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.

Musical Cookbooks

Flavorpill posted an article about their ten favorite Musical Cookbooks yesterday (recipe books by musicians), and after looking through it, I was disappointed to see only two cookbooks in their list that even sounded like something I’d add to my collection (Recipes to Sing About by Patti Labelle, and Hellbent for Cooking: The Heavy Metal Cookbook by Annick Giroux).  It’s not only a disappointing list, but it’s also missing the one musical cookbook that I’m excited about –  Music in the Kitchen: Favorite Recipes from Austin City Limits Performers by Glenda Facemire.

My husband, the music freak, has several contacts who make sure we know about anything new or interesting that comes through our favorite music store.  That’s how I was introduced to Music in the Kitchen.  I haven’t purchased it yet, but it’s next on the list (my book spending has been severely curtailed, so I actually have to be selective about which books I  purchase now, which sucks).

From the author’s site:

Working with ACL gave me the up-close and personal opportunity to meet many more gifted musicians. On occasion, if time allowed before the show, the artists and I would share a tête-à-tête. Yes, there have been several great stories, some legendary tales, countless jokes, and even showbiz gossip. I wish I could share, but what happens in the makeup chair stays in the makeup chair!

When it comes to cooking, I’m looking for the next great recipe. And when you can talk about cooking and sharing some recipes with some of the most amazing performing artists in music history, it doesn’t get any better than that. After many years of talking appetizers and barbecue and main dishes with the artists, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to share all this with the treasured fans of ACL?”

As soon as I bring this book home, I’ll post a review.  Or you can purchase it yourself at Waterloo Records in Austin (if you do, please leave me a copy).

Granny’s Recipes: Butterscotch Brownies

This is a family favorite.  I've written out the recipe exactly as she had it on one of her handwritten recipe cards (this was written when her handwriting started getting difficult to read).

Butterscotch Brownies

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup broken pecans
1/2 cup melted shortening
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla

Mix as listed.  Sift flour, baking powder & salt together.
Bake 30 minutes at 350 in greased 7 1/2 x 7 1/2 inch pan.  Cool.  Cut in 25 squares.  Roll in powdered sugar.

Note 1:  For some odd reason, the copy that we were given when I was young says "Heat oven to 340… Bake 27 minutes.  Do not over bake."  Maybe her oven ran hot or something and she forgot to correct for it when she gave the recipe out.

Note 2:  Not sure how to get 25 squares out of that size pan.  Standard slices are 9 if you like large brownies, and 16 if you like them normal.  The powdered sugar does make a difference, so don't forget to do it.  Just don't breathe in right as you bite into one.

Verdict:  My favorite brownie recipe.  It's quick, easy to put together with very little equipment, and it's nice when you need a break from all the chocolate brownie recipes.

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