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1  COOKING / Vegetarian / Vegan / Re: Lentil help? on: February 20, 2008 11:20:41 AM
Lentil salad is always a great option.  Since they are the green ones, they hold their integrity when you cook them.  Meaning that they don't turn to mush when they are cooked.  So, if you just cook them in water or broth, drain them, and toss with the same kinds of things you'd put in a pasta salad: celery, carrots, cucumber, fresh herbs, cubes of cheese that you like, sun dried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, olives, artichoke hearts, chopped shallots, green onions, radishes, etc.  Then you can just make up a little dressing with lemon juice/vinegar/orange juice and some minced garlic and olive oil.  You've got a great dish that is delicious, filling and good for you. 

You can also make lentil burgers.  Alton Brown did an episode of Good Eats where he made burgers with split peas.  I'm sure you could do the same thing substituting lentils.  Have fun with them.
2  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Re: Wanna Hot Date For Valentine's Day? on: February 11, 2008 07:15:31 PM
dayswithoutlines - I'm glad this was a relevant recipe for your tiny apartment.  If you did make them, I'd love to know what you thought.
3  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Wanna Hot Date For Valentine's Day? on: February 07, 2008 11:54:46 AM

Dates with goat cheese served on pistachios, ha ha

This is one of my favorite easy appetizers.  All you need is some good dates and some mild goat cheese (not to goaty).  You can scale it up or down for a big gathering or an intimate dinner.  All you do is cut the dates in half, remove the pit, fill the inside of each date half with goat cheese, and then toast them in the toaster oven or regular oven.  They should only go one or two cycles in the toaster oven, or about 5 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  You want the cheese to get soft and a little browned on top, but be careful not to burn the sugars in the dates.  The salty tang of the goat cheese is wonderful with the sweet caramel flavor of dates.  I recommend medjool dates since they are the meatiest and most succulent. 
I think this would be a great college dorm party food when you don't have much space or kitchen equipment.  Hope you like 'em!
I have more on my blog at http://figswithbri.com/?p=112   
4  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Re: Your Favorite Culinary Blogs on: February 07, 2008 11:42:18 AM
I definitely agree with Tastespotting.com.  There is always great inspiration there.  I have one:
http://figswithbri.com/
And here are the ones I go to regularly for ideas and inspiration:
http://manggy.blogspot.com/
http://tartelette.blogspot.com/
http://desertcandy.blogspot.com/
These are good sources of a lot of information, articles and people to connect with:
www.seriouseats.com
www.culinate.com
There is just so much good stuff out there.
5  COOKING / Dessert / Re: Marzipan Snowball Truffles on: January 22, 2008 10:12:19 AM
Hmmm, yeah the ganache is tasty and can be used for so many things.  Try it with twice as much chocolate as cream.  When it is ready to use, it should be about the consistency of thick dry peanut butter.  You have to work quickly because it will melt.  Plus, if you look for a used melon baller at the thrift store or something, you can make them without touching them much.  If you touch them too much, they'll melt and not come together right.  Once you have the balls on the sheet pan, you do need to put them back in the fridge or freezer to harden up again.  So, they take some time, but are easy to make.  I suppose you could roll out the marzipan with a clean can of beans or something.  But, if you don't have the right tools for a project, it ends up being much more frustrating and perhaps not work.  I'm glad you tried it out though.  Let me know how your next attempt goes. 
~Bri  Smiley
6  COOKING / Dessert / Re: Marzipan Snowball Truffles on: January 06, 2008 05:37:05 PM
Thanks!  I'm glad the tutorial was useful too.  These are some of the easiest truffles with a big bang for your buck!
7  CROCHET / Crochet: Completed Projects / Re: I made a caterpillar box and friends on: January 03, 2008 12:52:30 PM
These are really fun AND functional.  Great for a gift for a little too.  You know, for all those things little girls like to collect.
8  COOKING / Dessert / Marzipan Snowball Truffles on: January 03, 2008 12:35:53 PM


My husband and I decided to make chocolate truffles for holiday presents this year, and my favorite ones we made were these marzipan ones.  Marzipan is a paste of ground almonds and sugar and is used in European desserts a lot.  These truffles were really easy to make and had a big wow factor.  So, I wanted to share them with you all.  I have more information in my blog post: http://figswithbri.com/?p=101
Enjoy!

Marzipan Truffles

Ingredients:
a little less than 2 to 1 ratio of chocolate to cream, as example, say, 8 ounces chocolate and 5 ounces cream (we used a dark, bittersweet chocolate since the marzipan is already quite sweet)
1-2 packages of marzipan (we used a 7 oz. tube of Odense)
almond extract
white sugar

Tools:
double boiler (or bowl suspended over a saucepan with an inch or two of simmering water)
rubber or silicone spatula
melon baller (small scoop should be 1/2 tsp size or smaller)
cookie sheet (preferably cold from the fridge or freezer)
parchment paper
rolling pin
2 1/2 round cookie cutter
toothpicks

Ganache:

Chop the chocolate into small uniform chunks and put into a bowl. Heat cream in double boiler until small bubbles form around the edges. Remove from heat and add half of the cream to the chocolate chunks, stirring with the spatula to melt the chocolate. Incorporate more of the cream into the chocolate to continue to melt it, until the mixture becomes smooth and glossy. If you need a little heat to facilitate meltage, you can put the bowl over the simmering water for 10-15 seconds at a time, just dont scorch it and make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. All of this will vary depending on the humidity and temperature in the room, type of chocolate, water content in your cream, etc. So, this is all a guide, not hard and fast rules.

Once youve reached smooth, melted, glossy chocolate ganache, this is the time to take it off the heat and add flavorings. You could split it up into a few separate bowls to create different flavors. How strongly flavored your particular chocolate and almond extract are, will determine how much of the extract you use. Start with say, 1 tsp. and keep tasting and adding extract as you like. You are creating this for yourself, so flavor it to your taste, once you think youve gotten it to a place you like, have someone else taste it as well. Believe me, once youve tasted it 4 or 5 times, its good to get another perspective. You also dont want to overpower the chocolate with too much extract, so start with a small amount and add more. If you accidentally add too much, you could make a little more ganache, to dilute it.

When it tastes delicious, press plastic wrap down on the top of the ganache, and put the bowl in the freezer for about 2 hours, or you can put it in the fridge and come back to it a day or two later, to start the balling process. You will want the ganache to be hard enough to scoop individual balls out of, but not so hard you need Hulk-like strength. Based on our experience, its best to make the balls of ganache smaller than you think they should be. They will be covered in marzipan, (or tempered chocolate, if you were going that route) so they will gain another 50% or so in size.

A smaller truffle is a treat, that leaves you wanting more, a giant truffle is too sickeningly sweet, and can become a chore.

The most effective way we found for balling the cold ganache, is to warm the melon baller scoop in very hot water or in the flame of the gas stove. Warm though, not so hot the chocolate melts and sizzles. Then, if you have the technique right, you can scoop the chocolate into balls, and just tap it onto the cookie sheet. Warm the scoop again when you start having to fish around with your finger to smoosh the ganache out. Just make sure the scoop is dry when you start balling again.

The ganache balls most likely will not be perfect balls, right out of the scoop, so its best to have another person there to help you by rolling them quickly between their palms. It becomes a much messier job, and a lot slower, if you try to scoop them and roll in your hands yourself. You want to work relatively quickly too, because the ganache is getting softer and softer the more time it spends out of the fridge/freezer, and therefore harder to work with. Youll end up with a lot more on your hands than on the cookie sheet.



Marzipan:

When you have all of your ganache balls made, put the tray into the freezer for about 1 hour (less if you were able to work quickly and they are still cold). While the balls of ganache are chillin in the freezer, time to play with marzipan. Between two layers of parchment, roll the marzipan as thin as you can, (about 1/16 inch) without being transparent. We found that a 2 1/2 inch cookie cutter created the perfect sized circles to wrap around the ganache balls, but you could also free-hand it, or improvise with something else.

Remember that you dont want to stain the outside of the marzipan layer with chocolate on your fingers, so toothpicks come in very handy at this stage. When your ganache balls are chilled, you can get started, by picking one up with a toothpick and dropping it in the center of your circle. Then wrap the marzipan around the chocolate, sealing it up with an excess of marzipan at the end.

Cut that excess marzipan off, and roll the the marzipan truffle between your palms to smooth it into a ball. If you accidentally cut into the chocolate, it is easy to patch with a little excess marzipan. Eat that little brown bit, so you dont contaminate the other marzipan with chocolate. Every time you have extra marzipan left over, you can just smoosh it together again, roll it out, and make another truffle. Roll each one in white sugar, and youve got tasty, festive holiday treats that look like little snowballs. We found little paper baking and party cups to present them in, from our local craft store in the candy/cake decorating section.

Its hard to say just how many truffles youll get out of each batch, since the size will vary, but using the small scoop of the melon baller, we got over 30 truffles from 6 oz. chocolate and 3-4 oz. cream. Then rolling it out thin, we got 17 marzipan circles from a 7 oz. package. We could have bought another package of marzipan, but I think well dip the rest of the almond ganache balls in tempered chocolate and top them with a sliced or slivered almond to give a hint of whats inside.
9  COOKING / Dessert / Re: White Chocolate Cherry Mice on: December 19, 2007 04:48:35 PM
Great idea!  I hadn't seen them before.  What a fun treat for a party.  Especially a kids animal theme party, doncha think?
10  CROCHET / Crochet: Discussion and Questions / Re: what have I gotten myself into? on: December 19, 2007 04:39:10 PM
I think you should let the lady know she's gotten into something too ambitious.  I don't think crocheting in the round is really any harder than straight across, but a hat with ear flaps, if you knew what you were doing, would take you several hours.  So, you might want to just figure that they should have fun the first night, learning chains, sc and dc.  Maybe with some simple granny squares, that by the next night, they could add more of and turn that into a scarf.  It also would be less densely crocheted (therefore less time and materials).  Just a thought.  Good luck and have fun!  Just because someone wants something (unrealistic) doesn't mean you are required to comply.  If you just explain to her that a time frame like that would actually be stressful, and the girls would most likely not come away with finished project, if she's reasonable, she'll understand.  If she's unreasonable, you may be setting yourself up for a bad experience.
As for resources:
crochetme.com is great as well as craftster.org (of course)
I taught myself to crochet from Debbie Stoller's "The Happy Hooker".  She has lots of fun relevant hints and a personable style.  If you have it, I would recommend bringing it, and any others you have to show the girls what the possibilities are.
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