Monday, June 28, 2010

Revolutionary Berry Cheese Pie

 Every year, at the beginning of summer, I try to come up with a yummy red, white, and blue dessert for the Fourth of July. I decided that this year's recipe should be a pie since, A) I love pie, and B) it's been a while since my last pie recipe. At first, I had thought of making just a straight up blueberry pie, but then I kept adding things and before I knew it, I had come up with this recipe. Obviously, it's all about the presentation! And you KNOW it's also all about the taste! A cheese pie, with a layer of raspberry jam, fresh berries and whipped cream? HEAVEN! Seriously, what's not to love? It's really simple to make too. Make it for your July 4th BBQ! I'm sure everyone will love it!!

1 pillsbury ready made pie crust
2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten
fresh blueberries
1 cup (or more) seedless raspberry jam
whipped cream or non dairy whipped topping
fresh raspberries

Heat oven to 350°.
Unroll pie crust. Dust lightly with flour. Place crust, floured side down, in a pie plate.
Tuck edges under, then flute to make a decorative edge. Set aside.
In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until smooth.
Add eggs. Beat on low speed until well combined.
Using a rubber spatula, fold in blueberries by hand.
Spoon into crust.
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until center is set.
Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Refrigerate until chilled.
In a small bowl, using a wire whisk, stir jam until smooth.
Spread jam over cheese filling.
Decorate with whipped topping and fresh berries.

I purposely didn't put the amounts of whipped cream or blueberries or raspberries. Basically, if you like a lot, add a lot.
You don't have to follow my design, although, I must admit, it's pretty gorgeous.
 Do any design you like! Maybe whipped cream stars and berry stripes?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Joey's Sloppy Burritos

About a million years ago, I threw this recipe together, just based on a few items that I happened to have on hand at the time. The result was so yummy and hearty that I've been making it for years. To be honest, I'm kind of surprised that I haven't posted this already.
There's really nothing to it. It's not even a recipe, really. You just make sloppy joes, make some saffron rice, and then mix the two of them together. Easy, right? Serve it up in a burrito and there you have it! Sometimes the best recipes are the simplest, don't you think? I hope you'll give it a try! Oh, and btw, be sure to read the tips after the recipe for serving ideas! Great then.

1 lb ground beef or turkey
1 small onion, chopped
2 regular cans (or one large can) Manwich Sloppy Joe sauce (or any brand)*
1 package Vigo Yellow Spanish Rice (or any other saffron rice mix)*
flour tortillas
sour cream
shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Brown the ground beef in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and continue to saute until onions are soft. Add sloppy joe sauce. Stir until completely combined. Let it simmer over a low heat while you prepare the rice. In another pan with a tight fitting lid,  prepare the rice according to the package directions. When the rice is fully cooked, add it to the pot with the beef and sauce. Mix it until it's well combined. That's all there is to it! Serve it in flour tortillas with sour cream and cheddar cheese.

*I usually don't mention specific brands, but these are the brands that I always use when I make this, so I figured they were worth mentioning.

-Yes, the amounts are correct as listed. Usually when you're buying canned sloppy joe sauce, one regular can is all that is needed for one pound of meat. I added a second can because the rice absorbs some of the sauce.
-You can use regular leftover white rice, but the result won't be quite the same, since you'll be missing all of the saffron and seasonings in the yellow rice mix.
-Be creative! Throw in some diced jalapenos or any other favorite peppers. You could even throw in some black beans, whole kernel corn, or even some sliced ripe olives. YUM.
- I usually serve this wrapped up in a tortilla, but it also makes great nachos. Just arrange a single layer of corn tortilla chips in a baking pan, pour some of the sloppy beef and rice over them, then sprinkle cheese over all. Bake it until the cheese melts and serve it with your favorite nacho toppings. Guacamole anyone?
-Another way to serve it is just in a bowl with cheese melted over it, as you'd serve a bowl of chili, along with any of your favorite chili toppings. Love.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Joey's Chicken and Mushrooms in White Wine Cream Sauce

 I'm often asked how I come up with different recipes. Well, basically, I'll have an idea of what I want to do, then I'll look around online to see if there is anything close to what I want. I usually look for a recipe that has simple ingredients, is easy to prepare, and doesn't take forever to cook. Once I find that, then I'll try it exactly as it's written. Then I'll make changes to it to suit my own taste. For instance, this recipe was quite different the first time I made it. Yes, it was delicious, but it wasn't exactly what I had in mind.
 The first thing I changed was the chicken. I wanted to toss the chicken with pasta, instead of leaving the breasts whole, as with the original. So I decided to cut up the chicken into small pieces which works better with the pasta. Next, I changed the heavy cream. It was way too thick and FAR too rich, so I changed it to half and half. MUCH better. So far so good, but still not what I had in mind. Next.... The original recipe called for dried tarragon. I decided I didn't want the anise flavor of the tarragon, but still wanted the freshness of chopped herbs, so I opted for flat leaf parsley. Fresh, green, perfect. Done. The next thing I wanted to change was the amount of liquid. I needed the recipe to make more sauce. Like I said, I wanted to add pasta to the dish, and pasta always absorbs so much. I didn't want to just add more wine because I figured all the other flavors would be dominated by it. The solution? I slightly reduced the amount of wine, and then added chicken broth. This gave me the right amount of sauce for the pasta, it gave me greater depth of flavor, and the wine didn't overpower the dish. Perfect!
 NOW it's what I had in mind! It has a wonderful flavor, it's rich without being too heavy and it's still simple yet impressive to make. True, it's not something you'd have every night, but it's definitely something to serve for your next special occasion!
Now that you know how much thought went into it, I hope you'll give it a try!

Now if only I could come up with a name for it........hmm......any suggestions?

1 pkg boneless chicken, about 3 or 4 breasts (about 2-3 lbs)
1/2 c. plus 2 tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. salt and pepper to taste
3 tbsp. butter (or more)
a few glugs of olive oil (or vegetable oil)
1 1/2 c. sliced Cremini  mushrooms
1 1/2 c. roughly chopped onions
2 tbs chopped fresh parsley
1 c. white wine
1 c. chicken broth
1 pt half and half
1 lb. angel hair pasta

Place 5 quarts of generously salted water in a large pot and set over high heat. While you're waiting for it to come to a rapid boil, make the sauce.
In a large bowl, mix together 1/2 cup flour, salt and pepper. Set aside. Cut chicken into small bite sized pieces. Place all of the chicken into the bowl with the seasoned flour. Toss all together until the chicken is coated. Add butter and oil to a large skillet over medium high heat. Lightly brown, but don't cook the chicken all the way through. Do this in two batches, removing chicken to a bowl after each batch. Add the mushrooms and onions to the skillet, plus another tbs of butter, if desired.  When the mushrooms and onions have softened and cooked down, add the parsley. Simmer a few minutes, then add the wine. Give it a good stir, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken broth. Shake or whisk 2 tablespoons flour into the half and half. Stir into the wine/broth mixture. Add chicken back into the pan and let it simmer until the sauce has thickened and chicken is cooked through. Adjust the seasoning if needed, adding more salt and pepper to taste. Add pasta to boiling water. Let it cook for about 3 minutes. Drain well. Pour chicken and sauce over pasta and serve.

I used Cremini mushrooms, which are baby Portobello mushrooms, but go ahead and use any kind that you like. Even better, why not use a combination of several different kinds of mushrooms? It'll only add to the flavor of the dish!
 Be sure to use a wine that you would drink and never use anything labeled "cooking wine". Also, be sure to generously salt the water before you boil the pasta. It should be as salty as a broth.
I think the next time I make this, I might add a little fresh or dried thyme. I think that sounds kinda yummy, don't you? That's the beauty of cooking, you can tweak the recipe as much as you like!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Peanut Butter Cake

 I'm always looking for new and different cake recipes. I'm also always looking for new peanut butter recipes since my friend Katie is always asking for something peanut butter. Seriously, sometimes I think that girl needs an intervention, but I digress. Anyway, CLEARLY it was fate that I should discover this recipe.
 First, let me just say that I would like to buy a vowel because....O..... MY..... GOD. Just wait until you taste this cake! It's like a Reese's Cup in the form of a cake! How delicious is that?
 I LOVE the fact that it uses so much peanut butter. Did you ever see a recipe that only includes, like, maybe a 1/4 cup of the key ingredient? What's that about? If I'm gonna have a peanut butter cake, I want it to have A LOT of peanut butter in it! Don't you agree? More is more! The same is true for the ganache. I think the original recipe only had a little peanut butter in it, but it seemed to me that the chocolate was covering the peanut butter taste, so I added more. Actually, I think I just added the rest of the jar of peanut butter. (which is why it says "or more" in the ganache portion of the recipe).
 I made this cake when I went to my Jeanie's house for dinner. It was a big hit! Kristin was an immediate fan, and Rick LOVED the ganache. I know I always say how delicious every recipe is, but seriously, this is one of the BEST cake recipes I've ever posted. Like, I'm not even kidding. And it's as easy to make as it is delicious. If you have any peanut butter lovers in your life, then you DEFINITELY need to give this one a try!

1 1/4 cups smooth peanut butter
3/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Heat oven to 325°.
Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt cake pan.
In a large mixing bowl with electric mixer, beat peanut butter and butter with the brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt in a bowl. Add about 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture along with half of the buttermilk. Slowly beat until well blended then add another 1/3 of the dry ingredients and the remaining buttermilk. Beat until blended then slowly beat in remaining dry ingredients. Beat until smooth and well blended. Pour into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean and the cake bounces back when lightly tapped.
Cool in pan for 10 minutes then carefully remove from the pan and invert on a baking rack.
Glaze with Chocolate Peanut Butter Ganache.

3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup corn syrup
12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
pinch of salt
1/4 cup (or more) creamy peanut butter

In a saucepan, combine the cream and corn syrup. Bring to a simmer, add chocolate and salt, and remove from heat. Whisk until the chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Whisk in the peanut butter until well blended.
 Spoon the warm chocolate mixture over the cooled cake, letting excess drip down the sides. If you have any extra ganache, you can store it in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. Then just warm it and use as a sauce for pound cake or ice cream.

Be careful not to over bake your cake. If you do, it might become too dry. 
In addition to the peanut butter, the key to this recipe is the salt. Don't omit it! It brings out the sweetness of the chocolate and really enhances the flavor of the peanut butter.
Be creative! You can pair this cake with all sorts of things. Try adding diced (not mashed) bananas to the batter just before you pour it into the pan, or garnish your cake with sliced bananas.
Another yummy variation would be a Peanut Butter and Jelly cake. Instead of making the ganache, just add a few drops of water to some grape jam, then glaze the cooled cake with it. Easy!!
Oh here's an idea that just hit me.... I just might have to try baking this cake in two 9" round pans and then putting marshmallow creme between the layers. A Fluffernutter cake! Fabulous.