Wow, mango IS better than apricot!

Last year I tried a new recipe from a Betty Crocker Christmas Cookies book from 2010 (you know, the little ones they sell right up by the cash registers at grocery stores. I’m a sucker for those). The Apricot-Chai Almond Bark recipe had a lot of potential, but it didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. The dried apricots made it rather bitter, and the almond topping ended up all over the other cookies and candies. Sadly, it was the only thing left when I took the cookie tray home from work.

This year I changed it up a bit and it turned out pretty good. In fact, I’m eating the little reject pieces for breakfast as I write this. Since the annual hunt for the hand-written gingerbread cookie recipe* every December is such a pain in the ass–I’m setting down this new recipe so I don’t forget it.

If you’d rather try the original recipe, here’s the link to it on the Betty Crocker site: Apricot-Chai Almond Bark

And here’s my take on it:

Mango-Chai Almond Bark

1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
24 oz vanilla-flavored candy coating (almond bark), chopped
1/4 cup mango nectar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup finely chopped dried mangos

  1. Sprinkle almonds in ungreased heavy skillet. Cook over medium heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently until nuts begin to brown, then stirring constantly until nuts are light brown. Cool 10 minutes. In food processor, process almonds and coconut until finely chopped; set aside.
  2. Line 15x10x1-inch pan with waxed paper. In medium microwavable bowl, microwave 12 oz of the candy coating on High 1 minute; stir. Microwave in 15-second intervals, stirring after each, until melted. Quickly stir in the almond and coconut mixture. Spread evenly in pan. Refrigerate 15 minutes or until set.
  3. In small bowl, mix mango nectar, cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, vanilla, lemon juice and lemon peel; set aside.
  4. In medium microwavable bowl, microwave remaining 12 oz candy coating on High 1 minute; stir. Microwave in 15-second intervals, stirring after each, until melted. Quickly stir in mango nectar mixture and dried mangos.
  5. Pour and spread over chilled bark. Refrigerate at least 1 hour. Cut diagonally into one-inch diamond-shaped pieces.

Makes approximately 48 servings

Variation: I changed up the measurement for the almonds from the original recipe because I had a lot of leftover unsweetened coconut from a birthday cake last month. I’m still not sure the inclusion of the coconut added anything or not (toasting it didn’t make much of a difference either), so next year I may change it back to 3/4 cup of almonds and leave the coconut out completely.

I also doubled this recipe for my cookies trays. Yes, it’s really that good now.
*Hopefully I’ll finally convert the measurements for the gingerbread cookies and get it added to my working cookbook so every time I want to make awesome gingerbread cookies I don’t have to hunt down that tiny slip of paper with the recipe my old pastry chef scribbled down for me.

Happy Easter. Let’s all eat Rabbit!

Tasty, tasty rabbit.

Elena Ferretti wrote an article titled “How to Cook an Easter Bunny”,  giving some great examples of why we should eat more rabbit.  First of all:

Rabbit is leaner than chicken, veal or turkey, with less fat and cholesterol. It has half the calories per pound compared to beef and pork and is the most easily digestible protein around. Since it’s both abundant and ubiquitous, low consumption has little to do with availability and lots to do with Thumper (a Cottontail) and Bugs (probably a Lop-Eared Gray.)”

See, that’s the problem.  Mention eating rabbit to my nieces, a coworker (hello Jenn), or even one of my baking instructors, and they’re appalled that you’re munching on cute, little fluffy bunnies.

Me? I love rabbit. I was even lucky enough to have rabbit as one of my ingredients in my Black Box final in culinary school (it’s a final with mystery ingredients, no recipes or cookbooks, and you have to use all your ingredients plus whatever random ones you find when you walk into class to make an appetizer, soup, main course, and dessert.  I made braised rabbit with a mustard sauce and it was AWESOME!).

And rabbit is healthy for other reasons as well.

Because rabbits mature fast they spend less time on earth than cows or pigs and have no time to accumulate toxins. They reproduce quickly and are grown without hormones or antibiotics. They can be entirely raised on alfalfa, clover or grass, making them a non-competitive species with humans – i.e. they don’t eat what we eat. Simply put, they’re very clean meat.

Rabbit is also delicious and no, it doesn’t taste like chicken. “It’s very delicate. I’d say the taste is closer to veal,” says Chef Emily Peterson who teaches at Astor Center in New York City….”

Unless you overcook it.  Then it tastes kinda like overcooked chicken that’s been sitting in the fridge for two weeks.

Braising is probably the easiest way to successfully prepare rabbit.  The article also links to a recipe for Rabbit Cacciatore, but there are so many more recipes out there. Many are from companies that sell rabbit meat, but there are quite few from people who raise their own rabbits, as well as the standard recipe sites. (scroll down for the actual recipes)

This is an individual recipe from the Reluctant Gourmet’s site.  I’m including him in my list because he has some great recipes.  Here’s the link to his recipe for Pan Roasted Rabbit.

Finally, because I’m a Texan, and we Texans have to cook our meat outside, here’s a recipe for Grilled Rabbit – coniglio marinato alla griglia (even though it’s from a Brit).

Now I need to go find me a rabbit.

Peppermint Popcorn

A friend stopped by my desk long enough to drop off a small bowl of seemingly stale popcorn today.  After she left, I tried it.  It wasn’t stale… it was covered in white chocolate with crushed peppermint candy dust… and it was amazing.

Her boss made it for the unlucky people who had to work today (unlike our department, most of them have Thanksgiving week off) and passed it around; and after a little pleading, I was sent the link to the recipe from the Make it Do website. It looked simple enough, so we stopped by the store on the way home for supplies and I threw together a batch.  It’s quick, very tasty, and I get to eat all of it because Steve won’t touch popcorn.

The only change I’ll make the next time is adding one more bag of popcorn to the batch.

Recipe: Homemade Pudding

I still had 12 egg yolks left from Memorial Day’s angel food cake, and Candy Pants has been bugging me about making pudding with it all week (yeah, so maybe I promised him pudding in a moment of weakness). I finally got around to making it last night; and even though I used my base recipe, there were so many little changes that I may never be able to reproduce it. But damn! It was fine chocolate pudding.

My base recipe for pudding and pastry cream is below (this is my first test of a recipe plugin for WP).

Recipe: Homemade Pudding


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 quart milk (use half and half or cream to make the pudding a little richer)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 2 1/2 oz cornstarch
  • 4 Tbsp butter (1/2 stick), sliced into thin little butter pats
  • 1 tsp vanilla


  1. Pour milk and 1/2 cup of sugar into a sauce pan.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together whole eggs, egg yolks, 1/2 cup of sugar, and cornstarch. Set the bowl aside.
  3. Heat the sauce pan with the milk and sugar mixture until it reaches 180 degrees F. (If you are using half and half or cream, you can let come to a boil, but be careful or it will boil over very quickly. If you are thinking about using fat free half and half or cream, please stick to instant pudding).
  4. Whisking continuously, slowly pour about 2 cups of the hot milk into the bowl with the egg mixture. Pour this back into the sauce pan with the hot milk, once again while whisking continuously.
  5. Return the pan to low heat and stir until thick (not quite pudding consistency). This usually doesn’t take very long.
  6. Remove pan from the heat and stir in vanilla.
  7. Add the butter pats in a few at a time, stir until melted and add next batch, continue until all the butter is added. Stir until the butter has melted and is completely combined.
  8. To chill, pour into a storage container and cover with plastic wrap, making sure that the wrap is touching the surface to keep condensation from forming. Let cool on a cooling rack until it’s cool enough to place in the fridge.


Banana Pudding: Line the bottom of a casserole dish with vanilla wafers. Spoon in a thin layer of the pudding. Add a layer of sliced bananas.  Add another thin layer of pudding. Repeat the cookie, pudding, banana, and pudding layers until you reach the top edge of the dish. Top with one more layer of cookies. (This is served at one of the several SCOTS performances every time they come through Austin.)

Chocolate Pudding: As soon as you remove the pudding from the heat, add the vanilla, butter, and 2 cups of semi sweet chocolate chips. Stir until the chocolate is melted. If you’re a chocolate snob, use the good stuff instead, just make sure it’s broken up into small pieces.


For this batch, the changes were either due to an excess of an ingredient and a shortage of others. Don’t forget, experimentation should be fun!

In this case, I had 12 yolks left from the cake. Doubling the recipe still only called for 8 yolks, but since we’re using the eggs as a thickener, and in this case the creamier the better, I just traded out two of the whole eggs for four yolks. I also used a combination of cream and water instead of milk. The rest of the base recipe stayed the same.

The big change was in making it chocolate pudding instead of vanilla. I had a bowl filled with the chocolate sauce from the dessert for the Memorial Day party (bittersweet chocolate, cream, sugar, corn syrup, cream liquor, vanilla) and two ounces of white chocolate left over from a Red Velvet Cake experiment. Since I wasn’t sure if it was enough chocolate, I also added in about two tablespoons of sifted powdered cocoa.

I’m afraid to calculate the calories on this one, so I just limit myself to three spoonfuls at time. This is one of those times that if you want to make it healthier, you can use 2% for the milk, but don’t go any lower; otherwise you might as well just make the crappy premade stuff.

The best way to make this less fattening is to eat less of it. Seriously, there’s no point in making it if you aren’t going to do it right.  A great example of how to make this healthier without sacrificing flavor is making the base recipe above, with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract (add at the same time you add the vanilla), and serving a small amount of the pudding with lots of berries and sliced fruit… maybe even some toasted almonds sprinkled on top.  That way there’s all the healthy stuff with just enough tasty pudding to make your eye roll up in the back of your head with orgasmic foodie delight.

If you try the recipe, please let me know what you think.

Microformatting by hRecipe.

PMS Cookies