices and toss gently to coat.

3. Pour the filling into the chilled and prepared crust. Note: If you choose to make muffin size individual pies it is best to cut the peaches into a coarse chop instead of slices. Dot the filling with little pieces of the butter, then cover with either “groovy” flower cut outs as I have done here, or top with crust and crimp and decorate as desired. If using a top crust, make sure to pierce the top with some slits to allow steam. Brush top of cut outs (and/or top crust) with egg white and sprinkle with sugar. Bake in a preheated 425° F oven for 10 minutes, then decrease to 375° F and continue to bake for 25-35 minutes, or until golden brown and center is not loose. Cover edge of pie with either a pie shield or tin foil as necessary to prevent crust from burning.

4. Note: if you want to make muffin size mini pies;  bake at 400 degrees F for about 30 minutes. To prepare muffin size pies: spray muffin tin with baking spray and line and fill as above.


Vanilla And Chinese Five Spice Roasted Plums

 

Chinese Five Spice and Vanilla Roasted Plums

I always buy more plums than I think we’ll eat. I really like dark plums when they are almost too ripe as the insides turn a beautiful purple color. If you realize you’ve been a little over zealous in buying plums, this is a great way to use them up and turn them into a side dish for dinner. Try to find the type of plums where the stone comes out clean as they are easier to remove the pits. I was not as lucky- so I had to cut out the pits, either way they are still delicious. They are great along side grilled pork chops or roasted chicken.

 

cut plums

 

Vanilla and Chinese Five Spice Roasted Plums

 

Vanilla & Chinese Five Spice Roasted Plums

8 fresh ripe plums (mixture of red and black)

3 Tbsp. pomegranate juice or cranberry juice

3 Tbsp. clover honey

1 tsp. Chinese Five Spice

1 tsp. vanilla

 

1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Cut each plum in half and remove pits, place cut side up in a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle plums with the spice. Mix together the juice, honey and vanilla and pour over plums. Toss plums to coat evenly. Bake in preheated oven for 40-45 minutes until soft. Serve warm or chilled as a side dish with chicken or pork or simply as a snack. Store plums along with juice in an airtight container in the fridge.

 


Honeydew Mint Granita

Honeydew and Mint Granita

This time of year when the weather turns hot but you still want to entertain, the key is to keep things simple. You don’t want a heavy dessert. This frozen treat is very refreshing after a spicy meal or quite frankly just on a hot summer night. For an extra glamorous effect, freeze some pretty or decorative glasses to create a frosted effect.  Right before serving, scoop the granita into the glasses, top with a dollop of Greek yogurt (the contrast of tang is amazing) and a mint sprig. Beautiful.

Note: For my Weight Watchers Friends, one serving equals 3 Points Plus

 

Honeydew Lime and Mint Granita

Honeydew Mint Granita

yield: about 6-7 servings

1 medium honeydew melon, seeded and chopped into cubes (about 4-5 Cups)

1/2 Cup sugar

1/4 Cup fresh lime juice

12 fresh mint leaves

Opitonal: Fresh mint leaves and Greek yogurt (vanilla or plain flavor)

 

1. In a food processor place the cubed honeydew melon, sugar, and lime juice. Puree until smooth. Add the mint and pulse until you can visibly see small flecks. Pour mixture into a square pan and place in the freezer. Once the mixture starts to freeze slightly, rake the mixture every 30 minutes with a fork until mixture is granular in appearance. Serve in glasses with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a mint sprig.


Cajun Chicken Pies

cajun chicken pie

Who doesn’t love a good “pot pie?” The Husband, that’s who. When I first got married The Husband informed me “Never make chicken pot pie”. That was the only food flare he shot up. Now, this is a man who will EAT ANYTHING, and I do mean anything. I mean, he hails from Taiwan- the island of stinky tofu for God’s sake. He’s like a clone of Andrew Zimmern, the man would eat rattlesnake if I served it. The back story behind this aversion to the pot pie stems from his childhood. You see, apparently growing up, every Friday night (or maybe more-and I’m sure he’ll clarify it after reading this) his parents would go out to fulfill military social obligations and leave him a frozen pot pie to heat and eat. This little ritual went on for a number of years, hence the extreme aversion. These little gems aren’t really a pot pie. No scary peas and carrots hiding inside. Think of them as an individual pocket of spicy Cajun goodness. Filled with juicy chicken, fresh summer sweet corn, onion, fire roasted red pepper, cilantro and lots of Cajun spice, and topped off with a Serrano chili (if you dare). What’s not to love?!

cajun chicken pies

individual cajun chicken pie

filled cajun pies

cajun chicken filling

I mean, seriously, does this filling not look good, or what? there is nothing to fear…

Individual Cajun Chicken Pies

recipe adapted from “Pocket Pies” by Pamela Clark

yield: 4 individual “Texas size” muffin pies

Short crust Pastry:

1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

4 oz. cold, butter chopped, kept cold

1 egg yolk

2 Tbsp. ice water (approx.)

In a food processor place the flour and salt and pulse a few times. Add butter and pulse until mixture is crumbly. Add yolk and 1 1/2 Tbsp. water and pulse until dough comes barely together, and add more water as necessary. Knead pastry lightly on a floured board until smooth. Press into a flat circle and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill dough for 30 minutes before attempting to roll out.

Filling:

2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided

1 medium onion, chopped fine

1 fresh corn cob, kernels removed (if you don’t want to use fresh you can substitute 1 cup frozen corn kernels)

2 garlic cloves, chopped fine

2 tsp. Cajun seasoning (I like “Slap Ya Mama” brand- can be found at Cost Plus Markets)

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped into about 1/2 inch pieces

2 tsp. Cajun seasoning

1/4 Cup diced roasted red pepper (purchased in jar)

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

3/4 Cup chicken broth

2-3 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro

fresh Serrano chilies (optional)

For egg wash: one egg beaten

1. Heat olive oil in large saute pan add onion, corn and garlic and cook over medium heat until onion softens. Add Cajun seasoning and saute for 1-2 minutes. Remove to a bowl.

2. Heat another 1 Tbsp. oil in the same pan and add chicken and seasoning. Cook the chicken until browned. Stir in the diced red pepper. Add the flour and cook, stirring for about 1 minute. Stir in the chicken broth and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture thickens. Stir in the onion corn mixture and stir. Stir in the cilantro. Taste and adjust any seasoning as necessary (I actually added a sprinkling of cayenne and paprika). Remove to a bowl and allow to cool before assembling pies.

3. Note: if you don’t want to make fresh pastry dough you can also use purchased pie dough, or purchased empanada dough rounds. You could also use puff pastry dough and make hand pies.

To assemble and bake:

Brush or spray 4 wells of a texas size muffin pan. Cut out 4 rounds of dough into 5 inch circles. Place the dough rounds into the wells; pressing the sides and bottom to fit. Fill the wells evenly with the chicken mixture. Cut out 4 more rounds that are 4 inch size and brush one side with the beaten egg, then turn over and place the egg side down over the filled pies. Brush the tops of each pie with egg wash, and (if desired) pierce the top and insert a fresh Serrano chili. Bake in a 400° F preheat oven for 24-25 minutes. Cool in the pan until cool enough to remove.


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