Category: Yoga Retreat Food


July 19, 2011

Do you know what SEO stands for?  Search Engine Optimization.  I’ve been to two food blogging conferences and both times there was a lot of talk about SEO.  I don’t make any money on this blog so truthfully, I kind of tune out when people start talking about metrics and how to drive more traffic.  I do remember talk of how to title your posts and write content so that search engines send eager clickers your way.

Obviously, the people who know a thing or two about SEO would be horrified by the title of this post.  But what else could I call it?  Salted Caramel Squares I guess would have been a good alternative but even typing that I get a little misty-eyed and spacey and just start thinking, “Um…..”

You see, I love chocolate.  You probably know that if you visit here even semi-frequently.  I also love caramel.  Maybe more than chocolate.  I don’t know.  Don’t make me choose! A while back, a friend gave me a box of salted caramels wrapped in pretty gold foil and I hid them from my family.  When I ran out of my secret stash, I panicked and bought Kraft caramels only to curse them and throw them away because they were not as good as I wanted them to be, and then I cursed myself for throwing them away and leaving my house caramel-free.  Oh wait.  I think I may have just over-shared.

Solution!  Make these unbelievable squares.  Yes, there are two parts and a candy thermometer is involved but do not let either of those facts deter you.  The two steps are easy, a candy thermometer is a good thing to have in your house anyway, this recipe makes a ton of bars (especially if you cut them bite-size which is what they should be), and they keep well.  The only thing I would do differently next time is to sprinkle just a bit of sea salt over top for a step into perfection.

One Year Ago: Chocolate Pavé and Romesco Filled Potatoes
Two Years Ago: Honeyed Goat Cheese Tart with Pistachio Crust and Blasted Broccoli
Three Years Ago: Orzo with Broccoli, Feta, and Olives

Salted Caramel Squares
Food & Wine
Makes 32 squares (more if you cut them smaller)

Note that this recipe calls for kosher salt in both the crust and the caramel.  Do not substitute table salt – they will be way too salty. I like Diamond Brand.

Pastry Shell
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 large egg white, beaten

2¼ cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
2¼ cups sugar
1¾ sticks unsalted butter
2½ tsp. kosher salt

Prepare the shell
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the short sides.  In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer at low speed, cream the butter.  Beat in the confectioners’ sugar.  Add the whole eggs and beat until incorporated, then beat in the flour and salt.  Press the pastry into the prepared pan in an even layer, ¼-inch thick.  Freeze until firm, 10 minutes.

Line the pastry with parchment paper and fill with pie weights.  Bake for 35 minutes, until just set.  Carefully remove the pie weights and parchment paper.  Brush shell with the egg white and bake for 20 minutes longer, until golden and cooked through.  Let cool.

Make the caramel
In a saucepan, bring the cream, vanilla bean, and seeds to a simmer.  Cover; keep warm.

In a large heavy saucepan, stir the sugar into  ¼ cup of water.  Simmer over moderate heat, without stirring, until a deep amber caramel forms, 7 minutes.

Remove the caramel from the heat and carefully add the cream.  (DT: It will bubble up vigorously so slow as you go.)  When the bubbling subsides, stir in the butter.  Insert a candy thermometer and cook over moderately high heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the caramel reaches 240º, 10 minutes.  Discard the vanilla bean and stir in the salt.  Pour the caramel over the shell.  Refrigerate until firm, 4 hours or overnight.  Remove the bar from the pan using the parchment overhang; cut into squares.  (DTIn my experience, these squares kept well for several days but I did not cut them all at once.  I cut off what I needed and wrapped the rest, carefully, in foilThey are equally good cold or at room temperature.)

Savory Muffins on a Saturday

July 17, 2011

Early Saturday morning saw me on a ferry bound for the magical island of Bainbridge and another yoga retreat with my awesome friend Jen.  We are into our third year of joining forces on these day-long celebrations and they are a true anchor of stability and centered-ness in our chaotic lives.  Forgive me if I sound a little woo-woo – I’m still coming down off the yoga high.

Memories from last year’s summer retreat include scenes from a bright sunny day – lunch outside at picnic tables and towels laid out on the grass for chatting and post-lunch snoozing in the sunshine.  This year, through the window of the yoga studio, I watched the rain drip down from the sky at approximately the same rate as the sweat dripped off my body (the morning session is hot yoga).  Summer?  What summer?  As I write it is 30 degrees cooler here than it was on the Eastern shore last week.  Sigh.

But even though the weather is not co-operating, my body is still telling me it is summer by the food that it craves.  The thermometer may say butternut squash and mushrooms, but my cravings run more along the lines of berries and salads.  So, I made salads for the retreat.  Four of them including this potato salad which got rave reviews.  I thought about doing some kind of sandwich but in the end opted for two kinds of savory baked goods.  One was a corn bread featuring a corn relish and the other was this muffin.

This is a Savory Spinach, Feta, and Peppadew Muffin and it was my favorite thing I made for the retreat.  Actually no, my favorite thing was the Salted Caramel Squares which I will share with you next.  But as far as savory goes, the muffins were tops.  They are easy to make, beautiful, just the tiniest bit sweet (from a bit of sugar) and the tiniest bit spicy (from the Peppadews) and they keep well overnight in the refrigerator.  I would love them alongside a bowl of soup, with a hearty salad, or all by their lonesome.

(By the way, I’m sure I’m bound to get questions about those placemats.  They are paper (recyclable!) and I got them at an adorable stationery store in our neighborhood called Paper Delights.  They come 50 to a pack and I’ve been using them for my classes.)

Peppadews Previously on Dana Treat: D’Lish Peppadew Peppers
One Year Ago: Couscous and Mograbiah with Oven-Roasted Tomatoes
Two Years Ago: Roasted Tomato and Olive Galette with Fontina
Three Years Ago: Leek Frittata

Savory Spinach, Feta, and Peppadew Muffins
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Makes 12 standard muffins

You can find Peppadew peppers in one of two places.  Either on the condiment aisle nearby the jarred roasted red peppers or on the olive bar if your grocery store has one.  I have seen them whole and sliced – either would work here since you need to chop them anyway.

Non-stick vegetable oil spray
2¾ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. sweet paprika
½ tsp. smoked paprika
¾ tsp. salt
¾ cup whole milk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 cup thinly sliced spinach leaves
¾ cup crumbled feta cheese
½ cup drained mild Peppadew peppers or roasted red peppers, chopped

Preheat oven to 375ºF.  Spray 12 standard (1/3-cup) muffin cups with nonstick spray.  Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, both paprikas, and salt in medium bowl.  Whisk milk, oil, and eggs in large bowl to blend.  Add dry ingredients; whisk just until blended.  Add spinach, feta, and peppers; fold to incorporate evenly.  Divide batter among prepared muffin cups (cups will be filled to top).

Bake muffins until tester inserted into center comes out clean, 25 to 28 minutes.  Cool 5 minutes.  Run knife around muffins to release from pan.  Invert pan to release muffins, then turn muffins right side up to cool completely.

(DT: I made these the night before, allowed them to cool completely, wrapped them, and stored them in the fridge.  I let them come to room temp before serving.)

My First Cannoli

February 9, 2011

Here is where I admit that up until a couple of days ago, I had never eaten a cannoli.  My parents were both born and raised in New York and they had the luxury of eating things like real bagels, good profiteroles, late summer tomatoes, and cannoli.  My mom has a cousin who used to come visit us every summer and they would bring 4 dozen bagels with them to store in our garage freezer.  I’m sure that if the other things on that list weren’t so perishable, my mom would have requested she bring those too.

So, cannoli were not a part of my childhood.  If I were the type to go nuts over cheese in my desserts, I would have made them long ago.  But truthfully, this is not my kind of treat.  If you are a regular here I think you know what my kind of treat is.  But I am telling you about these cannoli for several reasons.

1)  Someone at Saturday’s yoga retreat sat me down and said, “If you do not post the recipe for these cannoli, I will never speak to you again.”  Strong words.

2) One of my new favorite “Food and Graham” stories happened while preparing these.  I don’t mention this often enough but Graham is a great eater.  He has a huge appetite and really loves food.  He is eager to try new things.  Something he hasn’t seen before makes him wonder what it tastes like.  Spencer‘s response is the opposite.  Anyway, I was chopping crystallized ginger for the filling and Graham asked for a taste.  I gave him a cube of it, he took a little bite, and then asked for three more pieces.

3)  I got this recipe off Epicurious.  Our computer is in our study which is not right next to the kitchen.  I was the end of a LONG cooking day when it came time to prepare these.  I took a quick glance at the recipe and then went back to my food processor to finish it.  I had a nagging suspicion that I had forgotten something in the filling but was too lazy to go back and double check.  Finally, once the filling was in the bowl, I took a quick taste and thought it was fine for, you know, a cheese filling, and into the refrigerator it went.  Then I checked the recipe.  Sugar.  I didn’t add the full 2 cups of powdered sugar that the recipe called for. I tasted again.  I’m no expert, but cannoli are not supposed to be super sweet, right?  It tasted just about right to me and everyone loved this without the sugar.

So there you go.  Cannoli.  Discuss.

Now.  The recipe makes enough filling for 25 regular size cannoli.  For reasons that are too boring to explain, I only bought 12 shells.  I cut each cannoli in half so everyone could have one but I still had tons of leftover filling.  I brought it back home with me, wondering what I was going to do with it.  And then, an unexpected opportunity came my way.

This is Spencer’s birthday cake.  Once again for reasons that are too boring to explain, I did not make enough frosting.  I was left with just enough to very lightly frost the outside of the cake but  not enough to frost all of the cones.  (The chocolate you see is the buttercream mixed with melted chocolate.)  As I was contemplating driving to the store to buy some frosting in a can (shudder), I remembered my leftover filling.  So that is what is adorning half the cones.

This cake is pretty darn cute and the cake part itself, which is the part I care about, was super moist and flavorful.  If you are interested in making it, I direct you to this recipe.  In the comments, most people hated the frosting, so I made a simple buttercream from The Cake Bible.  Just do yourself a favor and make sure you have enough frosting…

And now, back to the cannoli.

One Year Ago: Olivetta Loaf and Spicy Smoky Chili
Two Years Ago: Broccoli and Red Pepper Pie

Dried Cranberry and Ginger Cannoli
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Makes 25

This recipe originally called for dried cherries but I only had cranberries.  If you would like to add the sugar that I forgot, add two cups – one in each batch.

4 cups (2 pounds) fresh ricotta cheese
1 cup mascarpone cheese
Zest of 1 orange
½ tsp. vanilla extract
¾ cup minced crystallized ginger
¾ cup minced dried cranberries (or cherries)
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
25 purchased cannoli shells
Chopped pistachios

Working in 2 batches, blend first 4 ingredients in processor until smooth; add ginger and cranberries and process until finely chopped and well incorporated.  Using on/off turns, mix in chocolate just until blended (do not purée).  Transfer filling to a large bowl.  (Filling can be prepared 1 day ahead.  Cover and refrigerate.  Bring to room temperature before continuing.)

Working in batches, transfer filling to pastry bag without tip.  Pipe into shells.  Dip ends in chopped pistachios.  Chill at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours.

Lasagne, Day Two

February 8, 2011

I will admit, lasagne is not as pretty on day two.  This one in particular because it has some broccoli in it and that vibrant green fades to dull army yuck after a night in the refrigerator.  Still, this was a big hit at Saturday’s yoga retreat and I got multiple requests for the recipe.  Lasagne is not something I make often but it is the perfect thing to make when you need to feed a lot of people.  The tricky thing for me is finding a recipe that isn’t a total gut bomb.  I knew these yogis would be hungry after a two hour hot yoga class (I certainly was) but no one wants to undo all that good-for-your-body yoga with a bad-for-your-body lasagne.

Many lasagne recipes use a béchamel sauce (which is a cream sauce with a roux base) and while those certainly taste good, they are not the healthiest.  I try to avoid that type of lasagne but what you are often left with are the boring lasagnes or the “super quick” ones that rely on lots of cheese and bottled sauce.  I thought this was a really good version.  The filling is quick-sautéed red bell peppers mixed with steamed broccoli and ricotta.  Broccoli might sound weird in a ricotta filling but I thought it was terrific.

Make no mistake. You are not going to find this dish at a wellness spa.  But here is a good example of how I like to eat.  There is regular ricotta, regular mozzarella, and regular Parmesan in there – I find the low fat versions of those things to be disgusting.  I just used a lighter hand with the cheese.  I doubled this recipe and I had way too much broccoli, so I am adjusting the recipe below.  I have never had success with those no boil lasagne noodles, but I bought mine at Whole Foods this time (their brand, super inexpensive) and they became meltingly tender in the oven.  The sauce here was a star.  I’m a big fan of sundried tomatoes in general but had never used them in a sauce.  Turns out they lend a smokiness and depth to an otherwise simple sauce.

All in all, this was a wonderful dish.  One I would make for gatherings big and small.

Lasagne Previously on Dana Treat: Lasagne with Eggplant and Chard
One Year Ago: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Two Years Ago: Mushroom Enchiladas

Red, White, and Green Lasagne
Adapted from Gourmet
Serves 8

I assembled the entire lasagne the day before and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.  I baked it for an additional 20 minutes or so.

Olive oil
2 large red bell peppers, chopped
15 ounces ricotta cheese
1 pound broccoli, cut into florets
1 box dry no-boil lasagne noodles (you won’t need all the noodles)
8 ounces mozzarella, grated
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Rich Winter Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)

Put a large skillet over medium heat.  Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom and then add the peppers and a large pinch of salt.  Sauté, stirring occasionally, until peppers are crisp-tender, about 7 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly.  Put the ricotta into a large bowl and stir in the peppers.  Steam the broccoli until crisp-tender, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly, then give it a rough chop.  Stir into ricotta mixture and season to taste with pepper and salt.

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Pour 1 cup tomato sauce into a baking dish, 13 by 9 by 2 inches, and line the bottom with lasagne sheets, not overlapping.  Drop about 1½ cups ricotta mixture by spoonfuls onto pasta and gently spread with back of a spoon.  Sprinkle ¼ of the mozzarella and ¼ of the Parmesan over ricotta mixture.  Make two more layers in the same way, beginning and ending with pasta.  Spread remaining sauce over pasta (you may have a bit left over), making sure the pasta is completely covered, and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.

Cover dish tightly with foil, tenting slightly to prevent foil from touching top layer, and bake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and bake lasagne 10 minutes more, or until top is bubbling.  Let lasagne stand 5 minutes before serving.

Rich Winter Tomato Sauce
Makes about 3 cups

The recipe instructs you to use a food mill to purée the sauce but I don’t have one.  I used my handheld immersion blender.  It was fairly chunky but I liked that.

½ cup packed dried tomatoes (not packed in oil)
1 cup boiling water
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. butter
28-ounce can whole tomatoes with juice
1 tsp. sugar

In a small bowl soak dried tomatoes in boiling water 30 minutes and drain.  While tomatoes are soaking, heat a saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add butter and when melted, add onion and a large pinch of salt.  Once soft, about 5 minutes, add the garlic and stir another 3 minutes.  Pour in the tomatoes and the sugar and another pinch of salt and cook, stirring often to break up the tomatoes, until thickened, about 30 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Use an immersion blender, a food mill, or a traditional blender to purée sauce.

White Chocolate Tiramisù

February 7, 2011

Do you need a dessert that feeds at least 18 people?  Do you have a stand mixer (preferably with an extra bowl and paddle) and a handheld mixer?  Do you have at least five mixing bowls – six if your white chocolate seizes like mine did?  Then have I got the dessert for you!

Saturday was our seasonal yoga retreat and to change things up a bit, Jen decided to do an afternoon session followed by dinner.  It seemed like the right thing to do.  Winter is dark and gray here and hunkering down for a cozy dinner with friends after an invigorating yoga session – what could be better?  In past yoga retreats (this was our eighth!), we have always felt a bit of let down at the end of the day.  It has felt like all participants, Jen and I included, were not ready for the party to end.  Re-entry into chaotic lives was difficult.  So, having a dinner with wine and no real end to the evening sounded wonderful.

I was challenged to find a meal that would serve 24 people without a lot of last minute prep.  My mind went in many different directions but ultimately settled on an Italian theme.  I made two different kinds of pasta, Caesar salad and a roasted tomato caprese.  I made garlic bread and an antipasto platter starring these peppers.  And I made 2 desserts – White Chocolate Tiramisù and some cannoli.

The first and only other time I made this Tiramisù (or any Tiramisù for that matter) was years ago, soon after Randy and I were first married.  We went to a party and the hosts requested that I make dessert.  I was never a big fan of Tiramisù but this recipe caught my eye because it said that it served 18 and I knew the party would be on the large side.  This dessert is always at the back of my mind because of that fact, that it serves a lot of people, and because one of our hosts absolutely fell in love with the dessert.  We see him only about once a year now but he always asks me, “Hey, have you made that amazing Tiramisù lately?”

Now, if you are going to follow my suggestion to K.I.S.S., then don’t make this recipe.  There are others which are much simpler, that take fewer bowls, that don’t make your kitchen look like a tornado touched down.  I was hating hating this dessert as I was making it.  When I have plenty of time to get things done, I am very Zen in the kitchen.  I work methodically and smoothly and things seem to fall into place easily.  When I am crunched for time, as I was in the case of this Tiramisù, I start getting sloppy and making stupid mistakes.  Lesson learned: leaving the somewhat time consuming, dish heavy, and multiple steps dessert until the end of a cooking day is not a good idea.

But as I started to assemble it, tasting each piece as I went, I was pretty happy that I endured the mess.  This is a very impressive dessert.  The pan itself weighed more than the lasagne I made.  Three layers of coffee and booze soaked ladyfingers and an incredibly rich white chocolate and ricotta cheese custard is pretty hard to beat.

One Year Ago: Caramel Cake
Two Years Ago: Roasted Orange Pepper Soup

White Chocolate Tiramisù
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Serves at least 18

I made this, as the recipe suggests, in a 13×9-inch Pyrex pan.  The filling extends well beyond the pan and kind of sticks to the foil that you use to cover it.  It turns out fine, but I thought next time I would add another 6 ounces of ladyfingers and make the whole dessert in a bigger pan.  I used my hand mixer for the egg yolks, my stand mixer for the cream cheese, then my hand mixer again for the egg whites and also for the cream.

2½ cups hot water plus 2 tbsp. water
¼ cup instant espresso powder
6 tbsp. dark rum
8 ounces good-quality white chocolate, chopped
8 large egg yolks
1¼ pounds cream cheese (two and a half 8-ounce packages), room temperature
4 large egg whites
¾ cups sugar
1½ cups chilled whipping cream
90 soft ladyfingers from four 3-ounce packages
2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

Pour 2½ cups hot water into medium bowl.  Add espresso powder; stir to dissolve.  Stir in rum.  Cool espresso mixture.  Place chocolate in medium bowl.  Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water and stir until melted and smooth.

Combine egg yolks, powdered sugar, and remaining two tablespoons of water in medium bowl.  Set over saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly, until mixture thickens slightly and reaches 160ºF, about 6 minutes.  Remove bowl from over water.  Using electric mixer, beat egg yolk mixture until cool and thick, about 5 minutes.  Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese in large bowl until smooth.  Beat barely lukewarm melted chocolate into cream cheese.  Fold egg yolk mixture into cream cheese mixture.

Using electric mixer fitted with clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in another large bowl to soft peaks.  Gradually add ¾ cup sugar, beating until stiff peaks form.  Fold 1/3 of beaten egg white mixture into cream cheese mixture to lighten.  Fold in remaining egg white mixture.  Beat whipping cream in medium bowl to medium-stiff peaks.  Gently fold whipped cream into cream cheese mixture, creating mousse.

Lightly dip 1/3 of ladyfingers 1 at a time in espresso-rum mixture and place in single layer in bottom of 13-9-2-inch glass baking dish.  Spoon 1/3 of mousse over ladyfingers, spreading evenly.  Dip next 1/3 of ladyfingers in espresso mixture and place atop mousse.  Top ladyfingers with another 1/3 of mousse.  Repeat with remaining ladyfingers, espresso mixture and mousse.  Sift cocoa powder over top of tiramisù.  Cover; chill overnight.

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