Friday, March 26, 2010

Chocolate Pudding, but don't tell anyone it's made from tofu

Unless they're like me and think it's awesome that something so delicious could be remotely good for you. But here's the thing, a lot of people (uh like my dad or dad-in-law) would probably complain about this pudding before eating it if they knew its primary ingredient was tofu.

Better just to feed it to them, let them ooh and aah over how yummy it is, and THEN drop the tofu bomb.

Sorry parents. This is what you get for raising your children in California.

This pudding sets to a thick and silky consistency--some say it's more like mousse, but I think it's a little too dense to call it that. Creamy dark chocolate pots? Tofu pudding mousse? Vegan chocolate pudding cups? ... It doesn't matter. Just eat it. It tastes good.

Tofu Chocolate Pudding
Adapted from Alton Brown via
serves 6
I've seen this recipe done many ways, using the same ratio of chocolate chips to tofu. This happens to be Alton Brown's recipe with a few modifications: I reduced the coffee liqueur from 1/3 cup down to 3 tablespoons (everyone complained last time that the alcohol flavor was overpowering) and made individual pudding cups instead of one entire pie. If you happen to be in a pie mood, feel free to pour this filling into the pie crust of your choice.

• 2 cups good quality chocolate chips--semi-sweet or 60% cocoa, or a mix of both
• 3 tablespoons coffee liqueur
• 1 block silken tofu
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 tablespoon honey (Note: if you want to make this recipe 100% Vegan, replace honey with 1 tablespoon of refined sugar.)
• fresh fruit and chocolate curls for serving, optional

Place a small metal bowl over a saucepan with simmering water. Melt the chocolate and coffee liqueur in the bowl. Stir in vanilla.

Combine the tofu, chocolate mixture, and honey in a blender jar or food processor. Liquefy until smooth.

Pour the filling into 6 4-oz molds and refrigerate for 2 hours, or until the filling is set.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Fideo--Mexican Spaghetti?

Kind of. When I'd ask my mom for spaghetti growing up, this is what I got.

I'm pretty sure I went through half my life eating tons of Mexican dishes without knowing they were distinctly Mexican. Didn't your mom use leftover corned beef to make taquitos? No? Hm. That's weird.

(You should try that, by the way. If there's corned beef leftover in this house on Wednesday, I'll tell you how.)

No matter, though. Let's talk about fideo. It simply means "pasta" in Spanish, and in Mexico it specifically refers to thin spaghetti-like pasta that's toasted and cooked in a very light and fragrant tomato sauce. According to my mother, there is only one way to make Fideo, and that's the right way.

So she probably wouldn't approve that I used chicken stock in place of chicken bouillon cubes in this recipe... I don't know. Those things kind of weird me out so I avoid them when I can. People in Mexico do like their bouillon cubes, though.

If you make this dish, you're in for some home-y (not homie) Mexican goodness. It's a simple meal, but it hits the spot every time.

serves 4
My mom would want you to know that adding shredded chicken to this dish makes it Fideo con Pollo, not Fideo... just in case you run into her and she tells you you did it wrong.

• 12 ounces fideo cortado (short fideo), fideo or vermicelli pasta
• 1 can (14 ounces) fire roasted chopped tomatoes
• 1-2 chopped chipotles en adobo, minced (optional)
• 1 cup chicken (or vegetable) stock
• 1 onion, chopped
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 teaspoon oregano
• 1 teaspoon cumin
• 4 tablespoons olive oil
• salt and pepper
• Queso Fresco for serving (suitable substitutes include feta or parmesan)
• 2 cups cooked shredded chicken or smoked turkey (optional)

Heat oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the noodles and onions, stirring constantly. If using regular fideo or vermicelli pasta, break the noodles up into short (3 inch) peices with a wooden spoon. Continue to fry noodles until most are golden brown in color. (It's okay--some will be dark brown.) Add the garlic.

Add the tomatoes, chipotle, chicken stock, cumin and oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed and noodles are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in chicken or turkey, if using, and continue to cook until heated through.

Serve with crumbed or grated queso fresco.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Espresso Brownies for my favorite law student

One time I shipped Rochelle espresso brownies for her birthday because I figured she's in law school and could use all the extra caffeine she can get.

She cut them up, froze them, and took one to school every morning for breakfast. And when someone asked her if they came from Starbucks she became thoroughly offended and flatly informed them that they were in fact home-made brownies shipped all the way from California!

Rochelle came home yesterday and I drove out to visit her with more espresso brownies. She cut into them immediately... I think we hugged, then she then she ran to the kitchen with the brownies... In fact, I'm not sure she even used a knife she was in such a hurry. Rochelle, did you use your index finger cut these?

Rochelle and I graduating from college

She might have. Which is to say that these brownies are absolutely amazing. Espresso is the perfect accompaniment to chocolate, and in brownie form, the pairing is a total home-run. In fact, I always add espresso powder to my brownies and ganaches if I have it on hand; a little bit of coffee will always intensify the flavor of chocolate without over-powering it.

The original idea for these brownies came from Giada De Laurentiis, who added espresso powder, chocolate chips and a creamy espresso glaze to a boxed brownie. If you choose to make your brownies this way, might I suggest using Ghiradelli chocolate brownie mix? In my own at-home taste tests, I've concluded that these are hands-down the best boxed brownie.

I made these brownies from scratch, however, using my favorite Alton Brown cocoa brownie recipe. They bake up super dense and fudgy, which is exactly the way I think brownies should be.

Espresso Brownies

adapted from Alton Brown's I'm Just Here for More Food and Giada De Laurentiis via
makes 1 8x8 inch tray of brownies
I like Alton's baking recipes because he includes the option to measure ingredients by weight, making for more precise results. If you have a kitchen scale, by all means, haul it out for this recipe.

• 4 ounces or 1 1/3 cups cocoa powder
• 3.5 ounces or 2/3 cup all purpose flour
• 1/8 ounce or 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
• 4 large eggs or 7 ounces
• 1/3 ounce or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 7 ounces or 1 cup granulated sugar
• 8 ounces or 1 cup brown sugar
• 8 ounces, 2 sticks or 1 cup melted unsalted butter
• 1 cup chocolate chips
• 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons espresso powder
• 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
• 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
• 2 tablespoons hot water

Place an oven rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 F. Prepare an 8-inch square pan by greasing it with cooking spray.

Sift together 2 tablespoons espresso powder, flour, cocoa and salt.

In an electric stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the eggs at medium speed until light. Add vanilla. Mix in sugars and reduce speed to medium-low, incorporating thoroughly.

Add the butter and the remaining dry ingredients in three alternating doses, starting with the wet and finishing with the dry. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Bake for 55 minutes or until toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs clinging to it.

Cool brownies.

Make icing by dissolving 2 teaspoons of espresso powder in the 2 tablespoons hot water. Whisk in 1 tablespoon butter at room temperature, and 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar. Pour and spread evenly over brownies. Chill in fridge for 15 minutes to set before cutting.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Vanilla Bean Lemon Squares

I made lemon bars because it's practically spring

in Southern California.

It wasn’t spring in London yet. No, it most certainly was not.

So, needless to say, I’m happy to be home. This weather rocks, (I can’t believe I used to be one of those annoying people who complained about Southern CA not having seasons) and I get to cuddle with this guy because he loves me and we’re BFFs.

And I get to use an oven that isn’t the size of a microwave and a microwave that isn’t the size of a shoe box. And I don’t have to worry about screwing up measurement conversions anymore.

I made lemon bars using some ancient Betty Crocker cookbook I found at my in-laws’ house. I *know* I always use Betty Crocker recipes but seriously, it's because she never does me wrong. Besides, our moms used these recipes and their moms used them too--what better proof that they're actually reliable? They also happen to be simple recipes that respond very well to creative interpretation.

For example, I added a vanilla bean to the crust, which only seemed to emphasize it's buttery shortbready goodness. As for the rest of these bars, you can look forward to a crispy, crackly top and a creamy tart lemon filling.

Vanilla Bean Lemon Squares
adapted from Betty Crocker

• 1 cup all-purpose flour

• ½ cup butter

• ¼ cup powdered sugar

• ½ vanilla bean, scraped for seeds

• 1 cup granulated sugar

• 2 teaspoons lemon zest

• 2 tablespoons lemon juice

• ½ teaspoon baking powder

• ¼ teaspoon salt

• 2 eggs
• Powdered sugar for dusting

Heat oven to 350ºF. Mix flour, butter, vanilla seeds and powdered sugar.

Press in ungreased square pan, 8x8x2 or 9x9x2 inches, building up 1/2-inch edges. Bake crust 20 minutes.

Beat granulated sugar, lemon peel, lemon juice, baking powder, salt and eggs with electric mixer on high speed about 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Pour over hot crust.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until no indentation remains when touched lightly in center. Cool; dust with powdered sugar. Cut into about 1 1/2-inch squares.
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