February 27, 2009

*Review* Amano Artisian Chocolate~ Jembrana Bar

I few weeks back I was given an opportunity to try a delicious new chocolate because of BlakeMakes.com's "Sooper Hero" program. If you have a chance, you should go take a look at Blake's website... he's one very ambitious foodie and a great guy!

I was sent a Jembrana 70% Dark Chocolate Bar, made by Amano Artisian Chocolate.

This was a beautifully packaged 2 ounce bar that would have been perfect for gift-giving. I was really impressed with the artwork on the package. These little details, I believe, are what set a company apart from the others within their field. As soon as I had the package in my hands, I could feel that I has something special.

After I received the bar, I took a couple of days to figure out what to do with it. Two ounces isn't really enough to do a whole lot with so I decided I would take out one square for "naked" taste testing and use the remainder of the bar to make a single cup of hot chocolate using the recipe from the Amano blog.

I have to say, this chocolate is *really, really* good. It's gentle but has just a hint of spice. It's rich, smooth and unique. I detect an oh so subtle honey flavor as it melts seductively on my tongue. There is a note of vanilla, but nothing that overpowers. It's a well balanced chocolate. Dark but not what I could call bitter. It's delightful and surprisingly different than the chocolate I've had before. I would definitely purchase this chocolate for making a chocolate mousse. I think it would be really divine.

Made into hot chocolate, the Jembrana shined! It was one of the best cups I have ever had. Smooth and creamy and delicious. After my cup was gone, I was rather sad I didn't have more chocolate to make another cup... with some Bailey's Irish Cream. Really satisfying. Perfect.

Something unique about the Jembrana bar is that it is the world's first chocolate made 100% from beans from Bali, Indonesia. Also, Amano chocolate has a wonderfully rigid "single origin guarantee" that promises the chocolate comes from where they say it does and is as pure as possible. I find that impressive. Good chocolate, good practices... I like it.

Hot Chocolate
Kitchen Note:I havled this recipe.
4 ounces (2 bars) Amano 70% Dark Chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
Milk to taste (usually 1 - 2 cups)
Sugar to taste (usually 2 - 4 spoonfuls)

Chop up the chocolate and melt it in the double boiler, stirring occasionally. When chocolate is melted remove it but keep it handy nearby.

Put the cream in a bowl and heat it until it just barely starts to boil. Don’t let it cook longer than that!

Pour the cream over the chocolate and mix with a whisk until smooth.

Put the bowl back on the double boiler, stirring constantly.

I typically add a spoonful or two of sugar here as well. However I know many people like 1/4 cup or even more. (I like mine a little dark — too much sugar overpowers the flavor of the chocolate)

Slowly add milk (either whole or skim) to taste. I usually do 3 parts milk to 2 parts ganache. But you might like yours either lighter or richer. I suggest adding the milk a little at a time. I typically add 1/4 cup and then mix it, wait for it to warm, and then add the next 1/4 cup and so forth.

As I said this is a recipe you ought to adjust to your taste. Consider adding a teaspoon of vanilla or a little dash of cinnamon, cardamon, or nutmeg. I will sometimes put slivered chocolate or whip cream on top.
*Makes 2 servings*

February 23, 2009

Grilled Flat Iron Steak with Blue Cheese and Basil Compound Butter

The other day the Honey wanted steak (again!) so I wanted to do something to make it a little more exciting. Steak is always good... but we eat it fairly often and the usual ribeye on the grill gets a little boring to me. So, I decided to make up a compound butter using what we had on hand and it turned out SO delicious! Basic, but wow did it make that steak sing! I made a fairly large amount... more than we could use for one meal, so the next day I took the leftover butter and tossed it was some hot penne pasta... and it was *really* good. It made a wonderful side dish... so wonderful in fact that I will make too much of this butter again the next time, just to use on some pasta :)

Also, I would highly recommend getting your hands on a flat iron steak... this was my first time cooking with it and it was *really* good. Normally we are ribeye and filet people, but the flat iron steak was excellent. (And more economical to boot, always a good thing these days!)

Blue Cheese and Basil Butter
1/2 pound unsalted Irish butter, softened. ( I used Kerrygold brand)
8 oz good quality blue cheese at room temperature. (I used Maytag blue cheese)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil.
1/4 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley.
2 cloves garlic minced very finely.
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Mash the butter and blue cheese together with a fork until well combined. Add in chopped basil, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix well. Transfer mixture onto a sheet of plastic wrap and form into a log, wrap the log well in plastic and refrigerate until firm. When you are ready to serve, cut the log into 1/2 inch thick coins. Serve atop hot steak and allow to melt.

February 19, 2009

Pomegranate and Blood Orange Refresher

A couple weeks ago I received some I.O. Organic Sicilian
Blood Orange Juice
in the mail to sample, so my Honey and I decided we'd use the juice to make some cocktails. We sampled the blood orange juice on it's own first and thought it would combine nicely with some Pom Wonderful juice that we already had in the fridge. Add a little Sprite and some Vodka... and we had a very happy "Happy Hour" at our house!

This drink was tart and bold, and the Sprite added just the right hint of sweetness to the mix. Vodka was all we had in the house at the time, but I think you could have used either rum or gin and it would have been equally delicious. All in all it ended up to be a very nice, refreshing cocktail to enjoy on a quiet weekend at home. I can totally see this being a great drink in the summer... it's cool and a bit on the sour side, definitely a thirst quencher.

1 part blood orange juice
1 part pomegranate juice
2 parts citrus soda
1 part vodka

Combine all ingredients in a shaker and shake well. Serve over ice.
Drink. Enjoy. Yum.

February 5, 2009

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

Another one for the "quick and easy" files! Super simple to make and can be assembled ahead of time and baked when you're ready for dinner. In fact, I think it is even better made a day in advance. The flavors get a chance to mingle and the tortilla soaks up all the yummy goodness from the sauce. I also find that it cuts into squares much more easily when it's been made ahead, refrigerated, and then baked the next day as opposed to assembling it and baking it in the same session. This is very flavorful, but not too spicy for the kids. Certainly you can kick it up a notch with hot sauce, if you like :) A dollop of sour cream is a great addition as well.

King Ranch Chicken Casserole


1/4 cup butter
1 med. green bell pepper, chopped
1 med. onion, chopped
2 cans (10-3/4 oz.) condensed cream of chicken soup
1 can (10 oz.) Ro*tel chopped tomatoes (see notes below)
1 small can chopped green chilies
1 small can chopped black olives
2 cups cubed cooked chicken
18 corn tortillas, torn into bite-sized pieces
3 cups (12 oz) shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream to garnish

Notes: Ro*tel tomatoes are chopped tomatoes with green chilies added, if you cannot find Ro*tel, just get regular chopped tomatoes and add another can of green chilies.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F* In a large saucepan, cook pepper and onion in melted butter, until tender-about 5 min. Add soup, Ro*tel, olives and chicken, stirring until well blended. In a 13x9x2-inch baking pan, alternately layer tortillas, soup mixture and then cheese, repeating for 3 layers, ending with cheese. Bake 40 min. or until hot and bubbling. Serves 8