Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hazelnut Hot Chocolate

Here's a quick and easy hot chocolate recipe to keep you warm during these cold winter days.

  • Couple pieces dark chocolate
  • Spoonful of Nutella
  • Milk
  • Whipped cream (optional)
  1. In a small sauce pan or pot add the chocolate and Nutella and bring to a low heat
  2. Stir frequently so the chocolate doesn't burn
  3. When the chocolate and Nutella have melted together, add a mug full of milk
  4. Stir continuously until the milk heats up to the desired temperature (be careful not to boil it!) and the chocolate and Nutella are well incorporated
  5. Carefully pour into a mug and top with some whipped cream

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Pancakes

DISCLAIMER: The following recipe has been deemed inappropriate for consumption for the following people:
  • Diabetics
  • Children with low sugar tolerance (usually resulting in behavior like this)
  • Vegans
  • Pancake-haters
  • Anyone afraid of dentists
If you are one of the lucky people excluded from this list (or you want to defy common sensibilities and try it anyway), read on.  I'm a huge fan of sugary desserts and all, but four or five of these pancakes will satisfy my sweet tooth for the day: honey-sweetened cakes with a thin layer of melty Nutella topped off with a dusting of snowy white powdered sugar...mmm...that's what I'm talking about!

You will probably find most, if not all, of these ingredients in your cupboards at home with the exception of the leavener.  I could be mistaken, but I don't ever remember seeing this type of product in the U.S. so you may have to substitute it with more readily available ingredients.  The leavener we use is for sweet baking products so vanilla flavoring has been added to the leavening agent.  In place of the 1/2 teaspoon from this recipe, you can probably get away with the same amount of baking soda and a splash of vanilla extract.

  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/2 t. leavener
  • 3/4 t. cinnamon
  • 1/4 t. nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 2 T honey
  • 1 c. milk
  • Nutella
  • Powdered sugar
  1. Combine the flour, leavener, cinnamon and nutmeg in a mixing bowl
  2. Whisk in the egg and honey
  3. Slowly whisk in the milk until the desired batter consistency is achieved (may require more or less milk depending on your preference)
  4. Heat a non-stick pan to medium heat
  5. Ladle in some batter, wait for bubbles to appear, then flip to cook the other side (standard pancake cooking procedure here)
  6. Now this is where the good stuff happens - spread some Nutella across the pancakes immediately after they are taken out of the pan
  7. Dust or sprinkle some powdered sugar on top of the Nutella
  8. Consume immediately!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Toaster Oven Pumpkin Pie

As you have probably heard from either Becky or myself at some point, the cooking situation in these Italian apartments is rather dismal.  Our entire (dys)functional kitchen is a literal closet (closing doors and the whole bit) with four-burner gas stove (one of which is completely dead, another that is so close to the wall of aforementioned closet that there is a giant burn in the wall from standard use; which only leaves two burners for any practical use).  Our fridge is smaller than the ones I had throughout my college dorm years - with a freezer that is nothing short of laughable.  Which brings me to the focal point of this recipe: our "oven".  Toaster oven, to be exact.  To its defense, it is slightly larger than the average countertop toaster oven.  I think we could bake an 10" pizza in there if we really wanted to.  Still, it's a friggin' toaster oven designed for making...erm...toast and such?

In spite of this culinarily-debilitating environment, we can honestly do most of the things we otherwise could in a more apt environment - we just need to get a little more creative at times.  Enter the toaster oven pumpkin pie.  Becky made some pumpkin ravioli for a group of friends this past weekend (it was supposed to be butternut squash ravioli but the stores were apparently fresh out this past weekend).  The best way to get fresh, authentic pumpkin flavor for anything is to use a  fresh, authentic pumpkin - which we were able to find (the last one in the store, even!) just in time for the dinner party.

As you are aware, pumpkins are generously-sized fruits.  This one was on the smaller side, ringing in at approximately 3 kg (~6.5 lbs) which is a lot more pumpkin than was necessary for 9 servings of ravioli.  With the leftover (a little less than half of the original pumpkin), I decided to make some pumpkin pie since we missed out on that during Thanksgiving.  I picked up some smaller aluminum baking tins (approximately 6" x 9") from the grocery store and a pre-made pie crust and set forth to make my pumpkin pie.

My first attempt at this turned out a bit on the charred side, but this was mostly superficial.  Beneath the super thin layer of crunchiness was a familiar texture and flavor - real pumpkin pie!  If you have a real oven and are not so adventurous as to give this a try in a toaster oven, be my guest (chicken).  You will have to adapt the baking times and temperatures accordingly (since I don't really have solid suggestions at this point either).

  • 2 lb. raw pumpkin
  • 2 T butter
  • 1/2 c. cream
  • 3/4 T cinnamon
  • 1/4 T nutmeg
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 pie crust
  1. Depending on the size of your pumpkin (whether it be a whole, small pumpkin or simply a chunk of a larger pumpkin), you may have to chop it up into a couple pieces in order to get it to fit comfortably inside a toaster oven
  2. Scoop out all the seeds and membrane from the inside of the pumpkin
  3. Cut up the butter and place a few chunks on the inside of each piece of pumpkin (if there are multiple)
  4. Roast the pumpkin piece(s) in the toaster oven until tender (it took 35 - 40 minutes at 300F for mine but may vary for yours)
  5. Remove the pumpkin piece(s) from the toaster oven
  6. Using a large spoon, scoop out all the meat and place it in a large mixing bowl
  7. Add the cream to the pumpkin and mix well
  8. Using a blender (or an immersion blender if you have one), puree the filling to a smooth paste
  9. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar to taste (the measurements above are merely suggestions, I actually have no idea how much of each I put in) - it is important to taste test now before you add the eggs to the mixture
  10. Slightly beat the eggs in a separate bowl before mixing into the pumpkin filling
  11. Roll out the pie crust into an aluminum baking pan - or a real pie tin if you have one that will fit in your toaster oven
  12. Gently pour the filling into the pie crust
  13. I don't have a good suggestion for the timing and temperature for the pie yet, but I can relay what I did.  First, I baked the pie for ~10 minutes at ~400F at which point the pie crust was beginning to brown but the filling was still very liquidy.  I reduced the heat to ~300 for another 20 minutes or so until the top of the filling began to brown (but the filling still wasn't cooked through).  I reduced the heat again to ~210 for another 10 - 15 minutes.  At this point the top of the pie was very crisp looking (but this was only the very top).
  14. Remove the pie from the toaster oven and let cool
  15. Carefully slice and serve with cool whip or vanilla ice cream.  Unfortunately we are lacking both, but it tastes just as good by itself!