Advertisements

Blog Archives

Premium Nut Butter Toffee

Today we had the first rain storm of the season, an excellent herald to tomorrow’s autumnal equinox.  With such downpour, we stayed inside with the fireplace stoked and the gutters’ staccato providing background music.  Zach was inspired to make a treat that’s perfect to nibble on while curled up on a lazy day.

premium nut butter toffee

premium nut butter toffee

Makes over 3 lbs. of toffee

1 lb. of butter

2 cups of vanilla’d sugar

1 cup of unsalted, roasted almonds with the skin on

1 cup of unsalted, roasted cashews

1 cup of unsalted, roasted macadamias

1 cup of unsalted, pecans

1/4 cup of corn syrup

1 tbs. of vanilla extract

1/8 tsp. of freshly grated cinnamon

1/8 tsp. of freshly grated nutmeg

bubbling butter

bubbling butter

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, aluminum foil, or a Silpat.  Combine the butter, sugar, and corn syrup in a large thick-bottomed and thick-sided pot.  Heat over medium heat to melt the butter, and stir a few as it melts at first just to make sure everything is well combined.  Also at this time, set up a candy thermometer.

ready

ready

Cook until it reaches 291-294 degrees F.  The ideal temperature for making this candy is 299-300 degrees F, but even after you remove it from heat, it will still cook a little longer with the residual heat of the pot.

keep an eye on the thermometer

keep an eye on the thermometer

Once it’s reached 291-294 degrees F, remove from heat and stir in the nuts, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

spread

spread

Pour onto the lined sheet pan and spread out with a spatula.  Let cool for at least 2 hours before breaking into pieces.

Advertisements

Picante, Berkeley CA

Mondays are the toughest night to find a restaurant open for dinner.  It’s even tougher for those with special diets, like vegan or gluten-free.  Any diner, special diet or not, can rest easier knowing there is a delicious Mexican restaurant in the East Bay that caters to all clientele – AND it’s open on Monday nights!  Picante in Berkeley is open seven days a week with extended hours on the weekends for brunch, so you’re bienvenido no matter what day it is.

tostada salad with manchamanteles

tostada salad with manchamanteles

August was recently working with some of her students on compound words, and manchamanteles is one of them.  It’s a style of meat called “tablecloth stainer” because the sauce of the chicken will surely make the linens dingy.  The tostada salad can come meatless and even gluten-free if you request it without the tostadas, even though it would no longer be a tostada salad if you didn’t have the fried tortillas; without the meat and tostadas, though, it would be one of the healthiest, most nutrient-packed items on the menu.  We love our vegetarian friends, but for ourselves, we had to try the special manchamanteles.  The sauce is made with a grilled pineapple red mole, so there was a deep earthiness from the array of chiles used, plus a mild sweetness from the caramelization of the pineapple.  Chunky pico de gallo had its own tomato-based tangy acidity, and the cabbage also was faintly sweet.  All together, those three elements on the sweet side fooled the palate into thinking it was a lighter meal than it really was.  In reality, it was super filling and beyond satisfying.  Fresh, crunchy greens, locally made Mexican-style cheese, and stewed and lightly spiced black beans completed this salad.  There was enough going on that we didn’t need the dressing, but it added a delightfully fresh bite.

sopa de mariscos

sopa de mariscos

Ordering is done at the counter before you seat yourself, and we asked our cashier lady what she would recommend.  August had already been eying the sopa de mariscos, so when the cashier said it was good, that finalized our decision.  There was a little bit of heat, but it wasn’t uncomfortable (although it may be for the timid).  At least the heat didn’t travel past the mouth, making our faces flush or throats burn.  Beyond the heat, it was a very rich broth with intense seafood flavor, tangy tomato, and a slight buttery quality.  Hunks of tender rockfish swam with lots of clams, mussels, and prawns, and it was a pleasant surprise that all the shellfish was very clean as well as fresh – prepared well, there was no hidden sand to grind our teeth.  That would be an unwanted texture, while the carrots, onions, celery, and potatoes were cooked just right so that they retained a touch of their natural textures.  With the fog coating this part of the Bay tonight, it was a wonderful way to warm up.

pork chile verde

pork chile verde

While ordering at the counter, we chanced an encounter with the manager, who offered us samples of different meats.  They all tasted great, but the pork chile verde was one of the most impressive.  It must have been intuition that that was the third item we ordered, before trying the meat samples.  The pork was fork tender, almost to the point of melting in your mouth.  Its sauce was made with tomatillo and Anaheim chile, marrying the flavors with the perfect balance to enhance the meat without overtaking the plate.  On the side came rice cooked with tomato, garlic, onion, and mild spices, and Zach called it “spot on with flavors.”  The pinto beans were both salty and smoky; the flavors were basic, but extremely well done for what they were.  Between the beans, rice, and pork sauce, this dish required the use of tortillas for sopping.  One of Picante’s claims to fame is their corn tortillas – GMO-free corn is used daily to make masa for the restaurant’s housemade tortillas.

The GMO-free corn goes into the tortillas as well as chips and masa for other dishes, so eat those corn-based items without worry.  For diners who appreciate in-house, scratch cooking, this restaurant will meet or exceed your expectations.  If you really love the food, catering is available for your next fiesta.  Picante nos place and we bet you’ll be pleased, too.

C.R.E.A.M., Berkeley CA

c.r.e.a.m 025

Oh, college towns.  They can be the source of some very imaginative late-night eats.  A few short blocks south of UC Berkeley on (in)famous Telegraph is C.R.E.A.M., or Cookies Rule Everything Around Me.  Most nights they are open until midnight, fueled by student cravings.  Choose from around twenty flavors of frozen treats (not all are traditional ice cream, because a few are vegan with soy) to be scooped and squished between seventeen types of scratch-made cookies served hot or cold, including vegan and gluten-free options.  If you don’t like fresh warm cookies you could go for brownie or fruit bar sandwiches, but we asked the shift leader for recommendations and she made us some pretty stellar sandwiches.

strawberry ice cream with white chocolate macadamia nut cookies

strawberry ice cream with white chocolate macadamia nut cookies

The strawberry ice cream had a refreshing, real flavor – not too sweet, yet not too tart.  The two white chocolate macadamia nut cookies were packed with white chocolate and a fair amount of macadamias for the nut lovers.

mint chocolate chip ice cream with chocolate chip and double chocolate chip cookies

mint chocolate chip ice cream with chocolate chip and double chocolate chip cookies

There was a double effect with this ice cream: a cooling sensation from the mint, and a literal coolness from the cold ice cream. Plus, you get added richness in flavor and texture from cream and chocolate chunks.  The amount of chocolate would but a fanatic in a frenzy.

vegan style: soy cherry chip ice cream with tuxedo and banana walnut chocolate chip cookies

vegan style: soy cherry chip ice cream with tuxedo and banana walnut chocolate chip cookies

We were both shocked at the good flavor of this ice soy (well, there is no cream).  We couldn’t really tell from the flavor that it was vegan because it was rich and tasty with real cherry chunks, but Zach noted that the texture was just a little lighter than traditional ice cream.  For being vegan cookies, Zach the pastry chef couldn’t tell the difference from regular butter-based cookies, so kudos on the recipe.

coffee blast ice cream with snickerdoodle and turtle cookies

coffee blast ice cream with snickerdoodle and turtle cookies

The coffee blast ice cream is true to its name, a definite blast of deep coffee flavor that was not overly sweetened.  This could have tasted like a mocha, but we’re glad it didn’t.  Chocolate, caramel, and cinnamon all go well with coffee, so the snickerdoodle and turtle cookies were great with this ice cream.

banana fudge walnut ice cream with butter sugar and oatmeal raisin cookies

banana fudge walnut ice cream with butter sugar and oatmeal raisin cookies

Real bananas were used to flavor this ice cream marbled with gooey fudge stripes.  The walnuts did well to draw in the oatmeal raisin cookie, making this like a fruity, nutty, trail mix ice cream sandwich. The oatmeal raisin cookie was a little chewy and soft while the butter sugar cookie was crumbly, providing many texture layers in one bite.

If you come prepared with cash, you’ll be rewarded with a discount of $2 per regular sandwich; they are $2.50 with credit card, gluten free sandwiches are $3.49, and vegan ones are $3.74.  If you have any nut allergies, don’t fear, just let your sandwich maker know when you get to the counter and there is a specific procedure to make your goodies. There are only two tables and a total of eight seats if you count the bench outside, and the line seems to be forever long, so be prepared to stand.  Soon there will be another location by Stanford, but Cal grads and fans will always be able to claim that it was theirs first.  Go Bears, and Go C.R.E.A.M.!