Tag Archives: recipe

Organic Bourbon Ice Cream

Wow, has this recipe been an adventure! We tested ten batches to bring you the best Bourbon Ice Cream recipe. The even better news is you can substitute any liquor you want! The best news is that it is easy.

I purchased the ice cream maker when I was testing out the Pina Colada recipe back in July. This opened up a new world of bad adult behavior for me. A reader suggested I try making bourbon ice cream. I must note that I am not a straight whiskey drinker. I like the tasting notes in Bourbon and knew it would blend well with ice cream. I started researching recipes and found almost all of them require eggs, which is really a custard. I don’t really feel like spending a lot of time on making this and want it to be easy. Also, I tried making the custard and it was a disaster. I was chatting with NinJo and wasn’t paying attention. In less than a second the stupid mixture turned to scrambled eggs.  I was furious as I just wasted a vanilla bean which is expensive and time consuming to clean.  I now have sworn custard off completely. I want to make ICE CREAM.

NINJA LESSONS: 

  • All alcohol should be added in at the end. Otherwise, it does not freeze no matter how hard you pray. It worked in the Pina Colada as there was no dairy in it.
  • Making small batches works much better than large ones. For some reason it became more whipped.  You need to freeze it after you make it unless you prefer the soft serve.  So plan to take a couple days to make small batches or purchase additional crucibles.
  • If you use too much heavy whipping cream, it leaves a buttery film on your tongue. It works in heated dishes because it doesn’t solidify, but in cold dishes it is not a pleasant texture.  I tried substituting more milk for it but it was too icy, eliminating it made it too light.  Organic Valley is my favorite brand for both heavy cream and 1/2 and 1/2 as it is grass fed cow’s milk which give it a much better flavor. Many organic farmers  feed their cows organic corn and we all should know that cows prefer grass!  If you have to use another brand, that is okay, just use organic as it is more humane to cows, and cows are our friends.
  • The last lesson we learned was a borderline annoying amount about vanilla. So much, I am going to write a separate article about it.   In a nutshell, the best vanilla product on the market is  Nielsen-Massey “vanilla bean paste”.  You can pick this up at Williams-Sonoma, Fresh Market or another specialty food store. It is different than their vanilla extract or beans, so look for the paste. Vanilla beans are a pain to clean and storage is not long term. I had a dried up bean which is crazy irritating, considering the cost. Vanilla paste has sugar and actual vanilla bean seeds in it which give the ice cream an authentic vanilla look.  Most vanilla extracts will work but any vanilla product quality is far superior with the Nielsen-Massey brand.  We recently visited their facility and were blown away by how amazing of a company they are.  It took a lot of self control seeing gallons of this sitting around and not just pop open one and do a shot.(Um, yes, it is that good) You can use this product for creme brule’s, coffee and just about anything would use vanilla in. With over 200 tasting notes that not even all have been identified, vanilla is my new favorite ingredient(sorry, had to slip a fact in there).

So, NinJo and I experimented through-and-through to find you an easy, sure-fire method of this recipe. I hope to create more recipes in the future for adult ice cream and will keep you informed. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS: Serves 2-3 depending on your portions.

3/4 cup of organic heavy whipping cream.
3/4 cup of organic half and half
1/4 cup of organic sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1-2 tablespoons quality bourbon (we used Knob Creek) Use 1 if you are serving guests who “may” like it, 2 if you know your guests are fans of bourbon.
Optional: 1/4 cup candied pecans

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Make sure your ice cream maker crucible is frozen according to your manual.
  2. Mix everything except the bourbon in a measuring cup, (this is important as I found out the hard way it will freeze the ingredients as you put them in and will not mix for you. You will end up with little globs of whatever you added first)
  3. Remove the crucible from the freezer and put it on the turntable of the machine, add mixing insert and put on the lid. (may vary for different machines)
  4. Turn on the machine and immediately pour the mixture into the spout. It is important to do this right away as it will allow it to freeze better.
  5. Let the mixture blend for 15 minutes or until solid.
  6. Add bourbon and pecans if you are adding those and knock off any globs of ice cream from the mixing insert.
  7. Let the mixture blend for another 3-5 minutes.
  8. Remove the insert and transfer ice cream into a covered container and put into the freezer for a couple of hours. Or, eat the entire batch right out of the crucible as we will not judge you.

If you like Pina Coladas…

Do you likey?

I like getting caught in the rain as well.

Yah,  if you have the Pina Colada song* in your head now, you eventually were going to have it there anyway so don’t blame me. Try writing an article about testing it and see if you can handle that!  I am starting to remix it in my brain at this point. Don’t fret, if you drink enough of these you will end up looking up the lyrics and realizing how that “love” song is extremely disturbing relationship-wise but continue to sing it anyway.  Anyway, I like Piña Coladas.

I am very particular on what a Piña Colada tastes like. More important, I am particular what it feels like. Usually when I get one, it is a twelve dollar drink on some beach in Miami, 15 grams of fat, goes down the hatch quicker than a New York minute and worth every penny. It then is burned into your brain as an awesome experience similar to that slushy you had at the state fair when you were a kid. If it wasn’t so bad for me I would drink them at least once a day as I prefer pineapples over apples any day.

I have tried five times and have finally found the perfect texture. I looked up recipes and the ingredients were pretty easy to get down but the texture was causing me serious trouble. I researched a ton of recipes and found there are really just four parts that needed to be adjusted. Rum, pineapple, coconut and ice.

COCONUT: The first recipe I tried called for coconut milk and cream of coconut. I found the coconut milk to be a weird texture but made it creamy. I liked the cream of coconut (found in the liquor isle) as it was sweet and easy to store in the fridge as it has a shelf life of eternity. Coconut milk isn’t good for long term storage and you don’t use enough to really merit buying it. As I don’t understand it that much as a product, after two weeks it became questionable if I should use it? Who wants to get coconut milk poisoning? Eliminated.

RUM: I used light and dark rum and really liked the blend.  I didn’t even try any other way as it was tasty. The second batch I doubled the rum and it was too strong. My boyfriend liked it stronger, so this is to taste if you want to make it Pirate Style with more rum. I decided on 1 1/2 oz per batch.

PINEAPPLE: When I was in Costa Rica in beautiful Manuel Antonio at the hotel Si Como No, I had the best Pina colada (or six) I have had in my life.  It was made using real pineapples, probably from their neighbor’s yard or something. Most recipes called for pineapple juice over real pineapple. Fooey. I knew I wanted to use real pineapple but was open to change as I forgot to buy some on recipe 3.  It was not as tasty but drinkable. On recipe 1, I just put pineapples in the blender and no juice. I took a lot and was good but it could be quite an expensive drink. Unless you live in a place where they have so many pineapples they leave them on your porch at night this may not be an option. I decided on a blend of both pineapple and preferably a pineapple coconut or unsweetened pineapple juice as it doesn’t need it! The pineapple coconut juice was in the juice isle with the organic juices and fancy stuff.

Rum and ice cream machine are friends.

ICE: I tried using ice for the first four recipes and by the time I ran it through the blender it just was not right. Too much ice and it made it too watery after the ice melts. It melts fast! It tasted good but I wanted to feel the beach moment again. I tried putting everything in the fridge, but it still didn’t work. After talking to a Tiki master who simply stated I would “know when I got the right consistency” I made a joke about buying one of those fancy Slurpee machines. Eureka! It hit me! Ice cream maker! I stalked Ebay and for about $50 I was the owner of a brand new ice cream maker. It worked perfectly. This is also a dangerous machine because you start to realize you can make LOTS of adult drinks in it. Move over George Foreman grill, this is the new black of must have machines.

If you don’t want to buy this machine, you can always just put it in the blender. Blend everything in a blender,  transfer to a plastic container you can pop it out of (large yogurt containers work well), freeze it until solid, thaw for about 1/2 hour and then put it back in the blender to mix it up . Ice just messes it up so avoid it.

RECIPE – Makes 3-4 drinks or 1 if you are a piggy – no shame, just sayin’:

  • Mix the following: 1 cup of pureed pineapple. Put it in a blender and pulse until it is like baby food or more. You don’t want it too chunky as the fruit will freeze when you put it in the machine. If you want to serve it with straws, then puree fine enough for it to go through a straw. I suggest getting big straws so you can use coconut too!
  • 1 cup of pineapple juice or pineapple and coconut juice
  • 1 1/2 ounces of dark or gold rum and 1 1/2 ounces of light rum. You don’t have to use fancy rum but the higher quality the better
  • 3 oz of cream of coconut. You can find this at the grocery store usually by the liquor

You can watch it freeze!

OPTIONAL: If you do NOT plan on drinking through a straw, add 1/4 of finely chopped sweetened coconut. You can find this in the baking isle. You could use unsweetened too but sweeter is more deliciousness!

Follow the directions on the ice cream machine and run it for 15-20 minutes depending on how thick you want it. 20 minutes it was like soft serve ice cream. It will continue to freeze so don’t assume it won’t because of the booze.  If you want to make some additional batches ahead of time for more people do so and allow to thaw in the fridge for about 15 minutes then stick it in a blender to reconstitute. I froze mine for two additional days and left it out on the counter and it thawed to quickly around the edges.

*note hilarious video to watch after you read my awesome article


Cold Pressed – Iced Coffee

Yummy Goodness

You can have smooth coffee without sugar!

It’s that time again in the city. Melty time! Well, it’s about that time so get used to it so you don’t feel surprised.

I am here to discuss “iced coffee”.  Reader: Throw some coffee in a cup and add ice? Ninja: NO. Bad iced coffee maker! BAD!

First off, if I see one more barista take hot coffee and add ice to it I just might go snapples all over the place. So in my normal ninja fashion, I must go over the mistakes before revealing the recipes.

  1. Do not simply add ice to hot/warm coffee and call it a day. It melts and makes your coffee weak, not like ninja. If you think making stronger coffee will make it work then you will probably just have lukewarm, bitter coffee that hates you.
  2. Do not think that the coffee in your pot that has been sitting there all day at room temp would make great iced coffee and try to serve to friends as the “green” way to reuse your coffee. This includes trying to put it in the refrigerator to chill it.
  3. Do not assume you have to add five pounds of sugar to your iced coffee to make the bitterness go away (it may work for the bitterness in your life but not your coffee). Your coffee still will be bitter and want love.
  4. Do not give up and just go to a coffee shop because you don’t think you can do it yourself.
  5. Follow the Kitchen Ninja and you will be fully caffeinated, cool and have coffee that loves you back.

The answer to all of your coffee dreams is cold pressing or cold brewing. Heat makes coffee taste bitter so by cold pressing you take all the bitterness out of the coffee. I have experimented with making hot coffee, transferring to a large glass jug and then putting it into the refrigerator right away. If you don’t mind the bitterness, then this is fine. You can always add sugar. However, if you prefer smooth buttery goodness, then stop heating!

COFFEE: At this point in my experimenting I have tried many coffees. I don’t think this recipe is going to work with any coffee such as crappy ground coffee from the store but it might. I must emphasize that you deserve quality coffee so go ahead and buy something you enjoy! My favorite coffee in the US is from Bridgeport Coffee here in Chicago where they visit coffee plantations all over the world, bring it back and roast their own coffee. Their “Hardscrabble” is a most delicious Vienna roast.  If you can’t make it to Austria for their off the charts coffee, this is the next best thing. Sidenote: the link is for a pound/ 16 oz. of coffee which is the big bag! If you are in Chicago, you can also get the smaller bag 12oz at the South Loop Whole Foods. Today, I am enjoying the Breakfast Blend coffee I procured in Colorado at the Durango Coffee Company. I think it turned out quite delicious.

Shiny!

CONTAINER: You need to purchase a quality French press. I personally have found that the smaller presses to be a tease so I recently purchased the big mamma from Bodum. This Bodum Columbia beast holds 12 “cups” (6 actual cups as apparently coffee doesn’t apply to real cups) and appeals to my inner-ferret of shiny objects.  I found mine on Ebay for a good discount. Result, lots of iced coffee as this isn’t a quick process and you don’t want to run out! Any french press will work. You can even fill up the fridge with ten of these to get you through the day.

You will need to make sure that your refrigerator can accommodate the press with the pole UP. We want to make sure the coffee and water are mingling about and when the tiny coffee strippers come to visit they have a place to dance.

TIMING: I would suggest leaving the coffee in the fridge for at least 8 hours. If you have time, make it during the afternoon, it will be ready in the morning.

DIRECTIONS:

  • Make sure to clean out your press with hot water and soap. Coffee contains a lot of oils and it will build up and alter the taste of your coffee.
  • Find out how many ounces of liquid your press will hold. Don’t go by cups on the box as mentioned earlier, the math is off in Coffeeville. I like strong coffee, so you can use less if it is too strong but keep in mind, the ice will still melt a bit so you don’t want it to be too weak.
  • For every 4 oz, use a slightly rounded tablespoon and put it in the French press (use MEASURING spoons not the big spoons in your drawer!) SECRET NINJA TIME SAVER MOVE: For the coffee press I use, I put in 3/4 cup in total. If you have a good sized press, the first time just transfer to a measuring cup so you know your amount.
  • Add COLD water to the press to fill up to where the lid and pole can be placed on top. Don’t overfill as you will be pretty PO’d if coffee grounds and water go all over your counter.
  • Stir well
  • Put it in your refrigerator for at least 8 hours. Make this part of your nightly ritual. It is great waking up and not having to make coffee when you need it the most. Sometimes I need coffee to make coffee.
  • Take it out, press it and serve over ice. If you like sugar in your coffee, follow the simple syrup recipe below as iced coffee won’t melt sugar so it will just float around. But make sure to try it before adding sugar so you can sense the smoothness. You can also use agave syrup.
  • Join the ninja coffee club and begin boasting that your coffee is better than the coffee shops.

VARIATIONS:

Spices: One teaspoon of pure quality vanilla extract (or more to taste) added to the coffee is tasty. You can also experiment with adding cinnamon or nutmeg to taste.

Flavored Coffees: If you are looking to try some variations that may replace sugar I would suggest only using a little to enhance. You could add a portion of chocolate or vanilla coffee. I tried using 1/4 ground cherry coffee from Michigan with the rest being regular coffee. It was pretty intense at first so I would suggest starting there and working backwards. I am going to try with 5 beans instead next time as it was crazy strong and that is no joke. If the coffee SMELLS strong like the flavor, it probably tastes that strong. I tried adding a little vanilla (1tsp) to mellow it out. If you have some ratios that you are trying out, then post something and share!

SIMPLE SYRUP: (makes one cup)

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar

In a small saucepan heat the sugar and water and bring to a boil. When the sugar is completely dissolved remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Transfer to a spouted bottle or container for pouring.


Spicy Elitist Bloody Mary

Sugar Free/ No Corn Syrup

Sugar Free / Atkin's friendlier

I call this drink the Elitist only because it is perfect.  I will try and write this fast because I am drinking my Bloody Mary as I type this which also means I will be tipsy when editing. No judgy.

I know there are about a bagillion recipes of Bloody Mary’s out there in blogs. Why is the one I am perfecting any different? Well, every commercial Bloody Mary mix out there contains sugar or corn syrup. I was a bit perplexed as isn’t a good Bloody supposed be spicy hot goodness? What is the point other than to spike crazed insulin rampages making you drink four instead of one? Nonsense!

First, I must confess I did not like Bloody’s until about three years ago. I was more of a Rum drinking sort of girl but as the years pass by I gain layers of cush like rings on a tree. Sugar drinks BAD. Vodka drinks GOOD. So if you are on the Atkin’s Diet, Weight Watchers and of course the “I’m not an idiot, I should know better than to put that in my face” diet then this is a great drink for you to drown your diet sorrows in.  Regardless of the diet, no-no on drinks like the Mojito and anything with Bailey’s Irish Cream in it are tasty but will give you a hangover or a sugar coma. Some know that Atkin’s low carbo diets there is NO unnatural sugars allowed. So you can thank me later for getting this figured out.

Here in Chicago, we like to put a lot of “stuff” in our drinks. My favorite Bloody at a restaurant has to be at the Twisted

It may not look pretty but it sure is tasty.

Spoke here in Chicago. I am not going to say much except that it is like lunch in a drink including a “sidecar” of beer which is a small glass on the side. That was actually the first Bloody Mary I ever made it through as I liked switching back and forth with my variety of drinks.

I have experimented by making my own Bloody Mary infused vodka  (recipes coming soon) but you can use any vodka. The key is to make this in batches as they are rather time consuming when you make them drink by drink due to the number of ingredients. It is a great drink to take to the laundry mat and really is much more entertaining than pop machine. If planning on binge drinking, make this ahead of time in your fridge as adding is hard with a hangover.

This is a recipe for 4 large drinks depending if you put it over ice. I like medium spicy, so this is for my taste. If you want it hotter, increase parts of the spice portion of the recipe. This recipe uses spicy vodka which will alter the taste quite a bit.  You can mix this in a large container with a wide mouth and plastic lid if you plan on taking it somewhere. I like reusing the tomato juice containers.

In the container:

  • Mixture for Bloody Mary Recipe
    Make it in bulk so you don’t have to think about it!

    5 shots of vodka. I made my infused vodka with poblano peppers, onions, garlic cloves, basil, habanero hot sauce and olives(big vessel sitting for a month). If you use spicy vodka then you will probably want to adjust the spice section of the recipe to taste. I would only adjust the horseradish and hot sauce as it may get too salty otherwise.

  • 4 cups of low sodium V8 or tomato juice. I like the V8 but ifyou are watching carbs, use the tomato. Make sure it is low sodium as the spice mix has a ton of salt in it. Otherwise, it gets to be too salty and I love salt.
  • 1 1/2 shots of Worcestershire sauce.
  • 2 shots of any olive juice

*SPICE SECTION*

  • 8 TBSP of horseradish. Increase this if you want to have more “bite”
  • 20 Dashes of any regular hot sauce. I prefer Cajun Sunshine but any Louisiana Hot Sauce is good.
  • 4 TBSP of Bloody Spices  (recipe below)

SHIT TO PUT IN YOUR DRINK
Olives Celery, Pickle spears,(Pickled Okra, Beans or Asparagus also work well and often served in the South) Beef sticks, salami on a toothpick, lemons and even shrimp. Steer away from sweet pickles or carrots as they have sugar in them.

BLOODY SPICES (I make this in bulk so I don’t have to make it every time) I just keep it in an air tight dispenser.

2 parts Celery salt
3 parts Cajun Seasoning. (I like the Weber Grill spice mix New Orleans flavor- I would experiment)
Stir Well
This can be used on your glass rim as well.

Use a lemon as water won't work for sticky rims.

To assemble:

  1. Chill 4 pint glasses
  2. Cut a lemon into wedges
  3. Take out the glasses and squeeze a wedge into the glass. With the remainder of the lemon, drag it around the edge of the glass. Dip the rim into a flat bowl or wide ramekin filled with Bloody Spices to coat the rim. Take the lemon and spear it onto a toothpick if desired.
  4. Stick the celery in.
  5. Add ice to 2/3 of the glass if serving with ice
  6. Spear any of the things above to put in your drink Make sure everything can be accessed from the top of the glass. Don’t let toothpicks float to the bottom as it is unsafe if your guest doesn’t see it!
  7. Shake the jug of mix and then pour into the glass.
  8. Smirk (as you just made a bad ass drink)
  9. You can serve with a side car (small glass) of beer with it to drink in-between

A side note is that with the new points system by Weight Watchers(TM) This calculates to be only 4 points per drink if you don’t put meat in it. Virgin’s only are 1 point! As for low carb watchers stay away from any sweet pickles as they are high in carbohydrates due to sugar content. I don’t know the carb count as I am currently on WW as of yesterday.

Enjoy my ninjas ~


Chocolate Candied Bacon

Bacon is probably the most perfect food on the planet. I also believe it is a magical word. I sometimes just put the word randomly in my Facebook status updates (such as “Going to go to the store for some pants. Bacon.”) to see if I got more responses. It usually works.

I recently tried chocolate with bacon in it from a famous Chocolate maker here in Chicago. Even though all of my being wants to love it, I wasn’t  impressed. After I started complaining to others about my desire to like this concept, chocolate covered bacon started to pop up in conversations more frequently. One friend told me they even experimented with it but hadn’t figured out the right consistency. Another friend suggested skipping the chocolate and trying candied bacon. I knew there had to be some perfect combo of  both. I looked online and couldn’t find a recipe that had both chocolate and candied methods.

Let it be known I am a bacon snob. I only buy one bacon at this point in my life. Wellshire Farms.  Do not even bother trying to persuade me otherwise.  For my chocolate, I purchased some dark chocolate chips from Blommer Chocolate Company in Chicago. You want to get good quality chocolate made for candy as you don’t want the candy part to melt when you handle it. You don’t want to get anything with wax in it either(as if!). Order it online from a quality company if you don’t have access. No excuses please.

Here were the experiments:

Experiment 1. Dark chocolate covered bacon. I wanted to try three bacons to see if it made a difference. A. Thicker bacon from Jimmy Dean B. thin sliced bacon from Oscar Myer C. Wellshire Farms bacon
Experiment 2. Candied Bacon with all three bacons
Experiment 3. Chocolate covered Candied Bacon with all three types of bacon

WINNER! #3 with Wellshire bacon. ps. I was very sad when it was gone. See the bottom note for how to make the combo.

Here are the results:

Bacon: The Welshire bacon won hands down out of the three bacons. The second best was the thin bacon. The bacon was nice looking the day I made it, but after you put it in the fridge it started to look a little waxy.  The other thick bacon was too chewy. After a couple of days all of the bacon became chewy. It also looks unattractive whatever you do. We dipped half the bacon length-wise and it looked the best. If you dip the whole thing, it is too much chocolate to bacon ratio.

Chocolate covered bacon: To make the chocolate, I baked all the bacon until crispy in the oven. Not burnt, still bendy without breaking. Then cooled it and dipped in dark chocolate over a double broiler. I then moved it to a wax paper lined cookie sheet to cool and be handled easily (freezer is nice too)

Candied bacon:  For the candied bacon, I followed this recipe and instructions exactly. This looked great, tasted amazing, and looked nice a few days later. It was better than the chocolate bacon cold. It was off the charts when hot. I can see why the chef says it would be great for a BLT.  If you want to skip the chocolate part, this also a great recipe to just eat outright. My boyfriend Jay said he was at a party recently that served them rolled and stabbed with toothpicks which made it look nicer. The photo below looks like the edges are burnt, but it was not. It should be evenly colored as possible and crispy on the outside edges. Try not to eat it all before dipping it in chocolate.

For future reference here is what the ingredients are in case that site goes away:

Ingredients:
1 pound thick center-cut bacon (Wellshire is best!!)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup (QUALITY syrup is a must. I prefer this tasty stuff from Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. Cotton Tavern Syrup 603-569-1138)
2 tbsp rice vinegar
black pepper to taste

I baked the bacon at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, then started by basting the tops of the bacon and flipping and then repeating every 5 minutes (USE A TIMER) until it was crispy and cooked. I think we ended up working for about 40 minutes total. The bacon will stiffen once it cools so don’t overcook it!

NOTES ON CANDIED BACON:

  • Make sure you line your baking sheet with aluminum foil. This will make it much easier to clean. That candied stuff is like tar. (see the photo below after we finished cooking…let it cool over night, then just take all the foil out and throw it out.
  • Buy a cookie cooling rack and dedicate it to this as you will not be getting it clean.
  • Eat before you make this to prevent you from eating the whole batch.

WINNER Instructions.

Follow the candied bacon recipe above exactly. Watch the video, it is really easy. Allow to cool by putting it in the refrigerator for a half hour until you can pick it up without it being sticky. Heat the chocolate candy chips in a double broiler until melted. You could use a crock pot if you were using a LOT of chocolate but for a pound, don’t bother. Dip length-wise.

Allow to cool, and then watch your house for break-ins. Do NOT brag about this to your friends as they will be sad if you didn’t make them some. Share this link on your Facebook page if you make that mistake so they can make it too!


Peanut Sauce but really Sweet & Savory Sauce

If you get a Buddhist drunk enough, they will tell you what you want to know.

If you have ever been the the Magic Kitchen in Springfield, IL, you probably have realized this is the best Thai restaurant on the planet. This is a family owned joint, operating out of a remodeled gas station from 1970-something. It is not fancy, it is mostly full of extremely loud white people drinking beer out of coolers. I am from the Springfield area so I was one of those loud people for a long time. Don’t bother posting anything about me being racist, there are loud obnoxious people of all races, but here, mostly white people.

There are several items on the menu that are absolutely a must when you visit. Thai egg rolls, chicken satay, bao buns, bame noodle soup, pad thai, basil squid, ginger chicken, the list could go on and on.  All have a spice range of mild, mild plus, medium, medium plus and hot. The prices are extremely cheap so it is not a big deal to over order and take home the rest. I would eat the cold leftovers off the middle of Lakeshore Drive well after the five second rule, with a huge grin on my face.

The one thing that people rave about is the “peanut sauce”.  After moving to Chicago and experiencing other peanut sauces, is actually missed-named. Traditional peanut sauce is made with coconut milk and peanut butter and probably will kill you on the spot if you ate too much of it. This sauce is dark brown, clearish and vinegar based. It has peanuts floating on it, but it is NOT peanut sauce. So cracking this recipe was hard to figure out.

I finally found something sort-of-like the recipe called Sweet and Savory Sauce in an excellent Thai cookbook. I decided to use this as a base. I went to my Thai grocery and bought everything and anything I could that would possibly be an ingredient. I drove to Springfield, bought a pint of the sauce, drove back to Chicago and set up my lab. I am not joking when I say lab. I take this very seriously. I tried eight different recipes. It looked exactly the same, but couldn’t get the taste right.

Months later, at a holiday party in Springfield, my foodie prayers were answered. The ONE guy who worked there who was not family nor Thai, but was a Buddhist, happened to be at the same party! I strategically stalked him, watching the drinks flow into his body and then I made my move. I started a friendly chat about how I recognized him from the restaurant, and how I was trying to crack the recipe for the sauce. Awkward laughing. I asked him if he could tell me. He politely said no. More awkward laughing. I then joked a bit and told him how I have tested it extensively and all my fruitless labors. He seemed intrigued. I then told him about how I swear there must be deerblood in that or some other magical ingredient because I tried everything from Sprite, etc. He looked impressed… I put on my serious face. I then just flat out asked, if I tell you what I THINK goes in it, will you tell me if I am right or wrong. He agreed. Merry Christmas Buddha!

Then instead of Yes, No, he corrected me under his wine veil. Brown sugar? NO, dark brown sugar. Heart racing. Vinegar? NO, apple cider vinegar! Light headed. Chili paste? NO, tamarind paste! Near fainting from excitement. The sugar part? PINAPPLE JUICE! I got the peanut part right, yay!

I actually wanted to leave the party at that point, drive back to Chicago to make it right then. This was like the getting the missing link for us Springfield people. Ironically, I didn’t live there anymore.

So I tried the recipe again, this time much closer but it just wasn’t right with the proportions. I had my friend Jen up to visit to unveil the sauce, but it just wasn’t right. We drank a little too much wine, and then I got mad and poured a ton of juice into it out of spite. The next morning, we tried it and it was perfect!!! (It took a couple more tries to figure out what I did after that wine incident) but here is what I can confidently send you out into the world with. It is best with FRIED STUFF or a spring roll.  Do not substitute anything. Do not try and use this if a recipe asks for peanut sauce because it IS NOT peanut sauce.

Base
1/2 c Apple Cider Vinegar
1 1/2 c Dark Brown Sugar

In a small sauce pan, heat the vinegar up on medium heat. Add the sugar and stir until melted.

Then add to taste:
4 tbsp Tamarind Paste
At least 4 small cans of Dole Pinapple Juice
Deerblood. Just kidding.
Crushed Unsalted Fresh Roasted (if you can get them) Peanuts ADD after it cools

This stores for about 2 weeks in the fridge as it is basically vinegar and sugar. The trouble is that no fried foods are as good as those tiny magic gem eggrolls! If you find out how to make them please return to me with recipe. Sorry, I don’t have a photo. Next time I make it, I will post one. Or, send me a photo if you make it!


Red Velvet Cake Balls

It all started with porn. Well, Food Porn. Once you see the image, you will understand. Don’t leave this site too long, that web site is dangerous.

Every year for his birthday, my boyfriend Jay requests one thing from his loved ones, red velvet cake. Seeing as he is now in his forties, he is a red velvet cake connoisseur. I sat on the sidelines for the first few years I knew him.  I watched him turn up his nose at several cakes. Too sweet, not bitter enough, obvious cake mix, cheesecake icing. I quickly learned the differences between red velvet cake and cake that is died red. Basic rule: RVC should be bitter as it has vinegar in it. Second rule (and shocker): Cheesecake icing was a replacement to make it more healthy.

This was a lot of pressure as his girlfriend and I wanted to nail it the first time around.  I went right to the source. After contacting his mother, Linda, for “grandma’s” recipe, she sent me a scanned image of the recipe card which had the Waldorf Astoria title written at the top. Finally! I was making my first red velvet cake. I made it, he consumed it with love, even if it was a bit ugly.

Naturally, when I saw this photo of the cake balls randomly surfing the internet, I was intriqued. How wonderful would this combo of both cake and chocolate be? I decided to try it with his mother during the holiday in Florida as I knew it would be an experiment that would require a professional RVC baker. She was on board. Jay emphasized he likes red velvet cake the way it is. So I figured I would make a couple versions to be safe.

Before heading down to Florida, I purchased some high quality chocolate from Brommer’s Chocolate Factory in Chicago. I purchased  milk chocolate and dark chocolate chips. It is made for making candy so make sure you get something along the same lines if you are trying this.

For the recipe itself, I knew I would be making a batch of the Warldorf cake, a double batch of the icing and a basic white boxed cake to make a different set of balls. I made the boxed French vanilla cake to see if I could turn any cake into a chocolate cake ball.

I researched the recipe linked with the photo pointing to Bakerella.  I knew I wasn’t going to use her recipes but wanted to see how the cake balls were formed, portions, etc.

Experiment 1. RVC  and vanilla cake chocolate balls with various chocolates
Experiment 2. RVC with icing on the outside
Experiment 3. RVC with icing on the inside and dusted with cake crumbs

RESULTS:

WINNER!! Experiment 1. Looked nice, easiest to pick up, rich as hell. I think half of one of these will send you into a sugar coma. I think the dark chocolate was better than the other flavors on both cake balls as it had better contrast with the sweetness of the cake. Make in small batches or give half to your friends.

Experiment 2. Looked nice but was messy when you picked it up.

WINNER!! Experiment 3. Fastest. Looked gorgeous, easier to pick up, truest to the cake recipe.

CAKE:

The Waldorf Astoria cake recipe and icing can be found here.

Notes on the cake:

  • Do not wear anything you like, anything with color and wear rubber gloves. If you do not, you will have red with you forever. There are TWO SHOTS of red food coloring in this recipe.
  • Use Hershey’s chocolate. I tried making it with a higher quality chocolate, but this is closest to the original.
  • I divided mine between 3 smaller pans as I didn’t have a big one, so make sure to watch the cakes depending on your size as not to over cook
  • If you were going to just make the cake, let it cool completely before trying to ice the cake and use the icing at room temperature. I made a three layer cake so I double the batch of icing.
  • If you are making the ball recipe, bake the cake, let it cool. I think it would be easier to make the cake on one day and then let it cool overnight (cover to keep moist) Then, do the balls on another day. If you are doing this alone, I think it will keep you sane.

Notes on the icing:

  • I used organic ingredients when possible (eggs and butter)  as that also would be closer to the original recipe ingredients from 1920.
  • When making the icing, add the milk in a little at a time to the frosting and beat it well(Thanks Linda). This makes the icing super smooth.

CAKE BALLS:

You will follow this method for both chocolate cake balls and regular cake balls. I tried to make it easier by bolding each step for which recipe.

1. Both recipes: Bake the cake according to directions. Let cool completely or overnight. Make a double batch of icing and leave at room temp.

2.  Both recipes: In a huge bowl, dump the cake and crumble it until is broken up.

3. If you are making regular cake balls, set 2-3 cups of the cake aside and crumble it until it is as small as possible. This will be the cake you roll the balls into make them red in the end. You will need to experiment with the quantity as I only made as many as I could with the experiment I had. You don’t want to have more cake balls than crumbs to roll them in, so I think 2-3 cups of crumbs is a good place to start. Well, if you have leftovers, you have to eat them. Darn.

4. Both recipes: Add enough of the icing into the cake mixture to be able to form them into balls about the size of a ping pong ball. Mix well with your hands(don’t forget the gloves). I would start with a half cup to  a cup of icing. Depending on how much cake you have in the bowl, add more. The more icing you add, the sweeter the balls will be. I would add the minimal amount as we will be adding a lot more icing in the recipe.

5. Both recipes: Line a baking sheet with wax paper and clear a space in your freezer for this pan. If you don’t have room in your freezer a refrigerator is fine for the first part.  Make sure to cover them with plastic wrap so they stay moist.  You need to clear some space in your freezer as you will need to put them in there in smaller batches.

6. Both recipes: Take your index finger and punch a hole in the middle of the cake balls. Then fill that little hole with some of the icing. This will make it filled with yummy goodness. This is really important for the chocolate cake balls as they won’t have icing by itself anywhere else. The regular cake balls can go without the hole, but it does not hurt! Below is a photo of the white cake balls.

7.  Both recipes: When all the cake is made into balls, put them in the freezer or refrigerator. If in the freezer, check back every  half hour. If they are in the fridge, let them sit in there for a couple hours.

8. Regular Cake Balls LAST STEP: Once the balls are hard enough to handle, you can ice them. Remove the cake balls from the freezer and coat them in icing. After you have iced them, gently roll them around in the red velvet cake crumbs until they are covered and red. Put them back in the fridge until you are ready to eat them!

9. Chocolate Balls: Set up the following before removing the balls from the freezer.

We used a double broiler to melt the chocolate. I think next time I would use a crock pot as the chocolate got dried out after about 10 balls. A double broiler is fine but just keep it as low as possible and if it starts to get super clumpy, clean out the pan and start a new batch of chocolate. I am assuming you know how to use a double broiler. If not, look this up elsewhere.

I used a Easter Egg wire dipping tool (the wire circle tool that comes with die kits bent at an angle).  This is what you will lower the cake balls into the chocolate pot. If you do not have this tool, just use a spoon. I was just feeling clever at the time.

1. Melt the chocolate in the broiler. I would put about 2 cups of chocolate in to start.

2. Take the balls out of the freezer. Once the balls are hard as possible, it will be easier to dip in chocolate. It is recommended you take out 3 or 4 at a time and leave the rest in the freezer until ready to dip. Call a friend to help that won’t be eating them as they cool.

3. Lower the balls down into the melted chocolate. If using a spoon, roll it about a little to get it all over the ball. You will need to move fairly quickly as you don’t want the ball to get too heavy in chocolate. If it gets too heavy, there is too much chocolate to cake ratio. This is when you should get over the beauty part. See #4.

4. Pull up the balls and put them onto some wax paper. It will pool a bit. This ball will not look beautiful or gorgeous. Get over the fact it is not going to look like a truffle, but rather a big blob of chocolate. Anyone eating them will not judge you. Once they bit into it, they will be spouting words of praise you have never heard before. If you spend too much time trying to make it look nice, like I did, your chocolate will get all cruddy and get WORSE. Dip and move on. I don’t know how Bakerella got it looking so nice and I don’t care to worry about it too much.

5. After they have set a bit, you can re-dip any giant blemishes you may have missed but don’t coat it too much nor try to break off anything as it just makes the holes bigger. You can then break off any little pools with a sharp knife or smooth it down with a spoon if it is still soft enough. Again, no one will judge.

6. I didn’t try this, but you could drizzle a white chocolate over the top if you wanted to make them look fancier. Even a little red food coloring in white chocolate would be nice. You could also do what Starbucks does and insert a post and make it a cake pop.

7 . These freeze pretty well but they can stay at room temp for a while as they are coated in chocolate. They will sweat if you freeze them.

I hope I didn’t forget anything. Overall, everyone liked them that tried them. They are way richer than a piece of cake so eat at your own risk. If you have any questions, let me know.

Bon appétit!


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