Monday, July 23, 2018

Blueberry Blondies



Ok, ok, before I say a word about this recipe, I should tell you that the original recipe is NOT called Blueberry Blondies. It was given to me by my friend, Gina, who found it on a blog called Averie Cooks, and it's really called Crustless Blueberry Pie. But here's the thing... As delicious as it is, in my humble opinion, it's not a pie! I mean, the only thing that made it a pie was the fact that it was originally baked in a pie dish. But even the blog called it "somewhere between cake and a blondie." And, since I was making it in squares, I decided to just name them blondies and call it a day. Oh, and since one pie plate's worth of batter wouldn't be enough for a 9x13 pan, I simply doubled the recipe and added a little sprinkling of coarse sugar over the top for a little crunch. So there you have it. Full disclosure!
 Actually, at first I wasn't going to share the recipe, considering that I had just repurposed it a little, and I thought maybe Averie would be a little offended. But then I decided to ponder what it would be like if someone had reworked one of MY recipes, and I thought "Well GOOD!" That's what cooking is supposed to be! That's how new recipes are born! You see what someone else has done, you tweak it here and there, you keep what you like, and change what you don't like, and then PRESTO we have something new! Sometimes it turns out to be completely different, and other times it turns out to be a blondie instead of a pie. The important thing is that YOU made it homemade for your family and friends, and everyone loved it. And that's a pretty awesome thing, I must say.
 So, Averie, if you're reading, please feel free to browse any of my recipes and repurpose them as much as you like! I would love to see what changes you make!




2 cups white sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
4 cups plus 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/3 cup turbinado sugar (coarse sugar, or sugar in the raw)


Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9x13 pan with baking spray or line with parchment paper; set aside. To a large bowl, add white sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and whisk to combine; set aside. To a medium bowl, add the slightly cooled melted butter, eggs, extracts, and whisk to combine. Pour the wet mixture over the dry and stir to combine; don’t overmix. Add 4 cups blueberries and gently stir to combine; batter is very thick. Turn mixture out into prepared baking dish, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula. Evenly sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup blueberries over the top. Evenly sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the top. Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until edges are set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs but no batter. Cool completely or chill before cutting into squares.



Tips:
The almond extract is quite a strong flavor. It definitely comes through. If you're not a fan, just leave it out!
I listed the recipe with the amounts I used for the 9x13 pan, but if you'd prefer to bake it in a 9" pie dish, just cut everything in half!
For a variation, try any other kinds berries or a combination there of!


Monday, July 16, 2018

Eggplant Burgers


Whenever I get a food idea or see an interesting food something on TV, I immediately make a note of it in my phone. It's just an ongoing list of all different kinds of foods, and usually an extra note saying where I saw it, etc. Well, this is one of the ideas from my list, but when I added it to my notes, I neglected to say where I saw it. It was from quite a while ago, and my note was just a list of ingredients. My guess is that I saw someone making it on tv and then jotted down what they were adding.
Anyway, I've FINALLY gotten around to trying it! OMG they were delicious!! Really easy, and so tasty! So, to the person who gave me this idea, whoever you are, thanx a bunch! This is now one of my new faves!
Now, as you're reading it, keep in mind that a lot of the amounts aren't written in stone. Actually, some of the amounts aren't even written at all. As my Mom used to say, you just have to add it "til it's enough." That's the best kind of cooking, dotcha think?? Enjoy!



1 large eggplant
kosher salt
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
handful of bread crumbs
1 large egg
1 clove garlic, minced
1 scallion, chopped
black pepper
fresh parsley, chopped

Peel and slice eggplant into thick slices. (it doesn't matter if you slice it longways or crossways). Place a wire rack on a baking sheet, then place the eggplant slices on the rack in one layer. Sprinkle a couple big pinches of salt over the eggplant slices. Let them sit for at least a half hour. I usually let them sit for a good hour to an hour and a half. The salt will draw out all of the bitter liquid. Remove the eggplant from the rack and give it a super quick rinse under running water to remove the salt. Immediately pat dry with a paper towel.
Cut the eggplant into large chunks. Toss with oil and salt and pepper. Place in an even layer on a baking sheet. Roast in a 400ºF oven for about 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool, slightly. Place in a food processor.  Pulse a few times until the eggplant is the consistency of ground meat.
 Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix well using your impeccably clean hands. If the mixture is too wet, add a little more bread crumbs. Form into patties. Pan fry the patties in a bit of hot oil, just until browned on both sides. Serve on buns with lettuce and tomato, or your choice of burger toppings.



Tips:
OK, technically, you don't have to do the salting step, but I always do, literally every time I cook eggplant. It makes all the difference! And your eggplant dish won't taste bitter!
Btw, one large eggplant makes two large thick burgers. So keep that in mind when you're deciding how many burgers you want to make.
I like to use a micro plane to mince my cloves of garlic. It makes a fine paste that mixes evenly into whatever you're making and you won't get a big honkin' piece of garlic in your burger!

Monday, July 9, 2018

Moroccan Summer Vegetable Stew


  Whenever my schedule becomes a little bit hectic, I find myself falling into that all too familiar trap of ordering a lot of take out food. Pizza, Chinese food, and of course, Wawa hoagies. Yes, of course, it's very convenient to just stop and pick something up on my way home from whatever show I'm rehearsing, but after a while, I CRAVE something fresh. So, inevitably, I wind up going to the produce market, seeing which veggies look the best, and then making something a little more colorful and a little less fried.
 Since I happen to live in the Garden State, I have access to an entire rainbow of fresh produce, and Summer always brings some of my very favorite veggies. All it took was a quick google search which brought me to the perfect recipe for all of my fabulous faves.
 It's from a blog called Veganosity and it's absolutely delish! One of the things I like about it (just like the website says) is that it just happens to be Vegan. In other words, there aren't a whole lot of Vegan versions of non Vegan ingredients. That always seems to be a better choice, in my book. For instance, if I were choosing a low carb menu, I would prefer to have foods that were naturally low in carbs, instead of, say, a low carb "pasta" or low carb "bread", know what I mean? It just tastes better! So, in this case, you just have vegetables, broth, aromatics, herbs, and spices. I wasn't necessarily looking for something Vegan, but it just so happens that it is! This is DEFINITELY the welcome change I had been craving. It's also really quick to throw together, so you don't have to worry about slaving over a hot stove. Usually, my go to summer veggie recipe is the Avocado Gazpacho recipe that I got from my school pal, Kathleen. I think this recipe needs to be added to the rotation!



1 tbs vegetable oil
1 red onion, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch coins
1 bell pepper, any color, seeded and diced
2 medium zucchini, diced
1 yellow summer squash, diced
1 tbs ginger, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable broth
1 can coconut milk
1 tbs (or more to taste) garam masala spice blend
1 tsp coarse salt
2 medium tomatoes, diced

fresh cilantro, chopped, for garnish
couscous or rice for serving



 Heat the oil in a large pan on medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and carrots. Cook until the onion becomes translucent. Add the zucchini and cook until it begins to brown around the edges. Add the yellow squash, ginger, and garlic and cook for two minutes. Add the vegetable broth (if you want a stronger coconut taste, only add three cups of broth instead of four), coconut milk, garam masala, and salt and stir well to combine. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to simmer for five minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for another five minutes.
Cook the couscous or rice according to package directions. Fluff with fork. Place on a plate, pour stew over. Top with chopped cilantro.



Tips:
I've often heard that some people find cilantro to have a soapy taste. If you fall into this category, just use fresh parsley!  And btw, instead of sprinkling it just over the top, I added the cilantro right into the stew at the end.
The stew will thicken just slightly as it simmers. If you would like a thicker stew, make a quick slurry of a couple tbs of flour with an equal amount of cold water or broth, then stir it into the stew. Bring it up to a boil until it thickens.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Blueberry BBQ Baked Beans


 Ok, ok, I know you're probably thinking "Wait... baked beans with BLUEBERRIES???"
And the answer is absolutely YES!!! Just hear me out!!
 I've always loved to do something unexpected with your usual classic something, and this time I decided to do a new riff on baked beans. I've already done pineapple baked beans, maple bacon baked beans, and my regular classic baked beans, so why not do something with blueberries?
 At first I just figured I'd start out with your basic cans of pork and beans, and then embellish them with blueberry-ish ingredients, but then I found this recipe from the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council and decided to give it a try. I figure, well, blueberries are their thing, they wouldn't post this recipe if it wasn't good, right? And I was right!!!
 The first thing I noticed is that it's not tomato or ketchup based. And it uses regular white beans instead of cans of pork and beans. Also it uses molasses and balsamic vinegar. Sounds good to me! So I went for it. OMG it's so delicious!!! No, it doesn't taste like pie filling, and yes, it tastes like BBQ, even though there's no BBQ sauce in it!
 So you should DEFINITELY give this one a try. Make it for your family and friends or bring it to a potluck. I guarantee it'll be the talk of the party!



2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small white onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans (15 ounces each) white beans, such as cannellini or navy, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses ­
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1-1/4 teaspoons mustard powder
1 cup blueberries
4 drops liquid smoke
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 to 2 teaspoons minced jalapeno
1 tablespoon chopped basil
1 teaspoon lime zest



 Over medium heat, in a medium saucepan, add olive oil and white onion. Cook until onion is translucent; add garlic. Cook until garlic becomes fragrant; add beans, molasses, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, mustard powder and ginger. Stir and let thicken for 5­-8 minutes. Toss in half of the blueberries and macerate with beans; add liquid smoke. Stir and let cook an additional 5­-8 minutes. Remove from heat and add in the remaining blueberries, jalapeño, lime zest and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with basil.


Tips:
 I must admit that I didn't do it EXACTLY as written. I didn't have mustard powder, so I just added a heaping tsp of Dijon mustard. The original recipe called for frozen blueberries, but I used fresh, and I used twice as many. And I added chopped cherry peppers instead of a jalapeno.
 For me, the key ingredients are the liquid smoke and the fresh basil. Be sure to include them!!
I think maybe the next time I make it, I'm gonna add bacon, because everything is better with bacon!! I would probably just brown the bacon with the onions and omit the oil. Works for me!



Monday, June 18, 2018

Jam Swirled Cheesecake Squares


  Just as I do every year, I was looking for a red white and blue something to make for July 4th. This year's contribution is an easy and perfect time saver because you can do it way ahead!
 I was trying to think of something that would work with my home made strawberry and blueberry jams, and this is what I found! It's a slightly tweaked version of a Nestle recipe and it's just exactly what I was looking for. Just a quick basic crust, basic cheese filling, and then a swirl of jam! Perfect, right? Seriously, its beauty is in its simplicity. It's the perfect starting point recipe for any cheesecake squares, and then you can vary it up however you like.
 I just happened to have some strawberry pineapple jam, and a brand new batch of fresh blueberry rhubarb jam on hand, so that's what I used, but I will DEFINITELY try other flavors the next time I make this. Ooo maybe fresh blackberry jam next! Or maybe fresh pineapple, one of my all time favorites! I promise, your friends and family will absolutely devour these little gems at your July 4th BBQ long before it's time for fireworks! Have fun, be safe, and enjoy!




First line a 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper with an inch or two of overhang on each side.

For the crust:
one entire box of shortbread cookies or vanilla wafers
2 tbs sugar
4 tbs melted butter

Place all ingredients in a food processor and give it a good blitz until it becomes fine crumbs that are evenly coated with butter. Press evenly into prepared pan. Bake crust for 15 minutes at 325ºF.

Remove from oven. Let it cool. Meanwhile make the filling.

For the filling:

3 (8oz) pkgs cream cheese, softened
4 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Use a paper towel to wipe out the food procesor of crumbs. No need to completely wash.
Place all filling ingredients in the now crumb free food processor. Process until completely smooth.
Pour filling over baked crust.

For the topping:
Place teaspoonfuls of your favorite jam all over the top. I would say about 1/4 -1/3 cup of jam, total. Yes, it will probably sink in, but that's ok. Use a tooth pick to swirl, making sure not to disturb the underlying crust.
Bake at 325ºF for 40 minutes or until set. Cool completely then refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Cut into squares and serve!



Tips:
For the crust, I used Lorna Doone cookies. Why? Because I LOVE 'em! But use anything you like. Vanilla wafers or graham crackers would be my second choice. You could even do golden or regular Oreos. No need to add the butter and sugar, just process until crumbs and then proceed as directed!
 Don't have a food processor? just crush the cookies in a ziploc bag. And use an electric mixer to mix up the filling! The only reason I used a food processor for the filling was because I didn't feel like washing another dish! heehee
 I used strawberry pineapple and blueberry rhubarb jam. I wanted the red white and blue, but feel free to add just one. Or as many as you like! Don't have any jam? Use teaspoonfuls of pie filling instead!
Definitely be sure to chill the pan for several hours. It makes cutting into squares so much easier!