Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Very Fortunate 'Mistake'

Have you ever wondered why people call chocolate chip cookies 'Tollhouse Cookies'?

I have, many times. I wonder why all kinds of things are called what they are...why do you ask? My mind can be a confusing place sometimes...but I like it there! :)

So as I was pondering what to do with the kids on this icy morning (since school has been canceled), I went immediately to the most obvious choice...bake cookies! Who doesn't love cookies? And it's a win-win, because the kids can be involved and they really enjoy it! However, as I was considering what kind of cookies to make, and (of course) chocolate chip came to mind, I started wondering again (for the 874th time) why people call them Tollhouse Cookies.

What did we ever do without Google, people? It is by far one of the most important tools in this house. And no, I am not kidding. So I took some time to do a little research, and guess what? I'm going to share with you the reason chocolate chip cookies are so often referred to as Tollhouse Cookies!

Apparently, a woman named Ruth Wakefield (and her husband, of course) operated a New England lodge called the Tollhouse Inn, so named because the house was originally a "toll house" where travelers stopped to pay a toll for using the highway. While their horses were being taken care of, they enjoyed a home cooked meal in the toll house. Anyway, one evening she was preparing to make her favorite treat, Butter Drop Do cookies, and though the recipe called for baker's chocolate, she had none. Can you imagine? I would be in a state of distress! HaHa! So what did Ruth do? She had a bar of semi-sweet chocolate, a gift from Andrew Nestle of the one and only Nestle Chocolate she chopped it up into small pieces and used it in place of the baker's chocolate. Although she expected the chocolate to melt into the cookie like baker's chocolate would, it didn't. Oh, of course the morsels softened up a bit, but they didn't disperse and become part of the cookie.

She served the cookies to her guests, and before long, the word was out about these amazing cookies! The recipe was published in a local paper, and soon was featured on the Betty Crocker radio series, "Famous Foods from Famous Eating Places". Eventually, Mrs. Wakefield cut a deal with Nestle and offered to let them print the recipe on their packages of semisweet chocolate in exchange for a lifetime supply of their chocolate! What a deal, eh? Yes, Mrs. Wakefield, I think we'd have gotten along just fiiiiiine.

And as you all know, the Nestle Tollhouse Cookie recipe has become the most popular cookie of all time. Talk about a VERY fortunate mistake!

So there you have it! Now you (and I) both know why chocolate chip cookies are referred to as Tollhouse cookies! Or maybe it's the other way around, since they were called Tollhouse cookies first. Oh well, no matter! They are still the most scrumptious cookie in my book!!!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

It's a Citrus Tasting Party

It's Food Tasting time again and this party's theme was Citrus. Our wonderful and beautiful host was Miss Jen and she did a stellar job!

She not only arranged to have us taste a variety of oranges, grapefruits, and lemons, but she also had some citrusy desserts for us to indulge in between tastings. She decided that as much as we strategize to add cheese to every tasting party, cheese does not go with citrus, so she filled our bellies with dessert instead. How's that for a brilliant plan?

So...I'm going to cover the citruses first and make you wait for the desserts.

Pictured center stage up above is the Blood Orange, which had a very distinct flavor - a wine flavor, as a matter of fact. We were all very impressed with it's rich, deep color and it's unique flavor. It definitely stood out next to the Navel Orange which tasted like good ol' orange juice. I can't say that the Cara Cara wowed us much with it's flavor, but Clementines are always yummy.

The White Grapefruit, shown above, was the runaway winner in it's category, which shocked most all of us. The Rio Star was expected to be the favorite, but the White was new to all of us and stole our hearts. That's not to say we didn't appreciate and enjoy the Rio Star and Pink, but the White Grapefruit was the dark horse. What does that mean for you? That means you should go out and introduce yourself to the White Grapefruit and see if you can make a new friend, like we did.

The Meyer Lemon was also a big winner with it's sassy tartness, but deliciously, sweet twang. When tasting the lemons I chomped down hard because I adore the bite of a good lemon and the way my face contorts when the juice explodes in my mouth. The rest of the girls took small, little bites of the juice to avoid such facial contortions. The regular Lemon was just that...great and wonderful, but the Meyer was outstanding! The Meyer Lemon would be perfect for freshly squeezed lemonade on a hot summer day.

The Meyer is native to China and is thought to be a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. It has a little bit of an orange hue to it, so keep that in mind when looking for them.

We also tasted a Minneola, which was very mild like a tangerine, and the Pummelo, which was nice, but not knock-your-socks-off good, so that's all the attention we're giving them here because it's time.......


Jen served us Frozen Orange Yogurt that she made herself with the help of her handy-dandy Cuisinart ice cream maker.

It was light, mild, citrusy, and a little bit was perfecto and it was only the beginning!

She also made in her Cuisinart, a Frozen Meyer Lemon Sorbet that everyone nearly died over. I've never see Anne look so blissful as she sat quietly in her chair, eyes closed, happily spooning the sorbet into her mouth. She left us momentarily and took up residence in La-La Land. I'm sure plain lemons would have tasted just fine in this recipe, but around these parts we don't settle for "just fine", so we strongly recommend that you use Meyer lemons if you too, want to take a trip to La-La Land.

Now, it's no secret that Jen and I are Jeni's Ice Cream snobs, but I'm telling you right now, Jeni's lemon sorbet had NOTHING on Jen's Meyer Lemon Sorbet.....just saying!

Oh...and check out the stunner down below. This was the finale and wow, did it create a stir! An Elegant Citrus Tart with a toasted coconut crust, a buttery orange curd as it's filling, and freshly peeled and sliced citrus segments as it's topper. How beautiful is that?

I must tell you that I was super nervous that I wouldn't get a picture that did this masterpiece justice, but I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. I think it's beauty and elegance pops from the photo, but sadly for all of you, you actually had to be there to taste the flavor.

The flavor was light, divine, and unlike any other dessert I've had. It should be served to royalty. I know I felt like royalty when I ate it.

While everyone was swooning over the tart, Jen gave each one of us a little "take home" jar of the Buttery Orange Curd. We love her. :)

There was wine at this party too...white wine, that is. There are no pictures because I was busy drinking it, but if truth be told, there wasn't a lot of wine drinking happening at this tasting. We were too busy eating desserts and citrus.....happily.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

An Elegant Citrus Tart

Want to impress your friends?

Of course you do!

Then let us implore you to make this tasty treat for your next get-together! This citrus tart was the dessert on the cover of Southern Living that caught my attention and demanded (yes, DEMANDED) that I take that magazine home so I could replicate all of this sweet citrusy goodness for our citrus party.

The crust is surprisingly simple and the addition of coconut really makes it something special. The original recipe called for coconut extract to be added, but I left it out simply because I didn't have any and didn't want to go buy it. And guess what? It didn't need it at all! It's fabulous can take the entire food-tasting group's word for it!

You will need to make the Buttery Orange Curd for this delectable delight, but no worries! The most time consuming thing about this recipe is cutting the pretty sections of fruit for the top, which is totally worth the time. Check out a quick tutorial here!

Citrus Tart
by Southern Living

1/3 c. unsweetened dessicated coconut
2 c. all-purpose flour
2/3 c. powdered sugar
3/4 c. cold butter, cut into pieces
buttery orange curd
9 assorted citrus fruits, peeled and sectioned (I used white grapefruit, oranges, and Rio Star grapefruit)

Preheat oven to 350. Bake coconut in a single layer in a shallow pan 4-5 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through. Let cool completely.

Pulse coconut, flour, and powdered sugar in a food processor 3-4 times or until combined. Add butter and pulse a few more times until crumbly. With the processor running, gradually add 3 Tbsp. water and process until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Roll dough into a 10 inch circle, about 1/4" thick, on a lightly floured surface. Press into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom. Trim the excess dough and bake for 30 minutes at 350. Cool completely on a wire rack, about 40 minutes.

Spread buttery orange curd over crust and top with lots of pretty citrus sections!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Buttery Orange Curd

 You've all read about our tasting parties, right?  Sheri always does such a fantastic job of documenting and photographing them, don't you think?  Oh what fun we have, and what wonderful foods we get to taste!  This past month, I was the host and the theme was CITRUS!  Sheri's love for all things lemon is very well documented, and I love all things citrus I knew this was going to be fun and easy!  Now that I've piqued your interest, let me just assure you that Sheri's write-up of the citrus party will be posted quite soon, I'm sure...and then you too can enjoy!

Soon after we decided that the theme for the next party would be citrus, I was sitting at taekwondo practice watching the kids, when I saw the January issue of Southern Living sitting on the counter in a pile of magazines.  I grabbed it immediately, because it was featuring "the season's brightest citrus recipes".  The angels were smiling upon me at that moment, let me tell ya!  I pulled not one, but two recipes from that issue to throw into the menu for the party, and let me just tell you that both recipes were unbelievable, and yes, we are going to share the both with YOU!!!

When I first saw the recipe for this Buttery Orange Curd, I knew I was going to make it without a doubt!  See, it has become kind of 'thing' at our parties that someone always brings something to share...a favor of sorts.  I was instantly inspired to make it and put it in cute little jars for my guests to take home...a bit of sunshine in a jar!  And it was an added bonus that it was also an ingredient in the other recipe that I tried for the party...which I will share very soon!

Truly, folks...this recipe goes together so quickly and is just so.....buttery.  And orangey.  And yummy.

Try it!  Make some for your friends, or better yet, make some for someone you want to be your friend!!  They'll never be able to resist!  And if you DO make some for your friends, put it in little canning jars and print off these totally cute, totally free printable jar toppers from Wendolonia.  She's super creative, and has lots of cool crafty things on her blog!  Your friends will be so impressed! 

Buttery Orange Curd
by Southern Living

2/3 c. sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 1/3 c. orange juice
1 large egg, slightly beaten
3 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. orange zest
pinch of salt

Combine sugar and cornstarch in a 3 qt saucepan. Gradually whisk in orange juice and egg. Bring to a boil and keep it boiling, whisking constantly, about 3-4 minutes.

Remove from heat; whisk in butter, zest and salt. Place heavy-duty plastic wrap directly on curd to prevent a film from forming and chill 8 hours.  Spread on scones, english muffins, or toast...serve on top of sliced strawberries...use it to make some panna cotta or to make the next (secret) recipe we're going to share, or just eat it with a spoon.  Yes, it's that good!

Store leftovers in refrigerator for up to 3 days.