Caramel Apples

Caramel ApplesBoo Humbug
I don’t know what Halloween will be like in your neck of the woods, but where I live there will be no trick or treating. It’s beyond disappointing, especially for the kids. But, I get it. That doesn’t make it any less depressing. As the mother of a kid who is not handling the isolation well, it’s just one more item to add to the list of things she has looked forward to that have now been taken away during this pandemic. No getting around it. The whole situation stinks…

In talking with friends and neighbors I have heard different ideas on how to still make Halloween fun while keeping everyone safe. Some are planning social distanced “pod” parties with costumes. Others are buying the King Size candy to give to the kids next door. And for others it’s just a regular Saturday night…maybe with a horror movie on demand. For me I see this as an opportunity to do something for Halloween that I have always wanted to do, but just wasn’t practical.

love caramel apples and I have always wanted to be “that house” that gave out the really cool caramel apples to kids on Halloween but haven’t for a few reasons. First, most parents aren’t too cool with their kids getting the homemade treats in their candy bags. This is mainly because you just don’t know what’s in them or if they are safe. I totally get it and have been guilty of making my kids toss those items ‘cause I’m not sure about them.

Second, who has that much time? In a regular year I’m lucky if I remember to stock up on fun size Snickers and Reese’s in between Halloween concerts and sporting events. Also, making caramel apples requires a decent amount of caramel and whether you unwrap all of those little caramels and melt them or make your own, it’s labor intensive. Lastly I have come to the realization that while I have Martha Stewart tendencies I am not, in fact, she. The thought alone makes me tired.

If ever there was a year to make caramel apples, it’s this Halloween. I would only do it for the kids in my neighborhood that I know really well which has the added bonus of limiting the number I need to make. It would be like my version of the king sized candy bar. You could add marshmallows and chocolate chips or even some cute Halloween sprinkles. Wrap them up in Halloween cello bags and it’s a fun tasty treat. The bonus, of course, is that any extra caramel can be used to dip apple slices for a treat of your own….

Caramel Apples
Adapted from the Food Network
Yields 6 servings (6 apples)

You will need a candy thermometer to measure the temperature of the caramel. And, candy apple sticks are available in many supermarkets. Read more…

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
Read more…

Fresh Fruit & Mascarpone Tart

Fresh Fruit & Mascarpone Tart

Tart of the Matter
When you think of mascarpone cheese what comes to mind? OK, wait. I’m being presumptuous. Does anyone else actually ponder mascarpone cheese? Or is that just me? On second thought, don’t answer that. Let me just live in my happy little bubble where everyone spends significant time considering the wonders of spreadable Italian cheeses…

I love mascarpone cheese. It’s essentially Italy’s cream cheese and I actually like it better than the tried and true Philly cream cheese because it’s got a fresher more mild flavor than the American version. Don’t get me wrong I’m still here for a good cream cheese frosting and you don’t get that with mascarpone. You do however get fantastic things like tiramisu with mascarpone and you can swap out your whipped cream for a dollop of mascarpone next time you find yourself with a bowl of fresh summer berries.

To quote Forest Gump, “Fresh fruits and mascarpone go together like peas and carrots.”

For your tart you can use peaches or plums with raspberries or blueberries. Any combination will work. Strawberries are always insanely good when paired with a little mascarpone. Even better if they come together in a tart. Lately I have enjoyed a mix of all of ‘em.

This recipe for a Fresh Fruit & Mascarpone Tart below is what I call a good start. It’s a basic recipe that can be adapted to suit your own taste. You can play with the crust. Personally, I like to make it with a graham cracker crust or r you could go this route with a rye crust. Our recipe uses a traditional Pâté Sucrée (French sweet pastry) crust.

This is definitely a dessert best prepared and served on the weekend as it doesn’t hold up too well overnight.

Fresh Fruit & Mascarpone Tart
Yields 6 servings Read more…

Coffee and Coconut Non-Dairy Ice Cream

Coffee and Coconut Non-Dairy Ice CreamGoing Through A Phase
For better or worse, I have been eating more than the normal amount of ice cream lately. It happens. I go through phases where I have to have some every night. I am currently smack dab in the middle of one of those phases. Even better, the phase has phases.

I start out with the family favorites like mocha almond fudge and pecan praline and let’s not forget the classic vanilla with chocolate sauce. After a week of that, I turn to the ice cream sandwich phase. It’s-its and drumsticks are a must-have. They are a reminder of summers dashing out of the house and racing down the street at the sound of the ice cream truck driving by.

The final phase, the phase I am in now, is the try something new phase. If you have been in the ice cream section lately I am sure you have noticed that your options for a frozen treat have become bountiful. From coconut, to soy, to cashew, or even oat milk there are so many possibilities to satisfy your cravings.

My most recent foray into the world of dairy-free desserts is this recipe for dairy-free ice cream which combines two of my favorite ice cream flavors, coffee, and coconut. The result is a treat so good you may never go back…well, until the next phase comes around!

Coffee and Coconut Non-Dairy Ice Cream
Adapted from Food 52
Read more…