Chocolate Pudding with a Kick

Spicy Chocolate Pudding
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen's recipe

Serves 2-3

2 ounces cornstarch

4 ounces sugar

pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups 2% milk

3 ounces chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used a variety of good quality chocolate: assortment of 60%, 70% and maybe a piece or two of 90% bittersweet; my current favorite chocolate makers are Taza, Scharffen Berger, and IKEA {who knew?!}).

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or powder (if you have it)

1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon ancho chile powder (varies depending on your heat preference)

1. Combine the cornstarch, sugar and salt in medium size bowl or double boiler. Slowly whisk in the milk, scraping the bottom and sides with a heatproof spatula to incorporate the dry ingredients. Place the bowl over gently simmering water and stir occasionally, scraping the bottom and sides. Use a whisk as necessary should lumps begin to form. After 15 to 20 minutes, when the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of the spoon, add the chocolate. Continue stirring for about 2 to 4 minutes, or until the pudding is smooth and thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract or powder and chile powder.

2. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer (or skip this step if you are absolutely certain that zero lumps exist in the pudding) into a serving bowl or into a large measuring cup with a spout and pour into individual serving dishes.

3. Place plastic wrap on top of the pudding and smooth it gently against the surface before refrigerating. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days.

DIY Boba Tea Recipe: Also Known As Bubble And Pearl Tea

This reminds me of tasting bubble tea (for the first time) from a cafe on Newbury Street in Boston.

via The Kitchn by Kathryn Hill on 10/8/09

Did you know that boba tea is really easy to make at home, and saves you a lot of money? I bet you didn't. It surprised me, too. I always thought it was something complicated that was best left to buying in a store, but I learned that it's as easy as boiling water!

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Apple Cake: Chocolate & Zucchini version

Because it is apple season, I wanted to make a simple apple cake and knew that this recipe from Chocolate & Zucchini would do the trick.  In Clotilde's version, she does not add cinnamon or nutmeg, but I used these ingredients because they pair so nicely with apples. It is probably important to point out that I slipped up and did not peel the apples -- this is why it pays to read a recipe several times over...I don't think the final result makes much of a difference though.


1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

a couple gratings of nutmeg

1 pound baking apples (Jonagold, Pippin, or Braeburn), about 2-3 medium

3/4 cup sugar

2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan or in a non-metallic bowl set in the microwave.  Grease a non-stick 8-inch round cake pan (not spring form) with 1 tablespoon of butter using a pastry brush or paper towel.

Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg in a small bowl.  Wash, peel, and core the apples. Cut them into eighths and arrange over the bottom of the pan.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the sugar with the eggs until fluffy.  Add the flour mixture and whisk until combined.  Add the melted butter and whisk again until blended.  Pour the batter evenly over the fruit and bake for 40 minutes, until the top is set and golden brown.

Let the cake settle on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.  Run a knife around the pan to loosen and flip the cake onto a plate; if any piece of fruit has stuck to the bottom of the pan (*mine did), scrape if off carefully and place it back on the cake where it belongs (*or just eat it!).  Flip the cake again onto a serving plate.  Let cool and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

*The cake can also be made with pears, quince, apricots, or nectarines.

Spicy Sausage & Vegetable Soup

Now that it is officially autumn in Chicago, this soup will be perfect on chilly nights.  To make the soup less spicy, substitute another mild Italian sausage link instead of the hot one.  You could also cut out the Hungarian pepper and use celery.

An interesting point to make is that all of the vegetables (except the spinach) came from the Green City Market.  Purple Haze carrots are a special variety that might not be found in other parts of the US, so feel free to use regular ole' plain orange carrots instead.

Instead of elbow pasta, orzo is a nice substitute.  Cook it in the same manner as you would the elbow.

The soup is on the thick side (as that is a personal preference) so it could be thinned with more water or chicken stock.

The Parmesan cheese rind is a special add-on as I think it just adds a little something extra.  Look for rinds in the cheese department of the grocery store; Whole Foods regularly sells them.  Store in the freezer wrapped in plastic.  

Spicy Sausage and Vegetable Soup 

Serves 4-6 or freeze leftovers

1 link mild Italian sausage, casing removed

1 link hot Italian sausage, casing removed

½ medium white onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, diced

3 small Purple Haze carrots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds

1 Hungarian sweet pepper & 1 red jalapeno (both are part of a pickled pepper creation in my refrigerator; can substitute a red bell pepper), chopped

½ bag fresh spinach (the rest of the spinach will be used for a pasta recipe)

10 ounces crushed canned tomatoes (mine had basil added)

2 cups water

2 cups chicken broth

1 bay leaf

1 small Parmesan cheese rind

½ cup elbow pasta

Salt and pepper to taste 

In medium sauce pot, brown the sausage, breaking it up in small pieces (not crumbles) as it cooks.  Remove the sausage from the pot with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to drain. Using the same pot with the sausage drippings, sauté the onion until tender.  Add garlic and sauté for three minutes. Add the vegetables, tomatoes, chicken broth, water, Parmesan rind, bay leaf, and sausage to the pot.  Stir in the pasta and add salt and pepper to taste.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer covered for 15-20 minutes or until the pasta is tender. Taste for seasonings.

For even better flavor, let it sit over night in the refrigerator.

Remove bay leaf and Parmesan rind. 

Serve with Parmesan cheese, crusty bread and a mixed green salad.


Xoco Photos & Favorites

At the corner of Clark & Illinois sits the newest restaurant to the Frontera family, Xoco.  Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I have sampled a variety of menu items and would recommend all of them.  Depending on the time of day there will be either be no line or one that reaches to the door.  The open kitchen creates a welcome distraction and a chance to see how the tortas or caldos (soups) are made.  Everything is a la minute...meaning, nothing is prepared ahead of time.  I like that each item that I order comes to my table individually rather than all at once.  Watch as the pastry station carefully crimps the empanadas or assembles fresh fruit tarts.  Smell the churros as they come out of the fryer.  Check out how each bean-to-cup of chocolate is hand created for a customer.

Go with an open mind and leave with a full stomach. This isn't your average torta stand.  


Aztec chocolate: fresh-ground chocolate, chile, water, all-spice; drinkable, hot but not scalding, poured table-side into a white ceramic mug; pure indulgence and satisfying and will be a welcomed treat come winter time
Churro: Mexican chocolate & sugar sprinkling; not overly fried and a perfect accompaniment to the bean to cup chocolate
Open-faced breakfast torta: gently poached egg, tomato broth, sprinkling of cilantro and jalapeno, black beans

Choriqueso torta: homemade chorizo, roasted poblanos, artisan Jack cheese on a roll toasted in a wood-burning oven with a side of tomatillo salsa 

Mexican chocolate cookie

More details & the full menu can be found here:

Tomato Confit

I know that I have posted several recipes with tomato as the main character, but now is the time to use it!  Tomato season will soon be over, and then all we will have for the winter will be sad grocery store varieties.....

With this method, tomatoes are slowly roasted with garlic, basil, and thyme and can be stored in the refrigerator whenever your taste buds are craving a bit of summer. Toss into egg dishes, sandwiches, and pasta. If you make your own pizza, these can be used in place of a sauce.  Last night, I toasted some ciabatta (leftover from the green heirloom tomato soup) in extra virgin olive oil, added a spread of goat cheese, a couple of these tomato halves, some arugula, and basil.  Very tasty!

PS: I am toying with the idea of making an heirloom ketchup, but that might be over the top.

Tomato Confit

Use as many plum tomatoes as you like, or as you can get your hands on. Exact proportions are not important.

Core tomatoes. Slice the plum tomatoes in half, the long way.

Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer, skin-side down, in a glass baking pan. Salt their faces lightly. Let them sit for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.

Add thyme springs and whole cloves of garlic to the tray. Add enough olive oil to cover the tomatoes.  I later added basil leaves during  the last hour of cooking.

Bake for 4 to 5 hours, or until much of the water has evaporated, and the tomatoes are plump, yet firm to the touch. 

Store the tomatoes under olive oil in the refrigerator for up to a month.