Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Aaron McCargo, Jr.: Buffalo Chicken Cheese Balls

When my sister said she wanted to make these for New Year's Eve, I was a little skeptical.  I mean, if you're going to go to all that trouble, why not just make hot wings?  Why make these?  Because they're magical-unicorn-buffalo-chicken-cheese-balls, that's why.  You're going to say no to chicken and melty cheese in a crispy crust with buffalo sauce?  Yeah, didn't think so.

Buffalo Chicken Cheese Balls
From Aaron McCargo, Jr.

1 store-bought rotisserie chicken
¼ cup Frank's Red Hot sauce
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1¾ cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
¼ cup freshly sliced scallions
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups panko bread crumbs
Vegetable oil, for frying

Blue Cheese Dip
1½ cups mayonnaise
½ cup blue cheese crumbles
½ teaspoon Frank's Red Hot sauce
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon chopped garlic

Have oil heated to 350°F.

Pick the meat from the chicken and discard the skin. Place the chicken in a large bowl and add the hot sauce, pepper, cheese, and scallions, and toss to combine. Roll the chicken into 2-ounce balls, about the size of a golf ball. Place the flour, eggs, and bread crumbs in 3 separate bowls. Roll each ball
in the flour, then the egg and then the bread crumbs. Set aside.

When the oil is hot fry the chicken balls in batches. Cook for about 2 minutes per batch. Remove the chicken to paper towel lined plate to drain the excess oil.

To make the sauce, combine all ingredients in a large bowl and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve the chicken alongside the dipping sauce.

Makes 15 to 20 balls

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Simply Recipes: Green Beans with Tomatoes and Bacon

So when our nasty winter ice storm hit about a week ago, I finally managed to get out of my apartment on about the fourth day and made my way to the local Walmart.  The place looked like it had been turned upside down by a swarm of locusts.  Luckily I have no desire for most of the crap on the aisles.  I was checking out the produce.  Not much to pick from there either, but some beautiful crisp green beans.  I mean, why buy fresh when there's a can a couple of aisles away, right?

After fighting off the only other person in the store who wanted some, I raced home with my treasure.  And then realized I had no idea what I was going to do with the darn things.  I've actually spent this long trying to figure it out.  But this recipe is a delicious way to take some fresh beans and turn them into genuine Southern braised beans.  Soft, salty, sweet.  It hits all the right buttons.

Green Beans with Tomatoes and Bacon
Adapted from Simply Recipes, originally from The Pioneer Woman

4 slices thick cut bacon (about 4 ounces), cut into 1-inch segments
½ large onion, diced (about ¾ cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pounds of fresh, firm green beans, stem ends trimmed
1 (14½-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 large sprig fresh thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
 to ¼ teaspoon of cayenne

Place the bacon pieces on the bottom of a large, thick-bottomed pot. Heat on medium heat for several minutes until the bacon fat begins to render.  Add the chopped onions to the bacon. Cook a few minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic (if using) and cook a minute more. Drain off any excess fat.  Add the green beans to the pot. Add the canned tomatoes and their juice. Add a sprig of thyme to the pot. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cayenne.

Cover the pot and lower the heat to low. Simmer for an hour, or until the beans are cooked through and tender, stirring occasionally.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Mom 100: Bacon Wrapped Shrimp

I'm all about quick appetizers that come out tasting better than they have any right to considering how little time and effort you put into them.  It's called culinary laziness.  I want minimum effort, maximum flavor.  That's pretty much what I got with these shrimp.  But you have to use those big, juicy Gulf shrimp.  Not those nasty things that they dig out of polluted rivers in China.  I promise you can taste the difference.  Gulf shrimp are sweet and tender and awesome.

Bacon Wrapped Shrimp
Adapted from The Mom 100 blog

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1½ teaspoons smoked paprika
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound jumbo Gulf shrimp (16/20 pound), shelled with tails left on
4 ounces applewood smoked bacon, sliced lengthwise into ½-inch strips

Preheat the broiler, and place the cooking rack about 4 inches below the heat source. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray, or line with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, paprika, and pepper. Add the shrimp and toss until they are coated with the seasoned olive oil.  Wrap each shrimp with a strip of the bacon, spiraling it up the shrimp until the shrimp is encased. Place the shrimp on the prepared baking sheet.

Broil for 3 minutes, until the tops are crispy, then turn and broil for another 3 minutes until the other side is browned.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Light & Luscious: Praline Cheesecake

When you're tired of pumpkin pie and pecan pie and apple pie, where do you turn?  What is left to sate your sugar cravings during the holiday season?  Why not a sinfully rich cheesecake?  I mean, you're busting your gut anyway.  Might as well go whole hog and enjoy every last crumb.

I found this recipe years ago in a cookbook my mother had.  I first made it when I was probably about 16, and my mother fell in love with it.  She requests it any time a cheesecake is mentioned.  So being the horrible daughter I am, I pretty much never make it.  Hey, don't judge.

Praline Cheesecake with Butterscotch Sauce
From Light and Luscious

1 cup ground toasted pecans
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 (5-ounce) can evaporated milk
3 tablespoons praline liqueur or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 (8-ounce) carton sour cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
16 pecan halves, toasted
Butterscotch Sauce

Combine the first four ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring well. Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes. Let the pan cool completely on a wire rack.

Beat the cream cheese at medium speed of an electric mixer until fluffy. Combine the brown sugar and cornstarch; add to the cream cheese mixture, beating well. Add the milk and liqueur, beating at low speed until blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating just until blended. Spoon the cream cheese mixture onto the prepared crust.

Set the springform pan with the cooled crust on an 18-inch square of double layer heavy-duty foil and wrap the bottom and sides; set the wrapped pan in a roasting pan.  Pour the filling into the springform pan and smooth the surface; set the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan so that it comes halfway up the side of the springform pan.  Bake the cheesecake until the center of the cake is slightly wobbly when the pan is shaken, about 1 hour.  Combine the sour cream, sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla. Spread the mixture on top of the cheesecake and bake an additional 5 minutes.  Set the roasting pan on a wire rack.  Cool until the water is just warm, about 45 minutes.  Remove the springform pan from the water bath, discard the foil, and set the springform pan on the wire rack; continue to cool until barely warm, about 3 hours.  Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours.  Decorate with pecan halves and serve with Butterscotch Sauce.

Makes 16 servings

Butterscotch Sauce
From the 1974 edition of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

1 large egg yolk, slightly beaten
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
¼ cup water
⅔ cup packed light brown sugar
⅓ cup light corn syrup

In a heavy saucepan, combine the ingredients. Cook and stir over low heat until thick. Stir before using.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Bakelist: Almond Butter Bars

I think I'm heartily sick of chocolate at the moment.  Good lord, I never thought I would utter such blasphemy.  But you can only eat so much before you start yearning for something a little different.  Something like these little slices of heaven.

Tons of butter?  Check.  Tons of sugar?  Check.  Awesome almond flavor?  Check.  These are amazing warm and still pretty awesome at room temperature.  I didn't attempt the chocolate dipping (for reasons stated above), but I can imagine that probably just about tips them over the top.  Definitely on my cooking bucket list.

Almond Butter Bars
Adapted from Bakelist and the San Francisco Chronicle

1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups granulated sugar, plus 4 teaspoons (divided)
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs
4 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2½ cups flour
½ cup almond meal
A pinch salt
½ cup sliced almonds
8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or chunks (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9x13-inch baking pan generously with cooking spray.

In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter.  When the butter is melted, stir in the granulated and dark brown sugars, reserving the 4 teaspoons of granulated sugar. Whisk in the eggs one at a time until pale golden in color and completely blended. Stir in almond and vanilla extracts and salt. Mix in the flour and almond meal until batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Sprinkle 4 teaspoons of granulated sugar over the top and then sprinkle with the sliced almonds, pressing them in slightly so that they won’t fall off after baking. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until dark golden on top, making sure not to burn the almonds. The bars will not be completely set in the center and will not test clean with a toothpick. Let cool completely before removing and slicing.

Store at room temperature in an airtight container up to 3 days, refrigerate for 1 week or freeze. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Optional: If dipping in melted chocolate, freeze the cut bars for at least 30 minutes. Melt 8 ounces of semisweet chocolate in the microwave.  Dip the frozen bars in the chocolate and place on a tray to either set out to cool or freeze. Let come to room temperature before eating.

Makes about 60 squares

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Nestlé: Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Muffins

Did you take home economics in school?  Do they even offer that anymore?  I did.  Even though my mom had already taught me to cook.  I figured that there's not much better than taking a whole class period to cook things and then eat them.  This is where all those guys went wrong.  Tons of girls + freshly baked muffins = AWESOME.  But I digress.

This recipe was one of the handouts from my home ec class, oh, let's just say a while ago.  You can tell that these muffins came from an older cookbook, because these are not those super sweet sugar bombs you get today.  And they are normal size.  No monster muffins.  So yes, I think you can call these relatively healthy and not feel an ounce of guilt stuffing one in your pie hole on a cold morning.

Tollhouse Chocolate and Peanut Butter Muffins
From Nestlé

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup milk chocolate morsels
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup whole milk
½ cup creamy peanut butter
⅓ cup canola oil
1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

In a large bowl, combine flour, morsels, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, combine milk, peanut butter, oil, and egg; stir into flour mixture just until dry ingredients are moistened. Spoon into muffin cups, filling each ¾ full.

Bake 20 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pan. Serve warm or cool completely.

Makes 12 muffins

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Swiss Woods Bed and Breakfast Inn: Parmesan Cherry Tomatoes

Once winter comes along, you stop seeing all those pretty fruits and vegetables at the grocery store.  It's just masses of winter squash, potatoes, and cabbage.  And you can only eat so much of those.  Sometimes you just need something sun-kissed and sweetly tart.  Something grown in a friggin' hothouse.  Why should winter stop me from having my tomatoes?  I LAUGH in the face of winter.

This side dish is super easy, super fast, and super delicious.  Convinced yet?  It's a perfect balance of soft and crunchy, sweet and tart, rich and fresh.  And it certainly put a smile on my face seeing those pretty little yellow tomatoes just waiting for me to gobble them up.

Parmesan Cherry Tomatoes
From Swiss Woods Bed and Breakfast Inn

2 pints cherry tomatoes, red and yellow
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
Cracked black pepper
Sea salt
¼ cup chopped herbs (any combination of basil, parsley, and chives)
2 tablespoons olive oil

Cut the cherry tomatoes in half lengthwise. In a bowl, toss the tomatoes with the panko, Parmesan, herbs, cracked pepper, and salt. Spoon the mixture into six ramekins. Drizzle with the olive oil. Bake at 375°F until the tops of the tomatoes are slightly browned, about 15 minutes. Serve hot.

Makes 6 servings

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Pinch of Yum: Crockpot Red Lentil and Spinach Curry

I love Indian food.  LOVE IT.  But it's pretty much a major production to make it at home.  And I don't know of any cheap little holes in the wall near my apartment.  So I've had a serious Indian famine lately.  Lucky for me, trying to be vegetarian means you start looking at Indian and Asian food with a certain longing.  After all, they know how to do vegetables right.

This is pretty easy to make, as you just through the whole mess into a slow cooker and hit GO.  I had to seriously tinker with the recipe though, as the original came out surprisingly tasteless.  After a bunch of spices and salt later, it's pretty darn good.  And I'm always a fan of something that cooks without my help.

Crockpot Red Lentil and Spinach Curry
Loosely adapted from Pinch of Yum blog

2 cups red lentils
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ginger, minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons red curry paste
2 teaspoons garam masala
¾ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon Madras curry powder
1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch cayenne pepper
2 (15-ounce) cans tomato sauce
2 teaspoons salt
½ cup coconut milk
5 ounces fresh baby spinach
Juice of 1 lime
Cilantro for garnishing

Rinse the lentils and place them in a large crockpot. Add the diced onions, garlic, ginger, butter, curry paste, garam masala, turmeric, coriander, cinnamon, cumin, curry powder, sugar, and cayenne. Stir to combine.

Pour the 2 cans of tomato sauce over the lentils. Refill the can with water once and add to the crockpot. Stir to make sure that the lentils are covered with liquid. Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 7-8 hours.

Check once or twice during cooking to add more water if the lentils are soaking up all the liquid. The amount of water or tomato puree you add depends on how soupy your want your lentils to be. Taste and season with salt. The lentils will be soft when they are done cooking.

Stir in the coconut milk and spinach.  When the spinach is wilted, add the lime juice.  Sprinkle with cilantro just before serving. Serve over basmati rice.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Vegan Planet: Smoky Maple Mixed Beans and Kale

I'm trying to eat healthy.  Honestly I am.  I'm looking towards the end of the month and all of the holiday craziness and thinking...I am going to gain about 10 pounds if I don't reign this sucker in.  Everyday can't be a holiday after all.  So I'm going to try being a vegetarian for a little bit.  Maybe a week.  Maybe a month.  Maybe a day.  But at least I'm trying.

I saw this recipe online as I was desperately scouring vegan and vegetarian websites for something filling and tasty and meatless.  The dish is actually pretty fabulous.  I would definitely eat this next to my roast chicken.  And see all that green?  That's vitamins calling your name.  You'd better answer.

Smoky Maple Mixed Beans and Kale
Adapted from Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium-sized onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch kale, ribs removed and leaves chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
2 chipotle chiles in adobo, minced

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic, cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the kale and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the beans, then add the remaining ingredients, stirring to combine.  Simmer for 10 minutes longer to blend the flavors.  Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed.  Serve hot.

Makes 4 servings

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Allrecipes: Light Wheat Rolls

Somehow whenever Thanksgiving rolls around, I manage to talk myself into making all sorts of big dishes that end up with a long suffering cook barely on her feet.  I really need to get control of my bravura, because this is getting out of hand.  But why have those nasty little pre-made shelf-stable rolls when you can turn these puppies out in a couple of hours?

These are really pretty simple to make, especially considering that they are in fact yeast rolls.  Whenever I'm struggling with a way to proof the dough (no, I don't have one of those fancy ovens with the proofing setting), I just pull out my handy heating pad.  Under the bowl it goes, and my dough is nice and toasty and happy.

Light Wheat Rolls
From allrecipes.com

2 (¼-ounce) packages active dry yeast
1¾ cups warm water
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg, beaten
2¼ cups whole wheat flour
2½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Mix the sugar, salt, melted butter, egg, and whole wheat flour into the yeast mixture. Stir in the all-purpose flour, ½ cup at a time, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.

Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn the dough to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Punch down dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled again, about 30 minutes. Grease a baking sheet. Punch down dough and divide into two equal portions. Roll each portion into a 6x14-inch strip and cut into twelve squares. Roll the squares into balls and place in rows on the baking sheet. Bruch the tops with melted butter. Let rise, uncovered, in a warm place, for 40 minutes, or until doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bake the rolls for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and brush again with melted butter.

Makes 24 rolls

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Recipelink: Blackberry Jalapeño Jelly

I first had jalapeno pepper jelly with cream cheese and crackers at a friend's dinner party.  I think I'm a little behind on this aspect of Southern cooking, because I didn't really know what it was until I put a delicious bite in my mouth.  The jelly had come from a small manufacturer who only sells her jellies in a small shop in downtown McKinney (that I know of), and the recipe is a closely guarded secret.  I hate when people keep recipes secret, so of course I had to make my own.

Okay, so I didn't really make jelly with fresh blackberries at the end of November.  I'm trying to be good about seasonality, so this lovely jelly was manufactured this past summer, at the height of berry season.  It's just been sitting pretty in jars, waiting for entertaining events to be rolled out to great acclaim.  You can certainly adjust the amount of jalapeños in the recipe, but as is, the jelly has a nice burn under the sweetness.

Blackberry Jalapeño Jelly
Adapted from recipelink.com

12 ounces fresh blackberries
½ pound green bell peppers, seeds and ribs discarded, roughly chopped
½ pound jalapeño peppers, including seeds and ribs, roughly chopped
1½ cups unfiltered apple cider vinegar
6 cups granulated sugar
2 (3-ounce) packets liquid pectin

Prepare seven half-pint canning jars.

Using a spatula, press the blackberries through a fine mesh screen into a large bowl. The screen should catch the seeds, which should be discarded. Add as much blackberry flesh as possible without introducing any seeds into the liquid. Set aside.

Put the green peppers and jalapeños into a food processor fitted with the steel knife blade. Pulse the pepper mixture until the pieces are about ¼-inch on each side. Pour the pepper mixture into a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the apple cider vinegar and the sugar, stirring to combine. Heat the mixture over medium high heat until the sugar melts and the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure the mixture does not boil over.

Remove the pepper mixture from the heat and strain into the bowl with the blackberry juice. Discard the pepper pieces. Stir the blackberry mixture to combine and then return the mixture to the large pot or Dutch oven. Bring the mixture back to a boil. Add the liquid pectin and boil hard for one minute. Remove the mixture from the heat and ladle into the prepared jars. Screw on the lids and process in boiling water for 10 minutes. Let cool for 24 hours. The jelly may take up to a week to set.

Makes 7 half-pint jars

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Momofuku Milk Bar: Crack Pie

I didn't really think this pie would live up to its name.  I mean, crack is pretty dang addictive.  People steal from their own mothers to get more.  That's a pretty big reputation to live up to.  Guess what?  It does.  I watched adults race each other to get another slice of this pie.  I've had people ask for more pie instead of saying good morning.  I haven't heard of anyone stealing from their mothers yet, but it wouldn't surprise me.

This pie is basically a giant puddle of butter and sugar.  If that sounds like your thing, you will love this pie.  If you are diabetic, stay as far away from this pie as you can.  I actually think it might put you into a diabetic coma.  It's that sweet.  But it might actually be worth it...

Crack Pie
From Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi

Crack Pie:
¼ cup unsalted butter
1 recipe Oat Cookie (recipe follows)
1½ tablespoons light brown sugar
 teaspoon salt
1 recipe Filling (recipe follows)
Dusting of confectioner's sugar

Oat Cookie:
½ cup unsalted butter
 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
Scant  teaspoon baking powder
Pinch baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter
1½ cups granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
1½ teaspoons salt
¼ cup milk powder
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 large egg yolks
To make pie:
Heat the oven to 350°F.

In a microwave, gently melt your butter on a medium/low setting for 15 to 30 seconds. Let it cool until it is not hot to the touch before proceeding.

Put the oat cookie, brown sugar, and salt in the food processor and pulse it on and off until the cookie is broken down into a wet sand. (If you don't have a food processor, you can fake it till you make it and crumble the oat cookie diligently with your hands.)

Transfer the cookie crumbs to a bowl and, with your hands, knead the butter and ground cookie mixture until the contents of the bowl are moist enough to knead into a ball. If it is not moist enough to do so, gently melt and additional 15 to 25 grams of butter and knead it into the oat crust mixture. Divide the oat crust evenly over two 10" pie tins (two pies is always better than one).

Using your fingers and the palm of your hand, press the oat cookie crust firmly into both 10-inch pie shells. Make sure the bottom and the walls of the pie shells are evenly covered. Use the pie shells immediately or, wrapped well in plastic, store the pie shells at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Place both pie shells on a ½ sheet pan. Divide the crack pie filling evenly over both crusts. The filling should fill the crusts ¾ way full. And bake at 350°F for 20 minutes. During this time, the crack pie will still be very jiggly, but should become golden brown on top. Know your oven, which corners bake your cookies or pies lighter or darker and take these nooks into consideration when placing your pies in the oven-use the shelf and corners that brown your baked goods best.

At 20 minutes, open the oven door and reduce the baking temperature to 325°F Depending on your oven this will take 5-10 minutes-keep the pies in the oven during this process. When the oven reads 325°F, close the door and finish baking the crack pie for 5 minutes.

At 5 minutes, the crack pie should still be jiggly in the bulls eye center, but not in the outer center circle. If the crack pie is still too jiggly, leave the pies in the oven an additional 5 minutes in the 325°F oven.

Gently take the half sheet pan of crack pies out of the oven and transfer to a rack to cool at room temperature. You can speed up the cooling process by carefully transferring the pies to the fridge or freezer if you're in a hurry. Freeze your pie for as little as 3 hours or overnight to condense the filling for a dense final product-the signature of a perfectly executed crack pie.

Wrap the crack pies if you are not serving them right away. Decorate your pies with confectioner's sugar through a fine sieve or the pinch of your fingers.

To make oat cookie:

Heat the oven to 350°F.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars on medium high for 2 to 3 minutes until fluffy and pale yellow in color. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula.

On a lower speed, add egg to incorporate. Increase the speed back up to a medium high for 1 to 2 minutes until the sugar granules fully dissolve and the mixture is a pale white color.

On a lower speed, add the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix 60 to 75 seconds until your dough comes together and all remnants of dry ingredients have incorporated. Your dough will still be a slightly fluffy, butter fatty mixture in comparison to your average cookie dough. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula.

Pam spray and line a quarter sheet pan with parchment or a Silpat. Plop the oat cookie dough in the center of the pan and with a spatula, spread it out until it is ¼-inch thick. The dough won't end up covering the entire pan, this is okay. Bake the oat cookie at 350°F for 15 minutes.

Cool completely before using in the crack pie recipe.

To make filling:
In a microwave, gently melt the butter down in 15-second intervals. Make sure it is not hot to the touch.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on low speed, mix together the dry ingredients until they are evenly distributed. If you try to mix the crack pie filling in on any higher than a low speed, you will incorporate too much air in the following steps and your pie will not be dense an gooey- the essence of the crack pie.

Add the melted butter to the mixer and paddle until all the dry ingredients are moist.

Add the heavy cream and vanilla and mix until the white from the cream has completely disappeared into the mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

Add the egg yolks to the mixer, paddling them in to the mixture just to combine. Be careful not to aerate the mixture.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Laura Rebecca's Kitchen: Spaghetti Squash Gratin

I'm a bit fascinated by spaghetti squash.  I mean, it shreds into strings.  Without the cook really having to do anything.  How cool is that?  And there's nothing wrong with playing with your food.  There's all sorts of fun food out there to be messed with.  This is just the tip of the iceberg.

But once you've got those fun strings, what do you do with them?  I'm not a huge fan of spaghetti (yes, I know I'm weird), so tomato sauce is out for now.  Plus, isn't that kinda boring?  Spaghetti squash to make spaghetti?  I've already made the squash with Moroccan flavors, but this is perfect for cold weather.  Warm, creamy, cheesy.  That is perfection, people.

Spaghetti Squash Gratin
Adapted from Laura Rebecca's Kitchen blog

1 medium spaghetti squash
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 small yellow onion, cut in half and very thinly sliced
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more if you like it spicy
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup sour cream or crème fraiche
1 cup grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Cut the spaghetti squash in half and remove the seeds. Place in a covered dish with a ¼-inch of water and microwave for 10 to 12 minutes. In a medium-sized skillet over medium heat, add the butter, onions, red pepper, and thyme, and cook until the onions are slightly brown in color. Salt and pepper to taste.

Using a fork, scrape the insides of the squash and transfer to a small bowl. Combine the squash, onions, sour cream, and half the Parmesan cheese together and mix well. Transfer the mixture to a buttered baking dish and top with remaining cheese.

Place into a 450ºF oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown on top.  Sprinkle with cayenne pepper.

Makes 6 servings

Sunday, November 24, 2013

BBC Good Food: Cranberry Sauce with Port and Star Anise

Do you remember eating cranberry sauce from a can for Thanksgiving?  How you would open the can and then desperately try to get that gelatinous blob to come out of the can in one piece without having to tear it to pieces?  And how it would sit there in the bowl, gently quivering?  Yeah, that is one of the essential experiences of childhood.  And now that I actually think back on it, it's very 50's and very yuck.  But you can't go without cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, so that means making something to replace it.

Even though I grew up with cranberry jelly, I liked the idea of actually having cranberries in my sauce.  You know, the stuff the sauce is actually made from?  I thought it would give it a nice texture and take away the scary blob-like molding.  So I searched my go-to cookbook (the internet), and I found a recipe that turns out a cranberry sauce that tastes a bit like the can, though richer and fresher, with none of the industrial gelatin.

Cranberry Sauce with Port and Star Anise
Adapted from BBC Good Food

1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries
Grated zest of 1 orange
Juice of 2 oranges
2 tablespoons red currant jelly
½ cup tawny port
2 whole star anise
½ cup sugar

Tip the cranberries into a saucepan, grate in the orange zest, then squeeze in the orange juice.  Add the red currant jelly, port, and star anise, and slowly bring to a simmer.

Cook gently over a low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all the cranberries have burst and the sauce thickens and looks glossy.  Stir in the sugar and taste.  Cool and fish out of the star anise.  The sauce will keep in the refrigerator in a covered container for 1 week or for 2 months in the freezer.

Makes 10 servings

Friday, November 22, 2013

Smitten Kitchen: Garlic Butter Roasted Mushrooms

I think I have a relatively unhealthy love of mushrooms.  I swear, I could eat them every day and not get sick of them.  There's something about the way they soak up all the delicious goodness of whatever you cook them in that just makes them a delight on the tongue.  Especially when that goodness is butter and garlic.  Heck, I might start putting butterandgarlic up there with bacon in making everything taste better.

I saw this recipe quite a while ago, and to this day I'm not entirely sure why I didn't make it IMMEDIATELY.  I must have been confused at the time.  Because this recipe makes a batch of mushrooms that make you want to lick your fingers and keep going back for more until you realize you ate the whole dang dish yourself.  I didn't have capers in my refrigerator, and I didn't miss them.

Garlic Butter Roasted Mushrooms
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen blog, as seen on Gourmet.com

1 pound mushrooms such as cremini or white, halved lengthwise if large
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
⅛ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in middle. Toss mushrooms with capers, garlic, oil, salt, and several grinds of pepper in a 1½- to 2-quart shallow baking dish. Top with butter and roast, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are tender and golden and bubbly garlic sauce forms below, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and parsley. Serve immediately, with crusty bread on the side for swiping up the juices.

Makes 4 servings

Monday, November 18, 2013

Allrecipes: Chicken Divan

I was always that weird kid in school who didn't mind when they pulled out the tray of broccoli at lunch in the cafeteria.  I even requested it from among many choices.  And my friends would watch me eat, almost fascinated by the fact that I was doing it voluntarily.  Hey, I liked my veggies, what can I say.  And I still like almost anything made with broccoli.  Anything savory.  Broccoli and chocolate are probably a no-no.

My mom only made chicken divan once that I can remember, but I really liked it.  (Wait a minute...why did this only make one appearance in my childhood if I liked it??)  I'm not normally one for a can of cream of mushroom soup, but I just haven't found a perfect replacement for that umami MSG deliciousness, even though I know it's probably slowly growing a tumor somewhere in my body.  Plus, it's fast.  And since I just want to crawl in bed when I get home from work lately, I'm all about fast.

Chicken Divan
Loosely adapted from Allrecipes

½ rotisserie chicken, bones and skin discarded, meat kept in bite-sized chunks
1½ cups frozen chopped broccoli
1 (10¾-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
 cup milk
Dash of garlic powder
 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
½ cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
½ sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cook the frozen broccoli according to package directions.  Place the cooked broccoli in the bottom of a casserole dish or 9-inch pie dish.  Top with the chicken.  In a bowl, mix together the canned soup, milk, garlic powder, and Tabasco sauce.  Pour the mixture over the chicken.  Sprinkle with the Cheddar cheese, then with the crackers.

Bake until bubbly and brown, about 25 minutes.  Serve over rice.

Makes 6 servings

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Gourmet: Barbecued Country-Style Ribs

My mom used to make baked country-style ribs throughout my childhood, and while I liked the idea, they never seemed to turn out very tender.  I was practically fighting off my sisters for the tender, fatty bits.  For a long time I just figured that country-style ribs were tough and unpleasant.  Guess what?  I'm wrong.

I came across this recipe while cruising the internet and discovered where we had all gone wrong.  That naughty plaid cookbook (not to name names) did not provide a long enough cooking time to get the ribs all the way to tender.  These things take hours.  But they are worth it.  Definitely.

Barbecued Country-Style Ribs
Loosely adapted from Gourmet magazine, December 2005

3 pounds well-marbled boneless country-style ribs
3 teaspoons sea salt
20 black peppercorns
1 large red onion, halved through the root and sliced into half moons
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups Sweet Baby Ray’s original barbecue sauce
Orange zest, for serving (optional)

In a large pot, put the ribs and cover with water until it is 2 inches above the top of the meat. Sprinkle in the salt and peppercorns. Bring the water to a simmer and cook 30 minutes, spooning scum from the top of the water. Do not boil! Remove the ribs from the water with tongs and rest the meat on paper towels to dry.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In the bottom of a 9x13-inch pan, spread the red onion slices and sprinkle with garlic bits. Place rib pieces on top of the onions, trying to keep the ribs from touching. Pour 2 cups of barbecue sauce over the ribs and spread evenly using the back of a spoon. Cover with foil and bake for 1 to 1½ hours. Remove foil, cover ribs with remaining barbecue sauce, and bake for another 30 minutes. Sprinkle with orange zest, if desired.

Makes 4 servings

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Garnish with Lemon: Mexican Grilled Corn

So I had one lonely corncob left in my refrigerator.  And it seemed a shame to throw away the last corn I would probably have until next summer.  But what do you make with one ear of corn?  I wanted it to be special, not just boiled.  Then, since I'm on a Mexican kick lately, I thought of the corn they serve on the streets.  Roasted and slathered with mayonnaise and cheese.  Perfect.

I used my grill pan to sear the corn since I didn't want to get out my charcoal grill for one ear of corn.  It seemed to work pretty well, but I didn't get as nice of grill marks.  Surprise, surprise.  I also hadn't planned ahead and bought cotija cheese, so I subbed with the Parmesan.  It still turned out tasty and pleasing, and I will definitely be trying this again the next time I see some decent corn.

Mexican Grilled Corn
Adapted from Garnish with Lemon blog

4 ears corn, silks and husks removed
Grapeseed or olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
¼ cup mayonnaise
⅓ to ½ cup grated cotija, queso fresco, or Parmesan cheese
Cayenne pepper to taste
Handful cilantro, chopped
4 lime wedges

Rub corn with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on preheated grill or grill pan and cook for 12 to 15 minutes or to desired degree of doneness, turning occasionally. Spread each ear of corn with mayonnaise, then sprinkle with cotija cheese, cayenne pepper, and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges and squeeze lime juice over corn just before eating.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Fine Cooking: Torte de Tres Leches con Café (Coffee Infused Three Milks Cake)

I needed a dessert for a Mexican themed lunch.  Sopapillas?  No way to fry them up at the right time.  Churros?  Same problem.  Flan?  To delicate and eggy.  This was becoming too much of a pain.  But then I realized that I could make a tres leches cake ahead of time and save the day.

I made the cake the night before and let it soak in its syrup in the refrigerator.  The next morning I whipped up the cream and spread it on top.  The decorations were added right before serving, and the cake spent its time almost exclusively in the refrigerator so it wouldn't melt.  It turned out rich and creamy, almost like tiramisu in flavor.  For a plain vanilla cake, just leave out the espresso.

Torte de Tres Leches con Café (Coffee Infused Three Milks Cake)
Adapted from Fine Cooking magazine, June/July 2012

For the cake:
Unsalted butter, softened, for the pan
1 cup (4½ ounces) all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoons kosher salt
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
 cup whole milk
¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the soaking liquid:
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup fresh brewed espresso, cooled
Pinch kosher salt

For the topping:
2½ cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Shaved chocolate, raspberries, and mint for serving

Bake the cake:

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 9x13-inch Pyrex baking dish or a nonreactive metal pan. Line the bottom of the baking dish or pan with parchment and lightly butter the parchment.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a medium bowl and the yolks in a large bowl. With an electric mixer, beat the yolks with ¾ cup of the sugar on medium speed until the mixture is pale and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the milk and vanilla and beat until combined, 1 minute more.

Clean and dry the beaters and then beat the egg whites, gradually increasing the speed to high, until they reach soft peaks, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the remaining ¼ cup sugar in a stream, continuing to beat on high, until you reach firm but not dry peaks, 1 to 2 minutes more. Whisk a third of the dry ingredients into the yolk mixture until thoroughly combined. Gently fold in a third of the egg whites with a rubber spatula. Fold in the remaining dry ingredients and egg whites, alternately, in two more batches each, until fully incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared dish or pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert the cake onto the rack, remove the parchment, and let cool completely.

Return the cake to the baking dish or pan (the cake will soak up more of the liquid if returned to the pan it was baked in), or invert it onto a rimmed platter.

Soak the cake:

In a medium bowl, stir together the condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream, espresso, and salt until the condensed milk is well blended.

With a toothpick, prick the cake to the bottom in ½-inch intervals. Pour the soaking liquid slowly over the cake, starting at the edges and pausing to let it soak in before adding more. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the cake is well chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

Top the cake:

In a large bowl, beat the heavy cream with an electric mixer on medium speed. When it begins to thicken, slowly add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat just until it holds firm peaks, 3 to 4 minutes (be careful not to overbeat). Spread the whipped cream all over the top of the cake.  Decorate with shaved chocolate, raspberries, and mint, if desired.  Serve.

You can soak the cake in the milk mixture up to a day ahead and top it up to 2 hours ahead.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Saveur: Hawaiian Cabbage Salad

I had this salad for the first time years ago at a potluck at my office.  At first I was a bit suspicious.  I mean, ramen noodles are an ingredient.  Only recently did I figure out that this salad is actually a thing in Hawaii.  I guess that makes sense.  I mean, they also idolize Spam.

This is a perfect winter salad, since cabbage pretty much never goes out of season.  The almonds and ramen and breadsticks give a nice crunch, and the black sesame seeds make it interesting.  This doesn't last long though, so make sure you add the dressing right before you serve it.  And if you think you might not need it all, hold half back and only use half of the dressing.  I promise, it can get slimy the next day.

Hawaiian Cabbage Salad
Adapted from Saveur magazine, July 2011

1 large head green cabbage, shredded
8 green onions, white and green parts, sliced thin
1 (2-ounce) package slivered almonds
1 (4.4-ounce) package Alessi sesame breadsticks, crushed
1 (3.5-ounce) package chicken flavored ramen
3 teaspoons black sesame seeds
Salad Dressing

Mix all ingredients together in large bowl.  Pour dressing over salad and mix just before serving.

Salad Dressing

¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup sesame oil
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon Accent powder
¼ cup mirin
¼ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
½ teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon salt
Seasoning packet from chicken flavored ramen

Whisk all ingredients together.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Family Circle: Mini Crab Cakes with Dijon Sauce

My mom has had a container of crab in her refrigerator for a while, and almost every time I call her, she asks what should be done with it.  Finally I told her that I would come over and make crab cakes (and eat them of course) since that seemed to be what she was implying.

These babies make for a pretty delicious dinner.  Unless you're my dad who hates crab.  Then you get a steak, and my mother claims part of it so that she can have surf and turf.  I can't wait to get married if this is how it works.

Mini Crab Cakes with Dijon Sauce
Crab cakes adapted from Family Circle magazine

1 (6- to 8-ounce) package fresh lump crabmeat
1 large egg, slightly beaten
6 tablespoons fine dry breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons finely chopped carrot
2 tablespoons finely chopped celery
1 tablespoon finely chopped green onion (green part only)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¾ teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon bottled hot pepper sauce
2 tablespoons cooking oil
Dijon Sauce

In a medium mixing bowl, combine egg, 4 tablespoons of breadcrumbs, carrot, celery, onion, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard, salt, and hot pepper sauce.  Gently stir in crabmeat, just until combined.  With wet hands, gently shape mixture into small patties, a little over an inch in diameter.  Place remaining crumbs in a shallow dish and coat both sides of the patties with crumbs.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Add crab cakes.  Cook about 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown and heated through.  Serve immediately with lemon wedges and Dijon Sauce.

Makes 12 patties

Dijon Sauce
1 (8-ounce) container sour cream
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon ground white pepper

Whisk together all ingredients and serve with crab cakes.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Martha Stewart: Spinach Pie

Ah, spanakopita.  Such a delicious nectar of the gods.  And such a pain in the rear to make.  I mean, seriously, who has the time to fold all of that phyllo dough into perfect little triangles??  Well, maybe I could, but I much prefer this incarnation.

More of a casserole than a pie, this is a great dish for a potluck (which is where this one went), especially if you fear that there may be a lack of vegetables.  This way everyone gets their greens and they actually taste good.

Spinach Pie
Adapted from Martha Stewart

¼ cup (½ stick) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 medium onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
3 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
½ pound feta cheese, crumbled
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup plain dried breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon dried dill
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 ounces frozen phyllo sheets, thawed and thinly sliced

Make the filling:

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat. Add onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and 1 teaspoon salt; cook until garlic is tender, 1 to 2 minutes.

Transfer mixture to a large bowl; stir in spinach, feta, Parmesan, breadcrumbs, dill, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Fold in eggs until combined.

Pour mixture into a 9-inch springform pan; press firmly to flatten.

Make the topping:

Melt remaining ¼ cup butter in a small bowl.  In a large bowl, gently toss sliced phyllo to separate, then toss with melted butter until coated.

Cover the top of the pie evenly and completely with the topping. (To freeze, cover pie tightly with plastic wrap, being careful not to flatten topping. Bake within 3 months; do not thaw first.)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake until heated through and topping is golden brown, about 1 hour 15 minutes for frozen pie (30 minutes for unfrozen pie).

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Closet Cooking: Jalapeño Popper Corn Fritters

You won't believe this, but I actually found some corn at the grocery store, and it wasn't gross.  I'm not sure where these beautiful cobs came from, but God bless that farmer.  Who knew you could get produce like this in October.  I really hope I didn't just buy something from Peru...

I pinned this recipe a while ago, and I drool over it every time I flip through my pins.  It just looks so...delicious.  So I used my beautiful corn to make these fritters.  Not quite as spicy as I thought, so play with the jalapeño.  After all, every jalapeño has a different spice level.  And the original recipe said bacon was optional.  Bacon is never optional.

Jalapeño Popper Corn Fritters
Adapted from Closet Cooking blog

½ cup all-purpose flour
1 egg
½ cup finely shredded Cheddar cheese
2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 to 3 jalapeño peppers, diced
2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon coriander, toasted and ground
2 green onions, sliced
1 handful cilantro, chopped
1 lime, zest and juice
2 tablespoons oil
½ cup Jalapeño Popper Dressing

Mix the corn, flour, egg, cheddar cheese, cream cheese, jalapeños, bacon, paprika, coriander, green onion, cilantro, and lime juice in a bowl.

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat, form into ¼-cup patties, and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 2 to 4 minutes per side.

Serve with jalapeño popper dressing.

Makes 4 servings

Jalapeño Popper Dressing
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
¼ cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
¼ cup buttermilk
¼ cup fresh diced jalapeños
1 clove garlic
1 green onion
1 tablespoon cilantro
2 tablespoons bacon, cooked and crumbled
Salt and pepper to taste

Puree everything in a food processor and blend until smooth.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Chow.com: Best Eggnog

I know it's early to be talking about eggnog.  I know, I know.  But the thing is, THIS is the time to make the eggnog so that it's beautiful and mellowed by the time you're drinking it at Christmas.  Same sort of thing with fruitcake.  All those beautiful things you eat at the end of the year have to be made ready months ahead of time so that they have the chance to age properly.  So get yourself a good bottle of bourbon, whip some of this lovely stuff up, and leave it in the back of your fridge until Christmas.  Don't poke it, pull it out, or anything.  Leave it alone.  It will be waiting for you when the fire is crackling and the Christmas music is playing.

Note:  This is some strong booze.  Some really, really strong booze.  And you can let it age in your fridge for a year.  Or two, if it lasts that long.  Just be careful when you finally sample it, because it may knock you on your rear.

Best Eggnog
From chow.com

For the eggnog:
12 large eggs yolks (reserve the whites)
2 cups granulated sugar
2 to 4 cups bourbon
1 quart (4 cups) whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
¾ cup Cognac or brandy
½ cup Myers’s dark rum
Pinch fine salt

To serve:
12 reserved egg whites
1½ cups cold heavy cream
Ice (optional)
Freshly grated nutmeg

For the eggnog:
Place the reserved egg whites in a very clean and airtight container and freeze until the eggnog is ready to serve. Combine the yolks and sugar in a large bowl and whisk until well blended and creamy. Add the the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Transfer the mixture to a 1-gallon glass jar and tightly seal the lid. (Alternatively, you can bottle it.) Place in the refrigerator for at least 1 week and up to 3 weeks.

To serve:
The night before serving, place the frozen egg whites in the refrigerator to thaw. When ready to serve, let the egg whites come to room temperature. Place the egg whites in the very clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove to a large punch bowl. Place the cream in the stand mixer bowl (no need to wash the bowl) and whisk on high speed until medium peaks form, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove to the punch bowl. Stir the eggnog base with a rubber spatula to re-combine, then add it to the punch bowl. Gently whisk the eggnog together until just combined and no large pockets of whites or cream remain (do not overwhisk or you’ll deflate the eggnog). Serve in punch cups over ice, if desired, and garnished with grated nutmeg.

Makes 16 servings

Sunday, September 29, 2013

HomeGrownBeets: Fresh Mint Chip Ice Cream

Yes, I know it's almost October.  And I'm just now making ice cream.  But here in Texas, it's still warm.  And I'm eating dinner outside.  And I have a bunch of mint in my fridge that's on its last delicate and expensive leg.  So, voila, mint chip ice cream.

This is probably my favorite flavor of ice cream.  But after I found out that most of the stuff you buy has about a ton of green food coloring in it, I swore off.  Yes, I was a little unsure about pureeing up a bunch of mint, but it actually gave the ice cream that pretty green color without the artificial additives.  And do yourself a favor and use Ghirardelli chocolate chips or something similar.  Trust me.

Fresh Mint Chip Ice Cream
Adapted from HomeGrownBeets blog

⅔ cup fresh mint leaves (about one big bunch)
¾ cup granulated sugar
2½ cups whole milk
1½ cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped or ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large egg yolks
¼ cup corn syrup
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup chopped dark chocolate

Put the mint leaves and sugar into a food processor bowl.  Process until the mint is finely ground.

In a medium saucepan, warm the milk, heavy cream, and vanilla bean (not the vanilla extract) over medium heat.  Stir occasionally.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth, then add the sugar and mint mixture and whisk until combined.

When the milk mixture steams and is hot but not simmering, whisk ¼ cup of the hot milk into the egg mixture, then whisk in another ¼ cup of the hot milk.  This helps temper the eggs so they don’t scramble when you add them to the hot milk.

Take the saucepan off the heat and stir in the tempered egg mixture.  Return the saucepan to the cooktop over medium heat.  Add the corn syrup and salt.  Cook, stirring, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes.  Do not allow the mixture to boil.  When you draw your finger across the spoon, it should leave a clear mark through the custard.

If you choose to use vanilla extract instead of the vanilla bean, add the extract now.

Quickly set the saucepan into a large bowl filled with ice water to cool the custard.  You can also pour the custard into another heat proof pan if you prefer.  Stir the custard for a few minutes.  Cover and refrigerate until completely cool, at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.

Pour the custard through a fine mesh strainer to separate out the mint leaves and the vanilla bean. 

Churn the custard in your ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer’s directions.  Add the chocolate when the ice cream begins to harden.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Martha Stewart: Peach Cornmeal Upside Down Cake

You know it's the end of summer when the peaches start disappearing.  And it seemed like such a travesty that I had only made one peach dish that I decided to make another one with the very last of the California crop.  After this, only rock hard tasteless paste will be found in the grocery store masquerading as peaches.

So, this is pretty different.  Almost sweet and salty.  I really like the sweet almost-cornbread with the caramelized brown sugar peaches.  It really kinda does it for me.  And the herbes de Provence add this interesting background note that really makes you wonder.  I doubt I could have nailed it if I hadn't have put it in myself.  You could certainly substitute lavender for the herbes if you like, but I'm kinda partial to the almost savory flavor it gives the cake.

Peach Cornmeal Upside Down Cake
Loosely adapted from Martha Stewart

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
2-3 ripe peaches, unpeeled
1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup canola oil
½ cup half and half or whole milk

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Melt the butter in a small pan and cook over medium-low heat until the butter stops foaming and browns.  Pour the browned butter into a 9-inch round cake pan.  Tip the pan so that the butter coats the sides of the pan.  Sprinkle the dark brown sugar evenly over the butter.

Slice the peaches into wedges about a ½-inch thick.  Lay the peach slices around the bottom of the pan in a ring, with a couple of slices laid in the center.  Set aside.

Combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sea salt, herbes de Provence, granulated sugar, and light brown sugar.  Add the eggs, vanilla extract, canola oil, and half and half.  Mix just until well combined.  Pour over the peaches in the prepared pan and spread the batter evenly over the top.

Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let rest for 10 minutes.  Run a knife around the edge of the pan and invert the cake onto a serving dish.  Reposition peach slices if necessary.  Let cool slightly before serving.

Makes 8 servings

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Jimmy Dean: Slow Cooker Sausage Breakfast Casserole

I love breakfast casseroles.  You slap the whole thing together the evening before and throw it in the oven in the morning.  But what if you have to be at work with said breakfast casserole at 7am?  This calls for either 1) getting up at the crack of dawn, or 2) finding a slow cooker recipe.  You can obviously see which option I chose.

For something pretty simple, this dish is actually pretty good.  I think the sun-dried tomatoes really help, so don't substitute those.  You could probably add some seasonings, like chili powder or something, and it would be even better.  My slow cooker cooked the bejesus out of this casserole though, so start checking it about an hour or two before it says.  Unless I just happen to have the world's first nuclear powered slow cooker and don't realize I'm part of the secret testing mission.  My coworkers did say it looked like a spaceship.

Slow Cooker Sausage Breakfast Casserole
From Jimmy Dean

1 (26- to 32-ounce) package frozen shredded hash brown potatoes
1 (16-ounce) package sausage, such as Jimmy Dean, cooked and crumbled
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup (2 ounces) shredded Parmesan cheese
½ cup julienne-cut sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained
6 green onions, sliced
12 eggs
½ cup milk
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Spray a 6-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Layer ½ of the potatoes on the bottom of slow cooker.
Top with half of the sausage, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, sun dried tomatoes and green onion. Repeat layering.

Beat eggs, milk salt and pepper in large bowl with a wire whisk until well blended.  Pour evenly over potato-sausage mixture.  Cook on LOW setting for 8 hours or on HIGH setting for 4 hours or until eggs are set.

Makes 12 servings