Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

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This Valentine’s holiday, Lily and I decided to make something sweet and fancy at the new 2same time.  We took on the task of making chocolate-covered strawberries.  Most people would probably claim they could easily purchase them already prepared, which we do not deny.  But we believe there are three main reasons why everyone should put both the time and effort into creating these treats themselves:

  1. When you purchase the chocolate-covered strawberries, already made, you can never be entirely sure of the product’s quality.
  2. It’s definitely cheaper to make them yourself.
  3. And lastly, the sheer joy of sharing this experience with your child.  Not to mention this should keep your child pleasantly occupied and out of trouble for thirty minutes.

Hopefully with these reasons and maybe some of your own, you will decide to attempt this impressive dessert.  Lily and I made them for the kids at her daycare in addition to my students at school. And from the comments we received, there wasn’t a single person who didn’t love them.

 

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

2-3      Quarts Fresh Strawberries

16       Ounces Milk Chocolate Tollhouse Morsels

8         Ounces White Chocolate Tollhouse Morsels

3         Tablespoons Vegetable Shortening

1         #1 or #2 Cake Decorating Piping Tip

 

When we first purchased the strawberries, we made sure to rinse them right away so they would have enough time to dry before dipping them in the chocolate.  We even laid them on and covered them with paper towels.  The last thing you want to do is get any moisture into your melted chocolate, the mixture will bind up and you will need to start over.

So to start, Lily and I put a small saucepan over medium-low heat with only about of inch water in it.  You can start the water on a higher setting, but there is such a thing as getting the chocolate too hot.  If you do start higher, make sure to lower the heat to the point where the water is just simmering and not boiling (no bubbles).

Once we achieved the simmer, we set the heat to the lowest possible setting and placed a glass bowl over the saucepan.  Two things here, you need to make sure the bowl isn’t too small where the bottom of the bowl is touching or too close to the water in the saucepan.  Secondly, the bowl shouldn’t be too big where there isn’t enough contact with the heat to melt the chocolate efficiently.  And yes, you are correct.  This is also known as a double boiler.  We just don’t see the point in buying and storing a pot that you may only use four to five times a year.

When our double boiler was ready, we put the milk chocolate morsels and two of the three tablespoons of shortening in the bowl.  We stirred the mixture periodically until all the chocolate was melted and it was of a smooth consistency.  At this point, we left the bowl on the pan, but took the pan off the stove.  We began by holding the strawberries by their green tops and dipping them into the chocolate.  (If you want again to achieve that Martha Stewart look and avoid a flat bottom, you can put toothpicks in the tops of your strawberries, dip them in the chocolate and then stick the other end of the toothpick into a piece of Styrofoam so the strawberries won’t have to lay on a cookie sheet before the chocolate hardens.)   Since we didn’t want to get too fancy, we placed the dipped strawberries on a wax paper-lined cookie sheet and placed them in the refrigerator for the chocolate to harden.

Meanwhile, we prepared the double boiler for the white chocolate.  Once ready, we put all new3the white chocolate and the last tablespoon of shortening in the bowl.  Repeating the same process for the milk chocolate, we melted the white chocolate.  Instead of dipping, we cut a small corner out of a sandwich bag, slid the piping tip into the hole of the bag (making sure that it didn’t slide through the hole, even upon slight pressure), and filled the bag with some of the melted white chocolate.  We then drizzled the white chocolate across each strawberry.  And yes, if you like to be fancier, you can actually use a pastry bag instead of our cheap fix.

Once each strawberry was drizzled with white chocolate, we put them back into the refrigerator.  You could, even at this point, put some of them in your mouth, your choice! But definitely enjoy and share these treats when ready!new4

Mushroom Risotto

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Chef Lily is bringing her expertise to your kitchen.  She allowed me to watch while she once again demonstrated her creativity in the culinary arts.  Step-by-step, she explained to me the tricks and techniques of making a simple, but successful, mushroom risotto.

The following are some suggested ingredients for the mushroom risotto.  Although, Chef Lily wanted to stress the fact that each person should make this recipe their own, allowing for individual tastes and preferences.

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Mushroom Risotto

Olive Oil

2-8 oz. Packages of Sliced Cremini Mushrooms

1-2 Shallots, finely diced

1 cup Arborio Rice

5 oz. Dry White Wine

32 oz. Chicken Broth

3-4 Tbsp. Butter

Grated Parmesan

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Chef Lily always begins by gradually warming her broth on low heat in a saucepan.  While warming, she preheats her sauté pan on medium-high heat.  After putting 3-4 Tbsp. of olive oil in the pan, she begins to sauté the mushrooms, allowing them sit in the pan and brown with out much movement.  She assures me that everyone should avoid the temptation to continuously stir the mushrooms.  Once the mushrooms have browned, Chef Lily seasons them with salt and cracked black pepper to taste and sets them aside.

Using the same pan (Chef Lily would never waste that beautiful caramelized mushroom flavor in the pan!), reducing the heat to medium-low and adding 1 more Tbsp. of olive oil, she cooks the diced shallots.  When the shallots have softened, she adds her rice to the pan and initially stirs to mix the rice and shallots.  When the rice becomes opaque (after only a few minutes), she pours in the wine.  At this point, the broth is added to the rice, only two ladlefuls at a time.  Chef Lily told me that this 1is where the love comes into this dish.  Once you add the first amount of broth, you must stir the risotto, maybe not continuously, but quite often, before you add the next ladles.  She tells me the only secret to this part of the recipe is making sure there is enough liquid in the pan so all of the risotto can cook evenly.  The process of adding the broth should take between fifteen to twenty minutes for the risotto to cook fully.  Once the risotto is cooked, depending on preference (al dente, etc.), Chef Lily adds her mushrooms back into the pan.  Lastly, she dots her risotto with the butter, sprinkles it with Parmesan and serves it immediately.  She tells me that she doesn’t want to make any master chefs out there feel bad, but this is the best risotto she has ever had!

So there you have it folks, a complex and feared dish simplified so even a child could prepare it!

And if needed, Chef Lily will entertain any questions you may have about her dish!

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