Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Key Lime Pie Parfaits

So the event was a hit! In the end everything came together with a few rough patches. Although now I am Exhausted, with a capital E.

I will definitely share more about Chef's Best next week when the photographer sends us his photos. And for those of you out there that know your celebrity and or reknown chefs you are in for a treat. Don't you love how I keep you on your toes?

Thought so.

But I'm about to share the recipe I've kept you in suspense about for a week now!

I must admit I am a creature of habit. I tend to order the same thing in certain restaurants all the time. Guilty as charged. But I know I'm not the only one. This is a dessert I order every time its on a menu. It's one of those desserts that usually never lives up to my expectations and yet I order it time and time again. I think its this deep down feeling that if I eat it, I will feel like I am in Florida, sitting on the beach with a cocktail in hand while watching the sun set. And yet each time I am completely aware that I am in the North East of the United States nowhere near Florida. Sad I know.

If you haven't guessed I'm referring to Key lime pie.

There's just something about the contrast of flavors, sweet, tart, creamy and crunchy. It doesn't get much better than that. It's the best of summer in your mouth.

Since I haven't had a vacation yet this summer due to the big event at work I've realized that I've been making a lot of desserts that remind me of summers past or to "transport" myself to another place/time, obviously to keep myself sane. This is no exception.

I am a perpetual recipe clipper, any time I see a recipe that looks good in a magazine, online or in a book I have to get a copy, save it to my bookmarks or rip out the page. This recipe for Key lime pie parfaits, I ripped out of a CookingLight magazine years ago, were talking high school people and never attempted it...until now. Que the inspirational/uplifting song, preferably something with steel drums, we are after all going with a tropical theme here.

Key limes are different from our standard green limes. They are small and yellowish in color but boy do they pack a punch. That tart flavor can't be beat. Most stores here in the NE don't sell them so I used key lime juice, the next best substitute.

I somehow convinced myself that key lime filling is difficult to make and has many steps but I was so wrong. You honestly throw all the ingredients in a bowl, stir, and then stir over heat for 5 minutes. That's it folks.

You can definitely use store bought whipped cream for this but if I haven't mentioned just how amazing freshly whipped cream is you need to hear this. Nothing, and I mean nothing can compare to whipping your own cream. All it takes is an electric mixer, some heavy cream and sugar. Not hard people! It makes such a difference.

After buying a package of store brand whole graham crackers I realized that you can buy already crushed graham crackers in the store. Oh well, I saved some money and work out one arm muscle.

Layers of crumbled graham cracker, sweet and tart key lime filling, and cool smooth fresh whipped cream nestled into a petite glass. Yup, heaven in a glass.

I dug into one right away. Wow, and do I mean wow. So good. But if you let them sit overnight in the fridge, the flavors meld and it tastes incredible. I may have eaten one for breakfast the next morning, maybe.

Key Lime Pie Parfaits
~ adapted from CookingLight magazine

1/2 cup key lime juice

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon grated lime peel

2 large eggs

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

1 Cup heavy cream

1/4 cup confectioners sugar

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

Grated lime peel


In a bowl add condensed milk, lime juice, sugar eggs, corn starch and lime peel. Mix until combined and put over a boiling pot of water and sit constantly for 5-6 minutes. Chill for an hour

Pour heavy cream into a bowl and beat until it starts to thicken. Add sugar slowly. Set aside.

Crush 8-10 graham crackers in a plastic bag.


In small glasses layer the graham cracker crumbs, whipped cream and key lime custard. Top each with lime zest.

I can already feel the sand between my toes.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday Spa Day

Remember how I said things were crazy at work? Okay, they still are considering the event is tomorrow night but since we were organized enough after working 12 hours yesterday, I have the day off this lovely Sunday!

At this time last year I was sitting on the hotel floor working on will call lists and ticketing issues. I'm so glad this year is different!

My mission today was to relax and boy have I ever.

I started off the day with a spa pedicure, I figured having my legs and feet massaged before the big day was a nice little treat. It was AMAZING! 45 minutes of pure massage, soaking, dipped in wax, magazine reading, and painted bliss.

Afterward I was starving and thought a salad would be nice considering the past few days have been full of take out eaten at my desk in a rush. I went to Panera and got the strawberry poppyseed salad which had fruit, nuts and chicken. It was light and refreshing even though I didn't eat the pecans or the mandarin oranges, they are not my thing.

And I had to top it off by stopping at Frozen Yo, a self serve frozen yogurt place! I got cheesecake and butter pecan froyo and topped it with toffee, raspberries and some hot fudge. AWESOME!

The rest of the day I plan to sit around and relax and get some rest to prep for tomorrow. There may or may not be a nap in my future and I may or may not watch trashy tv on hulu, like ABC Family's Switched at Birth.

I've decided every Sunday should be like this!

I guess you will just have to wait and see what those delicious treats in a glass are for a little bit longer. I know I know, the anticipation is killing you.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Wait and See

This week has been utterly crazy. Monday June 27th is Food & Friends signature event Chef's Best. Guest get to enjoy tastings from 60 chef's from the DC metro area while bidding on exciting live and silent auction items.

Can you tell I'm pretty use to selling this event?

Needless to say I have been pretty pre-occupied lately seeing as I am responsible for volunteer recruitment and the whole silent auction.

I figure that leaving you with something to look forward to might keep you on your toes and make you less inclined to be frustrated with my blogging absence.

Correction this will totally keep you on your toes.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Father's Day Letter

Dear Dad,

Since I can't be with you today and bake something like this, this letter will have to suffice.

Thank you for all you have done for me. You may have let mom take the lead sometimes but you always know when to step in.

I know I haven't been the easiest daughter to deal with but thank you for always being there. You have always been there to back me up, to support me in anyway possible and that means more than you will ever know.

Thank you for coming to all my sporting events as a kid and even the what I suspect to be horrific ballet and piano recitals. I'm so lucky to have a dad that showed up for all my achievements, big or small.

Thank you for showing me that everything doesn't have to be so serious, that life is worth having fun. Thank you for being the voice of reason when I thought "there's not enough time or I need to decide now". Thank you for putting up with all the "you just don't understands". Thank you for sharing your stories and wisdom with me over the years. I have learned so much from you.

Thank you for letting me be me, sassy,or in your words "piece of work" girl, and loving me because of it.

I love you Dad.

Ps. Thank you for being okay with my nose ring that I got in a foreign country...and well, all the other things you want to cringe at that I have done haha.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Heart Tarts

Have you ever seen the movie or read the book Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel?

If not, you should. The overall premise of the book is that what you feel goes right into the things you cook and or bake. There are even recipes at the beginning of each section based on emotions.

The main charcter Tita falls in love with her neighbor Pedro, but is forced to never marry and stay with her mother as a care taker. In an awful turn of events Pedro marries Tita's sister Rosaura. Tita cries uncontrollably while baking Pedro and Rosaura's wedding cake in utter dispair. When its time for the guests to eat the cake they all begin crying uncontrollably, they feel the saddness and heart break that went into baking the cake.

I may have spoiled some of the book or intrigued some people to read it. I hope its the later.

I love the idea that emotions pour into food that we make. If an artist is expressing their emotions through paint and canvas and are suppose to move us, than a baker expresses emotion through food and should get a reaction as well, right?

We all have comfort foods and go to foods when we feel less than happy. Chocolate anyone? And we all have foods we enjoy more when we are happy, like salads, salads actually taste better when you're in a good mood. I mean really who eats salads when they are sad?

The past couple weeks have been a whirlwind for me, change is in the air my friends and dealing with all that is going on around me has lead to some tedious baking. Heart felt but tedious.

So what better to bake when feeling overwhelmed and all over the place? Something that equally overwhelms me and sends me all over the place.

Tart crust sends me over the edge with all its rules and specifics. Pastry cream makes me cringe with the tempering needed not to scramble the eggs. But the fruit design on top helps calm my nerves, so naturally I decided to go for it.

The pastry cream and I had a battle indeed. There was some egg scrambling and some unsavory words but I salvaged the mixture by straining it so all the scrambled egg disappeared.

I was bold and attempted a new crust recipe. It was fairly simple to make but the recipe didn't fit into my 10 inch tart pan so I settled with little 6 inch tarts.

Foiled them up so as to keep the crust from puffing up too much.

Then got to work on the fruit. I bought a lot of fruit under the impression that I would be making a 10 inch tart i.e. 5 kiwi, 2 boxes of strawberries, a peach, and a can of mandarin oranges. In the end I only needed 1/4 of the fruit.

The crust didn't's a miracle. However, I still don't understand my oven and so the edges of the tart got a little dark and the tin foil stuck to the dough and left the middle looking like craters in the moon.

But luckily the salvaged pastry cream covered the craters. Save!

Then I finally sat down and let my creative side take over. I artfully placed the fruit exactly how I learned it at the bakery I apprenticed for. Rows of strawberries cut in half with a mandarin orange inbetween, a fan of kiwi slices and a peach in the center.

At that point, 3 hours into the baking, I was not about to make a glaze. So I brushed the tops with agave syrup and called it a day.

After all of it, I didn't even eat one. I wrapped them up and put them away. I put everything I had that day into the tarts and had no interest indulging in one. It was more about the journey than the destination I guess. Who knows maybe someone can tell the emotions I felt when they eat these tarts but overall I'm hoping all the sweat and tears were overshadowed by the heart that went into their creation.

Tart Crust:
~from the Joy of Baking

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup confectioners sugar

1 stick plus 1 Tablespoon butter frozen

1 large egg yolk


Add flour and sugar to a food processor and blend until combined. Then chop butter into small pieces and add to the food processor until the butter looks pea sized. Add the egg yolk and pulse for 10 seconds at a time until it comes together.

Press the dough into a greased 9 inch tart pan or 4 4inch tart pans.

Butter or spray small pieces of aluminum foil and place in the middle of that tart, allowing the sides to remain uncovered. Bake for 20 minutes in a 375 degree oven and remove the foil. Bake for 5 more minutes and let them cool.

Pastry Cream:
~from the Joy of Baking

1 1/4 cups milk (whole or 2%)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 egg yolks

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons cornstarch


Add milk and vanilla in a saucepan and put on low heat.

Meanwhile in a bowl add egg yolks and sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the flour and cornstarch and stir until combined and smooth.

Once the milk is getting a bit frothy take off the heat. Add half the milk to the egg mixture whisking constantly so as to not scramble the eggs. Then add the rest of the milk to the egg mixture and whisk. Pour the liquid back into the sauce pan and put on low heat. Whisk constantly (Seriously, constantly) until it gets nice and thick.

Take the cream off the heat and keep whisking. To ensure you don't have any scrambled egg put the mixture through a food mill or a strainer.

Put in the refrigerator for 2 hours.


Put cold pastry cream into a pastry bag and pipe into the cooled tart shells.

Top the cream with cut up fruit of your choice in the design of your choice.

If you like glaze on top, you can brush the fruit with agave syrup or in a saucepan add 2 teaspoons of water and 2 tablespoons apricot preserves and whisk until warm and smooth.

Have you ever been overwhelmed by a feeling from eating something?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Weekend Recap

This past weekend my friend Shannon came to visit!

She was excited about Georgetown cupcake!

Who wouldn't be excited about white chocolate raspberry cupcake with vanilla butter cream?

This is one of the only times I've branched out of my favorite Gtown cupcake flavor salted caramel, and it was worth it!

I love how Georgetown feels like a city one second and then not another. Case in point the canal.

Shannon left and my mom and sister came to visit for the night. We went to Pizza Paradiso and it was awesome. The crust was light and airy, and the toppings were so fresh. With a glass of vino it was just right.

And who can resist more cupcakes?

Not me. So we went to baked and Wired another awesome cupcake shop in Georgetown.

I got the vanilla latte, vanilla cake with espresso buttercream and my sister got the menage trois, chocolate cake filled with raspberries with cream cheese icing. Yum!

Then to beat the heat we took a boat ride on the Potomac and saw the sites from the water. I highly recommend this if you're visiting DC, but I may just being saying this I have a slight obsession with boats.

The lighting was just perfect.

You totally know you want to come to DC now. Any takers?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Vanilla Almond Biscotti

I work in a very interesting office.

Sometimes my job is to shop online for drag queen dresses, and organize said dresses for my straight middle aged boss. Sometimes my job is organizing a cheesecake party for a co-worker, sometimes my job is calling local businesses asking for donation like a giant organic pet treats basket.

But there is something unique and special about my job. There really is this energy when you walk in the building that takes over. A uniquely happy energy for an organization that deals with many many sad situations on a daily basis.

One unique thing that definitely sets Food & Friends apart is the fact that we have a Bocce court on the property. Don't ask me how it all started, I actually would have loved to have been there to hear that first discussion about putting the court in. We were put into teams (named after the Lucky Charms marshmallows) and play bocce during our lunch breaks.

I told you its pretty unique.

In case you don't really know what bocce is, its an Italian bowling game. One person throws a small white ball called the pallino on the court. Each team tries to get there balls closest to the pallino. Whichever teams balls are the closest to the pallino gets 1 point (all depending). We play until one team reaches 10 points. I am a so so bocce player, not the best but not the worst. However, my team (pink hearts of course) won today even in the scorching 100 degree heat! Go Team.

So in honor this wonderful Italian game I thought I'd share an Italian dessert.


Biscotti actually means twice baked- kind of how I felt today in the burning sun trying to get the ball in just the right place. It's called this because you actually bake these cookies 2 separate times.

I love this vanilla almond biscotti recipe.

Although, I am sure if I branched out and made some with pistachio or chocolate or dried cherries or cinnamon or Hazelnut...I would love them just as much. But I really really love vanilla almond.

I feel like there is a stigma that biscotti are difficult or maybe its just that they are time consuming but I honestly think they are pretty darn easy to make.

The idea is to form the dough into a log and bake it the first time around. Let them cool and then slice the log.

Place the slices back on a baking sheet and bake again.

I like that home-made biscotti turns out a little different than the kind you buy. The outside has a nice little crunch but the inside is soft and crumbly whereas the store bought kind are crunchy through and through.

These are still perfect for dunking into coffee, tea or even better chocolate.

Vanilla Almond Biscotti:

~from Better Homes & Gardens New Baking Book

1/3 Cup butter

2 cups flour

2/3 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups chopped almonds


In a bowl mix butter with 1 cup flour, sugar, eggs, baking powder and vanilla until combined.

In another bowl mix 1 cup flour and chopped almonds. Add to the wet mixture.

Form into a log and bake on a lightly greased sheet pan in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Let cool and then cut into slices. Bake again for 8 minutes in a 325 degree oven.

I recently found out that my temporary position will be extended until December with a little hiatus for the month of August. And I am looking forward to all the other crazy and interesting jobs that I will be asked to do and learning something new from each and every new task.

And then in December I will move on to the next adventure, whatever that may be. While I usually like knowing what will happen next, this time I am excited to just see where the wind takes me.

But in the meantime I will spruce up my bocce skills or just bring these biscotti into work to distract the players on the other team.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Coconut Meringues Dipped in Chocolate

This is what I dream about on a Monday...

Soft pillowy clouds of deliciousness, with an essence of coconut.

Whipped to oblivion

Pipped into little kissed dollops

Baked slowly, until light and airy.

And dipped in chocolate, just because.

Coconut Merginues:

~Adapted from Eatliverun

3 egg whites

1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter

1 teaspoon coconut extract

3/4 Cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup heavy cream


In a bowl seperate the egg whites, add cream of tarter and coconut extract. With an electric mixer start beating the egg mixture until quite foamy (3 minutes). Start adding sugar, very slowly and gradually to the egg whites. *Do not dump all the sugr in at one time, the egg whites will deflate and then you will not have wonderful airy merginue clouds.

Once all the sugar is added the mixture should be soft and glossy. Put into a pastry bag and pipe onto parchment paper or silpats.

Bake for 1 hour at 200 degrees. My oven runs a little hot so my merginues got a little toasty and a little browned. oops

Be very careful when letting them cool, they are super fragile.

Either microwave or double double chocolate chips and cream until melted and smooth.

Dip cooked merginue into the chocolate gently. Place on parchment paper and refridgerate until set.

Sometimes you just need something to dream about on a Monday.

What did you day dream about today?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Summer's here!

The sun is finally out, the pools are opening, farmer's markets are bustling and it even smells of fresh cut grass. This means one thing.......SUMMER!

Oh how I long for the days when school was out, at the pool all day, laying in the grass, picking veggies from the garden, the smells of grilling at night, catching firefly's in mason jars, glistening tan skin, days at the beach with salty hair, sand between my toes. Sigh.

Things are a little different now but I will do anything to bring back some of that summer feeling, especially with food.

I was at Eastern Market, a big outdoor and indoor farmers and flea market in DC, the other day and to my surprise there were piles and piles of fruit for sale. Some how I had lost track of time while sitting in my cubicle all day with no window and hadn't realized its almost June and of course fruit is coming into season.

There were heaps and heaps of glorious fuzzy sweet peaches! And lucky for me they let you try slices of the fruit before you buy it. I tried a slice of a white peach and bliss ensued.

So I bought 2!

What to do with 2 peaches?

Mini crisps anyone?

Yes please! Sweet, buttery, oats covering ripe delicious peaches.

These are so incredibly easy to make and taste like the essence of summer. Some food is just transporting and I find crisps such a food.

And if your peaches or strawberries or apples are a bit bruised, have no fear, put them in a crisp and it will be completely disguised by the layer of crunchy buttery oat topping. No will notice. Just call yourself Houdini.

Clearly if you have more fruit than 2 peaches by all means make a big crisp and then proceed to stand in the kitchen eating it directly from the dish.

I put this recipe together pretty fast, needless to say I didn't measure many things so this is my interpretation of what I did.

Peach Crisp:

2 white peaches

3/4 cup oats

3 Tablespoons butter

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

a pinch of allspice

a pinch of ginger

a pinch of cloves

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons flour


Cut up your peaches and place in a bowl with the ganulated sugar and flour.

In another bowl mix the oats, butter, spices and brown sugar until combined.

Disperse equal amounts of the peach peaches into 4 small ramikins. Top each with the oat mixture. Bake for 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Summer in a bowl.
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