Return to Normal (Chocolate Salted Caramel Tart)

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My last post was in August. August, people. I knew it would be hard for me to blog while I was student teaching, but I had no idea I’d all but abandon the blog during that time. It was next to impossible for me to find any time to cook for myself, let alone take photos, write posts, and publish them for you. My apologies for my absence. I’m back now. And so glad to be here.

Student teaching went well; who knew I’d grow so attached to 121 different 8th graders? I remember myself at that age and I recall it being a really tough time in my life. I’m sure it’s the same for most people, but to be in it every day for three solid months was a wake-up call, for sure. I had some tough days…days when I thought I just wasn’t cut out for teaching, but then those days would wind down and quickly be replaced by really great days in which I felt completely at ease and comfortable in front of the class. Student teaching ended just before Christmas, as well as my graduation. After all this time in school, it’s suddenly over. I feel a bit lost, to be honest, but I’m sure I’ll find my new normal routine again soon.

There are only two short days left in 2014, a year that had some really wonderful ups and some devastating downs for me. What better way to ring in 2015 than with chocolate and caramel, right? This dessert is SWEET. Now, if you know anything about me, you know that my sweet tooth is quite small, but for those of you who love rich and sweet desserts, this one is for you! I used some buttermilk to replace a little of the heavy cream in the caramel, so it has a bit of a sweet and tangy flavor. I quite like it, but if you are not as partial to buttermilk as I am, go ahead and use all heavy cream.
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Little French Fudge Cakes

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I absolutely love (LOVE!) listening to The Splendid Table on NPR. I have been a fan for as long as I can remember and it is a staple in my podcast collection for long plane rides and road trips.  Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift developed this recipe for their cookbook The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper and I wanted to give it a try in my home kitchen.  Boy, they weren’t kidding when they said, “If you can melt chocolate and stir, you can make these cakes.”  They were so simple – albeit a bit expensive due to the required chocolate – but so worth it!

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Chocolate Sea Salt Ice Cream

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I’m of the opinion, “Why buy something when you can make it?”  There are so many items we eat on a semi-daily basis that can be made in our own kitchens – why are we throwing money away on stabilizers, preservatives, and any number of other icky chemicals that comprise our “food”?  Think of that loaf of bread sitting on your counter; with a little time and practice, you could have a fresh loaf (or two) waiting to be toasted or used for your turkey sandwich!  Your morning bowl of granola from the box?  Yes, that too, can be quickly made, and you’ll recognize each and every ingredient in it!  Jams, jellies, and preserves can be made and jarred, and you can even make your own peanut butter to go with them!  Heck, I even made my own worcestershire sauce once!  I’m not saying you need to go that far, but you could if you wanted.

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High-Contrast Cookies

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Yesterday I spent roughly 5 hours babysitting a pot of bolognese slated for dinner that evening.  My friend Pat loves making fresh pasta (as do I) and when I said I was planning to make a bolognese, he offered to provide the pasta.

I’m officially on break from school and loving it.  No papers to write, no projects to complete, no academic reading to do.  Rather, I’m spending my days reading books I want to read (i.e., The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter), writing letters, watching movies, and spending quality time in the kitchen.  That quality time includes laborious dishes like bolognese, but I don’t mind one bit.  Something wonderful happens when a pot of bolognese is allowed to simmer for many hours; deep, silky flavors develop and the entire house benefits from the lazy cooking process.

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Chocolate Banana Bread

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If you’re like me at all, you have a collection of overripe bananas in your freezer, destined for bread.  I have a pretty fool-proof (and delicious) recipe for banana bread given to me by my mother, but I wanted to change things up this time around.  And what better way to do that than with chocolate?

I was reminded of a batch of chocolate-banana ice cream I made for my friend Matthew as a Christmas gift.  I asked he and his wife, Sarah, what their favorite flavors of ice cream were, and that is what I gave to them as gifts.  I much prefer giving edible gifts over anything else for holidays and birthdays.  Matthew said he loved the combination of chocolate and banana, and I totally agree.  Why not turn that into a bread?

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The bananas (minus one) are still a little frozen in this photo, my apologies.

I was hoping for a bread that was more dessert-like in texture, and I think this was a success.  It had the dense consistency of pound cake, and the banana flavor was just subtle enough not to be overpowering.   However, I would probably omit the chocolate chips in my next batch of this bread.  I say this only because (as you might know if you read this blog) I don’t prefer overly-sweet dishes.  The chocolate powder was perfect on its own and needed no extra help from the chips.

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All-purpose flour sifted with cocoa powder, granulated sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

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Too Busy To Cook??

Yes…it’s true.  The past two weeks have been two of the busiest weeks so far this year.  School is really throwing down and it seems like just when I have it all under control, my classes knock me down again.  Oh, and I should mention our furnace died earlier this week and it’s winter in the midwest.  Stressed!  Fear not, though, as a new furnace is being installed at this very moment!

My sincere apologies to all of you dear and devoted readers.  You are out there, right?

I have only made a few things worth sharing in the last two weeks – ramen and some lovely snacks I brought to an Oscar party.

The ramen:

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Now, this dish was no easy feat.  Just ask David Chang, as it was his recipe I followed.  I’m absolutely loving my Momofuku Cookbook and I’ve been trying to make at least one thing from it every week.  The ramen broth was quite an ordeal.  I had to order five pounds of pork bones from the butcher and then wait.  And wait.  After about five days, I got the call that they were ready.  I had all the other necessary ingredients: kombu, dried shiitake mushrooms, scallions, chicken legs, smoky bacon, onion, and carrots.  I couldn’t wait.  Into the oven went the pork bones!

Before:

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After:

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Just let me tell you, after all was said and done, after all the roasting, simmering, and waiting – the flavor of the broth was divine.  I wish I could hug David Chang and thank him for bringing something so amazing into my life.

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What We Ate (Thanksgiving for Two)

In case you all were wondering, our ‘Thanksgiving for Two’ menu:
  • Brined and slow-roasted bone-in turkey breast with homemade gravy
  • Grandma Vera’s sage stuffing
  • Port and cranberry gelée
  • Kale salad with apples and hazelnuts
  • Brown sugar-roasted sweet potatoes
  • Homemade rolls
  • Maple pot de crème
  • Cardamom, orange, and chocolate ribbon cookies

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