Friday, February 26, 2010

Love Sauce

Once upon a time, in a very big city, there was a fast-food place that a young girl liked to eat at.  There were only two in this very big city and they were quite a distance from one another but both were very tasty and enjoyed by the girl.

Like a creature of habit, the girl always bought the same thing.  A grilled burger on a lightly toasted bun with grated cheddar cheese and Sauce.  Oh, the Sauce.  Happiness joined these two: the juicy burger and the yummy Sauce.  And when the girl ate there, she joined in the happy union....and savored the moment.

Then one day the girl moved away.

Far, far away.  Like when you discover it's hard to visit as often as you'd like and your heart starts hurting.

The body can always move.  The heart often remains.

The girl decided that life was going to be only as good as she could make it so she set out to make it tasty.

Tasty is important.  Never forget that.

Burgers, even juicy ones, can be made.  Lightly toasted buns, grated sharp cheddar cheese....all these things can be had.  But the Sauce!

So....on a dark and foggy night the girl set out to reunite herself with the moment of Happiness between Juicy Burger and they had come to be known. 

Call it fate.  Call it destiny.  Call it desperation on a mission.  Yummy Sauce was achieved and forevermore became known far and wide as LOVE SAUCE!  (Can you hear the angels singing???)

Love Sauce....a hush falls over the room.

Love Sauce...the mouth begins to water.

Love Sauce....a smile escapes the lips.

Love Sauce....Reunited with the Juicy Burger!

And now, many years later after a long bout of soul-searching, the girl, almost as young as she was in the former days.....only younger now because of the joy in her heart, decided to share this piece of Happiness with you. 

You will accomplish this great feat with unexpected ease.  You will pass it on to future generations.  You will slather it on your burgers and pile high the mountain of grated cheddar cheese.  You will become known far and wide for your great culinary skills.  You will sing my praises...if you don't happen to already.  And you will shout with exclamations of joy when the Great Burger Day comes and you can once again make Love Sauce.

Let us get down to business now.  Are you prepared to begin impacting the world with more love?

Assemble you supplies and start your engines.

You'll need only a few things to make your great mark in the Book of Tantalizing Tastes:

1 cup of ketchup, a very good brand, if you please
3 tablespoons of Liquid Smoke
Bowl and spoon

Mix the two together until they are one.  Lick spoon.  You're done.

You are now a Graduate of my Tantalizing Taste School for Masters.

What?  Did you forget to send in the application for acceptance to this great school no-one-anywhere-has-ever-heard-about?  Did you not enclose your check or money order?  Are you suggesting you just got all this for free???

I guess I'll let you slide this one time....if you make this one deal with  me.  Use my Great and Wonderful recipe frequently and herein and forevermore refer to it as the great Love Sauce that it is and spread your fair share of love in this world.   The Good Lord knows we sure need it!

A message from the Dean of Culinary Education (that's me after all):  
You may at any time adjust the measurements given.  I just wanted to get you on a roll.  More, less, whatever you want.  You're the Boss, I only pretend to be the Boss.  I found out I don't really like being the Boss.  It's too demanding and bossy.  It really doesn't pay that well either~

Monday, February 8, 2010

Even in Illinois People are Celebrating!

Even in Illinois
Originally uploaded by jannza
Just in case you're wondering.....I'll set your mind at ease.

My team won!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Mocha-Walnut Bars with Dark Chocolate Ganache

What a lovely, deliciously, chocolaty time of year.  With Valentine's Day approaching, I decided to look up some yummy treats that my family might like.  We all enjoy homemade goodies so this was a fun project.  Come in the kitchen with me and we'll whip up something tasty.

This recipe-posting is dedicated to one of my very sweet daughters, Miss All-Grown-Up, who happens to live a long way away.  I miss you, Sweetheart, and wish I could make this for you today.  We'd share a sweet cookie-bar and a hot coffee over a loooong conversation.

Today I'm making a Pillsbury recipe:  Mocha-Walnut Bars with Dark Chocolate Ganache.  The bars have three distinct layers which are prepared and cooked separately, one on top of another.  It is very easy to do and your children can jump in and help you.  (Trust me, if they don't help you in the beginning while you're putting this together.....they WILL help you in the end by eating it!  Maybe now's a great time to tell them the story of The Little Red Hen...)  The recipe is designed to be quick and easy and does so by using refrigerated sugar cookie dough.   Feel free to use your own sugar cookie dough recipe instead if you'd prefer. 

2 1/2 cups of very finely chopped walnuts
6 T. sugar
6 T. melted butter
1 roll sugar cookie dough (or make a batch of sugar cookie dough from your personal favorite recipe!)
2 T. instant espresso coffee granules (the recipe called for 1T. but 2T. gives it more of the coffee flavor)
1 t. home-brewed vanilla (my own personal addition)
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate baking chips
1/4 cup plus 2T. whipping cream

It's a great idea to get your supplies together.  It makes the work go smoothly and you can live out your cooking show fantasies.  (That'll be our little secret.)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Stir your walnuts, sugar and butter together in a bowl until completely mixed.
This is where I decided to add my homemade vanilla.  (Now you need to know how to make your own delicious vanilla!  We'll get to that soon.  It's easy, only a bit time-consuming and you know it is homemade goodness.)

Press the mixture evenly on the bottom of an ungreased 13 x 9 pan.

(Here's where I'd like to tell you that I followed the directions exactly and wasn't as pleased at how they came out of the pan.  I'd suggest spraying the pan before layering.  It's what I plan to do next time.)
Bake for 8-15 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.

Cool for 30 minutes.

While that is cooling, begin to prepare the cookie layer.  In a large bowl, knead the cookie dough and espresso granules until blended.

Drop spoonfuls of dough evenly over the walnut crust.    Gently press the dough together over the crust.  Bake for 20 minutes.  (The recipe said to cook for 20-25 minutes but I think 25 is a little long and makes the cookie too crunchy.)  Let cool for 30 minutes.
Finally the ganache.....What a wonderful word.  It rolls around your mouth much like the chocolate itself!  And it isn't hard to make but very impressive.  

I prefer to make my ganache in a double-broiler, which I also have to make.  If you don't have one, make one like mine.  I put a glass bowl over a small pot of water and let the water heat up and melt my chocolate chips.  The other option is the microwave but I don't like microwaves so we don't happen to have one.  

Add the chocolate chips and the whipping cream to your bowl and heat it slowly.  

Your chips will begin to mix and the whipping cream will blend right in.  I stir constantly because the transformation tends to happen quickly.  Stir until the chips and cream are one happy family.  

Spread the chocolate ganache over the bars.
Refrigerate for one hour.  Cut the bars into 24 servings (6 rows by 4 rows) or smaller if you'd like dainty servings that don't seem to add as much cushion to your thighs.  I'm just saying.....

They're delightful and delicious with a hot cup of coffee or an ice cold glass of milk.  Divine.

ps.  Licking fingers is allowed.

***Thank you to Jonathan Anderson for taking the pictures.  Your work is always the best!