S’mores Brulée

In my latest episode of the Starving Artist I break out my kitchen torch – I got it as a Christmas present a few years ago from my Aunt Judy. I highly recommend getting one – you’d be amazed all the things you can find to torch. But I think when most people think of a kitchen torch they think of creme brûlée. You know, creamy cold custard served in a ramekin, topped with sugar, and torched for a crunchy caramelized top. Delicious? Yes. But I’m the starving artist. I don’t have time or money to make custard – please. So the question is: what DO I have time and money for? What creative and affordable thing could possibly fit into a ramekin?

S’mores. What could be better? Watch the video to see how it’s done.

Here’s the recipe in PDF form: S’mores Brulee – Recipe PDF

One thing I discovered after we shot the video is that using marshmallow fluff instead of mini marshmallows actually makes it a lot easier to eat. And I realize that not every starving artist has a torch, so if you want to do this recipe without one, just place the ramekins on a sheet pan and stick it under your broiler for a minute or two until the top gets your desired black. Yum! ,

Warm Cookie Sundae with Nutella Hot Fudge

Warm Cookie Sunday with Nutella Hot FudgeAlright, I admit it, I am not the biggest fan of Valentine’s Day. There’s nothing like huge displays of roses and endless sappy happy facebook posts to remind you that you’re single (I’m not bitter)… But in all seriousness, I am happy for all my friends and loved ones who celebrate their companionship today. Besides, I always manage to find fun in even the most dire of situations. One of my life philosophies is to celebrate – whatever you have, whatever you’re given, celebrate it. I mean, come on, who doesn’t love doing anti-Valentine’s Day things when you’re single? Several years ago I found myself in a theatre in Times Square by myself on Valentine’s Day watching There Will Be Blood. What a love fest that wasn’t – perfect!

Putting aside anti-sentiments for a moment,  for me there are always two good things to celebrate on this day. The first is my parents’ wedding anniversary. That’s right, my mom and stepdad were married 21 years ago today. My lord how time flies. Here’s to 21 more! The other thing to celebrate is whether you’re single, happily married, or anywhere in between, Valentine’s Day is the perfect excuse to indulge in some chocolate (not that I really need an excuse). I’ve been thinking for the past few days about what could make up a simple yet decadent treat that one could enjoy alone, with friends, or with a special someone. If you’ve read the title of this post, you already know what I came up with. Nothing says both decadence and sexiness to me like Nutella. I envision two people madly in love spreading in on strawberries and feeding them to one another…… sorry I just threw up a little…. but am I right? There’s something about the smooth silkiness that is just… well, sexy. But it’s not enough for the starving artist to spread it on toast and call it a day. How about we up the ante and make it into a warm thick hot fudge topping for a sundae… NOW we’re talkin’.

Here’s the Recipe: 

First, start with your favorite scratch-baked cookie recipe. If you’re in need of an idea, I highly recommend my infamous Dark Chocolate recipe – you’ll never make any other kind. To make the sauce, simply place 1/2 cup of Nutella in a small microwaveable bowl with 1/4 cup of whole milk or heavy cream. Give it a quick stir, then stash it in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Grab a small whisk and whisk like crazy until it gets smooth. It will look like hell at first, but just keep stirring – trust me. Once it’s nice and smooth you can decide whether you want to make it thinner by adding more milk and microwaving it some more. I like it on the thicker side. To assemble the sundae, place one or two warm cookies in a bowl or on a small plate. Scoop on your favorite ice cream (I used french vanilla), then drizzle the hot Nutella sauce liberally over everything. Done. You can also add chopped nuts or anything else that tickles your fancy. It’s a perfect little indulgence to have before going out to the local bar for an anti-Valentine cocktail.

Speaking of anti-Valentine’s…

If you’re in Los Angeles and you’re looking to celebrate your singleness, I found this great article on the LA Weekly Blog that lists six bars/restaurants that are having anti-Valentine’s celebrations. One of them is Birds, which is right here in my neighborhood – yet another reason I love where I live.

So whether you’re single or happily partnered, I hope you all will enjoy celebrating on Valentine’s Day! Be sure to check out my facebook and twitter for more valentine and anti-valentine articles and ideas today.

Fudging Peanut Butter Pie

Peanut Butter PieOne of my favorite starving artist past times is taking recipes that are perhaps a bit…. over-involved or over priced or just plain obnoxious and making a starving artist version that is just as tasty for a fraction of the cost and time. Many weeks ago, long before bootcamp and certainly at a time where I was not at all concerned with what I was eating, I got a random craving for a peanut butter pie. Now the responsible thing to do when a craving like this hits is to recognize that it is born of misplaced desires and emotions and simply ignore it. Or you can behave completely irrationally and immediately leave your house to purchase ingredients. At this stage I went with option 2.

But before I could run to the grocery store in a fit of hysteria, I needed a pie. My go to for most things is Alton Brown – I adore the man and am a huge long time follower of Good Eats. Through some bizarre stroke of serendipity (or perhaps a cruel joke from the universe), his peanut butter episode was on Food Network that morning, which includes a peanut butter pie. You can view the recipe here. Now, as much as I love Alton, sometimes his recipes are just what I described above: over the top. Take this peanut pie for example: homemade chocolate crust, homemade peanut butter, chopped bittersweet chocolate… I get it, I do. This is what Alton does, he takes a recipe and makes it at the highest culinary level possible. And sometimes I’m in the mood for that. For peanut butter pie? Not to so much. Here is what I swapped out:

  1. Crust: do you know how expensive those chocolate wafer cookies are? Like over $5 for a pack. No. I bought a pre-made crust on sale for $2.99. They didn’t have chocolate, so I used granola. Perfect. 
  2. Peanut butter: I’m sure Alton’s homemade version is fantastic, but I’m not buying and roasting peanuts. Please. 1.5 cups from a $3 jar of Jif. Done.
  3. Bittersweet chocolate: I always have bulk semisweet chocolate chips in my kitchen. Those worked just fine.

Using all these substitutions I followed the recipe as it’s written and I have to say, I had a perfectly splendid peanut butter pie. Sorry, Alton!

Quick and Rich Hot Chocolate with Mint

I realize that many of my east coast readers are experiencing their first taste of winter this week. What better time to whip out this classic.

Now when I talk about hot cocoa, I’m not talking about that packet you empty into your mug and fill with hot water. Please. I’m the starving artist – I don’t do packets. For me, hot chocolate is an art; the embodiment of winter comfort. It takes so little time, effort, and money to make it fresh. And there’s something about spending a few minutes at the stove to bring it together that brings such satisfaction. So put that packet down and let me show you the way.

All you really need to know for real homemade hot chocolate is the ratio 1:1:1. 1 cup of milk to 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder to 1 tablespoon of sugar. Perfect hot cocoa every time. Now if you’re like me, you never have milk in your fridge, so what I do is buy one of those little plastic pint bottles for 99 cents, which is two cups (let’s be serious, you’re going to want to drink two cups worth. Besides most mugs are well over 1 cup). I always have cocoa powder and sugar in my kitchen, so really I’m getting servings to hot cocoa for 99 cents – not too shabby. To make, I get the milk heating over medium heat in a saucepan and whisk in the cocoa and sugar. Keep an eye on it and stir frequently until it just comes to a boil.

Now you could stop here and you’d have decent hot cocoa, but I take it a few steps further to make it extra special. First, I take about two teaspoons of corn starch, place it in a small lidded container, add about 1 tablespoon of water, put the lid on and shake vigorously to combine. This is called a slurry and it is meant to thicken. So, just as the hot cocoa comes to a boil, I add in the slurry, then I add in one small handful of semi sweet chocolate chips. Whisk until combined and thickened. Kill the heat and you’re ready to serve… unless…

Again, you could stop here and have amazing hot cocoa, but this is where you can really spice it up. A shot or two of Baileys is always a good thing. A few drops of vanilla extract would also work well. You could put in some peppermint Schnapps or you could put in a pinch of cayenne pepper for some heat. For this batch, I had a very special ingredient on hand that I found in the farmer’s market last week: chocolate mint. It’s a legitimate herb that tastes legitimately like chocolate mint. It’s amazing. After killing the heat I stirred in about 10 leaves and let it steep for about 5 minutes before serving. It was outstanding. Now I’m not proposing you go on a quest for chocolate mint – regular old mint you find at the grocery store will work beautifully here as well. Or, you can take a shortcut and just add a few drops of peppermint extract. Lovely.

Hope this helps to combat the snow! Recipe is in PDF format below

Quick and Rich Hot Chocolate

A Solution for Your Extra Candy

Surely you have a ton of leftover candy bars lying around your house that you’re dying to get rid of if only to retain your self respect. Solution: candy bar pie!! Enjoy!