Monday, February 14, 2011

Black Forest Truffle Tart

Happy Valentine's Day, dear readers!

I'll admit, I'm not really a huge fan of this holiday -- all the forced romantic stuff kind of takes the actual romance out of things. But it is a good day to eat chocolate, no matter what your romantic situation might be. Personally, I will take any excuse I can get. And if you're combining chocolate with cherries, I'll come running!

Random side note: My love for cherry pie filling is practically legendary. For the longest time I thought I liked cheesecake, but then I discovered that without the cherry pie filling it really wasn't my thing. (My thighs thanked me for this realization.)

I originally found this recipe on Foodie With Family in the summer and I have been drooling over it ever since. I was so excited to finally make it this weekend! It is truly fabulous, though extremely rich. My favorite part: only 5 ingredients and NO BAKING REQUIRED. That's right. That's what I said.

This is a great dessert that doesn't take much time or effort to make, so if you haven't yet planned something for a special (or not-so-special) dinner tonight, I highly recommend. And to make it even easier, you can buy a pre-made oreo crust if you're so inclined. I won't judge.

Black Forest Truffle Tart

15 oreo cookies, finely crushed
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
12 oz. chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate to cut the richness a bit)
2 c. cherry pie filling

Combine crushed cookies with melted butter until well coated. Press firmly into a 9" tart pan or pie plate. Set aside. (I put mine in the fridge to firm up.)

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine chocolate chips and heavy cream. Microwave for one minute on high, then whisk or stir with a fork. The chocolate chips should melt into the cream, creating a smooth chocolatey liquid. If needed, microwave longer in 30-second intervals, stirring after each, until a smooth consistency can be reached. Place cream mixture (ganache) and your whisk in the fridge. Every fifteen minutes or so, open up the fridge and give it a stir. After 45 minutes to an hour, the mixture should start to thicken and be cool throughout.

At this point, transfer the ganache mixture to the bowl of your stand mixer. Using the wire whip attachment, whip until light in color and fluffy. (Note: This will not take very long at all. Don't over-whip -- this will make butter.) Gently spread in prepared tart pan or pie plate. Top with cherry pie filling and refrigerate 30 minutes, or until ready to serve.

We didn't feel it needed any whipped cream, but if you want some, I can support that decision. Vanilla ice cream might be good, too. (I also drizzled mine with chocolate syrup [Hersheys], so if you have some on hand, go ahead. I think it added a little flair.)

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tips and Tricks: Ziplock Steam Bags

I love steamed veggies, particularly broccoli, but I hate to haul out my big pot with the steamer basket for a side dish that should be considerably simpler. Or maybe my big pot is otherwise occupied making pasta, etc. Either way, I was thinking there had to be some way to make steamed veggies like I could make on my stovetop without having to add extra water to the mix, thereby washing away many of the nutrients left intact by steaming.

One day I happened upon Ziploc "Zip 'n' Steam" bags at the grocery store, and I thought they looked like they might be worth a try (my distaste for the use of 'n' not withstanding -- really, is it so hard to just say "and"??). So I tried them.

It was love.

Just prep your veggies and stick them in the bag (along with some salt, if you like) and microwave them for the amount of time on the handy dandy chart on the bag. No need to add water, just seal and zap and you're in business.

I'm not getting paid by Ziploc to say these things (though I wouldn't object... and you're welcome for the free advertising and stuff, SC Johnson); This is a product I legitimately love and hope you will find helpful. So try them out and tell me what you think.

(I'll also mention that hubby and I washed and reused these several times each before sending them to the recycling bin. They are quite durable, so if you don't mind the little extra work involved in washing them, you can stretch your dollar even further by reusing them a few times.)

Do you have any handy items you use in the kitchen to make things quicker without sacrificing quality? Leave a comment!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Delicious Dill Dip

I had planned this post as a pre-New Years post to give you some party ideas. Obviously, that didn't happen. But maybe you're throwing a (Superbowl) party sometime soon, or need an appetizer to bring to a potluck... Or you can just tuck this in your back pocket and pull it out when you need it. I'm pretty sure it will come in handy at some point.

There are a lot of snack foods out there, so maybe a veggie tray with a simple dip seems boring. I disagree.

My mother is famous for her veggie trays, and I've had lots of practice watching her create them (not to mention all the practice I've had eating them). Her veggie tray is one of the first things to go at family gatherings. There's something timeless about the wholesome goodness of veggies and dip that never fails to satisfy a wide variety of people. Plus, how can you pass up the virtues of this kind of snack over those fried chicken wings slathered in blue cheese dressing.

Providing so much bang for your buck, and requiring not much effort at all, a great dip can be the life of the party. Just throw this together the night before, arrange your veggies on the tray, and watch as your friends go crazy.

To make things extra easy on yourself, buy an already-assembled veggie tray at the grocery store. Supplement it with tiny dill pickles and black olives, or any other bite-size bits that you like with dip. This would even be great with potato chips, fries, or breadsticks.

I promise very few leftovers.

Delicious Dill Dip

8 oz. light sour cream
1-2 green onions, sliced
1 Tbsp. dried dill
3 heaping teaspoons Bon Appetit seasoning (McCormick)
8 oz. Best Foods light mayonnaise (yes, it must be Best Foods)

Combine all ingredients and let marry overnight. Serve with veggies.