Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Avocado Pit Heads

I believe in love at first sight. That's exactly how it was when I saw these Avocado Pit Faces of Doom on ThatsNerdalicious.com. It's so simple, maximum creepiness for minimal effort. Peel off the brown skin, carve away and let the magic begin. I used a small paring knife for most of the cuts and a vegetable peeler to gouge out the eyes.  The peeler has a serrated side and that's fun for making dotted lines by pressing just the points in. Before he got overly brown, the one above to the right, with the cross on his face, looked more like a stitched rag doll. 

I didn't want just a few, I wanted an army, but I didn't want a battalion's worth of guacamole all at once. So how long will these guys keep while slowly amassing your troops? I kept mine for a few months and I'm sure they would've lasted many more as long as I kept them in fresh water. 

So let us look at the aging process.  The guy on the left had his picture taken shorty after carving, all his cuts and gouges have turned a lovely red-orange. The guy on the right had his picture taken the next day, you can see where he's starting to brown outside the cuts and gouges. 

Below is a sad picture. The guy on the left was put in water after a few days, you can see how much the brown coloring has spread.  The guy on the right was not put in water and shriveled up into a hard dark pit. 

Lets look at the very first picture again.  You can see the first guy, lower middle, isn't looking too well.  I don't know if you can tell, but he almost looks bruised or starting to rot.  He's actually not, he's discolored quite a bit, but still firm, no decay.  He's also about 2 months old in this picture, which isn't too shabby in pit years, but he's definitely showing his age. He's not that much older than some of the others, the difference is they were put in water soon after the cuts changed to that lovely orange hue and were kept there most of the time. The others vary from a week to about 6 weeks old, except for the one at the bottom far left.  He was carved minutes before this picture was taken. 

They can be displayed like this on dry land, but soak them often enough to keep them from drying out. These guys spent most of the time in water, that I periodically changed out. If you don't have time to carve them or want to carve them all at once, keep the pits in water until you are ready to use them.  Soaking also makes peeling the brown skin off a breeze.

Here's a couple more guys. Sometimes letting them dry out a bit adds character.  In the picture on the left, the far left pit has just been carved and the one next to him has been drying out for two days.  The right-hand picture shows them a day later. I drilled a hole through the guy on the right. Maybe when he's completely dry I'll make something out of him.    

 And here are some of the lads performing as a potion jar.  To get them all to face outward was tricky. I used pieces of toothpicks to hold two or three together and that made placing them in the right direction a lot easier.

Now I can't let an avocado pit go without carving it, it's too much fun.  An added bonus is that even bad avocados aren't a total waste, you can still make one of these.

The best thing I've ever made with an avocado is Granny Vrany's Guacamole.  This recipe was given to me by a co-worker many lifetimes ago, and it's my favorite guac.  I think I recall the first four ingredients being muddled together. Sorry Granny Vrany if somewhere along the line I got lazy and took liberties with your recipe.  I've also made it with a little fresh garlic and that is quite tasty too. 

Granny Vrany’s Guacamole

2 Serrano peppers, minced
1/2 Poblano pepper, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 Tablespoon cilantro
2 tablespoons onion, minced
1 vine ripened tomato, diced
2 avocados, diced
1/2 lime

Mix together all ingredients except avocado and lime. Fold in avocado and sprinkle with lime juice. Serve immediately. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Alien Fish Eggs With Spittlebug Froth Recipe

If you want to make a recipe for effect this is a good one.  If you enjoy having guests somewhat fearfully ask, "What's in this?" out of the side of their mouths because they haven't fully committed to swallowing yet, then this is definitely the recipe for you.

I happen to like the odd texture of pearl tapioca and the flavor of instant pistachio pudding, with it's unearthly green hue, that tastes nothing like pistachios. I also happen to know that quite a lot of people don't care for one, the other or both.  So I think it's genius to combine the two for optimal taste bud disturbtion. 

I've been eating tapioca since I was kid and I've never questioned what the hell it is.  Turns out it comes from the highly toxic cassava plant. Here's an interesting article aptly named Tapioca and Cyanide. Not to worry tapioca pearls aren't toxic, but you don't have to tell your guests that. 

About the name, my children don't like it, they thought it should be Ogre Snot.  I don't think its very snot like, but it is very terrestrial caviar like.  I know this because I've seen both terrestrials and caviar in the movies. I am open to suggestions for a better name, but I believe fish eggs, which sounds better than caviar by the way, does a good job preparing the palate for the tapioca.  Alien explains the green and spittlebug froth explains the whip cream texture.

I tried finding a better name, but that led me down a dark path.  Which brings us to the subject of ovipositor sex toys. That's a thing. I didn't know that, maybe you didn't either, but now you do.  Now neither of us can ever un-know that. Kitten Boheme has a very thorough, well written review if you still want to know more. 

There's a nice label at fantasyjr.com if you are camp Ogre Snot. Otherwise if you are camp Alien Fish Eggs with Spittlebug Froth (doesn't that just roll off the tongue), here's my label. Fonts are Chiller (MS Office) and Billy Argel Font by Billy Argel

Most of the recipe is straight off a package of Reese Large Pearl Tapioca and Jell-O Instant Pudding and Pie Filling. I used gelatin to stabilize the whipped cream because I made this a couple days in advance, you could skip this and just whip the cream with vanilla and sugar.  What else can you do with tapioca pearls besides eating it? Left dry it makes good looking spider eggs or added to water it makes icky looking potions, you can spot a few from our latest craft party

Alien Fish Eggs with Spittlebug Froth
(Pistachio Tapioca Pudding with Whipped Cream)

1/4 cup large pearl tapioca
2 cups whole milk, divided
1 - 3.4 oz. pkg pistachio instant pudding

1/2 teaspoon gelatin 
1 tablespoon cold water
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons fine sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
gel food coloring (it's hard to see in the picture but I used teal.  I liked the blueish green with the pale green of the pudding, although I think orange would have made a nice contrast.) 

Chill glass bowl and whisk beater in freezer for whipping cream.

In another bowl, soak tapioca in 1 cup of room temperature water overnight and then drain. (I cheated and only soaked it for 4 hours and it cooked up fine, but I'm not legally responsible for what happens with your tapioca.)

In a double boiler*, heat 1 cup milk just until no longer cold.  Add tapioca.  Continue heating until small bubbles appear at sides of pan.  Cover, turn heat to very low and cook for one hour. Make sure that milk mixture does not simmer or boil. Remove from heat and let cool.

Beat pudding mix into 1 cup cold milk in bowl with wire whisk for 2 minutes. Stir in tapioca mixture.

For stabilized whipped cream, bloom gelatin in water, then microwave for a few seconds until melted. Beat cream in the chilled glass bowl until it thickens. Gradually add sugar and then vanilla and one or two drops of coloring gel. Add the melted gelatin and beat to stiff peaks.

Lightly fold whipped cream into pudding mixture, you want them to remain relatively separate.

Because this was such a weird recipe, I kept the servings small to encourage people to try it.  I used clear 1oz glasses, with mini plastic spoons. Some people get really excited about mini spoons. Just saying...

*I don't have a double boiler.  I keep saying I don't need one, limited kitchen storage, and then I keep doing these recipes that call for one.  So here's my two part double boiler tapioca hack: 

Even though I don't have a double boiler, I do have a small crock pot. Maybe I should get rid of the crock pot I don't use and get a double boiler, but that would make too much sense. It's so small it doesn't even have an on/off temperature control knob, it just plugs in.  The reason I used a crock pot is because the large tapioca needs to cook at a low temp for an hour and I felt I would be less likely to screw things up this way. So the crock pot is great for keeping things at a nice low temp, but first everything needs to be properly heated up. 

Actually first I needed to figure out how much water I needed in the crock pot.  I started with a cup, set my glass bowl on top and then I wiped up the overflow. I really didn't think a cup would be too much, glad I thought to test this first and not when I was working with hot water.  I dumped out a little more so the water wouldn't be touching the bowl and transferred the water to a microwave safe cup.

To heat the ingredients, I started out with a pan of water on the stove, using the same glass bowl over it, which is Pyrex by the way. Once the small bubbles started to appear, I microwaved the crock pot water to boiling. 

I poured the boiling water into the crock pot, set the glass bowl of tapioca on top and covered it.  The crock pot lid fit the bowl also, but any heat safe lid would do.  I stirred a couple of times, otherwise I left it alone for an hour and it was perfect. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Pomegranate Pie Brains

Tiffany as she is called by her loyal subjects.
In the beginning two young ladies forged the Pomegranate Princess from the ashes of humanity, or maybe it was scraps from the craft bin. Anyway, it was decreed that there would be a great feast of pomegranate pie to celebrate her arrival. But alas, in all the kingdoms, in all the worlds, in all the search engines there was nary a recipe to be found. So the wise old witch, who didn't eat children because she was a vegetarian, promised the fair maidens there would be pie. And with a gnashing of her terrible teeth and rolling of her terrible eyes, she toiled and troubled over her bubbling cauldron and there was pie and the pie was good. On the seventh day, or maybe it was just the next day, everyone in the land of the Pomegranate Princess rested and ate leftover pie.

Only picture in existence of elusive Pom Brain Pie.

In honor of these two ladies and their penchant for everything pomegranate I took things one step further and used the recipe to make individual brain pies for the annual Halloween craft party. I suppose any juice could be substituted if you are not a pomegranate fanatic.

The pomegranate pie is a compilation of slightly modified recipes.  The  ganache and graham cracker crust recipes from JoyOfBaking.com and the POM Panna Cotta recipe from SimplyWonderful.com. This recipe for brains is the same as the original 9 inch pomegranate pie, just divided into individual hungry zombie sized portions.  Broken up into individual servings it comes out to 18 brains and 12 mini pie crusts.  Like hot dogs and buns. You could make just 12 brains and use the leftover in a large brain mold.  I'm lazy when it comes to fussing with food, so after 12 I'm done. You could try to make 18 thinner crusts, but I think they would be hard to work with, so I've noted the quantities needed to make 18 mini crusts in parenthesis.

I used the Wilton Brain and Eye Cookie Candy mold.  I do believe Wilton is finally grasping the insurmountable need for brains because I did see a mold at Michaels that was just brains. It was just the one, sitting all by its lonesome, but I swear I saw it. I can't find any proof online to back me up, but I'm not going crazy, I know what I saw.


Pomegranate Pie Brains

9 inch pie Crust or 12 individual crusts:
3.5 Belvita Golden Oat packs (14 biscuits) crushed*
5 Tablespoons melted butter
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

* Can substitute 1.5 cups of graham crackers crumbs, but I think they taste like cardboard.

(for 18 mini crusts: 21 Belvita Golden Oat biscuits or 2 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs, 7 1/2 tablespoons melted butter, 3 tablespoons granulated sugar)

2 oz chocolate, chopped
3 Tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 Tablespoon butter

(for 18 mini crusts: 3 oz chocolate, 4 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream, 3/4 tablespoon butter)

Pie Filling:
1 cup pomegranate juice
1 cup heavy cream, divided
½ granulated sugar
1 envelope gelatin
Cooking spray (I prefer coconut oil spray)

Optional: pomegranate arils for garnish

Individual Pie Crusts:
Butter a muffin pan or use cupcake liners. In a large bowl, mix together the cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Divide the mixture between each muffin cup, approximately one heaping tablespoon, and press down onto the bottom of the tin. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator. 

In a small glass bowl microwave the butter just until melted 10-15 seconds. Add the chocolate and cream and microwave until the cream is heated about 20 seconds. Gently stir until smooth.

Divide equally into each muffin cup, approximately 1/2 tablespoon and spread to completely cover the cracker crust. Freeze until set and then remove from pan. These can be made ahead of time, just wrap and freeze.

Pie Filling:
Chill a glass bowl and whisk beater in the freezer in preparation for whipping cream. Spray molds with cooking spray.

Bloom gelatin in 2.5 tablespoons of cold water in a small container. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, bring ½ cup cream and sugar to a scald over medium low heat, then remove from heat. Once the gelatin has absorbed the water, melt it in the microwave, approximately 20 seconds. Whisk melted gelatin into the cream making sure it is completely dissolved.

Transfer the cream mixture into a large bowl. Chill the bowl in an ice bath or the refrigerator, stirring gently every five minutes until the cream is cool to the touch.

Add the cold pomegranate juice to the gelatin mixture and stir until completely homogeneous.

Whip the additional ½ cup cream until it holds peaks, fold into the pomegranate mixture. Spoon into molds and refrigerate.

To assemble: If you froze the crusts allow them to thaw in the refrigerator. Do not assemble until right before serving. If you used cupcake liners remove them, and lay out the crusts. To release the molds I use a thin paring knife to lift up a small section of the edge. I find this is enough to get it to release nicely. You could use the method of setting the mold in hot water for a few seconds, but I never have luck with that. Lay a brain on each crust and serve.