Jelly Beans Nests

Being new to food blogging, I’ve become really interested in challenges. For March, the blog Masterbaker’s Weblog, the challenge surrounded Easter candy. My favorite are gourmet jelly beans (i.e. Jelly Belly). So I embarked on my first challenge.

After looking at various recipes, I actually came across a quick and easy non-bake dessert from Recipezaar that was just too cute. Who would of thought of making a totally edible Easter basket?!?! I just had to make these as little gifts for my niece and younger cousins for Easter.

Here’s the recipe:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 4 cups crunchy chow mein noodles
  • cooking spray
  • jelly beans(or any egg shaped candy)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Over medium heat, combine marshmallows and butter in a large saucepan.
  2. Stir until melted.
  3. Add noodles and stir to completely coat the noodles.
  4. Spray 12 cup muffin pan with cooking spray.
  5. With buttered hands place about 1 tablespoon of mixture into muffin cups and shape with hands to form”nests”. THIS IS A MUST!!! I cut a tbsp of butter and kept greasing my hands after making each nests. The mixture was really sticky. So much fun.
  6. Refrigerate til set.
  7. Fill nests with jelly beans.

NOTE: I mixed about 1.5 tbsp of shredded coconut with 1 to 2 drops of green food coloring to make the “grass.”


I just tried one a few minutes ago. They are sooooooo good! The marshmallow with the chow mein noodles came out even better than a Rice Krispies treat. I had a lot fun eating each jelly bean and guessing the flavor. I’m in Easter bunny ecstacy right now.

These may become my annual Easter treat for friends and family.

We Got Some TCHO!

Today, a package arrived for Carmella from BlakeMakes.com (THANKS, BLAKE!). Inside the odd silvery bubble package was 2 pieces of pungent dark chocolate squares also known as TCHO from Silicone Valley, CA. Carm got all giddy and couldn’t stop sniffing the package. So you know, we had to try it!

After a dinner of Carmella’s turkey meatloaf and cheesy mashed potatoes with corn and green peas, we treated ourselves to some TCHO and coffee. Carmella melted a square of chocolate (well Carm put 2 in hers) down into the each cup of yummy “Danish Pastry” flavored coffee that she brewed in our French press.

Though the scent of TCHO was strong (it was coming right through the package), the chocolate wasn’t overbearing. It brought about a nice, sweet addition. Once melted by the hot coffee, the chocolate blended well with the cream and the Splenda to turn a simple drink into a great dessert on its own. On a scale of 1 to 10, I give TCHO a solid 7!

After I iced my tasty drink, I sipped it as I took on the Scrabulous.com Robot and won, while Carm danced around to Daft Punk with our cat Socks. I guess good chocolate makes her a dancing fool.

– Carlo

Italian Stuffed Shrooms


Disclaimer: This stuff will get you high!!

At the end of January, Carlo and I went to Portland, OR to see some friends. On our second night there, our friend Danica made some stuffed mushrooms for us. They were good, but they didn’t come out as she intended. It was mostly cheese with mushrooms topped with breadcrumbs.

Using what she created, I got inspired to do my own take on stuffed mushrooms by creating this recipe. I don’t like to brag, but I’m rather proud of how it turned out. They were really good. Carlo doesn’t even care for mushrooms, but he liked this dish. He’s even taking some for lunch tomorrow.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 portabello mushroom caps
  • 1 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1/2 c. of Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 c. of chopped red pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 slices of Daiya provolone cheese
  • 1/2 c. of marinara sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp of oregano
  • 1/2 tbsp of crushed red pepper
  • 1 to 1 1/2 c. of shredded vegan mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tbsp of vegan grated cheese or nutritional yeast.  I used Pecorino Romano cheese tonight, since we have a good size wedge of it. If you don’t have that, Parmesean will work fine.

DIRECTION:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  2. Brush mushroom caps with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper
  3. Roast in oven for 10 minutes
  4. Mix together bread crumbs, chopped red pepper and garlic
  5. Remove caps from oven and flip them over
  6. Evenly top caps with bread crumb mixture
  7. Place 1 slice of provolone cheese on top of mushroom
  8. Spoon 2 tablespoons of marinara sauce on top of provolone slice
  9. Sprinkle oregano and crushed red pepper over sauce
  10. Add shredded mozzarella, then grated cheese or nutritional yeast
  11. Place mushrooms back in oven for 10 minutes

With each bite, both Carlo and I thought that there was a good balance with the spices I used. The combination of the cheeses also really complemented the flavor of the mushroom.

I served this dish with some whole wheat pasta. However, I’m thinking this can be plated with some roasted asparagus with pine nuts. I’m going to do that next time.

Buon appetito!

– Carmella

Choco-Cinn Honey Blondies


I can’t want to get my new camera. I’m tired of using this camera phone!!

After Carlo’s Hungarian goulash feast (post still to come), we felt like having some dessert. So I decided that I’d try something new. Hence, the choco-cinn honey blondies. We both really loved the taste (Carlo kept eating the raw dough), and for a first run, the consistency wasn’t too bad, but it could have been better (It was a little too dry – Carlo thinks that honey may have started to crystalize due to the baking time). It’s definitely something I’m going to work on over time.

INGREDIENTS (What I used)

  • 3/4 c. of unsalted butter
  • 1/2 c. of orange blossom honey We recommend probably using 3/4 to 1c. of honey.
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp of vanilla
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp of cinnamon
  • 2 c. of flour
  • 1/2 tsp. of baking powder
    1/2 c. of semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c. of chopped pecans
  • 1-2 tsp of unsweetened cocoa This is too much. You should probably use no more than 1tsp and that could be pushing it.

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven at 350 degrees
  2. Cream together the butter and honey until smooth
  3. Mix in the egg, vanilla and cinnamon until well blended
  4. Gradually add the flour, a 1/2 c. at a time
  5. Add the baking powder
  6. Fold in the chips and pecans
  7. Grease a 9×9 brownie pan
  8. Spread mixture evenly into pan
  9. Sprinkle cocoa powder on top
  10. Bake for 30-35 minutes For the first run, we did it at 40 minutes, but we felt that was too long, especially with honey in the mixture. You probably should do a toothpick test after 25 minutes.
  11. When baked, flip onto a wire rack to cook
  12. Cut however you wish and enjoy!

Overall, we were pleased. I recommend serving them warm with a scoop of either vanilla or coffee ice cream. They’re also good to dunk into a nice cup of Stumptown or Stew Leonard’s coffee

NOTES:
Stumptown is a coffee roaster based in Portland, OR. You can order their beans at http://www.buystumptowncoffee.com/. Carlo and I both recommend the Ethiopia Biloya Natural. The best coffee I’ve had yet.

Stew Leonard’s is a small chain of super-super markets based in CT, with one NY location in Yonkers. I don’t think you can order their coffee online, but if you are in the area, definitely get yourself some of their Danish Pastry beans.

Challah Bread

Since Carlo will be making Hungarian goulash for dinner tonight (he’s been planning this all week – will post recipe later), I figured that I’d complement it with baking bread. I decided on challah, because I just love the taste of it (especially as French toast). I never baked actual bread before, besides banana bread and was really excited on taking on the task.

I found a recipe with really great feedback at Allrecipes. I went with it based on the great reviews, espcially one from a user in Israel who said it was very similar to the bread she gets there.

There was a lot of work involved with the kneading, considering the recipes yields 2 loaves. Carlo even helped me out a bit. It was a lot of fun with both sets of hands playing with the dough and flour. I probably should have used the Kitchenaid, but I’m glad I didn’t.

The bread smells absolutely fantastic! We just cut off a couple of slices. It’s so good! Carlo said “Oh my god! It’s just like challah!” Well, it IS challah! He’s too funny

What to do with the second loaf? I think I’ll give it to my aunt Gertrude. My mom says she really likes challah.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds (optional) I skipped on these since Carlo’s not a big fan of poppy seeds. I may do sesame seeds the next time.

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over barely warm water. Beat in honey, oil, 2 eggs, and salt. Add the flour one cup at a time, beating after each addition, graduating to kneading with hands as dough thickens. Knead until smooth and elastic and no longer sticky, adding flour as needed. Cover with a damp clean cloth and let rise for 1 1/2 hours or until dough has doubled in bulk.
  2. Punch down the risen dough and turn out onto floured board. Divide in half and knead each half for five minutes or so, adding flour as needed to keep from getting sticky. Divide each half into thirds and roll into long snake about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Pinch the ends of the three snakes together firmly and braid from middle. Either leave as braid or form into a round braided loaf by bringing ends together, curving braid into a circle, pinch ends together. Grease two baking trays and place finished braid or round on each. Cover with towel and let rise about one hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  4. Beat the remaining egg and brush a generous amount over each braid. Sprinkle with poppy seeds if desired.
  5. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for about 40 minutes. Bread should have a nice hollow sound when thumped on the bottom. Cool on a rack for at least one hour before slicing.

Happy Bread-ing!

– Carm