The clumsy dance of the colours and patterns of life

Witness the clumsy dance of the colours and patterns of life, the sometimes-harmonic, sometimes-cacophonic combination of the silence and the noise all around, and the heroes and the helpless within.
Welcome to my little corner of The Mighty Interwebs, where it is not likely you will find anything profound (or even very interesting), but where you will find all manner of random. Life is a kaleidoscope of the weird and the wonderful, the awesome and the awful, the blessings and the bizarre, and the collision between them is what you just might stumble upon here if you stick around. Grab your favorite drink and come hang out with me if you dare.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Rhubarb Raspberry Trifle

500 grams rhubarb, cleaned and cut into 1 cm. pieces
150 grams sugar
750 grams fresh raspberries
Zest of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons Grand Marnier
250 grams quark
4 slices lemon pound cake
Chopped pistachios, optional

In large saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add rhubarb slices, allow to boil for 1-2 minutes. Drain, allow to drip. Place rhubarb and 100 grams sugar in food processor, puree until smooth. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, gently mix together raspberries, lemon zest, 50 grams sugar, 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, making sure not to squish the raspberries.
In another bowl, fold rhubarb puree with quark. Cut lemon pound cake slices in cubes, drizzle with remaining Grand Marnier.
Assemble trifle in tall glasses by placing a few cake cubes at the bottom of the glass, layer with a generous dollop of rhubarb-quark, then a few raspberries. Repeat, finishing with a few raspberries on the top.
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to let flavors infuse with each other. Serve cold, sprinkled with chopped pistachios, if desired.

Note: If you are unable to find quark, substitue with natural sour cream mixed with whipped cream. You can also use mascarpone cheese for this.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Raspberry Sherry Trifle

Bake time: 25 minutes        Yields: 10-12 servings

1 (18 1/2 ounce) package cake mix (Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Butter Recipe Gold recommended)
1 1/2 cups dry sherry
7 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups whipping cream
2 tablespoons icing sugar
3 (12 ounce) packages frozen sweetened raspberries, thawed
Whipped cream, optional (for garnish)
Fresh raspberries, optional (for garnish)
Mint leaves, optional (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour 13"x9" baking pan. Prepare cake according to package directions, but use 1/2 cup of sherry in place of 1/2 cup of water. When baked, let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto wire rack to cool completely. Cut cake into large cubes, about 1 1/2" wide.
Place egg yolks, sugar, 1 cup sherry into top of a double boiler. Whisk until completely combined. Place top pan over simmering water (do not let water touch the bottom of the top pan). With a wooden spoon, stir over medium heat for about 8 minutes, until custard is quick thick (about the consistency of mayonnaise). Let cool.
Whip cream with icing sugar. Take half of whipped cream, fold into cooled custard.

To assemble:
In the bottom of a trifle bowl or a 13"x9" disposable aluminum foil pan, layer 1/3 of cake cubes, 1/3 of raspberries, and 1/3 of custard. Continue layering, ending with custard. Take remaining whipped cream, completely cover top of custard. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving. Serve with additional whipped cream, fresh raspberries, and a sprig of mint, if desired.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Homemade Herb Cheese

Cook time: 5 minutes        Yields: 8-10 servings

1 gallon whole milk
1 pint half-and-half
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup chopped sundried tomatoes (not in oil)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon salt
Extra virgin olive oil, to serve

Drill holes into the bottom of a round plastic storage container (approximately 6" wide and at least 4" high) and set aside. Line a colander with cheesecloth, set aside. Put milk and half-and-half into a large pot over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until it reaches 195 degrees F. (There will be a slight simmer and the top will be very foamy.) Remove from the heat and slowly stir in vinegar. Put colander into sink and pour mixture into cheesecloth. When most of the liquid has passed through, add the tomatoes, basil, and salt; stir gently to incorporate. Gather up ends of cheesecloth and transfer cheese to plastic container. Set container on a rack or sheet pan to catch the whey. Put a plate on top and weigh it down with some heavy cans to squeeze out the excess liquid. Let rest 1 hour, remove cheesecloth, return cheese to plastic container with plate and weights. Refrigerate overnight. To serve, put cheese onto a plate and brush with a little olive oil.

This is so yummy on fresh bread, in eggs, or on pizza! I'm sure it is a good fit elsewhere too, but these are the ways I used it this week.

Cranberry Jelly in a Mold

Cook time: 10 minutes        Yields: 8-10 servings
1 (8 ounce) package fresh or frozen cranberries
2 1/4 cups cranberry juice
1/2 cup sugar
3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
Non-stick cooking spray

In saucepan over medium-high heat, cook cranberries, 2 cups cranberry juice, and sugar until mixture is bubbling and cranberries have burst. Meanwhile, sprinkle gelatin over remaining 1/4 cup cranberry juice to soften. Whisk gelatin mixture into hot cranberries. Strain into a bowl, let cool. Spray mold with non-stick cooking spray, pour cooled juice into mold. Refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight. To unmold, briefly dip mold into hot water to loosen jelly.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Glazed Almond Bundt Cake

Cook time: 70 minutes        Yields: 16 servings

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup ground almonds
1 cup milk

1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10" Bundt pan. Mix together flour, baking powder, salt, ground almonds; set aside. In large bowl, cream together butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time; stir in almond and vanilla extracts. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with 1 cup milk, mixing just until incorporated. Pour into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven 60-70 minutes, until toothpick inserted into centre of cake comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes, invert on wire rack, cool 10 minutes longer. Place rack on waxed paper. Glaze while warm.

Combine ingredients for glaze. Pour over warm cake.

Chocolate Dessert Lasagna

Cook time: 40 minutes        Yields: 9 servings

1 (8 ounce) package no-boil lasagna noodles
2 pounds ricotta cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mini chocolate chips
1 orange, zested
1/2 cup roasted pistachios
4 ounces white chocolate, coarsely grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, cook noodles for 1 minute. Drain, put into a bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Drain again, lay on paper towels to dry.
Whisk together ricotta, sugar, cocoa powder, and eggs on medium speed, scraping down sides of bowl until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips and orange zest. Spread 1/4 of cheese mixture into the bottom of an 8"x8" baking dish. Sprinkle some of the pistachios over the top, press on a layer of noodles. Repeat, ending with ricotta mixture and pistachios. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until lasagna has risen. Remove pan from oven, sprinkle white chocolate evenly over it. Let cool, cut, serve.

Rosemary Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Cook time: 65 minutes Yields: 8-10 servings
1 head garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
Freshly ground black pepper
Snipped fresh rosemary, optional (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut top off garlic, wrap head in foil leaving top cut edge exposed. Drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 45 minutes or until garlic is soft and caramelized. Set aside to cool. 
In medium pan, cover potatoes with water, add a big pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower heat to medium and simmer about 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Drain well. 
While potatoes are cooking, warm cream and rosemary in small pan over low heat. Strain out rosemary.
Put hot potatoes through a ricer into a large bowl. Squeeze in roasted garlic and add some of the warm cream. Mix well. Add butter, mix again. Add more cream if necessary. Season with salt and pepper. If desired, garnish with snipped rosemary. Serve immediately.

Raspberry and Hazelnut Salad with Chocolate Ganache

For those who like a nice fresh salad with their soup!

Cook time: 10 minutes Yields: 4 servings

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup raspberry liqueur (Framboise)
1/2 pint raspberries
2 tablespoons hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh mint, thinly sliced
Small pinch salt
2 tablespoons raspberry liqueur (Framboise)
4 ounces (1/2 cup) sweetened whipped cream (for garnish)
Small piece bittersweet chocolate to shave (for garnish)

In small saucepan, bring cream, butter, and sugar to a boil. Remove from heat, stir in chopped chocolate so that it melts completely. Stir in raspberry liqueur. Let ganache cool to room temperature.
Gently combine raspberries, hazelnuts, mint, small pinch of salt, and raspberry liqueur. 
In wide, shallow soup bowl, pour about 3 ounces of room temperature ganache to fill shallow pool in the bottom of the bowl, about 1/8" deep. Place a nice spoonful of raspberry/hazelnut salad in centre, garnish with a small spoonful of whipped cream and shaved bittersweet chocolate. Top with chopped hazelnuts, if desired.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Baked Brie with Roasted Garlic and Sun-dried Tomatoes

Bake time: 63 minutes        Yields: 24 servings

1 whole head garlic
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 (12 ounce) round of brie cheese
3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and cut into thin strips
1/3 cup pine nuts
3 tablespoons finely shredded fresh basil
Crostini* or apple slices
Sprigs of fresh basil or rosemary, green and black olives, optional (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
Cut off 1/4" of pointed end of head of garlic. (Save small pieces for another recipe.) Place cut side up in a piece of aluminum foil. Place rosemary on top. Bring sides of foil up to make a deep bowl, but do not enclose garlic completely. Pour olive oil over top of garlic. Bake 40-45 minuntes in preheated oven. Cool
Squeeze garlic so that the cloves pop out of their papery jackets. They should be creamy. Smash them and spread on top of brie (including some of the rosemary). Place brie in ovenproof dish. Top with tomatoes and pine nuts. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C).
Bake brie until warm and softened, 13-18 minutes. If topping is getting too browned, cover loosely with aluminum foil during last portion of baking.
Sprinkle slivers of fresh basil on top. Surround with crostini and/or apple slices. Garnish with sprigs of fresh herbs and, if using, drained olives. Provide a spreading knife.

*Crostini - toasted slices of good bread that have been brushed with a little olive oil before toasting.

Note: If you can only find small, 4-ounce disks of brie, push 3 small wheels next to one another.
Advance Preparation: Garlic can be roasted several days in advance and stored, airtight, in the refrigerator. You can assemble the brie with the garlic, tomatoes, and pine nuts a day in advance and store, airtight, in the refrigerator.

Chocolate Soup

Now, I'm normally not a fan of soup, but I have to say this one grabbed me and haunts my dreams!

Cook time: 15 minutes Yields: 4 servings

4 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
5 tablespoons cornstarch
5 tablespoons cold water
Mini chocolate biscotti (for garnish)
Fresh raspberries (for garnish)
Fresh mint leaves (for garnish)

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together whole milk, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla bean. Bring almost to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, let steep for 20 minutes. Strain and return to the pan. (Rinse and dry the vanilla bean and save it for another use.)
Put the pan on low heat, add the chocolate, whisk until chocolate melts. Combine cornstarch and water to form a slurry. Add the slurry a little at a time, whisking constantly, until soup is thick and smooth. You will know it is ready when the bubbles are gone and the chocolate has thickened, about 5-7 minutes. 
Pour soup into bowls and garnish with biscotti, raspberries, and mint leaves. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Microwave Aromatherapy Hot Towels

For a hot towel like you might be given in a fancy-ish restaurant.
"Cook" time: 5 minutes        Yields: 4 washcloths

4 sprigs rosemary
4 white washcloths

Put the rosemary sprigs into a large microwave safe bowl, fill it about 3/4 full of water. Microwave on high, 3-4 minutes or until water is very hot. Remove bowl from microwave, add washcloths. Let them soak for a few minutes. Carefully (they will be hot) remove from water, wring them out. Fold washcloths in half, place 1 sprig of rosemary on each cloth and roll up like a cigar. Put onto microwave safe plate, heat on low for 1 minute. Give one to each guest when they sit down at the table.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Poppy Seed Cake with Orange Glaze

Bake time: 1 hour

3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 1/8 cups vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup poppy seeds
1 1/2 cups milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup orange juice
3/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix all ingredients well. Pour into greased pan(s) - either 2 loaf pans or a 9"x13" cake pan. Bake 1 hour. Glaze while hot.

Boil ingredients together. Pour over cake after using handle of wooden spoon, fork, toothpick, etc to poke holes in cake.

This is also really good with lemon juice instead of orange.