Comfort Foods and Indulgences

goatcheesecake.jpgI always take inspiration from the restaurants where I dine. It's fascinating to see what chefs create especially when it comes to dessert. Last summer I had the opportunity of visiting a number of D.C. Restaurants thanks to Destination DC. As soon as I visited Birch & Barley, run by husband and wife team Kyle Bailey and Tiffany MacIsaac, I was taken by the great food, but even more so by the baked goods and desserts, expertly created by pastry chef MacIsaac. A goat cheese cheesecake particularly stood out.

Until then I had never thought that goat cheese could even be turned into a dessert, but I was wrong. It was there that I had an amazing goat cheese cheesecake with balsamic syrup and cherry sorbet. It was tangy, just slightly sweet, refreshing, and palate-cleansing—all things I look for in dessert. I'm not much of an "only chocolate is dessert" kind of guy, so I always appreciate something different and unique. I knew then at that moment that I'd make my version of the recipe and here it is.

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squashrisotto.jpgWhen we first moved to Southern California, we thought we were in pretty good shape; turns out that “pretty good shape” is a relative phrase. Even the guy bagging our groceries knows his body fat percentage. In fact, the popular gym chain, 24 Hour Fitness (yes, they are open 24 hours a day), originated here. That pretty much says it all.

After a killer leg workout at the gym this past Sunday, we wanted to treat ourselves to a mega-carb meal. Since I had a butternut squash saved and had just purchased some fresh rosemary, I decided to make butternut squash risotto.

I prefer fresh rosemary to dried because its soft needles are much more redolent and its flavor is brighter. In this butternut squash risotto, it heightens the flavor of the squash and balances the pungent blue cheese.

I know some people don’t make risotto because it takes too long and the continuous stirring is tedious. Well, I’ll let you in on a secret: I’ve been making risotto for years, and I don’t stir it continuously.

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orangemango.jpgHave you ever had an Orange Julius? I seem to recall it being pretty popular in the 70's. Founded in Los Angeles, the juice bar chain (now part of Dairy Queen) makes a frothy kind of orange blender drink that is very refreshing, especially if you are running around town.

The first Orange Julius opened over 80 years ago and it was the official drink of the 1964 World's Fair in New York. The name comes from how people ordered the drink from the owner, Julius. "Gimme an orange, Julius!" The recipe was and still is secret but there are plenty of copycat recipes online. Some use milk, others include egg white. All of them generally have some combination of orange juice, ice and sugar.

Orange Julius makes a "Mango Julius" and while I've never tried it, I did come up with my own version. Mangoes have vitamin A, B and C and are an amazing feel-good fruit. Is it the color? The flavor? The nutritional benefits? I don't know. But I can't get enough of them! If you like orange juice first thing in the morning, try a mango orange smoothie it's delicious and invigorating. Personally I like a smoothie in the afternoon when I start slowing down a bit.

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bakedeggs.jpgThis was our breakfast Sunday morning.  Aren't they cute?  They were very, very good.  It's the whole egg and the toast combo all together in one nice package.

These are so easy to make and wouldn't they be splendid on a brunch buffet table?  The best part, you can easily make two, ten, a hundred, whatever your needs are at the moment. 

I think there are a lot of variations you could do nicely with this recipe, such as, swap out the Parmesan cheese with grated Gruyere or crumbled blue cheese to give a different taste.  Use feta and substitute oregano for the other herbs for a Greek flavor.

I used sourdough but I think this would also be nice with onion or brioche rolls as long as they are sturdy.

Any way you put these together, they will be great.

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chocicecreamThis is a super easy, super delicious chocolate ice cream. It uses just a few basic ingredients and does not require any special equipment. Sweetened condensed milk eliminates the need for eggs and sugar and carefully supervised custards.

The texture is incredible – smooth, silky, almost mousse-like. As always, use the best possible bittersweet chocolate – like Callebaut or Valrhona.

Eagle Brand’s website features several flavor variations (click for their recipes), but this one from Cook’s Country seems to have the best balance.

I’m planning to test some fruit versions soon!

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