Mad honeycomb candy

Thank you again to those of you who have reached out with encouragement and understanding!  Yes, the blog is definitely proving to be a cathartic writing experience, marrying stories and food and everything in between.  We are nearly at the very peak of tax season now so this is about as stressful as it will get.  Compared to last year, I am noticing that while we are working on a lot more projects that are deadline driven, our communication as a team has improved greatly.

We have to celebrate small victories!

Now if only this mini-cold can let go of me.  I must have gotten it from Anna, who probably caught it at school or at the pool.  Thankfully, she’s feeling better and I’m at that in between stage of… I’ll either feel better, or feel much worse by the end of the day.  The magic of Karpathian honey is helping me for sure… spoonfuls at a time.  Having no signs fever helps, especially since I’m heading up to Boston later this week to help Michael with work.  I’ll definitely get to see snow this weekend, even if it’s from our busy office!

Speaking of honey… there are so many varieties and for those who use it often I’m sure you’ve developed a flavor that you enjoy.  For example, Anna will gobble down clover honey sticks right before a race, but those are more for fun.  She actually likes the classic “teddy bear” honey.  Hello, Anna?  We have the best honey produced from our land that is floral and delicious, yet she’ll take the teddy bear that has so little flavor.  I admit buying the clover honey sticks online at Amazon since Anna and her swim friends fuel on those during swim meets (thanks Amanda for suggesting honey stix to me!).  But there’s something unique about enjoying tea with a spoonful of honey that is from a place you know…

Honeycombs (melissia) stored on our olive grove in Stes.

The Karpathian honey from our land is called “thimarisio,” which is from thyme and wildflowers.  It’s rich in color and flavor with a gentle tang.  It’s part of my private stash here in the kitchen… just like the Karpathian salt and olive oil, the honey is also hard for me to share.  I wish I could just bring more with me.  Generally, the way you can test pure honey is with a spoon… I love doing this, it’s mesmerizing!  Just lift a spoon slowly up from the honey until there is a single thin line.  It will get thinner and thinner as you pull the spoon higher.  If the flow is steady, the honey is pure.  If it separates or drags then it’s been mixed with sugar.

Ahhhh, my happy place! I need the inspiration these days 🙂

So, one of my favorite fun recipes that I enjoy doing on my own and with Anna (kids love this!) is honeycomb candy, or sponge candy.  You can make this with maple syrup too, but good honey works the best I think.  Easy and fun to make, honeycomb treats are tasty and fun to share!

MAD HONEYCOMB CANDY

Prep time: 5 minutes  – Cook time:  10 minutes –  Yields:  1 batch of candy

Ingredients

1.5 cups of sugar

1/3 cup of dark corn syrup

1/3 cup of your favorite honey

1/3 cup of water

2 tsp of baking soda, SIFTED into a small bowl (have this ready before you start)

4 oz of semi-sweet chocolate, melted (optional for coating)

Directions

Have a lightly greased baking sheet ready on the counter.

Over low heat, combine the sugar, corn syrup, honey, and water in a large saucepan.  Using a wooden spoon, stir constantly until the sugar is completely dissolved in the mixture.  Place a candy thermometer in the mixture (affixing it on the side of the pot to secure it) and increase the heat slightly.  The mixture should boil at about 270F.  LOWER HEAT as soon as the temp is 270F.

The key here is to maintain the temp at 270F so this  means lowering the heat as much as possible.  At this point you don’t have to keep stirring… just maintain the temp at 270F for about 13 minutes.  Keep a watchful eye on the thermometer.

Once 13 minutes are up, be ready to stir quickly as you can as you toss into the mixture the baking soda.  This will look like a science experiment!  The more you stir fast the more the mixture will bubble!  Take off from the heat and IMMEDIATELY spread the hot liquid onto the baking sheet.  BE CAREFUL and don’t let kids do this part as the mixture will be super hot and can cause some serious burns if not handled correctly.

Mad honeycomb candy with chocolate coating. You can see it is darker because the honey is a deep caramel color

When the mixture is spread out, let it cool until hard to the touch.  Break apart with your hands.  Once completely cooled, you can dip one of the flat sides into the chocolate.  Yummy!

 

 

 

tuesday motivation meal: mad chicken parmesan

Wham!  Tax season reality is certainly setting in quickly.  It’s amazing what two days can do in terms of workload.  We’re already busy with incoming clients now that e-filing has officially begun.  The best part is that the new clients coming in are overall the right ones for our business, making it that much more rewarding to see.

I’m tweaking our marketing efforts just a bit, and it seems we’re in really good shape to take on the season!  We’re really excited for the new interns that will be helping us this year.  And I can’t wait for my new computer to come in, finally, which will be faster that this laptop.

I also heard from my good friend Zoe out in San Francisco… her mom snail mailed some our old photos and I hadn’t seen them in so long.  We are both laughing so much.  Since we didn’t have them when I wrote the original post with Zoe and our culinary adventures with empanadas… we’re sharing a classic one here.  I don’t want these to be misplaced again!

Since it is Mardi Gras this photo is timely! Zoe and I at the IBM dance for families. I remember we both didn’t want to pose for that photo!

This time of year challenges me not only to discipline myself making meals for one or the two of us (when Anna is home), but also to find the time to cook food in a a healthy and tasty way.  One of the mad cafe’s favorite meals is chicken parmesan.

I’m sure this is a classic for many families, whether they enjoy this dish in a restaurant or at home.  Since this is heavy on sauce and cheese, I try to make it a little bit lighter.

 

 

MAD CHICKEN PARMESAN

Prep time: 20 minutes  Cooking time:  45 minutes  Yields:  4-6 servings

Ingredients

4 chicken breasts

It may be odd to substitute part of the panko with hemp seeds, but it gives the Chicken Parm really good texture and flavor

1 jar of spicy marinara (make your own, or your favorite brand)

3-4 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 cup panko bread crumbs

1/2 cup hemp seeds

4 oz fresh parsley, chopped

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp cayenne pepper

2 eggs, beaten in a bowl

2/3 cup shredded mozarella, part-skim

1/2 cup shredded Parmegiano cheese

Salt and Pepper

1 box of pasta, we prefer penne or ditalini – you can opt for whole grain… (to me it tastes like cardboard, so I go for the real thing!)

Directions

Preheat the oven 350F

Mix the whole wheat flour with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper in a bowl.  Also, mix the panko and hemp seeds in another bowl.

Wash the chicken breasts, dry with paper towels and lay flat on a glass or non-porous cutting board.  With a sharp knife, carefully cut the breasts horizontally – in half.  Dredge each breast in the flour mixture.  Next, dip into the beaten egg, and then coat well with the panko and hemp seeds.  Repeat the process for each chicken breast and set on a platter.

In a skillet heat the olive oil and cook the breasts just enough to turn lightly brown on each side.  Remove and set aside on paper towels.

Meanwhile, make the pasta.  Opt for al dente about 5-7 minutes of boiling in a pot with 1tbsp of olive oil and salt.  Drain.  Mix the pasta with the minced garlic and half of the spicy marinara and layer evenly in an oven safe dish.

Lay the chicken breasts on top of the pasta layer.  Add the rest of the sauce to cover the chicken.  You don’t have to drench it in sauce, just enough to cover it somewhat.  Sprinkle the parsley, mozzarella and parmesan cheese on top.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 45minutes.  Remove the cover and set to broil until cheese is brown and sauce is bubbling – about 3-4 minutes.

Serve immediately!

 

 

When the day is off, bite into a rainbow chard pie

Not sure how to title this post, but now it does feels like a rainbow chard day.  I woke up happy this morning and excited since today is the annual Christmas tree lighting on Worth Avenue, where Santa parades down the beautifully lit street, passing the holiday decorated windows of Valentino, Cartier and Tiffany’s – usually in a Lamborghini.  Last year, he came through in a Rolls.  I guess it depends on the sponsor every year.  Palm Beach is la-la land for sure.  Where else can Santa ride in a sled like that?

santa
Santa coming down Worth Ave in a Lamborghini during the 2014 Christmas tree lighting

My morning wasn’t planned to continue so well though…  Usually, I’ll walk to school with Anna, but today we drove the few blocks and since I like to walk her up to the gate, I parked the car for five minutes in an empty parking lot of one of the private client banks that was still closed.  I should note two things: 1) that I was not comfortable doing that, and literally I was only going to be five minutes, and 2) there is zero parking for parents at Anna’s school… just a helplessly long drop off line that simply creates a ridiculous traffic pattern.

Are you an introvert like me? Loving this view of the Pacific a few years back.
Are you an introvert like me?  Loving this view of the Pacific a few years back.

So, as soon as I turned off the engine of my SQ5, this gentleman walks over and I knew what was coming.  He said, “Can I help you?”  Apologetically, I mentioned that I will literally be driving away in a five minutes just so that I can walk my daughter to school.  I’m sure he anticipated that answer, and rudely snapped, and said “Uh, ok and no more.”

The interesting part is that this was maybe the third time I’ve done this in six months.  It’s one of those moments I guess when, yes, I’ve done something I am not technically supposed to, but for heaven’s sake, it’s five minutes in an empty lot… some people have no empathy!  And not that I’m a wealthy private client, but what if I were, or what if I become?  Would I give my business to an office like this?  Ugh – I took a long morning walk to let it go…

From the posts of the last ten days, I’ve noticed from your feedback that many of you seem to enjoy not only the recipes but also the stories.  I’m not sure how you liked this one today, hopefully  you will excuse me as it has been one of “those” mornings!  Nonetheless, I do have a really awesome healthy recipe that I wanted to share that always brings a smile on my face when I’m feeling a bit… well, off kilter.

MAD RAINBOW CHARD PIE

Prep time: 20 minutes  Cook time: 30-35 minutes

Ingredients

1 pie crust for a 9″ pie pan – you can make it or I just buy it from the store if I’m in a rush

2 bunches of rainbow chard (or Swiss chard), washed and roughly chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

Saute the chard and greens handful at a time
Saute the chard and greens handful at a time until liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is cooked

1 bunch of kale or spinach, washed and chopped (remove ribs from kale)

1 medium onion, chopped

1/4 cup chopped chives (optional)

1/4 cup quinoa

2 eggs

3/4 cup of milk

2tbs olive oil

1/2 tsp crushed pepper flakes

Salt and Pepper

1/2 cup shredded Asiago or Romano cheese (you can also use aged cheddar or Parmigiano)

Extra cheese to sprinkle on top

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325F.  Spread the dough in a 9″ pie pan and crimp the sides.  Smooth it out so there are no air bubbles on the bottom or the sides of the pie dish.  You can add pie weights so that the dough doesn’t bubble up.  Poke with a form randomly and bake for about 15 minutes.  Take out and set aside to cool.

Make the rainbow chard filling:  make sure all the greens are well washed and chopped accordingly.  Chop the rainbow chard all the way down to stems and keep them.  Only discard the rough kale stems.  On medium heat in a skillet or wok, heat the olive oil and saute the chopped onions, about 4-5 minutes so that they are lightly brown.  Stir in the quinoa, add garlic and pepper flakes and saute for another minute.  Add the chopped chard, stems first, and then the kale or spinach, handful at a time.   Lower the heat to medium, semi cover and cook for about 10-15 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed and quinoa starts to “open up.”  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Once filling is ready let it rest to cool for about 15 minutes.

Delicious and healthy, this pie makes great use of greens that you have in the refrigerator just calling out to be cooked!
Delicious and healthy, this pie makes great use of greens that you have in the refrigerator just calling out to be cooked!

Set the oven to 400F.

While the oven is preheating again, in a bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork and add the milk and chopped chives.  Add the 1/2 cup of Asiago cheese (or whatever you are prefer).  Note: you can always use feta… too 🙂

By now, the chard filling should be cooled and you can spread it into the pie pan, making sure it’s even.  Don’t over fill.  Slowly pour over the egg, milk and cheese mixture and gently fold it in so that it coats the greens.  Sprinkle shredded cheese on top.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until sides are brown and cheese bubbles up.

Enjoy a bite of a rainbow that you make yourself today.  I know I need to smile!