Sunday, August 17, 2014

Chocolate Candied Orange Cannoli Jars With Drunken Cherries - Gluten Free Version

Remember my last post about the "classy" Steel City Roller Derby tailgate with 101 Achievements bloggers, Jenn and Michael? Jenn asked for the recipe for the dessert I brought along - Chocolate Candied Orange Cannoli Jars With Drunken Cherries. Glad to oblige, Jenn! 

Besides being an easy riff on cannolis, what I love about this super simple recipe is that it travels beautifully for picnics and tailgates. Screw the lid on the jar and go...unscrew the lid and enjoy! The other thing I love is that I get the taste and spirit of a cannoli without the gluten or bother of making cannoli shells!

There are lots of Steelers, college and high school football games coming up...maybe a new dessert for your very own tailgate this fall? Here ya go, Jenn!

Chocolate Candied Orange Cannoli Jars
with Drunken Cherries - Gluten Free Version

  • 7 Pamela's Chocolate Chocolate Chip cookies for the gluten free version (or another similar gluten FULL cookie, if gluten isn't an issue) - crumble 1 into dust and reserve to garnish the tops - you may need a few extra to accommodate for snacking
  • 8 oz ricotta cheese 
  • 8 oz mascarpone
  • 1/2 C powdered sugar
  • 1 t vanilla extract - the REAL stuff, not that imitation crap
  • 1/2 t cinnamon - I use Vietnamese cinnamon from Penzey' this kind
  • 1/3 C mini chocolate chips
  • 3 - 3" X 1" strips of candied orange peel, finely diced (see method below)
  • 24 Luxardo or Amarena cherries or homemade boozy cherries, drain well & patted dry - leave 6 whole and cut the rest in half (I use Fabbri Amarena cherries that I order from Amazon - keep these on hand for Manhattans, etc....or midnight snacking!)
  • 6 1/2 pint jelly jars

In a medium mixing bowl with an electric mixer, beat the ricotta, mascarpone, powdered sugar, vanilla and cinnamon until smooth. Gently fold in the mini chocolate chips and candied orange peel.

Assembly: In the bottom of each jelly jar crumble 1/2 a cookie, then a heaping tablespoon of cannoli filling, 3 cherry halves, then crumble the other 1/2 of the cookie, another heaping tablespoon of cannoli filling, then sprinkle lightly with cookie dust and press the whole cherry into the top firmly, but perkily standing out. Screw on the tops and pop into the fridge overnight. Serve the next day straight out of the jar!

Candied orange peel: First use your harp style veggie peeler to make 4 strips (3" x 1" approx - or the equivalent) from an orange - the orange part only, no white. Set aside. Then make a simple syrup of 1/2 C sugar and 1/2 C water. Bring to boil, stir to dissolve the sugar and reduce heat to a simmer. Add the orange peel and simmer several minutes. Turn off heat and let cool. Use the peel for the above recipe and use the orange simple syrup that's left for a cocktail!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Krak The Wall Punch For A Roller Derby Tailgate Kinda Evening

Fellow bloggers, Jenn and Michael of 101 Achievements fame, invited me to tag along at last Saturday night's roller derby bout. Pittsburgh's Steel City Roller Derby teams, the Steel Beemers and Steel Hurtin', skated against teams from Indianapolis in a dizzying, seesaw scoring battle...what a showstopper!

Funny enough, the first showstopper of the evening wasn't on the oval track at all, but started with a tailgate. Yep, the back parking lot of the Romp n Roll skate arena in Shaler was the site of our first ever, high faloutin', roller derby tailgate. The menu for such an auspicious event? What else would you serve, but derby themed cocktails. And a lovely charcuterie board. Of course.

Michael crafted a gorgeous pink number, a riff on a Pink Lady he named "Gritty In Pink," using tequila and cynar in place of gin. A lady it wasn't. Smooth with a swagger, sweet with a throat punch attitude and perfect for the occasion.

My own contribution was a little something I ended up naming Krak The Wall Punch. The odd name came from the use of Kraken rum, local Stone Wall rum (thank you Boyd & Blair) and (while not local, still a local favorite in Pittsburgh's Italian community and among craft bartenders here) Janamico Super Punch, an amaro. To that combo, I added a mint and jalapeno simple syrup and a hefty zip of lime. To quote the label of Super Punch, the cocktail was "refreshin."

Add to the cocktails Jenn's charcuterie board of fine meats, cheeses - I especially liked the one with volcano ash, gourmet mustards, a fine baguette, jellies and fruits and we had one classy ass, bang up, pre-derby feast. Oh...and I made a little dessert with layers of crushed chocolate cookies, cannoli cream and drunken Bing cherries in screw top jelly jars for a sweet ending before the derby began. What a fun and fabulous way to spend a summer Saturday night!

Krak The Wall Punch
4-6 servings 

  • 3/4 C Kraken rum
  • 1/2 C Stone Wall Rum
  • 1/4 C Janamico Super Punch
  • 6 oz jalapeno mint simple syrup - recipe below
  • 1/4 C freshly squeezed lime juice
  • crushed ice
  • lime wheel and mint sprig garnish for each cocktail

In a small pitcher, stir well the rums, Super Punch, jalapeno mint simple and lime juice. Fill glasses with crushed ice, pour the punch over and garnish each with a wheel of lime and sprig of mint.

Jalapeno Mint Simple Syrup: 1/2 C demerara sugar (find it in the sugar section of the grocery store), 1/2 C water, 6 nice sprigs of mint and 1/2 half of a LARGE jalapeno, sliced across into rounds. (If you like less heat, use less...if you like more heat, use more!) 

In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil, lower heat and simmer until the sugar is dissolved. Add the mint sprigs and jalapeno slices. Stir until the mint is wilted into the syrup and let the mixture cool completely. Strain the mixture into a jar and store in the refrigerator.

Roller derby action!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Triple Dilled Potato Salad...and Changes

Change is inevitable. Back at the beginning of the year, change was on my mind...only natural as the calendar flips to a new year, a new time, hopes for a new beginning. All change should be so kind, not all changes are.

In a post at the start of the year, I shared my husband's struggle with heart surgery, our wait for a heart transplant and our hopes and dreams for a beautiful 2014. Together with our daughters and grandchildren, we rode the highs and lows of that entire life-changing experience, finally with a successful(!) heart transplant on Mother's Day. 

A beautiful new heart in a beautiful man who wanted nothing more than to enjoy again the simple pleasures of home and independence. And he achieved just that. 

Mark grew stronger, was able to drive not just his car, but his treasured tractor (he DID have t-shirt that said, "The Lawn Ranger!). We grilled and smoked and even bought a new charcoal grill for the neighborhood get-together we were planning to thank our wonderful neighbors for all their help over 7 long months.

We got out and about and socialized with friends and family all around Pittsburgh and looked forward to ditching that 2-hour travel restriction and really getting back on the road again...Michigan to see the kids and grandkids, Maryland and the ocean, the bay and our beloved Baltimore and further still to South Carolina and long-missed family.

Then changes came 'round again. Suddenly. Quickly Mark was back in the hospital. Immunosuppressant drugs are both a miracle and a curse, the latter when infection strikes and no way to battle against it. A man who fought so bravely over so many months with such determination and an amazingly positive outlook, was felled in just a few hours.

And here I am again talking about change. And heartbreak and hope. Change, good or bad is inevitable. Change is just another part of life and life goes on, differently, but on. With sweet memories.

Triple Dilled Potato Salad

I made this variation on my standard potato salad for Mark just a couple of weeks ago. He loved it so much he asked for it again when our potato-salad-loving grandson came to visit from Michigan. Matt really likde it, too! 

  • 2 1/2 pounds Russet potatoes, cooked in their jackets, peeled, cut into medium dice
  • 4 hard boiled eggs, peeled, cut into small dice - save one for garnish 
  • 1 large celery stalk, cut into small dice
  • 1/2 medium onion, cut into small dice
  • 1 C Vlasic Zesty Dill Spears, cut into small dice (or use your favorite dills with a nice zip to them)
  • 1 T Jane's Crazy Salt
  • 1/2 t dill seed
  • 1/2 t celery seed
  • 2 T brown mustard
  • 3/4 C mayo (Hellman's, of course)
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1/4 C dill pickle juice from the jar - or more to taste
  • 1/4 C fresh dill fronds, minced - plus extra for garnish

In a large bowl, gently mix potatoes, eggs, Jane's Crazy Salt (Yes, you can use another seasoned salt, but why? Jane's is the best!), veggies and seeds.

Mix well the mustard, mayo, sugar & juice and pour over the potato mixture. Sprinkle the fresh dill over the top and gently fold the dressing into the potato salad. 

Transfer the salad to a serving bowl and garnish with a sliced egg and dill fronds. Cover & refrigerate until serving time.