Foodie Tuesday: Foodie High*

*Sung to the tune of ‘Bali Ha’i,’ (with my half-hearted, hypoglycemic apologies to Oscar Hammerstein II, Richard Rodgers, and of course, you).

Sugar cravings. SugarcravingsSugarcravingsSugarcravingsSugarcravings!Photomontage: Going (Graham) Crackers

Specifically, the insatiable longing for a mesmerizing concoction known in the vernacular as S’mores. Maybe it’s an end-of-summer inevitability in the ol’ US of A. Something about the combination of sugar + sugar + more sugar, in the form of graham crackers, melting chocolate, and toasted marshmallows, has the enduring allure of drug addiction, with only slightly less dire consequences. Because: addiction. Sugar does that. But ohhhhh, what loveliness is in that particular combination. So even though it’s kind of a forbidden collation in the land of my personal innards, what with marshmallows, chocolate, and grain sugars being among the weapons of midriff destruction that defeat all of my long-term defenses most easily, I love at least fantasizing about the multitude of ways in which this deliciously wicked triumvirate can be combined.

The current nostalgia for the trio was triggered by an online vision of marshmallow beauty in the form of a toasted marshmallow milkshake. It poured over my brain in the lethally lovely way that such images do, the cascade instantly evoking what I imagine my own version of this summer moment would be, and that is a home-assembled frozen S’mores pie: one 48 oz carton Private Selection Chocolate Ganache Ice Cream (pause for dramatic effect—this stuff is miraculously, wildly creamy and fabulous), slightly softened and heaped into a graham cracker crust. For this part, I’d use gluten-free graham crackers and toasted sliced almonds, finely crushed together and mixed with melted brown butter and sugar to taste, and then pressed into a pie dish or tin and chilled before filling. When the crust has been filled and re-chilled and it’s time to indulge in dessert, take it out of the freezer, top it with a jar of marshmallow fluff or a small mountain of marshmallows, and use a kitchen torch to toast the topping. Try not to faint from the fabulousness.Photomontage: Chocolatey Goodness

Of course, there are an infinite number of other recombinant S’mores delicacies one really ought to attempt, if one has the taste for that tremendous triad. All that’s needed for the serious S’mores plotter is to think of the three characteristic tastes: toasted marshmallow, crispy graham or something equally nutty, and chocolate. Then, consider the myriad ways in which each, individually, can be enjoyed. Do the math—if the possible hybrids made by switching one or two of the variables each time don’t amount to enough to keep you fat and happy for the rest of your nine lives, you are no true aficionado, or at least a little bit neurasthenic in the region of your taste buds. The latter, of course, requires urgent care, and may be treated by dashing for your pantry and stuffing a graham cracker, a piece of chocolate, and a marshmallow directly into your mouth for resuscitation. If that doesn’t get you on an inspired sugar high leading to a thousand new S’mores recipes, then you had better start singing along with me immediately:

Sugar High

Most people live on a hungry island, Lost in the middle of a peckish sea.
Most people long for a food-filled island, One where they know they will eat for free.

Sugar High may call you, At dessert, any day,
In your heart, you’ll hear it call you: “A buffet…hip-hooray!”

Sugar High will whisper Like a dream of Divinity:
“Here am I, you sucrose lover! Come to me, come to me!”

Your own sweet-tooth hopes, Your own sweet-tooth dreams,
Dust o’er the hillside And shine in ice creams.

If you try, you’ll find that Shoo-fly pie needs sweet tea.
“Here am I, your candied island; Come to me, Come to me.”

Sugar High,
Sugar High,
Sugar High!

Someday you’ll see me as a floating island,
My head stickin’ out from a candy floss cloud,
You’ll hear me call you, Singin’ sweet as syrup,

Sweet and clear as can be: “Come to me, here am I, come to me.”

If you try, you’ll find that I’m a sweet honey bee.
I’m your hyperglycemic island Come to me, Come to me.”

Sugar High,
Sugar High,
Sugar High!Digital illo from a Photo: A Marshmallow Paradise

Foodie Tuesday: Are You Growing a Mustache, or Is That Chocolate on Your Lip Again?

Photo: Spiced Chocolate Power Pudding

With sprinkles. Because, Sprinkles. You have to ask?

If you’d told me years ago that I would become such a chocolate addict, I’d probably have snorted and chortled my way right onto the floor. I always found it okay, but if given a choice would undoubtedly have chosen any number of other flavors as my preference over chocolate. So I’m still occasionally a little bit surprised at myself and my evolution into a veritable chocolate fiend.

Be that as it may, practically every time I put up a dessert or sweet-related post on this blog, it seems to include chocolate in some form or other. Why resist, eh! There are worse compulsions to have.

Spiced Chocolate Power Pudding
Beat 4 eggs thoroughly and set aside. In another bowl, set
1 avocado
1 ripe banana
1 splash lemon juice
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 scoops vanilla whey protein powder
Mash them together thoroughly! In a saucepan, pour
2 cups whole milk
Heat just until steaming.
Melt in 1/4 cup coconut oil and
5 ounces chocolate (I used Ibarra Mexican chocolate).
When it’s all melted together smoothly and
back to steaming (not scorching) temperature,
pour it in a thin stream and stir it carefully into the eggs.
Put this blend back in the saucepan and stir it constantly
over medium-high heat until it thickens.
Let it cool to room temp. Mix the egg blend and the
avocado mixture thoroughly and refrigerate the total until
well chilled and set. Overnight is good.
Deliciousness abounds.

Foodie Tuesday: Let Me Call You Sweetheart

When you’re good enough, you don’t have to be trendy to have staying power. The classics never go away; a fabulous patisserie is forever in fashion, because well-crafted sweets have endless appeal. They may have waves of popularity over time, like the current euphoria over macarons that belies their long history or the delight of the general public on discovering in latter years that chocolate is not entirely a naughty indulgence. But what is truly tasty will never entirely fade from view, especially in the kitchens or patisseries where the expert practitioners of their making reside.
Digitally painted photo: The Cupcake Trend

My sweet tooth knows few bounds. I love fat in most of its terribly delicious forms. When those two attributes of sweetness and fat combine so fortuitously as they can in desserts and baked goods, in little snacks or large displays of ostentatious celebratory food, I am unlikely to resist, unless I’m having an unusual fit of good manners when there’s not quite enough to go around or my calorie-conscience is working overtime to knit me a hair shirt that squeezes my increasingly well-rounded form.
Digitally painted photo: Patisserie

As a visual artist and prettiness-addict, the moment when my resistance is most likely guaranteed to ebb and to fail is when I am standing, rapt, in front of a pastry case at the bakery. If I had any real moral strength in this regard, I would at least be inclined to pardon the beauties beckoning therein from my ravages for the sake of preserving their great visual appeal as long as possible. But I have none, so it’s more than likely I will excuse myself by reminding any fellow admirers that the visual attractions of food are limited by their shelf life, which is briefer indeed than my own. Even if I have eaten more darling pastries than is remotely good for me.

Farewell for now, sweet readers. If you should grow any sweeter, you might be in danger of being bit by me on a dessert rampage. For now, I’ll choose to take the precaution of stuffing my mouth full of marsipan bløtkake [a favorite, Norwegian marzipan-covered cream cake], if only for your safety.

Foodie Tuesday: Some Useful Rules for Desserts

Our recent trip in Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic served as a fine reminder that Europeans have some special talents when it comes to taking advantage of the fun factor of making and enjoying desserts. A cafe many of us from the choir tour group found on our stop just before crossing the Hungarian-Austrian border had a menu loaded not only with bright, shiny pictures but dessert items guaranteed to put any dedicated diner into a happy but instantaneous snacking coma.

Photo: Dessert Rules 1

You really have to admire any dessert that is not only as substantial as this but has booze or some effectively delicious substitute for it in the mix.

Photo: Rules of Dessert 2

Switch a few of the ingredients and keep the sugary deliciousness quotient (and possibly, the eaters) high, and the menu begins to expand. As do waistbands on both sides of the international border.

Photo: Rules of Dessert 3

Something with a typically European liquor flair keeps the menu distinctly local, perhaps. Even if your typography can’t keep up with your recipe tinkering, good taste will abound.

Photo: Rules of Dessert 4

Hot raspberry sauce = Heisse Liebe (Hot Love, a traditional romantic dish) when served over rich vanilla ice cream. A great dessert for honeymooners (I just happen to know), and another way to brighten up the sweetness of a giant sundae.

Photo: Rules of Dessert 5

No reason to limit the brightness of either color or flavor to raspberries and ice cream; why not add yogurt and kiwi fruit for some jazz?

Photo: Rules of Dessert 6

But really, if you’re going to get splashy with the colors and textures and flavors, why not get more elaborate yet?

Photo: Rules of Dessert 7

Or make some kid-crazy concoction that will invite the most stoic and stalwart child of any age to play with his food?

Photo: Rules of Dessert 8

Heck, why not just make the dessert as *big* as a kid. No point in being shy or subtle if you’re serious about making desserts that compel attention and ravenous attacks on the dish.

Photo: Rules of Dessert 9

Of course, if you’re planning to entice the larger, older variety of child to eat, you might consider making some semblance of slightly more grownup-sounding dishes. How about a nice spaghetti-style sundae?

Photo: Rules of Dessert 10

What, that wasn’t flashy enough for you? Try a Pizza sundae. Not surreal enough in the spaghetti imitation department? Make some rich, red strawberry sauce to pour over the ice cream spaghetti. Or for the more soigné palate, perhaps a Carbonara version.

Photo: Rules of Dessert 11

Still, I have to admit that perhaps my favorite from this elaborate collection was the skillet-with-eggs doppelgänger, which in its simple ingredients would likely be a very yummy, creamy dream of an apricot cooler for a hot afternoon and also take a good run at pretending to be much better for me than piles of whipped cream and sweetened fruit.

All of this enticement aside—and I did, however reluctantly, lay it all aside despite the strong temptations, having already eaten a pretty substantial and dairy-laden traditional European meal of ‘fried cheese’ (crisply crumb-coated slow-melt cheese served with a sweet tartar dipping sauce)—there are other dessert paths to my heart, even in the heart of dessert-magical Europe. So I waited a moderate amount of time for my digestion, stroll aided, to recover from lunch before I opted for a much smaller and less elaborate dessert. elsewhere. It was only a single scoop of Stracciatella gelato, but it was cold, creamy, rich and delectable all the same. I’m not made of stone, you know.

 

 

 

Foodie Tuesday: Breakfast of Champers

There’s an American breakfast cereal whose manufacturer advertises it as the Breakfast of Champions, inspiring many a skinny little kid over the decades to eat monstrous quantities of it in hopes of becoming an impressive physical specimen. The slogan also inspired things as diverse as a Kurt Vonnegut novel by that name and a wide range of decidedly non-healthful sounding food and drink combinations that mock the very idea, not least of all the hilariously infamous day-starter of Little Chocolate Donuts ‘advertised’ by John Belushi on Saturday Night Live many years ago.Photo: Arabic Choco-PuffsGiven how often and how utterly our concept of what constitutes perfect nutrition, health and fitness practices changes over time, it seems incumbent on any of us who care about our own well-being to figure out what suits our own bodies’ needs and wants and not slavishly follow anyone else’s regimen, no matter how magically ideal it purports to be. At the same time, you know me well enough to guess that I think every so-called prescription in the dietary realm—barring allergies or other potentially life-threatening pains—deserves to be broken on occasion. At the start of a day seems to me the perfect occasion for such hijinks, particularly if the breaking of the fast leads to mood-enhancement and a general tendency toward having a sunnier day. There were excellent reasons for the invention of Bloody Marys and Bellinis and Mimosas. Break out the champers for breakfast!

Photo: Holy Toast!Or, if you feel it necessary to legitimize your breakfast playtime further than you can by acknowledging the fruit and vegetable content of the aforementioned drinks (not least of all, the venerable fermented grape), I’m sure you’re as able as I am to find the good in any dish that cries out to you at the break of day. Little Chocolate Donuts? Why, not only do they contain the marvelous seed of the Theobroma cacao, and if you can’t argue for the food of the gods for breakfast, then I think you need more help than a mere menu tweak can give you, but they also contain sugar, a sure source of [however short-lived] energy. If you take things a step further, choosing a raised donut, you can argue that the live culture of yeast that begins raising its inflatable goodness to a frying-ready state is also bound to be fine feed for your inner biome and all its happy bacterial citizens.

Photo: Raised & Glazed

Cake? Lest we forget, it very often has the proteins and vitamins of eggs, enriched flours, perhaps some buttermilk for further culture. Why restrict it to after-dinner eating, when we have less of the day in which to burn off its calories and possibly, less appreciation for its magnificence when we’re already full from the main meal? Throw in some nuts or dried fruits, some coconut meat, some cinnamon (who knows how true are the speculations on cinnamon’s superfood status)—and you could practically be breakfasting on medicine and having spa treatment before you even leave the house in the morning. There are plenty of people who have busily experimented their way to cakes and quick breads and donuts and all sorts of treats hiding, in their deceptively yummy midst, many clandestine vegetable and other supplemental ingredients to make them Better for You. That’s swell, really it is. But you know, being contented and happy is good for you, too.Photo: Bear Claws

So I’m going to keep eating chocolate at any and all hours of the day and night, cake with and without secret good-for-me ingredients, raised donuts and cake donuts, sugary cold cereals, popsicles, custards, ice cream, smoothies disguised as Protein Shakes, and any pretend-breakfast cocktails I can get my hands on whenever I feel the need. Whatever gets us through the day, no?Photo: Let Me Eat Cake

Chocolate is Half-inch Caulking for Cracked Moods

When I worked for my uncle’s construction company, the lead painter and I would look at something shabbily built and laugh that we’d been sent in to fix what the carpenters evidently couldn’t, with a mythical substance and/or application process we sometimes referred to as “half-inch caulking.” While a good job of caulking the edges and cracks around trim and other carpentry is an important step in preparing a built object or room for its paint, any gap as large as a half-inch would in reality need more serious care than mere caulking—perhaps even rebuilding—before it was worthy of being painted, and there’s no such thing as caulking truly made for such massive applications. Curing, caulk would soon enough shrink and pull away from the trim and leave a gap nearly as visible as the one it was intended to fill, and no amount of daintily applied paint would make it as pretty as if it had been assembled and prepared properly. Still, on our best days, we amused ourselves with the notion that whatever the previous workers had failed to build or fix nicely, we painters with our magic powers could doll up sufficiently to save.

I think that I am even less fooled, nowadays, by the idea that a vigorous application of fine chocolate to my innards by means of cheerful ingestion can cure anything that might ail me. But I am no less pleased to entertain that myth than the aforementioned one, and don’t mind that any proof in the positive results of chocolate-eating on my attitude is likely a placebo effect, psychosomatic or flat-out delusion. Whatever the truth, I continue to fill in the gaps of my frayed moods with chocolate, and it nearly always helps to smooth over the flaws better than nearly any other restorative out there.

Casa Cortés ChocoBar, our fantastical find of an eatery in San Juan, not only offered a plethora of chocolate treats for the repair and maintenance of body and soul but had a wonderful wall tiled with antique chocolate molds that may well have been used to cover a multitude of sins in the building construction itself. That makes the place, in my estimation, extra potent and all the more inspiring. I may be on the hunt now for chocolate molds with which to tile my next kitchen wall, but I won’t want decommissioned molds, preferring to fuel myself with the contents as I install. It seems the respectful thing to do.Photo: I can Fix It with Chocolate

Foodie Tuesday: The Great Truffle Kerfuffle

When the Sweet Tooth Siren calls, pay attention. A person could fade away and starve if candy isn’t handy when it’s required. So when I got that urge today, I knew that even though I wouldn’t get home until late-ish from the concert tonight, I had better think of some way to make some sweet happen. Fast.

I was thinking something truffle-like, because: chocolate. Also, because it’d be pretty easy if I didn’t get too complicated with it. So I jumped right on in.

What I did was this: I mixed about equal amounts of powdered cocoa and powdered peanuts and coconut oil (room temperature, solid) together into a thick paste. Then I added in a splash of almond extract, a dash of crunchy Maldon sea salt, and some dark maple syrup to taste, and this made a dense enough ‘dough’ to form into 1/2″ spheres. I rolled these heavily in flaked, toasted coconut. Most of this truffle mix went into the fridge for tomorrow and/or other, future candy emergencies. Some of it went pretty much straight into my mouth, conveniently enough.

photo

Trifling with truffles…

Because it was easy, and it tasted pretty darned good—not that it wouldn’t be equally tasty if I substituted the coconut with, say, sesame seeds or finely chopped nuts or minced preserved ginger, dried apricots or candied peel, or some additional chocolate, in dainty little chips. But no matter. What is essential is that I got my sugary fix in an appropriate hurry, and it pleased me.

And that, after all, is what was on order for the day.