Monday, March 19, 2018

Monte Cristo Sliders

 Ok here's a recipe that you might read and say "wait, how does this go together?" But TRUST ME, it absolutely does!! It starts out as a basic sandwich slider with some ham, turkey, and Swiss cheese. Then it starts to get interesting when you brush the whole thing (inside and out) with this sort of buttery hollandaise-ish sauce, which melts into the rolls and makes everything crisp on the outside and melty and gooey on the inside. Are you with me so far? OK now things start to go rogue.. to serve it, you dust the whole thing with powdered sugar, and you serve it with raspberry preserves. WHAT??  I know, I know, it's crazy....but seriously, it's absolutely amazing! It's the salt from the ham and the gooey from the cheese and butter, and the tang from the mustard, and the sweet from the preserves... it hits all the right notes! Usually, a regular Monte Cristo is just a ham and cheese sandwich that is dipped in egg, and then fried like French toast, so this is just the slider version that my sister in law, Terri, found on a website called Jennifer Cooks. (Thank you Jennifer!)
 I recently made this for a family brunch event, and everyone loved it! There were a few people who didn't want the powdered sugar on top, but it is HANDS DOWN 100% better with the powdered sugar and preserves. Anyone who tries to tell you differently is just not living her best life. (Yes, Emma, I'm talking to YOU). Serve them for breakfast or brunch or lunch or dinner! They will always hit the spot!

1 pkg (12-count each) Sweet Hawaiian Dinner Rolls
1/2 lb deli sliced smoked or honey ham
1/2 lb deli sliced smoked roasted turkey
1/2 lb Gruyère cheese or other quality Swiss cheese, grated

1 stick butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbs Dijon mustard
2 tbs mayonnaise

Powdered sugar
Raspberry Preserves

 Preheat oven to 325. Line a 9x13 baking dish with foil (enough that it overlaps the sides - to use as handles). Spray foil-lined baking dish with cooking spray. Slice rolls horizontally as a unit – don’t break apart into individual rolls. Put the bottoms into the baking dish. Lay meat on top, then cover with cheese. In a small bowl, whisk together sauce ingredients. Pour 1/2 of the sauce on top of cheese. Place tops of rolls on top, pressing down lightly. Pour remaining mixture over tops of rolls and spread evenly. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Watch closely – if the tops begin to brown too much, place a sheet of foil over the top. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Using the foil "handles" lift the sandwiches out onto a cutting board. With a large butcher knife, cut the sandwiches into their individual slider rolls. Dust lightly with powdered sugar and serve with raspberry preserves on the side.

Since I was making this for a party, I used a half sheet pan, and it worked perfectly! It turns out that 5 packages of rolls worked perfectly on two pans! TBH, I probably could have fit another row of rolls on each pan, but I had enough for the crowd I was feeding!
I assembled everything the night before, then brushed them with the sauce and baked them on the morning of the brunch, but Jennifer said that it can be assembled AND brushed a day in advance. Time saver!!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Guinness Stout Brownies with Bailey's Irish Cream Cheese Frosting

 I first got this idea several months ago when I was out with my Thursday Night Quizzo gang. Our fabulous friend (who always takes care of us) Carissa, brought us a little taste and I immediately said "oooo I have to make these!" So I looked at several different recipes, and this is where I landed! The brownie recipe is from a blog called LifeLoveandSugar, and the frosting recipe is from a blog called Family Fresh Meals. (Actually, FFM added 4-6 tbs of Bailey's to her frosting, but I just went with 3, otherwise it might not have set up the way I wanted, but you do you!) 
 When I made them for friends, we quickly realized that you can't eat just one. I'm not even kidding. They're so rich and chocolatey, and the frosting is just SO good, you suddenly find yourself justifying why you absolutely DESERVE another one! I'm not exactly sure what kind of sorcery this is, but I'm certainly not gonna argue. They're just that good! In fact, I would go so far as to say they are some of the best brownies I have ever made. And you KNOW I've made literally hundreds, possibly even thousands of brownies. So that's really saying something! You should probably stop what you're doing and make TWO batches of them, like right now! You'll be glad you did!

1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup Guinness Stout beer
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup salted butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs
1 cup flour
2/3 cup Hershey's unsweetened cocoa 

Heat oven to 350ºF. 
Grease a 9x9 square baking pan and line it with parchment paper. Set aside. Mix together the oil, Guinness, sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Add butter and mix until well combined. Add eggs and mix until well combined. Combine flour and cocoa in another medium sized bowl. Slowly add dry ingredients to the egg mixture until well combined. Pour the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake for 35-38 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs. Allow brownies to cool completely before frosting.

Bailey's Irish Cream Cheese Icing:
1 8oz pkg cream cheese
1/4 lb (1 stick) salted butter
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tbs Bailey's Irish Cream

Whip the butter and cream cheese until creamy and well blended. Turn your mixer to its lowest setting, and slowly add the sugar until it's well incorporated. Add Irish cream. Turn your mixer back up to high and whip everything until light and fluffy. 

-Yes, I know I piled the cream cheese frosting HIGH on top of the brownies so that the frosting is nearly as thick as the brownie. I'm not seeing this as a bad thing.
-I've discovered that one bottle of beer is exactly enough for two batches. Just sayin!
-And I know I've given this tip about a million times, but it's worth repeating every time:
When you line the pan with parchment, cut it a little longer than the pan so you have a little extra hanging over the edges. Then after you've cooled, frosted, and chilled your brownies, you can use the parchment as a sling to lift the whole batch out of the pan. Now you're able to make perfectly perfect cuts using a large knife. (Chrissy, bring me the big knife!) Your brownies will be much prettier, and you won't ruin your pan!
-Since you bake the batch in a square pan, I find it easiest to cut it in half in both directions, making 4 quadrants. Then do the same thing to each quadrant. You'll wind up with 16 perfectly square brownies.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Joey's Slow Cooker Ham and Cabbage Stew

 Usually, when you think of ham (or corned beef) and cabbage, you probably think of just throwing everything into a big pot of water along with lots of potatoes and boiling everything to death, am I right?? Well, actually, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, but recently I was in the mood for ham and cabbage, but I wanted MORE. More vegetables, more flavors, more seasonings, more gravy. Just MORE! So, I decided to continue my ongoing obsession with slow cookers and decided to come up with a stew. Basically, I just bought one of those small "football" hams, and a small head of cabbage, and threw in a bunch of other things I happened to have on hand.
 And OMG it came out so good, I couldn't stop eating it! It was warm, and comforting and hearty and exactly all the MORE I was looking for.
 So, for this St Patrick's day, instead of just filling up a pot and boiling everything to death, give this recipe a try. It might become your new go to when you want something more!!!

1/2 lb bacon
1/2 head of green cabbage, roughly chopped
2-3 lbs boneless ham, cut into large chunks
2-3 lbs baby red potatoes, halved or quartered
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 large apples, any firm variety, peeled, cored, and diced
1 lb baby carrots
1 small can chicken broth
1 tsp celery seeds
Salt and pepper to taste

Using a very sharp knife, cut the bacon into large pieces and slowly saute over medium heat. Meanwhile, add all of the remaining ingredients to a large slow cooker. When the bacon is browned to your liking, add it to the slow cooker including the drippings in the pan. Cover. Cook it on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours.

After it is finished cooking, remove everything from the slow cooker to a big bowl, leaving just the cooking liquid in the slow cooker. Turn the slow cooker to high. Add about a quarter cup of flour to a mason jar along with about a half cup of COLD water. Tighten the lid, and then shake to create a slurry, then whisk it into your slow cooker until the cooking liquid has thickened into a gravy, then add the meat and vegetables back to the slow cooker.
Serve with warm crusty bread and lots of butter.

The amounts are just guidelines. If you like a lot of something, add a lot! Want to add a whole pound of bacon? Go for it. Want to add more carrots? Perfect! Want to leave out the apples? I say you're crazy, but hey, you do you!
You don't really have to do the optional step of thickening the gravy, but I think it makes all the difference, and it's what turns it from a soup into a stew.
You also don't even have to use the slow cooker liner as seen in the picture. I just happened to have some and decided to try it. Easy clean up!
Oh, and yes, I know this picture is the "before" instead of the "after", but the colors looked so appealing, I decided to go with it!

Monday, February 26, 2018

French Silk Pie

  Have you ever heard of a French Silk Pie? It's something I've heard about for ages, but never really looked into until fairly recently. It's basically just a chocolate mousse pie, and it's very rich and creamy, much more so than just chocolate pudding in a pie crust! I recently made one for the first time and thought "why have I waited all this time???" It's really one of the most rich and decadent chocolate somethings I've made in quite a long time. And it's a bit more sophisticated than chocolate pudding. Absolutely delish!
 Now, I have to say, there are a couple things worth noting. From what I've read, a TRUE French Silk Pie has eggs in it, but the pie itself is not cooked. I know, I know, everyone always says you shouldn't eat raw eggs, right? Well, honestly, I kind of don't worry about that. I've seen Anne Burrell taste her raw scrambled eggs to make sure they're seasoned enough, and I've also heard Sara Moulton say that she doesn't really worry about it either. But if that worries you, all you have to do is use pasteurized eggs. Problem solved!
 And the next thing about this pie is the texture. It's SO rich and creamy and sets up into the perfect slice of pie! The tricky thing is all about the sugar. You should use really superfine sugar for this pie, because the sugar needs to dissolve as you whip the filling. Regular granulated sugar may not dissolve completely, and your pie might not be completely silky smooth.
 And finally, I know I always choose recipes that don't take a lot of time, but this one takes a little extra. I mean, it's still super easy to do.. (easy as pie, quite frankly!) but the extra time is completely worth it! Have I ever lied to you before???? And besides, you can use the extra whipping time to multitask! I used it to empty/reload the dishwasher, but you do you!
 Anyway,  if chocolate is your thing, you simply MUST try this recipe. I found it on a blog called, and it's definitely a keeper!


20 Oreo cookies, finely crushed (I use chocolate-filled Oreos rather than white-filled, and regular rather than Double-Stuffed)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

6 ounces dark chocolate, at least 72%, melted (unsweetened baker’s chocolate may be substituted)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups ultrafine sugar, also called ultrafine or baker’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso granules
pinch salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature (or pasteurized eggs, if you prefer)

8 ounces whipped topping (thawed and stirred well, lite okay) or 2 cups freshly whipped cream
3 to 4 ounces dark chocolate (72% or higher) roughly chopped, for sprinkling


 Crust –
Preheat oven to 350F and spray a 9-inch pie dish wish cooking spray; set aside. Add Oreos to the canister of a food processor and process until finely ground, 1 to 2 minutes on high power; set aside. In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter, about 1 minute on high power. Add melted butter to canister of food processor and process until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Turn crumbs out into prepared pie dish and using your fingers, hard-pack the mixture to create a crust, making sure to cover sides of pie dish. Bake for 10 minutes, or until just set. Place on a wire rack to cool.
 Filling –
In a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate, about 1 to 2 minutes on high power. Stop after 1 minute to check and stir. Heat in 15 second increments until chocolate can be stirred smooth; set aside to cool.
  To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter, sugar, and beat on high power until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, stopping as necessary to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mixture should be very pale, almost white; the lighter and fluffier the better to ensure sugar is well on it’s way to being dissolved and incorporated fully. Add the vanilla, espresso granules, salt, cooled chocolate, and beat on high power until incorporated and mixture is fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, remove paddle attachment, switch to whisk attachment, add 1 egg, and beat for 5 minutes on high power. Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the second egg, beat for 5 minutes on high power. Repeat process with remaining eggs. Eggs are added 1 at a time, spaced 5 minutes apart, for a total of 20 minutes active whipping time. After 20 minutes, make sure your mixture is smooth, silky, fluffy, with zero traces of graininess. Continue beating until you’re satisfied with the smoothness because this is what your pie will taste like. Turn mixture out into crust, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula. Cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge for at least 4 hours (overnight is better) for pie to set up fully.
 Topping –
Add the whipped topping/cream, smoothing it lightly with a spatula. I left a bare margin of 1-inch for visual appeal so you can see the chocolate; cover surface fully if preferred. Sprinkle evenly with chopped chocolate before slicing and serving. Pie will keep covered in the fridge for up to 5 days.

I think the next time I make this (which will be VERY SOON), I'll probably try it with just a regular pie crust. Since we're going to all this trouble to make sure it's smooth and silky, I was kind of thinking that a crumb crust was working against me. Just a thought!
 Also, I know the recipe says to let it chill for at least four hours or overnight, but mine set up beautifully after just three. Just sayin'! Also, I opted for a few sprinkled milk chocolate chips instead of chopped chocolate. It's just easier!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Chocolate Cake with Whipped Peanut Butter Frosting

  Ok, I know I already have several chocolate cake recipes, but can you really have too many?? I think not! So here we go.
 I recently made this for a dinner at the request of my niece, Terri. Actually, when she first showed me this recipe (that she found on a blog called Ready Set Eat) she said "you can use whatever cake recipe you want. I really just want the whipped peanut butter frosting." Ha! Normally, my go to chocolate cake recipe is Hershey's Black Magic Cake, but I compared the two, and they're very similar, so I figured I'd go with it.
  And guess what?!? It's just as good! It's rich and moist and very deep with chocolate flavor. I think the secret is the cup of coffee. It makes any chocolate cake SO much more rich! (It doesn't actually make the cake taste like coffee, it just makes it taste like a deeper chocolate!) Clever, huh?
 For this cake, I did most of the decorating myself, but then I got an assist from Terri's youngest, Grace. I must say I'm kinda sorta proud of the drip design. It can be a little tricky to get just right! And yes, yes, I know it's piled with A LOT of candy, but when you have a 4 year old helping you, you just keep going. I think it makes it all the more fun and everyone loved it!
 Definitely make this the next time you want a showstopper for a special occasion, or you can just make it because your niece wanted an excuse to have whipped peanut butter frosting.

Baking Spray
1 cup hot coffee
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened, divided
2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup creamy peanut butter
4 tbs heavy cream
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

1/4 cup milk chocolate morsels
2 tbs heavy cream

Reese's cups, Hershey's Kisses, and/or Reese's Pieces for decorating, if desired

Preheat oven to 350°F.
  Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with baking spray. Stir together coffee and cocoa powder in medium bowl; set aside to cool. Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in another medium bowl; set aside. Whisk milk, eggs and vanilla into cooled cocoa mixture until well blended.
   Beat 1/2 cup butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually beat in the egg mixture until well blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Gradually beat in flour mixture until just combined. Divide batter evenly between cake pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire racks.
   Meanwhile, place remaining 1 cup butter, peanut butter and 4 tablespoons heavy cream in large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and very fluffy, at least 5 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to medium and beat in powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until well blended.
   Invert one cake layer out onto serving plate and press lightly to secure it in place. Spread about 1 cup of frosting evenly on top of first layer. Invert second layer onto frosting, make sure the layers line up evenly and then lightly press down to secure top layer in place. Frost entire cake with a light layer of frosting; refrigerate 15 minutes.
  Meanwhile, microwave 2 tablespoons heavy cream in small microwave safe bowl 30 seconds, until hot. Stir in chocolate chips until melted. Frost cake with a thick layer of frosting. Drizzle with chocolate sauce and decorate with peanut butter cups or other candy.

The key to making the perfect drip design is to make sure the cake is very cold. You should also make sure the ganache is not too hot, but still warm enough to pour. Then when you drizzle it around the perimeter of the cake, the cold cake will chill the ganache and stop it in its tracks, and that's what keeps it from dripping all the way down.