Tuesday, November 24, 2015

ArtSees Diner - Truffle Fudge

Truffle Fudge by Mary E

  • 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk 
  • 16 oz of 60% semi-sweet chips 
  • 7 oz of whipping cream 
  • 7 oz of marshmallow fluff 
  • 1/2 cup of butter 
  • 1 tbsp of vanilla 
  • cake pan
  • parchment paper or aluminum foil
  • non-stick spray 
  • nuts, add-ons or other such tasty treats

Before you make the fudge mixture, prepare the pan. Line it with either parchment paper, foil and non-stick spray and set it aside.

Melt all of the ingredients together except for marshmallow fluff and vanilla. Get it smooth and creamy and bring it to a temperature that establishes large popping bubbles but not a full boil.  Keep stirring it on medium heat for a few more minutes.

After about 6 minutes total from the first signs of melting add in the marshmallow fluff and stir until there are no signs of the white stuff.
Then add vanilla. Remove from heat.

If you are going to add other ingredients, evenly layer the bottom of the pan with whatever extras you are going to use.  I layered Sam's baking add-ons of white chocolate chips, cranberries and macadamia nuts. Next, carefully pour the hot fudge mixture over the baking add-ons so as to not displace the layer. Then I let it cool for 12 or so hours.

Trick to cutting it in perfect squares: Now that the fudge is completely cured and set - lift the fudge out of the pan on the foil or parchment paper. On a flat surface, Using a large pizza cutter roll and cut the fudge into small squares.

Tip: Go ahead and try other chips, flavors and adornments.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Filling a Pastry Bag - Simplified!

Okay, so filling a pastry bag can be a pain in the backside, admit it! It is sometimes such a pain that you think it is easier to just take out a spreading knife and put a layer of frosting on your cakes, cookies, etc. But, let's face it, that is far more time consuming, not as pretty and you cannot fill your sweet treats with oo-y gooey goodness. Here is a very simple way to make that happen and then I will share a recipe idea for you.

Filling a pastry bag

Start with really creamy frosting. It is so much easier if your frosting is the perfect consistency. What you see here is a caramel - cream cheese frosting.

Next prepare your pastry bag. The disposable kind are easiest. I like using the larger #5 Plain Pastry point, or the Large star pattern.

(Make sure your pastry bag is opened.)

Next step is to take a large glass. The taller the better.

place the bag, point down into the glass. Next fold the edges over the glass as pictured.

So you can see you now have a wide opening to carefully place your frosting into the pastry bag.

From here it gets really easy. You want to be certain to apply pressure on the bag above the frosting line. From there you can simply insert the tip down into the cupcake and begin to fill the cupcake and slowly bring the tip out and then create a swirl.

I frosted 24 cupcakes in less than 5 minutes once I had my bag filled. I then proceeded to decorate my bundt cake with flavorful rosettes in place of either drizzle or all over frosting.

The recipe:
Pumpkin Spice cupcake mix and an Caramel Apple Spice cupcake mix from Aldi's.Each box makes 12 cupcakes.
Because I wanted to make a large batch I combined the two boxes, added a small grated zucchini and a medium apple - grated. (it makes for a nutritious, moist addition) To add a little additional sweetness I also added some chocolate chips to the mix. Mini-morsels are the best.

The frosting calls for butter and water, but to lessen the sweetness a little I added 4 ounces of cream cheese.

I had enough for 24 cupcakes and for a bundt cake, albeit it more along the thickness of a tart. The rest is history! I brought them in and shared them with my first period students. Success!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Hey ArtSees Diner? What's Cookin'?

Today's special treat was my easy make Tomato Bisque Soup and sour dough grilled cheese. Enjoy!

Mary E's Tomato Bisque Soup

Ingredients in order of preparation

1 tsp of  chopped garlic
1 medium onion - chopped
1 red, yellow or orange pepper OR 5 small multi-color peppers - chopped 
2 stalks celery - chopped 
2 tablespoon - Kolossos olive oil 

2 16oz cans of diced (no salt added - Aldi's) tomatoes
1 16oz can of fire roasted tomatoes with herbs

1 tsp - balsamic glaze (I used honey ginger from Olive Cart, but any will do)
1 tsp horseradish (optional) 
1 cup heavy cream 
1 1/2 cup whole milk  (feel free to use 2 1/2 cups of half and half) 

Begin by preparing all of the vegetables. Then saute them in the Kolossos olive oil until slightly transparent. Next add the tomatoes directly into the cooked veggies. After the mixture reaches a nice rolling boil, remove from heat. Using a blender, add all of the tomatoes/veggies into the blender. (I hold back about a 1/2 cup of the veggies so as to add character, for a complete puree, hold back nothing!) After you reach a nice consistency, (about a minute) carefully pour the puree back into your pan and add cream, milk and stir. Next add balsamic glaze and horseradish. Bring to a nice soft boil. Add freshly ground pepper, and serve. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Dark Star of the Dunes: Shines a Bright Light Along Dunes Highway

Dark Star of the Dunes, is located on Dunes Highway, aka, Route 12 in a small town known as the Town of Pines. Dark Star was originally The Pines' Lounge and was a mainstay in the small town set in the heart of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, perfectly placed just outside of Michigan City, Indiana. When new owner Sarah Mitchell took over as the new owner, she infused her personality and love of good food, good music and community to make Dark Star her own. Sarah teamed up with Chef  Erik Tannehill to bring to life a gourmet, "chef inspired" menu. The food is spectacular and the prices will blow your mind. 

The Town of Pines is so small that if you blink too long, then you might miss the place. In fact google maps identifies it as being just over 2 sq. miles. Dark Star of the Dunes, is very unassuming and looks like a classic small town bar. Step inside and you will discover a gastro-pub much like you would stumble upon in Roger's Park or driving down Lincoln Ave, Chicago. Along with a friendly staff you will find simple tables, deep red and black decor and yes, a community pool table. On Thursday evenings Dark Stars becomes a gathering place for local musicians wanting to jam and try out some new tunes. The open jam comes as no surprise as Sarah Mitchell is a well known vocalist in the area. Music is a central part of her life and her establishment. The jam is not just for locals tho, so for all you Chicago musicians wanting to play in a friendly environment come on over, but come hungry because the food is a bright spot. Sarah also provides awesome weekend events like the one coming up November 14th from 4p to 10p. BBQ, Bourbon and Bluegrass, with Peter Nye. 
The Food: Chef Erik Tannehill is a very modest man who has one goal and that is to feed people by way of high quality cuisine. Erik has the makings of a top Chef and it is a surprise to me that he is not in an upscale, big city establishment, but I sense that Erik's bigger love next to sharing great food is living and working in the Michigan City region. (If you have never really come to MC and visited the are, then you will not understand the magnetism of this place) Tannehill really likes to experiment with unique flavors and ingredients. He does not shock his patrons with flavors that overwhelm, but rather adorn and add subtle nuances to his creations that alert your taste buds that something really special is happening. For example, today we stopped in for their weekend brunch, which is offered every Saturday and Sunday from 11a to 3p. We enjoyed a Caprese Frittata and the Buttermilk Chicken and Waffles. The egg dish was designed to look much like a Caprese pizza, complete with a slight drizzle of  balsamic reduction that brought all of the flavors come together with a spectacular sensory-WOW! The "Brunch Potatoes" were done with absolute perfection. Again, Erik is masterful with flavor, quantity and even a little edgy. The Buttermilk Waffles and Chicken was an equal surprise. If you have become use to waffles that look more like Eggo's or frozen waffle variety, then you will be quite surprised to discover that these buttermilk waffles are 1) made with real buttermilk and 2) are cooked by Erik fresh on a waffle-iron! The hand-dipped chicken tenderloin is superbly done. Flavorful, moist, yet the breading is a crispy buttermilk recipe. Chef goes to the nth degree and doesn't just serve up some typical breakfast syrup, but like everything else, makes his own. It was buttery, not overly sweet, with a nice caramel edge. It brought out the great taste of not only the chicken, but enhanced the buttermilk richness of the waffles. 
Our service was friendly, Sarah is a great host/owner and Erik came out from behind the confines of his kitchen long enough for us to say hello and thank him for fulfilling our gastro-quest for the day. Okay, so hold on to your hat - Two spectacular entrees, a Bloody Mary, freshly brewed coffee and a cup of chorizo/kale soup (did I mention Erik makes all of his soups from scratch?) with tip for $40! 
In addition to their regular weekend brunch menu, they offer the regular menu with daily "chef inspired" specials to keep us on our toes. Hint: Make sure you order a calzone or two to take with you. They are not only delicious, but they are huge! Did I mention that Chef Erik really likes to satisfy his patrons? 

Together Sarah Mitchell, Chef Erik Tannehill and staff are doing great things in the heart of the Town of Pines Indiana. They are truly shining a bright light along Dunes Highway. Steve and I give this place two forks up and a mighty, "Hell YES we'll be back!"
Dune Highway
Town of Pines, Indiana 
(219) 874-7330