Monthly Archives: September 2010

Caramel Macchiato Popcorn Balls

Why shouldn’t adults enjoy the whimsical play of a dessert on a stick?  Here’s a popcorn ball that’s not just for kids!

Traditional popcorn balls are usually loaded with gooey sweetness, but I’ve created a contemporary version with more grown-up appeal.  These coffeehouse-inspired popcorn balls are made with caramel, chocolate and espresso powder—what a combination!

Did you know that macchiato means marked or stained?  In this case, the popcorn is “marked” with a little espresso.  You have to try them—I’ve already eaten 3.  Okay, maybe 4!!!!

as photographed by our team, alacartepartners

Caramel Macchiato Popcorn Balls
Makes 6 popcorn balls

8 cups popped popcorn
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon warm water
20 caramels, unwrapped
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
6 popsicle or craft sticks

– Place popcorn in large bowl. In small bowl, stir together espresso powder and warm water.

– In medium glass bowl, microwave caramels, chocolate chips and espresso mixture on HIGH (100%) power, 1 and 1/2 minutes. Stir
mixture until completely melted.
– Pour caramel mixture over popcorn and quickly stir until popcorn is well coated.  Using greased  hands, shape mixture into 6 balls.
Insert a stick into each ball.

– Store in airtight container up to 1 week.


– You can use store-bought popcorn; air popped popcorn or your favorite microwave popcorn.

– For a sweeter treat, use kettle corn.

– Instead of forming the popcorn mixture into balls, spread it in single layer on a baking sheet.  Let sit for 30 minutes and break into clusters.

– For added coffeehouse flavor, stir 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon into the espresso mixture.




Filed under Caramels, Chocolate, Dessert, Popcorn, Snacks


Okay, is it just me, or is there a fig craze afoot? From fig vinegars and fig chutneys to fig spreads and fig jams, I seem to be encountering figs everywhere I turn. Just yesterday I noticed pint baskets of fresh figs at my local supermarket. And last month, while driving to the beach in North Carolina, I stopped at Morris Farm Market and what was the first thing I spotted?  A gorgeous display of fresh figs!

I bought a quart and we enjoyed experimenting with them over the next few days…we tried them grilled on pizza, drizzled with olive oil and added to arugula salad, and we even invented a bittersweet chocolate & fig dessert sauce that we poured over vanilla ice cream. Today, I was walking along Canal Street in Chinatown and there among the dried lychees and live crabs were, yes, pints of fresh figs, at the very reasonable price of two for $3!

So, in the spirit of fig-mania, we present Cathy’s latest fig concoction. And if you have a favorite fig recipe, please share it!


Tortelloni with Sautéed Figs & Goat Cheese
makes 2 main dish servings or 4 appetizer servings

3 Tbs. butter
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
6 figs, quartered (I used Kadota figs)
2 Tbs. chopped walnuts
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. coarse ground black pepper
1 pkg. (9 oz) fresh portabello mushroom and cheese tortelloni (or your favorite
tortelloni or tortellini)
3 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

– In large skillet, heat butter over medium heat until lightly browned.  Add onions; cook and stir until browned.  Remove onions from skillet.  To skillet, add figs, walnuts, salt and pepper; cook until figs just start to soften. Remove skillet from heat.

-Meanwhile, cook tortelloni according to package directions, draining and reserving 2 Tbs. pasta water.

– To skillet, add tortelloni, reserved pasta water, cooked onions, goat cheese and basil; cook over low heat just until cheese melts.  Serve immediately.


The most common figs grown in the United States come from California, and are generally available from mid-May thru mid-December. The four common varieties include:

Mission: deep purple skin (darkens to a rich black when dried) with pink flesh; sweet
Kadota:  green skinned with amber flesh; practically seedless; slightly sweet
Calimyrna:  golden skin with pink flesh; nutty flavor
Brown Turkey:  brownish copper skin with pink/red flesh; mildly sweet

Use fresh figs within a day or so after buying them as they are very fragile!

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Filed under Cheese, Fruit, Main Dishes, Pasta

End-of-Summer Salmon

Summer is coming to a close, and what better way to say good-bye than with a delicious grilled salmon dinner? As a food stylist, I think of salmon as a “pretty” fish. Its rich orange color is a beauty! While you can slather salmon with a marinade, I prefer a simple dry rub. There are so many really interesting

as photographed by our team à la Carte Partners

flavorful rubs on the market.  In the recipe and photo above, I’ve used Bone Suckin’ Sauce Seasoning and Rub.  It is a blend of brown sugar, paprika, garlic and spices. McCormicks also has a great line of products called Grill Mates—Seafood Rub, Applewood Rub, and Sweet & Smoky Rub to name a few.  You can also make up your own rub with seasonings that fit your tastes. Experiment… it’s what makes cooking fun!!

Grilled Salmon

Makes 4 servings

4   salmon filets (6-oz. or 3/4-inch thick)
1-2 tablespoons Bone Suckin’ Sauce Seasoning and Rub

– Prepare grill & grease lightly
– With tweezers, remove any small bones from salmon steaks.
– With hands, rub seasoning over both sides of salmon steaks.
– Place salmon on hot grill rack. Cover grill and cook salmon 8 to 9 minutes, or until just opaque throughout, turning over once.


– Salmon is considered an oily fish, which contributes to its healthy attributes.  It is high in protein, Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin D.



Filed under BBQ, Seafood

Perfect Peach Daiquiri

At least once a summer, I try to time my vacation travel to include a stop at Stoudt’s Fruit Farm Stand, just off I-78 in Shartlesville, Pennsylvania. Why? Well, they have all kinds of excellent homegrown produce, but really, it’s all about the peaches for me.

Stoudt’s sells some of the best tree-ripened peaches you will find anywhere, and they’re always worth the trip (or the detour). This afternoon I stopped and purchased a peck of Freestone Yellow Peaches, and they are, once again, mouth-wateringly delicious.

Although we will enjoy most of them plain because they are just too good to consider cooking or baking with, I have set aside a few for my favorite summertime drink, the Peach Daiquiri. A lot of peach daiquiri recipes are overly fussy, involving simple syrup, lime juice, powdered sugar, and even daiquiri mix (oh no!) However, I do not think any of that is necessary, because when you start with peaches this good, the recipe is simple—just three ingredients!

Perfect Peach Daiquiri
Makes 1 drink

1 magnificent tree-ripened peach, peeled, pitted  and cut up
1 cup crushed ice
2 ounces golden rum

– Place all ingredients in blender with tight-fitting lid. Puree until smooth. Pour into a tall glass and serve immediately. If desired, garnish with a peach slice and a mint sprig. Find a sunset view and a rocking chair, and  sip slowly.

Tips – If a peach is truly ripe, the skin will peel off easily using a paring knife. Otherwise, drop peaches in boiling water for about 45 seconds then drop in ice water for about 1 minute.  The skin should come off easily. – White rum can be substituted for golden rum, but the flavor will not be as deep. If using white rum, add a tablespoon of fresh lime juice for extra flavor.



Filed under Drinks, Entertaining