Sunday, January 13, 2019

Joey's Baked Crab and Corn Dip

  Usually, in January, I try to post recipes that are great for a party. Although I'm not a fan of football, I can appreciate a good party with lots of great food, so I figured I'd come up with a dip for you and your friends to enjoy while watching the game.
 My starting point was the idea of doing a creamy baked corn dip, but I didn't want it to be the same old Southwest sort of thing that has cheddar cheese and jalapenos in it. Then My Kristin suggested adding crab. Oh YUM!  Actually, I've been in kind of a seafood mood lately anyway, so this was perfect! I just grabbed a few other ingredients that I happened to have on hand, and here we are!
 It's actually kind of light, and not so rich as some dips that are laden with sour cream, mayonnaise, and shredded cheese. And it has a slight sweet/savory sort of hit that is a really nice change from all the hot sauce and wings.
 So the next time you have the gang over to watch the big game, or even if you're not, you should definitely add this one to your party repertoire. It's a winner!

1 (8oz) pkg cream cheese
3 scallions, chopped
2 heaping tbs mayonnaise
1 large clove garlic, finely minced
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
12 oz (or more) imitation crab (or the real deal)
1 can whole corn, drained
sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese, if desired
sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley for garnish, if desired

Using an electric mixer, blend the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl until well combined. Stir in crab and corn. Place in a casserole dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if using. Bake at 350ºF for about 20-30 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve with Scoops tortilla chips or your choice of chips or crackers.

If you're using real lump crab meat, you really don't want to break up those gorgeous delicious lumps, so just gently fold them in. However, if you're using the imitation crab, you can just throw everything in the bowl and mix it up. They usually come in large chunks, so it's actually better to break them down a bit.
If you like a lot of something, add a lot! Want more crab? Want to add baby shrimp? Go for it!
For the photo, I didn't add the sprinkling of Parmesan cheese over the top, but I think it's a good addition because that salty note goes well to balance the sweetness of the corn and crab.
Also thanx to My Jeanie for the new casserole dishes!

Monday, January 7, 2019

Joey's Loaded Tater Tot Casserole

 OK, so my original thought was not to make a casserole, but rather to make a party dip. I was looking for recipes to post for New Year's Eve, and I found a recipe for Tater Tot Dip. Ooo that sounds good, ok, let's run with it. But then I started thinking of a loaded baked potato, and I thought, "why not add bacon to it? Why not add broccoli to it? And scallions?" Suddenly my loaded dip was turning into a loaded casserole. So I figured I'd go with it! Turns out it was quite a happy accident because it's delicious! Serve it as an all in one casserole, or do what I did and serve it with a couple fried eggs on the side. FABULOUS. It's actually not as heavy as it might seem and you can definitely taste all the flavors.
 If you like a loaded baked potato, then you'll love this one! Maybe eventually I'll get back to finding just the right recipe for a tater tot dip!

1 (2 lb) bag frozen tater tots
1 lb ground beef
1/2 pound thick cut bacon
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
3-4 scallions, plus more, chopped
1-2 cups cooked broccoli
16 oz container of sour cream
salt and pepper
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Cut up the bacon into small pieces. Place it in a saute pan, and slowly cook over medium heat until slightly crisp. Remove from pan and place in a large mixing bowl. Do the same thing with the ground beef, cooking until browned. Drain any excess fat and add to the bowl. Add the tater tots, 1 cup of cheese, and remaining ingredients to the bowl. Stir until well combined. Taste it and adjust the seasoning, if needed. Pour mixture into a large casserole dish. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Sprinkle remaining cup of shredded cheese over the top. Bake for another 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove from oven. Top with additional chopped scallions, if desired. Let it sit for a good 10 minutes before serving.

Be sure to season it well. The potatoes are quite bland without a good pinch of salt and pepper. You can even use any favorite all purpose seasoned salt, if you'd like.
Feel free to swap out any of the ingredients to suit your likes or to use what you have on hand. Don't have any broccoli? Leave it out! Use what you have and make it your own!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Slow Cooker Cocktail Meatballs

 When you're planning a party, one of the most important things to consider is your time management. With cooking and cleaning, shopping for food and liquor, and setting everything up so that it's just so, it can be a little overwhelming. So when you're choosing your menu, a slow cooker is definitely your best friend! You just turn it on earlier in the day, and by the time your guests arrive, everything is already ready already. This was exactly what I had in mind when I was searching for party food recipes. I wanted something that you could do ahead and save you time, and of course it also needed to be easy to prepare and absolutely delicious!
 This recipe is so easy, any non-cooker can do it. If you are the type of person who never cooks anything because "it never turns out", then THIS is the recipe for you. I found it on a blog called It's fool proof! You literally just dump everything into the slow cooker and turn it on. It's just that simple. You can also mix up the sauce ingredients ahead of time so that it's one less thing you have to worry about. Your guests will surely devour them, so you should probably make a double batch.
Just sayin!

1 cup cranberry sauce, homemade or store-bought
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 (32-ounce) package frozen, fully cooked, meatballs, homemade or store-bought
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

 In a medium bowl, whisk together cranberry sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, Dijon, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire and cinnamon; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Place meatballs into a 3-qt slow cooker. Stir in cranberry mixture. Cover and cook on low heat for 3-4 hours, or until bubbly and the meatballs are heated through. Serve immediately, garnished with chives, if desired.

Instead of mixing everything in a bowl, I just mixed it right in the slow cooker, then added the meatballs. One less dish to wash!
To be quite honest, I didn't really measure anything. I used the whole can of jellied cranberry sauce instead of just one cup, and I eyeballed the rest of the ingredients. I went a little heavy with the mustard, brown sugar, and maple syrup. Why? Because I like 'em! Oh, and don't forget to add the cinnamon! I think that's one of the key ingredients here. It brings quite a bit to the party!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Philadelphia Cinnamon Buns

 OK, so here's a pretty amazing story....
 Once upon a time, my sister Reen discovered a recipe for sticky buns in a newspaper. So she decided to clip the article, and give it a try. Long story short, it was a huge hit, and she even won a baking contest with it! (The running joke was that everyone said she had the best buns. But I digress..) Cut to literally 42 years later, my sisters and I were talking on Thanksgiving night, and somehow the topic of the recipe popped up. Even though we had just finished our fabulous family feast, Cathy and I were probably discussing what we would have for Christmas Breakfast, and this recipe became my focus.
 But how on earth would I be able to find it??? It was printed in some newspaper in 1976 and there was no way I was gonna be able to google it or find it anywhere. But wait! Patty said she thinks she has it scribbled down somewhere! Great! But wait, even better, Reen still has the actual newspaper clipping!! WHAT??? Can you stand it??? She had saved it in a binder and kept it all these years. We are ABSOLUTELY having cinnamon buns for Christmas Breakfast!!
 And then I read the recipe. WHOA. OK this is gonna take a minute. Admittedly, I'm not the most experienced when it comes to making breads and doughs and such, and actually, it has always seemed a little daunting to me. But I figured, well, how hard can it be?? I'll just follow the recipe! Also, I had just binged several episodes of The Great British Baking Show, and I was inspired by Paul Hollywood, one of the show's judges, who just happens to be an expert in bread baking.
  My only concern was that this NEEDED to come out perfectly because it had to be special enough for CHRISTMAS. No pressure. No pressure. I'll just to do a test run. Great. I also needed to see how long it would take for all the rising, etc. So I gave it a go, and guess what?!?! It turned out perfectly!! Honestly, I really wasn't sure what I was doing through half of it, but I just followed the recipe, and just look at my buns! Wait, that came out wrong. LOL I was shocked and amazed and delighted because this was authentic good old fashioned BAKING. No can of store bought dough here. This is the real deal! And if I'm being completely honest, I think I conquered a little bit of that fear of baking breads. Suddenly it's not so difficult! It's just a recipe like any other. It just needs a little extra time, that's all. And they are absolutely 100% delicious enough for Christmas Breakfast. Yes there are several steps, yes this takes a lot of time, yes this is a splurge, and yes this is not something you'd make every day, but for a special occasion or holiday, this is definitely worth the time and effort!
Btw, one last note, I don't even know whose recipe this is. I believe the paper was called The Evening Bulletin, and the recipe is called Philadelphia Cinnamon Buns because that's how it was titled in print. That's as much as I know about it. Thanx again to Reen for clipping and saving it all these years!
Clearly this recipe is still a keeper!

1/4 cup warm water
1 packet active dry yeast
1 tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups milk
5 cups flour
1/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs

brown sugar
Karo or pancake syrup
raisin and/or pecans

  Measure warm water into a cup and stir in yeast and 1 tbs sugar. Set aside until the yeast blooms and it becomes bubbly. Meanwhile, prepare the pans. Use 3 9" round or square pans, or you can also use a sheet pan. Butter them generously and pour in your syrup. Make the syrup about 1/8-1/4 inch deep over the bottom of the pans. Sprinkle in raisins and/or chopped pecans, if desired. Set pans aside.
 Now make the dough. Add salt to milk, and gently warm (either on the stove or in the microwave) just until it feels neither hot nor cold to a testing finger. Stir the yeast mixture, add it to the lukewarm milk, and gradually add 2 cups of the flour. Beat well. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place until it gets bubbly. (The inside of an unheated oven is a good place for this.) Meanwhile, beat shortening, 3/4 cup sugar, and eggs, until very creamy, light, and smooth. When the yeast mixture is bubbly, add the sugar-egg mixture a little at a time, beating well after each addition. When it is thoroughly blended, add the remaining 3 cups of flour. Don't beat hard, just begin adding a little at a time and mix well before adding the next. The dough will be quite sticky. Cover dough and let rise in a cozy place until double in size. Punch it down, and then turn it out onto a floured work surface, knead a time or two with floured hands then roll out to make a rectangle. Spread with softened butter, leaving a 1/2" edge around all sides. Sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon, and raisins and/or pecans, then drizzle a track of syrup along the whole thing.
 Beginning with the long side of the rectangle, roll up the dough jelly roll style, and press the outer edge firmly to keep in place. With a very sharp knife, cut off short lengths (1-2 inches) and place in prepared pans, barely touching each other. Cover and let rise until doubled again. Place pans in preheated 350ºF oven and bake 35-40 minutes or until beautifully browned. Turn out of pans immediately.

This dough is VERY sticky. RESIST the urge to keep adding more flour! If you happen to have a bench scraper, use it! It definitely turned out to be the most valued tool here.
If you need to, you can do the first half of this recipe the day before. I went as far as mixing up the dough and letting it double in size. Then I punched it down, placed it in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap, and left it in the fridge until the next morning. Then all I needed to do was to roll them out, let them rise again, and bake them. Every time you punch it down and let it rise again, the rise happens more quickly, so I think the last rise only took about 1/2 hour, as opposed to the first rise, which took about 2 hours.
Definitely do NOT wait to turn the buns out after they bake. The syrup will begin to set up like caramel and you'll never get the buns out of the pan. There's a reason they are also called STICKY buns!
Be VERY careful when turning out the buns after baking. That syrup is LAVA HOT. Be sure to use a plate or platter with extra room around the edges for the extra syrup. Then you can scoop up some of the extra syrup and drizzle it back over the top of the buns.
For more generous sized buns, cut them thicker, at least two inches wide.
I've made this with Karo syrup and pancake syrup. The pancake syrup wins. It just tastes better!

Monday, December 17, 2018

The Best Chewy Sugar Cookies

   Ok, so, my plan was to share this fabulous sugar cookie recipe that I found on a website called Add A Pinch, (which really lives up to its name, btw). But then I realized I already have an Easy Sugar Cookies recipe on my website.... hmmmm... What is a blogger to do? Do I not share this remarkably tasty cookie recipe since both recipes are quite similar? Or do I just share it anyway, because more is more?????
 Um HELLO..... OF COURSE more is more!! So here we are. And I wasn't kidding when I said that these cookies are remarkably tasty! They are EXACTLY everything you want in a sugar cookie. Sweet, buttery, chewy, crispy, and very vanilla forward (that's how the trendy foodies say things these days. heehee). When my sister Jeanie tasted them, she said that they taste just like the sugar cookies my grandfather used to make. They're just simply perfect! Oh, and they're super easy too.
 So if you're looking for the right cookie that is good enough to set by the tree for a certain overnight visitor, this is the one! I'm sure he would also love an ice-cold glass of milk to go with 'em!

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 egg
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup granulated sugar for rolling cookies

 Preheat oven to 350º F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Cream together butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and mix until well-combined. Stir in flour, baking powder, salt, and vanilla. Scoop cookie dough by the tablespoon full and roll into a ball. Add granulated sugar to a large bowl for rolling cookie dough in before baking. Place each ball of cookie dough into the bowl of granulated sugar and roll to coat well. Place cookie dough onto baking sheet, spacing about 1½-inches to 2 inches apart. Lightly press each cookie down. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

I know everyone always says to use unsalted butter for making, and then you add salt according to the recipe, but I always use salted butter for everything. It just tastes better!
Since vanilla is the main flavor of the cookie, do yourself a favor and NEVER use anything other than pure vanilla extract. Imitation vanilla flavoring is just that. A cheap imitation. Always go for the good stuff! Another option would be to add half vanilla and half almond extract. For a citrus hit, try add a little grated zest of orange or lemon! That would be delish!