Nutella Panna Cotta with Frangelico Whipped Cream

Nutella Panna Cotta with Frangelico Whipped CreamPod People
My sister invited my family over for dinner about a week ago for no real reason except to be able to talk to someone who doesn’t live within the walls of her home. We’ve done this a lot over the past few months. We are a pod.

Much like many people these days, coming up with something to make for dinner is a bit of a challenge. Even devout cooks like my sister and I are fairly tired of preparing three meals a day. Cooking fatigue is real, my friends. After some heavy thinking (and since it’s a family favorite) she decided to go with paella for dinner. I was put in charge of dessert.

You would think deciding on a dessert would be easy, you would be wrong. Because we were having Spanish cuisine, I wanted to make something chocolate-y because when I think of Spain I think of Spanish hot chocolate and churros. However, I had no desire to fry up churros. I also did not want to do the usual cake because I didn’t want to turn on the oven and make the house hotter. I wanted something different.

I came across this recipe for Panna Cotta and knew it would be the perfect choice. Panna Cotta is an Italian dessert of sweetened cream that uses gelatin for thickening so it can be molded. It is essentially a custard without the eggs. The recipe I found uses Nutella as the base—and you just can’t go wrong with the flavor of chocolate and hazelnuts. It was a hit all around and the perfect ending to a tasty meal.

Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to make this. The Panna Cotta needs as much time as you can give it to set. Topped with plain, sweetened whipped cream, this dessert is so good. Adding a little booze to your whipped cream takes it to an even higher level. I chose to use Frangelico to keep the flavors consistent, but Cointreau would also work well with the chocolate.

Nutella Panna Cotta with Frangelico Whipped Cream
Yields 6 servings
Adapted from NY Times Cooking
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French Onion Soup

French Onion SoupBon aperitif!
For the most part, I don’t use a lot of alcohol in the recipes I make. Except for wine. And beer. OK, maybe I just don’t use the hard stuff a lot with the exception of the occasional tequila lime shrimp (or chicken). All kidding aside, I do tend to leave alcohol out of certain recipes if I think they don’t really need it. For example, I leave the booze out of my tiramisu because I think the flavor competes too much with the coffee. Blasphemy, I know.

There are some recipes, though, where that alcohol flavor is a must. Beef and Guinness Stew is one. Coq au Vin is another. (I mean, it’s in the name. You can’t leave it out.) And, of course, desserts too numerous to count, that can either be lit on fire or not. (I see you Bananas Foster Bread Pudding).

Sometimes, you just gotta add a little pick-me-up to whatever your making. A splash of white wine in your Chicken Pot Pie gravy makes a world of difference without overpowering everything else. And having a little glass for yourself while you cook is a lovely reward for your hard work. I confess to having a bit more reward than usual lately. I have found it a little bit harder in recent days to leave the happy bubble that is my kitchen but, alas, we must soldier on.

If there is one recipe that requires the addition of alcohol to make it right, it is French Onion Soup. Not only do the flavors of wine and Cognac give the soup it’s distinctive flavor, it’s just so French.

With the weather actually feeling a bit fall-like this week, I am planning on making Julia Child’s version this weekend. It is quintessentially French and Julia would definitely be okay with a little wine for you as well as the soup…

French Onion Soup
Adapted from Julia Child and the Food Network
Yields 4 servings Read more…

Sophie’s Chocolate Ice Cream

Sophie’s Chocolate Ice CreamBirthdays in Quarantine
This week is birthday week. It happens every year…obviously. It starts with my boys, then me, and ends with my daughter. The boys turned 16 on Tuesday, (we won’t talk about me), and my daughter will be 14 on Sunday.

Having a birthday in quarantine kinda sucks. They should be out with their friends and having a good time. Instead, they are stuck at home with their parents which, I like to remind them, isn’t that bad…I mean, I think we’re pretty cool. They’re not convinced.

The biggest challenge for me is how to make their day special when every day seems like Groundhog Day. They didn’t really ask for anything as far as presents go. How do you make a birthday special while sheltering in place? My answer: favorite foods.

The birthday dinner requests were pretty telling as far as personalities go. The boys chose chicken cutlets with mashed potatoes and milk gravy. They were adamant that there be no vegetables or anything with a color that wasn’t beige. And, for dessert, we had S’Mores Dip (with a side of Tums) #TeenageBoys.

My choice for dinner is take-out BBQ from Slow Hand BBQ my favorite place near my house and a Texas Sheet Cake courtesy of my daughter. We ate outside ‘cause I’m sick of being inside—so, that means BBQ.

And then, there is my daughter. There was no question in my mind that she would choose something out of the ordinary and I was right. Her request? Dim Sum and Roast Peking Duck. So I am trying to figure out how to make this happen in a shelter-in-place world. Dim Sum is all about the experience of going out and picking tasty things from the carts that roll by. Making my own is possible but too difficult if you want variety…and don’t get me started on the duck!

The good news? Her request for dessert is an easy one. She wants to make the homemade chocolate ice cream she made in her class last summer. That I can handle…

Sophie’s Chocolate Ice Cream
Yields approximately 1 quart Read more…

Danish Pebernødder Cookies

Danish Pebernødder CookiesDane Good Cookies
If you have been reading my blog for a while you will know that I come from a big tribe of Vikings. In one corner of the ring you have my dad’s side of the family, The Swedes. In the other corner you have my mother’s side, the Danes…and there really is no contest. The Danes outnumber the Swedes by a significant amount. Because of our familial makeup, it makes sense that many of our holiday celebrations have Scandinavian roots. This is no more apparent than in our Christmas cookies.

Scandinavians are fantastic bakers. In fact we can trace a lot of tasty treats back to the old country. The Danes even have an entire category of breakfast named after them. Where they really shine, in my opinion, is with their cookies. It wouldn’t be Christmas in my family if there weren’t any Gingie cookies. I have written about them before, and you will be happy to know that I have gone through two batches already. I will be making two more batches this weekend to hand out to friends. Can’t let Sweden have all the glory though. I will be making traditional Danish Pebernødder along with them.

The Danish people love their warming spices especially at Christmas time. Cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and cloves are wildly popular flavors that are found all through Danish baking recipes. Pebernødder (or Peppernuts) contain all of the above but they take spice one step further by adding white pepper for some kick. If you are lucky enough to live in an area with a large Scandinavian population, you might be able to find these spices already mixed in specifically for Pebernødder this time of year but it’s just as easy to do it yourself.

These cookies are tiny little addictive balls of crunchy goodness that you can eat by the handful. The good news is this recipe makes a lot of them. They are great with a hot cup of tea or coffee or even better with a glass of milk for Santa…

Danish Pebernødder
Makes about 200 small cookies
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