Monthly Archives: August 2013

(Ohio State) Buckeyes

Buckeyes! Growing up in the buckeye state,  I have had a buckeye or two (thousand) and while the recipe is indeed very simple, not all buckeyes are created equal.  

The very basics of this recipe are peanut butter and chocolate.  Perhaps you’ve heard of this teensy little company that makes a candy based on that very flavor combination?!  It’s not like it works or anything, right?   I mean, yours truly may have used a chocolate bar to scoop peanut butter out of the jar a time or two but I’m not confirming that.   Whether someone got chocolate in your peanut butter or peanut butter in your chocolate, just be thankful they did.

Buckeyes represent home to me, maybe that has something to do with my affection for them.    Ohio is the Buckeye State, the state tree is the Buckeye and even our football team has the same name.  

My first football memories are of my grandfather sitting in his recliner in front of the television.  If you grew up in any part of the country where football is a near religious experience, chances are you have similar memories.

The months from August to December (and if you’re lucky, January) have always meant football season.  As a teenager, it was high-school games and as I graduated to the next level of education, the tradition carried on.  The season starts out in the thick heat of Midwestern summer, the air so heavy your lungs can barely allow it in.  Slowly as the season progresses,  Autumn begins to settle in and the temperatures begin to drop making night games only slightly less enjoyable.  Night games have always been my favorite, watching the field come to life under the bright lights of a thousand bulbs.  Bundled up from head to toe, hooded sweatshirts under bulky coats.  Blankets draped over chilled legs, cheeks and noses pink from the cold, hands wrapped around steaming Styrofoam cups of hot chocolate… and always a buckeye or two.

   peanut-butter scoop    Dipping buckeyes   buckeye-nation

Buckeyes
Yields 48
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Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
3 hr
Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
3 hr
Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 c. smooth peanut butter
  2. 3 c. confectioners sugar
  3. 1 stick unsalted butter, room temp
  4. 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  5. 1/4 c. cream cheese, softened (2 oz)
  6. 1 tsp. vanilla
  7. 12 oz dark chocolate (I used 70% Lindt chocolate bars)
Instructions
  1. Cream peanut butter, cream cheese and butter together until completely smooth and free of any lumps.
  2. Add vanilla, salt and sugar to mixture, beat until combined.
  3. Using a 1 ounce scoop or tablespoon, scoop balls of peanut butter mixture and place on parchment-lined baking sheet.
  4. Roll (in your hands) to smooth out and round. Set in the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours.
  5. Break chocolate bars into small pieces, place in a microwave safe bowl. Put in microwave for 30 seconds, stir, put back in for another 10 seconds. Repeat in 10 second increments until chocolate is mostly melted (a few pieces the size of peas are ok). Stir and set aside. The residual heat will melt any tiny pieces of chocolate. Let it cool until the bowl no longer feels warm.
  6. Using a skewer or toothpick, pierce peanut butter ball and dip into the chocolate about 3/4 up the sides. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Chill for an hour or until chocolate has set up.
Notes
  1. Tip: If you want a thinner coating, dip when the chocolate is warmer. If you want a thicker coating of chocolate, let the chocolate cool more. It will become thicker as it cools, giving you a thicker layer of chocolate.
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Panna Cotta

Whenever I see figs, I must buy them.  I can’t quite help myself, they are just so sexy.  Then my brain starts spinning with all the possible things to do with them.  When I am visiting my family in Ohio, I always try to make something special.  Something that I know for sure they have never had before.  Sometimes it goes over well and sometimes, maybe not so much.  I think this one was a winner. 

I was wandering the store with the parental units and saw them.   I, like a moth to a flame, headed right toward them.  It’s like some kind of strange gravitational pull, I seriously can NOT help it (not like I’m trying to, either).  So, I walked out with 2 pounds under my arm and was giddy as could be.  At first I thought: “well, I can do a crostini with them…”  Then I decided against that idea.  Next was dipped in honey and rolled in chopped pistachio…  Nah, that got shot down as well. So, as is usually the case, my brain started hinting at dessert.  I wanted a dessert that could be more of a vehicle for the figs than the star of the show.  The figs should be the “break-out stars”,  therefore I needed something that wasn’t too strong of a flavor.  And out of the blue, there was the idea. 

Panna Cotta is simply cooked cream mixed with sugar and milk, mixed with gelatin and cooled until set.  It is very straight-forward and not an overly complicated dessert.  I wanted to keep it simple as the figs were going to be packed with flavor (and slightly tipsy). The great thing about this dessert is that you likely have most of it in the house already.  It comes together in about 30 minutes and then it is into the fridge to set and you are done.   If you don’t like figs, swap them out for berries or stone fruit.  If you don’t want the alcohol in the dessert, use juice or simple syrup as your poaching liquid.  As always, recipes are just a jumping off point…  take it and make it your own.

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Tomato & Goat Cheese Tart

 

 
Photoshopped-Tart
You know when you get a craving for something & you just have to make it?  Well, I had wanted to make a tomato tart for a little while and finally got around to doing it.  This post started out something like “with summer produce in full swing and a variety of perfect tomatoes available, blah, blah, blah…”

Don’t get me wrong, I could yammer on about produce with the best of them.  I am a big fan of it, in case you didn’t know and let’s be honest…  tomatoes are pretty amazing right now.  Especially if you can get your hands on some of the gorgeous heirloom varieties.   This post was supposed to be light-hearted and fun.  But, life isn’t always light-heart and fun, is it?   I know that some people probably just let out an audible groan…  and that’s ok.   If reading about things that aren’t happy and fun isn’t in your plan today, I understand.   You are excused.    This is about something a little deeper than a tomato tart.   Thank you, wonderful farmers for providing the gorgeous tomatoes for this tart, but we are on to a more pressing issue…

I have a couple of friends that are vegetarians and had wanted to have them over for dinner so I thought “Well, this is perfect timing!”  I will make the tart, have them over, open some wine and we will have a perfectly delightful evening.  Only, it didn’t happen that way.   Life rarely happens the way we think it will, does it? 

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Pa amb Tomaquet (Bread with Tomato)

 Balcony in BarcelonaI had been dreaming about travelling to Spain for nearly a decade, so when I finally landed there back in April of 2000, I cried.   The moment my feet touched Spanish soil, I was almost in disbelief.    I was so overwhelmed that I could not contain my pure joy.  It felt as if the entire universe lined up and planted me exactly where I was supposed to be for that one perfect moment.  I wanted for nothing.

Flower stand along Las Ramblas
 
Boqueria
When people ask that hypothetical question “If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?”  My answer has always been: travel.

After everyone has been taken care of; debts paid off, college funds set up, etc…  I would pack a bag, get on a plane and be a gypsy for a little while.   Those experiences would be priceless.

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Don Quijote, Sancho Panza & Miguel de Cervantes

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The windmills of La Mancha

I enjoy experiencing different countries through their food, culture, traditions, etc.   It reminds me that we are not all that different from one another.   I had been studying the language, history and politics of Spain and Latin America since I was 14 years old.   I was more than ready to be fully immersed and gain experiences I could not get from a book, no matter how much I studied.   Everything was different:  the food, the language, the sounds, the smells… and I couldn’t have been happier.

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Las gambas at Mercado Boqueria
Random Street in Spain

My first stop was a little tapas place in Barcelona.   I knew Spanish food, or at least I thought I did back then.  There were the obligatory patatas bravas, croquetas and of course the tortilla espanola, but I was in Catalunya and the menu was written in Catalan, not Spanish…  

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