Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Birthday Bakery Hopping!

Birthday. Bakery. Hopping.

Have you ever heard of anything more wonderful?

No, I am not about to share a traditional family birthday celebration (although after this year it may just become one!) or a special dish. What I will share though is basically the recipe for a perfect birthday!

My birthday falls right in between Passover and Shavuot and this year after a big move and hosting my first Chaggim (holiday) meals, the birthday celebration budget was better put to use in the form of matzah and cream cheese for cheesecakes than balloons and streamers. That didn't stop M from mapping out the most creative and literally sweeeetest day! Being new to a city and having only visited one bakery, I was desperately missing my baked good comforts from home (donuts and danishes especially). And so began the wonder that is BBH.

What exactly is Birthday Bakery Hopping? M mapped out 5 bakeries all over the city where we would drive to and I would be treated to one dessert, pastry or baked good of my choice. Going back to my love of donuts and danishes, the only rule was that if donuts were available those would be the first choice and if not then... well then everything was fair game! Surprisingly only 1 of the 5 bakeries actually had a donut! Which meant that my day looked like this:

Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Tart (My absolute favorite of the entire day! By far the BEST dessert I have ever had. Ever. If you're ever in Montreal, go to Exceptions and order one, right away.)
Blackberry Tart
Fresh (warm!) Chocolate Danish
Chocolate Sprinkle Custard Filled Donuts
By the time we reached the last bakery we threw in latkes and egg rolls as well which had just come out of the oven.  I never thought I'd so badly crave something savory, but with all the sugar running through me, well those latkes didn't stand a chance!

The day ended with M baking my birthday cake! I relinquished the use of my KitchenAid (on the condition that I could remain in the kitchen and observe the proceedings) as he made me my dream cake! One chocolate fudge layer, one strawberry layer, vanilla icing binding it all together and a wonderful array of sprinkles over top! The first time I saw this beautiful Sweetapolita cake, I immediately loved it! M's adaptation was the perfect ending to the sweetest day!
Happy to have shared this bakery hopping experience with you. Do you have a favorite birthday dessert?

 Here's looking forward to many more years of treats, sprinkles and sweetness!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Time For Some Cheesecake...

It's no secret that I love cake. Chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, carrot, banana, with frosting or without - cake is wonderful. It's one of the best parts of birthdays, dessert menus and... life! It almost feels magical; a few eggs, some flour, throw in some sugar, add a few extras and BAM you've got yourself some happiness.

And then along comes the Queen of all cakes. The Cheesecake. The luxurious option that always makes choosing dessert a challenge (c'mon you've been there, sitting in a restaurant trying to decide if you'll go for the cheesecake with the warm chocolate or strawberry or caramel sauce or that classic chocolate cake!). It's never a question with me - cheesecake always wins. It just does.

I want to share this recipe in the spirit of Shavuot. This is only second to my Mom's cheesecake cupcakes (which I hope to post asap!) for All Time Favorite Cheesecake. Without question, everyone I have shared this recipe with has not only loved it, but adopted it themselves. It's been served at Shavuot lunches, Kollel Ladies' Kiddushes and just about anywhere else my friends have deemed fit. That's the thing about this cheesecake - not only is it so wonderful that you want to make it for yourself all the time and eat the entire cake in a sitting, you WANT to share it! You want everyone to try it because it makes you feel like some super amazing baker (re: chocolate cream filled cupcakes!). And it's just SO good! Think Terry's Chocolate Orange (kosher in the UK and basically the only thing I ever ask of from anyone heading in that direction) + a smooth, creamy Hershey's chocolate! Yup. It's a winner.

Hope you enjoy it as much as we do! Now I'm off to make some cake, and quite possibly (umm... definitely) eat some too!

Click on the picture below for the recipe!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Beyond The Kitchen #1: The Tree!

As the itsy bitsy baleubusta, I have come to learn plenty while throwing out burned batches of desserts or wandering the grocery store looking for that one ingredient (without knowing the wide variety of substitutions available to me in my pantry at home...). Here's hoping these little tips and tricks will save you needless trips around town or at the very least make you smile knowing we don't all always have it figured out!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sesame Green Beans

Here's a quick, simple side that's a perfect addition to any meal. As I'm starting to plan my Shavuot menu, I'm looking for adaptable pareve sides. Budget friendly is one concern but I'm also not willing to compromise on taste or quality, especially since it's for one of my favorite holidays of the year!

Last Friday while running through the last of the prep for dinner, I pulled together some of the ingredients that were still out from other dishes in an effort to make a green bean side. I had just used sesame seeds on my challah for the first time and was looking to add them to another dish. After going through a few cookbooks, I either didn't have all of the ingredients required or didn't have the time to prep it so I decided to improvise! I ended up with a side that's a candidate for my Shavuot menu!

It's super quick, no mess & flavorful! Enjoy!!

Sesame Green Beans (4 servings)
1 lb green beans, ends trimmed & steamed
1/4 c soy sauce
4 tbsp honey
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp sesame seeds

Rinse the green beans and trim the ends
Steam the green beans in a large pot, with salted water (vary the time depending on your preference. We like them very, very tender, so we allowed them to steam in the pot on low-medium heat for about 6 minutes. Adjust depending on how tender/crisp you'd prefer them)
Drain water from pot and place green beans in a casserole dish or serving bowl
Add soy sauce, honey, salt and sesame seeds. Using two forks, toss until completely combined and coated
Refrigerate until  ready to serve. To store (although I'm not sure you'll have leftovers!): Keep in a container for 2 days, refrigerated.

These are also great with a dollop of hummus!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Caldo Verde

So funny story... I've wanted to make this soup for a long time. It's a classic dish in my family, a soup that's brought out for Sunday dinner or when you're sick and dropped off when you need some comfort. But the thing is, I could never figure out what those green things in the soup were! My grandmother called them "coves" so that's what they were, no questions asked. Imagine my surprise when none of the supermarkets sold anything called "coves"?! Before I really ran with the idea that my grandmother had invented this soup and her garden was the main source of "coves" I called my Mom. A few minutes later I was walking out of the store with a bunch of leaves that I was assured were what I needed even though the tag read "kale" (I'm a chocolate kinda girl and used to be a pretty picky eater - new vegetables only made their grand entrance into my diet a few years ago).

I've made this soup a few times, trying to get the same flavor in a kosher variation of the original recipe. Something has always tasted off. Finally after a bit of experimenting, blending recipes, adapting and changing methods, I managed to get it tasting the way it should! I've made this in a crock pot, using an immersion blender and mashing the potatoes by hand but nothing worked until today! My beloved food processor to the rescue! For years I've heard people talk about how it's their most valued kitchen gadget but I never understood... until now! It's my assistant in the kitchen, making my hummus as I'm prepping everything else and taking care of sauces, salads and all chopping. I've officially joined the food processor fan club! That being said, if you don't have access to one, the next best thing is an immersion blender and finally if that isn't an option than a potato masher will do! I got mine at the local dollar store and it worked really well, just took a little more effort.

For those who will want to ensure it's entirely kosher, you can find an image of Kale and directions for checking it by clicking here: Star K. You only need a very small quantity so don't be too intimidated if checking isn't your thing!

There are a few steps but in the end it's definitely worth the effort! This soup is a favorite around my house and a tried and tested classic! I hope you love it as much as we do!

Enjoy!!

Caldo Verde (2 servings - can easily be doubled)

1 1/2 c water
1 1/2 cup soup broth (or 1 1/2 cup boiling water with 1 tsp of pareve chicken soup base)
4 potatoes
1/4 lb kale (about one bundle)
1 tsp minced garlic
Dash of salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
(The traditional recipe calls for linguica or chorizo, I opted not to add the meat element. The few times I have attempted substitutes it's thrown off the soup entirely. See below for variations of the recipe with the added meat element.)

Peel and cut the potatoes into halves and then quarters.
Place the potatoes in a pot together with the water and soup broth.
Add a dash of salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil, cover and cook over low - medium heat for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, after checking the kale, fold the leaves in half so that the stem is on one side and the leaves are opposite it. Going lengthwise, slice thin strips. You'll only need about 1 to 1 1/2 cups.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the potatoes and place them in the food processor bowl.
Make sure not to drain the water in the pot, you'll be returning the potatoes shortly!
Using the steel blade attachment, process the potatoes for 3 minutes on low.
Stop and check the consistency - it should be almost creamy, still a thick consistency but completely pureed. If necessary process for one more minute.
Pour the pureed potatoes back into the pot.
Add the kale, minced garlic, onion powder and olive oil as well as a tsp of salt.
Bring the pot back to boil. To ensure the kale is tender allow it to boil for 3-5 minutes.
You may want to add more salt. Upon tasting it, adjust it to your liking!
Don't let the soup stand for long before serving, the oil rises to the top and the consistency of the potatoes will start to harden. Before serving, be sure you've brought it back to a boil, stirring all the while so that the potato absorbs all of the water and that it doesn't burn.





You can find variations of this recipe in, Faye Levy's "Healthy Cooking For The Jewish Home" as well as a fantastic resource to have if you love slow cooking and are looking to create a few gourmet meals, Jane Price's "Kitchen Classics: Slow Cookers"
Food Network Chef, Emeril Lagasse also has a wonderful variation which can be found on the Food Network website.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Special Mother's Day Post: Cupcake Bouquet!

This blog is all about the incredible women who have imparted their wisdom, either through their kind words or their strong actions and have made me who I am today. Even though we should take the time to celebrate the incredible women in our lives everyday, the reality is that too often we're clouded by to-do lists and running around to do much celebrating. Maybe that's why we're given this special day every year! Apart from birthdays and holidays, Mother's Day is all about celebrating the amazingness that is our Moms. Those special ladies that bandage the cuts, give the best hugs, tell you what you need to hear (whether you want to or not) and no matter what, are always there. They care, they love and they do it relentlessly!

I've never been a very big fan of flowers. I'm not the best at keeping plants... 'flourishing', so they tend to intimidate me more than anything! But there's no denying that receiving a bouquet is always a sure way to bring about a smile. So... who says that a bouquet has to be made out of flowers? If a bouquet's only going to disappear in a few days anyway why not make it super fun, enjoyable... & delicious (with, say cupcakes perhaps?).

When I made my Mom this cupcake bouquet I think it made me a million times happier than it made her. She just kept twirling it around and was, dare I say it - impressed! Is there a better feeling than when you've impressed your Mom?? She even cleared out a shelf in the fridge and carefully placed it there, to preserve it to show to family who were coming over a day later!

This cupcake bouquet did take quite a bit of manipulation and creativity. It involved a trip to a craft store for supplies as well as the grocery store. It's best to prepare it in steps and please make sure you have everything you need before you start. I know that's commonly said before plenty of recipes but trust me, it's pretty frustrating when you go in to pin the tenth cupcake and you're short a skewer! Also, don't panic when the cupcakes start falling off your bouquet - it's going to happen. If you're anything like me there's going to be some mess, a few tears and sheer confusion at how all those awesome foodie bloggers manage to get such beautiful, clean, crisp pictures of their prep! But y'know what the best part about our little madness is? When we finally pull off the finished product (what feels like 3 years later) the pride just bursts out of you!

Below you will find pictures of prep that you don't normally find on a blog. There's mess, stuff everywhere and somewhere in the midst of it all a batch of cupcakes transforming into a bouquet. It's my little metaphor for all the amazing mommies out there. Through all the mess, chaos and work there's something bright flourishing. It take a lot of work, a lot of frustration but at the end of the day you'll feel that pride!

To all incredible Moms (and most of all to My Mommy!) thank you for everything that you constantly do. It may not always be shown (though it most definitely should be) but you're our heroes, our role models and as much as we yell and scream when we're young, I can tell you that everyday this Itsy Bitsy Balebusta hopes she becomes more & more like her very special Mom!

Hope your Mom enjoys this very special flour bouquet and has a wonderful Mother's Day!

Cupcake Bouquet

You Will Need:
1 clay pot, medium sized (can vary depending on how many cupcakes you'd like to arrange)
1 Styrofoam ball (purchase this after the pot, they come in a variety of sizes and you'll want to have the pot on you while shopping so that you can fit the ball into it to ensure it's the right size)
1 sheet of green tissue paper
A small package of marbles or pebbles from the craft store or dollar store
22 wooden skewer
Mini cupcake pan
Colorful mini cupcake liners

Cupcakes:

Here's a great cupcake recipe you can use to make the mini cupcakes as well as a video on how to pipe from the ever amazing Can't Stop Baking I absolutely love this blog, there are a ton of great recipes! (Just click on the name of the blog to take you to the recipe).

A Classic Buttercream icing would work great here. I used a frosting recipe from the cookbook "Spice and Spirit" that was a little bit lighter. You can find a link to it on the Itsy Bitsy Balebusta's Shop page.

Basic Creamy White Frosting (page 393)
1/4 c margarine, softened
3 cups confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Dash of salt
3-5 tbsp non-dairy creamer

Cream the margarine. Add confectioners sugar, vanilla, salt and enough non-dairy creamer to achieve a spreadable consistency. *Here I added a little bit less, about 3 1/2 tbsp in order to keep it more cohesive and hold up better as flowers on the cupcakes.
Divide the frosting into 2 bowls and using gel food coloring, tint it to the color of your choosing. You can add more than 2 bowls and do a wide variety of colors. Just keep in mind that there's a lot of work in the assembly and prep and you don't want to be overwhelmed trying to alternate 10 colors! Map out how you will alternate them before icing if you want to avoid having two of the same color next to each other. If you do have side by side matching colors in the end, then no worries - it'll add a natural element to your bouquet!
You can also use icing pens (available at your local craft store or supermarket) to add additional details to your flowers!

*I've also prepared this bouquet using a confetti cake mix. You want something that's sturdy but not heavy. Eliminate any pound cake options as well as anything filled. Anything too fluffy also won't work out. You need something that will stay in place on the skewer and not so heavy that it will weigh it down or fall off (happened to a friend of a friend of mine... okay it happened to me, but baking is all about trial and error... right?)


Assembly:
Wrap your Styrofoam ball in the sheet of green tissue paper.
Place the marbles/ pebbles into the pot.
Place the wrapped Styrofoam ball over top the marbles onto the pot. It should fit snugly and not move. 
Carefully insert a 3 inch long skewer into the ball. Continue evenly spacing out each skewer. If your wooden skewers are too long than cut them to fit. Do not use tooth picks. They are too flimsy and won't properly support the weight of the cupcake.
Insert the skewer so that only an inch protrudes.
Carefully center the mini cupcake over the skewer and push into place. Repeat until all of your cupcakes are safely on the ball. Start with the bottom row and work your way up to the top of the ball. Tightly pack they so that they support each other.
Once all of the cupcakes are assembled, starting with the topmost one, pipe frosting onto it. Start with a dot in the center and without moving your wrist too much, move your hand in a quick clockwise motion, spiraling away from the center until you've reached the perimeter of the cupcake. Don't pipe all the way to the edge or else the icing will touch the other cupcakes and start to get messy. Keep each one as self contained as possible.
One you've finished piping the top one, continue on the second row and then bottom until they are all frosted!
Wrap a bow around the pot and your flour bouquet is done!


I hope you had more fun than stress preparing this and that your Mom loves her wonderful surprise!

Enjoy!!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Tuna and Potato Casserole

May is the month of birthdays in my family! Last week it was my special day, this past weekend my brother celebrated his and today would have been my Avo's. She was one incredibly special person. M and I wanted to do something to mark her day and decided what better way than over a warm meal! I absolutely loved and will forever cherish all of the amazing memories I was very lucky to have with her and most of the time I can't believe she's not here anymore.  So many of those great memories revolve around loud, delicious family dinners so this was only appropriate!

We opted for something traditional and quintessentially Avo. Tuna & Batatas! *aka Tuna & Potatoes. M first tried his hand at Portuguese with the word "batatas" and although it took a few years to convince him to try this dish, it's one of his favorites now (& he really loves to say "batatas")!

As usual, there's barely any mess or clean up and all of the ingredients are commonly found in the pantry or fridge.  It can be served either warm or cold and it's great for dinner or in a container for lunch! Below I'm adding two versions of the recipe. The simple one is the one preferred by my siblings and I while the other is the traditional way my grandparents, Mom and now M prefer it.


Tuna and Batatas (Traditional)
5 potatoes, peeled and boiled
2 cans of tuna
1/2- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped or 1 1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 onion, diced
1 hard boiled egg
Dash of salt to taste
 
Peel and boil five potatoes
Once completely soft and boiled, drain the water from the pot.
Using a fork, break down the potatoes to small - medium size pieces, in the same pot you used to boil
Open and drain the cans of tuna and add them to the pot
 Mix the tuna so that it is completely combined
Add the diced onion and parsley, continue to mix with fork until combined
Add a dash of salt, to taste
Fold in the mayonnaise
Transfer mixture to a casserole dish
Slice the hard boiled egg and arrange the slices around the perimeter of the dish

For the Simplified version, simply remove the parsley, onion and egg!

Enjoy!!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Broccoli Kugel

I know this is bound to sound super weird but I want to share a Passover recipe that I think is on par with all year round recipes *cue gasp!* It's not a dessert, it doesn't even have a hint of chocolate in it... in fact its main ingredient is broccoli. Hang in there, I promise it'll be worth the time!

I am so excited to add this recipe because it's a recipe from my first Passover preparations! The beginning of my own traditions and holiday staples! This itsy bitsy balebusta is growing everyday!

I love kugels. You can think of a kugel as a blend between a casserole and a pie. They are incredibly versatile - you can find recipes for everything from a noodle kugel to potato, carrot, zucchini and so on! This particular kugel is quite possibly the best way to sneak broccoli onto the table and actually make it tasty! I tried my best to not re-make any recipes during Passover and have a different side, main and dessert for each meal, however for second days I couldn't resist and made it again! It's a great addition to any meal, both dairy or meat and compliments anything from roast to a lasagna. And it's non-gebrokts (meaning it has no matzah or cake meal or flour at all!). Really it's the jackpot of Passover sides and so good you'll want to make it all year round! Enjoy!

Broccoli Kugel (makes 1 2" x 6" loaf)
(adapted from http://culinarykosher.com/recipe/Pesach-Pesach_Non-Gebroks/Pesach-Broccoli-Kugel/3586)

12 oz broccoli, washed and checked (frozen works just as well, just make sure it's defrosted and thawed)
3 eggs
8 tablespoons margarine
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons potato starch
2 teaspoons dry onion soup mix
dash of salt and pepper

Whisk eggs, mayo, potato starch, margarine, dry onion soup mix and salt and pepper until completely combined
Slowly add the broccoli 3 ounces at a time and continue whisking until all of the broccoli is completely coated in egg the mixture
Pour mixture into a greased loaf pan (a shallow pie dish or brownie type pan would work just as well!)
Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until golden.
Allow 20 minutes to cool, the oil will absorb and the loaf will deflate a bit, but it's totally alright! (*I realized that it didn't signal disaster after slightly panicking when it happened the few times I made it!)
It can be served cold or warm and should be stored, covered in the refrigerator