Welcome to my world!

I've developed a passion for cooking since childhood, but in the past six years, that passion has grown into a geeky obsession. I love cooking, baking, and most importantly, sharing the love of food with family and friends. I invite you along on my journey of food discovery and passion.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fatty happy

Ok, the title of the blog post is an homage to my friend Rachel that always says, "fatty happy" after eating something really good (and usually REALLY bad for you).  I was reminded of that phrase pretty much this entire weekend as I visited the area of my birth and also Chicago the last few days.  I really believe there are more pig out spots per capita in that area than anywhere else, at least pig out food that keep my inner (and outer) fatty happy.  So, while my hips and waistline are not grateful, my soul is.

The inner fatty got fed on Saturday with one of the most heavenly foods - cheese curds!  In particular, the ones at Rock Bottom Brewery.  They were breaded and fried, which is traditional, but they did those with an Italian-style breading and served with marinara, more like mozzarella sticks.  Have to say - they were AWESOME!  For the uninitiated, all a cheese curd really represents is a piece of cheese after the whey is drained but before being pressed into the familar block of cheese.  Fresh cheese curds are unlike most anything you've probably ever tasted - they are a fresh flavor and still have some of the whey on them so they squeak. 

One of the other activities in which I was able to participate was candy making.  Now, for those that know me, I am a candy making machine during the holiday season.  This was actually candy making for my cousin's wedding.  Her dad (my uncle) was helping to make the candy for the guest gift boxes.  I have to say, what we accomplished in 6 hours was nothing short of amazing - 125 cashew clusters, 200+ chocolate dipped pretzels, and 100 peanut butter cups.  I can't say the pb cups got completely finished, but they were close.  This was all done with 24 inches of counter space in the kitchen.  We used every available surface in the house - trays of candy were in the living room, on the kitchen table, on the stove, etc.  Quite a sight!!  That peanut butter filling is so good, I had to share the recipe.  It was a sheet of paper stuck in an old candy making cookbook, so I cannot give credit to any author, and we've literally used it for probably over a decade.

Almost Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
2 - 3 lbs melting chocolate (milk chocolate flavor is best)
1/4 cup light corn syrup (light color, not the dark color)
2 cups creamy peanut butter
1 cup butter, softened
1 lb powdered sugar
Candy cups (find at a craft store)

Peanut butter filling:
In a large mixing bowl, soften butter to room temperature.  Add corn syrup to butter and mix until well blended.  Add the peanut butter and mix until smooth.  Add powdered sugar about 1/2 cup at a time until all of the sugar is incorporated.  Set aside.

Prepping the chocolate cups:
Lay out the candy cups (they look like the waxed paper cup a real Reese's Peanut Butter Cup comes in) on waxed paper or butcher paper (this will allow easier clean-up).  This recipe should make about 50, but can vary by the size of the wrapper chosen.  Melt 1/2 lb of the chocolate in a double boiler over barely simmering water or in the microwave.  (I work in batches - it's easier to me that way).  Once melted, ladle or pour the melting chocolate in a zip-top plastic bag.  Snip the end of the bag with a scissors (do not make the hole too large).  Squeeze chocolate into the paper cup to cover bottom.  Tilt the paper cup to cover the bottom and about halfway up the side of the cup with the chocolate.  Set cups aside to cool.  Note: this is easier with a partner - one fills the cups with chocolate, the other tilts the cups.  If working alone, fill about 10 cups at a time, then tilt to spread the chocolate, and continue working until all cups are done. (Approximately half of the chocolate should be used to form the base layer of chocolate in the cups).

Filling the chocolate cups:
While the chocolate cups are cooling, scoop out teaspoon-size scoops of the peanut butter filling and lay on waxed paper.  Once the chocolate cups have cooled and hardened, place the filling in each cup and press with your fingers to flatten against the sides of the cup.  Continue filling until cups and filling used up.  Note: the amount of cups filled will vary by size of cups. 

Topping cups with chocolate:
Melt remaining chocolate (1 - 1 1/2 lbs) and add to new zip-top plastic bag.  Cut a corner of bag off  and fill cups to cover peanut butter filling.  Put enough chocolate to cover the filling and tilt cup to spread chocolate out.  Continue topping cups with chocolate.  You can top with thin or thick layers of chocolate to your preference and amount of chocolate remaining.  This should use a total of about 2 - 3 lbs of chocolate.

So, if I started a food business at the holidays and offered the following, which gets your vote?
1) Dakota Crunch
2) White chocolate pretzels with the "secret" ingredient
3) The almost Reese's PB cups

On Sunday, I had the fortune to have my Gramma cook for me while I was visiting her for Mother's Day.  We made steaks, salad, and those 'taters (aka "raw fries").  Definitely a pig-out moment!  I managed to finish out my Midwest trip last night with a gen-yooooo-wine Vienna Beef Chicago dog.  To the uninitiated, it's basically a full meal in a bun and covers all the food groups - bright green relish, mustard, celery salt, pickle, tomato, poppy seed bun, all-beef jumbo dog, sport peppers, and onions.  Frankly, some may think the "kitchen sink" approach to food is not appealing, and I can respect that, but it's really good.  Lots of tastes and textures.

While I didn't stick to my mission of cooking through my cookbooks, I did manage to try some new recipes and enjoy some classic Midwest cuisine in the process!  Fatty happy!

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