Saturday, May 31, 2014

Pie Fundraiser

Just-baked cherry and apple pies.

I've been busy baking an assortment of homemade pies with my friends for a fundraiser at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral this Sunday, June 1, after the 10 a.m. service. Here are a few pictures from yesterday's busy baking session and the details about the fundraiser that benefits Food Ministries which supports The Wednesday Community Meal. I hope to see you there.

A filled cherry pie.

A cherry pie just out of the oven.

Please join us for a slice of homemade pie and at the same time enjoy fellowship and help support Outreach Ministries. There will be a variety of fruit pies from apple to strawberry rhubarb and cream pies from chocolate to lemon meringue to choose from and will cost $3 a slice. If you prefer your pie with a side of vanilla ice cream, don't worry, we'll provide that too. Raffle tickets will also be available for a chance to win a whole pie of your choice to take home. Proceeds from this sale will go to our hungry friends in our Food Ministries.

Apples, strawberries, cherries, rhubarb and peaches ready to be turned into pie fillings. Besides double-crusted fruit pies, we will offer slices of cream pies at the fundraiser.
Pie shells that just need to be baked and then filled with chocolate cream.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Treats From Phil's

Homemade meatloaf made with prime ground chuck from Phil's Uptown Meat Market.
With it being the last Wednesday of the month, we were busy at the community meal today, serving 339 lunches during our two-hour service.

We needed to change our menu a few times today to utilize the food we had but the first 80 or so lucky guests got homemade meatloaf made with prime ground chuck donated by Phil's Uptown Meat Market. The local family-owned business has been generously donating to our weekly meal for nearly five years.

Later during the meal today, we changed to serving other specialties from Phil's — beef and chicken kabobs and barbecue and sweet chili ribs. The ribs especially create a lot of excitement whenever we serve them.

I am so grateful to Phil's for their generosity. It feels wonderful to be able to serve our guests such high-quality meat.

Here are a few pictures of our wonderful volunteers who helped make today's community meal a success:
Amanda is famous for serving the soup in our dining room. When guests spot her outside of the meal they excitedly say, "Hey, it's the soup lady!"

Cheryl and Mary Ann made a lot of pudding for dessert today.

Mary is our salad server in the dining room. It's a hard job that keeps her moving on her feet for 2 hours straight but she always smiles and makes it look easy.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Chocolate Shortbread

I had such success with creating a recipe for Espresso Shortbread Cookies that I decided I should come up with another version of the recipe and that's how these Chocolate Shortbread cookies came about.

What makes them different and in my mind better than traditional chocolate shortbread is that I used finely chopped dark chocolate in the dough instead of cocoa powder. The tiny bits of chocolate enhance the texture of the cookies by adding flecks of melted chocolate goodness.

I like these a lot and they are simple to make. Here is the recipe:

Chocolate Shortbread
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1  tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup sugar
3 1/2 cups flour
10 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped (use a food processor to do this)
1/2 cup turbinado sugar (for coating the cookies before baking)

Cream together the butter, sugar, vanilla and sea salt. Add the flour and mix just until the dough begins to come together. Add the chocolate and mix until a soft dough forms.
Add the finely chopped chocolate after the flour has been mixed for a bit and the dough is just about ready to come together.

The finished dough will look like this.

Divide the dough into thirds and place each third on a large piece of plastic wrap. Fold the plastic wrap over the dough and shape into even-sized logs or long rectangles about 1.5-inches in diameter.

Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Place the turbinado sugar on a piece of parchment or plastic wrap. Roll each of chilled logs into the sugar, being careful to coat them evenly. You might need to use your hands to help press the sugar into the dough.

The turbinado sugar and a chilled log of dough.

The log after being evenly coated with sugar.
Slice the logs into 1/4-inch-thick cookies. Place the cookies on parchment-lined baking sheets, being sure to leave at least 1-inch of space between them.  Bake the cookies in a 350 degree oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let the cookies cool for a bit on the pan before transferring to a cooling rack.

Slicing off the cookies.

Make sure you leave space between the cookies since they will grow during baking.

Let the cookies cool for a bit before transferring to a cooling rack.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Espresso Shortbread Cookies

These Espresso Shortbread Cookies were inspired by Trader Joe's Kona Coffee Cookies.

My brother Josh brought us a box recently and our whole family loved them. I knew though that they would be an easy cookie to duplicate at home. I just needed to make an espresso-infused shortbread dough.

I really like how my version turned out. They aren't quite as sweet as the ones from Trader Joe's but they are crisp, buttery and rich with coffee flavor. I also skipped dipping half of each cookie into an icing because that wasn't the part of the cookie I loved most — it was the coffee shortbread.

I also like how fast my version can be made because I nixed rolling out the dough and instead just formed logs and sliced off the cookies.

Here's the recipe:

Espresso Shortbread Cookies
(makes 60 plus cookies)
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons espresso powder
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup raw sugar, optional (for rolling the cookies in before baking)

Place the butter, espresso and vanilla in a mixing bowl and whip until smooth and creamy. This takes about 5 minutes.

It will look like this.

Add the sugar and salt and whip again. It will look like this.

Finally, add the flour and mix until a soft dough forms.

Using plastic wrap, shape the dough into logs that are 1.5 x 1-inch rectangles. Place the logs in the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours.

If you want to coat the edges with raw sugar, which I like because it adds a nice crunch to the cookies, spread the sugar on a large piece of parchment or plastic wrap.

Press the sugar evenly all over the log of dough.

Slice the log into 1/4-inch thick slices.

Place the slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet, being sure to leave at least an inch of space between the cookies.

Bake the cookies in a 350 degree oven for 18 minutes or until golden brown.
As you can see, the cookies grow quite a bit during baking. Transfer the baked cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely before serving. Keep the cookies stored in an airtight container.
Packaged in a cellophane bag with twine and a tag, these cookies make a sweet gift.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Oreo Truffles

A box of Oreo Truffles for my husband to take to work and share. Seriously, these are so addictive that I had to get them out of the house.

A truffle close-up.

How can something that is so easy to make, taste so good?

These Oreo Truffles are crazy good. After tasting one for the first time, my husband who is usually very articulate, couldn't even talk when I asked him what he thought. His eyes just got really big and he smiled and smiled.

I came about making these no-bake chocolate treats because the couple whose wedding I am going to prepare a dessert buffet for this summer, specifically requested them. The bride is a teacher and apparently a mom brought some to the school to share and they were a huge hit.

It was easy for me to find a recipe for these online because they are very popular. There are a lot of variations though. Some use white chocolate for the coating, some add vanilla extract to the truffle center and some add a sprinkling of Oreo crumbs to the chocolate coating.

Because I was making them for the first time, I went basic and kept the recipe to three ingredients for my variation — Oreo cookies, cream cheese and dark chocolate.

Here is the recipe:

Oreo Truffles
(makes 40)
1 14.3-oz. package classic Oreo cookies (not Double Stuffed)
1 8-oz. cream cheese, softened
12-oz. package dark chocolate chips

Put all of the cookies into a food processor.

Process until you have fine cookie crumbs.

Put the cookie crumbs in a mixing bowl and add the cream cheese.

Mix until the cream cheese is thoroughly combined and a soft chocolate dough forms.

Use a 1-inch scoop to make even sized blobs of truffle centers. Place the centers in the refrigerator to chill for about 30 minutes.

Once the centers have chilled, roll them in your hands to shape them into balls.

 Melt 9-ounces of the chocolate in a small microwave safe bowl by heating the chocolate in 30-second intervals on medium high heat, stirring after each time. Once the chocolate is thoroughly melted, add the remaining 3 ounces of chocolate and stir until it is also melted. This method is called seeding and tempers the chocolate.

Dip the truffles, one at a time, into the melted dark chocolate and place them on a parchment lined sheetpan to set up. I at first thought I would use a skewer to dip the truffles but it didn't work well. Inserting a skewer into the centers weakened them and they fell apart. I found it best and easiest to just use my hands and work as quickly as possible while still being gentle with the truffle centers.

To help encourage the chocolate coating to set up, you can place them in the refrigerator.

Little truffle cups and a pretty box make for a nice presentation. Keep the truffles stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator — that is if they last that long!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Special Touches

A pretty salad with a sprinkling of chive blossoms.

Serving hundreds during a two hour lunch service at the Wednesday Community Meal means that we pretty much always have a hopping kitchen and dining room. But that doesn't mean we are too busy to skimp on presentation and just shovel out the food.

When guests arrive at our free, everyone is welcome, weekly meal, they are first greeted by our kind maidre'd Michael, and just like in a restaurant, are seated at a table, already set with placemats, napkins and silverware.

Once seated, six to a table, guests are served four courses by volunteer servers — salad, soup, entree and dessert. They are also offered coffee, tea and hot chocolate by our volunteer baristas, Dean and Dan.

Today we served 356 meals and I can honestly say every one was plated with care and had a special touch like a garnish of fresh chives over ribs or a drizzle of cheese sauce over roasted beans. Putting care into the food is important and we are so blessed to have a large team of volunteers who work hard to make our guests feel special.
We also used chives to garnish the ribs we served today.

The salads we served today were especially beautiful and topped with homemade croutons made from bread donated by Grand Central Bakery and a sprinkling of sweet just-picked chive blossoms.

It's wonderful working together as a team to make nice and deserving people feel treated.

Here are some pictures of our great team taken today by volunteer Cheryl who every week makes the desserts for the meal as well as keeps things running smoothly in the dining room.

Our hardworking volunteer baristas, Dean and Dan.

Two members of our super dishwashing team, Kevin and Bill.

Our maitre'd Michael and Fred who is in charge of the whole operation. Fred doesn't just volunteer on Wednesdays, he works pretty much every single day of the week, making sure we have everything we will need for a successful meal. And Michael does more as well, he orders all the food we get from The Oregon Food Bank.

I look forward to seeing my lovely friend Veronica each Wednesday. She comes to eat but also pitches in by busing dishes.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Mini Tirimisu

Over the last few months I've been testing dessert recipes for a summer wedding I am catering.  I say desserts because in lieu of a wedding cake, the couple wants to serve an assortment of mini desserts to their guests. I love the idea of a mini dessert buffet and I have a feeling so will the guests.

Lately, I've been working on a recipe for Mini Tirimisu. Because it's a summer wedding and I'm assuming it will be hot, I need to be conscientious of coming up with desserts that can survive the heat.  For these tirimisus,  I substituted cream cheese for the traditional mascarpone because it will hold up better on a hot day and allows me to make the tirimisus, minus the whipped cream and cocoa powder topping, a full two days in advance.

I found the mini dessert cups I am using online and love that you can see all the layers through the clear hard plastic. I also like that the cups are not throw aways because they are sturdy enough to be washed and reused.

If you don't want to make tirimisu in mini form, just use a bigger glass. The recipe serves four if you use  8-oz wine glasses.

It's also really helpful if you use piping bags to add the cheese and whipping cream layers. That way you can add these layers quickly and neatly. 

This recipe is also great because there is no cooking involved. Truly perfect for a hot summer day.

Mini Tirimisu 
(makes 10 using 2.7-oz cups)
1 cup heavy cream, divided
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, divieded
1 7-oz. package ladyfingers
1 cup strong black coffee
2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Make the coffee and let it cool to room temperature.

Whip 3/4 of the cream with 1/4 cup of the sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of the vanilla. Whip until soft peaks form. Chill the whipping cream until you are ready to use it.

Whip together the cream cheese, remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and remaining teaspoon of vanilla. Whip until smooth then add the remaining 1/4 cup of cream and whip again until it's light and smooth.

To assemble:
Transfer the cream cheese mixture and the whipping cream to piping bags fitted with a #5 tip or if you are using disposable bags, just cut off a 1/4-inch opening.

Cut a ladyfinger in half and dip each half into the coffee. Do this quickly or else the ladyfinger will fall apart. Place the halves in the bottom of a mini cup. Repeat for all 10 cups.

Pipe a layer of the cream cheese mixture into each cup.

Repeat with a layer of ladyfingers in each cup.

Repeat with a layer of the cream cheese mixture in each cup.

Repeat with a layer of ladyfingers in each cup.
Using a piping bag for adding the cheese mixture makes assembling these very easy. And, there's no messy smears on the inside of the cups.

Finally, add a layer of whipped cream to each cup and using a small sieve, add a sprinkling of cocoa powder to the top of the whipped cream.
For a size comparison, I assembled one large tirimisu in an 8-oz. wine glass.

Refrigerate the tirimisu for at least 1 hour before serving.