Thursday, May 30, 2013

Pineapple Infused Vodka

In traveling back to the midwest for the Memorial Day weekend I have not cooked anything for more than a week (microwave popcorn would be the closest thing to cooking that I made). Even though I haven't experimented with a new recipe or made a favorite one, I was still thinking about food, cooking, and creating. I managed to pack into my suitcases (came with one, left with two) some cookbooks and cooking utensils I did not have in the east coast house. Slowly my cookbook collection here is growing.  After this week long hiatus, I will definitely be cooking this weekend as it should be sunny and warm, perfect weather for having people over.  It seems that summer is returning early this year. But I am not complaining, yet.

In anticipation of the arrival of summer, I began the process of making pineapple infused vodka two weeks ago so that I would have it to serve for late afternoon and evening gatherings. I think it was walking through the produce aisle one day seeing a large display of fresh pineapples that had me thinking about 'thinking ahead'. Before I go any further, I almost feel as if I should have to explain myself for posting two consecutive recipes for cocktails as I don't want you to get the impression that I have become (or worse yet already am) alcohol obsessed. I would prefer to think of myself as someone who is entertaining obsessed. Doesn't that sound better?

I will begin with a warning. Drinking pineapple infused vodka is lethal.  Why?  Because you will think you are drinking pineapple juice or better yet some version of a kiddie cocktail and misjudge its affect until you are into the second glass.  Because you can't stop at just one. This is definitely one of those 'drink at your own risk' recipes.

The first time I had pineapple infused vodka was when a neighbor brought over a bottle as a housewarming present.  It was one of the best, most memorable housewarming gifts ever. Nowadays there are so many flavored vodkas available for purchase but nothing compares to the taste of your very own homemade fruit infused flavored vodka.

In order to get the maximum pineapple flavor into the vodka, the fruit and vodka are macerated for 12-14 days. Some recipes will tell you only 1 to 2 days, but the vodka won't take on the depth of pineapple flavor it does when allowing it to sit for almost two weeks.  It is the waiting part that is the most difficult aspect of this recipe.  If patience is not one of your virtues, well this could be just the recipe to change that.

Sometimes called a Stoli Doli, pineapple infused vodka has been attributed to the Capital Grill as its creator.  Obviously they used Stolichnaya Vodka, thus explaining the name, when creating this incredibly delicious fruit infused vodka, but I prefer using Tito's vodka for this recipe.  So I guess my version of the Stoli Doli would be called a Tito Doto?

With fresh, ripe pineapples now in abundance at the grocery stores, this is the perfect time of the year to make pineapple infused vodka.  I like to make a double batch so that I have plenty on hand or have one to give as a hostess gift. The pineapple is simply peeled, sliced and then cut into chunks.  This is a one pineapple to one bottle of vodka ratio recipe.  Other than a covered jar and a cool, dark place to let this vodka mascerate, you need nothing else.

Once the 12-14 days have passed, you are now ready to strain the vodka. Because the pineapple is cut into chunks it is easy to strain.  I like using a stainer placed over a large measuring cup for easier pouring into a funnel.

The strained vodka is then poured back into the original bottles and stored in the refrigerator.  Because the vodka has absorbed the juice of the pineapple, it will freeze if you put it in the freezer.  Served chilled in a glass, served with additional fresh pineapple juice and/or topped with some champagne are just some of the pineapple infused vodka serving options.

Pineapple Infused Vodka

Ingredients (recipe can be doubled!)
1 bottle of Vodka (recommend using either Tito's or Stolichnaya)
1 fresh pineapple

1. Cut pineapple into chunks and layer into a large jar (one with a lid or cover).
2. Pour vodka into the jar, seal and place in a cool, dark place for 12-14 days.
3. Strain vodka back into Vodka bottles and chill (I store mine in the refrigerator).
4. Pour 4 ounces into a cocktail shaker filled with ice, shake, strain and pour into a martini glass.
5. Optional:  Add 2 ounces of fresh pineapple juice to the cocktail shaker.  Once shaken, strained and poured, top with champagne.

In college I took a lifesaving class that I would rate as one of the most (physically) brutal classes I had ever experienced. It was a co-ed class and I viewed the instructor as someone who had masochistic tendencies. There were moments I thought I would drown trying to save the 'male drowner' in our practice exercises. In spite of the physical workouts and fear of drowning experienced, I was able to earn my lifeguard certificate.  Considering I had a near drowning incident when I was ten, earning the lifeguard certificate was quite an accomplishment for me.  So every summer when I am at the beach and see a lifeguard, I remain thankful there was one paying attention when I underestimated the depth of the pool. Whether the lifeguards that come into our life save us from drowning either literally or figuratively, it is always good to know that we fortunate to have people come into our lives that are paying attention.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Brendan's Double Espresso Martini

Up until last year I did not drink coffee (either hot or iced) and avoided all things mocha flavored. This may explain why I could not make something as simple as coffee when having company, always having to ask someone if they could make it for me. Yet for some completely unknown reason, I have started drinking or should say actually enjoying iced coffee (hot coffee still doesn't sound good to me). And when I allow myself the indulgence of an ice cream cone, I have finally moved away from the always ordered vanilla ice cream to ordering anything mocha flavored. The vanilla ice cream preference or perseveration is due in part to working at a Baskin-Robbins for a couple of years in college and overdosing on flavored ice creams, particularly Pralines and Cream.

Besides coffee and mocha flavored drinks and foods, my consumption of martinis has also increased over the course of the past four years.  Said differently, prior to four years ago I never even so much as sipped a martini so now incorporating a martini in the beverages I drink (even if only once or twice a month) seems like a warp speed change. For those you regularly enjoy martinis I would be considered a lightweight, however, time and opportunity prevent that status from changing anytime soon. Besides there has to be time for wine and pale ale.

The other night I was at a friend's house where the after dinner cocktail being served was Double Espresso Martinis. I could not help but think to myself a year ago I would have shivered at the thought of such a cocktail. But now, it's like 'bring it on' as all things coffee and/or mocha flavored have become tastes that I have acquired a fondness for.  Of course, this cocktail has a story. I wanted to call it Rita's Double Espresso Martini (as she is the one who made them), but Rita said it should be named after her son Brendan who made this cocktail for her this past Mother's Day. Imagine having someone make a special cocktail to celebrate you! Yes, the cocktail came with a card and flowers too, but the gift of the Double Espresso Martini has now taken on a life of its own. And this is one wicked good martini worthy of going viral.

Brendan's recipe has only three ingredients:  Van Gogh's Double Espresso Vodka, Stoli Vanilla Vodka and Kahlua. This could also be turned into Double Cappuccino Martini by adding just a little bit of whipped cream to it.  Whichever way you choose to make this martini to serve to your guests, you will knock their socks off (both literally and figuratively).

The vodkas and Kahlua are measured and put into a shaker filled with crushed ice.  After ensuring all of the ingredients are blended, you just strain, pour, and serve. It is the ratios of the two vodkas and the Kahlua that give this martini such an incredible, smooth, and utterly delicious flavor.

Rita's son is a mixologist (aka bartender) who knew what he was doing when he made this drink. I am just glad Rita was willing to share her son's recipe!  If I had not become a coffee convert a year ago, I would have missed the chance to enjoy this amazing martini.

Brendan's Double Espresso Martini (recipe created by Brendan)
4 parts Double Espresso Vodka
2 1/2 parts Stoli Vanilla Vodka
2 parts Kahlua
Crushed Ice
Optional:  Lightly whipped heavy cream

1. Pour vodkas and Kahlua into a shaker filled half-way with crushed ice.
2. Shake until well blended.
3. Pour strained mixture into your favorite martini glasses.
4. Optional:  Top with lightly whipped cream

I live in a town that to be considered a local you are a fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh generation inhabitant. Second and third generations haven't been here long enough and are still relative newcomers. I have only been here for a year, a newcomer by anyone's definition, so it seems a little presumptuous on my part to even comment on the arrival of the 'summer people'. The summer season begins Memorial Day weekend and continues a little past Labor Day. The 'summer people' are those with second homes here as well as those who rent houses for the week or month. And there are the hundreds of cyclists who find this to be a bike friendly town with amazing views and relatively flat roads. As I have shared before, this is such a beautiful place it is no wonder that it is a mecca for those who want to bask in its beauty. From the ocean views to the meadows to the farms to the houses to the views of the ocean and in all of its simplicity and grandeur, I am somewhat envious of those who have grown up here. The arrival of the 'summer people' generates an increase in traffic at the beach, in the few restaurants, in the only store in town and on the roads. There are no stop lights in this town of two lane roads.

So my days of taking beginning and end of the day walks at the ocean with no one around, except the seagulls and the sandpipers, will be ending soon. As much as I love the feeling of walking a 'private' beach and seeing how the beach changes with the tides, I would be remiss if I didn't say there really are many upsides to having the population increase for a few months. The farmer's markets return, all of the roadside stands open, the lobster company increases their hours, and one of my neighbors returns.  As all things ebb and flow, things will again change when the fall arrives and the benefits brought by the summer people will temporarily disappear.  I have come to appreciate why the locals are so fiercely protective of their town yet I also understand why so many have sought out this place as their second home or vacation destination. Beautiful landscapes should be shared and be seen.  So in spite of more traffic on the roads and at the beaches, the views will not be any less stunning and the town not any less bucolic. Even though it might take me a little longer to get around town (not a whine, just a little whimper). Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Creamy Caesar Salad

One of my favorite days of the month is when the new issues of the food magazines come out. Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Fine Cooking, and Saveur are the must haves and then there are a few others I will buy if there is something that captures my attention. Bon Appetit is my perennially favorite magazine even though I am still acclimating to its new format.  I used to have subscriptions to all of these food magazines. But then sometimes I would see the issue on the stand in the bookstore or grocery store before mine arrived in the mail and thought I would rather have instant gratification than save a little on the subscription (yes, impatience ranks over practicality when it comes to the acquiring of food magazines). As I was scanning through the stack of magazines I had bought, there was a recipe in this month's Food & Wine that looked relatively simple and I needed to make simple this weekend. It was going to be an absolutely glorious weather perfect weekend and I wanted to spend as much time outside as possible and not be a slave in the kitchen.

The creamy Caesar salad dressing recipe was shared by April Bloomfield, chef/owner of the Spotted Pig in New York and author of the recently released book A Girl and Her Pig. I love a good Caesar salad and was hoping this recipe would be so over the top fabulous that the dressing itself would become a staple in the refrigerator this summer.  All on its own or topped with grilled chicken or grilled salmon I was thinking maybe I could make this the go to meal when I don't have much time and I am having company. Or even when I am just craving the taste of a Caesar salad.

So how good was this dressing? Seriously, this is the best caesar salad dressing I have ever eaten.  On a scale of 1 to 10, it is 12, maybe even a 13. The combination of the garlic, dijon mustard, anchovies, red wine vinegar, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese all emulsified together with one egg and oil was heavenly.  You will never order another Caesar salad in a restaurant again unless it is one owned by April Bloomfield.

Anchovies are in the dressing and served on the salad.  I happen to be someone who likes anchovies, maybe its their saltiness that I find so delicious.  The combination of the dijon mustard and anchovies means that the dressing itself needs only a little Kosher salt and pepper for added seasoning.

The dressing is made in a food processor.  The garlic, mustard, anchovies, and red wine vinegar are all combined into a puree until smooth, followed by the adding of the egg and the gradual drizzle of the oil.  When the dressing is emulsified, you pour into a pitcher or bowl and add the cheese and a pinch of Kosher salt and pepper to taste.  I did not use much Kosher salt but used about a quarter of teaspoon of pepper.

Okay I haven't yet told you what kind of oil was used in the dressing.  I am stalling on this because when I first read the recipe I couldn't believe what was recommended.  It wasn't olive oil and it wasn't grapeseed oil, it was vegetable oil. Yes, vegetable oil. This was probably the only ingredient that made me momentarily pause in deciding whether or not to make the dressing.  But then I thought, no risk, no gain here.  Only when I looked in the cupboard I didn't have any vegetable oil, only canola oil.  I thought I would make the substitution and see what the result would be.  I am not sure if the next time I make this dressing I would use vegetable oil as the canola oil worked perfectly.  The dressing goes into the refrigerator for at least thirty minutes to thicken even further.

When I had gone to the grocery store to get the bread for the salad I couldn't remember what kind of bread was suggested for the croutons.  When I saw the sourdough loaf in the bread section at Whole Foods, I didn't care what bread was suggested (it was day old rustic Italian bread). Because sourdough croutons were going to adorn the salad.  Once the crusts are removed from the bread, you tear the bread into bite sized pieces and bake in a 400 degree oven for about 12 minutes or until golden.  If you don't like the rustic look of torn croutons, you can certainly cut the bread into cubes.

The recipe called for Little Gem lettuce. I had never heard of Little Gem lettuce, could not find Little Gem lettuce and even the guy in the produce section at Whole Foods looked at me like I was confused. I have since learned that these small lettuce leaves are often described as 'a combination of butter and romaine' having both a crispness and sweetness to it. But my inability to find this lettuce (which of course now will be the next food obsession), did not stop me from making the salad.  I decided to use baby romaine as I thought it would hold up to the dressing and still be flavorful. Thankfully it worked.

I decided to grill up some chicken and add it to the salad, however, this salad would be incredible all on its own. There is more than enough dressing for at least two more salads or for use as a dip with fresh vegetables (sliced zucchini or asparagus would be perfect with this Caesar dressing).

Creamy Caesar Salad (a slight adaptation of April Bloomfield's Creamy Caesar Salad with Torn Croutons as featured in Food & Wine)

1/2 pound day old sourdough bread (or rustic Italian bread, crusts removed and bread torn into bite-sized pieces
10 anchovy fillets, plus more for garnishing the salad
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 Tablespoons Dijon mustard (my preferences is for the Maille brand)
2 garlic cloves
1 large egg
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
Kosher salt and pepper
18 ounces of Baby Romaine (or Little Gem lettuce if you can find it)
Optional:  chicken breasts or salmon fillets grilled

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spread torn bread pieces on rimmed baking sheet and bake for approximately 12 minutes or until golden.  Let croutons cool.
2. Combine the anchovy fillets, vinegar, mustard and garlic in a food processor until pureed and smooth.
3. Add egg and pulse until incorporated.
4. Gradually pour in the oil until the dressing is emulsified.
5. Pour dressing into a pitcher or bowl and add 1/3 cup of the grated cheese.  Stir to combine.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
6. Toss the chilled romaine in a large bowl with half of the dressing, using your hands to gently rub dressing onto the leaves.
7. Transfer to a platter garnish with anchovy fillets, croutons, and a sprinkling of cheese.
8. Optional: Top with grilled chicken, grilled salmon or grilled filets.

It is lilac season and I am someone who loves all flowers purple (blue) as well as flowers that perfume a room. I was compelled to cut some of the lilacs off of the bushes on the property and arrange them in a vase last night. This morning as I was looking out my kitchen window checking to see if the herbs I bought yesterday needed watering, something else caught my attention, a glass vase filled with lilacs sitting out on the garden table. One of my neighbors had left it for me. So now the house is filled with two beautiful and fragrant lilac arrangements. There isn't anything more that I love than fresh flowers from the garden, all in one color of course, filling up the rooms in the house. Flowers just seem to breathe more life into any space they inhabit.

In two weeks I will have lived in this farmhouse for almost a year.  While it is hard to believe that another year of my life has gone by, it feels like I have lived here forever as it has a familiarity to it that I cannot describe in words. There is something so calming, so beautiful, and so energizing about this town that I live in, that my active imagination thinks I have known this this place my entire life even though I continue to discover its beauty and charm.  There is a rusticness to the farmhouse that is so very different than my house in the midwest and so very different than my little high maintenance life. This has been a place of refuge, a place to heal a wounded spirit, heart, and soul. It wasn't just serendipitous that I found this farmhouse, I really think it was meant to be.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Roasted Chicken with Pan Gravy

I have been craving all sorts of comfort foods lately thinking (erroneously of course) that they will somehow make all of my worries magically disappear.  I have been carrying a higher than normal level of stress lately and am still figuring out how to deal with all of it. To add to all of this internal chaos going on in my head, I recently gave up diet soda (my intake of this beverage has probably contributed to corporate profits increasing significantly over the years) which has diminished my desire for sugar laden foods (at least there is one positive outcome here!). So in the absence of diet soda, getting a temporary boost from sugar and in seeking to get to a less-stressful place, I have begun to go for long walks and seek refuge in comfort foods. Which in of itself is not a bad thing, as long as the comfort food choices I am making don't have any other unintended consequences and that the walking gets me back to running.

Of all of the comfort foods out there, for me there is nothing more comforting than a Sunday dinner meal of a roasted chicken with pan gravy. I don't even need the mashed potatoes or the stuffing, just the chicken and pan gravy. A perfectly roasted chicken with a gravy flavored from the juices of the chicken along with the flavors of lemon, thyme, garlic and some chicken stock in one bite can make me feel like all is right with the world, at least for a little while. A little reprieve is better than no reprieve at all.

In my family I am the one who is always asked to make the gravy, even when I am not the one making the chicken, turkey or roast.  Even though what goes into or on the chicken, turkey or roast affects the gravy, somehow it always manages to come together, almost perfectly. For years I used to rely on heavy cream to add richness to the gravy, but have learned that the juices of the roast and some of the fat along with some good stock and a little flour can make an incredibly flavorful gravy. 

My father was the one who always made the Sunday and holiday dinners. It was a memorable Thanksgiving dinner one year when I (at age 10) thought that the saucepan on the stove was filled with 'dirty water'. I proceeded to empty it so I could wash and put the pan away before the company came (my obsession with no dirty dishes in or near the sink started early). The 'dirty water', I subsequently learned, was actually the stock my father had gotten up early to make. That was a year where there was only enough gravy for everyone to have about a spoonful of over either the turkey or mashed potatoes, you had to choose.  Ironically because my father never made me feel worse than I already did when I saw the expression on his face when he discovered what I had done, I felt even worse.

As much as I love making a bread stuffing for a roasted chicken, the flavor of the gravy is enhanced significantly when the cavity of the chicken is seasoned only Kosher salt and pepper and then stuffed with a head of garlic, fresh thyme and a lemon.  Such simple ingredients create such great outcomes.

Some melted butter, a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper is all that is needed to season the skin of the chicken. A six to seven pound chicken all tied up (I personally like the larger roasting chickens) roasted at 425 degrees for approximately 90 minutes. No basting necessary. How simple is that?

When I don't have homemade chicken stock, I will make it using the Knorr's concentrate.  It makes more stock than I need, but then there is always a use for chicken stock!  Other than the stock, the juices and some of the fat from the chicken, you only need two tablespoons of all-purpose flour, a little more Kosher salt and some pepper.  These are the makings of a gravy so delicious that you could be happy with just the gravy!

Once the chicken is removed from the roasting pan, all of the drippings are poured into a bowl.  After skimming off two tablespoons of the fat and reserving for use, the rest of the fat is skimmed off and discarded.  The remaining drippings are returned to the pan along with one cup of chicken stock and placed on the stove over medium-high heat.  Using a whisk, all of the bits are scrapped up.  The two tablespoons of fat are combined with the two tablespoons of all-purpose flour and mixed until smooth.  The fat-flour mixture is added and whisked into the pan. Continue cooking until well combined and the pan gravy is slightly thickened.  A little salt and pepper to taste and you will have a most delicious pan gravy, one where you will want to consider licking the pan.  Yes, it is that good.

There is something regal about serving gravy in a gravy boat as it makes serving something simple feel like an indulgence. From my perspective, a gravy boat is a need to have serving item because it is so multi-dimensional.  Beyond gravy, it can be used for serving dessert sauces, for chutneys and conserves, and all sorts of other sauces. Hey, it can even be a great container for a flower arrangement!

Allowing the chicken to rest for at least fifteen minutes not only gives you time to make the pan gravy but it creates a much juicier chicken.  Even a great pan gravy cannot salvage a dry roasted chicken.  I served the roasted balsamic onions with this roasted chicken and didn't even miss the mashed potatoes. Maybe my quest to make comfort food isn't such a bad thing after all. 

Roasted Chicken with Pan Gravy (a slight adaption of Ina Garten's Perfect Roast Chicken recipe)

a 6 to 7 pound roasting chicken (Perdue roasting chickens are plump and flavorful)
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 large bunch of fresh thyme
1 lemon cut in half
1 head of garlic, cut in half crosswise
2 Tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 to 2 Tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chicken stock
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Remove giblets from the chicken and rinse out the inside cavity. Generously salt and pepper the inside of the cavity, then stuff with lemon and garlic.  Place in roasting pan.
3. Tie the legs of the chicken together with kitchen twine and tuck the wings under the chicken.
4. Pour melted butter and olive oil over the chicken.  Using a brush or your hands ensure the entire chicken has been coated.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
5. Roast the chicken for approximately 90 minutes or until the juices run clear from the leg and thigh area when cut.
6. Remove chicken from roasting pan and place on a platter.  Let rest for at least 10-15 minutes before slicing.
7. Pour all of the juices and fat into a measuring cup.
8. Remove 2 tablespoons of fat and place in a small bowl.  Continue to remove the rest of the fat.  Return the juices to the pan.
9. Add 1 cup of chicken stock to the juices in the pan and cook on high heat for approximately 5 minutes scraping up all of the bottom of the pan.
10.  Mix the 2 Tablespoons of fat and flour together until smooth. Add to the pan.  Using a whisk, blend in the flour mixture into the juices/stock in the pan.  Continue to cook for approximately 3 to 4 minutes until the gravy is thickened.
11. Pour gravy into a gravy boat.  Serve with the carved chicken.

In less than two weeks I head back to the midwest to attend my niece's high school graduation.  As she approaches the rite of passage from high school to college, I have found myself thinking how quickly the past almost eighteen years of her life have seemed to pass. The concept of time changes the older I get. In reminiscing, I couldn't help but recall so many of the times she and her brother spent time in our home. From going to museums, to the pumpkin patch, to the city, to restaurants, to the neighbor's pool down the street, to the sleepovers, and yes, to the meltdowns, I have been able to watch her and her brother evolve into amazing young adults. As an aunt, I might be just a tiny bit biased in my view of them.

From the time my niece and nephew were babies, my sister and brother-in-law have always been generous in allowing the kids to stay with us for weekends as well as allow us to take them on trips.  Sure it gave them a respite and some time to focus on their relationship, but we choose to see this as an unselfish gift.  The combination of the quality and quantity of time spent with them explains why we have such a close relationship today as making and creating memories strengthened our bond and further built upon the foundation of our relationship.  If someone were to ask me to choose between spending quantity time or quality time with them, I would first wonder why a choice had to be made and then I would wonder whether or not growing the relationship really mattered to them. For me quantity begets quality and vice versa. And I truly believe the relationship I have with my niece and nephew today would not be what it is if my sister and brother-in-law asked me to choose.  Thank goodness they didn't.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

White and Dark Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

As I was shopping at the grocery store this weekend I came upon the biggest, most beautiful, luscious looking stemmed strawberries. At first I passed them by but then I went back to get them thinking they would make a great Mother's Day gift for some of my neighbors. They were the most perfect strawberries for dipping in chocolate.

There is something decadent about a chocolate covered strawberry.  The combination of the sweetness of the strawberry and creaminess of the chocolate makes it an irresistible indulgence. If you have ever walked by a Godiva Chocolates when they have chocolate dipped strawberries in the window, they seem to beckon you to come into the store.

And just one chocolate dipped strawberry is all one needs to satisfy a sweet tooth.

I couldn't decide whether to dip the strawberries in dark or white chocolate.  But then I thought why choose?  Why not just make some dipped in dark chocolate and some in white chocolate?

Cutting the chocolate into thin chards makes the melting process easier. Once the chocolate is chopped, it is placed over a saucepan of simmering water.

When I dip the strawberries I generally remove the chocolate from the heat as the simmering water will continue to increase the temperature of the chocolate which may cause it to breakdown. When this happens the sheen of chocolate is affected causing the chocolate to set up having what looks like a film over it.

I like to double dip the strawberries.  Once the chocolate sets up on the strawberry, you dip them into the chocolate again.  This is what makes them a little more decadent.

White and Dark Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

2 to 3 dozen large stemmed strawberries
12 to 16 ounces Dark Chocolate Ghiradelli Candy Making and Dipping Bar
12 to 16 ounce White Chocolate Ghiradelli Candy Making and Dipping Bar

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Chop chocolates and place over simmering water until melted.
3. Dip strawberries one at a time in either the white or dark chocolate.  Dip one side of strawberry, then the other to create a finished V look. Place dipped strawberry on parchment paper and allow to set.
4. Once set, dip the strawberries a second time.  Place on parchment paper and allow to set.
5. When set, place in white cupcake papers and arrange on a platter to serve.  

From the time I was ten years old there have been many women who have come into my life and became what I call my surrogate mothers.  They were always women who I admired and learned from. Whether these women were in my life for short or long periods of time, I have treasured all of them. Since moving to the east coast, there have been women who have taken me under their wing, looked after me, and shared their wisdom with me. I have felt incredibly blessed to be the recipient of their kindnesses and generous hearts.

I have a friend who believes in past lives. People who come into our present day lives have also had a role in a previous life, thus explaining why we often have an unexplainable connection to people that cross our paths.  Regardless the concept of past lives is true or not, I do believe that people come into our lives for a reason.