January 25, 2009

*Review* Recchiuti Confections

One of the perks of being a "Featured Publisher" with Foodbuzz.com is that from time to time they send me products to try out. The other day I received an amazing box of Recchiuti Chocolates to try and while I am not required to do a review, I enjoyed them so much that I thought I would and share my new found love with all of you.

I was sent the 8 piece "Green Box."

~Burnt Caramel~
"Dark, smoky caramel blended with extra-bitter chocolate ganache. Enrobed in pure bittersweet chocolate. Michael Recchiuti's signature piece."

Tasting Notes: This was definitely one of my favorites of the bunch. Slightly smoky flavor but extremely smooth. The bittersweet chocolate blended deliciously with the dark caramel. Nicely balanced.

~Tarragon Grapefruit~
"Tarragon leaves infused in extra-bitter chocolate ganache and topped with a sliver of candied grapefruit peel. Enrobed in pure bittersweet chocolate."

Tasting Notes: Another of my favorites. There was slight herbal essence to this one from the tarragon and a clean fruity hint from the candied grapefruit peel. The combination was stellar. I could see enjoying this chocolate with a nice hot cup of tea after a meal. Refreshing.

~Spring Jasmine Tea~
"Delicate jasmine blossoms and green tea leaves infused in extra-bitter chocolate ganache. Enrobed in pure milk chocolate and marbleized with 65% bittersweet chocolate."

Tasting Notes: The jasmine flavor was quite subtle and very smooth. I am not a big fan of tea flavored chocolates, but this one was better than most because there was only a hint of green tea. The jasmine was what I recognized most, and it was delightful.

~Lemon Verbena~
"Fresh lemon verbena infusion blended in extra-bitter chocolate ganache. Enrobed in pure bittersweet chocolate."

Tasting Notes: I liked this combination very much. The lemon was so fresh and vibrant and went along gorgeously with the bitter chocolate. As I savored this one, it made me think "lighthearted" and summery... it has an almost playful quality to it. Very nice.

~Star Anise and Pink Peppercorn~
"Fragrant star anise and crushed pink peppercorn infused in semi-sweet chocolate ganache. Enrobed in pure milk chocolate and tipped with Venezuelan white chocolate."

Tasting Notes: Sexy, complex and spicy. This would be the chocolate I might serve to my lover after a late night rendezvous. You notice the anise first... which is deep and sensual. Followed by a gentle warmth in back of your throat from the peppercorn. The chocolate is sweet and silky. The flavors combine to create a wickedly sinful treat.

~Lavender Vanilla~
"An infusion of Provençale lavender buds and whole vanilla bean folded in semi-sweet chocolate ganache. Enrobed in 41% Venezuelan milk chocolate."

Tasting Notes: Sweet, simple and delightful. Definite floral overtones with a rather subtle vanilla finish. Creamy and light. Gentle.

~Pearl Mint Tea~
"Spearmint, peppermint and green tea infused in extra-bitter chocolate ganache. Enrobed in pure bittersweet chocolate and accented with a milk chocolate button."

Tasting Notes: I already mentioned that I am not fond of tea flavored chocolates and this one had a bit stronger green tea taste. That said, I did fairly enjoy this bite. The mints combined pleasantly with the tea and chocolate and gave it a nice flavor.

~Sur De Lago~
"A kiss of extra-bitter chocolate ganache sits atop a pure Sur de Lago chocolate disk. Topped with crushed Sur de Lago cacao nibs and enrobed in pure bittersweet chocolate."

Tasting Notes: The cacao nibs gave a wonderful texture to this piece. The chocolate was velvety, rich and delectable. The contrast of the crunchy nibs to the smooth ganache was amazing. Exceptional. Again, one of my very favorites.

January 17, 2009

Fresh Black Italian Winter Truffles, anyone?

Once again, the fine folks at MarxFoods.com are having an amazing giveaway! This time it's 1/4 pound of amazing, delicious, fantastic Black Italian Winter Truffles! I entered and you can too... all you have to do is click the photo below to go to the MarxFoods site and leave a comment there by January 26th at 12PM PST. MarxFoods.com will select a winner at random and announce it on January 26th. I'd also love it if you let them know in your comment that "kitchengirljo.blogspot.com" sent you :) Thanks!

MarxFoods.com Truffle Contest. Enter Here.

And while you're at it... leave a comment here and let me know... if *you* won, how would you use all those luscious truffles?

January 14, 2009

Chicken Chili

The other day Anne of Cooking With Anne and I were chatting on Twitter ( I am "kitchengirljo" on Twitter if you want to come follow me!) and she mentioned how she was going to start posting more of her "everyday" recipes on her blog and it got me to thinking that I should do that as well. Thanks for the inspiration Anne!

As a work at home Mom of 3 kids, some days are just so busy and hectic that I don't have the time to spend in the kitchen that I would like. For those days, I have a set of recipes that are quick and easy and get dinner on the table with a minimum of fuss. I like these recipes not only because they are simple, but because they also tend to be easy on the food budget and are made from ingredients readily available. Often times these recipes can be used with leftovers from other meals, which is another wonderful way to stretch your families budget. I hope you will enjoy these recipes as much as my family does!

Recipe Notes:
~This chili is quite thick if you leave out the V-8, which is fine, if you like heavy chili (we do it both ways, depending on mood) Many times I make this recipe without the V-8 the first time and reheat the leftovers with the V-8 added to thin out the consistency some. It does tend to thicken up after being refrigerated. The V-8 adds some extra nutritional value and the adds some nice spice, but you really can't tell it's V-8 juice, if you're not a fan of drinking it straight.

~This recipe also works well in a slow cooker, on low for all day cooking, or on high for 4-5 hours. I suggest still sautéing the vegetables as described in step 1 below and then adding them to your slow cooker. Especially if using the high setting for a shorter cook time.

~The chili is even better the next day, but I will warn that any added pasta can get mushy. If you plan to have leftovers you might want to make your pasta as you go and add it as you eat it instead of adding in all the pasta the first day.

Chicken Chili

4 Cups cooked chicken cut into bite sized pieces

1 Cup chopped onion
1 Cup each red and green peppers
4 cloves minced garlic
1 Tablespoon olive oil

2 16oz cans kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
2 14oz cans diced tomatoes
1 16oz can tomato sauce
16 oz whole kernel corn (fresh or frozen)

1/2 Cup red wine
1/4 Cup Worcestershire sauce
2 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons Chili powder
1/2 Teaspoon dry mustard
2 Teaspoons black pepper
1 Teaspoon thyme
1/2 Teaspoon cumin
Salt to taste (no more than 1 Teaspoon)

8 oz spicy V-8 Juice (optional)
3 Cups cooked macaroni (optional)
Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
Sour cream (optional)
Corn chips (optional)


1: Sauté the onion, garlic, and red/green peppers in the olive oil in a large dutch oven until tender.

2: Using the same pot, add the beans, tomatoes and tomato sauce, corn and chicken. Stir to combine.

3: Add the wine, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, chili powder, dry mustard, pepper, thyme, cumin and salt. Stir again to combine.

4: If adding the V-8 juice, do so now.

5: Cover and simmer on medium heat for 60 minutes.

6: If adding macaroni, cook according to package directions and add to the chili during the last 10 minutes of cook time.

7: Serve in bowls with a handful of shredded cheddar, a dollop of sour cream and a side of corn chips, if desired.

Makes 12 1-cup servings without added pasta, 15 1-cup servings with pasta.

January 10, 2009

Trail Mix For Kids

My 3 little ones all love trail mix and they adore being able to mix it up themselves. We make a large quantity of this once a month and every time we make it I let each child pick what ingredient they want to add to the "Master Recipe." It keeps it interesting this way, as every month the mix is a little bit different. They never seem to get tired of it and it's something actually good for them. Keep it in a air tight container and it keeps for weeks. The perfect mix of salty, sweet, chewy and crunchy! How could a snack get any better? Another thing about this snack that I love... it travels well. Add a couple of handfuls to a snack sized zip top bag and the kids have a snack to go. No mess and satisfying.

*Master Recipe*
Sunflower Kernels
Yogurt Drops
Banana Chips

The amounts of each ingredient are up to you and what your family likes. Most often I simply buy a medium sized package of whatever we're using and mix it all together in a large plastic ice cream bucket.

In this batch I left out the banana chips as the kids didn't feel like having them this time. Usually I do add dried fruit such as pineapple, cranberry or even chopped dried apricot. The kids chose peanut butter chips, pretzel goldfish and chocolate yogurt covered dried blueberries as their additions this time. The variations are endless! Try it with your kids (even Mom and Dad like it) and see how much they enjoy it!

January 6, 2009

Creamy Mushroom Risotto

My family adores risotto. I make it in one variation or another nearly once a week. Often times on weekends we have it for lunch as a main dish. It's creamy, flavorful and filling and it fits the bill perfectly as a simply yet satisfying lunch. Pair it with a salad and you're good to go. This is my basic recipe that I've used for years and can change up with different vegetables. It's even good alone, without vegetables, as a simple accompaniment to a meat or poultry dish. You can swap out the chicken stock for beef if you like to make it something that would go well with a steak or roast. It's up to you and your likes. Be creative and try something new with it.

* 1 pound sliced mushrooms of your choice (I used cremini mushrooms)
* 1/4 cup heavy cream
* 5 Tablespoons butter (reserve 1 Tablespoon)
* 1/2 cup chopped shallots
* 1 cup arborio rice
* 1/2 cup white wine (use a dry wine you would like to drink, please!)
* 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
* 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
* Salt and pepper

* Prepare the mushrooms by cleaning and slicing. In a small saucepan melt 1 Tablespoon of butter on medium high heat, add the mushrooms and cook until tender. Add 1/4 cup of heavy cream to the cooked mushrooms, stir and set aside.

* Bring the stock to a simmer in a saucepan. Keep the stock simmering as you use it.

* In a 4 quart saucepan, heat 3 Tablespoons butter on medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for a few minutes until tender. Add the rice and cook for 2 minutes more, stirring until well coated.

* Add the wine. Stir, allowing the rice to absorb the wine. Once the wine is almost completely absorbed, add 1/2 cup of stock to the rice. Continue to stir until the liquid is almost completely absorbed, adding more stock in 1/2 cup increments. Make sure you keep stirring and do not walk away, you do not want this rice to stick. Continue cooking and stirring rice, adding a little bit of broth at a time, cooking and stirring until it is absorbed, until the rice is tender, but still firm. This should take about 20 minutes. Remove from heat.

* Stir in the Parmesan cheese, the remaining 1 Tablespoon butter. Finally, carefully fold in the mushrooms. You may want to re-heat the mushrooms a bit in the microwave before adding it to the risotto. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 side servings, or 2 meal sized.