Saturday, February 22, 2014

Recipe: Cannoli Bites (and my attempt at home cheesemaking)

For my work team meetings, one member is responsible for bringing in a dairy product to share.  We taste the product and the person responsible has to say a few things about it or the company that makes it.  My turn comes up every eight months or so.  For the most part people bring in various types of cheeses.  Though I love cheese, it gets boring.  Last year around the holidays I brought in egg nog, even though I don't particularly like it.  I felt like it was a fitting product for the season.

This month I decided I didn't just want to bring in the product.  I wanted to make something with it.  So, I chose mascarpone cheese, a common ingredient in one off my favorite desserts; cannoli!  I opted to make the cannoli bites below because those would be easier to 'stuff 'on the spot.  During my research I also discovered that you can make mascarpone cheese at home pretty easily.  So, I decided to try it and see how it compared to the store bought kind.  My final consensus?  Though it was easy and cheaper to make it, I'd just buy it next time.  The cost savings isn't worth my time!  The cannoli bites were delicious though!

Here are some photos of my cheese making process:


Pouring into cheesecloth


Finished product

Cannoli Bites 

1 box Pillsbury® refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box                    
3 tablespoons turbinado sugar (raw sugar)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Heat oven to 425°F. On lightly floured work surface, unroll pie crusts. Sprinkle each crust with turbinado sugar and cinnamon. Lightly roll rolling pin over sugar and cinnamon to press into pastry. With 2 1/2- to 3-inch round cutter, cut out pastry rounds. Lightly press each pastry round into ungreased mini muffin cup.

Bake about 10 minutes or until pastry cups are golden brown. Cool completely in pans, about 15 minutes. Remove from muffin cups to cooling racks.

Cannoli Filling
12 oz whole milk Ricotta cheese, strained
8 oz Mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)

In a mixing bowl, using a rubber or silicone spatula, blend together Ricotta and Mascarpone cheese while running and pressing mixture along bottom of bowl to remove any lumps. Fold in powdered sugar. Cover and chill 30 minutes (or until ready to use).

Remove cannoli filling from refrigerator, transfer to a piping bag fitted with a tip (or you can use a large resealable bag and cut the tip of the end). Pipe filling into cups and sprinkle with chocolate chips and dust with powdered sugar. For best results serve within 2 hours. Store in refrigerator.

For the last part, I just used a spoon.  I also threw some chocolate chips into the filling mixture.

Friday, February 14, 2014

2014 Winter Olympics - Sochi, Russia

As is tradition, Mike and I welcomed the start of the Olympics with a meal and snacks similar to that of what people of the host country would enjoy.  I'm very unfamiliar with Russian food and really didn't know what to have.  I wanted to make something we would actually want to eat, had to have access to the food, and it couldn't be too time consuming to make since weeknight dinnertime is a little crazy now that there is a baby living in our house.  I asked for ideas on Facebook and was told that beef stroganoff is a Russian dish and that my coworker would share a crock pot recipe that she liked.  Perfect!  Through some Internet searching I discovered that a traditional appetizer for the Russians is marinated herring.  Well, Ma Baensch's is a local supplier of such a delicacy (grossness!) so that would be easy to come by.  I also read that baked apples are a common dessert.  Easy enough!  While at the store I found a jar of Russian Borscht and picked that up.  Mike was in charge of purchasing the alcohol; we got a selection of Baltika beer and a bottle of Russian standard vodka.  We were all set!!

My thoughts?  The beef stroganoff was pretty good and I have shared the recipe below. I enjoyed the borscht (basically, it's a beet soup.) but Mike said he had to choke his down.  The herring?  It's always been a common thing in my parents' house around the holidays and I never really tried it.  I did this time.  Yeah, still don't like it!  The baked apples were okay.  I didn't have a specific recipe as they were all about the same so I just winged it.  For a dessert it was just too healthy, but for an apple it was pretty good!  The beer wasn't anything to write home about.  As of this writing I had only tried two different 'flavors' and didn't love either.  In fact, I don't think I finished either.  We did a shot of vodka and that wasn't too bad.  Vodka doesn't taste like much so I'm not sure how to tell if it was good or bad vodka.  The bottle is almost gone as Mike has been making White Russians for the last week so it must not be too bad.

I really do love our tradition but it's not as exciting when the foods are hard to come by or just not in our flavor palate.  I'm looking forward to the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro but know that we will struggle with South Korea and Japan.  I'm not eating anything that is still alive!

Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff


2  pounds beef stew meat 
1  cup chopped onion  
1  can (10 3/4 ounces) condensed golden mushroom soup 
1  can (10 3/4 ounces) condensed cream of onion soup                 
1  jar (6 ounces) Green Giant® sliced mushrooms, drained                   
1/4  teaspoon pepper                  
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, cubed                
1 container (8 ounces) sour cream                 
6 cups hot cooked noodles or rice 


  • In 3 1/2- to 4 1/2-quart slow cooker, mix beef, onion, soups, mushrooms and pepper.
  • Cover and cook on low heat setting 8 to 10 hours or until beef is very tender.
  • Stir cream cheese into beef mixture until melted. Stir sour cream into beef mixture. Serve over noodles.