Life is like a box of chocolates

Our series of last hurrahs in the St. Louis area included a trip to Hermann, MO, on Thursday, just an hour or so outside St. Charles county. It’s part of Missouri’s wine country, and the wine is actually quite good as a whole. I know for a fact that it stinks living in this tiny town but for a day, it’s wonderfully quaint. Anytime we go, chocolates from Ricky’s Chocolate Box are required. My favorite is the Toffee Turtle. I’m pretty disciplined when it comes to sweets but these are like crack. Seriously…crumbs are inhaled just like the toffee and caramel. I thought it was worth sharing. Seriously, anything that entices me to eat 1000 calories (I’m assuming) in a sitting warrants a share. If you ever crave decadence, look up this place. They seem to specialize in turtles of every size, shape and flavor, but I kid you not when I say everything is fantastic. Well, everything except the bug-shaped chocolate with the pistachio filling, which looks exactly like a squished bug when you take a bite. Yeah, I can’t get past this one.



Toffee Turtles

20120429-181746.jpg heaven


Bye, Bye Miss American (Strawberry) Pie

Because I clearly became a foodie over the weekend, I wanted to share one more recipe with you today. The fact that some good friends and family threatened me with bodily harm if I didn’t also goaded me into firing up the old computer after work today. My mom makes the best strawberry pie ever. Yeah, don’t go there trying to argue with me on this point. You won’t win…trust me. Mine is never as pretty but it’s almost as delicious, so when the locally-grown or near locally-grown strawberries begin springing up each springtime, a Garnet Glace Strawberry Pie is the first thing that comes out of my kitchen. I did remember to take some photos along the way but you aren’t going to find a good finished shot because Eddie dug into it before I could dollop whipped topping on. Now it’s just a bit of a half-eaten mess.

Garnet Glace Strawberry Pie
1-9 inch pastry shell, baked and cooled
1 quart fresh strawberries, washed and stemmed
1 c. water, divided
1 c. sugar
3 Tbls. cornstarch
3 oz. cream cheese
1/2 c. powdered sugar
Cool Whip or other whipped topping

Prepare a glaze by simmering 1 cup of cut-up berries in 2/3 c. of water for 3 minutes.

Blend granulated sugar, cornstarch and 1/3 c. of water. Add to the boiling mixture. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture back to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Cool completely.

Mix the cream cheese and powdered sugar, then spread into the bottom of the baked and cooled pastry shell.

Arrange the remaining berries, points up, inside the pastry shell. Reserve a few berries as garnish, if you wish.

Cover the berries with the cooled glaze and refrigerate a minimum of 2 hours.

Dollop whipped topping (or spread it over the top), add the garnish and serve.

Note: Overcooked glaze will be harder to spread (see the image below) but who cares? And dry berries keep the pie from weeping.

Last St. Louis Hurrahs: Art Fair at Queeny Park

With our St. Louis days dwindling, we’re trying to get out and experience things we’ve been too busy for over the past five years. Today it was the Greater St. Louis Art Association‘s Art Fair at Queeny Park in Des Peres. I’m always shocked by how pretty St. Louis-area parks are, which makes me really sad that I didn’t indulge in them the whole time we’ve been here. To be honest, I had planned to take several pictures and review the fair. As soon as Zoey realized the fair wasn’t the rides and games type of event, the tantrums started and the pictures and etc. just didn’t happen. That being said, I did visit what I think may be the coolest pottery vendor I’ve ever seen.

Mississippi Mud Pottery (love the name) is based out of Alton, IL, just across the river. I like the idea of pottery but I rarely see pieces that really speak to me. I’m also rarely crazy about the earth tones so often used. I like the unexpected and a lot of pottery I’ve seen in the area is pretty but a little too ho-hum for my tastes (or wickedly expensive and I’m cheap). This stuff blew me away. I only bought two pieces but I could’ve gone crazy! The colors were so beautiful in eggplant purple and cranberry…really rich hues. The designs were outrageously cool. The pitcher below screamed Sangria to me and it was $55 (and it does have Sangria in it now). The pie plate/quiche plate was only $36 and would make the world’s best deep dish pie (if I could ever successfully make a pie).

Here’s the only downer: It seems like few, if any, of the pieces I saw today are actually on their site or in the photos section of their Facebook page, which is a shame. Maybe they’ll add them because the styles I saw today were knockouts. I think it was one of the artists, Chad, who was manning the booth. He told me that they can ship pieces. The site isn’t ready for ecommerce but a call or email is all it takes to make a purchase. With Mother’s Day around the corner, this might be a really cool gift idea (hint, hint).

Pitcher Style 3485

Large Pie/Quiche Dish Style 3342

Cheesecake Update

Well, this is a first. I always, and I mean always, overcook my cheesecake, leaving a Grand Canyon-sized crevasse in the top. Besides just feeling defeated, it’s really no big deal with my Chocolate Amaretto Cherry Cheesecake recipe because the top is covered in a thick layer of cherry pie filling. But I know, and it drives me crazy. The cheesecake-baking gods were smiling onĀ  me yesterday ’cause this little gem came out perfect! I would say that I’m so proud of myself but it was a total fluke, I’m sure.

So, here it is… cracks!

A (Marginally) Healthy Chocolate Cheesecake Recipe Just in Time for Valentine’s Day

Remember back in the ’90s when “low fat” and “no fat” meant something was good for you even if it had cups of sugar and sky-high sodium? Okay, we were sorely wrong about all that but the trend did give me a pretty darn good cheesecake. I’m talking good by even full-fat, full-calorie standards. Chocolate, Amaretto, cherry pie filling…you really just can’t go wrong. One year Mom made it for Valentine’s Day and the tradition caught on. I’ve made it every year since. I must be totally dedicated, too, because it really should be made the day before you want to eat it. And so here I am, racing to finish my freelance work before I pick Zoey up at daycare all while constructing the Chocolate Amaretto Cherry Cheesecake that I’ll dive in to this time tomorrow.

I thought I would share the recipe here. As you peruse the ingredients list, I can promise you’ll be shocked because this puppy has cottage cheese in it. I hate loathe detest cottage cheese by itself but here it’s pretty unrecognizable. It takes the place of bricks upon bricks of cream cheese, and while you aren’t going to get that silky cream cheese cheesecake texture, it isn’t exactly gloppy like cottage cheese (we’ll call it artisanal since that term seems to mean coarse in terms of texture these days). Oh, and you’re going to need a good food processor. A mixer will mix but the food processor delivers the very best artisanal texture.

Since I’m in the process of making my own, I’ll be back later with pictures. Let me know if you try it!

Chocolate Amaretto Cherry Cheesecake

1 1/4 c. graham cracker crumbs
3 tbls. white sugar
1/3 c. melted margarine

1 1/2 c. light cream cheese
1/4 c. flour
1/4 c. Amaretto
1 c. white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 c. low fat cottage cheese
1/4 c. plus 2 tbls. cocoa powder
2-21 oz. cans of cherry pie filling

1. Pre-heat over to 350 and prepare 8-inch springform pan with non-stick cooking spray.

2. Mix graham cracker crumbs, 3 tbls. white sugar, and melted margarine.

3. Pour into springform pan, spread, and compact to cover the bottom.

4. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool. Turn over down to 300.

5. In a food processor, add cream cheese, sugar, cottage cheese, cocoa, flour, Amaretto, vanilla, and salt. Process until smooth.

6. Add egg and process just until blended.

7. Pour mixture over cooled crust.

8. Bake at 300 for 65-75 minutes, or until set. (If the top cracks, it’s overdone.) Cool.

9. Cover and chill 10 hours or overnight.

10. Spread cherry pie filling over cheesecake, remove springform pan sides, and serve.

“Secret” Recipe Cinnamon Rolls

It snowed ever so slightly on Thursday morning; it was the first of the year and the season. Talk about traffic snarls! I’m so glad I didn’t have anywhere to go. If you’ve ever spent a few seasons with my family, you know that a snow day automatically equates with cinnamon rolls. And good grief, can my mom (and my grandma before) make some kick butt cinnamon rolls. Eons ago when my mother owned a shoe store, she would find some way (maybe she could harness the space-time continuum??) to make them on a cold, snowy winter morning before heading to the shop. Point is this: if it’s snowing, you make them.

The recipe has never been a secret really, yet so many people assume that it is. Strange as it sounds, no one asked for it (usually) and it wasn’t like Mom or Grandma showed up with recipe in hand. That being said, there is some secret skill or method to making them truly “Mom”-worthy. I added my own photo but trust me, her rolls make Cinnabon look amateur. Mine are just edible. So…you want it? The recipe, that is.

Rhonda and Bernadine’s Sweet Rolls

1. Soften 2 packages of yeast in 1/4 c. lukewarm water with 2 tsp. of white sugar. Set aside

2. Scald 1 c. milk

3. Pour scalded milk over 1/4 c. of shortening and melt. Add 1/2 c. white sugar and 1 tsp. salt. Mix well and cool to lukewarm.

4. Add 2 beaten eggs and the yeast mixture to the scalded milk and shortening. Mix well. Add 3 c. flour. Mix well and continue to add flour, if needed, until a soft dough forms. (It should not be sticky but it should also not be too dry.)

5. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead lightly, then turn dough over and let it rest for 10-15 minutes.

6. Knead a few times and place in an oiled bowl. Work the dough around to cover with oil. Place a cloth over the bowl and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour.

7. Punch down the dough and divide in two. Roll each out into a rectangle (about 9X13 or 1/2 inch thick). Spread melted margarine over the dough. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. (Plan to use about 1 c. of sugar and 2 tsp. of cinnamon per half, or to taste).

8. Roll beginning at the short end and seal the final edge. Slice into 1-inch pieces. Using a long piece of thread works excellently!

9. Place rolls into a prepared pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Cover with a towel and let rise for about 1 hour.

10. Pre-heat over to 400, then bake rolls for 20-25 minutes.

11. Cool just slightly, then frost with a mixture of powdered sugar, vanilla and milk. Whip up to taste but we typically use 1 c. of powdered sugar per pan, 1 tsp. vanilla and a tbls. or two of milk.

12. Cool, if you can wait, then eat (and vow to exercise hard tomorrow).

Because a girl can’t be good all the time…

Sometimes you just need a not-so-guilty pleasure on the weekend. Stay tuned and I’ll share the outcome.