May the 4th Have Food

Finally back in the kitchen after a hiatus due to work schedules.

I gotta admit…it feels pretty good.

I’m known as a Star Wars Geek. I cut my teeth in a darkened movie theater at the age of 6 watching A New Hope and decided two things:

1) I totally wanted to be Princess Leia
2) I wanted to marry Luke Skywalker

Now I ended up married to a rogue (who is also a bit of a farm boy) and together we have 3 little Jedis, or he’d tell you Siths in Training. I decided this this year I wanted to introduce them to the fun that can be Star Wars Day aka May the 4th.

Now I went to Google to mine for ideas so I want to be sure to credit justJENN with the idea of one of my mains The Double Sided Lightsaber Dogs.

Pinterest was also a treasure trove of ideas.

One of the best finds we have had at a Target in Fargo was a set of Solo cups that were solid plastic in the Dollar bin. Originally purchased for our deck last year it was mentioned by a friend yesterday that you could use Solo cups and have it fit the theme. So this morning I asked the kids…Light side or dark side. Sadly they all went red “dark side”.

Starting with breakfast this morning I went with Bantha Blue Milk and Leia Waffle Buns.

Bantha Blue Milk

Bantha Blue Milk – A simple combination that got a huge respsonse.

The Bantha Blue Milk is a simple creation of some 1% milk with two drops of blue liquid food colouring.

Leia Bun Waffles.

Leia Bun Waffles – A trick I learned from my roguish farm boy

A common theme I saw on many Pinterest boards was to do a Leia Bun but there is a recent trick learned from Kevin using my Belgian Waffle Iron. You take a refrigerator cinnamon bun and put one piece in each section of the waffle iron and press the iron together. I’ve got a Proctor Silex Waffle Iron and I set it to 3 and let it go for a couple of cycles before taking it off to serve.

I also highly recommend making sure you have some non-stick cooking spray on hand when you do this.

Leia Bun Waffles - I really like the shape.

Leia Bun Waffles – I really like the shape.

I had to work so a lunch menu was not in my hands today but maybe next year.

On to the dinner menu:

As previously mentioned I went with a Double Sided Lightsaber Dog.

Prepped Lightsaber Dogs - An homage to my husband's Dark Side Leanings.

Prepped Lightsaber Dogs – An homage to my husband’s Dark Side Leanings.

A really simple but fun entree. Simply take a weiner and then wrap a refrigerator crescent roll around the centre to make the handle so that you have a “blade” on either side of it. This was an homage to my husband’s love of the Dark Side and frankly I really think Darth Maul’s saber is pretty bad ass.

Finished Lightsaber Dogs - I made extras for the kids to take to school for lunch tomorrow.

Finished Lightsaber Dogs – I made extras for the kids to take to school for lunch tomorrow.

Now I wanted to provide a bit of variety in my menu today so I inspired by the Han Burgers I’d seen on Pinterest and decided to go with a Han slider which my kids are a huge fan of. While measuring out my 1lb of ground beef for my sliders I remembered that I had a spice from Epicure called Dukkah.

Epicure's Dukkah Spice - I thought it was a fun play on Count Dooku.

Epicure’s Dukkah Spice – I thought it was a fun play on Count Dooku.

This spice blend is one that I have come to love with ground beef. I’ve used it in past to add some spice to a meat loaf and the fact that it was a perfect play on a Star Wars character’s name really tickled my fancy. I added 1.5 teaspoons of it to the ground beef along with my salt and pepper and then went to mix my meat together.

Dukkah spiced sliders in the pan.

Dukkah spiced sliders in the pan.

Now for what to serve my sliders on. Princess Leia was known for her epic hair styles and I often wished my hair had been long enough to braid like hers. I was thrilled when I found these Braided Egg Buns from Kub Bakery.

Braided Egg Buns - An Homage to Leia's many braided hair styles.

Braided Egg Buns – An Homage to Leia’s many braided hair styles.

Finally for a side I felt giddy at the play on Yavin 4 with my Yam-in 4 Fries.

Yam-in 4 Fries in the oven and cooking on my Epicure chip pan.

Yam-in 4 Fries in the oven and cooking on my Epicure chip pan.

The two meals were a total win with my kids so I’ll take it as a sign that the Force, or maybe just the 4th, was with me.

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Tequila Sunrise Grilled Chicken Fajitas with Rickard’s White Finish

With Spring attempting to break through I’ve made the decision to not let the weather curb my grilling and with warm weather and grilling comes cravings for fresh produce and cold beer in my fridge.

I was successful in making my first fresh salsa as well as guacamole this week and I wanted to try my hand at grilled chicken fajitas despite a rainy day in Winnipeg.

A recent line of marinades I’ve discovered at my local Sobeys is from Sauza Tequila. We’d tried one with beef before but I was intrigued to give their Tequila Sunrise a try on chicken breast.  I put about 3/4 of the bottle in a freezer bag with 5 chicken breasts and placed them in the fridge. I left the chicken in the marinade for 2.5 hours taking it out every 30 minutes or so to mix the contents up and try to get great coverage on my chicken.

When it comes to beer I enjoy many different ones. I’m a mood beer drinker and as such I am a huge fan of the Rickard’s Taster Pack because each beer is truly distinctive in their flavour. This fact was key in my decision to pull out a bottle of Rickard’s White to warm on the counter for use in my meal that evening.

I went with Rickard’s White because I felt the orange and coriander notes would enhance and pair well with the orange, lemon and lime citrus flavours of the Sauza marinade,as well as the cilantro in both the salsa and guacamole I’d made, and Kevin was positive about the pairing when I ran it by him.

He’s my experimentation touch stone. If he thinks the flavour profile doesn’t blend he’s pretty upfront before I begin.

The Daring Duo - Sauza Tequlia Sunrise Marinade and Rickard's White.

The Daring Duo – Sauza Tequlia Sunrise Marinade and Rickard’s White.

Kevin also taught me that it is ideal to use room temperature beer when you cook with it so I had the bottle warming up on the counter top for 2 hours before I used it.

To go with my grilled chicken breast I cut up one purple onion and two bell peppers.

One purple onion, one yellow pepper and one red pepper. Chopped and ready to go.

One purple onion, one yellow pepper and one red pepper. Chopped and ready to go.

I tossed them in the remaining 1/4 bottle of the Sauza Marinade before placing them in warmed frying pan with 2 tablespoons of heated grape seed oil on medium low (between 3 and 4) heat and left them to soften. When the onions began to become translucent I turned the heat down to low and let them continue to caramelize.

Onions and peppers - caramelized and ready for their Rickard's finish.

Onions and peppers – caramelized and ready for their Rickard’s finish.

The marinade coated the onions and peppers nicely and as they caramelized in the frying pan the sauce nicely thickened so they were coated in a flavourful sauce, similar in thickness to the packaged sauces you can pick up at a grocery store. When the onions reached the glassy state I took the bottle of Rickard’s White and did a turn and a half around the pan and stirred my veggies around so they got covered in the beer and then let it continue to simmer over low heat.

With my onions and peppers taking care of themselves I turn my attention to the chicken.

Marinated chicken breasts.

Marinated chicken breasts.

I heated my grill up for 20 minutes as it was raining and this can affect the overall temperature. I place my chicken on the grill and set the timer for 20 minutes and when the timer went off I flipped the chicken and was delighted at the nice grill marks. Another 20 minutes and I put the chicken on a plate to rest for 5 minutes.

While the chicken rested I removed my onions and peppers from the frying pan and kept it on the heat to keep warm.

After the 5 minute rest I sliced the chicken into strips and placed them into the pan my onions and peppers had just been removed from. I poured approx 1/4 cup of the Rickard’s into the pan and let it fry off while tossing the chicken strips.

Finished meal ready for the table.

Finished meal ready for the table.

After the Rickard’s had cooked off I combined the chicken strips with my onions and peppers and served with fresh guacamole and salsa on tortillas.

My dad, who had dropped in, was invited for dinner and he had high praise for how great the chicken turned out. I have to agree that it was juicy and flavourful. The Rickard’s added a nice depth to the marinade from Sauza.

Not bad for a moment of I think this will work….

Life’s a Chocolate Buffet, My Friends

We are all familiar with the tale of Charlie Bucket. The lucky child who finds that last golden ticket to visit the magical and mystical factory of one Willy Wonka where chocolate delights abound.

Saturday I was the proud recipient of a ticket given away for Winnipeg’s First Annual Chocoholics’ Buffet held on behalf of the United Way of Winnipeg. I entered the giveaway located on their Facebook page and was delighted when I received the notification that I had won my very own golden ticket to chocolate delights.

Held in the beautiful Ballroom of The Gates on Roblin the first thing I noticed when I entered was the long table in the centre of the room that was already laden with, what turned out to be, only some of the offerings for the evening. To the left of the entrance was the Lindt Chocolatiers table teeming with truffles ready for the sampling. To the right an espresso machine set up to create hot chocolate or a mochaccino to order. For a flavour boost a splash of Triple Sec added hints of orange to your beverage of choice.

My Hot Chocolate- sans Triple Sec- ready to be sipped as I survey the room.

My Hot Chocolate- sans Triple Sec- ready to be sipped as I survey the room.

With hot chocolate in hand I took a walk around the room and noted the many different chocolate offerings that ended with the chocolate fountain surrounded by sliced fresh fruits ready for dipping. I will confess that as I went along I started a mental list of items that I was going to enjoy when I finally got to go through and select my choices. I will also confess to skipping dinner in order to have room to enjoy my fill.

This shot is only half of the buffet table as seen from my seat.

This shot is only half of the buffet table as seen from my seat.

It was at this point that I came across my companions for the evening. A big thank you to them all for helping to shape my overall experience as often social eating is as much about who you share the experience with as much as the food so thank you to all my table mates, your conversation and impressions added to my enjoyment of the evening.

First pass through the buffet provided this array of tastes.

First pass through the buffet provided this array of tastes.

After the ribbon cutting I had my first closeup experience with the buffet itself. It was a sight to behold being near so many different styles and interpretations of chocolate desserts.

Milk shots - the official shot of the Chocoholic's Buffet

Milk shots – the official shot of the Chocoholics’ Buffet

After we had settled in with our first selections we were treated to ice cold milk shots which made the perfect accompaniment for all of our rich bites. My table companions agreed it was a welcome palate refresher and we were asking for more as the evening went on.

I want to say I could name every item, but the sheer amount of offerings from so many talented culinary artists still causes my head to swim,even 24 hours later. I can tell you that I didn’t have a bad bite all evening. Everything I tasted was amazing,be it a slice of cake, cupcake, truffle or chocolate. I am already planning to attend the event next year with my husbandas he enjoyed the tidbits I got to bring home in my provided take home box.

For a list of all the Chocolate Artists and their offerings please click here to head over to The Chocoholics Buffet. Also take a moment to click here for the Chocolate Artist Spotlights to learn more about who they are and where you can get your own bites of their work.

Be sure to peruse the list of amazing sponsors some of whom used their business savvy to support and promote this event.

Finally Congratulations are in order for the planning committee for their visionary event. I am still trying to explain the whole experience to those who have asked me about it and while I am not often at a loss for words I find I can’t convey the whole experience.

All I can say is…you have to experience it for yourselves.

With that said….

Save these Dates:

Sunday December 1st, 2013Tickets for Winnipeg’s 2nd Annual Chocoholics’ Dessert Buffet will go on sale!

Saturday March 22nd, 2014Winnipeg’s 2nd Annual Chocoholics’ Dessert Buffet will be held!

Chocolate + Irish Cream = Yummy Cake

I want to start this blog saying that I am thrilled to be featured for this recipe at The Chocoholics’ Buffet  today. This amazing event takes place on April 20th, 2013 at The Gates on Roblin and proceeds raised will benefit The United Way of Winnipeg.

I, personally, can’t think of a better way to help out a great cause. Be sure to wear your loose pants and pick up your tickets here.

Chocolate. They say that just eating is enough to stroke the pleasure sensors in your brain and create good feelings.

Irish Cream. Something I enjoy in my coffee or on ice but not something I’ve ever worked with beyond a nip in my evening cappuccino every so often.

I’m not so completely out of the loop that I don’t know that the makers of Bailey’s Irish Cream have recipes featured on their website but while I’ve browsed I’ve never made any of them.

However, into my hot little hands this week came a bottle of White Chocolate Irish Cream from Shannon’s and I was reflecting on my Triple Chocolate Bribe brownies about getting more than one version of chocolate into a recipe and decided that I would do the liqueur proud and use it in a chocolate cake.

When I was younger I had managed to bake the perfect (in my dad’s opinion) chocolate cake. It was so moist and I’ve never been able to attain it with any cake I had tried since then.

Until yesterday.

I went back to that old recipe, from Home Ec in the late 1980’s, and made a couple of changes based on the kitchen knowledge I have learned over the years:

1) I decided to use buttermilk. I’ve been using it in items such as muffins, quick breads, pancakes and french toast for a while.

2) I put in a cup of coffee. I like how coffee can add to the overall flavour of chocolate as evidenced by the mochachino.

Cake ingredients left to right: Bowl of dry ingredients for sifting including: 2 cups flour, 1 3/4 cups sugar, 3/4 cup cocoa, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon baking soda.

Cake ingredients (from left): Bowl of dry ingredients for sifting including: flour, sugar, cocoa, salt, and baking soda. Then Shannon’s White Chocolate Irish Cream, coffee, oil, egg and buttermilk.

Now on reflection of my ingredients I’m thinking about the next time I make this cake using Half Pints Brewing Stir Stick Stout in lieu of the cup of coffee I put in. Stout is known for adding very deep flavour to chocolate desserts and I think would play well with the Irish Cream. I can’t wait to experiment with this idea in future.

Dry ingredients. Sifted and ready to go.

Dry ingredients. Sifted and ready to go.

Sifting is one of my favourite parts of baking. It is simple, effective and doesn’t require a lot to get good results from it. All you need is a metal sieve and to shake the ingredients through until finished. Here you are wanting to sift through all your dry ingredients.

Wet ingredients whisked together and ready to go.

Wet ingredients whisked together and ready to go.

Getting the wet ingredients ready provided a good learning moment for my 9 year old son. Earlier yesterday he made eggs for the first time and while I was instructing him I discussed with him the value of cracking an egg into a cup so you can check it for blood spots. He managed to make 6 eggs with no issue (for himself, his brother, his sister and for me) but when I cracked the egg for this cake there was a good example to teach him what he was looking for and a talk about how if I had just cracked it into the bowl of wet ingredients that I would have had to start over again because my whole wet component would have been tainted.

Batter finished and ready to be baked.

Batter finished and ready to be baked.

Adding wet to dry I whisked the batter together. I like to use my whisk when my hands are up for the task because I feel like I can get at the sides of the bowl a bit easier. I used my spring form pan for this cake because once you take the collar off it can be ready to be iced almost as is. I will confess that idea I got from reading online.

Finished cake.

Finished cake.

Into the oven and after about 40 minutes I’ve gotten a cake that comes out clean when I check it. However, as you can see I’ve lived up to my name as something is not completely right with my centre. As I was going through my ingredient list for the photo I noticed that I failed to use 1 tablespoon of baking soda. Instead I only used 1 teaspoon.

In the end it didn’t cause any issues with the overall end product but I can’t help but wonder if it would have at least been more esthetically pleasing.

So let me take a moment to say…it pays to not rush and to really read before measuring out those dry ingredients. Luckily despite this mishap the flavour held up well and once iced the cake looked great.

Ingredients for the icing (from left): Heavy whipping cream, Shannon's White Chocolate Irish Cream and powdered (icing) sugar.

Ingredients for the icing (from left): Heavy whipping cream, Shannon’s White Chocolate Irish Cream and powdered (icing) sugar.

I got the idea for this frosting from my aunt. She tops a gingerbread cake she makes with a nice dollop of whipped cream and I decided to go with that inspiration.

A very simple combination of ingredients make up this frosting. The cake itself is very rich and a heavy frosting would make it too much. In my opinion, sometimes with frosting less is more.

This ended up being almost like the whipped cream on top of your hot chocolate.

Finished frosting.

Finished frosting.

I also love the simplicity of this frosting. You put all your ingredients together in the bowl and use your electric mixer until you have stiff peaks. It works well in a piping bag or in the decorator from Tupperware that I have mentioned before.

Finished cake!

Finished cake!

As you can see….dimple in the middle is wonderfully hidden by my frosting. I also decided to play a bit with the frosting and use a star tip.

I have come to the realization that I do need to work on frosting skills in the future :D.

Double Chocolate Irish Cream Cake with White Chocolate Irish Cream Frosting

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup oil
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup Irish Cream (I used Shannon’s White Chocolate)
  • 1 cup strong black coffee (of you could use a stout I recommend Half Pints Stir Stick)
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup Irish Cream (I used Shannon’s White Chocolate)

Preparation:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Sift together flour, sugar, cocoa, salt and baking soda.
  3. Whisk together egg, oil, buttermilk, 1/4 cup Irish Cream and coffee.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry and whisk until everything is combined. Be sure to scrape the side of the bowl as you are whisking.
  5. Pour into greased 10 inch spring form pan
  6. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean in the centre
  7. Set aside to cool.
  8. While cake cools combine 2 cups whipping cream, 1/4 cup powdered sugar, and 1/4 Irish Cream in a bowl. Use your hand mixer to beat them until it forms stiff peaks.
  9. Once the cake is cool, remove the collar from the cake pan.
  10. Frost with the whipped cream frosting.

Again if you are in Winnipeg on April 20th be sure to get your tickets for The Chocoholics’ Buffet.

Thank you Anna Coleshaw-Echols of Lunchfor1.com for the opportunity to be featured today.

Potato Salad…Hold the Mayo

I must confess that I’ve fallen a bit behind this week but I’ve been taking my phone with me so I have a few different items I’ve made recently. I just need to get them documented here.

My mom’s birthday was this week and we offered to host my parents for dinner where we went with Pulled Pork on a Bun and German Potato Salad.

Neither of my parents are big fans of mayo but they are huge fans of vinegar which makes this salad ideal for serving when they come over. It is also a great choice for summer picnic fare as it is a version of potato salad that is meant to be served at room temperature or warm so you can put it out at your BBQs and not worry about making anyone ill from mayo sitting in the sun.

This recipe is from the folks over at Epicurious.com.

Potatoes - 2 quarts = 8 cups. Boiled, cubed and set aside.

Potatoes – 2 quarts = 8 cups. Boiled, cubed and set aside.

First step as with most potato salads is the get your potatoes ready. I estimated one potato per person plus on extra to attempt to get the right amount I would need to make this salad, which worked out to 8 potatoes total. I boiled the potatoes whole so as to get them fork tender. As with the scalloped sweet potatoes earlier this week I just kept my eye on them while they boiled and pulled them from the water when I could get a steak knife in with little resistance.

It is important to give these guys plenty of time to cool so I would recommend getting your potatoes done well ahead of time. You could cube them first before boiling but the time I did that I had really soft potatoes and it almost became German Mashed Potatoes. The cooling, in my experience, makes it easier to cube the cooked potato as well.

I also left the skins on. I’ve never actually peeled potatoes when making this but I’m pretty sure you could if you wanted to.

Thick sliced bacon.

Thick sliced bacon.

This is a vinaigrette dressing but the heart and flavour of your roux will come from the bacon drippings as your oil component so good quality bacon is a must. I also cooked this on a lower heat to make sure I got crisp bacon and a good amount of drippings. Even the bits that get stuck to the bottom of the pan will get used in the end.

Ingredients -

Ingredients  (Starting left ) – Chopped onion, cider vinegar, water, flour, sugar, mustard, salt, black pepper and rosemary.

The recipe calls for vinegar and I had some cider vinegar in the fridge so I went with that. Most folks I know that make this recipe tend to make that substitution as well.

I also realized a bit too late that I had no dried mustard in the house. While I was ripping the spice cabinet apart Kevin went online and with a quick search he assures me that you can use yellow mustard in a ration of 3:1. So in this case 3 teaspoons of yellow mustard for my 1 missing teaspoon of powdered dry mustard.

Dressing in the frying pan.

Dressing in the frying pan.

Using the same frying pan as I made the bacon in I make the dressing pretty much as described in the recipe but I give it a bit of time to come together in between steps. For example I put the onions in and let them fry in the bacon drippings for a few seconds before adding the flour to make the roux.

With the vinegar and water I took the time to let them de-glaze the pan so I could take up the bits of bacon stuck to the bottom of the pan before adding the sugar, spices and mustard. I also gave the sugar time to melt into the dressing before added the spices and mustard and letting is cook down.

After I have added everything in I let it go and took it off the heat when the dressing could coat the back of a spoon nicely.

One of my best chopping jobs to date.

One of my best chopping jobs to date.

While I was giving time to my dressing ingredients to come together I turned my attention the parsley. I often find chopping to be the more difficult part of cooking mostly because I’m not sure when I have a chop or a mince going. I was very proud of this chopping job though. Probably one of my best to date.

Close up of the finished salad

Close up of the finished salad.

Now when combining everything together in the bowl I really recommend a large rubber spatula or spoonula so that you don’t run the risk of having your potatoes getting mashed while you are working the dressing through out the potatoes, bacon and parsley.

There are never any leftovers of this salad ever.

German Potato Salad

Recipe from Epicurious.com

Ingredients:

  • 8 slices bacon
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 4 teaspoons chopped onion
  • 2/3 cup vinegar (I substituted with cider vinegar)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon powdered  dry mustard (I was out so used 3 teaspoons of yellow mustard at a ratio of 3:1)
  • 1/2 teaspoon crumbled rosemary leaves
  • 2 quarts (8 cups) cooked diced potatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Preparation:

  1. Boil potatoes and set aside to cool. When you can handle them easily cut into cubes.
  2. Fry bacon until crisp.
  3. Remove from pan, drain and crumble.
  4. Add flour and onion into the bacon fat left in the pan.
  5. Stir in vinegar, water, sugar, salt and spices. Cook only until mixture is of medium thickness.
  6. Add to potatoes, parsley and crumble bacon. Mix carefully (I suggest using a large spoonula) to prevent mashing the potatoes.

It’s a Tag Team Event

So recently we were invited to an evening of board games and drinks with friends. Everyone was asked to bring a bite that could be easily eaten with the fingers and Kevin and I decided that we would each tackle one bite. He would tackle the savory and I would be in charge of the sweet.

Kevin loves to try new things and blow people away with the unexpected. That is part of what makes him so fearless in the kitchen. He also knows what he is doing and I think that knowledge goes a long to producing bold and creative results.

So while looking for ideas he comes across for an idea for Lasagne Cupcakes from this blog post. When he told me he wanted to try making these as our savory bite I was thrilled with how creative it was.

Kevin always likes to try out new recipes before presenting them so Friday night before our get together Kevin decided to try this idea out on the family.

Wonton Wrapper with the 3 cheeses.

Wonton Wrapper with the 3 cheeses.

This is when we started out with our family trial run. Kevin decided that he wanted to go with no cutting the wonton wrapper and having it be whole and going with what was termed as a ” rustic look”. The three cheeses are layered one on top of the other.

Meat layer on top of the first cheese layer.

Meat layer on top of the first cheese layer.

Then we have the meat layer on top of our three cheeses to which the sauce was drizzled on. After these steps you put another wanton wrapper on and repeat the cheese, meat, and sauce layers one more time finishing with some mozzarella cheese on top.

Fresh from the oven and ready to serve!

Fresh from the oven and ready to serve!

The kids did enjoy this different form of finger food. They took to it with a lot of excitement and the reviews were good. Kevin felt that they were a bit chewy and that it could have been tweeked a bit more to bring a bigger flavour.

When Kevin uses a recipe he always goes and reads the comments and feedback from others to help make what he is cooking more flavourful and often learns a new trick this way. In his searches and reviews he finds this recipe from Food Network that appears to be the inspiration for the blog post his inspiration came from.

When we went to make the cupcakes for our party he took the suggestions from Aarti to blend the 3 cheeses of ricotta, parmesan, and mozzarella into a filling like you would do for a traditional lasagna and to combine the sauce with the browned meat instead of doing them as two separate components. This also made it much easier to press the layers down into the muffin tin which got the filling spread out evenly over the wonton base and allowed for the flavours to be found in each bite. He also added basil into the cheese mixture to help give a bit more of that lasagne flavour.

Finished product  on plate to be served to our 3 year old.

Finished product on plate to be served to our 3 year old.

My bite, I’m proud to say, came out of my head with just a bit of encouragement from Kevin. In the end I called it a Black Forest Tart because my goal was for folks to think of that when they took their bite. I’m pretty happy to say that I managed to be successful in my goal.

3 cups of cherries, 2 tablespoons of white sugar, 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour

3 cups of cherries, 2 tablespoons of white sugar, 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour

I started with 3 cups of frozen dark sweet cherries and tossed them in 2 tablespoons of white sugar and 1 tablespoon of all purpose flour. I set them aside to come together while I pre-heated my oven to 350F. As I was experimenting I decided to go low temp and take a bit longer to get my desired results than risk cooking them too fast and burning it. I am fairly certain that next time I could go 375 for 20 minutes.

Pre-made mini tart shells courtesy of Tenderflake.

Pre-made mini tart shells courtesy of Tenderflake.

Now pastry is something that is on my culinary bucket list. I’d like to make a perfect pastry and get the perfect decorative edge. While I work toward this goal anything that I plan to put out to people I am neither married or related to I take an assist from those who are more experienced in these matters. So Tenderflake to the rescue! I followed their suggestion of taking out the tart shells and giving them 10 minutes to thaw a bit. I did this while I was pre-heating the oven and letting my cherries sit with the flour and sugar coating.

Cherry puree with whole cherry in the middle.

Cherry puree with whole cherry in the middle.

I was trying to go for a bit of a presentation vibe in my experiment so after the 10 minutes thawing time as suggested by Tenderflake I counted out one whole cherry for each tart on the sheet (36) and then took the remainder of the bowl contents and pureed them through my mini chopper. I took a teaspoon and spooned out a small amount of the cherry puree to cover the bottom of the tart shell and then placed my cherry in it. I found the puree helped to keep the cherry in place in the centre for the most part and it also cooked up around it nicely.

Finished tarts after being in the 350 F oven for approx. 30 mins.

Finished tarts after being in the 350 F oven for approx. 30 mins.

I will admit that I was hovering as my oven was baking my bites but when they came out I felt really impressed so far as they looked pretty good and weren’t burnt because I was so gentle in making them.

While they were baking I took the time to make my whipped cream. Some of the Black Forest Cakes I have had often some shaved almonds along the outside of the cake. While making my whipped cream I added 1/4 teaspoon of artificial almond extract to 500 mls (2 cups) of whipping cream.

Melted chocolate combined with whipped cream.

Melted chocolate combined with whipped cream.

Chocolate Decorator from Epicure Selections.

Chocolate Decorator from Epicure Selections.

Next I attempted what can only be called as a chocolate whipped cream. Originally I had thought to just melt some chocolate chips and drizzle it on top of the tart but then I began to think bigger and figured I would blend the chocolate with some of the almond whipped cream I had just finished making.

I started out with about 1/2 cup of semi-sweet chips and 1/3 of a cup of dark chips left over from my Triple Chocolate Bribe and put them in the microwave at 30 second intervals stopping to take them out and stir them while they melted. Once I was confident that they were all melted I put in about 3 heaping tablespoons of my almond whipped cream and folded.

I was fully prepared for the possibility that my chocolate would seize and I’d be serving a cherry with almond whipped cream tart instead but figured I’d take the chance. After all no guts no glory.

However, as I combined my chocolate and whipped cream and they came together so very nicely and I had a good consistency for piping I reached for what was an impulse purchase at the time…my Chocolate Decorator from Epicure Selections.

Using the whole cherry as my focal point I put the chocolate whipped cream around it.

Using the whole cherry as my focal point I put the chocolate whipped cream around it.

I loaded up my Chocolate Decorator and started going around the cherry. In my head I wanted the chocolate and whipped cream to be the accents to the whole cherry I had stood up in the centre of the tart. The decorator worked well but I wonder now if my icing gun might not have been a better choice for a more consistent bead of chocolate and perhaps would have been able to get a bit more chocolate in the space I had left with the intent of using it as a channel for my chocolate and whipped cream finish.

Whipped cream for the finishing touch!

Whipped cream for the finishing touch!

Now for the final touch of whipped cream! When I was trying to come with a way to finish the tart with the whipped cream I ideally wanted to use my round tip with my decorating gun but when I went to get the pieces I found my round tip is currently missing.

I ended up going with my leaf tip and realized that I might need to invest in a new decorator gun as my trigger doesn’t seem to apply pressure anymore. So while my tarts didn’t have the perfect piping around them they did end up with the flavours I wanted to put together.

I got more than one person that commented they got what I was trying to put together but some of the feedback was that not every tart had that complete flavour profile I intended but the reviews were all good. Kevin stated that they were awesome.

I’m sure I am not the first one to come up with this style of tart but here is how I got my flavours together.

Black Forest Tarts:

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups frozen dark sweet cherries (I used Compliments)
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 boxes Tenderflake mini tart shells
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon artificial almond extract (optional)

Preparation

1) Heat oven to 350F. Combine the cherries with the sugar and flour in a bowl and set aside. Remove tart shells from box and place on cookie sheet. Thaw for 10 minutes.

2) Count out the number of whole cherries you will need for each tart and set aside. Put the remaining contents of the cherries/flour/sugar bowl into a blender or chopper and puree.

3) Take a teaspoon and line the bottom of each tar shell with enough puree to cover the bottom. Place a whole cherry in the centre of the tart and place in oven. Cook until the cherry puree is no longer liquid in appearance and the tarts shells are brown on the edges. Remove and allow tarts to cool.

4) While tarts are cooling take 2 cups of whipping cream and add the 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract in using. Whip until the cream is stiff enough you could pipe it though a bag.

5) Combine semi-sweet chips and dark chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and heat at 30 second intervals. Remove and stir between each 30 seconds until the chocolate is melted through and warm. Add 3 tablespoons of prepared whipped cream and fold in. Place in piping container and pipe around the cherry in the tart.

6) After you have piped the chocolate take the whipped cream and place it either in a piping bag or decorating/icing gun. Pipe whipped cream on top of the chocolate and around the cherry. Be sure to keep chilled until ready to eat.

(Makes 36 tarts.)