Monday, May 20, 2019

Blueberry Lemon Cake



OK, first, lemme just say that I made this cake a few weeks ago with the intention of posting it for Mother's Day, but then schedules got crazy and life got in the way and things got pushed to the back burner, so to speak. Ah well, what can you do? But the good news it's here NOW and it's definitely worth the wait!
 I found this cake on a blog called Natasha's Kitchen. It's light and tasty, so it's just the perfect thing to have with a cup of tea for an afternoon treat. Doesn't that just sound lovely?
 I also love the fact that the recipe uses an entire pound of blueberries. I'm kind of a stickler for that sort of thing. If I'm making something that has a specific flavor, I want A LOT of that one key ingredient, know what I mean? In other words, if I'm gonna make, say, a peanut butter cookie, I want a recipe that uses A LOT of peanut butter! (Hence the Whole Jar of Peanut Butter Cookies.) It makes sense, right? And that's what we have here! LOTS of plump delicious blueberries. Yum. Btw, this cake is also a snap to throw together, so it's the perfect thing when you need something to sweeten your day. Hope you like it!



2 large eggs 
1 cup granulated sugar  
1 cup sour cream (8oz) 
1/2 cup vegetable oil  
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt  
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder  
1 medium lemon zest and juice, divided 
1/2 tbs corn starch  
16 oz fresh blueberries
Powdered sugar to dust the top, optional


Preheat Oven to 375˚F.
Lightly butter a 9-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment.
Beat eggs and sugar with whisk attachment on high speed 5 min, or until light in color and thick. Add sour cream, oil, vanilla extract, and salt, and whisk on low speed until well combined. Whisk together the flour with the baking powder, then add to batter 1/3 at a time, whisking to incorporate with each addition (DO NOT OVERMIX). Finally, add 1 tbs lemon juice and 1/2 tbs zest.
  Rinse blueberries and drain well. In a medium bowl, toss blueberries with 1/2 tbs corn starch and 1 tsp lemon juice, stirring until well combined and no dry white cornstarch remains.
 Pour half of batter into prepared springform pan and spread evenly. Top with half of the blueberries. Spread with remaining batter then sprinkle the rest of the blueberries evenly over the top, pushing them slightly into the batter (about halfway). Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cake rest in the pan 15-20 min then remove ring and cool until room temp or just warm. Serve dusted with powdered sugar.




Tips:
Full disclosure, the blueberries are supposed to stay suspended in the cake, but as you can see from the photo, mine sank to the bottom. Tbh, I didn't even mind it. But if you want yours to stay suspended, I've always had better luck tossing the blueberries with a tbs of flour, instead of tossing them with cornstarch.
Be sure to include the lemon zest. It really bumps up the lemon flavor in a cake without adding any liquid to the batter!
 Also, I used a 9" tart pan with a removable ring instead of the springform pan and it worked beautifully!
 

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Creamy Caramel Flan



 This is one of those dishes that I made literally YEARS ago, but then never got around to posting. In fact, it was so long ago, I couldn't even remember which recipe I used. Luckily, my sister Cathy remembered getting the recipe from her friend, Marcy. It's actually quite popular because I've seen it on several websites. Clearly this one is a winner! 
 The custard is silky smooth, the caramel hits all the right sweet and bitter notes that you want and expect from a home made caramel, and the whole thing just SCREAMS special occasion! It's really not difficult to make, so go ahead and try it! I promise you'll impress everyone!




3/4 cup sugar
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
5 large eggs
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


 Preheat oven to 350ºF.
In a small, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, cook sugar, stirring, until golden.  Pour into a 10" round baking dish, tilting to coat bottom and sides.  Set aside. Put a kettle of water on to boil so it is ready when you need it for the hot water bath. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated.  Beat in condensed and evaporated milk and vanilla until smooth.  Pour into caramel coated pan.  Line a roasting pan with a damp kitchen towel.  Place baking dish on towel inside roasting pan and place roasting pan on oven rack.  Fill roasting pan with boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the baking dish.  Bake in preheated oven 50-60 minutes, until center is just set.  Cool one hour on wire rack then chill in refrigerator 8 hours or overnight.  To unmold, run a knife around edges of pan and invert on a serving platter. 




Tips:
First and foremost, be VERY careful when melting sugar. It is LAVA HOT, so make sure the little ones are occupied and entertained elsewhere in the house whenever you make caramel.
Instead of just throwing the sugar into a dry pan (which can sometimes burn too quickly), try adding a few tablespoons of water to the sugar. It gives you a little insurance, because the water will take some time to evaporate, and then you can control how dark you want your caramel to be. Instead of stirring the sugar, (which can cause it to crystallize), just swirl the pan around in a circular motion until it turns a lovely dark golden color. Once it starts to darken in color, it goes pretty quickly, so keep a constant eye on it, and immediately remove it from the heat when you reach the perfect caramel color!
 

Monday, April 22, 2019

Joey's Sriracha Egg Salad


  This is a great way to use up all of your colored Easter eggs. I mean, I know making egg salad on the day after Easter isn't exactly a revelation, but adding Sriracha to it certainly is! If you've never tried it, you certainly must! Yes, it adds heat, but it also adds a fabulous savory flavor and it works perfectly! It's great in sandwiches (even better on toast!) or in wraps with freshly sliced tomatoes and crisp fresh lettuce. You can also use it for hors d'oeuvres, on crackers or crostini with a little slice of ham or crumbled bacon, or your choice of meat/veggies. Oh! It would be great with thin slices of plum tomato, zucchini, cucumber, garnish with a little chopped chives. Anything you like! I always like to make a double batch because it always seems to disappear too quickly. Just sayin'!
Hope you like it!




6 hard boiled eggs, peeled
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1-2 tbs Sriracha
2 tbs chopped sweet pickles (can also use Kosher dills)
salt and pepper to taste
paprika for garnish, if desired


 Using an egg slicer, slice your eggs in 2 directions. In other words, first you slice it north to south, then (holding the slices together) you place the egg back on the slicer and slice it east to west. You could also just throw your peeled eggs into a food processor and pulse it a few times. Bottom line, you just want the eggs to be finely chopped. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until well combined. That's all there is to it! Serve immediately or chill.




Tips:
 If you're not sure how hot you like it, just add one tbs of Sriracha and then give it a taste. You can always add more, but you can't take it out! So just add a little at a time to see how you like it!
I always prefer egg salad to be well chilled when I serve it, so I like to make it in advance and then let it get nice and cold in the fridge.
As always, if you like a lot of something, add a lot! Want more Sriracha? Go for it!
Optional add-ins: chopped celery, minced onion, garlic powder. Add as much as you like!
You can use regular sweet pickle relish instead of the chopped sweet pickles, but they do taste slightly different. I prefer the sweet pickles! It's just enough to balance the heat with the sweet!

Monday, April 15, 2019

Almond Bars


 Ok, so before we talk about this week's recipe, let me give you a little bit of a back story.
For years and years, I've had a tradition with my niece, Terri, on the night before Thanksgiving. At first, it started out as "Uncle Joey, will you please help me make stuffing for my in-laws?" It has now turned into "how about you make the stuffing, and I'll have a glass of wine?" Either way, we always get together, and it's always a fun night.
 So, last year, we were discussing our cooking agenda for the night, and at the last minute, Terri decided that she wanted to make a dessert. I said, "ok, what ingredients do you have?" She mentioned a few things and it became very apparent that we'd be baking an apple pie. Perfect. As I was tossing the sliced apples with cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar, she said "let's throw in a little almond extract!" Now, that's not usually one of my go-to add-ins for an apple pie, but she declared how much she loves anything with almond extract in it, and I figured, "hey, it's your pie, you can throw in anything you want!" So I added a few drops. It was delicious! Honestly, we couldn't stop stealing the apples out of the bowl while I was rolling out the crusts. And then I thought, "wait, how did I never know that you like almond this much?" I would search for an almondy something for you!"
 And now you're up to date with my inspiration for finding this recipe. To be quite honest, I found several almondy type recipes, and this is just the first (from a site called Genius Kitchen). Something tells me I'm gonna be making ALL of them for Terri until we find the favorite one. I guess I have several months of testing before we have our next Thanksgiving Eve cooking event. In the meantime, these almond squares are the perfect little sweet treat to bring to a brunch or a BBQ or a potluck. They're so tasty and they're super simple too!! And yes, of course, I'll be sure to let you know if we ever settle on a favorite!



4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cup (two sticks) butter, melted
2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp almond extract
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar



Beat together the eggs and sugar until lemon-colored. Add the butter, flour, and almond extract; mix well. Spread the batter in an even layer on a buttered 13x9-inch baking pan. Sprinkle the top of the batter with sliced almonds. Bake at 325° for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove pan from the oven and dust the top with a light sprinkling of confectioner's sugar. Cool completely before cutting into squares.


Tips:
Just as with any type of nuts, you definitely want to toast them before you use them.
Simply place them on a dry tray. Put the tray into the oven and let the almonds toast for a minute or two. As soon as you can smell them, take them out! (if you leave them in any longer, they will quickly burn!)

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Shrimp and Grits Bake


 Have you ever had grits? In case you're not familiar, grits is a sort of porridge made from boiling coarse corn meal. It's kind of like polenta, and it originated in Southern US. It's very often served as a savory breakfast food, alongside eggs and bacon or ham. In addition to being a breakfast staple in the South, it's also classically paired with shrimp and served for dinner.
 Admittedly, I did not grow up in a grits household. Yes, we had oatmeal, or cream of wheat, but never grits. It wasn't until I began cooking and searching for regional dishes from around the country that I discovered grits. As soon as I saw that they go well with shrimp, I was all in. (Frankly I never met a shrimp dish I didn't like.)
 So when I was looking for a brunchy sort of dish that could also be served as a dinner, I figured well, how about a shrimp and grits casserole? A quick google search and I discovered this recipe from Betty Crocker, and it was exactly was I was looking for.
 Side note..... I did see many other recipes that include lots of spicy cajun and creole seasonings and smoked andouille sausage, etc, but that wasn't what I was going for. I mean, I'm sure they're great and all, but I wanted to be able to taste the shrimp instead of covering it up with all those spicy bold flavors.
 So there you have it. It's really easy to put together and it doesn't take very long at all. And since the shrimp cooks right in the casserole, the flavor REALLY comes through. If you're looking for something different for your next brunch, or even just for a simple seafood dinner, give this one a try. If you're not sure if you'd like grits, I think this one will definitely convince you!!




olive oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 3/4 cups whole milk
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup uncooked quick cooking grits
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 (5.2oz) container Boursin cheese with garlic and herbs
1 lb uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed
2 eggs, beaten
1 tbs flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, removed from sprigs, chopped



Heat oven to 375°F. Spray 11x7-inch (2-quart) baking dish with cooking spray. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook chopped vegetables in oil 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. In a large heavy saucepan, heat milk and broth to boiling. Gradually add grits and salt, stirring constantly with whisk. Cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in pepper and cheese. Stir in vegetable mixture, shrimp, eggs, parsley and thyme. Spoon mixture into baking dish. Bake uncovered 25 minutes or until set.




Tips:
For me, the key is the fresh thyme. It adds the most perfect savory note to the shrimp.
Want to add other seafood? Go for it! I think adding lumps of crab meat would be FABULOUS.
Btw, if you can't find the Boursin cheese, just use any favorite herb flavored whipped cream cheese spread. It really adds tons of flavor and creaminess!
Speaking of creaminess, I think next time I may add a little extra milk or cream. The grits really absorbed a lot of the liquid and that little extra bit of cream would be just the thing!


Monday, April 1, 2019

Joey's Spicy Shrimp and Linguini



 Right off the bat, I should probably say that I don't often go the spicy route with my cooking. I mean, yes, of course, I like lots of spices, but just not very much HEAT. Very often, I'll taste something and think "that's too hot." And someone else will say "I can't even taste any heat!" Hmm... Maybe I'm a Supertaster? (Yes, that's a real thing) Or maybe I just don't like really hot food. But every so often.... actually not very often at all....  once in a blue moon... I'll try something with a little extra heat. And that would be today!
 I was thinking of doing a shrimp and pasta something. Awesome. Love it. My first thought was to do something with lots of butter and garlic, but then I decided that it would be too similar to Shrimp Maureen, which is already a perfect dish and needs no tweaking. So I opted for a tomato sauce, still with lots of garlic, and maybe a few pinches of crushed red pepper flakes, which is usually my go-to when it comes to adding heat. I kept it pretty simple with just a few basic ingredients, and then I cooked the shrimp right in the sauce. It was SO GOOD! I was so pleased with it, I even pushed the heat a little further than I normally would. Absolutely delicious! The shrimp flavors the tomato sauce, and it's zesty and garlicky and was just exactly what I was craving. It was ready in less than 30 minutes too! So you could easily throw this together for a Friday night quiet dinner after a long day of work, or save it for the next time you want to impress someone. It's that easy and elegant!
 So if you're all about hot and spicy, try adding this to your repertoire. It's really tasty and I know you love it! Enjoy!




4 tbs butter
1/2 medium onion, minced
3 or 4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 29 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 14 oz can tomato sauce
1 tsp dried basil
Salt to taste
Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
2-3 tbs grated Parmesan cheese
1 lb linguini or other long pasta
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed
Fresh parsley, for garnish and a pop of freshness


 In a large pan or sauce pot, melt butter over medium heat. Saute onions until they begin to soften. Add garlic and continue to gently saute, making sure not to brown them too much. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil, salt, pepper flakes, and grated cheese. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add linguini and cook according to package direction to desired doneness.
Add the cleaned shrimp to the sauce. Simmer for another 5-10 minutes or until shrimp are cooked through. Toss the linguini with the sauce. Top with more grated cheese and chopped fresh parsley.



Tips:
One of the best things about this dish is that you can tailor it to your own tastes. Make it as spicy as you like! I just did a few pinches of red pepper flakes, but if you like it really spicy, add as much as you want! Add more butter and garlic. Add more onions! Are you making a big batch? Double everything! I also added more than just a pound of shrimp. More is more!!
Whenever you boil pasta, be sure to add enough salt to the water. You want it to be as salty as the ocean!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Baked Cod in Cream Sauce


 As I was looking for some delectable seafood ideas, I happened upon this recipe from a website called Favorite Family Recipes. It looked easy and flavorful, so I figured I'd give it a try. O.M.G., can I just tell you how fabulous it is? It's rich without being too heavy, it's easy to throw together, and it's ready in no time. Even the cooking novice can make this with great success!
 The sauce is basically an Alfredo sauce, so you know you can pour it over anything... but who would have ever thought of baking fish fillets in it? It's sheer genius! I wish I had thought of it!
 When I was growing up, basically the only way I wanted to eat fresh fish was breaded and fried. I think this is now my go-to recipe. Oh, and if you're someone who doesn't eat fish because it's too "fishy", fear not! This recipe is the one for you to try!


3 tbs. butter 
3 tbs. cornstarch  
2 c. whipping cream (or half and half) 
1 c. milk  
3 tbs Parmesan cheese, grated 
kosher salt to taste  
black pepper to taste
4 - 6 cod fillets 
1 tsp. kosher salt or to taste  
4 tbs. butter melted 
2 cloves garlic minced  
1/2 c. breadcrumbs seasoned
 
 

Preheat oven to 400ºF.
First, make the cream sauce:
Melt butter in a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat. Slowly add the cornstarch and stir for about 1 minute. While whisking constantly, slowly add whipping cream and milk until well combined. Stir in Parmesan cheese. Reduce heat to low and whisk occasionally for about 10 minutes until sauce becomes rich and creamy. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.
  Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray and place cod fillets in the dish. Sprinkle with salt. Combine melted butter and garlic and brush over fillets, reserving any leftover butter mixture. Sprinkle seasoned breadcrumbs over fillets and pour remaining butter mixture over the top. Pour cream sauce in the spaces between the cod fillets so it fills up the baking dish and just the tops of the fillets are visible. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cream sauce starts bubbling. When the sauce starts bubbling up, place the dish under the broiler for about 3-5 minutes or until the fillets start to turn golden brown. Serve with potatoes, buttered noodles, or rice and any steamed veggies.



Tips:
The sauce recipe makes quite a lot, definitely more than you need for 4-6 fillets. You could either cut the recipe in half, or pour the delicious sauce over your potatoes, noodles, or steamed veggies.