Tag: dessert (page 1 of 2)

Everything I Eat In The Minneapolis Skyway: A Running List

In a recent post I wrote about one of my latest Minneapolis skyway food adventures. I still haven’t branched out as much as I had intended, but have had opportunities to try a few more restaurants.

The skyway is a fascinating microcosm you might not know exists unless you work downtown. Many of the restaurants and cafes are only open Monday-Friday during daytime hours. This post serves as a running list of all of the foods I’ve tried from the Minneapolis skyway system.

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Browned Butter, Speculaas, Sea Salt, Nutella & Chocolate Crispy Treats

Yup, I did it.

I put all of my favorite things into a batch of crispy rice bars.

Homemade rice cripsy treats are special no matter your age. When I grew up, my folks only bought the packaged ones in the blue wrappers. I always found them to taste dense and bland. At some point I tasted homemade rice crispy treats and they blew my mind with their buttery, marshmallow goeyness.

As if homemade rice crispy treats can’t get better, Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats can: The browned butter adds a toasty, creme brulee flavor and the sea salt balances the sweet. Plus, Pearlman’s recipe calls for a whole stick of butter in contrast to the traditional Rice Crispy recipe which lists two-three tablespoons.

And then, the owner at a local bakery I work at added Speculaas to sea salt, butterscotch, and brown butter rice crispy treats. Cookie butter! This got my mind churning and I decided to try making them at home. I also added a chocolate-Nutella topping similar to what you’d find on a Scotcharoo and finished the bars with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt.

If you’ve never tried cookie butter, it reminds me of a peanut butter made from crushed up Biscoff cookies; those buttery, gingery cookies that Delta passes out on flights. It goes by the names cookie butter, Biscoff spread and Speculaas. I found knock-off versions of both cookie butter and Nutella at ALDI and Trader Joe’s.

“Theoretically, this has to work,” I told Jake before we taste tested the batch.

It did.

crispy treats II

In addition to the toasty browned butter flavor and hint of salt, you’ll also taste the Biscoff cookies. The chocolate topping firms up when it’s cool similar to that on a Scotcharoo bar. My measurements for cookie butter and Nutella are terribly inexact. I simply tossed in a couple big scoops of each. Feel free to use more for a stronger flavor. Hazelnut spread is fairly soft, though. If you add a higher ratio of spread to chocolate chips, the topping might firm up less.

Find less expensive versions of Nutella & Biscoff spread at ALDI and Trader Joe’s.

Ingredients:
6 cups of puffed rice cereal (not quite a full box).
10 oz. of marshmallows (most bags seem to be 10 oz).
1 stick of butter (I use salted)
1/4-1/3 teaspoon of flaky sea salt
Speculaas / Cookie Butter, a couple good spoonfulls (I used about 1/2 cup).
Bittersweet chocolate chips, about 3/4 bag
Nutella / chocolate-hazelnut spread
Flaky sea salt to sprinkle on top. Regular table salt will taste too harsh

Instructions:

  1. Melt one stick of butter in big pot. Cook gently until the butter turns golden brown and smells toasty. Watch carefully so that the butter doesn’t burn. If you use a smaller pan to melt the butter, you will have to transfer the marshmallow-butter mixture to a bigger bowl to mix. 
  2. Add the marshmallows and stir until they melt into the butter. The mixture will be sticky. Stir in about two serving spoon-sized scoops of cookie spread and add the salt.
  3. Turn off heat. Pour in six cups of puffed rice cereal. Stir quickly to combine while the butter-marshmallow mixture is still warm.
  4. Pour into a lightly greased pan (I used a 9X9). With lightly buttered fingers, press the treats gently into an even layer. Buttering your fingers prevents the mixture from sticking to your hands. Don’t press the mixture too hard, otherwise it will become dense.
  5. Melt about 3/4 of bittersweet chocolate chips with a couple of big spoonfuls of Nutella (about three oz). I just used the microwave.
  6. Spread evenly over the puffed rice treats. As long as the chocolate isn’t very warm, sprinkle flaky sea salt on top.
  7. Cut and serve when cool. If you can’t wait until they topping firms up, that’s OK too!

Three Recipes I Like & My Childhood Cookbooks

Summer is making me want to cook and bake everything.

I love the sunshine and even the thunderstorms. I like opening my windows in the morning and look forward to going to our little farmers market each week. All of these things feel make me feel energized about trying new recipes. Here are several I’ve tried recently that turned out well.

Pulled Pork in the Crock-Pot
I’m sheepish to admit that I’ve never made pulled pork. Growing up, my mom slow-cooked boneless country pork ribs with barbecue sauce. I think we ate it so often that I haven’t wanted to make it as an adult.

Three things inspired my pulled pork endeavor: Eating a fantastic pulled pork meal from Pimento Jamaican Kitchen located in the food court of the Burnsville Mall, reading Beth’s Slightly Savory Saturday post about pulled pork, and winning an Iowan pork prize pack from Cristen’s blog Food & Swine.

I followed Christine Gallary’s recipe for Easy Slow Cooker Pulled Pork from Chow.com it turned out perfectly.

Pulled Pork Collage.jpg

Pull-apart tender, moist and flavorful. Plus, you are left with wonderful au jus after you de-fat and strain the juices. We enjoyed our pork with this homemade coleslaw on either buns or steamed rice.

Taste of Beirut’s Recipe for Lebanese Meat Pies (Sfeeha)
I love Lebanese food and miss the little triangle pies I bought at Emily’s Lebanese Deli in NE Minneapolis. These beef pies aren’t as pretty as Joumana’s but they taste so good.

Meat Pies

I followed her recipe as written, except that I substituted balsamic vinegar for pomegranate molasses and minced red jalapeno for red pepper paste. You could always substitute slivered almonds for pine nuts and don’t forget to buy lean meat, otherwise, the fat will turn into molten lava while they bake and drip.

We like dipping our pies in greek-style yogurt.

Rhubarb Custard Meringue Dessert
I’m kind of obsessed with Rhubarb. I tried bake Aunt Emma’s Rhubarb Custard Dessert (from the Land O’Lakes website) in my tart and pie pans.

rhubarb tart
The crust stuck to the pans and one of meringues started weeping, but the dessert tasted fantastic. If I were to make this again, I’d bake it in a regular baking dish lined with parchment paper or blind-bake homemade pie crust for the tart and pie pans.

Jake’s never tried a variation of this dessert before and declared it one of his favorites, weepy meringue and crumbled crust and all.

My First Three Cookbooks
Do you remember your first cookbooks? Mine were Enclyclopedia Brown Takes the Cake, Alpha-Bakery by General Mills & Kids Cooking: A Very Slightly Messy Manual.

My original books were long since misplaced, so I ordered my own copies again. The recipes aren’t the most exotic, but many of my friends consider dishes like Alpha Bakery’s banana bread and Kids’ Cooking’s Disgustingly Rich Brownies classic favorites. Everyone’s gotta start somewhere, right? Someday, I’ll share them with my kids.

As I’ve alluded to earlier, my parents were hesitant to let me experiment in the kitchen, so I didn’t prepare many of these recipes. It’s time for some cooking catharsis.

Cookbook Collage.jpg

Catharsis never tasted so chocolatey.

Have you tried any great recipes lately? What were your first cookbooks? 

Rhubarb Muffin Cake

The North Iowa farmers markets are open again and I spy rhubarb, so summer may begin now.

Unlike the Twin Cities, we don’t have a farmers market in every neighborhood, but I’m happy we have one in town. The Mason City farmers market isn’t large and there aren’t food trucks or anything, but I can at least buy fresh vegetables and fruits, plus extra treats like bread, jam, and bags of puppy chow mix.

There’s also a vendor that sells grilled brats with the typical fixings of sauerkraut, onion, ketchup, and mustard. This is a simple pleasure that never gets old. I rarely turn down street meat.

On my last two visits, I rejoiced over this summer’s first bounty of rhubarb like the good Midwesterner that I am.

We never cooked with rhubarb growing-up. Nobody in our neighborhood grew it and I think they considered it like a weed. Jake remembers picking it as a child and eating the tart stalks dipped in sugar. As an adult, I’ve become taken with rhubarb. I love how it retains some tartness when cooked and balances out sweet desserts. The complexity of its unique flavor strikes me as both fruity and floral.

I asked friends for their favorite rhubarb recipes, but chose this cake because I had all of the ingredients in my kitchen. I found variations of this recipe in nearly all of my cookbooks, so, where it truly originates, I do not know. This cake is very simple to prepare and light and fluffy like a muffin. It reminded us so much of muffins, that I poured the batter into muffin tins the second time I made it.

This cake will be an ol’ reliable for us. Now I’m moving on to trying everyone’s favorite rhubarb recipes.

Rhubarb Muffin Cake
Adapted from Bonnie Anderson, Dee Detlefsen, Blanch Grummons & Ardy Haugen’s recipe in the Peaceful Pantry Recipes cookbook compiled by Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Burnsville, MN, 1975

Cook’s Notes: The original recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of white or brown sugar. I used both, but in lesser amounts. The original recipe also calls for buttermilk, which I did not have. It says you can substitute one cup of regular milk + one tablespoon of lemon juice for buttermilk. In my first cake, I used 2/3 almond milk + 1/3 cup sour cream. In my muffins, I used only almond milk. I think you can use whatever you have, though the sour cream adds extra moistness. If you’d like to bake muffins, reduce the cooking time. Mini muffins took about 10 minutes. The cakes are done when you can cleanly remove a toothpick from the center.

Rhubarb Collage.jpg

Ingredients:
A scant 1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, not packed.
1/2 cup butter (1 stick). I used salted.
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Optional: Splash of almond extract
1 cup milk or combination of milk + sour cream
2 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups of rhubarb, chopped into small pieces
Topping: sugar & cinnamon

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350℉.
  2. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars.
  4. Mix the egg and vanilla extract into the butter-sugar mixture.
  5. Add the milk and dry ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture, half at a time, alternating until just combined. Don’t overmix.
  6. Stir in the rhubarb.
  7. Pour into a greased pan or muffin tins. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon and sugar (or just cinnamon).
  8. Bake until you can remove a toothpick cleanly from the center. A small cake pan took about 45 minutes, a 9×13 will take about 35-40 minutes, and muffins will vary depending on the size. Mini muffins took about 10 minutes.

Lois’ Cream Puff Sticks

Oh, college.

I was a nerd. Let me count the ways:

Freshman year, I signed up for the quiet, substance-free dorm. Actually, my parents hijacked the process and requested the Centennial dorm for me. Fortunately, my first roommate ended up becoming one of my best friends all four years. She’s still one of the funniest people I know.

I didn’t have a drink until I officially turned 21 and stayed up past 1am. . . once. I only dated a few people and one of them cheated on me Mean Girls-style (seriously, it was just like out of the movie) at a Halloween party. She was dressed up like a Playboy bunny and I was probably sitting at home in my pajamas reading a book. I was like Taylor Swift. Not the award show, glamorous Taylor but the one she sang about wearing sneakers and sitting on the bleachers.

I may have been a nerd, but I was a happy nerd with the really fantastic friends.

For three years, I worked at the school as a Writing/Reading/Speaking Consultant. The woman who hired me was a saint for putting up with college Jeni (as was anyone else who hired me during or soon after college). Each year, she invited the staff over to her home for magnificent, home-cooked meals around Christmas and the end of the school year.

I especially remember a treat she made called cream puff sticks. I had never tasted anything like them and haven’t since. They are so delicate and airy that you’ll want to eat a whole cream puff plank. The dough also doesn’t contain sugar, making this treat ideal for those of us who don’t like sickly, sweet desserts. Lois was gracious enough to let me to share her recipe here, adding that when her grandchildren visit, they often request these cream puff strips for breakfast. This makes me so happy.

It’s the easiest, most elegant dessert you can prepare. Cream puff dough entails making pate a choux. Unlike cookie or cake dough, you cook it on the stove top and slowly add eggs. Don’t be intimidated by this dough because it’s actually simple to make.

Cream Puff Strips.jpg

Adapted from Lois Trachte’s recipe

Ingredients:
1 cup of water
1/2 cup of butter (1 stick)
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs

Glaze:
Powdered Sugar
Milk or cream (I used almond milk)
Butter, a little dab
Vanilla extract
Salt, a pinch

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450℉.
  2. Grease a large baking sheet, or line one with parchment paper.
  3. In a large saucepan, boil the water. Melt the stick of butter in the boiling water and turn off the heat.
  4. Stir in flour and 1/2 teaspoon of salt until the mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat and let it cool for a couple of minutes. 
  5. Crack all four eggs in a bowl.
  6. After mixture has cooled slightly, add vanilla extract. Vigorously stir in one egg into the dough at a time. Each time you add an egg, the dough will look strange and separate into pieces. Just keep stirring and it will reincorporate.
  7. Spread the dough into two strips on the baking sheet. The dough is sticky, so use the back of a spoon or offset spatula and do your best.
  8. Bake at 450℉ for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 400℉ and bake for another 25 minutes. If the bottoms seem to be browning too quickly, reduce heat to 375℉ or remove from oven a little early. Cool completely before glazing.
  9. To make the glaze, mix about a cup of powdered sugar with a little milk. Keep adding milk until you like its texture. Add a splash of vanilla extract and a little pinch of salt to balance out the sweetness.
  10. Glaze the cream puff planks and cut into strips with a pizza cutter.
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