Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Green Bean Bundles

New Year's Eve dinner is some steak and potatoes.  Because it's better to go out with a bang.  Especially if dieting is looming on the horizon.  But like a good girl, I was raised to eat my greens, even if I'm being completely unhealthy otherwise.  So we also had green beans, wrapped in bacon, and smothered in brown sugar.  Because bacon.  Hey, why not take these green beans out with a bang, too?

Green Bean Bundles

1½ pounds fresh green beans, tops trimmed
5 slices bacon, each cut into 3 pieces
3 tablespoons soy sauce, divided use
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon water
½ cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon real maple syrup (optional)
¼ teaspoon garlic powder

Place green beans in a large pot, fill with water to just above the level of the green beans, and bring to a boil.  Cook at medium-high heat for about 12 minutes, or until soft.  Drain and set green beans aside.

Once green beans have cooled enough to touch, make bundles of 6-8 beans and wrap each with a piece of bacon.  Secure the bacon with a toothpick, if desired.  Place bundles on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Combine 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce with the Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl and drizzle over the green bean bundles.  Sprinkle with the water.  Bake for 20 minutes, turning once.  

While the green beans are baking, combine the brown sugar, the remaining 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, the maple syrup (if using), and the garlic powder.  The mixture should form a wet sand.  When the 20 minutes is up, remove the green beans from the oven, and spread with the brown sugar mixture.  Cook the green beans for another 10 to 12 minutes, or until the bacon is cooked through and the brown sugar has caramelized.

Makes 15 bundles

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Koláče (Kolaches - Czech Sweet Yeast Rolls)

If you've lived in Texas long enough, you eventually come across the Czech Stop in West, Texas.  This is a required pit stop for anyone traveling down I-35.  Required.  I'm actually not sure how you could roll past this little kolache nirvana.  And lord help you if anyone knows you're going through that area, and you DON'T BRING ANY KOLACHES HOME.  Well, just in case, here's a pretty fabulous little recipe to make some at home.  Hey, I'm just thinking about your well-being.  Promise.

Koláče (Kolaches - Czech Sweet Yeast Rolls)

1¼ cups whole milk
1 (7-gram) packet active dry yeast (2¼ teaspoons) or 1½ teaspoons instant/bread machine yeast
3 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons powdered sugar
1½ teaspoons sea salt
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg yolk

Cheese filling:
6 ounces farmer’s cheese
1 large egg yolk
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ egg white, whipped until foamy

Blueberry filling:
1 cup fresh blueberries
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1½ tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Crumb topping:
2½ tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons powdered sugar

Forming kolaches:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Dough: Take half of the milk and warm it to 110°F. Add a teaspoon of sugar and the yeast to the warm milk; stir well and set aside until the yeast starts to bubble, about five minutes. Meanwhile, mix together the flours, sugar, salt, vanilla extract, and lemon peel. Take the rest of the milk, mix in the egg yolks, and then add to the dough along with the melted butter; mix well. Add the yeast mixture and mix everything together. Knead the dough until smooth, then dust with flour, cover with a dishtowel, and let rise until it has doubled (45 minutes to 1 hour).  If making the dough in a bread machine, add the milk, egg yolk, lemon peel, vanilla extract, and melted butter first, then the flours, sugar, salt, and lastly, the yeast.  Allow the dough cycle to run through.  While the dough is rising, prepare the cheese filling, blueberry filling, and crumb topping.

Cheese filling: Mix together the farmer’s cheese, egg yolk, vanilla extract, and sugar. Whip the egg white until it holds soft peaks and gradually fold the egg white into the farmer's cheese mixture.

Blueberry filling: Add all ingredients to a small pan and cook over medium heat until the blueberries pop and the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes.  Set aside to cool slightly.

Crumb topping: Melt the butter, then add the flour and sugar. Stir with a fork until crumbly and there are only a few large pieces.

Forming kolaches: Use a spoon to remove small portions of dough from the bowl. Roll into balls, and place the balls on a baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit on a counter for about 45 minutes to rise again. When the kolaches have risen about double, remove the plastic wrap.  Using a spoon or your fingers, press an indention in the middle of each ball, being carefull not to press all the way through to the cookie sheet.  Brush the kolaches with melted butter. Spoon about a teaspoon of the cheese filling into each kolache, and then a small amount of the blueberry filling on top of the cheese. Sprinkle each kolache with crumb topping.

Place the baking sheets in a preheated oven at 375°F for about 20 minutes. When they have just turned golden brown, they are ready.

Makes about 30 rolls

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Chorizo and Spinach Breakfast Casserole

The best Christmas breakfast is the kind you make the night before.  Or at least mostly make the night before.  Right before you have too much to drink the night before.  Trust me, this works.  Then, on Christmas morning, you pull the pan out of the fridge and push it into the oven.  An hour or so later you have warm cheesy goodness.  Right about the time your first cup of coffee is wearing off.  Slap some extra salsa on for lingering hangovers.

Chorizo and Spinach Breakfast Casserole

10 cups Italian bread cubes (1-inch cubes)
1 (16-ounce) chub Jimmy Dean chorizo
5 ounces fresh baby spinach
2 roasted Hatch peppers, seeded and chopped, or 1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chilies
1 (8-ounce) package finely shredded Cheddar cheese
10 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups whole milk
1½ teaspoons Spike seasoning
Sour cream and salsa, to serve

In a greased 9x13-inch baking dish, evenly distribute the bread cubes.

In a skillet, cook the chorizo, breaking it up with a wooden spoon into crumbles.  Pour off any grease and discard.  Add the fresh spinach to the cooked chorizo and stir until the spinach is wilted.  Evenly spread the chorizo mixture over the bread cubes.  Scatter the green chilies over the chorizo and then sprinkle with the Cheddar cheese.

Mix together the eggs, milk, and seasoning.  Pour over the bread/chorizo mixture.  Push down on the bread lightly to make sure all of the mixture is immersed in the egg.  Cover with foil and let sit in the refrigerator overnight.

The next morning, preheat the oven to 350°F.  Bake the casserole for 1 hour, covered.  Remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes to let brown slightly.  The casserole should have puffed up.  Check the center of the casserole with a knife to ensure that the egg is completely cooked before removing from the oven.  Serve warm with sour cream and salsa on the side.

Makes 8 to 10 servings

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Dorian Cuisine: Ricotta and Chorizo Pinwheels

I've never been one of those people who color-codes their food to match the holiday.  You know what I'm talking about.  That friend who serves you green cake on St. Patrick's day and flag cake on July 4th.  So it was completely inadvertent that these pinwheels just happened to have red and green filling.  I swear.  But they are kinda getting me in the spirit.

Ricotta and Chorizo Pinwheels
Adapted from Dorian Cuisine blog

1 (17.3-ounce) package puff pastry (2 sheets)
8 ounces ricotta
10 large leaves fresh basil, minced
9 ounces chorizo, cooked and drained of grease
1 ounce fresh baby spinach or arugula, chopped
1 large egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Lay out both sheets of puff pastry.  Spread each sheet evenly with ricotta.  Sprinkle with basil.  Sprinkle evenly with chorizo and spinach.  Roll up both sheets from the shorter end and cut into slices, approximately ½-inch thick.  Lay the slices on baking sheets about 2 inches apart.  Brush with egg.  Bake for 15 minutes or until pinwheels are golden brown and puffed.

Makes about 26 pinwheels

The Beeroness: Buffalo Chicken Beer Dip

What is better than some buffalo wings and a beer?  Buffalo wings without bones and cooked with beer.  I mean, it's all the goodness in one dish.  And you can slather this stuff on your dipper of choice.  Even if you aren't normally an IPA drinker, I suggest you just go with it.  It adds a certain something special.  And don't we all deserve something special?

Buffalo Chicken Beer Dip
Adapted from The Beeroness blog

2 cups shredded skinless chicken breast (from a rotisserie chicken)
1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¾ cup shredded mozzarella cheese, plus additional for top
⅓ cup Frank's RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper sauce
½ cup IPA beer (I used Mosaic)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons cornstarch
½ cup blue cheese sprinkles

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a stand mixer, combine all ingredients but blue cheese.  Mix until well combined.  Pour into a 2-quart oven-safe baking dish.  Sprinkle with extra mozzarella.  Bake until the dip is warm and bubbly, about 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle with blue cheese.  Serve warm with chips or celery.

Makes about 10 servings

Oh Sweet Basil: Ham and Provolone Sliders

I've seen these little sandwiches all over creation.  They're like the second coming.  Everyone gets excited about these, and they're just ham and cheese.  Which is why I never made them.  My bad.  These things are just as awesome as they sound.  Warm, buttery, sweet, savory, melty, cheesy.  Good golly, these are just about perfect.

Ham and Provolone Sliders
Loosely adapted from Oh Sweet Basil blog

1 package King's Hawaiian Honey Wheat dinner rolls (12 rolls)
Honey Mustard
½ pound shaved applewood smoked ham
6 slices provolone cheese
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Separate each of the rolls and cut each in half to form a top and bottom.  Spread the top and bottom of each roll with honey mustard.  Divide the ham among the rolls.  Cut each slice of cheese into quarters and put 2 quarters on each roll on top of the ham.  Close up each sandwich and place the sandwiches in a 9x13-inch baking dish.  Combine the butter, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, and garlic powder.  Brush each sandwich generously with the butter mixture.  Sprinkle each sandwich with a pinch of poppy seeds.  Bake, covered, for about 10 minutes, then remove the cover and bake an additional 2-3 minutes, or until sandwiches are hot and the cheese is fully melted.  Serve warm.

Makes 12 sandwiches

Honey Mustard
½ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Combine mayonnaise, honey, and mustard; mix well.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Eagle Brand Milk: Foolproof Fudge

Christmas is the only time I really eat fudge.  And most of the stuff I get out at stores is way, WAY too sweet.  It's more sugar than chocolate.  I like a nice, deep chocolate flavor.  And you get that with expensive chocolate.  You can certainly use good 'ole Nestle Tollhouse chocolate here, but I promise the Ghirardelli is worth the purchase.

Foolproof Fudge
Adapted from Eagle Brand Milk

3 cups (18 ounces) Ghirardelli bittersweet (70%) chocolate chips (or other high-quality chocolate)
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
Dash salt
½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Line an 8- or 9-inch square pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan.  Melt the chocolate chips with the sweetened condensed milk and salt in a heavy saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat. Stir in nuts and vanilla. Spread evenly into prepared pan.  Chill for 2 hours or until firm. Remove from pan by lifting edges of foil. Cut into squares.

Makes about 2 pounds of fudge

Sally's Baking Addiction: Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies

I've always liked white chocolate macadamia nut cookies.  While the rest of my family was happily eating semi-sweet cookies from Mrs. Fields, I wanted the white chocolate ones.  So what better than a white chocolate seasonal cookie?  Add some dried cranberries, and voilà, Christmas cookies.  And the fact that they're full of dark brown sugar doesn't hurt either.  I think these are going in the yearly rotation.

Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies
Adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction blog

¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt
¾ cup white chocolate chips
¾ cup dried cranberries (Craisins)

In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat the butter for 1 minute on medium speed until completely smooth and creamy. Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar and mix on medium high speed until fluffy and light in color. Beat in egg and vanilla on high speed. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.

In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt together until combined. On low speed, slowly mix into the wet ingredients until combined. The cookie dough will be quite thick. Add the white chocolate chips and dried cranberries mix on low for about 5-10 seconds until evenly disbursed. Cover dough tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and chill overnight.

Remove cookie dough from the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes or so. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.

Using a cookie scoop, make balls of dough, about 1 tablespoon of dough each. Place 12 on each baking sheet and flatten slightly with your fingers. Bake in batches for 8-10 minutes, until barely golden brown around the edges. They will look extremely soft when you remove them from the oven. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet. They will slightly deflate as you let them cool. Transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.

Cookies stay fresh covered at room temperature for up to 1 week. Baked cookies freeze well - up to three months. Unbaked cookie dough balls freeze well - up to three months.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

Monday, December 22, 2014

Betty Crocker: Spritz Cookies

When I was little, baking Christmas cookies was a thing.  Every year, without fail.  I mean, Santa needs cookies.  And it's always best to keep Santa happy.  My mom used this big copper cookie press to make spritz cookies.  Feeling nostalgic, I dragged out my electric cookie press and set to work.  After realizing the electric model was inferior (eg. motor was too tiny to actually push any dough out), and after cussing the stupid thing, I ran to the store for a hand-crank model.  Which worked perfectly.  The old ways are sometimes the best ways.

Spritz Cookies
Adapted from the 1963 edition of Betty Crocker's Cooky Book

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
⅔ cup granulated sugar
3 large egg yolks
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
2½ cups all-purpose flour

Mix together the butter and sugar until light. Add the egg yolks and flavoring - mix well. By hand, mix in the flour and work until quite soft and pliable. Tint if desired. Force through press according to directions onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 7-10 minutes until just set - do not let them brown. Cool on racks.

Makes about 6 dozen cookies

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Southern Living: Mexican Chocolate Pudding Cake

It's certainly that time of year for warm desserts.  If it's cold outside, you can at least have something warm in your stomach.  So why not something warm and sweet and spicy?  I know, I know, chocolate and cayenne pepper?  Crazy.  But I promise it's not.  It just adds a little bit of bite in the background.  No tongue scorching here.  And you absolutely MUST serve it warm with vanilla ice cream.  No excuses.

Mexican Chocolate Pudding Cake
Adapted from Southern Living magazine, September 2014

 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, divided
¾ cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon ground chipotle chile pepper
½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
½ cup sliced almonds
1 teaspoon packed light brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Microwave chocolate and ½ cup butter in a large microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 1 to 1½ minutes or until melted, stirring at 30-second intervals. Whisk in granulated sugar. Add eggs, 1 at a time, whisking just until blended after each addition. Whisk in flour, next 4 ingredients, and ¼ teaspoon salt.

Pour batter into a greased (with butter) 2-quart baking dish. Melt the remaining 2 teaspoons of butter.  Stir together sliced almonds, brown sugar, melted butter, and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Sprinkle almond mixture over cake batter. Bake for 30 minutes. (Center will be soft.) Cool on a wire rack 5 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Makes 6 servings

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Center Cut Cook: Slow Cooker Chili

Since it continues to be cold, rainy, and miserable, I have decided that I need something warm, spicy, and delicious.  Something like an awesome bowl of chili.  Or even better, a bowl of Frito pie!  I don't think I had Frito pie until I moved to Texas, but I've got a soft spot for it.  It's awesome year round.  And I really like that this recipe just bubbles away in the slow cooker while I'm doing other things.  The original recipe had enough chili powders/sauces to blow the top off your head, so I've scaled it back a bit.  If it's not spicy enough for your tastes, feel free to add more chili powder or cayenne pepper, or even a bit of Tabasco.

Slow Cooker Chili
Adapted from Center Cut Cook

8 strips applewood smoked bacon
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 pound ground beef
1 pound mild Italian sausage
3 (15-ounce) cans Ranch Style Beans
1 (28-ounce) can mild Rotel tomatoes and green chiles
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 (8-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, chopped
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup beef broth
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

In a large skillet, cook the bacon until crispy and then drain on a paper towel.  Drain off the bacon fat and use for another purpose.  Chop the bacon and set aside.  Add the chopped onion to the same pan the bacon was in, and sauté until translucent. Add the Italian sausage and ground beef and cook until no longer pink. Drain off excess fat.

In the pot of your slow cooker, place meat/onion mixture on the bottom. Add in the beans, Rotel, tomato paste, garlic, bell pepper, roasted red pepper, and reserved chopped bacon. Add in seasonings: chili powder, salt, black pepper, smoked paprika, sugar, oregano, cumin, coriander, and cayenne pepper. To the pot add the beef broth and Worcestershire sauce. Use a large spoon to stir the ingredients so that the seasonings and veggies are incorporated throughout.

Turn the slow cooker on low and let it cook for at least 8 hours. If you’re in a rush, you could cook this on the stove and would need to let everything simmer for at least two hours, but your results aren’t going to be quite as good as the slow cooker method. When ready to serve, top with your favorite garnishes including Fritos, sour cream, cheddar cheese, and diced onion.

Makes 12 servings

Monday, December 08, 2014

Better Homes & Gardens: Peanut Butter Blossoms

I have a bit of a cookie exchange to attend, and I didn't want to bring the third container of chocolate chip cookies.  I also didn't want to be the person who shows up with a cookie that only half the people in the room think is appetizing.  So I went with a childhood favorite.  I seriously would sit in the kitchen and wait as my mom topped each little cookie with a Kiss, and then bite into the warm cookie once the chocolate had gotten all melty.

Peanut Butter Blossoms
From the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1¼ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon sea salt
48 Hershey's Kisses, unwrapped

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Thoroughly cream the butter, peanut butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla. Sift together the dry ingredients; blend into the creamed mixture. Shape into 1-inch balls; roll in granulated sugar. Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. When the cookies are removed from the oven, immediately press a chocolate kiss onto the top of each cookie. Cool slightly; remove from pan.

Makes 4 dozen