Chocolate Yogurt Mousse

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My sister recently told me about a dessert she often serves to company. It’s a chocolate mousse made with Greek yogurt. The original recipe came from Maria Speck, Food 52. To serve, the mousse is topped with orange marmalade.

The purpose of my making this mousse was two-fold. Firstly, I wanted to try out the recipe, since it’s obviously beloved. But secondly, I wanted to attempt to duplicate the dessert my mother and I shared at a restaurant, that I mentioned in my previous post. It was a chocolate dirt pudding – chocolate mousse topped with crumbled cookies and served with mint chocolate ice cream, except we had them leave off the ice cream.

The mousse was so intriguing to me because it tasted like a chocolate mousse folded with sour cream or creme fraiche. Turns out, it could have been yogurt. In my memory, the mousse was so similar to this recipe.

The key to this recipe is using a good dark chocolate. Also, my sister suggests that if you don’t want a liqueur included, to use some kind of extract as a substitute.

Greek Yogurt Chocolate Mousse
Serves 4

6 ounces (170g) good-quality dark chocolate with 70% cacao, finely chopped
1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk
1 tablespoon or 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, or other good-quality orange liqueur
1 cup (240ml) whole Greek yogurt
4 teaspoons orange marmalade

Place the chocolate into a medium heatproof bowl. In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the milk just to a boil over medium heat. Pour the hot milk over the chocolate and leave it to sit for 1 to 2 minutes.


Stir with a spatula or a wooden spoon until you have a smooth ganache.

In a small bowl, beat the Greek yogurt with a small whisk or a fork until smooth.

Fold the yogurt into the chocolate mixture using a spatula until thoroughly combined, then stir in the tablespoon of Grand Marnier.
If you like a boozy dessert, add the second tablespoon.


Spoon the mousse into four small serving cups and chill until firm, or up to a day ahead, covered with plastic wrap.

To serve, spoon a teaspoon of marmalade onto each serving. It was truly a magical combination. I added whipped cream, but that did nothing for me.

My sister told me not to bother to use raspberries; they get lost in the strong chocolate flavor. During the summer, she uses peaches tossed with rose water as a topping. Lovely.

Now, on to the chocolate dirt pudding. I added scoops of mint chocolate ice cream to the chilled mousse, and sprinkled crumbled Colpa Degno cookies over the top.

Wow. Let me first say that I’m not a huge fan of mint chocolate ice cream. However, this dessert was out of this world.

My husband’s favorite sweet flavor combination is mint and chocolate, so he was really happy with my blogging experiment.

There is just something about this mousse! With the yogurt, it’s thick and chocolatey, but not overly sweet. And with the crumbled cookies, it was outstanding.

 

Greek Yogurt Chocolate Mousse

Serves 4
6 ounces (170g) good-quality dark chocolate with 70% cacao, finely chopped
1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk
1 tablespoon or 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, or other good-quality orange liquor
1 cup (240ml) whole Greek yogurt (2% is also okay, but don’t use nonfat)
4 teaspoons orange marmalade

Place the chocolate into a medium heatproof bowl. In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the milk just to a boil over medium heat. Pour the hot milk over the chocolate and leave it to sit for 1 to 2 minutes.

Stir with a spatula or a wooden spoon until you have a smooth ganache.

In a small bowl, beat the Greek yogurt with a small whisk or a fork until smooth. Fold the yogurt into the chocolate mixture using a spatula until thoroughly combined, then stir in the tablespoon of Grand Marnier.

If you like a boozy dessert, add the second tablespoon.

Spoon the mousse into four small serving cups and chill until firm, at least one hour, or up to a day ahead, covered with plastic wrap.

To serve, spoon a teaspoon of marmalade onto each serving.

Chicken Shawarma

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After eyeing a beautiful, drool-worthy photo of lamb shawarma on a blog one day, shown below, I so wanted to make it, except for the fact that my husband won’t eat lamb.

So I searched the same blog, Recipe Tin Eats, for chicken shawarma and found a recipe I knew we’d both love.

It is Nagi’s recipe, who lives in Sydney, Australia, although she was born in Japan. I’ve enjoyed her blog for a few years now; her recipes are always fresh and innovative. Nagi also has the cutest dog, Dozer, who makes his appearance in every blog post.

Shawarma is Middle Eastern in origin, and refers to beef, lamb, chicken, or veal, grilled on a vertical spit that rotates.

If you’ve ever been to a döner kebob spot, you’re familiar with a close shawarma cousin. Similarly, the meat is sliced and placed on flatbread, sometimes offered with cucumber and tomato, or even hummus.

Except that shawarma is more about this lucious, spicy marinade that coats the raw meat and crusts up when the meat is grilled.

Why I never made any kind of shawarma at home before now is beyond me.

Chicken Shawarma
Slightly adapted from Recipe Tin Eats

2 pounds chicken thighs (I used breasts)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons smoky paprika
1 teaspoon ground cayenne
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon finely ground pepper

Slice the chicken into uniformly-thick pieces and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and stir well. Yes, I’ve never used a tablespoon of ground cardamom in a dish before either, but don’t hesitate. Use it!


Add the chicken and make sure all of the pieces are coated. Place the chicken and marinade in a large zip-lock bag and refrigerate for 1 or 2 days.

Ideally the chicken should be grilled outside on a barbecue, but on this day I used my indoor stove-top grill.

Bring the chicken to close to room temperature. Grill the chicken until just done; you don’t want the meat dry, especially if you’re also using chicken breasts.


To serve, set out the platter of grilled chicken, flatbreads, hummus, sliced tomatoes, and cucumbers.


You don’t have to add all of the “goodies,” but I do!

I made a parsley-laden tabbouleh, and also served a “salad” of tomatoes and cucumbers.

Nagi included a yogurt sauce on her same blog post for chicken shawarma, and I preferred it over the hummus.


Yogurt Sauce

1 cup Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Squeeze of lemon
Salt
Pepper

Whisk together the yogurt with the garlic, cumin, and lemon. Season with salt and pepper, and serve at room temperature.


I even made a quick pickled radish condiment for the shawarma, but it wasn’t really necessary.

For this feast, I had to share with friends, so I served all of the dishes buffet-style, and friends created their own shawarma. It’s so similar to serving fajitas!

Everyone had a good time. I served a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir which went perfectly with the chicken and other Middle Eastern flavors.

Yogurt and Chèvre Cheesecake

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Before you get too excited, I must warn you that this cheesecake is not for dessert! I have made sweet cheesecakes with chèvre before, and they’re fabulous, but this one is classified as a savory first course – perfect for a holiday meal.

I had a recipe once for something similar, but for the life of me I can’t find it anywhere. I’d made it for a party I catered, and it really confused people. They just weren’t too sure what to do with it, even though I’d sliced it up into thin wedges, which I thought made it obvious. Some people stuck crackers in it, treating it like a dip, and I can’t remember what else occurred. I’ve probably blocked it for psychological reasons. Sometimes it’s an anthropological study watching people eat at parties. Which reminds me, I’m really glad I don’t cater any longer.

But back to this cheesecake. I was inspired by Chobani’s #MadeWithChobani project to create a yogurt-based recipe. And immediately this recipe came to mind, although I ended up creating one out of thin air.

As with all yogurt with which I want to cook or bake, even Greek yogurt, I first placed the 32 ounces of yogurt into a paper towel-lined colander placed in a large bowl.
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I then let it sit in the refrigerator overnight, or about 8 hours. About 1/2 cup of whey came out of the yogurt, which you can keep to use in cooking. Yogurt can certainly be used as is, but I prefer the more yogurt cheese-like texture for cooking and baking.

This cheesecake “batter” can be mixed with basil pesto or sun-dried tomato pesto for completely different flavors. In fact, they can be layered for a really Christmassy look. But I wanted the yogurt texture and the chèvre flavor to really shine in this simple, yet stunning appetizer.

There was no payment or any kind of compensation for my use of the Chobani yogurt. I’ve purchased it many times and it’s a quality product. And you can participate in this project as well!

Yogurt and Chèvre Cheesecake

2 tablespoons butter
Approximately 1/3 cup bread crumbs
12 ounces Chobani plain yogurt cheese (see above), at room temperature, made from Greek yogurt
8 ounces chèvre or other creamy goat cheese, at room temperature
1 egg
2 egg yolks
Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

For this cheesecake, I used a shallow, oven-proof baking dish, with an 8″ base. I didn’t want a really thick cheesecake because they’re more challenging to bake properly, and a small slice is all you need for an this appetizer.

Start by melting the butter in the dish using the microwave.
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My bread crumbs were made by processing a piece of French bread, with the crusts mostly removed. I toasted them in a skillet just until golden.


Tilt the dish all around to get the butter all around the sides and bottom. Then add the bread crumbs and do the same. There should just be a light coating of crumbs; set aside.

Using an electric mixer, mix the yogurt cheese, the goat cheese, eggs, and salt until smooth.

Carefully place the yogurt cheese mixture into the dish, smoothing the top.

Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 325 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes. At this point test the cheesecake to make sure it has baked thoroughly. If it needs a few more minutes, just turn off the oven and let it sit for about ten minutes more. It should be slightly firm, and not wiggle in the middle.
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Then remove the cheesecake from the oven and let cool slightly and set.
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When you’re ready to serve the cheesecake, carefully cut into wedges. I served this particular cheesecake with a salad of greens with blackberries and toasted walnuts. The dressing was orange oil and balsamic vinegar. I also added a generous sprinkling of salt.
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You will notice that this cheesecake has a slight mealiness to it. But unlike a poorly, overcooked cheesecake that becomes horribly mealy, this texture instead is from the yogurt cheese. It’s also still important not to overcook this version, just like all cheesecakes.

I hope you all enjoy this savory twist on a cheesecake, and from my family to yours, Merry Christmas!!!

Peach Sauce

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I actually made this peach sauce in the early part of September, back when ripe peaches were abundant and fragrant. But I don’t think it’s inappropriate to post about this peach sauce in October, because the sauce is quite versatile. It can be kept refrigerated for an indefinite period of time, so it’s very handy for whenever you want to use it. It’s simply a peach-based sauce. I call it a sauce because it’s thicker than a syrup, but not as sweet and thick as a jam.

I really had nothing in mind except pancakes when I made the peach sauce. I love real maple syrup, but there’s nothing like a not-too-sweet syrup based on fruit. When I cooked for my children, I made many varieties of my own syrup, because that way, like with everything else home-made, you can control the ingredients. Ingredients like honey or agave nectar instead of too much white sugar and corn syrup. Plus, there are no additives and nothing unnatural.

But then I had company in mid-September – yes, I’ve had lots of company of late – and I thought of making yogurt parfaits for breakfast, using this sauce.

I find it challenging to figure out what to serve overnight guests for breakfast. Some friends of mine I can simply hand a yogurt to as they leave, but other guests expect something a little nicer from me. Plus, there are the egg people, the no-carb people, the bacon people, the smoked salmon people, and so forth. Sometimes I just want to wake up before my guests, have my Nespresso espressos, and pull something I’ve made ahead of time out of the fridge.

So that’s when I decided to make yogurt parfaits, using the peach sauce. I made yogurt parfaits for all the guests I had at the house the weekend of my daughter’s wedding. They seemed to be a big hit, so that’s what I’m making again.

I was inspired by a photo I saw once in a magazine of a yogurt parfait served in a trifle bowl. It was beautiful to look at, but you need a lot of company for that preparation. But a yogurt parfait served in an individual dish is also beautiful, so that’s what I’m doing again.

Peach Sauce

4 peaches
1/2 cup sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

Peel the peaches, then place them in a pot. Add sugar and lemon juice.sauce

Add a few drops of water, then cover the pot with a lid, and cook gently until you can see steam coming out of the pot. At that point, remove the lid. Stir the peaches well, then simmer over low heat until most all of the liquid evaporates.

sauce1

sauce2

Let the peaches cool, then run them through a food processor using the disc with the largest holes. You are just trying to remove the peels, for the most part.

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This is what the “sauce” will look like.
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If you prefer, you can use a funnel and keep it in a bottle and place in the refrigerator.

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To make the yogurt parfaits, simply layer the peach sauce in between yogurt, granola, and fresh fruits. If you make them a day ahead, the granola softens a bit, but I don’t mind that at all.

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note: Of course, you can add more sugar if you want a more syrupy sauce. I just personally don’t like anything that sweet. Especially for breakfast.

Coeur à la Crème

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First of all, Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you who celebrate it! May you all be with your loved ones today and share a special meal and bottle of wine or two!

I usually don’t go in for cheesiness in the kitchen, pardon the pun. It’s probably because I’m not creative enough to think of cheesy things to do. (Although I have been known to put on quite a children’s Halloween party in the old days!) But it’s just not like me to make everything heart-shaped just because it’s February.

This is my one exception, however, because it’s already heart-shaped! So I can make and serve this, blaming it all on the white porcelain ramekin in the shape of a heart. After all, Coeur à la Crème means heart of cream – this is roughly translated. So it’s really meant to be heart-shaped.

And, it’s really good. There are many different ways to make this dessert, using marscapone or cream cheese, farmers’ cheese, ricotta, or cottage cheese, and even yogurt. Here is my delicious version:

Coeur à la Crème

1 – 17.6 ounce carton Fage 2% Greek yogurt*
8 ounces cream cheese
5 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Empty the carton of yogurt into a colander lined with cheesecloth or paper towels. Let it sit for 4 – 6 hours. You will notice that a significant amount of liquid has strained from the yogurt. That’s why this step is important before you begin with the recipe.

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When the yogurt has strained, place it in a medium bowl. Add the remaining ingredients.

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Slowly at first, using an electric mixer, mix up the cheese until smooth. Scrape down the bowl once and keep mixing. It should take about 5 minutes. Taste the cheese and make sure you like the flavor. I like it a bit off-sweet. If you prefer it sweeter, add a little more powdered sugar.

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Wet about a 20″ square piece of muslin or cheesecloth and wring it out very well. Then lay it over the ramekin and form it into the heart shape. Gently place the cheese into the ramekin.

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Smooth it out on top, and tap it a few times to make it settle.

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Wrap up the ramekin with the overflowing cheesecloth, then set the ramekin on a plate lined with paper towels. Cover the ramekin with a paper towel, and then put everything in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.

coeur

When you are close to being ready to serve, unfold the cheesecloth from the ramekin, then turn the Coeur upside down on a serving plate, and finish removing the cheesecloth.

coeur4

If you like, smooth out the cheese with a knife. Personally, I like the texture the cheesecloth makes on the cheese. Let the cheese warm a little before serving with your sauce of choice, whether it be fruit-based, or chocolate.

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If you’re interested, my sauce is made from strawberries and apricots. I made it last year to layer in individual breakfast yogurt parfaits I made for my friend, for people staying at her house. It was made simply by cooking strawberries and apricots together with a little sugar and lemon juice. It was not sweet like a jam, but sweetened nonetheless. I had a frozen jar left over, so I thawed it, pureed and strained the sauce, and served it with the Coeur à la crème. It was perfect, and I love the color!

* If you wanted to be really decadent, use goat’s milk yogurt – but it will require more time straining.

note: Besides vanilla extract, there are many choices for flavoring. Citrus zest can be used, different extracts, as well as liqueurs such as Chambord or Grand Marnier. It’s all a matter of taste, and what you’re serving your Coeur à la Crème with, sauce-wise!