Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Pineapple Flan

The onslaught of recent family crises back home has made me feel powerless to help and constantly worried. I'm also going to finally go to college this upcoming fall which is another stress factor. I'm 26 and still don't have my degree. There are many reasons and excuses why I never went: I always was told I wasn't the school type which made me constantly feel inadequate as a student during my lessons (you know the whole power of suggestion thing?), not having someone there to pay for my schooling, working full time, not being familiar with the college system in terms of what classes I should take towards future success, not knowing what I wanted to work towards and an unexpected pregnancy (Josh) and marriage caused everything to be put just a tad on the back burner. Now that Josh is almost 4, he's on his way to preschool and I am on my way back as well. He proudly goes around saying, "Mommy is going to college and I'm going to school." I'm fresh out of excuses and am tired of getting the look of surprise every time I mention to a friend or acquaintance that I am only (gasp) High School educated. Mike has always said that because I come off as being so educated people look so surprised. However, I think it's a little more sinister than this. I believe it's because they think that people like me didn't exist in circles like theirs. Maybe that look of surprise is a little bit of both the above analogies. I'd hate to underestimate the love and respect that my friends have for me.

Besides reasons of self-esteem, I also want some sort of degree to hold as an insurance policy. Truthfully, I'm happy with who I am for the most part and extremely satisfied with being a stay at home mom. As my mother in law always says, "When all is said and done we all put our pants on the same way in the morning no matter what our background" However, if anything should happen to Mike, I want the comfort of knowing that I would be able to go back into the work force and make sufficient funds to support the family.

Although I'm excited about this upcoming challenge, I'm also nervous and stressed. My first step is taking a placement test. In preparation for this test, I'm brushing up on my math skills. I hate math and have always done awful in the subject. So as soon as I opened that math book for practice, those feelings of despair quickly set in.

Oh yes to add to all of this: Mike, Josh and I were all knocked out from a killer cold virus as well.

My way of dealing with stress is to cook, drink and or exercise depending on what the stressor is. Since I was deathly ill, exercising was nixed and because I am now a mother, responsible for another human life, drinking until I'm smashed is pretty much out of the question.....which leads solely to one conclusion: Cooking and baking like a crazy. Below you'll find 3 new additions to the recipe blog.

Mike has just recently taken on a private English student, an older Japanese business man who wants to brush up on his English skills for an upcoming presentation. He stated in his first lesson that he took a year of culinary school, so it's inspired/challenged me to make recipes he might find appealing.

You'll need 6 ounce Flan cups for this recipe. Little metal cups you can probably pick up at any home store. These are fairly easy to make and when served on dessert plates, look very gourmet & pack an unexpected flavor. I usually am not a fan of flan (try saying those last 3 words 10 times fast!) However, I really enjoyed this.

1 1/4 cups sugar
8 extra-large eggs
2 cups unsweetened pineapple juice

Preheat oven to 350F

Spray flan cups with non-stick cooking spray. Put 3/4 cup sugar in a small nonstick skillet. Cook over medium-high heat and melt until dark brown liquid forms. Divide caramel among flan cups to coat bottom of each. Caramel will harden.

Separate 4 egg yolks and whites, saving whites for another use. In bowl of an electric mixer put 4 whole eggs, 4 egg yolks, and remaining sugar. Beat for 1 minute, until eggs and sugar are well blended.

Slowly add pineapple juice, little by little, and continue to mix until juice is incorporated. Do not let mixture become too frothy. With a ladle, divide evenly among 5 custard cups.

Place custard cups in a large, deep baking pan. Create a water bath by adding boiling water to the pan so that water level comes to 2/3 up the side of cups. Carefully place in oven. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until firm. Remove cups from water bath. Let cool, then refrigerate until very cold, preferably overnight.

When ready to serve, carefully unmold custard onto flat dessert plates, loosening the sides with a small sharp knife if necessary. Caramel will coat the top and sides of flan. Serve immediately.

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Mayor Koch's Meringues

I made these super sweet cookies with the leftover egg whites that I had after making the above Pineapple Flan. Another Cooking 1-2-3 Recipe. Rozanne Gold at the age of 24 was the chef for New York's Mayor Ed Koch at the Gracie Mansion. She states that these satisfied his sweet tooth.These are very sugary sweet but easy to make and easy to mail in a care package as well. I think I made mine a tad to large the first time around but I think I will attempt these again. The fact that she instructs the reader to "let cool" after spending 12 hours in a cooling oven is beyond me but hey, it works so why knock it? Be sure to preheat your oven!!

3 extra-large egg whites
14 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 cups miniature chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375F

Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg whites until frothy. Add a pinch of salt and slowly add sugar. Beat for several minutes, until very stiff and glossy. The mixture should look like marshmallow fluff. Gently fold in chocolate chips and drop onto baking sheet by heaping tablespoons mounding meringue so it is at least 1 inch high.

Place in oven on middle rack and turn off oven immediately. Leave door closed for 12 hours. Remove from oven and let cool. These can be stored in a tightly-covered tin.

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Dark Moist Chocolate Cake

As the Author of Cooking 1-2-3, Rozanne Gold, so eloquently states, "If Original Sin were a cake, this would be it." Her recipes are simple when it comes to ingredients. Because it's flourless, it would make a fantastic Passover cake (just use kosher chocolate of course!) Although she recommends taking the cake out of the fridge for 1 hour before serving, I prefer cutting a stone cold wedge of it and eating it immediately out of the refrigerator. Mike prefers slathering peanut butter on the top or, pressing peanut butter chips into the top on his wedge before eating. Embellish how you like. It's divine.

16 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 extra-large eggs

Preheat oven to 350

Line the bottom of an 8 1/20-inch spring form pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Coat the inside of the pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Chop chocolate into pieces. Cut butter into small chunks. Place chocolate and butter in a double boiler or in a large metal bowl over simmering water, making sure bowl doesn't touch water. Melt, stirring frequently, until smooth. Remove from heat.

Whisk eggs and pinch of salt into bowl of an electric mixer, until mixture triples in volume, about 8 minutes. Fold chocolate mixture into egg mixture with a flexible rubber spatula until completely incorporated.

Pour mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes. The center will still be a little soft. Remove from oven. Let cool at least 30 minutes before cutting. The center will sink a little as it cools. You can refrigerate the cake for up to 2 days (let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour before serving).

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