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Monday, February 14, 2011

Chocolate Lava Cakes for Valentine's Day

Ghirardelli Chocolate Lava Cakes

Center:  1/2 bar (2 oz.) 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Cake:  Nonstick cooking spray
1 bar (4 oz.) 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar
8 Tbs. unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup cake flour
fresh raspberries and whipped cream for garnish

To make centers, melt chocolate and cream in double boiler.  Whisk gently to blend.  Refrigerate about 2 hours or until firm.  Form into 6 balls, refrigerate until needed.

To make cake, heat oven to 400 degree F. Spray six 4 oz. ramekins or custard cups with cooking spray.  Melt chocolate and butter in double boiler; whisk gently to blend.  With an electric mixter, whisk eggs, yolks, sugara and vanilla on high speed for about 5 minutes or until thick and light.  Fold melted chocolate mixture and flour into egg mixture just until combined.  Spoon cake batter into ramekins.  Place a chocolate ball in the middle of each ramekin.  Bake about 15 minutes or until cake is firm to the touch.  Let cakes sit out of the oven for about 5 minutes.  Run a small, sharp knife around the inside of each ramekin, place a plate on top, invert and remove ramekin.  Garnish with raspberries and a dollop of whipped cream and serve to your sweet, sweet Valentine at once.

Now You're Cookin',
Chef Alli

Sunday, February 13, 2011

5 Spice Pot Roast

Oh, for the love of a good pot roast -  beefy and tender, plopped onto a bed of creamy mashed potatoes and smothered with savory pan your mouth watering yet? 

Pot roast is the ultimate comfort food and my friend, Rich Bowers (otherwise known as Topeka's legendary Radio Rich!) whole-heartedly agrees. We often discuss "all things pot roast" when I am invited to be a guest on his radio program ( As a matter of fact, I still vividly remember the day that man nearly fell in a heap at my feet when I delivered him a pot roast and vegetables, still warm from the oven. Yes, I knew he would appreciate it, but I had no idea he would react in such a manner! All because of a warm pot roast and memories of Mom.....oh yes, the power of food.

From that day forward, each time I see Rich he never fails to ask "Hey, Chef Alli - do you have a pot roast in your purse?" This always make me smile because I wish (ALMOST as much as he does) that I could simply pop open my bag and POOF! a perfect pot roast would magically appear for him. Not that pot roast is hard to make, mind you, it just takes a little time and planning, and so far, neither I nor my purse has truly mastered the art of organized time management, but we're working on it.

Below is another of my tried-and-true pot roast recipes, this one created in honor of Valentine's Day 2011 - Food for Your Lover!  Yesterday, many of you enjoyed a sample of this 5 Spice Pot Roast over mashed potatoes when you stopped by Topeka Hy-Vee for my cooking demonstration on the sales floor - so glad you took time to talk "food" with me.

Chef Alli's 5 Spice Pot Roast
1 chuck roast, 2-3 lbs.
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, sliced
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
14 oz. can stewed tomatoes, with juice
2 heads garlic, cut in half crosswise (yes, 2 heads, not cloves)
1 tsp. five spice powder (at Hy-Vee, you'll find this in the Asian section)
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
3 bay leaves
2 tsp. sugar
2 cups dry red wine
4 cups chicken broth (substitute beef or vegetable, if you prefer)
1 batch prepared mashed potatoes

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Remove roast from refrigeration; season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper; let roast set for 30 minutes.

In a large enameled cast-iron casserole or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium high heat; sear roast until very nicely browned and crusty on all sides. Transfer roast to a plate. Add onion, carrots, and celery to same pot and cook over moderate heat until lightly browned, approx. 5-6 minutes. Add tomatoes, garlic, spices, sugar and wine; bring to a boil and cook this mixture until reduced by half, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of pot, approx. 5 minutes. Add beef broth and bring to a simmer; add roast and cover pot. Braise roast in oven for approx. 4 hours or until meat is very fork tender.

Transfer roast to a baking sheet. Strain liquid from stock pot, discarding fat that rises to the surface; boil over high heat, whisking often, until liquid is reduced to 1 cup thickened sauce, approx. 12-15 minutes.

Serve chunks of roast on serving plates over beds of creamy mashed potatoes, drizzled with sauce.

Happy Valentine's Day 2011!

Now You're Cookin',
Chef Alli


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Chocolate Dipped Cheesecake-Stuffed Strawberries

Prepared live with Dave, Amanda and Drew, WIBW 13 News Anchors, Thursday early morn, Feb. 10, 2011. Also sampled by Radio Rich and Friends while visiting on his radio program, mid morn same day!

Chocolate Dipped Cheesecake-Stuffed Strawberries
15 fresh large strawberries, washed and thoroughly dried
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
½ cup graham cracker crumbs
6 oz. dark chocolate

Slice off the stem of each strawberry; use a paring knife to scoop out a little bit of each berry to make a cavity in the center; set berries aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, confectioner’s sugar, and vanilla using an electric mixer; beat until smooth. Place this mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a medium tip and pipe cream cheese mixture into each strawberry, mounding a bit on top of each strawberry. (If pastry bag is not available, use a small spoon to fill strawberries.) As you work, place strawberries onto a wax paper-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs over cream cheese filling in each strawberry, for garnish.

In a small bowl, melt chocolate in microwave at full power, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted and smooth. Gently dip the bottom of each strawberry in the melted chocolate. Set on waxed paper to cool; refrigerate to set chocolate. Srawberries are best served within 6-8 hours of preparation.

Salty-Sweet Snack Mix
1 bag microwave family-size popcorn (not individual size), popped
2 handfuls small pretzel twists
1/2 pkg. almond bark, melted and stirred until smooth
M & M candies, red and pink, or your favorite chocolate candies (1/2 cup - 1 cup)

In a large mixing bowl, pour melted almond bark over popcorn and pretzels; stir to coat. Spread this mixture across a wax paper-lined baking sheet.  While mixture is still warm, sprinkle with M & M's for color.  Once mixture has cooled a bit, break apart into smaller chunks.  Once cooled, store in airtight container or bag into individual servings and give out as Valentine treats - you'll be a hit!

Baby Strawberry Chocolate Cream Puffs
1 box mini cream puffs, from the freezer section at Hy-Vee Grocer
fresh strawberries, sliced
milk chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips, placed into a baggie and melted

While cream puffs are still partially frozen, use a serrated knife to cut the top 1/3 of each cream puff off; set caps aside momentarily.  Place a strawberry slice over the bottom half of cream puff, then replace the cap from each cream puff over strawberry slice.  Use scissors to snip one corner from bag of warm melted chocolate; press chocolate from opened corner, drizzling over the top of each cream puff to garnish.  Chill if desired, before serving, or serve as is - yummy!

Happy Valentine's Day!  Cook for those you love - there's no better way to touch a heart.

Now You're Cookin,
Chef Alli