Chocolate Pudding Parfaits

When Death by Chocolate was declared the January theme for the Sweet Adventures Blog Hop, I couldn’t help but be enthusiastic. Chocolate is almost as good as having a blank canvas – it’s full of possibilities and potential.

My first instinct was to bake. But I had to be real and think about what I really wanted to make and eat on a warm Sydney night. Ice cream crossed my mind, but then I got all sentimental.

There are some things that you don’t realize you’ll miss until you don’t have them anymore. I’ll spare you a relevant song quote, but it’s true. I never would have thought I would miss the New York subway system or the Avenue A Key Foods, but there you are.

And then, there are some things that you anticipate missing. You know at some point in the future you won’t have this thing at your fingertips and you’ll be bummed out about it. Usually when this thought of missing something in the future crosses your mind, you are presently enjoying that very thing, minimizing the impact of the feeling.

Let me illustrate this rambling session with some examples of things from America that I have anticipated missing, that have now become well and truly missed:
– My friends
– My family
– Our E4th Street apartment
– Fresh-caught fish from my Dad
– Franks Red Hot Sauce
– Trader Joe’s
– Chipotle Tabasco Sauce
– Fudgesicles
– Whole Foods
– Tapeo 29, favorite date-night and boozy brunch spot
Jello pudding cups

I’ve always known the pudding would be an issue. The lack of chocolate pudding (or puddin’, if you prefer) in my life lately does not go unnoticed. This recipe (from fellow blog-hopper and former New Yorker, JJ at 84th & 3rd) is perfect. It’s simple, has a much better ingredient list than the Jello brand, and best of all: it tastes and feels just like the pudding I miss a little bit.

Don’t even get me started on the fact that pudding actually means something else entirely in Australian dessert language – I don’t want to talk about it. Not now. Now, we eat chocolate pudding, raspberry and hazelnut parfaits!

P.s. Thank you for kindly ignoring the fact that there are two different types of hot sauce on that condensed list. I have a problem.

Chocolate Pudding
Serves 4 (recipe adapted slightly from 84th & 3rd)
– 1/3 cup of cocoa powder
– 1/4 cup of sugar
– pinch sea salt
– 2 cups of milk, divided
– 2 tablespoons brewed espresso
– 1 tsp vanilla
– 2 Tbsp cornflour
Parfait layers (optional)
– Crushed cookie
– Chopped hazelnuts
– Frozen raspberries
– Toasted coconut

Place sugar, cocoa and salt into a medium saucepan and whisk together.

Whisk in 1/4 cup of the milk into the dry ingredients until smooth. Add another 1 1/2 cups of milk and the espresso, whisk to combine. Bring to a boil over medium low heat, then reduce immediately to a simmer.

Stir corn flour and vanilla into remaining 1/4 cup of milk until smooth, pour into simmering chocolate mixture and whisk gently for 4 1/2 minutes. Pudding will thicken further as it cools.

Pour hot pudding into a medium heat proof bowl. Refrigerate until cool.

Once cooled, make it a parfait by placing cookie, hazelnuts, toasted coconut and raspberries in the bottom of your serving cup and spooning the pudding over it. Create as many layers as you’d like or simply top off your glass with more of the same elements.

Other ideas for parfait layers:
– Sliced banana
– Whipped cream
– Ice cream
– Peanut Butter
– Chopped peppermint patties
– Granola
– Dried cherries
– Brownies

For more chocolatey goodness, head over to the Sweet Adventures Death by Chocolate Blog Hop page at the Hungry Australian.

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Crunchy, Savory and Sweet Spinach Salad

Truth: I eat a lot of salads.
Falsehood: All salads are delicious.
Truth: Honey mustard is a wonderful invention.
Falsehood: I eat salads just because they’re good for me.
Truth: Salads can be downright awesome with the perfect combination of textures, sweetness and salt.
Falsehood: Crispy apples, crunchy toasted walnuts, mellow chickpeas and caramelized shallots drizzled with honey mustard just don’t work together. (SO FALSE.)
Truth: I love tawdry historical fiction dramas with a strong female protagonist. …which is totally besides the point, I’m sorry. (Not sorry.)

I also love everything about this salad – the combination of the apple, raisins and honey mustard almost make it a dessert, while the spinach, walnuts and chickpeas bring it back to lunchtime. And the caramelized shallots – they’re just there for a dash of sex appeal.

The Ultimate Spinach Salad
(makes 2 meal-sized servings)

- A few large handfuls of spinach (Baby spinach works well. I had English spinach so I cut the leaves into small ribbons.)
– 1 cup of cooked chickpeas, rinsed well
– 1 apple, sliced thin (I used a gala apple)
– 2 tablespoons of raisins
– 2 tablespoons of toasted walnuts
– 1 shallot, sliced thin
– 2-3 tablespoons of honey mustard dressing (see below)
– salt&pepper, to taste

To toast walnuts: place nuts in a dry skillet over a medium heat, tossing occasionally until slightly browned and fragrant (3-5 minutes).

To caramelize shallots: Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over a medium heat. Add the shallot slices and a dash off salt and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking for another 10 minutes. They should become dark brown in color without burning.

Place all your ingredients (besides the dressing) in a large bow. Add the dressing slowly, tossing as you go. Serve immediately.

Honey Mustard Dressing
– 2 tablespoons of honey
– 2 teaspoons of mustard (I used 1 teaspoon of wholegrain and 1 teaspoon of Dijon)
– 1 tablespoon of olive oil
– 1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar

Place ingredients in a small jar with a lid and shake well.

Thai Red Curry Mussels

I totally wanted to be amazing and make my own curry paste for you. I really did. But it was a Sunday. What should have been a lazy day. But we spent this particular afternoon scurrying to the fish market, to the regular market and to celebratory engagement (!!) drinks for friends.

In order to restore the laziness balance of my weekend, I used some store-bought curry paste.

So yeah, I cheated and I kind of don’t regret it at all.

 

Mussels are one of my favorite meals. Eating them is an event – a snacktivity!

Sure, looking at the little mollusks at the seafood shop, they can seem a little intimidating. But they’re really friendly and totally laid back. I promise.

The truth is,  I made a deliciously spicy pot of mussels with a velvety coconut sauce. And it was super easy.

Do you want to do this? (And cheat a little bit?) Let’s do it.

 

Thai Red Curry Mussels
– 1 kg of mussels, scrubbed and debearded
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 1 medium yellow onion, diced
– 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
– 1 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh ginger
– 2-3 tablespoons red curry paste (depending on how much spice you like)
– 1 small red pepper/capsicum, diced
– 1 small green pepper/capsicum, diced
– 1 carrot, chopped into small bite-sized pieces
– 1 cup of coconut milk (I used light coconut milk)
– 1/2 – 3/4 cup of vegetable broth

In a large pot with a lid, heat olive oil over a medium high heat. Cook onions for 2 minutes before adding the garlic and ginger. Cook for 3 more minutes until garlic and ginger are fragrant and the onions are soft. Add the curry paste and cook for two minutes, stirring frequently and adding a little water if the pan is dry.

Add diced capsicum and carrots and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.

Pour in coconut milk and vegetable broth. (Use however much vegetable broth you’d like here. I used about 3/4 of a cup – it was just enough to make it soup-like, without making it too thin.) Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover – cooking for another 5 minutes.

Add mussels and cover again. After about 3-4 minutes, give the mussels a stir – some should be beginning to open. Cover again and cook for another 3-5 minutes. By now the steam should have opened all the mussels. If any mussels are still closed, discard them.

 

I served these over soba noodles, but you could serve them over rice or with some nice toasted bread – what ever gets you excited.

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Notes on dealing with mussels:
– Make sure you rinse and scrub your mussels well. You want them super clean because the shells will be mingling with your broth.
– Once you’ve scrubbed your mussels, discard any that have cracks in them or remain open after you handle them. (They should slowly close if you shake them around a bit – that means they are healthy and good to go.)
– Again, if any do not open after 10 minutes of steaming. Toss those too.

Fruit & Nut Chocolate Bark

I discovered Cadbury Fruit and Nut chocolate bars when I was 19 and in London for the first time.  I can almost remember the exact moment I went weak in the knees after I had my first bite of the dairy milk chocolate. I think it was in a tube station.

Something about that brand of chocolate in that city tastes far superior to the same type anywhere else.

…Maybe that’s why I love London so much. That would make a considerable amount of sense, actually.

Anyway, back to the chocolate treat at hand.

One of the suggested desserts in Bon Appetit’s Cleanse was a dark chocolate bark with pepitas and sesame seeds, which I made and really enjoyed.

(A bark is chocolate melted down, spread out in a thin layer and topped with nuts, candy, pretzels (!!!) – whatever you’d like.)

I decided to make a Cadbury-inspired fruit and nut bark — still cleanse-ish, but with a little nostalgia.

I added some crushed up toasted hazelnuts and walnuts, along with some dried cranberries and raisins and a sprinkling of sea salt. I love how thin and delicate the sheets of chocolate are in some places – it almost enhances the flavor of the chocolate itself and the other components at the same time. The sea salt doesn’t hurt either.

If you’ve got some extra plain chocolate lying around, make this with whatever you have in your cupboards. I put some toasted coconut in an earlier version which was lovely.

The point is to make it your own brand of awesome.

Fruit & Nut Chocolate Bark
– 150 grams/5.5 ounces of good quality dark chocolate
– 1-2 tablespoons of combined hazelnuts and walnuts, toasted and crushed into small pieces
– 1-2 tablespoons of combined dried cranberries and raisins.
– Sea salt (optional, but totally recommended!)

Chop up your chocolate into small pieces that will melt easily.

Make a double boiler by placing a stainless steel bowl over a saucepan with a few inches of boiling water in it (make sure the saucepan is smaller than the bowl, so the bowl comfortably rests on top without touching the boiling water.) Place chocolate in the bowl and melt, stirring frequently until smooth. Oh, and wear an oven mitt when you’re touching the bowl – that thing gets hot!

Using a heat-proof rubber spatula, spread the melted chocolate out onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Sprinkle with nuts, fruit and a little salt.

Let set in either the refrigerator or the freezer (I opt for the freezer because I’m impatient.) Once the chocolate is hard again, break into pieces and store in an air-tight container in the fridge.

Mexican Breakfast

Hopefully by now you are familiar with the amazing concept of the breakfast burrito.

Fluffy scrambled eggs, cheese, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, maybe a little cheeky chorizo up in there – all wrapped up in a big burrito. Did I mention you get to eat this for breakfast?

In the spirit of this great dish, along with a commitment to a healthy start to the new year – I made my own Mexican-themed breakfast*.

A corn and black bean hash: herb-flecked, spice-laced and veggie-packed with a little crunch for good measure, topped with a perfectly poached egg. This is in no way a replacement for the glorious brekkie burrito, but as a lady I like to have options. Mexican breakfast options.

*Not limited to breakfast time. Breakfast for dinner is a popular option in my kitchen. As is breakfast for lunch. Go nuts!

Mexican Black Bean and Corn Hash
Makes 4 servings

- 1 15.5 oz/440 gram can of black beans, rinsed
– 2 ears of corn, husks removed
– 1 small red onion, diced
– 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
– 1 small jalapeno, finely chopped
– 1 big handful of baby spinach
– 3/4 cup leftover roasted pumpkin or butternut squash, diced
– 1/2 teaspoon smokey paprika
– 1/2 teaspoon cumin
– 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
– Olive oil
– Salt & Pepper
– 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

For corn: In a large pot bring water, a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of sugar to a boil. Add corn and boil covered for about 5 minutes. Remove corn and let cool. Once cooled, cut the kernels off the cob with a large, sharp chef’s knife. I did this in a large bowl, while holding the ears of corn upright (this helps prevent corn kernels from flying all over the place.) Set kernels aside.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over a medium-high heat. Add onions and cook for about 2 minutes before adding the garlic and jalapenos. Cook an additional 2 minutes.

Add black beans, paprika, cumin and cayenne pepper to the skillet and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add a tablespoon or two of water if at any point the pan looks dry.

Stir in spinach until wilted. Add pumpkin, corn, salt and pepper (to taste) and stir well to combine.

Remove from heat and top with fresh cilantro.

Serve with an egg cooked in the style of your choosing. My favorite is poached. For advice on how to cook the perfect poached egg, see Elise at Simply Recipes – she’ll hook you up.

Dried Fruit, Carrot and Avocado Quinoa Salad with Cumin Lemon Dressing

I feel a little guilty that I have managed to dodge New York winter for the past two years. Rather than dwell on thoughts of bitter cold trudges to the subway and seeing close to zero daylight during the week, I’m going to talk about fruit in salads. That’s fair right?

I’m a big fan of the whole savory-sweet thing (I mean, chocolate-covered pretzels + me = true l.o.v.e.). Acting on this affinity, I have been making an effort to involve more fruits in my otherwise savory salads.

Besides finding mind-blowing complimenting flavor combinations, fruit in a salad adds a bit of  freshness and unexpected warmth to the dish. One could almost say it added a bit of summertime to a dish. One could almost say that…

It feels a little rebellious too, which I enjoy.

This quinoa salad is for my people in the Northern Hemisphere (or Southern too!) who might need a little pick-me-up with their wholegrains. A burst of sweetness against a zesty and smokey cumin-lemon dressing with a dash of salt is the perfect way to fake some sun.

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Dried Fruit, Carrot & Avocado Quinoa Salad with Lemon Cumin Dressing
Adapted from Fine Cooking. Makes 2 servings

- 1/2 cup red or white quinoa, rinsed well
- 1 tablespoon of dried cranberries
– 2 tablespoons dried apricots, thinly sliced
- 1 medium carrot, grated on a box grater
– 1/2 cup fresh coriander, chopped
– 1 medium ripe avocado, pitted, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
– 2 medium spring onions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
– 1-2 tablespoons pepitas
- 1 large lemon
– 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
– 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
– 1/4 tsp. sweet paprika
–  Salt & freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan bring 1 cup water, the 1/2 cup quinoa, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a boil over high heat. Cover and reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is translucent and tender, 10 to 15 minutes. (The outer germ rings of the grain will remain chewy and white. Some germ rings may separate from the grain and will look like white squiggles.) Immediately fluff the quinoa with a fork and place it in a large mixing bowl to cool.

In a small bowl, finely grate the zest from half the lemon and then squeeze 1 tablespoon of juice. Whisk in the olive oil, cumin, paprika, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Toss the dressing with the quinoa, cranberries, apricots, carrots, coriander, avocado, spring onions, and pepitas. Season to taste with salt and pepper, Can be served cold or at room temperature.

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Extra thoughts:
This would make a nice side for grilled chicken or fish. Or do what I did: add some leftover chickpeas and serve it over a big bed of baby spinach with an extra spritz of lemon for a lunch salad.

Avocado, Orange and Sweet Potato Salad with Miso Lime Dressing

Here’s another recipe adapted from Bon Appetit’s cleanse menu – I loved it even before I made it.

I couldn’t resist the uniqueness of avocado and oranges with a miso lime dressing. It all sounded so glamorous in a carefree, perfect salad sort of way. (Has anyone ever called a salad glamorous before? What am I?)

It’s a refreshing citrus-fueled party on a plate, as far as I’m concerned. The friendly sweetness of the sweet potatoes (my addition) and the mellow creaminess of the avocados against the salty/tangy miso lime dressing makes the whole salad a happy experience. Like I’ve just had a weekend away at a spa kind of happy experience.

Relaxed and feelin good.

I’ve made some variation of it 3 times now. I threw diced tofu in one version, and roasted pumpkin and pepitas in another.

This dressing has definitely earned itself a place in my rotation – I’m looking forward to finding a few more uses for it.

Salad
Makes 2 serves
– 1 orange, segmented
– 1/2 an avocado, cut into bite-sizes pieces
– 1 small (or 1/2 a large) sweet potato, roasted
– 3 large handfuls of baby spinach or arugula
– Toasted almonds, for sprinkling

Miso Lime Dressing
Makes 1 Cup
– 1/4 cup white miso paste
– 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
– 1 tablespoon honey
– 1/4 cup olive oil
– Zest and juice from 1 lime (plus more)
– 1/4 cup water

Put all ingredients in a jar, cover and shake. Chill for up to 1 week in an airtight container. To freshen the dressing after a few days, add a squeeze of lime or lemon juice.

Assemble salad and pour dressing on to taste.