Monday, January 30, 2012

Fudgy Brownies with Homemade Caramel Sauce

These brownies are rich, super chocolaty, moist and delicious. They're pretty much the best brownie you'll ever taste.

Rich, chocolate brownies
Want to know what's even more delicious? Filling layers of brownie with vanilla ice cream and homemade caramel sauce. Maybe even add a little dollop of whipped cream on top. Or not. I found the idea to make Brownie and Salted Caramel with Ice Cream here on Yummy Mummy.

Brownie and Salted Caramel with Ice Cream
So I did. And this is how it turned out. Sort of.

It's kind of a funny story, I made the dessert to take to a dinner party on Saturday night. I don't know what I was thinking. Who takes an ice cream dessert to a dinner party? And who tries to do all of this in a couple hours after you've spent a good part of the afternoon tasting zinfandel wines?

I do.

I forged ahead completely oblivious to the fact that there was no way the ice cream would refreeze in an hour or so.

I made the brownies. They came out perfect. I started to make the caramel sauce and immediately burned the sugar because I was tweeting. So I started over and made perfect caramel sauce. I let the sauce cool, and let the brownies cool before I cut two 6" square of brownies and started my assembly which is a layer of brownie, ice cream, and caramel sauce topped with another brownie. All done. It looked great.

Then Don came in the kitchen. "Add another layer. Then it will be really good." he said.

Sheesh. I was done. 

So I cut another 6" square and made another layer, 'cuz that's what I do.

I stuck it in the freezer for an hour and a half. Took Elli to a slumber party and got myself ready for dinner.

30 minutes before we were supposed to leave I opened the freezer to check on my masterpiece. Well, apparently MY refrigerator is not so super duper because and this is what I found.

The freezer. Sad face.
Clearly I do not have a blast chiller like on Iron Chef.
All of the ice cream and caramel melted out of the brownie, filled the Nambe plate and overflowed all over the freezer. It was like a waterfall of caramel ice cream.

SIGH.........followed by some not so nice 4-letter words.

I couldn't resist getting a little taste so I grabbed a spoon and it was awesome, but not frozen, and certainly not guest presentable. Plus it would never make it to our friends house in the car. No way.

I shut the freezer and jumped to plan B. I made some whipped cream, cut up the leftover brownies, packed up the caramel sauce, and planned to stop at Safeway for ice cream on our way. We could make little brownie sundaes instead. They would never know. Of course this isn't really true because I'm a blabber mouth and told them what happened within 30 seconds of arriving.

The lesson here, is to freeze the brownies BEFORE you spread the ice cream. I think that will help it from melting everywhere. I'll definitely try it again - because it tastes awesome.

On Sunday I cut it into 1" slices for us to grab and eat. We now have a huge container of Brownie-Ice Cream Bars.

Don has proclaimed "the carmel and ice cream infused brownies are scrumpdillyicious. And they're really NOT going to help me lose weight."

Oooops. Sorry honey.

Brownies make doing homework more fun.
(adapted from Martha Stewart)

3 sticks unsalted butter
1 pound good bittersweet chocolate (1 1/2 bags chips)
3 1/2 cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs
1 T pure vanilla extract or vanilla paste
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting, optional

1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a stainless-steel mixing bowl set over a pot of gently simmering water.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the sugar, eggs, vanilla, and salt on medium-high until thick and mousse-like, about 3-5 minutes.
4. Add the flour in 3 batches, mixing on low until combined.
5. Gently, fold in the melted chocolate with a spatula or wooden spoon.
6. Line a 11 x 17 jelly-roll pan with parchment paper. Lightly coat the pan with melted butter.
7. Spread to an even thickness.
8. Bake for 40 minutes, until firm to the touch.
9. Let cool. Slice into 3 x 4 inch squares

Homemade Caramel Sauce

Caramel Sauce
(adapted from Simply Recipes)

1 cup of sugar
6 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Sea Salt Grinder

Tips from Elise at Simply Recipes:
Before you begin, make sure you have everything ready to go - place the cream and the butter next to the pan. Making caramel is a fast process that cannot wait for hunting around for ingredients. If you don't work fast, the sugar will burn. Safety first - make sure there are no children under foot and you may want to wear oven mitts; the caramelized sugar will be much hotter than boiling water.

1. Heat sugar on moderately high heat in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart or 3-quart saucepan. As the sugar begins to melt, stir vigorously with a whisk or wooden spoon. As soon as the sugar comes to a boil, stop stirring. You can swirl the pan a bit if you want, from this point on. It can burn quickly. Do not leave the pan while the sugar is melting.
2.  As soon as all of the sugar crystals have melted (the liquid sugar should be dark amber in color), immediately add the butter to the pan. Whisk until the butter has melted.
3. Once the butter has melted, take the pan off the heat. Slowly add the cream to the pan and continue to whisk to incorporate. When you add the butter and the cream, the mixture will foam up considerably.
4. Whisk until caramel sauce is smooth.
Add a few grinds of sea salt and stir.  Let cool in the pan for a couple minutes. Pour into a glass mason jar and let cool to room temperature. 
5. The caramel sauce will thicken as it cools.
6. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Warm before serving.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Zinfest 2012

Wow. What a fun event.

Last night was Epicuria night. Which basically means each wine was paired with food. There were amazing chefs preparing fancy little bites everywhere you looked.

I went with my friend Rachel Vorhees, another food and wine blogger. We were so excited to be there we could barely get our wristbands on as they handed them to us.

Then of course we had trouble juggling the plate, wine glass, iphone, purse, coat, and big camera. So we talked our new friend Bill Smart, from Dry Creek Vineyard, into letting us stash some of our stuff under his table. He really saved the day. I ditched the big camera and just stuck with the iphone.

We ran into a lot of wine friends we've met at events, and on Twitter. It was a really great time.

And the wine. Yum-my. There was so much good wine being poured. I did have three HUGE favorites of the evening.

Dry Creek Vineyard '09 Somers Ranch, Dry Creek Valley and '08 Old Vine, Dry Creek Valley
Grgich Hills Estate '08 Zinfandel, Napa Valley
J. Rickards Winery '08 Old Vine Zin, Brignoli Vineyard, Alexander Valley  

Favorite food of the evening goes to: 

Ruth's Chris Steak House - Lamb lollipops with Zinfandel demi-glace
Componere Fine Catering - Crispy pork cheek, smoked potatoes, spicy pickeled fennel
Johnny Garlic's - Seared Ahi on a wonton topped with mango-jicama salsa, eel sauce, wasabi cream
Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill - House honey roasted winter squash bruschetta
Rose's Cafe - Whipped gorgonzola crostini with a spiced honey gastrique
Wayfare Tavern - Braised lamb shoulder, black pepper spaetzle, burnt orange, white anchovy salsa

Favorite desserts:

Koller Chocolates - Zinfandel chocolate truffles
Sonoma Cake Creations - Mini cupcakes, brownies and cheesecakes with Zinfandel sauces
Chef Tyler Stone - Zinfandel Ice Cream

We're both going back Saturday for the Grand Tasting. I can hardly wait for that! No food pairings, but lots of good Zinfandel. And BevMo! will be there pouring Zynthesis, one of their Vineyard Partner brands. Go BevMo!

One more thing before I wrap this up. I know Zinfandel gets a bad wrap from people sometimes. I just want you to know I did not try one overly jammy zin last night! They were fruity, and spicy and really so delicious. Rachel and I were both quite impressed with what we tasted.

So, go out and drink some zin. Or better yet, go to the big grand tasting in San Francisco on Saturday!

Here are some pics from our fun evening.

Rachel and Bill Smart, Dry Creek Vineyard

Sonoma Cake Creations - Mini cupcakes, brownies and cheesecakes with Zinfandel sauces

Tristan and Mark from Hahn, Cycles Gladiator and Boneshaker

Rose's Cafe - Whipped gorgonzola crostini with a spiced honey gastrique
The Chefs from Rose's Cafe
Keller Chocolates - Zinfandel chocolate truffles

Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill - House honey roasted winter squash bruschetta
Johnny Garlic's - Seared Ahi on a wonton topped with mango-jicama salsa, eel sauce, wasabi cream

Componere Fine Catering - Crispy pork cheek, smoked potatoes, spicy pickeled fennel

Rachel and Thea, "The Wine Brat"

ZINFANDEL FESTIVAL - Schedule of events
FRIDAY - Winemakers Dinner
SATURDAY - Grand Tasting

Maybe I'll see you there on Saturday!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Review of Super Duper Burger

There's a new joint in town called Super Duper Burger, and it's fantastic.

I mean really, unless you're a vegetarian, there's nothing like a big, fat, juicy burger and fries. And they make a really, really good burger.

We've been there for lunch two weekends in a row. Lucky for me they have salads, too. Because Don is in love with this place and I will never lose weight if I eat burgers and fries every weekend.

The burgers go on the grill looking like a big meatball, then they're smashed into perfection.

Home made pickles in jars line the wall. You can help yourself to some pickles while you're waiting for your burger. The fries are super crispy and seasoned just right. The lemonade is sweetened with brown sugar. You can even get a cold beer on tap, or a glass of wine.

Don says it's "messy and extremely good." And trust me. He knows a thing or two about burgers.

We kind of love this place.

Restaurateur and owner Adriano Paganini says "our burgers are highly addictive." We couldn't agree more. He knows a thing or two about food and flavors that are addictive. He's the owner of Pasta Pomodoro!

Elli loves it and so do all her friends.

We'll see you there next weekend.

Super Duper Burger
430 Miller Ave
Mill Valley, CA

Recent article/review: Mill Valley Patch

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Perfect Sticky Rice

There's nothing like a quick dinner of pot stickers, rice and a steamed veggie.

This is exactly what we ate on Saturday night (minus the veggie) before Elli's dance recital. Don and my sister Kathy volunteered to make dinner while I got Elli's hair ready and her dance costumes organized.

Kathy was in charge of the rice. Don was going to make the pot stickers. I watched her pour the rice in the pan and I immediately thought "oooh, she's not doing it right" she should bring the water to a boil first.  But I had other things to do so I left her alone to make rice and I left the kitchen.

Boy am I glad I kept my big mouth shut, because she made the BEST sticky rice. We sat down to eat and I couldn't believe how perfectly sticky it was. The chopstick was begging for a dip in the pan. The rice literally stuck like glue. It was awesome!!

I asked her to share her recipe (of course.) She learned how to make it from Aki Mori a Japanese exchange student who lived with them over 10 years ago.  So this is a very authentic, and special recipe I'm sharing with you.

Kathy claims it comes out perfect every time, even with brown rice.

Aki's Sticky Rice
serves 4

1) Pour 1 cup Jasmine rice in a pan. (also works with brown rice.)
2) Rinse rice 2-3 times until less milky looking.
3) Add water to the level of one finger tip above rice (~3/4 inch)
4) Add salt.
5) Bring to a boil, uncovered.
6) Turn down to simmer, cover, and cook for 13 minutes (exactly.)
7) Turn off heat and let sit covered for 10 minutes. (do not uncover or fluff until done.)


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

White Cheddar Mac and Cheese

Cheesy, creamy goodness with a light crunchy topping. It doesn't get better than this.

We ate this last Saturday after watching the 49ers game. What a game, right?! So exciting. We were screaming and yelling which totally freaked out Elli and the dogs. It was the best game I've watched in a very long time. Okay, so really, it's the only game I've watched in a really long time. I picked a good one!

As soon as it was over I made the mac and cheese and fired up the grill for barbequed pork chops. It tasted so good. It totally hit the spot.

Of course I probably should have halved the recipe or used a larger baking dish as the recipe states because this is what it looked like when I pulled it out of the oven!

Thank goodness I used my brain and put this bad boy on a cookie sheet.

Too bad I didn't think before grabbing a spoon to get a taste, cuz I burned my tongue on the hot cheese. A total Homer moment.

White Cheddar Mac and Cheese

serves 6 to 8

Kosher salt
1 pound elbow macaroni
1 quart milk
1 stick butter (8T)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups white cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
1 t. salt
fresh nutmeg (optional)
1 large tomato, sliced thin
1 1/2 cups Panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

1. Add 1T salt to a large pot of boiling water. Add the macaroni and cook according to package directions. Do not overcook. Drain well.
2. Heat the milk in a small saucepan.
3. In the pasta pot, melt 6 T butter. Add the flour and cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk.
4. Add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thick and smooth.
5. Take off the heat. Add the cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper and a few grates of the fresh nutmeg. (not too much.)
6. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well.
7. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish.
8. Slice the tomato and arrange on top.
9. Melt the remaining 2T butter in a small pan. Combine with the Panko bread crumbs and sprinkle on top.
10. Place dish on a cookie sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and the top is brown.

Serve with yummy grilled pork chops and a salad and you will have a very happy family. Hopefully you have a large family because this makes a lot. Better yet, have a party. Fire up the grill and invite some friends over.

White Cheddar Mac and Cheese

ps. Yes, I am well aware that eating mac and cheese is not exactly going to help me lose 10 pounds. Neither is drinking wine. So that's why I have salad at lunch.

Monday, January 16, 2012

My six beauty resolutions for 2012

When I look in the mirror I see two things I don't like, no three, maybe four. Sheesh. It's probably not good to count.

There are wrinkles, gray hairs, dark circles under my eyes, too many chins and little sun spots on my cheeks.

And then there are my fingernails. I love when they're painted and all pretty. I just haven't taken the time get a manicure or do one at home in a while. It's time.

So where to start. Unfortunately, there's not much I can do about the dark circles. I've inherited those from the Elliott family - thank you very much. I'm going to test out some new concealers and try to get more sleep. Maybe that will help.

Let's tackle things I can do something about.

1. Wrinkles - I picked up Oil of Olay Regenerist to help with the battle of the wrinkles. I've been using Oil of Olay products for a while and are pretty pleased with them. But I usually just purchase the basic day and night creams. It's time to up the ante. I need serious wrinkle relief. I'll keep you posted.

I also bought a PRO-X face cleansing system. I've been meaning to try one of these systems. I found this one on sale at Walgreens. Can't wait to try it. I'm expecting to walk out of the shower a new woman.

2. Nails - there are a ton of cute Essie polishes at Walgreens. I had no idea. I picked up a few. So watch for some fabulous nails coming your way soon.

3. Hair - I'm scared to color my own hair. I've never done it. Ever. So I'm going to have to ask around for some advice on this one.

4. Sunscreen - I have to wear more sunscreen. The sun has not been my friend. My face is begging me. My new face lotion has SPF in it. That will help a lot.

5. Skin - Elli and I have both vowed to apply lotion everyday. The dry winter air is really killing our skin. Eucerin Cream is our favorite. It feels really silky. Now we just need to remember to use it.

6. Lose 10 pounds - My goal is to lose 10 pounds in the next 10 weeks. I'm hoping to lose a pound a week. Sounds reasonable, right?. They lose like 15 pounds a week on The Biggest Loser. Surely I can lose one measly pound a week. Now if I could just get Bob, the trainer, to come live with us.

You can stop laughing now. I really do have those thoughts. I could clean out the guest room, set it up all nice.

Ha, ha, ha.  I'm kidding.

Really, I am.

I'm not crazy you know. Just goofy.

Nails - this is just a few of the Essie polishes they have. It's awesome.

Sunscreen. Check.

Eucerin Creme - our favorite lotion.

Regenerist - My going-to-battle-against-wrinkles partner.

This PRO-X is going to be the miracle maker. I just know it.
What about you?

What's your beauty routine? Are you trying anything new this year? I'd love to hear. I'll take all the advice and tips you have.

I really need some help with the gray hair. Anyone want to share their secret?

Thanks to Walgreens for underwriting this post. I was paid as a member of the Clever Girls Collective, but the content is all mine. Visit