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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Chocolate Moose

After my success with the Charlotte Russe with Raspberries dessert, I decided to try making a more traditional chocolate mousse.  I looked in several of my cookbooks until I found a very easy recipe in my Mark Bittman cookbook: How to Cook Everything.

And no, I didn’t make a mistake in the spelling of the title.  When I think of chocolate mousse, I think of one of my favorite shows from the late 1970’s: The Muppet Show, and my favorite character the Swedish Chef who makes chocolate moose.

As it is very difficult to find a moose in our local stores, I decided to go with the mousse.  This recipe uses six simple ingredients including four ounces of your favorite chocolate chips.

I made a double boiler with a large saucepan containing about an inch of water with a metal bowl on top and put the chocolate chips and the butter in the bowl to melt.  While the chocolate warmed, I got out two small mixing bowls and split the 1 /4 cup of sugar between the bowls.  I separated three eggs, put the whites in one of the mixing bowl, and reserved the yolks to mix with the melted chocolate.  Into the second mixing bowl, I added the 1 /2 cup of whipping cream and the vanilla extract.

The chocolate and butter melted, so I removed it from the stove, dried the bottom of the bowl, added the three egg yolks, and whisked until the mixture was smooth.  I covered the metal bowl and placed it in the refrigerator to cool while I whipped the other ingredients.

In the first bowl with the sugar and egg whites, I used our hand wand with the whisk adapter to whip the eggs until they formed firm peaks.  (I am getting better with practice to figure out what the difference between firm and soft peaks.)  I whipped the bowl with the whipping cream until it formed soft peaks.

Removing the bowl of chocolate from the refrigerator, I added a spatula full of the egg mixture and folded the two together to lighten the chocolate.  One the first spatula was integrated; I added the remainder of the egg white mixture and folded it into the chocolate.

The next step was to add the whipped cream and fold that into the chocolate.  I transferred the mousse into a bowl, covered it with plastic wrap, and put it in the refrigerator to chill.

I tried a few spoonfuls of the chilled mousse and it had a very velvety and creamy texture.  It has a nice milk chocolate taste and I would like to sit and eat the entire bowl.  Though I think the next time I make it, I will find some pasteurized eggs, as this recipe does contain raw eggs.

This was very easy to make, and it is the kind of dessert that could easily be made on very short notice for guests.  Now if you will excuse me, I am going to go back to the internet and find some more Swedish Chef video clips.

Adventures In Food: Author: Kerry Howell

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hillsboro Saturday Market – Yellow Cauliflower

Last Saturday I attended our local street market and purchased a few items.  I usually don’t visit a large fresh produce stand because it is always busy.  I attended the market a little later in the day and most of the crowd had left.  I saw the produce stand had some great prices on red potatoes, so I stepped in to look around.

I was very surprised to see yellow cauliflowers, so I had to buy one to try.  We don’t eat a lot of cauliflower because it is kind of bland tasting and when steaming, I usually overcook it and it gets a little mushy.  I figured that any cauliflower that was yellow in color was worth trying.  I also purchased a fennel plant and rounded out my haul with some green peas.

Last night I looked in my How to Cook Everything cookbook and didn’t see any recipes for cauliflower that interested me, so I decided to steam the cauliflower florets’.  I separated the florets’ and put them in the steamer until just cooked.  So far so good, they are not mushy.

For dinner, we had some leftover barbecued chicken thighs, brown rice, asparagus, and the steamed cauliflower.  The yellow cauliflower didn’t seem to have any more taste than the white variety.  Both my wife and I detected a slight smoky flavor, but we think it was a stray flavors from the chicken (the smoky flavor off the chicken was very strong).

I may try another cauliflower recipe, but next time it will have some other ingredients to add a little more flavor.  Anyone have any favorite cauliflower recipes?

Adventures In Food: Author: Kerry Howell

Monday, June 28, 2010

Hillsboro Saturday Market – Chef Live

A few weeks ago, my wife and I attended our local Saturday farmers market in Hillsboro.  We enjoy walking through the various vendors’ displays and seeing what products are in season.  We will usually purchase bouquet of flowers for our house, as my wife likes the added color.

We were surprised that weekend to come across a display called Chef Live where some of the market vendors’ products are available to sample in an easy to make recipe.  We were even more surprised to see the Chef in the display was Ellen, a high school friend of our son.  She and her husband live in the area and she has a crepe cart that she pedals to some of the weekday markets and offers crepes for sale.

For the last three weeks, we have made it a point to visit Ellen’s booth and sample some of the local products.  This last weekend she made waffles from her scratch mix and was sampling two local products: Auntie Jen's Apple Pie Jam and Boyco Raspberry Honey.  Both the sample products were very good as were the waffles.

Ellen also writes a weekly blog about the products she demonstrates and her recipes.  Ellens Chef Live blog:

To visit Ellen’s Crepe blog:

Adventures In Food: Author: Kerry Howell

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Charlotte Russe with Strawberries

On a recent trip to my dentist (I needed a replacement for a tooth bond), I had to wait a few minutes before going in, and I started looking through the magazines in the waiting room.  I found a May 2010 issue of the Food Network Magazine and started to look at the recipes.  I immediately saw a recipe titled “Alex’s Mom: Charlotte Russe with Raspberries”.  This is a recipe provided by Alexandra Guarnaschelli and it looked delicious and decedent!  The receptionist at the dentist office was kind enough to copy the recipe for me before I left.

When I returned home, the copy of the recipe was dark, so I decided to check the FoodNetwork web site and see it the recipe was published.  The recipe is on the site, but I immediately noticed that it had five reviews and all of them bad.  I thought that was strange that a recipe published in the magazine would have all the documented problems.  The main complaints were about the use of the gelatin and how it hardened into an unusable mass.  I almost decided to pass on the recipe.

Another look and I saw that the recipe posted on the web site was different from the recipe in the magazine.  The website called for mixing two packets of gelatin with two tablespoons of water, the magazine specified three tablespoons.  I could see why the gelatin, without enough water was ruined.

This weekend some friends invited us over for a hike and dinner and asked if I would bring a dessert.  I though this would be the prefect time to try this recipe.  I would make it the night before and if it failed, I would make something else the next morning.

I reviewed all the steps of the recipe and realized that the first step of adding the gelatin to the water and letting it sit for five minutes should be near the end.  No wonder everyone had such problems.  The gelatin would sit way too long before it was added to the rest of the ingredients.  I decided to mix the gelatin later in the process.

I started by getting out two large saucepans, put about an inch of water inside and put top of the range to heat.  In a large metal bowl, I placed four ounces from a large bar of Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate finely chopped.  I placed that bowl on top of one of the saucepans to heat the chocolate.  I put the 2 1/2 cups of 2% milk in a glass measuring cup in the microwave for two minute to heat.

Into another large metal mixing bowl, I added the eight egg yolks, sugar, salt, and vanilla extract and whisked the contents.  I placed this bowl over the second saucepan to heat.  The recipe has both bowls heating while stirring for about five minute.  At this point I set the timer for five minute and in a small glass bowl, added the gelatin to the water and stirred.

Once the chocolate was melted I removed the bowl from the heat and slowly whisked in the warm milk, but it did not seem to fully mix together.  There were very small pieces of the chocolate that didn’t mix into the milk.  Maybe I needed to use a hand mixer to integrate the warm chocolate into the milk. 

At the end of the five minutes, the egg mixture was hot and the sugar had melted so the mixture was creamy.  I took a look at the gelatin and quickly saw that it would not last through the next step without turning rock hard, so I dumped the container and mixed another.

I slowly stirred the chocolate mixture to the yolk mixture and let this heat on the indirect heat for another five minute.  I removed the bowl from the heat, used a whisk to add the gelatin mixture, and made sure it was well mixed.  I covered the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator to cool for an hour.  After an hour I checked and it the mixture was still very runny, but around the edges it had started to become firm, so according to the recipe, it was time for adding the whipped cream. 

I made the whipped cream from a cup of heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract.  I was surprised by how quickly our hand wand whipped the cream to soft peaks.  The recipe said to fold 1 1/2 cups of the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture, but the chocolate was still so runny, I felt this step was more of a mixing of whipped cream into the chocolate.  Because the whipped cream didn’t fully integrate into the chocolate mixture it looked like there were chunks of cottage cheese floating in the chocolate.  I read in an Alton Brown mousse recipe, that when folding the whipped cream into the chocolate it is all right if the two parts don’t fully mix.  I had to tell that to my wife when she looked at the mixture and said it didn’t look right.

When I was at the store making sure I had all the ingredients for this recipe, I looked for ladyfinger cookies, but I didn’t find any at the two stores I tried, so I purchased some shortbread cookies that are similarly shaped.  When I went to line the inside of the spring form pan with the cookies, I found that I needed about three times as many cookies as I had purchased.  Fortunately, we had a can of Danish shortbread cookies in our pantry that we had not opened from last Christmas.  I opened the can and found they were still crisp, so I lined the pan with these cookies then poured in the Russe mixture.  I covered the pan and placed it in the refrigerator to (hopefully) set overnight.

First thing in the morning I checked the pan in the refrigerator, the Russe had set and was quite firm – Hurray.  There were still white lumps on top, but we decided to spread the rest of the whipped cream over the top and our friends would never know!  I didn’t have enough raspberries in my garden to place on top, so we used some of the fresh strawberries I purchased at our farmers market.

When I released the sides of the spring form pan, the Russe was stuck to the sides in a few places, but I found that by pushed down on the cookies while I removed the pan sides that the Russe remained intact.  It was difficult to cut even pieces of the Russe for serving with the strawberries on top.  In hindsight, I should have left a division in the berries where I would cut each piece.

The four of us enjoyed eating the Russe, while I was expecting more of a mousse texture; this had a gelatinous texture like eating chocolate Jell-O.  The cookies had absorbed some of the liquid and had softened to make a nice crust around the outside edge of the pieces.  This is not a recipe I will make again, but I was very pleased that after all the problems that other people had, I was able to complete the recipe and serve a descent dessert to our friends.

Find the recipe here (if you dare):

Adventures In Food: Author: Kerry Howell

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Blade’s Best Albacore Tuna

This week my wife visited with a friend and for lunch, the friend made tuna sandwiches. What made these sandwiches unique was the tuna that she used: The Blade’s Best Albacore Tuna. Tired of bland tasting store tuna, our friends had visited a seafood store in Garibaldi which is located in Oregon along the Pacific Ocean. Our friends liked the sample of tuna they tried, so they purchased an entire case of natural flavored canned tuna to take home.

When my wife returned home, she brought a gift of one of the cans of the tuna with her. I am used to tuna can packaging found in the grocery store with friendly fish wearing sunglasses or mermaid Tinkerbelle trying to entice me to buy. The can of The Blade’s tuna has a strong almost G.I. Joe military look to it (It’s probably the stencil font used in the title and the crossed blades as part of the logo). The cans of The Blade’s tuna are also larger than most store tunas; 8 ounces instead of the typical 7 ounces, so the cans have a more substantial look and feel.

The can does provide some information about the tuna: “Hand cut in Garibaldi Oregon, using only the premium quality tenderloin. Homestyle canned in it’s own juices.” The ingredients list: Albacore tuna, salt in natural juices.

We decided to have tuna sandwiches for lunch, so I opened the can and drained the “natural juices” (includes some oil) and looked at the tuna. I must say that it just looked like a white chunk of meat in a can. I am used to our Chicken of the Sea tuna that is packed as a crosscut piece of tuna so you can see the ribbing and tell that it is a fish product. Not to judge by the looks, I emptied the can into a bowl and used a fork to break the tuna into chunks. I tried a piece of the tuna and it does have a nice tuna flavor that is not overly fishy or oily.

I made tuna sandwiches for our lunch, we enjoyed the sandwich along with some dill pickle and a spoonful of Artichoke Rice Salad with Shrimp that I made the night before (it tasted much better chilled). My wife really enjoyed the real tuna taste of this sandwich; she has mentioned several times that our regular tuna doesn’t have any flavor.

Earlier in the day, I went shopping at our town’s Saturday morning market, and there was a booth selling seafood from the Oregon coast. Normally I would not have noticed their products, but because I had been looking at the can of The Blade’s Best tuna, I was surprised to see some of the cans for sale on their table. I was more surprised at the price of $6 a can (they had a case discount, but I didn’t see what it was). It is pretty expensive, but I contrast it with the fresh Copper River Salmon that I saw a week ago that was selling for $17 a pound.

My wife and I both performed Google searches on The Blades and Garibaldi Seafood, and were only able to find some minimal information about the company though my wife did find that they offer five different flavors. It looks like we will have to give them a call, and find out where their tuna can be purchased and information about the factory prices in Garibaldi. Until that time, we are back to eating bland Tinkerbelle tuna.

Adventures In Food: Author: Kerry Howell

Friday, June 25, 2010

Artichoke Rice Salad with Shrimp

Last week I wrote about the lemon blossoms that I saw on a Paula Deen TV show where she made different foods for a dinner party.  On that same show, Paula made an Artichoke Rice Salad with Shrimp and I printed that recipe to make in the future.  On a recent trip to the store, while we purchased our food for the week, I also purchased a few things so I could make this salad. 

I found a box of Chicken flavored Rice-a-Roni to purchase that pretty much matched the description that Paula gives in her recipe.  We also purchased some green onions, a green pepper, and a jar of pimiento-stuffed green olives.

In re-reading the directions in the recipe, though I can see that while I read all the instructions before I started, but I still missed the first step: browning the rice before cooking (it didn’t seem to matter).  I added the 2 1/2 cups of water to the skillet and then added the rice and seasoning and let it heat to a boil.

While the rice heated, I prepared the chopped green pepper, green onion, and green olives.  We have a mega-sized jar of artichoke hearts, so I got out about six ounces and quartered the pieces.  I put the 1/2 cup of mayonnaise in a small bowl and then added about 1 /4 cup of the marinade from the jar of artichoke hearts.  Instead of a whisk, I used a dinner spoon to mix the mayo and marinade together and it worked very well.

About this time, the rice was boiling, so I covered the skillet with a lid, and turned the heat to low so the rice could simmer for ten minutes.  Into a medium sized metal bowl I added all the chopped green ingredients, then added the mayonnaise mixture, and stirred it all together.  After making some over spiced recipes, I am leery about adding the full amount of spices, so I only added 1/2-teaspoon of the curry, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and just a dash of black pepper.

Once the rice was tender, I removed it from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes before adding the rice to the mixing bowl with the other ingredients.  I stirred everything together and then added the shrimp.  I used frozen pre-cooked shrimp that I had already defrosted so I just dumped them in and stirred.

This recipe can be served hot or cold, so I had a bite to eat of the salad while it was warm and thought it was very tasty.  My wife was delayed getting home, so I covered the bowl with plastic wrap and popped it in the refrigerator.

For dinner we had the Artichoke Salad and lightly steamed asparagus.  I am glad that I only used half the amount of curry powder, as a full teaspoon would have overpowered the other flavors.  As I made it, we could pick out the flavor of the green olives, but the artichoke hearts were just a firm mass that tasted like curry.  The pieces of green pepper added a nice crunch to an otherwise soft dish.  The salad was still a little warm when we ate dinner, so we look forward to tasting it tomorrow after it is fully cooled and has some time for the flavors to mature.

Find the recipe at:

Adventures In Food: Author: Kerry Howell

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Traveling – Seattle, Washington – Ivar’s Salmon House

The day after our anniversary, we met our son and his wife at their apartment in North Seattle so we could go out to lunch together.  Our son mentioned that while out riding his bicycle around Lake Union in Seattle, he could smell alder smoke and figured out it came from an Ivar’s restaurant situated on the edge of the lake.

If you live in the Seattle area, you have probably heard of Ivar’s seafood restaurants.  Ivar’s has been a Seattle landmark for many years offering tasty fish and chips from stands along the various waterfronts.  I can still sing part of the Ivar’s song from when I lived in the Seattle area in the 1970’s, and the Ivar’s catch phrase: “Keep Clam”.

We drove to the restaurant, found a place to park and went in, I was surprised to see that it was Ivar’s Salmon house.  I had never been there before because I felt that it would be too expensive, but this was still our anniversary trip, so what the heck.

Ivar’s Salmon House is decorated like a West Coast Native American long house.  Everything is cedar planking with large Indian graphics painted on the walls.  The seating looks out over Lake Union towards the downtown Seattle skyline and the Seattle Space Needle.

I was surprised that the lunch menu was actually reasonably priced and the entrees were comparable to other restaurant chains.  Both my wife and I decide to order the Coho salmon with Portobello mushrooms and asparagus.  Our son and his wife had fish and chips and a bowl of the house salmon chowder.

When our lunch arrived, I quickly took some photos and then started eating.  The salmon had been cooked over the alder flame, so it had a nice alder flavor added to the fish.  There was light sauce on the asparagus and mushrooms that had a smoky flavor with limejuice and a little sweetener to round out the flavor.

The entire meal was very refreshing and enjoyable.  Good food, great company and a wonderful view, what more could I ask for.  Keep Clam!

Adventures In Food: Author: Kerry Howell

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Traveling – Seattle, Washington – Crab Pot

This week my wife and I celebrated our thirtieth wedding anniversary and we decided to take two days and travel to Seattle to celebrate.  Along the way, we stopped in Tacoma, Washington and toured the Museum of Glass.  Unless you want to see the process of glass blowing, I don’t recommend paying to go in the museum, but park nearby and walk over the bridge that features glass work by Dale Chihuly.  Then walk across the bridge to the US Court House (former Union Station) and see several glass installations by Chihuly.

After our visit to the museum, we drove another forty minutes North to Pier 57 in Seattle for dinner at the Crab Pot.  I had seen a segment about the Crab Pot on the cable TV show “Man v. Food” and I decided that we should have dinner there on a special occasion.  A thirty-year anniversary seemed like a special occasion so we planned on dinner.  I had called about reservations, but the restaurant does not accept reservations and we were prepared to wait for a table.

We arrived in the area of the restaurant about five minutes to six o’clock and once we found a parking place in city parking about three blocks away, we were very pleased to see that city parking is free after six pm.  We had a great stroll down the waterfront to the restaurant where we place our name in the queue and waited for about thirty minutes for a table.

We decided to order “The Westport” feast from our excellent waiter: Damon.  This is a meal for two or more people that contains: Dungeness crab, snow crab, shrimp, mussels, steamed clams, anduoille sausage, red potatoes, and corn on the cob.  The fun thing about ordering the feast is each diner is provided a nice bib to keep clean, a small fork, and a mallet for cracking the crab.

The tables are covered with several layers of white butcher paper and the meal is ceremoniously dumped from a large metal bowl into the middle of the table.  We enjoyed all the different items.  I would recommend eating the shrimp first, because when they cooled, the texture seemed to become soft and they were not quite a good as when they were warm.  We were surprised because it is not corn season, but the corn was very sweet and delicious.  All I can say about the crab is that we wished there was more.  As we ate, all the shells and scraps were tossed into the metal serving bowl that was placed on the ground at our feet.

I had told Damon that this was our wedding anniversary in case the cooks wanted to throw in some of the Alaskan King crab legs that are served in “The Alaskan” feast.  He was unable to get us the King crab, but he did bring us a wonderful rhubarb and strawberry “Cake in a Pan” that is one of the Crab Pot’s signature desserts.  This cake was accompanied by a large bowl of vanilla ice cream and it was delicious.

We left the Crab Pot very full and extremely satisfied with our dinner, the service, and the restaurant.  I hope we don’t have to wait another thirty years to go back.

Adventures In Food: Author: Kerry Howell

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Chocolate Lava Muffins

While our kitchen was undergoing the remodel, I would read myself to sleep at night with the Alton Brown cookbook: Good Eats. Before falling asleep, I would use post-it notes to mark recipes that I wanted to make once the kitchen was operational. One of those recipes was Chocolate Lava Muffins.

Since the kitchen became functional, I have made this dessert several times, usually when we had guests over for dinner. This dessert is very easy to make, the hardest parts are: 1-Getting the muffin out of the pan intact (more on that later), 2-Not eating them all in one sitting.

To make the muffin mix, I make a double boiler with the bowl from our KitchenAid stand mixer (without a handle) placed over a large saucepan with about of inch of water inside. I set the heat to medium and put the eight ounces of bittersweet chocolate (usually two bars) inside to melt with the four ounces of butter. While that is melting, I use my postage scale to measure the flour and sugar into another bowl and add the cocoa powder and salt. I just mix all the dry ingredients together with a large spoon.

Once the chocolate and butter melt, I added the vanilla extract (a homemade gift from our son and his wife), and stir the vanilla into the chocolate. Removing the mixing bowl from the saucepan, I dry the bottom and place it on the stand mixer and using the whisk attachment start mixing on medium speed.

The next step is adding the four eggs, one at a time into the chocolate. Once one egg is fully integrated, then adding the next egg. Once all the eggs are added to the mixture, the speed is set to low to add the dry ingredients. Alton recommends using a paper plate to add the dry ingredients, I just spoon the flour mixture into the mixer bowl with a tablespoon at little at a time until all the dry stuff is added.

Now comes the fun, set the mixer speed on high and let it mix for five or six minutes until the mixture lightens in color. This time it took the full six minute, but I could see quite a difference in the color. Once this was finished, I covered the bowl with plastic and put the mixture in the refrigerator until I was ready to bake the muffins.

Setting the oven to 350 degrees on convention mode (375 degrees conventional), I used a paper towel dipped in margarine to give the inside of each hole in a muffin pan a very even margarine coating. Then I spooned about 1 /4 teaspoon of cocoa powder into each buttered hole and took it outside to rotate the pan so that the inside of each hole is completely covered with cocoa. Getting a good coating is essential to releasing the finished muffins.

I spoon enough of the muffin mixture to fill each hole about half way, and then place it in the oven for eleven minutes to bake. Once the muffins are baked (though they don’t look baked as the centers are still runny) I remove them from the oven and let them rest for about two minutes before removing. I use a plastic knife and go around the side of each muffin to make sure the muffins are not sticking to the sides of the muffin pan.

Good Eats: The Early YearsGetting the muffins out intact is the biggest problem, I have tried directly lifting them out, but you have to wait until they cool quite a bit, I have turned them over on a plate which does work, but the tops may stick to the plate. Don’t turn them over onto a paper towel like I did this time, a little bit of the top of each muffin stuck to the towel. The best luck I have had is using two plastic knifes and prying on one side while lifting on the other. Let me know what works for you.

Alton recommends making a sauce of vanilla ice cream and espresso powder. We just serve them with vanilla ice cream on the side and everyone loves them. This is a very easy recipe to make, but guests are always surprised when we serve them.

Find the recipe at:

Adventures In Food: Author: Kerry Howell