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! ,

Show Stopping Apple Crisp

Show Stopping Apple Crisp

It’s slowly becoming common knowledge that I make the best apple crisp on earth. Every year I get more and more people on the apple crisp train, and so therefore every year I make more and more apple crisp. Usually I make them at random for functions and whatnot. This year, after a very long month of working I decided I needed to have a fall gathering to remind myself and all the friends I’d been ignoring that I am, in fact, still alive. And what better centerpiece for a fall party than apple crisp?

At first I thought it would be just a small gathering for a few friends…. that quickly turned into 16 people. It’s a wonderful feeling when you invite a bunch of people over and just about all of them show up. I like to think its me and not the apple crisp, but it’s probably 50/50. Sixteen people means two apple crisps. Accompanying the fall show stopped was warm apple cider with a selection of booze, and a new creation of mine: pumpkin pie spice popcorn. All I did was pop a big batch of popcorn on the stovetop in a small stockpot. Just buy any brand of loose popcorn kernels and pop according to the package directions – it is super easy, WAY better than microwave, and WAY cheaper. Once popped I tossed the corn with a stick of melted butter, a few pinches of kosher salt, and mixture of 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp each ground nutmeg, allspice, and clove. Add and toss to taste. It is quite the addictive sweet treat and perfect for accompanying our favorite Halloween classic, Hocus Pocus, starring the Divine Miss M and a very young Sarah Jessica Parker. Hilarious.

And what makes my apple crisp so good? It’s all in the topping. Sugar, oatmeal, flour, salt, and my personal touch, lots of diced pecans. I’ve attached the recipe below – you’re welcome.

What’s your fall favorite?

Show Stopping Apple Crisp – Recipe PDF

 

Liquid Ginger

Organic Ginger Syrup A few years ago while visiting Vermont, I was introduced to the most unexpected and, as it turned out, heavenly concoction known as Organic Ginger Syrup, a product made a company called the Ginger People. Think maple syrup, except ginger and not maple. Crazy, right? I can tell you’re intrigued. I honestly don’t know what caused me to think of this product a few weeks ago…. craving? sense trigger? insatiable lust for ginger? Whatever the case, I needed to have it, so on the internet I went. After several weeks of waiting from backorders and shipping, it finally arrived. Three bottles of it! And just as good as I remember.

Now the next hurdle: what to do with it? This isn’t technically *that* difficult of a question since there is a laundry list of things one can do without much of a stretch, the most obvious being to use it wherever you would use maple syrup or honey: pancakes, waffles, sweetener for ice tea, cakes, cookies, frosting. But, as you know, the starving artist thrives on creativity and thinking at least slightly out of the box. And besides, this is a whole new ingredient I’ve invested in – throwing it on pancakes simply was not enough for me. Photo Aug 04, 6 34 09 PM

So, as I always do, I poked around my kitchen and noticed that I had some fresh cherries and blueberries in my fridge. Combined with the peaches on my counter, I do believe I had a fruit salad.  And what better way to dress a fruit salad than with some ginger syrup? I simply prepped the fruit and tossed it altogether with a generous pour of syrup and a few dashes of ground Cardamom. A divine summer breakfast, or a perfect complement to any barbecue/picnic.

But this is only the beginning. With three bottles of this in my cupboard, you can expect this to special ingredient to be popping up again in the future. And do share any ideas you might have in the comments below.

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!