Monday, September 28, 2009

Chocolate Meringues

Last weekend I wanted to make something special but simple. I can't really think of a more sophisticated-looking treat with such a small amount of ingredients as a meringue cookie. So I opened Martha Stewart's Cookie Book and decided to make these chocolate meringue cookies. They are quite easy - just a little bit of arm work, and if you don't have a piping bag or tips, then I think you could spoon little dollops out and have a more rustic meringue cookie with the same results.

Here are the ingredients for Chocolate Meringues from Martha Stewart's Cookie Book (makes about 4 1/2 dozen):
-4 large egg whites at room temperature (preferably)
-1 cup granulated sugar
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
-pinch of cream of tartar
-1/4 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)

To begin, preheat oven to 175 degrees and cover baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in a large heatproof bowl. Place over a medium saucepan filled with about 2 inches of water. Make sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl, because it may overheat the eggs and compromise their protein structure, creating a less than optimal meringue. Set the saucepan over medium heat, and bring water to a simmer to create a double boiler.
Whisk constantly until sugar dissolves and the mixture is warm to the touch, about 3 minutes or more. Rub mixture between fingers to test that the sugar is completely dissolved.
Remove from heat and use an electric mixer to beat the egg white mixture into stiff, glossy peaks, starting on the lowest speed and gradually bringing it up to the highest speed. It will take about 10 minutes for stiff peaks to form.
Gently fold in the vanilla extract to the meringue.
Sift the cocoa powder over the meringue and fold in so that streaks remain.
You are now ready to place the meringue in a piping bag, using a 1/2 inch star tip.
Pipe 1 1/2 inch size cookies about 1 inch apart across your baking sheets. At first I was terrible at getting the hang of how to pipe the meringue out into the correct shape. I was swirling the meringue around, but then I realized the tip should be doing most of the work. It just takes a steady hand and even pressure to create the correct shape.
Then place in the oven for about 2 hours or until the cookies come off the parchment clean and easy. Below is an example of when your cookies are not yet done.
Depending on how large your cookies end up being it might take a longer or shorter amount of time. Mine took about 1 hour and 45 minutes, and I started checking them at an hour and half.
The cookies cool almost immediately so you can put them in an air tight container in a single layer and they should last for a few days. Be sure to try them straight out of the oven though, they are crunchy on the outside and have a warm chewy center - delicious!
For more on meringue basics, click here to read Martha Stewart's tips.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

BluePrint Cleanse

So for over a year I have been dreaming of doing a juice cleanse through NYC's BluePrint Cleanse, created by raw food enthusiast Zoe Sakoutis and foodie Erica Huss. Unfortunately, the cleanse is definitely not in my budget. For a NYC delivery it is $75 for a one-day cleanse or $65 a day for a 3-5 day cleanse. Fortunately, I convinced my boss to be my guinea pig and she tried a three day cleanse and ended up really enjoying. And then as luck would have it, BluePrint Cleanse accidentally delivered her another batch for a three day cleanse a few months later. After much confusion with the company, my boss ended up giving me a day's worth. I was pumped. I had spent the last week stuffing my face with mediocre cookies and sandwiches from work, a cleanse was much needed - even if it was only going to be a one-day cleanse.

BluePrint Cleanse has a very helpful website which explains which cleanse level you should do (whether you are a rookie or a master). I would elaborate more, but you should just check out their website to get the best explanation. I will tell you that the cleanses are delivered to your door the day before you want to start your cleanse in a cooler tote bag. There are 6 juices per day labeled simply by numbers as well as ingredients within each bottle.
On a side note, I do not fair well with not eating. I love to munch like a squirrel throughout the day, and the last time I tried a cleanse (the Master Cleanse to be exact) I failed within 5 hours. I was caught red-handed by my bff (who was also doing the Master Cleanse) eating a bowl of rice.

Here are my thoughts on the One-Day BluePrint Cleanse:

*A side note: You should drink a 12 ounce glass of water in between juices and you are welcome to drink as much herbal tea as you like. Also, you should keep at least an hour in between juices and have your last juice at least 2 hours before you plan on going to sleep.

7:30 am - Started off with a warm glass of filtered water to get my stomach in motion. Okay, I used tap water - whatevs. You can also add lemon to the water if you fancy it.

9:00 am - Bottle 1-Green Juice. Juice of romaine, celery, green apple, spinach, kale, parsley, and lemon. First off you are suppose to "chew" the juice to activate enzymes that aid in digestive, so it is a bit weird. The first sip I took wasn't very pleasant. I have never been a fan of kale, I prefer to hide it in a quesadilla than eat it on its own. I thought I could get use to the flavors, but the best option was just to swallow my sips as quickly as possible. So I stopped fake chewing on this bottle. I don't want to scare people off, my boss loved this juice, it just wasn't for me.

11:00 am - Bottle 2. Juice of pineapple, apple, and mint. Okay, this was so delicious I had to control myself from drinking it all within 10 minutes. In fact, I could barely stop drinking it to take a picture. The juice combo was light, sweet and refreshing with the hint of mint at the end. My office mate made the good point of what a great cocktail the flavors would make if you just added vodka. Oh wait this is a cleanse!

2:00 pm - Bottle 3-Green Juice. Juice of romaine, celery, green apple, spinach, kale, parsley, and lemon (same as Bottle 1). So I pump myself up to drink this one again. Still, no luck. In fact, it became harder and the slower I drank the juice, the warmer and more disgusting it got to me. But I finished it!

*Coworkers decided to open champagne to celebrate a successful market. I got to sit and stare and drink my juice :( Okay, okay I had one sip - but that was it!

5:30 pm - Bottle 4-Spicy Lemonade. Juice of lemon, agave nectar, and cayenne pepper. good. If this was what my Master Cleanse concoction tasted like then I probably would have lasted longer. I gulped this down because I felt behind schedule.

7:00 pm - Bottle 5-Green Juice. Juice of romaine, celery, green apple, spinach, kale, parsley, and lemon. Okay, I thought I was on the Renovation Cleanse, so I was expecting carrot, apple, lemon, beet, ginger juice. My dreams were crushed when I realized I was actually on the Foundation Cleanse and had to drink the green juice yet AGAIN. I took a few more swigs and then was tempted by the smell of hash browns sizzling in my friend's apartment. Breakfast for dinner - my biggest weakness - ok Mexican actually is. I took one bite of the hash - just to try and then I quit my cleanse. I couldn't take the green stuff - I was doomed from the beginning.

8:00 pm - Bottle 6-Cashew Nut Milk. Cashew nut milk, vanilla, and cinnamon. So I opened this one just to try, my boss said it was a delicious dessert. I think people who go on cleanses can sometimes become delusional. This tasted like sweet chalky milk with cinnamon. I am not a fan with white foods or liquids in general, so I was against it from the start.

9:00 pm - Can 1-Lays Stacks. Original Flavor - stacks of thin potato, salt, and other stuff. Absolutely delicious. I didn't eat all of them - so don't judge. The perfect way to end a cleanse.

Overall, I truly was not hungry one bit and I didn't feel weak at all like the Master Cleanse. Yes, there were things tempting me, and if I hadn't hated the taste of the green juice so much then I probably could have made it through to the end.

Go to BluePrint Cleanse to check it out for yourself, they deliver across the country.

Click here to read about my 3-Day Cleanse.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Homemade Chocolate Ice Cream

Sorry for the lull in posts for the last couple months, but this summer slowly heated up, making it difficult to want to cook or bake with no air conditioning. On the bright side I did buy an ice cream maker to make the summer seem a little more bearable. I figured that I spend a considerable amount of money on ice cream, and I might as well buy the best quality ingredients and make my own. So I bought a Cuisinart Pure Indulgence 2-Quart Automatic Frozen Yogurt, Sorbet, and Ice Cream Maker.

For my first try I made the ice cream with just milk and sugar, but next time I will probably try adding eggs for a custard base. I am waiting for the book called Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments by Davd Lebovitz to be delivered from Amazon so I can become a serious ice cream creator.

I went to the Green Market and bought milk from Milk Thistle Farm. The woman who sold me my whole milk and heavy cream was very nice and wished me luck on my first batch of ice cream. Twenty-one dollars later (so expensive, but so worth it) I hopped on the subway uptown.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A is For Amazing

This Italian flourless chocolate cake is called a Torta Barozzi. It comes from The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food by Lynne Rossetto Kasper. I made this cake several months ago, and sadly have not posted it until now because it is a rather lengthy recipe, but so worth it. It is the best chocolate cake I have had in my life. There is no need to goop the cake with frosting, the chocolate is so rich and decadent that only a small piece suffices. If you have a weekend afternoon I definitely recommend you make it for yourself or for someone special. It supposedly tastes best the first 24 hours, but I truly enjoy it the next day straight of the fridge. It keeps for up to three days in the fridge wrapped in plastic wrap, and in the freezer up to 2 months.