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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: 03/20/14

Thursday, March 20, 2014

CHOCOLATE ITALIAN CREAM CAKE, WHAT AN ITALIAN DREAM!

   The original recipe for Italian Cream Cake had no rivals. But then we stirred in a little chocolate!



Chocolate Italian Cream Cake
             

Ingredients

  • large eggs, separateD
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  •  Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting
  •  Garnish: pecan halves

Preparation

  1. Beat egg whites at high speed with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form; set aside.
  2. Beat butter and shortening until creamy; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition.
  3. Combine flour, cocoa, and baking soda; add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in coconut, chopped pecans, and vanilla. Fold in egg whites. Pour batter into 3 greased and floured 8-inch round cakepans.
  4. Bake at 325° for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes. Remove cake layers to wire racks, and cool completely.
  5. Spread Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. Garnish, if desired.        

SWEETS FOR COFFEE LOVERS, PART II!

Espresso, marsala, and mascarpone cheese whipped into an airy dessert dip.






Difficulty: Easy | Total Time: 10 mins | Active Time:Makes:3 1/2 cups (8 to 10 servings)
By turning tiramisu into a dip, you skip all the hassle of making the traditional trifle without losing any of the flavor. We liked strawberries and various cookies as dipping instruments, but the dip could also be spooned into individual cups with a few ladyfingers for a quick, elegant dessert.
Game plan: The dip can be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated in a covered container.
This recipe was featured as part of our story on summer dips.
INGREDIENTS
  • 12 ounces mascarpone cheese (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 8 ounces ricotta cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brewed espresso
  • 2 tablespoons Marsala or Kahlúa
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped bittersweet chocolate

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Place mascarpone in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whip on low speed until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add ricotta, sugar, espresso, and Marsala or Kahlúa. Increase speed to high and beat until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes.
  2. Transfer to a shallow 1-quart serving dish and dust with cocoa powder, then sprinkle chopped chocolate over cocoa. Serve with strawberries or assorted cookies.



A thick, frosty shake made with coffee ice cream and lots of chocolate.
Crusty, cakey, and gooey all at once, this pudding cake is simple enough for the kids to make.







Difficulty: Easy | Total Time: 45 mins | Active Time:Makes:6 to 8 servings
The ultimate dump-and-stir cake, this dessert requires no skill to make yet bakes up into an impressive three-layered treat with a crusty top, a cakey middle, and a chocolaty pudding bottom.
Game plan: If you want a strong coffee flavor use a darker, more heavily roasted coffee. But keep in mind that the stronger the coffee, the weaker the chocolate flavor will be.
This recipe was featured as part of our Cold-Weather Comfort Food Menu.
INGREDIENTS
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick), melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup strong brewed coffee, at room temperature

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat an 8-by-8-inch square baking dish with butter and set aside.
  2. Combine flour, 3/4 cup of the cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to break up any lumps. In a large bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar, milk, butter, egg, and vanilla until evenly combined and smooth. Add flour mixture to milk mixture and whisk until just combined (some lumps will remain).
  3. Transfer batter to the prepared baking dish and spread evenly. Combine remaining 1/4 cup cocoa, remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and brown sugar in a small bowl until well mixed, then sprinkle over batter. Pour coffee over batter, do not stir, and place in the oven.
  4. Bake until cake is bubbling, puffed, and set at the edges but still a bit loose in the middle, about 25 minutes. Remove to a rack and let cool 5 minutes before serving.



Toasted vanilla bean pound cake served with gooey coffee-caramel dipping sauce that’s great for a party.






Difficulty: Easy | Total Time: 10 mins | Active Time:Makes:20 servings
Coffee breath can be a deal-breaker, but if you’re single or have someone who loves you blindly then you can indulge in this dessert, which combines toasty, buttery bites of Vanilla Bean Pound Cake with a sweet Coffee Sauce. It’s so good you’ll be willing to risk coffee-breath exile.
Game plan: For a slacker solution, substitute high-quality store-bought pound cake and caramel sauce, and whisk some coffee-flavored liqueur or strong espresso into the latter.
This recipe was featured as part of our Valentine’s Day Menu.
INGREDIENTS

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Heat the broiler to low and arrange the rack in the upper third. Scatter pound cake cubes on a baking sheet and place under the broiler until golden brown, turning cubes occasionally so they brown evenly, about 7 minutes.
  2. Serve with toothpicks to dip cake into coffee sauce.




An easy dessert made by freezing sweetened condensed milk with very strong coffee.







Difficulty: Easy | Total Time: Under 5 mins, plus freezing time | Active Time:Makes:30 shots
Made from nothing more than sweetened condensed milk and very strong coffee, Southeast Asian coffee is a force to be reckoned with. Spike it with some coffee liqueur and freeze it, and you’ve got an adult take on frozen pops that are a great late-night treat at a cocktail party or any other time you want to get down.
What to buy: Silicone ice cube trays are key to easily unmolding the shots.
This recipe was featured as part of our Wii Gaming Menu, as well as our Drinks Around the World story.
INGREDIENTS
  • 16 double espresso shots (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup coffee-flavored liqueur, such as Kahlúa
  • Toothpicks

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Combine espresso, milk, and liqueur in a large bowl and whisk until milk is evenly incorporated.
  2. Pour mixture into silicone ice cube trays and freeze 3 to 4 hours. Place toothpicks in the partially set shots and let freeze completely, at least 8 hours.
  3. When ready to serve, unmold the shots and consume immediately.



Kind of like a tarte Tatin made with bananas and coffee.






Difficulty: Hard | Total Time: 1 hr | Active Time:Makes:12 servings
We got the inspiration for this recipe from the French apple upside-down tart known as tarte Tatin. For our version, we’ve replaced the apples with bananas and infused the caramel with coffee.
What to buy: Look for firm-ripe bananas that are still tinged with a bit of green—if they are too ripe, they’ll turn to mush in the oven.
Special equipment: A 12-inch cast iron skillet is perfect for this recipe; however, if you don’t have one, any heavy-bottomed, oven-safe frying pan will work.
Be sure to have a platter or plate slightly larger than your skillet handy for turning out the tart once it’s cooled. One with a slight lip or rim is preferable, as the caramel tends to spread a little once the tart is unmolded.
Game plan: For a slacker solution, use high-quality store-bought pie dough in place of making your own.
This recipe was featured in our Cast Iron Cooking story.
INGREDIENTS
  • Basic Pie Dough
  • 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup strong brewed coffee
  • 1 (4-inch) cinnamon stick
  • 3 (3-inch) strips lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 firm-ripe bananas
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Coffee, cinnamon, or vanilla ice cream for serving

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Make dough and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Heat the oven to 425°F and arrange the rack in the center.
  2. Melt butter over medium-high heat in a 12-inch cast iron skillet or other large, heavy oven-safe pan. Add brown sugar, coffee, cinnamon stick, and lemon zest, stirring continuously until mixture boils. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, stirring frequently, until sugar is completely melted and mixture is thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick and lemon zest and discard. Stir in vanilla extract and remove the skillet from heat.
  3. Peel bananas and cut on the bias into 1/2- to 3/4-inch-thick slices. Add banana slices and lemon juice to syrup mixture and stir gently to coat thoroughly. If desired, arrange banana slices in a decorative pattern.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll dough into a round that is just larger than the skillet. Lay it over the banana filling, tucking overhanging dough around the sides. Prick dough with a fork in several places.
  5. Bake until crust is puffed and golden and filling is bubbling around the edges, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit on a wire cooling rack for 15 minutes. Run a spatula around the perimeter of the tart and place a rimmed platter that is slightly larger than the cast iron skillet upside down over the pan. Flip the skillet and plate over to invert the tart. Slice the warm tart into wedges and serve with ice cream.




An Alaskan original created more than 20 years ago in Anchorage, this layered cocktail is said to be named for the sound you’ll make after drinking one.






An Alaskan original created more than 20 years ago at the Peanut Farm in Anchorage, this layered cocktail is said to be named for the sound you’ll make after drinking one.
This recipe was featured as part of our New Year’s Eve Drinks Around the World story.
INGREDIENTS
  • 1 ounce Kahlúa
  • 1 ounce Baileys Irish Cream
  • 1/2 ounce Crown Royal Whisky

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Pour Kahlúa into a 3-ounce shot glass.
  2. Using the convex side of a bar spoon, slowly pour Baileys over the Kahlúa, making sure not to disturb it, to create a layered effect.
  3. Using the same technique, layer the Crown Royal over the Baileys.

TOP 10 FOOD MYTHS DEBUNKED!

   We have already mentioned food myths on a variety of lists – but until now we have not made a food-specific misconceptions list. This list explores some of the most common myths we have about food and (no-doubt controversially) debunks them. In the case of the more controversial topics, I have included sources.



10. Fat Free – Lose Weight










   The Myth: Fat free food is calorie free
   This is a very common myth – so common that food manufacturers market to it. The misconception that fat free is better is the reason that so many products are labelled “fat free,” “low in fat,” “fat reduced,” etc. So many people who want to lose weight will chow down on all of these “low fat” foods thinking they are going to lose weight – even worse, they often tend to eat more of the low fat food than they would have if it were full fat. What really matters when trying to reduce weight is calories – eat fewer calories than you burn and you will lose weight. When fat is removed from food a lot of the flavor is removed as well – consequently extra sugars and chemicals are often added to give back the flavor – fat free food can therefore be far worse and fattening for you than regular full fat food.




9. Eat The Salad









   The Myth: Fast food salads are the “healthy option”
   A 2005 report by the Independent said: “[a]n investigation of the food sold by the “big four” – McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC and Pizza Hut – found that [...] five out of eight of the salads used as “evidence” of their embrace of healthy eating had “high” salt or fat content.”1 It is all too common to see dieters who crave a little something naughty, ordering salads or other “healthy choices” from fast food joints – but what they usually don’t realize is that the salads can be as bad as the regular food and they would be more content if they just ate a Big Mac. For the sake of comparison, I looked it up: 1 Big Mac has 540 calories and 1,040 mg of salt; 1 premium southwest salad with crispy chicken and dressing has 530 calories and 1,260 mg of salt. The Mac is healthier.



8. Protein Power











   The Myth: When trying to gain muscle, you should eat copious amounts of protein
   According to the Mayo Clinic, 10 – 35% of your daily dietary intake should be protein – whether trying to gain weight, lose weight, or maintain weight. Most of this comes from our regular food and we seldom need to take protein supplements. Even more damning for this myth are two recent studies by independent sport medicine journals in which various people (including bodybuilders) were given varying extra quantities of protein each day; summing one study up, Dr Richard Krieder from the University of Memphis said: “Although it is important for athletes to get an adequate amount of protein . . . consuming additional amounts of protein does not appear to promote muscle growth.”



7. Fresh Fruit Is Best













   The Myth: Fresh fruit is better than dried fruit
   This myth is true in only one regard: if you are looking for vitamin ‘c’, then fresh fruit is best, but other than that, dried fruit contains just as many nutrients and sugar for energy as fresh fruit. If you subscribe to the notion that you should eat 5 fruits a day, then you only need one tablespoon of dried fruit per portion – so five tablespoons of dried fruit fulfills your daily need. The same is true of canned or frozen fruit. Fruit juice is also able to be used as a daily fruit portion but only one per day should be made up of juice only.



6. Six Mini Meals Are Better Than Three













   The Myth: It is better to eat six small meals during the day instead of three larger meals
   First off, this can be okay – but only if you are extremely good at controlling your portion sizes; it is all too easy to turn six small meals into six large meals. This myth again comes down to the whole “calories per day” rule. If your three large meals contain as many calories as your six small meals, there is no difference at all. For the majority of people it is easier to put the time aside for three meals – so this is still the best choice for most. As we have discussed on a previous list (item 1), the time of day that you eat does not have a bearing on weight gain or loss.






5. Celery = Negative Calories








   The Myth: It takes more calories to eat a stick of celery than are contained in the celery itself – making it a negative calorie food
   This one is so popular that even Snopes believes it – and it is rare for Snopes to be wrong. But the problem is, the numbers don’t add up. One stick of celery contains around six calories2. A female weighing 150 pounds, aged 35, and 65 inches tall, burns 30 calories per hour3 eating whilst sitting. In the interests of science I ate a stick of celery (which is no mean feat considering I hate raw celery) to see how long it would take: 2 minutes and 14 seconds. If the female described above takes as long as I do, that means she can eat just under 30 sticks of celery in one hour – totaling 180 calories. That leaves an excess of 150 calories still not burned. Granted, there is some calorie burning involved in the digestive process as well, but there is no way these numbers allow for negative calories; on average you burn 62 calories an hour just existing4 (this includes digestion) – that still leaves an excess calorie count of 88. No matter which way you look at it – celery does not result in negative calories.



4. Decaf Has No Caffeine













   The Myth: Decaffeinated coffee contains no caffeine
   International standards require decaf to be 97% caffeine free (EU standards are a little stricter at 99.9%). The process of removing caffeine is a long one and it also means that many other chemicals (up to 400 in fact) that are essential the taste of coffee are lost. If you have an allergy to caffeine, you should probably keep away from all forms of coffee – decaf included. But for those who can cope with caffeine – unless you really can’t stand the slight “high” produced by it, you will have a nicer tasting drink if you just opt for regular coffee. And if that hasn’t convinced you – the chemical often used in decaffeinating coffee beans (dichloromethane) is also used as a paint stripper.



3. Stark Craving Madness












   The Myth: Craving is your body telling you it needs something
   When we get a craving for certain foods – such as fruit juice, we often think it is because of a lack in our body of a certain nutrient. Interestingly, scientists who put this to the test found out that it wasn’t true at all. In the study, a person who craved chocolate, was given a cocktail of chemicals that contained all of the essential components (minus taste) of chocolate, and another cocktail containing chocolate flavor but no components of chocolate. The craving was satisfied when they took the chocolate flavored cocktail – but not the essentially flavorless chocolate. This strongly suggests that cravings are simply emotional. We crave certain foods because of the memories and emotions relating to that food in our lives.



2. Salt Increases Blood Pressure













   The Myth: Excess salt increases your blood pressure
   This is a myth that originated in the 1940s when a professor used salt-reduction to treat people with high blood pressure. Science has since found out that there is no reason for a person with normal blood pressure to restrict their salt intake. However, if you already have high blood pressure, you may become salt-sensitive in which case you should reduce salt or increase your potassium intake as it is the balance of the two that really matters. Furthermore, people who suffer from hypertension should be careful with salt as it can have an impact there. Ultimately, eating more potassium is probably more important than reducing salt. Potassium rich foods are spinach, broccoli, bananas, white potatoes and most types of beans.



1. Fast Food is Bad












   The Myth: Fast food is bad for you
   A very wise man once said: “all things in moderation”. This ancient phrase applies to most things in life – including fast food. A moderate amount of fast food is no worse for you than a moderate amount of home-cooked meat and vegetables. A constant diet of nothing but fast food may not be the healthiest choice you can make, but then again, eating macaroni and cheese every night is not very healthy either. Variety and moderation are the key to good eating and health. If you feel like a cheeseburger, eat one.




SCOPPIO DEL CARRO FROM ITALY!!!



    The Scoppio del Carro ("Explosion of the Cart") is a folk tradition of Florence, Italy. On Easter Sunday, a cart, packed full of fireworks and other pyrotechnics, is lit and provides a historic spectacle in the civic life of the city.

A Little History on the Festival

    The event of the Scoppio del Carro has its origins in the First Crusade, when Europeans laid siege to the city of Jerusalem in a conflict to claim Palestine for Christianity. In 1097, Pazzino de' Pazzi, a Florentine from a very prominent family, was by tradition, the first man to scale the fortified walls that surrounded Jerusalem. As a reward for this act of bravery, his commander gave him three flints (fire starters) from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which were then carried back to Tuscany. These were and still are kept in the Chiesa delgli Santi Apostoli.




    It became the practice for a "holy fire" to be struck from these flints at Easter tide, which was then carried throughout the city by groups of young men bearing torches. In time, this tradition evolved into something similar to what is seen today.....a cart bearing a large candle was rolled through the city to the cathedral, from where the holy fire would be distributed.
    By the end of the 15th century,the Scoppio del Carro transformed into its present form.
    The ultimate origins of the event may be of pagan origin, since it involves a display of great noise and light to ensure a good harvest. Additionally, farmers from the Florentine countryside still observe the Scoppio del Carro with interest because of this.




The Main Event

    On the morning of Easter Sunday, the 30 foot tall antique cart ( in use for over 500 years), moves from the Porta al Prato to the Piazza del Duomo. Hauled by a team of white oxen, festooned with garlands of the first flowers and herbs of spring, the cart is escorted by 150 soldiers, musicians, and people dressed up in their 15th century costumes.





    Meanwhile, a fire is struck using the historic flints form Jerusalem at ApoChiesa degli Santi Apostoli. It is then carried by the procession to the cathedral square by members of the Pazzi family, clerics, and city officials.
    The cart is loaded with fireworks while a wire, stretching to the high altar inside the churches cathedral, is fitted with a mechanical dove (the "columbina"). Shortly thereafter, at the singing of the song, "Gloria in Excelsis Deo", during Easter Mass, the cardinal of Florence light a fuse in the columbina with the Easter fire.  It then speeds through the church to ignite the cart of fireworks outside.




    During all of these stages, the bells of Giotto's campanile ring out.
The complex fireworks show that follows, last approximately 20 to 30 minutes. A successful display from the "Explosion of the Cart" is supposed to guarantee a good harvest, stable civic life, and good business.