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.