Friday, May 2, 2008

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Yum! Chocolate Dipped Strawberries. Sinfully good. So worth the calories. These are definitely my top guilty pleasure!

I just realized that Mother's Day is just a week away. What better way to say "I Love You" to mom than with some yummy Chocolate Dipped Strawberries? I don't know. I would certainly love them if I got some from my hubby or D. Anyway, I beat them to the punch. As it turns out, the chocolate dipped strawberry has been around for quite a while. In the beginning, the chocolate was combined with paraffin to make it smooth and to help it adhere to the berry. Now, they are really simple to make for any occasion or even for no occasion at all. But I thought it would be nice to make some for a mom even if that mom is me!

From the reading I have done about dipping strawberries, I learned that the best chocolate to melt for this purpose is chocolate chips! I would not have thought that. There are so many varieties available at local grocery stores you might have a problem choosing.

There is also a best practice technique to use when dipping the berries. The first step would be to purchase some large fresh berries, wash them and make sure you dry them completely. I rinsed them then patted them dry with paper towels and set them on my counter to dry really well. Apparently, if you have even a hint of liquid on them or on your utensils it would cause your chocolate to "seize up" or turn the entire mixture into a grainy mess. You don't want that!!

Once you have the clean, dry berries ready, then you can start melting your chocolate. I have always thought it was best to use a double boiler but the microwave is a good option if you don't own a double boiler. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chips using either the defrost setting or 10-percent power in the microwave. Use two to three minute increments until smooth.

Once your chocolate is melted and smooth you dip the strawberry into it, then give it a little shake as you withdraw it. This will fill in all the cracks and leave a nice, even line of chocolate at the base. When the strawberry is completely withdrawn from the chocolate, swirl it in a quick, clockwise motion to "spin" the dripping chocolate off.

Invert the hand, pointing the strawberry at the ceiling, to seal it and allow you to sprinkle other candies or toppings around the surface.

Cool covered strawberries on a sheet pan with wax paper. Keep them at a cool room temperature and try to dip them the same day you serve them.

You can always "double dip" them into different types of chocolate such as dark and milk or white and dark. The possibilities are endless. If you make these treats yourself at home, they are much less expensive than buying them at say Godiva Chocolate. I bought myself one very large yummy dipped strawberry at Godiva a year or two ago and it cost me about $8.00! Yikes!

Of course, you can also dip other types of fruit such as pineapple or orange slices or you could dip marshmallows or graham crackers but I am a purist. Only the berries for me!

The Creative Cook

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Italian Wedding Soup, I Vow it is Great!

I have eaten Italian Wedding soup at restaurants and have always wanted to make it myself. I wondered why it was called "Wedding Soup." I have been to many Italian weddings but they didn't serve this soup at them. I did a little research and found out that the term "wedding soup" is a mistranslation of the Italian language name, minestra maritata, which refers to the fact that green vegetables and meats go well together in the soup. Some form of minestra maritata was long popular in Toledo, Spain before pasta became an affordable commodity to most Spaniards, though the modern wedding soup is quite a bit lighter than the old Spanish form, which contained quite a few more meats than just the meatballs of modern American versions. I also learned that even in Italy when this soup is prepared today, they don't use many of the traditional meats because they are difficult to find and very expensive. Some of the recipes I came across also use shredded chicken in the soup. I didn't see the need for it but I'm sure it would be good, too. You can substitute endive, escarole, cabbage, lettuce, or kale for the spinach.

I used frozen spinach in the soup as well as a carton of prepared chicken broth (Nature's Promise brand). My soup is excellent. I just ate a bowl to taste-test it for you. I would think that if you used fresh spinach and home-made chicken stock, the soup would be even better! Enjoy.

Wedding Soup
Serves 6 to 8

1 quart chicken broth
2 cups water
1/2 cup pastina (tiny pasta)
3 teaspoons fresh parsley, chopped (divided use)
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1/2 pound spinach, chopped (if using frozen, be sure to squeeze it dry)
1/2 pound lean ground beef
3 eggs (divided use)
2 teaspoons Italian-flavored bread crumbs (I used organic and added my own Italian flavorings)
3 teaspoons grated Romano or Parmesan cheese, freshly grated if possible (divided use)
1 small onion, finely minced

In a soup pot, combine the chicken broth, water, pastina, 1 teaspoon parsley, carrot and spinach. Bring to a low boil. Meanwhile, make the meatballs that will go into the broth. Gently mix together the ground beef, 1 egg, bread crumbs, 1 teaspoon grated cheese, the remaining 2 teaspoons parsley and the onion.

Form tiny meatballs; you should have about 30 or so. Drop the meatballs into the boiling broth mixture and simmer until they are cooked through, about 10 to 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, beat the remaining 2 eggs. With a wooden spoon, stir the soup as you pour in the eggs. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 2 minutes. Serve with the rest of the grated cheese, if desired.

The Creative Cook