Sunday, December 25, 2011

Ina's Holiday Sticky Buns

  My fabulous, gorgeous, talented, youthful, vibrant, funny, caring and all-around wonderful sister, Cathy, was nice enough to invite me for Christmas breakfast. Of course, I wanted to make something to bring to the table, but couldn't think of anything. Then I saw Ina Garten making these little gems, and I immediately knew they'd be PERFECT! They're special enough for holiday, but simple enough for any day of the year. And they're SO tasty! Try e'm!
 Btw, when I told Cathy that I was bringing a little baked something, she said "You didn't need to do that!" And to that I replied, "Well, actually, yes, I did. Thanx." I don't think she'll ever know how much her invitation meant to me. Thanx, Sister. And Merry Christmas :)

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup pecans, chopped in very large pieces
1 package (17.3 ounces/ 2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted

For the filling:
2 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup cranberries
1/2 cup white raisins

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees f. Place
a 12-cup standard muffin tin on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 12
tablespoons of butter and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Place 1 rounded tablespoon of the
mixture in each of the 12 muffin cups. Distribute the pecans evenly among the 12
muffin cups on top of the butter and sugar mixture.

Lightly flour a wooden board or stone surface. Unfold one sheet of puff pastry with
the folds going left to right. Brush the whole sheet with 1 tablespoon of the melted
butter. Leaving a 1-inch border on the puff pastry, sprinkle each sheet with 1/3 cup
of brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the cinnamon, 1/4 cup of the cranberries and 1/4
cup of the raisins. Starting with the end nearest you, roll the pastry up snugly like
a jelly roll around the filling, finishing the roll with the seam-side down. Trim the
ends of the roll about 1/2 inch and discard. Slice the roll in 6 equal pieces, about 1
1/2 inches each. Place each piece, spiral side up, in 6 of the muffin cups. Repeat
with the second sheet of puff pastry to make 12 sticky buns.

Bake for 30 minutes, until the sticky buns are golden to dark brown on top and firm to
the touch. Allow to cool for 5 minutes only, invert the buns onto the parchment paper, (ease the filling and pecans out onto the buns with a spoon) and cool completely.

If you're not a fan of pecans, just swap them out for any other nuts that you like, or simply omit them altogether. The same thing goes for the raisins and cranberries. If you're not a fan, just leave 'em out!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Paula's Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese

So, true story...
I recently posted a question on Facebook, wondering who, if anyone, likes to include macaroni and cheese as part of a holiday turkey dinner. I was AMAZED at the response! Some people, like my friend Kyrus, said that "in his house this is not even a question." Susan said that it's a staple in all of her family's holiday meals. CJ simply stated that there's no wrong time for mac n cheese. Debbie was just amazed at the amount of comments that this question generated. I guess people are very passionate when it comes to macaroni and cheese!
  Now, I know I already have a few recipes for macaroni and cheese, but more is more, right? And since I recently saw Paula Deen making this on her show, I figured, why not?? It's really simple to make, and it always hits the spot if you're looking for some comfort food, or for a holiday meal!
Try it! 

2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
4 tbs butter
2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
3 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 (10 3/4 oz) can condensed cheddar cheese soup
1 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Boil the macaroni in water for six minutes. Drain.
In a medium saucepan, mix butter and cheese. Stir until the cheese melts.
In slow cooker, combine cheese mixture and add the eggs, sour cream, soup, salt, milk, mustard and pepper. Add the drained macaroni and stir again.
Cook on low for 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

I used regular brown mustard instead of the dry mustard, just because it's what I had on hand. The main point is to add some kind of mustard because it makes it taste cheesier. 
If you're not a fan of adding eggs to your mac n cheese, you can simply omit them.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Shrimp Dip

 Here's a fabulous recipe from my fabulous sister-in-law, Marianne. Serve it the next time you're having a party, whether it's an elegant holiday gathering or a summer beef 'n' beer. It's SO yummy! Actually, I think ADDICTIVE is a better word. There. I said it.
Thanx Mare!

Hi, Joe, here is the recipe. No exact measurements for most of it,  just keep adding until you like the way it tastes!  This is actually Janet's recipe but it's tweaked up a bit.

2 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
1-2 tbs mayonnaise
Half bottle of Heinz chili sauce (about 6 oz.)
1 lb. shrimp, unpeeled
dash Worcestershire sauce
garlic powder
horse radish (start with about a teaspoon and go from there)
black pepper
Old Bay Seasoning
Peppercorns (or black pepper)

Bring water,  A LOT of Old Bay Seasoning  and black pepper to a boil in a pot. Add the shrimp to the boiling water and cook until pink. Take out and lay on a cookie sheet to cool. Meanwhile, mix the softened cream cheese with the mayo, chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, and horse radish. When the shrimp are cooled, peel and if necessary, clean. Set aside about 7 shrimp.  Take the remaining shrimp and in batches pulse in a small food processor. (Pulse 3-4 times). Add to cream cheese mixture. Take the remaining shrimp and chop them into bigger pieces and add them to the cream cheese. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Taste - if you like more garlic or any of the other spices, add it. Sometimes I add a little extra Old Bay. Cover and put in fridge until chilled. Serve with crackers or veggies.

If your shrimp are large, it's usually a good idea to devein them: After you remove the shell, just run the tip of a very sharp knife down the back of the shrimp, and then carefully remove the vein. You really don't have to, but I always do. On the other hand, if you don't feel like going to all of that trouble, you can simply buy them already peeled and deveined. Problem solved!
I like to serve this with Wheat Thins, but clearly you can choose any favorite cracker.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Simple Strata

Have you ever made a strata? Do you know what a strata is? If not, then you seriously need to try this recipe! A strata is sort of like a savory bread pudding. The word strata literally means "layers", so the elements of the casserole are layered in the baking dish and then baked until bubbly and yummy. What's not to love? And it's super convenient because you can make it the night before and then just pop it in the oven first thing in the morning. It's the perfect dish for a holiday morning, or any morning where you might like to have an extra special breakfast or brunch. Everyone will think you went to a lot of trouble but it's really very simple! (Hence the name!)
I hope you'll give it a try!

1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 lb button mushrooms, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
 12 eggs
4 cups milk
salt and pepper
1 loaf Italian bread, cut into cubes
12 oz shredded Swiss cheese

Add a little oil or butter to a saute pan and saute the onions, mushrooms, and spinach until soft.  In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs together with the milk and S&P.
Grease a 9x13 baking dish with butter or nonstick spray.
 Now it's time to assemble.
Place half of the bread cubes in the casserole dish in an even layer, then half of the spinach mixture, then half of the cheese.
Repeat with the other half of each ingredient except the cheese.
Pour the egg mixture over everything, taking time to let everything sink in as you pour. Press down any pieces of bread that are not immersed. Cover with foil.
If you're making it ahead, place in the fridge overnight, or until you're ready to bake. Remove from the fridge about 15 minutes before you place it in the oven.
Bake at 350F for 45 minutes. Remove foil. Top with the other half of the cheese. Bake for 15 minutes longer.

If you're really pressed for time, no one will condemn you if you just toss the bread cubes, spinach mixture, and cheese in a big bowl and then dump it into the casserole dish instead of taking the time to make layers. It'll still be delish!
If you've made it the night before, turn the oven on when you take the casserole out of fridge. Then the oven will be nicely preheated by the time you're ready to bake!
If Swiss cheese, mushrooms and spinach are not your favorite things, then change it up however you like! Asparagus, broccoli, cheddar cheese, diced ham, sauteed sausage or bacon, diced red bell peppers... all good! There's really no right or wrong. You can basically use any kind of omelette ingredients and it will work perfectly!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Joey's Ratatouille & Ricotta Stuffed Shells

 Here's a little piece of heaven that I whipped up once upon a not so long ago. I thought of making stuffed shells, but wanted to do some kind of veggie stuffing. By the time I was finished browsing the fresh produce at the store, I realized my basket was filled with ingredients for a basic ratatouille, so I went with it! The result was DEE LISH!! And the ricotta cheese just pushed it right over the top. SO YUMMY!! I'll definitely be making this one again soon!
Try it!

1 medium eggplant
salt for sprinkling
1 medium zucchini
1 medium onion
1 red bell pepper
12 button mushrooms
2 cloves garlic
10-12 fresh basil leaves
 salt and pepper

1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1 egg
Parmesan cheese

25 jumbo shells
your favorite purchased or home made marinara sauce
Shredded mozzarella cheese

Peel eggplant and slice into fairly thick slices. Arrange slices on a baking tray in one layer. Sprinkle generously with salt. Let stand for at least 1/2 hour. This will pull all the bitter juices out of the eggplant. Drain. Give the eggplant a super quick rinse under cold water, then pat dry with paper towels. Chop the eggplant, onions, zucchini, and bell pepper into small dice.
 Add a few glugs of oil to a large saute pan. Add veggies to the pan and saute over medium heat until they slowly begin to soften. Add chopped mushrooms, garlic, and basil. Season with salt and pepper. 
In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, the egg, and the Parmesan cheese. When the vegetables have cooked down, add the ricotta mixture to the pan and stir until completely combined and creamy.
While the veggies are cooking, boil a large pot of salted water. Add the shells to the pot and cook for about 10 minutes, just until al dente. Drain. Now it's time to put it all together.
Place about a cup of marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Fill each shell with a heaping tablespoon of the ricotta/veggie mixture and then place it in the dish, making 5 rows of 5. Top each shell with a tablespoon of marinara sauce. Sprinkle a handful or two or shredded mozzarella cheese over all. Cover with foil. Place in a 350F oven for about 30 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle more Parmesan cheese over the top, and place it back in the oven for 10 more minutes. Let it stand for a few minutes before serving, otherwise you'll burn your tongue.

You really don't have to salt or even peel the eggplant, but I always do. I just think it tastes better and is less likely to be bitter. Oh, and I always do the super quick rinse, just to get rid of the excess salt. Yeah, I found that one out the hard way...
I only do a VERY small amount of the marinara sauce because I don't want it to drown out the flavor of the veggie filling. You just want enough in the bottom of the pan so they won't stick, and you want just a little drizzled over the top of each one so they're not dry.
Once again, the amounts of the ingredients are just guidelines. If you like a lot, add a lot! And if any of the veggies is not your thing, then substitute something that is!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving Rescue 911!

  I've always loved this famous Norman Rockwell painting. It's clearly the image of what we all perceive as being the perfect Thanksgiving. But what do you do when some of your dishes don't turn out?? We've all heard the horror stories about kitchen disasters on Thanksgiving, right? The turkey is still frozen, the side dishes aren't hot enough, the pumpkin pie is cracked, the gravy is lumpy, the mashed potatoes are gluey, and on and on.  Let's face it...  things don't always go as planned! The most important thing to do is to relax and don't panic! Everything will be fine! I know you want everything to be perfect, but no one will judge you if you have to resort to a plan B. We can all use a little help every now and then, so here are a few quick fixes for Thanksgiving's most common dilemmas.

1. The turkey is still frozen.
 It takes a long time to thaw a turkey in the fridge -- about 5 hours per pound. To speed up the process safely, you can defrost the turkey in cold water, which is a lot faster. Simply put the turkey (still in its wrapper) in your kitchen sink and cover it with cold tap water. Every half hour, drain the water and refill the sink. The turkey will thaw at a rate of about 30 minutes per pound. Meanwhile, call your guests to tell them that dinner will be delayed, and have some extra hors d'oeuvres on hand. And don’t forget to remove the giblets after the bird is thawed. If you're way past the point of thawing the turkey in time to cook it for dinner, put the frozen turkey back in the freezer and go to the store and buy a fresh one. Oh, and remember, it’s never a good idea to thaw the turkey on the counter overnight.

2. The turkey is dry.
Preventive measures are the best way to address this potential problem: brining the turkey, or using an oven-roasting bag, or tenting the turkey with foil while it cooks. If it's dry anyway, that's what gravy is for.

3. The turkey is cooked, but the stuffing hasn't reached 165°F.
This one's an easy fix. Just scoop all the stuffing out of the turkey and place it in a casserole dish. Place it back in the oven, uncovered, and let it finish cooking. To avoid this in the future, stuff the turkey with aromatics like onions and celery and fresh herbs, and leave the stuffing in its own dish. You get the bonus of a nice crispy top! Btw, if the stuffing comes out too dry, just drizzle with a little chicken broth, dot with butter, cover, and then pop it back into the oven to quickly reheat.

4. You only have a small oven, and you're not sure how to manage cooking a turkey plus all the side dishes while keeping everything hot.
The key to this dilemma is all in the planning. The best thing to do is to make as many things as you can in advance. Have a quick look at my previous article about Thanksgiving Planning. And when all else fails, be sure to have plenty of hot gravy in a pot on the stove. It's the easiest way to warm up your turkey or stuffing or mashed potatoes.

5. The pan drippings have burned, and now there are no browned bits left for making gravy.
Yes, you can still make gravy. Just cut a couple tablespoons worth of nicely browned bits of skin and meat from the underside of the turkey, chop finely, and in a clean skillet, sauté them in bacon fat or butter with minced onion and fresh herbs such as parsley, thyme, and sage. When the aromatics are well browned and soft, sprinkle flour into the pan and cook the roux until golden; slowly add your broth, and cook, stirring, until the gravy is as thick as you like.

6. It's too salty.
This one's a little tricky. Depending on how much you've oversalted, you may not be able to salvage the dish. I've heard of adding something acidic, like lemon juice or wine or vinegar, but it really doesn't fix the situation. It just tricks your taste buds into tasting acid instead of salt. You can try adding more of the other ingredients, which will balance everything out, but that's not always possible. The best thing to do is to make sure you go easy on the salt in the first place. If it's an easy recipe and you have the ingredients on hand, the obvious solution is to just start over. And use Kosher salt instead of iodized table salt. I find that even when you use a little too much, Kosher salt wont make the dish taste too salty the way that iodized salt does. It'll just make the flavor of the dish more intense, which is a much better trade. Oh, and never believe anyone who tells you that an extra added potato will absorb the extra salt. That never works. 

7. The vegetables are overcooked.
The easiest thing to do is to add something that has a little texture, like bread crumbs or toasted pine nuts. Toss them with a little melted butter, sprinkle over the top of your veggies, then place it under the broiler for a minute or two, then tell everyone that it's a gratin. (oh, and make sure you pronounce it "graTAN" instead of "grotten".. Everyone will think it's more gourmet. hehehe)

8. The gravy is lumpy.
Those little white lumps in the gravy are just clumps of undissolved starch. Simply pour the gravy though a sieve and serve. If it's not thick enough, you can put it back on the stove and let it reduce until it reaches the desired thickness. You can also thicken it quickly by adding cornstarch or flour to some COOL water until it's dissolved, then adding it to the gravy. It'll quickly thicken as it comes up to heat. If your gravy is too thick, simply thin it down with a bit of chicken broth or wine, or even just a bit of water. If you add wine, be sure to simmer it for 5-10 minutes.

9. The mashed potatoes are gluey or lumpy.
This is another one of those problems that's hard to fix once things have gone south. The thing that makes the potatoes gluey is over mixing. I've also heard that adding milk or cream to the potatoes before you mash the potatoes will make it impossible to get out all the lumps. Solution for both problems: Instead of using a hand masher which leaves lumps, or an electric mixer which makes glue, try using a food mill or a potato ricer. You won't have any lumps and your potatoes will be smooth and satiny. If your potatoes are already like spackle, spread them into a shallow baking dish. Top with buttered bread crumbs or even Parmesan cheese, then bake in the oven until golden on top. The crunchy gratin topping will help disguise the consistency of the potatoes. If your potatoes already have lumps in them, just declare them as being "rustic", as if you had planned it that way. Never apologize!!

10. Pie Problems!
I once heard of someone asking what do to after she dropped the pumpkin pie. Lordy! That could be a mess! If that ever happens, see if you can salvage any of it, then spoon it into decorative glasses , layered with whipped cream. Top with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon or some chopped pecans.
If your pecan or apple pie is a little soupy after you've baked it, you can either put it back in the oven and see if that'll help it to set up, or you can spoon some of the pie filling over a dish of ice cream. Soupy pie fillings make excellent ice cream toppings!
If your pumpkin pie has a huge crack down the center of it, don't fret! If this is the worst thing to happen, then you're way ahead of the game. I doubt anyone will really care, because it'll still taste delish! But if you still want everything to be perfect, all you need to do is pipe some whipped cream on top of the pie to hide the San Andreas Fault. No one will ever know the difference! You can also keep the cracked pie in the kitchen, then cut it into slices and place each slice on a dessert plate, topped with some whipped topping. Then serve the individual servings to your guests when it's time for dessert.

Of course, we never expect things to go wrong, but it's always nice to have a little back up plan, just in case!
 Be sure to have lots of extra butter, cans of chicken broth and jars of gravy on hand. I've heard of these items as being "the duct tape of Thanksgiving", which cracks me up. It's also not a bad idea to have extra cream, bread crumbs, and some fresh herbs on hand. They'll fix a multitude of sins.
Garnish your dishes, present your meal with a flourish, and whatever you do, DON'T APOLOGIZE FOR ANYTHING! You're guests will love everything because YOU cooked it for them!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Praline Pumpkin Dessert

Here's a quick and easy dessert that would be a PERFECT ending for your holiday meal. It's kind of like one of those old timey "dump" cakes, where you just dump everything into the pan and bake it. Simple, huh? It's sweet and yummy and festive, all at the same time! And it's a Betty Crocker Recipe, so, you know it's tried and true. Oh, and don't forget the whipped topping!
Try it!

1 can (15oz) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 can (12oz) evaporated milk
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 box Betty Crocker Super Moist golden vanilla cake mix
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts
3/4 cup better, melted
whipping cream, whipped, if desired
additional pumpkin pie spice, if desired

Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pan). Grease or spray bottom and sides of 13x9-inch pan. In medium bowl, beat pumpkin, milk, eggs, sugar and 4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice with wire whisk until smooth. Pour into pan. Sprinkle dry cake mix over pumpkin mixture. Sprinkle with pecans. Pour melted butter evenly over top. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 30 minutes. To serve, cut dessert into 4 rows by 3 rows. Serve warm or chilled with dollop of whipped cream sprinkled with pumpkin pie spice. Store covered in refrigerator.

This recipe is perfect for a holiday meal because you can make it up to 2 days ahead of time and then just store it covered in the fridge.
Instead of using whipped cream, I decided to use Cool Whip. It's easier and lighter and you can keep a tub of it in the freezer until you're ready for it. Then just defrost and top your dessert. Easy!
I know the directions say to serve it warm or chilled, but I think it's SO much better when it's chilled. The top sets up a little more and becomes a little more crumbly, more like a crumb topping. Love.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Chunky Apple Cake

 Ok, so, I'd like to introduce you to my new favorite person, Joanne Pasold. Well, wait...actually, I've never met her... lemme 'splain..
  Her husband, Ray, works with my brother, Tom, in landscaping. Joanne once made an apple cake to give to all the guys on the tree crew, and they all loved it so much, it was gone in no time. My brother told Joanne of my cooking website and suggested that maybe she might like to share the recipe with me. Well, not only did she share the recipe, but she baked me the cake to go with it! Isn't that awesome? And can I just tell you how yummy it was? It's kind of like a cross between a spice cake and an apple cake. Dense and rich with cinnamon, but moist and sweet from the apples. SO good! So, Thank you, Joanne, for the recipe and seriously OMG Thank You for the cake!!!
 It was delish!!!

1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 cups thinly sliced apples
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Heat oven to 350F.
Grease and flour (or spray with baking spray) a Bundt pan or a 9x13 baking dish. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy.
Beat in eggs, one at a time.
Add vanilla extract.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
Add the flour mixture slowly to the batter.
Stir in apple (and nuts, if using).
Pour into prepared pan.
Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Cool 10-15 minutes before serving.

Joey's Tips:
If you're using a nonstick spray, be sure to use one that is specifically for baking. In other words, choose a spray that has flour in it. Regular cooking oil spray such as Pam isn't always as reliable for cakes.
Always use pure vanilla extract and NEVER imitation vanilla flavoring. Yes, I know the imitation is much cheaper, but it has a noticeably different taste and it's just not as good.
If using a Bundt pan, why not drizzle a little caramel sauce over the top and just let it ooze down the sides? Sounds like Heaven to me!  If not, I'd probably just dust it with a little powdered sugar. Yum.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Jenny P's Vegan Fall Fry Up

  One of my mostest favoritestest people in the whole wide world is my fabulous friend Jenny Pilong, or Jenny P, as I like to call her. She's hilariously funny and wrote the book on what is and isn't cool. She's mad crazy talented and I'm thrilled to say that I've had the honor of sharing the stage with her on several occasions. As if that isn't enough, she's also an amazing cook. I love that she sort of looks at each meal as a culinary adventure. She usually doesn't use a recipe and just throws something together using whatever she has on hand, and the final result is always a huge hit with her main squeeze, Louie Louie.
 We both recently attended a party and she was telling me about her culinary experiments. I IMMEDIATELY begged her to write down what she cooks and take photos since I'm always getting requests for Vegan or Vegetarian recipes. And she did! So here is the first of what I hope will be many culinary creations by my amazing friend, the one and only Jenny P!
Thank You Please!

1 sweet potato
1 red skinned potato
1 plantain
tofu (thankfully!)
1 apple
1/2 a red onion (of which I only used a's a big onion!)
ginger root
1/4 of a lemon
fresh herbs (sage, parsley, coriander, Thai basil)
a few tbs unsweetened almond milk
Earth Balance Buttery Spread

And here goes....I knew I wanted a tofu scramble. Normally we do it "potatoes and eggs" breakfast-style (I know some people have never heard of this (insert gasp here)...but if you watch Jamie Oliver at know what I'm talkin' 'bout) but, considering the ingredients I had on hand....I decided to go a bit more fall festive. This probably took about 45 minutes total to make, but that's because the potatoes take a bit to cook through. You can nuke them ahead of time if you want, but I'm trying to phase out all things microwave so I fry 'em up old school.

First I diced the potatoes (peeled the sweet potato, but not the red skinned) and put them in a medium sized tupperware with a little chopped onion, minced garlic, sage & parsley, salt,  pepper and a couple TBSP of olive oil. Then I put the lid on and shook it all up. I like how this evenly coats all the potatoes with all the spices (I do homemade french fries this way too). Then I dumped them in a hot skillet coated with Earth Balance Buttery Spread. You want to get them going over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Next I cut the tofu block (firm tofu) in half and smooshed it all up in a bowl with my hands. Then I grated some lemon zest over it, salt, pepper, fresh parsley, cumin and a few tbs of unsweetened almond milk. Stirred it all up with a fork and set aside.

Then I sliced up the plantain, diced up half the apple and a smidge of red onion, and put them in the same tupperware the potatoes had been. Some fresh, grated ginger, salt, pepper, coriander & fresh Thai basil. Cover and shake it up yo! (there was still plenty of olive oil in the tupperware already) Then I dumped it into a separate heated skillet also coated with buttery spread.

*At this point you can add the tofu scramble to the potatoes and start frying it up together. You want the potatoes to be mostly cooked before you add anything else to the pan. *

I fried up the plantain/apple mixture on high-ish heat, adding a hearty drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a little drizzle of honey. I gave it a stir and then let the plantains fry up on the one side all nice a golden brown before flipping them over.

Once everything has cooked thru, I put the plantain mixture in with the tofu/potato mixture, stirring it all together. Add a light drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon.

Top with fresh Thai basil and serve.

Vegan deliciousness that sticks to your ribs on a chilly fall eve.

Altho....truth be told, if I had French feta in my sooooo would have been crumbled on top....negating the previously stated vegan status and bumping it to mere vegetarian deliciousness. If I was feeling fancy pantsy I would have made a balsamic reduction to drizzle on the top....and def crumbled the feta on top!  But it turned out super yummy. It's always an experiment! LOL.

Either way....bon appetit!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin Crumb Bars

Dessert squares are always a big hit with me because they're perfect for a get together. Everyone can just grab one and enjoy. You have your Brownies of course, and you also have your Lemon Bars and snacky sort of cake bars like Banana Bars or Easy Time Squares. With most of these, you just mix up a batter and bake. Sometimes it has a crust, sometimes you even spread it with frosting. Then you cut them into squares and you're good to go. Delish!
 But there's another formula that I LOVE. You have your crust and your filling, but then you use some of the crust to make the top crumble layer as well. Such is the case with the Peach Crumb Bars, and also the White Chocolate Raspberry Oatmeal Squares. And that's exactly how you make this one too!
  Half of the crust goes on the bottom, pour the filling over it, then crumble the rest of the crust to make the crumbly topping. It's SO easy! Even a baking novice can handle this one. They're like little mini pumpkin pies with a crumb crust. Yum! If you don't have a 9x13 brownie pan, this is definitely the reason to buy one.
 Hope you'll give them a try!

1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened

2 cups (1 16oz can) pumpkin
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 egg
1 tbs pumpkin pie spice*

Combine oats, flour, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup chopped pecans, 1/2 teaspoon salt, the baking soda, and the butter; beat until mixture is crumbly. Reserve about 1 1/2 cups of the crumb mixture and press remaining mixture into a lightly buttered 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Bake at 375° for 10 minutes.
Prepare filling. Beat filling ingredients until well blended and smooth. Spread filling over the crust; sprinkle with remaining crumb mixture. Return to oven and bake 25 minutes longer. Cool cpmpletely or chill then cut into bars.

*  Instead of buying pumpkin pie spice, you can easily make it yourself by combining 4 parts EACH of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, with 3 parts of ground allspice.
 If you're not a fan of pecans or walnuts, feel free to substitute any other nuts or simply omit them altogether.
I find it easier to remove large sections of the batch from the pan, and then cut them into bars on a cutting board with a large sharp knife. Then you'll get much neater prettier cuts.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Orange Glazed Ham

When you think of a glazed ham, you normally think it should be reserved for a huge holiday meal or special occasion. Am I right?  Well, nothing could be further from the truth. I know I've said this before, but it's worth repeating: My Mom used to say that ham is always great to have on hand because you can have it at any meal. Ham and eggs for breakfast, ham sandwiches for lunch, add a few veggies and a starch and you have a yummy ham dinner. So, yes, this is perfect for a holiday dinner or for a party, but you definitely don't have to wait until then! Make this on a Monday night and you'll be set for several meals during the week!

1 boneless ham (4-5 lbs)
1/4 cup home made fresh orange marmalade, or your favorite brand
1/4 cup spicy brown or Dijon mustard
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
big pinch ground cloves
freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 325F.
Place the ham in a shallow baking dish, (remove the net casing, if it has one). Cover tightly with foil. Place in oven and let it roast for 15 minutes per pound. Meanwhile, combine remaining ingredients. Remove the foil for the last 15 minutes of cooking time, then slather the glaze over the ham. Let it finish cooking, uncovered. Let it stand for 15 minutes after removing it from the oven.

If orange is not your favorite thing, try using a different kind of fruit preserves or jelly instead of the marmalade. Apple, pineapple, apricot, peach, or even strawberry or raspberry would be absolutely delish!
If cloves are not your favorite thing, simply omit them! It'll still be yummy!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Buttermilk Spice Cake

 Here's a quick and easy cake to have when you're craving those warm autumnal spices. Now that there's a chill in the air, it's nice to have something warm and cozy baking in the oven, don't cha think?
 Ok, yes, I know you can barely see the cake in this picture, but look how gorgeous my cream cheese frosting turned out? Sometimes it's the simplest things in life that make me smile. :)
Oh, btw, speaking of which, the addition of the cream cheese frosting makes it delectable and yumtastic, but you do have other options, depending on the occasion.
 If you're serving it with an afternoon tea, you might want something a little lighter and more delicate, so go ahead an omit the frosting (ouch, that almost hurts to say it), and just dust it with powdered sugar.
  If you're celebrating someone's birthday, serve it warm out of the oven with some home made Cream Cheese Frosting Ice Cream. You could even make it more festive by sprinkling a little something over the ice cream, such as coconut, toffee chips, or chopped pecans.
  But still I think my favorite way will always be just as I made it for the gang when Katie asked me to make a spice cake...covered with gobs of rich, decadent, satiny, smooth, sinful, fabulous, wonderful, velvety cream cheese frosting. Aaaaand there's that smile again. :)
 I hope you'll try it!

2 cups cake flour*
3/4 cups sugar
3/4 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbs pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter, softened
3/4 cup buttermilk**
2 eggs

Heat oven to 350F.
Grease and flour an 8x8" square pan. Set aside.
Toss all of your dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, cloves, salt, and brown sugar) in the bowl of your stand mixer or a large mixing bowl.
With a whisk, stir the dry ingredients thoroughly until you have a uniform mixture.
Add the butter and buttermilk to the flour mixture. Add the eggs to the batter. Pour the batter out into your prepared pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool completely. Top with Cream Cheese Frosting.

*You can use all purpose flour instead of cake flour, but cake flour will give you a finer crumb and a more tender texture.
**To make buttermilk, add a tbs of vinegar to 3/4 cup milk. Microwave for 30 seconds or let it stand on your counter until it comes to room temperature. Use as directed.
Instead of greasing and flouring your pan, you can also use a baking spray. Don't use a regular cooking spray, though. Use one that has flour in it and is meant specifically for baking.
You can buy Pumpkin Pie Spice blend in the spice aisle of your supermarket, but I always just blend it myself. In a small bowl, simply stir together 4 parts EACH of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, plus 3 parts of allspice. Then label it in a small container and use it in pies or cakes or rice pudding or frankly anything that requires cinnamon. And I ALWAYS add more than the recipe says to add. Just sayin'!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Joey's Blue Mac n Cheese

Ok, so, I'll be the first one to admit that my experience with blue cheese is limited. Growing up, for the most part, we basically just had your usual deli cheeses, such as Swiss, Provolone, Cheddar, Parmesan, and good ol' square American cheese. Slowly but surely, though, I'm beginning to incorporate different types of blue cheese into my recipes.
 If you know me, you know that I love to watch and learn from Ina Garten, and she always includes some kind of blue cheese whenever she makes a cheese platter, such as Gorgonzola, Stilton, or Roquefort. So I got to thinking... I wonder how a blue mac n cheese would be?
 Well let me just say that this is one of the best ideas I've ever had! Not that I'm the first person to come up with this idea, but seriously, this was a moment of brilliance, I must say! Now, I know you might be a little hesitant to add blue to a mac n cheese because it has a much more pungent flavor than many cheeses, but it really mellows into a deep rich sauce that goes perfectly with the macaroni. It is AMAZING! It's sort of a little bit more elegant than your usual mac n cheese, but it's still warm and comforting at the same time. And as Miss Ina would say "Who doesn't love that?"
You should try it!

1 lb cut pasta
6 tbs butter
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
6 tbs flour
4 cups milk
1/2 parmesan cheese
4 oz Gorgonzola or other Blue cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 tbs butter
1 tbs parsley

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta, give it a good stir, and let it boil until it's tender. In the meantime, make the sauce.
Melt butter in a sauce pan. Add onions and cook over medium heat until they begin to soften. Add the garlic. Continue to cook, stirring often, for a good 5 minutes, making sure the heat isn't too high. You don't want to scorch the garlic. Add the flour. Stir it well, and cook for another few minutes. Now add the milk, cheeses and salt and pepper. Stir it often, making sure it doesn't burn on the bottom. The sauce will become very thick and rich. Remove from heat and set aside until pasta is cooked.
Heat oven to 350F.
Spray a 9x13 casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.
When the pasta is done, drain it well, and pour into the casserole dish. Pour sauce over the pasta. Give a little stir to make sure all of the pasta is coated.
In a small bowl, melt butter in microwave. Toss in the bread crumbs and parsley. Stir until coated with butter. Sprinkle across the top of the pasta. Place in oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until lightly golden and bubbly. Let it stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Be sure to generously salt the pasta water. It should be as salty as the ocean. I always use Kosher salt because I think it has a MUCH better flavor than regular iodized table salt.
I used whole milk, but you can use any milk you like.
Since this is sort of a more grown up mac n cheese, choose a shape of pasta other than elbows. I used cavatappi, just because I love the little cork screws, but penne would also be perfect.

Oh, and one other thing....
Lets be of hands...
How many of you thought that this mac n cheese was gonna be BLUE in color? Hmm??
C' know you thought that...don't lie.... LOL

Monday, October 3, 2011

Joey's BBQ Beef Stew

Now that the fall weather is practically upon us, I'm starting to get more and more requests for Beef Stew recipes. It's true, I do enjoy a nice traditional Crock Pot Beef Stew, but I also like to do different variations. I LOVED the Beef and Brew Stew just about as much as I loved Julia's Boeuf Bourguignon. And then I thought, why not do something barbecuey? (Hmm.... I just realized I never tried that beef stew recipe that I got from my friend Kathleen a while back...... I'll have to come back to it...!)
  Anyway, I basically started with a few basic beef stew ingredients and then added a few BBQ sauce ingredients and PRESTO! We have a new recipe! I immediately brought some to my Jeanie to see what she thought of it. She liked that you could definitely taste BBQ flavor, but it wasn't like eating a bowl of BBQ sauce. It still tastes like beef stew. Perfect! That's just what I was going for! And it's a snap to throw together! Serve it with fresh bakery rolls with a pat of sweet butter and it'll definitely hit the spot!

a few glugs of oil
2-3 lbs beef cubes
1 cup BBQ sauce
1 can Coca Cola
1 tbs instant coffee granules
1 lb baby carrots
6 small red potatoes, washed and quartered
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 cup frozen peas
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup cold water

In a large skillet, over medium high heat, brown beef cubes in oil on all sides. In the meantime, add BBQ sauce and cola to a 6 qt crock pot. Stir to combine. Dissolve the coffee granules in a small amount of hot water and stir into the sauce mixture. Add the vegetables and browned beef cubes to the pot. Season with S&P. Give it a good stir. Cook on low for about 9-10 hours, or on high for about 4-5 hours. When the meat and vegetables are tender, whisk together the flour and water in a small bowl. Add to the pot and let it cook on high for another 1/2 hour or until it's bubbly and thickened.

-You can absolutely make this the night before you plan to serve it. Simply prep everything as directed and then keep it covered in a large bowl in the fridge overnight. If you have a crock pot with a removable insert, even better! Then just place it in the crock pot first thing in the morning, and voila! Dinner will be ready by the time you get home from work.
-When I was at the grocery store, the beef cubes didn't look very appealing, so I decided to buy a small chuck roast, and then just cut it into cubes. I also cut off the layer of fat that was on the one side. I placed it in the skillet over a medium low heat, and then slowly rendered as much fat as I could, and then used it to brown the beef instead of using oil. How's that for getting the most from your roast?
-My favorite BBQ is Sweet Baby Ray's because it's not too sweet or too spicy or too smokey. But if you have favorite, or if you'd prefer to make Katie Franny BBQ Sauce, go for it!
-If there's a particular beef stew ingredient that you like such as corn or bacon or mushrooms or any other veggies, by all means, go ahead and add it!
-This can be made in a heavy pot or Dutch Oven. Just prep it as directed, then cover it and place in a 325F oven for about 2 hours.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Jiffy Creamed Corn Bread

As much as I love to make everything from scratch, sometimes it's just easier to throw everything into a bowl with a mix and you're good to go. That's usually the case when I'm in the mood for corn bread. It's absurdly simple, and it takes no time at all. The thing that turns up the volume is the addition of creamed corn. It makes it sweet and moist and yummy. I guess it's more of a recipe variation than a recipe (since you follow the directions as written on the box), but it's still worth mentioning! So, the next time you use a corn bread mix, crank it up a little. It makes it so much better!
Try it!

2 boxes of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
14oz can of creamed corn
2 tablespoons butter

Put a 12″ cast iron pan in the oven at 375F for about 15 minutes.
Mix together the 2 boxes of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix with the eggs, milk, and creamed corn.
Pull the pan out of the oven, drop in the butter and swirl it around, make sure it gets up on the walls of the pan.
Pour the batter into the pan, and bake for 30 minutes.
Check for doneness, the edges of the crust should be starting to brown.
Let it cool for a few minutes, run a spatula up under the pan to loosen the corn bread. Flip it onto a plate and serve.

Since there's only one of me, I usually cut the recipe in half and bake it in a smaller cast iron pan. It works just as beautifully.
I guess you don't have to specifically use Jiffy brand corn muffin mix, but it's usually the one that I buy. 
I always use this as a side note to go along with a meal, but if you want something more substantial, have a look at Chris and Dan's Cracklin Bread. It's kind of the same sort of revved up corn bread idea, only you add breakfast ingredients. Love it!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Apple, Bacon, and Cucumber Salad

 I usually don't think of a salad as being a recipe because anyone can just throw anything into a salad and it'll work. But every so often, I'll find a really good combination of salad ingredients that really hits the spot and is worth sharing. This is the basic flight of ideas as I was browsing around the supermarket:
  Ok, salad ... lettuce and tomatoes for starters. great. next......well, I have apple vinaigrette, so I guess I should include apples. So far so good. Apples are sweet, tomatoes are sweet, vinaigrette is sweet...need something salty to balance it...thick cut bacon...yum. What else.....something crisp and fresh to round everything out.... cucumber! Perfect!
And there you have it. It was just as easy as that, and was exactly what I wanted. Fresh. Crisp. Perfect for a light meal. Sometimes the best things are the simplest!

1 head Romaine lettuce
1 Macintosh apple, cored and sliced into small wedges
1 pint grape tomatoes
3 strips super thick sliced bacon
1 medium cucumber, thinly sliced
Apple Vinaigrette, or your favorite other vinaigrette

Over medium heat, saute bacon strips until slightly crispy. Remove to a paper towel to drain. Slice into small strips. While the bacon is cooking, slice the lettuce (across the width) into 1/2" slices. Separate the leaves and toss in a large bowl. Add cucumber and apple slices along with the tomatoes and bacon. Give everything a good toss. Serve with Apple Vinaigrette.

To make a decorative edge on your cucumber slices, simply run a fork down the length of the cucumber, making small grooves with the tines of the fork. Do this all the way around the cucumber, then slice across the width making cucumber rounds. So simple, but very effective!

Chuck's Apple Vinaigrette

 Do you ever watch Chuck's Day Off? I watch it all the time. Chuck Hughes owns a restaurant, which keeps him pretty busy, but then on his day off, his goes into the kitchen and cooks a meal for his employees or friends or family or colleagues or neighbors. Usually, the reason he's cooking for them is to tell them how much he appreciates them or to say thank you. I just love that. I kinda feel like I'd probably do the same thing if I had a restaurant. I guess that's why I like the show so much. Well, that, and he's adorable and his food looks awesome.
 Anyway, I've noticed that he makes this vinaigrette pretty often. He doesn't always use apple juice, but it's always the same idea. It's just a simple vinaigrette with a sweet something added to it, such as apple juice or pear nectar. I absolutely love it!
So, give it a try.
If you like a sweet vinaigrette, you'll love this one!

1 c. apple juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
freshly ground black pepper
pinch coarse or kosher salt
dash apple cider vinegar
3 tbs canola oil

Pour the apple juice into a small pot, then boil it on high to reduce the liquid by half.
Into a bowl, add the mustard and grind over some black pepper.
Add a nice pinch of coarse salt, then add a dash of the apple cider vinegar. Whisk in your reduced apple juice along with the canola oil. Taste for seasonings and adjust if necessary.

I used apple cider instead of apple juice and it worked beautifully. Seems to me that it would also work perfectly with other fruit juices or nectars. Hmm....maybe peach??  I think I might have to give it a try!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Heirloom Carrot Spoon Cake

I recently saw this recipe on Semi Home made with Sandra Lee. It's pretty much the same recipe as the Warm Chocolate Pudding Cake that I posted a while back, but it just substitutes carrot cake ingredients instead of the chocolate cake ingredients. FABULOUS! It's warm and gooey and more like a bread pudding than a cake. OH so yummy! And one of the best parts about it is that you make it in a crock pot, so you can do it early in the day an it'll be ready for tonight's dessert!
I love that!

1 (18.25-ounce) box spice cake mix (recommended: Betty Crocker)
1 (3.4-ounce) box instant butterscotch pudding mix (recommended: Jell-O)
1 cup water
2 cups shredded carrots
3/4 cup canola oil
4 eggs
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple
1 cup sour cream

Spray a 5-quart slow cooker with butter flavored cooking spray.
Combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker. Place a couple paper towels over the cooker and then place the lid on top. (this will absorb the water that forms under the lid from the steam). Cook on LOW for 4 1/2 to 6 hours.

Note from Joey:
Serve it warm as is, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or with a scoop of my Cream Cheese Frosting Ice Cream.

Joey's Tips:
When I made it, I could only find sugar free instant pudding, so I went with it. I also used regular vegetable oil instead of canola oil. Turned out great!
I like a really spicy carrot cake, so I added a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice. I probably would have added some coconut too, (since I love coconut in a carrot cake) but I didn't have any on hand. I'm sure I'll add some next time!
The crushed pineapple is a nice touch, but you can just omit it if you and pineapple don't get along so well.
When I made it, it seemed to take a little longer than 6 hours to cook all the way through. Maybe all crock pots are not created equal, who knows? Just keep an eye on it and let it cook until it's set all the way to the center.

Oh, btw, sometimes I can't seem to get the photo to be just right, so I just decided to borrow the one from I hope they don't mind!

Joey's Cream Cheese Frosting Ice Cream

When I made carrot cake for Danny and Emma's wedding reception, I had a ton of leftover cream cheese frosting. Well, I certainly wasn't gonna throw it out (because,'s cream cheese frosting!), so I just kept it in the fridge for a couple days, waiting for a moment of brilliance to hit me. Then I had the AHA moment! I remembered the Carrot Spoon Cake that I saw Sandra Lee semi home making once upon a time, and I thought why not make ice cream? Every carrot cakes needs cream cheese frosting, right? And every warm pudding cake needs a scoop of ice cream on top. So why not put the two together? So I mixed up a few things, poured it into my ice cream maker, and VOILA! It's the perfect thing! It's almost like eating frozen cheesecake! Pretty cool, huh? If you don't have an ice cream maker, maybe this is your perfect excuse to buy one!
It's totally worth it!

2 cups cream cheese frosting, either purchased or home made
1 1/2 cup milk, either whole or 2%
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Mix until it is completely smooth. Cover and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours, or overnight. Pour into the freezer bowl of your ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's directions. The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture. Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and place in freezer for about 2 hours, or until it firms up a bit. It may not freeze hard (depending on your cream cheese frosting), but if it does, just let it sit on the counter for a few minutes before scooping.

Serve over warm Heirloom Carrot Spoon Cake, over grilled peaches or pineapples, or with fresh Blueberry Sauce. (Or use the blueberry sauce recipe to make a sauce of strawberries or raspberries!)

You really don't even need to add any sugar because there's plenty of sugar in the frosting, but go ahead and give it a quick taste before you freeze it. If you like it super sweet, add a half cup of sugar and then mix it up until the sugar is dissolved.
I usually use salted butter when I make the frosting, so if you like, add a little pinch of salt to your cream mixture before you freeze it. It makes it taste SO good!!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Smothered Pork Chops

 Ok, this is seriously one of the easiest and yummiest recipes I've tried in a long time. I've literally made it TWICE in the last week! Actually, I think I might need to make it again. The recipe comes from Paula Deen. Well, actually, it comes from a guest she had on her show. As soon as I saw it I knew I had to try it, and OMG they're just fabulous.
 Do you know how when you cook a pork chop, sometimes it can be a little bit dry? Or maybe the meat is a little bit tough? Well, you don't have to worry about that anymore. This is the recipe for you. The meat just falls off the bone and it's so moist and juicy....MMMMMM it's so good you might just have to slap someone. You should make this for dinner, like TONIGHT! Seriously.

 4 center cut pork chops, 1" thick
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
ground cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup ll purpose flour, spread on a plate
2 medium green bell peppers, cut int strips
2 yellow onions, cut lengthwise
3 cloves garlic
2 cups chicken broth
2-3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce

Trim the excess fat from the chops and season well with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Lightly roll the chops in flour, shake off the excess, and slip them into the pan. Brown well, about 3 minutes per side, and remove them to a plate.
Add the bell peppers and onions, to the skillet, and saute until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about half a minute longer. Push the vegetables to the side of the skillet. Add chops to pan and place vegetables on top of pork chops. Pour in the broth and sprinkle with Worcestershire sauce. Cover pan with foil and allow to simmer for 45 minutes or until chops are tender.

Since there's only one of me, I just made TWO pork chops at a time instead of four. I only used half as many onions and peppers, but I still made the same amount of gravy.
To thicken the gravy, I just stir a a tablespoon of flour into a little cold water or chicken stock, then add it to the pan.
I served it with white rice, but I think this dish screams for mashed potatoes. Serve it with some applesauce and a green vegetable and you're all set!
If you don't have a cast iron skillet, you can probably use any heavy skillet or even a dutch oven.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Joey's Pineapple Honey Braised Turkey Thighs

If you're a frequent visitor to my blog, you know by now that I LOVE the method of braising meat in a big heavy pot in the oven. It seriously makes the meat fall apart tender, and it makes the whole house smell like Mom's home cookin'. What's not to love about that???
 Not too long ago, I made Apple Braised Turkey Thighs and they were absolutely FANTASTIC. I had another package of thighs in the freezer, so I decided to do them again and try something new at the same time. Once again, I went with what I happened to have in the pantry, and this was the result. Now, I know the title of the recipe might lead you to believe that it's all sweet and sticky, but really it's not. The thyme in the poultry seasoning balances with the sweet ingredients and you end up with a savory thick gravy with just a few hints of sweetness here and there. I can't even begin to tell you how fabulous it is! I know I always say "this is one of the best things I've ever made" but seriously this is one of the best things I've ever made!!! I KNOW you'll love it!!!

2 turkey thighs
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
a few glugs of olive oil
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
4 carrots, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup fresh pineapple, diced
2 or 3 bay leaves
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1/4 cup honey
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup dry sherry

1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup water

 Heat oven to 350F.
Trim excess skin from turkey thighs and season both sides with salt and pepper. Pour olive oil into a heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add thighs to pot, skin side down, for about 8-10 minutes, until the skin is golden brown. Turn the thighs over and cook for 5 more minutes. Remove thighs to a plate. Add onions and carrots to the pot. Saute for about 5 minutes until the onions begin to soften. Add garlic, pineapple, bay leaves, poultry seasoning, and honey. Give everything a good stir. Add broth and sherry. Nestle the thighs back into the pot, including any juices that have accumulated on the plate. Cover the pot, then place it in the oven for about 2 hours.
After the two hours, it's time to make the gravy.
Using a slotted spoon, remove everything from the pot to a serving platter, leaving the broth behind. Mix flour into cold water, stirring to make sure there are no lumps, then add it to the pot over medium heat. Stir until it thickens. Adjust seasoning by adding salt and pepper if needed. Pour the gravy over the turkey thighs. Serve with mashed potatoes.

When you brown the turkey thighs in the pot, just leave them alone. They won't brown properly if you muss and fuss with them.
If you don't have chicken broth, just use plain water.
I used dry poultry seasoning, just because I had some handy, but I think fresh thyme sprigs would make it even better!
If you don't have dry sherry, use white wine or even a splash of vinegar, or simply omit it!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Chinese Bourbon Chicken

My friend Glenn is a fellow foodie who loves to try new dishes and then post photos of them on Facebook. As soon as I saw this one I immediately asked for the recipe, because, seriously, doesn't that look yummy???? I'm not sure where he got the recipe, but like I always say, he's the one who brought it to me, so he's the one who gets the credit! It's quick and easy and it's ready in little more time than it takes to cook a delicious bed of rice. Big thanx to Glenn for the recipe, and also for the photo!!!

2 lbs boneless chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
2 tbs peanut oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
3/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup apple juice
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 tbs ketchup
1 tbs cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup bourbon

Heat oil in a large skillet.
Add chicken pieces and cook until lightly browned.
Remove Chicken.
Add remaining ingredients, heating over medium Heat until well mixed and dissolved.
Add chicken and bring to a hard boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Serve over hot rice

Tip from Joey:
For extra flavorful rice, use chicken stock instead of water.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Peach Crumb Bars

 I recently got an email from my sister, Cathy, asking me for menu ideas for her book club get together. She said she was crunched for time and had no time to run to the store. Basically, she wanted something that was quick and easy, using simple ingredients that she had on hand. She also had some fresh ripe peaches that she was hoping to use. At first, I suggested making my Fresh Blackberry and Mango Galette and substituting peaches, but she said she was hoping for "a small picky uppy thing" rather than something that is served on a plate. So I immediately googled a few things and quickly found this recipe. It's from another food blog called As I told Cathy, it's one of those "How can this not be good?" recipes, and it has the same technique as the White Chocolate Raspberry Oatmeal Squares, which are super easy to make. Perfect!
 Cathy said the bars were a HUGE success! It was only AFTER everyone devoured them that someone said "oh, maybe we should have taken a picture of them so your brother can put them on his website!' LOL No worries, it gave me an excuse to make them! And now here they are. Thanx to Cathy and her book club for being recipe testers! And thanx to Michelle, The Browned Eyed Baker, for sharing such a fabulous recipe!

For the Dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
1 egg, lightly beaten

For the Filling:
5 cups diced or sliced peaches (about 7 peaches, peeled)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.
2. For the Dough: In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Use a pastry blender to cut in the butter, and then the egg. The dough will be crumbly. Pat half of the dough into the prepared pan. Place the pan and the remainder of the dough in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.
3. For the Filling: Place the diced (or sliced) peaches in a large bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice. Mix gently. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour over the peaches and mix gently.
4. Spread the peach mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble the remaining dough over the peach layer.
5. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the top is slightly brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Tips from Joey:
Instead of cutting the butter into the dough with a pastry blender, I just threw everything into a food processor and pulsed it until the dough came together.
I also added WAY more cinnamon to the peach mixture because, frankly, you can never have too much cinnamon. I also added a touch more sugar because my peaches were a little bit tart.
My oven bakes hot, so I only baked them for a half hour. Seriously, its a wonder I can get anything to turn out with that oven. But I digress.... Just be sure to check them so you don't over bake them!
Instead of serving it as a "picky uppy thing", serve it warm out of the oven on a plate, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Substitute any other fresh fruits for the peaches. (or any combination of fruits). Cathy made them a second time, and didn't have enough peaches, so she added blueberries to make up the difference. Deelish! I bet mangoes or apples would also be fabulous.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Ok, I know I already posted a recipe for Red Velvet Cake, but it's always such a hit, I figured why not do another one? As I always say, more is more, right? So when I was asked to make cupcakes for a recent event, I thought I'd turn to Miss Paula Deen and give her recipe a try.
 SWOOSH! They were gone in no time flat! Everyone loved them! What is it about red velvet cake that always pulls everyone in? It seems that any time I mention red velvet cake, everyone begins to "oooh" and "ahhh" and "mmm". It happens every time! I guess everyone loves the velvety moist texture of the cake and of course the cream cheese icing puts it over the top!
LOVE it! Thanx, Miss Paula.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers.
In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.
Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
Chopped pecans and fresh raspberries or strawberries, for garnish

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.
Garnish with chopped pecans and a fresh raspberry or strawberry. Frost the cupcakes with a butter knife or pipe it on with a big star tip.

Joey's Tips:
I like to use a 1/4 cup measure to fill my cupcakes. They're a little more full so they bake up a little higher, plus you get that muffin top thing goin' on, which gives you a better surface on which to pile the frosting. (Don't forget to be generous with the frosting!!!)
I must confess, I don't use Miss Paula's frosting recipe. The Cream Cheese Frosting that I like uses the same ingredients, but has a slightly different sugar to butter/cream cheese ratio and it's a bit softer and creamier.
I like to use salted butter because it really brings out the flavor of the butter and cream cheese.
Instead of garnishing with pecans or fresh berries, I just simply sprinkled them with red decorating sugar. (You know, the kind you'd use for decorating Christmas cookies.)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Orange Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

 Whenever we have a family occasion, we collectively decide on a menu, and then we decide who's gonna make what. The texts and emails start flying, all with the same question: "What do you want me to make?"
So, when I asked Jeanie what she wanted me to make for Emma's shower, she told me she had a recipe in mind that she wanted me to try. It's from a book of recipes that all use a 9x13 pan and it's called The Pan That Can. How fun is that?
 And here we are! It has a few extra steps to it, but it's not difficult to make and SO YUMMY. It has the same vibe as those chocolate know.. the ones you slam on the table to break apart. So, thanx to my Jeanie for finding the recipe. It was a big hit and definitely a keeper! They're perfect for everything from elegant brunch to a huge birthday bash.
You should try 'em, and then let me know how you liked 'em!

1 1/4 cups finely crushed graham crackers
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 c melted butter

3 8oz pkgs cream cheese
1 1/4 c. brown sugar
3 eggs
3 tbs frozen orange juice concentrate thawed
1 tbs finely grated orange peel
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
6 oz semi sweet chocolate, cut up
2 tbs butter

1 1/2 c sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 350F
Line a 9x13 pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan. Lightly grease foil. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, stir together crust ingredients until well combined. Press evenly into bottom of prepared pan. Chill the crust while you make the filling.
In a large mixing bowl, beat softened cream cheese and brown sugar on medium speed until well mixed. Add eggs one at a time, beating just until combined after each addition. Stir in thawed orange juice concentrate, orange peel, vanilla, and salt. Pour one cup of cheese filling into a medium bowl. Set both bowls aside.
Place chocolate and butter in a nonmetallic bowl. Microwave on high, 20 seconds at a time, stirring after each interval until melted and smooth. Stir chocolate mixture into reserved cup of cream cheese filling. Carefully spread chocolate filling evenly over graham cracker crust. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Carefully pour remaining cheese filling over baked chocolate layer, spreading evenly. Bake 40-45 minutes or just until mixture is set in the center. Remove from oven, cool for 30 minutes in pan on wire rack. Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine sour cream and sugar. Cover and let stand at room temp while bars cool. Gently spread sour cream mixture onto bars. Cool for one hour more. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours before cutting into squares. Sprinkle finished squares with cinnamon.

When I made this, it was late at night, so I kinda skipped the steps that involve waiting for it to cool, then doing the topping, then cooling for another hour, etc. I just let it cool completely out of the oven, then topped it with the sour cream, then let it chill in the fridge uncovered for several hours until I was ready to serve. Oh, btw, if you clean your knife by dipping it into hot water before each cut, and use a straight down chopping motion, you'll get much pretty squares.
I didn't have the concentrated orange juice, so I just used 1/2 tsp orange extract + 3 tbs fresh orange juice. I also used chocolate chips instead of the bars of semisweet chocolate. No chopping required!
The original recipe instructed to melt the butter and chocolate in a saucepan, but I think it's easier (also less likely to scorch the chocolate) if you use the microwave as I've instructed above. I also took the liberty of rearranging and rephrasing the recipe to make it a little easier to understand.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Nancy's Simple Mango Puree

 My fabulous friend and former wife, Nancy, shared this recipe on Facebook. Like I always say, I'm not sure where she got the recipe, but since she's the one who brought it to me, she's the one who gets the credit! It's so easy, there's practically nothing to it. As soon as I read it, I knew that I needed to steal it an officially share it with everyone. Sharing is caring!
Thanx Nance!

2 mangoes, diced
2 tbs water
1/3 sugar

Simply place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Serve it over plain Greek yogurt, use it to top a dessert, add to a smoothie, or just eat it plain.

Joey's Tips:
I'm seeing this poured over a slice of pound cake, cheesecake, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or even a delicate panna cotta. You could even use it as a base to make a fabulous vinaigrette.
When you buy fresh mangoes, be sure you get the ones that are mostly red and give a little when you press with your thumb. If they're green, they're not ripe yet. You can speed the ripening process by placing unripe mangoes in a paper bag and storing at room temperature for a day or two.