Sunday, November 25, 2012

Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

Here's an AWESOME cookie idea that my niece, Kristin, brought to me. Chocolate chip cookies with Oreos inside!  Seriously??? Are you kidding me? How brilliant is that?? Why has no one ever thought of this??? Is anyone else thinking "perfect for the cookie swap"?
 I was about to come up with some sort of clever little blurb to write, but seriously, I don't think there's anything else to say except thanx Kristin! And thanx for the picture too!!

2 sticks softened butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
10 oz bag chocolate chips
1 package Oreo cookies

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream butter and sugars together with a mixer until well combined. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
In a separate bowl mix the flour, salt and baking soda. Slowly add to wet ingredients along with chocolate chips until just combined.
Using a cookie scoop take one scoop of cookie dough and place on top of an Oreo cookie,take another scoop of dough and place on bottom of Oreo cookie. Seal edges together by pressing and cupping in hand until Oreo cookie is enclosed with dough.
Place onto a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet,I'll admit these cookies will expand pretty big so try not to put them too close together, and bake cookies 9-13 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

Even though this recipe isn't exactly the same as the Nestle Toll House recipe, I'm guessing you could probably save time and just use the ready made cookie dough. Come to think of it, I wonder what other kinds of cookie dough would work....hmm....I think I might have to try a few!!!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Festive Wine Pairings from the Wine Guy!

 If you're looking for advice about wine pairings, I will be the first to tell you that I am NOT the person for the job. What can I say? I don't drink wine! I LOVE cooking with it, and I love what it does to deepen the flavors of a rich savory recipe, but I'm not the guy who can give you advice on your wine choices.
My brother Jimmy, however, is EXACTLY the guy you should be asking! Why? Because he's The Wine Guy! He's a self taught wine FANATIC who works for Roger Wilco Wine and Spirits. He'll tell you which wines go with which courses and he'll also tell you the best deals and how to get the most bang for your buck. He really knows what he's doing!
 Here is his latest article about wine pairings for Thanksgiving. If you're a wine enthusiast, I'm sure you'll find it to be quite informative. To sign up for his monthly newsletter, email him at
 Thanx Jim!

 Also sign up for Roger Wilco Wine Guy text alerts. We'll let you know what we are pouring at the store, what's coming up, giveaways and more! Text "wineguy" to 94637 to sign up. The message is free from me but standard text messaging rates will apply from your cellular provider.

 -Jimmy Quaile
Roger Wilco Wine and Spirits
1001 Rt 73 South
Pennsauken, NJ 08110

Wine Guy fun fact!!
Sarah Josepha Hale, an American magazine editor, persuaded Abraham Lincoln to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday. She is also the author of the nursery rhyme "Mary Had a Little Lamb".

A Festive Flight for Thanksgiving

Is there a wine that can go the distance from start to finish - from appetizers to turkey, stuffing, cranberries, sweet potatoes, through to pie or cheesecake for dessert?  YES.  A sparkling wine.  But I am looking forward to a "flight", pairing a wine with each part of my festive meal. I know you've read a hundred times that you should drink whatever you like, and you CAN (this is America!) but that doesn't mean there aren't good and bad pairings.

Starters: Chips, Dips & Apps 

LaMarca Prosecco  $11.09
With its bright acidity and palate-cleansing bubbles, you've already taken care of two of the primary purposes of wine: to cut through the fat in dips and appetizers and refresh the palate after each bite. A delightful beginning to your meal.

Main Course: Bring It On   

Rosenblum Red Zinfandel  $8.98
On such an American holiday I like to recommend this uniquely American wine: Zinfandel. Rich, robust, very ripe and abundantly fruity, exactly matching Thanksgiving dishes which are also rich, robust, and often leaning toward the sweet side of savory.

 Meiomi Pinot Noir $15.03
Pinot Noirs are becoming the go-to choice for Thanksgiving. It's entirely understandable given its explosive flavor, soft tannins and food-friendly acidity. Although I normally prefer the elegance of the Burgundian model, bold side dishes in a traditional turkey dinner need the fruitiness of a new world style, and Meiomi is a perennial favorite.    

Conundrum $19.98
A blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Canelli, Viognier and Semillon sourced from California, Conundrum is slightly sweet and effervescent yet surprisingly complex. Aromas of honeysuckle with hints of peach and vanilla mingle with melon, pineapple and pear. 

Coppola Sofia $12.98
Maybe an unusual choice, but a Rosé, and I mean a REAL Rosé, combines the lively freshness of white wine and the medium to full body of red wine. Coppola's Sofia Rosé, with its blend of Grenache and Syrah can also pair with ham and vegetarian fare. It also has a beautifully designed package that will add elegance to your table. Serve chilled, but not too cold!   

 Dessert: Maybe Just a Small Piece!    

Alasia Brachetto $9.09
If you are unfamiliar, think of it as the red version of the Moscato d'Asti wine. It is sweet and frizzante (mildly sparkling) with a hint of tartness. The red bold fruit explodes with flavor: raspberry, sweet and sour cherries and slight note of strawberry, which is a signature of Brachetto D'Acqui sparkling wines. It is stunning when paired with any dessert... or AS dessert!

Final Note   

I always get asked about Beaujolais at this time of year, especially Nouveau and the whole 'drink it before Christmas' thing. Although its popularity seems to be waning of late, a Cru Beaujolais or Beaujolais-Village, with its light and fruity flavor is still one of my guilty pleasures.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Chocolate-Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Here's a Martha Stewart recipe that my sister, Cathy, passed along to me. (Yes, my fabulous, gorgeous, talented, youthful, vibrant, funny, caring and all-around wonderful sister, Cathy.)  Of course I HAD to make them because, seriously, I've never met a cheesecake bar I didn't like.  They're rich and delicious and they're the perfect thing if you're looking for something a little different from your usual pumpkin pie. They're also great because you can make them in advance and either keep them covered and chilled in the fridge, or wrapped and frozen. Better make extra because they'll be gone in no time flat!!
Thanx, Sister!

For the crust:
20 chocolate wafer cookies (half a 9-ounce package)*
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
2 packages bar cream cheese (8 ounces each)
1 cup sugar
1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin puree
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

 Preheat oven to 350F. Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on all sides. Set aside.
In a food processor, blend cookies with sugar until finely ground (you should have about 1 cup crumbs); add butter, and pulse until moistened.
Transfer crumb mixture to prepared pan, and press gently into bottom. Bake until fragrant and slightly firm, 12 to 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Place cream cheese in food processor; blend until smooth. Add sugar, pumpkin puree, eggs, flour, pumpkin-pie spice, and salt; process until combined. Set aside.
Place chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave in 30-second increments, stirring between each, until melted. Add 1 cup pumpkin mixture; stir to combine. Set aside.
Pour remaining pumpkin mixture into prepared pan. Drop dollops of chocolate mixture onto pumpkin mixture; swirl. Bake until cheesecake is set but jiggles slightly when gently shaken, 40 to 50 minutes.
Cool in pan. Cover; chill until firm, at least 2 hours (and up to 2 days). Using overhang, transfer cake to work surface. With a knife dipped in water, cut into 16 squares. Serve.

* Instead of buying chocolate wafers and then adding butter and sugar, I found it easiest to just throw about 15-18 regular Oreos into the food processor and process until they're fine crumbs. No need to add melted butter or sugar because the creme filling is already in there!
When you cut them, be sure to dip your large knife into very hot water, just as the recipe directs. It's a great tip for getting perfectly clean cuts. You could always just clean your knife under very hot running water between each cut.
For an easy variation, try butterscotch chips or white chocolate instead of the semisweet chocolate.
To make a double chocolate swirl, add some of your 1 cup pumpkin mixture to some melted white chocolate in addition to the semisweet chocolate. Then alternate your dollops of chocolate over the pumpkin mixture and swirl together.
If you're not a chocolate person, you could use graham cracker crumbs for the crust, omit the chocolate altogether, and just do plain pumpkin cheesecake squares.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Creamy Fried Confetti Corn

Here's a yummy side dish option for corn. As much as I LOVE a delicious corn casserole, I was looking for other corn ideas, just for a little variety, and then I found this one! It's a Southern Living recipe from years ago, and remains one of their more popular casseroles to this day. It's super easy and quick to make too! And so good! I mean come on.. Any recipe that starts with cooking bacon is ok by me! And it's perfect for your next holiday meal. So if you're tired of just plain old corn, give this one a try. Great then!

8 bacon slices, chopped
4 cups fresh, frozen, or canned sweet corn kernels
1 medium-size white onion, chopped
1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/3 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, cubed
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Cook chopped bacon in a large skillet until crisp; remove bacon, and drain on paper towels, reserving 2 tablespoons drippings in skillet. Set bacon aside.
Sauté corn, onion, and bell peppers in hot drippings in skillet over medium-high heat 6 minutes or until tender. Add cream cheese and half-and-half, stirring until cream cheese melts. Stir in sugar, salt, and pepper. Top with bacon.

I didn't even measure the bell peppers. I just chopped up 2 small peppers and threw 'em in. If I had larger peppers, though, I probably would have just used a half of each color of pepper. You want to make sure the peppers enhance the flavor of the corn, not the other way around.
This can easily be made a day in advance. Just keep it covered in the fridge and then reheat it in the oven.
Oh, and don't forget to use different colored bell peppers. You could even add orange ones too. It'll make it look more like confetti! Wait, shouldn't this be called Cornfetti????

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Joey's Sausage and Cornbread Stuffing

As I always say, More is More! So I figured it was time to come up with another new recipe for stuffing to go with your turkey dinner. More options are always a good thing, dontcha think?
 In my family, we always have your basic classic stuffing, but we usually don't have corn bread stuffing with our holiday meal, so I really enjoyed coming up with this recipe. It's always nice to try some thing new! I think it hits all the right notes that say Thanksgiving, and also I added a few little extra touches. I'm SO pleased with it and I hope you'll give it a try!

1 lb pork sausage, casings removed, crumbled
4 tbs butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 ribs celery, finely chopped
 salt and pepper
2 pounds prepared cornbread, broken up
dried poultry seasoning to taste
1 apple, peeled, cored, and diced
1 cup craisins
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1-2 cups chicken broth

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large skillet, cook sausage over medium-high heat, stirring often, until browned and cooked through. With a slotted spoon, transfer to a very large bowl.
Add butter to the pan, then add onion and celery. Reduce heat to medium; cook, scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon, (add a little water if you need to) until vegetables soften, about 10 minutes. Season generously with salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning. Add apples and craisins, and cook just a couple minutes longer. Add to sausage.
Add cornbread and eggs to sausage and vegetables. Mix all together. Bring broth to a simmer in a small saucepan; pour 1/2 cup over stuffing, and toss gently (cornbread will break down into smaller pieces). If needed, add up to 1/2 cup more broth, until stuffing feels moist, but not wet. Spoon stuffing into a baking pan. When you're ready to bake, pour remaining broth over the entire amount of stuffing, then bake for about 20 minutes.

I just used purchased corn bread instead of baking my own, but if you have the time, be my guest!
You can make this a day ahead. Just cover and refrigerate until you're ready to bake.
If you'd like it to be more sausagey than corn bready, feel free to adjust the amounts to suit your taste.
The same goes for the amount of poultry seasoning. I like a very spicy stuffing, so I usually add a lot, like, probably a couple tablespoons. There are a lot of sweet ingredients (apples, craisins, and of course, the cornbread itself) so you really need the savory flavors from the dried herbs and the sausage to balance it out. If you'd like to use some or all Italian hot sausage instead of the mild, go for it!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Lemon Meringue Pie

 Since I get so many requests for "anything lemon", I figured it was about time I found a good recipe for lemon meringue pie. One would think that they're all pretty much the same, right? You have your baked pie shell, your lemon filling and then your fluffy meringue on top, right? Wrong!! Nothing could be further from the truth! I found TONS of variations and all kinds of debates on how the perfect lemon meringue pie is made. Who knew?? So I tried a couple different ones, and I think I've finally found one that fits my idea of what a recipe should be: Easy to follow, simple ingredients, and delicious.
  Now, I know many people find the idea of making a lemon meringue pie to be a little intimidating, but all you have to do is just remember a few key rules about making meringue, and it'll turn out beautifully! I promise!

1 tbs corn starch
2 tbs cold water
1/2 cup boiling water

4 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
tiny pinch of salt

1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups water
Zest of 2 lemons (about 2 tbs)
Juice of 2 lemons (about 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons butter
4 egg yolks, beaten
1 9" prebaked pie shell

Before you start, here are just a few things to remember when making a meringue. Now don't panic!! It's just a few rules!! Ok here we go:

-Always make the meringue first, then the filling.
-Always use an immaculately clean glass or metal bowl and immaculately clean beaters or whisks. Even the tiniest trace of grease/fat/oil will prevent the whites from whipping properly. So clean them extremely well, and be sure to dry them equally as well with a clean towel.
-When separating eggs, don't use the method of cracking the egg into your hand and letting the whites slip through your fingers. You don't want to touch the egg whites because even the oil in your skin will affect them. Just use the old "back and forth between halves of the shell" method.
-Older eggs whip up to a higher volume.
-It's easier to separate eggs when they're cold, but they whip better when they're at room temperature. So separate them as soon as you take them out of the fridge, then let them sit out for about 30 minutes before whipping them.
-Once you start making the meringue, don't stop in the middle of it. You need to do it all in one go.
-Egg whites don't like moisture, so make sure everything is completely dry, and if it's a really humid day or if it's raining outside, consider choosing a different recipe to try.

Preheat oven to 350F.

For the meringue:
 In a small sauce pan, mix together 1 tbs corn starch with 2 tbs cold water. Add 1/2 cup boiling water. Cook until thickened and clear. Remove from heat. Set aside in fridge to quickly cool completely.
  In a large CLEAN glass or metal bowl, with CLEAN beaters or wire whisk, whip egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Add 1/2 cup sugar gradually, 1 tbs at a time, and continue to whip until stiff peaks form. To make sure the sugar has completely dissolved, feel the meringue between your thumb and index finger. If it still feels grainy, whip it just a bit more. Reduce mixing speed and gently mix in the corn starch paste, the vanilla, and salt. Set meringue aside.

 For the filling:
 In a medium saucepan, whisk together 1 cup sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt. Stir in water, lemon juice and lemon zest. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a boil. Stir in butter. Place egg yolks in a small bowl and gradually whisk in 1/2 cup of hot sugar mixture. Whisk egg yolk mixture back into remaining sugar mixture. Bring to a boil and continue to cook while stirring constantly until thick, about a minute. Remove from heat. Pour filling into baked pastry shell.

 Spread some of the meringue over hot pie filling, sealing the edges at the crust. Pile or pipe the rest of the meringue on top, making a pretty design. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, or until meringue is golden brown on top. Cool to room temperature, then chill in the fridge before cutting.
Yes, yes, I know there's a great debate on whether or not you should cool the filling before you cover it with meringue. I don't cool it because I think the heat of the filling cooks the underside of the meringue. If you're worried about liquid forming between the filling and the meringue, try sprinkling a light layer of cake crumbs or soft bread crumbs over the filling before spreading the meringue. The crumbs will absorb any unwanted moisture, and they'll also keep your meringue from sliding off the top of the filling when you slice it.
 To make a really pretty meringue (if you don't have a piping bag), you can simply use a knife or the back of a spoon to make lots of peaks over the surface of the meringue. When the pie bakes, the peaks will brown first, and you'll have a lovely picture perfect pie.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Grandma's Secret Apple Brownies

 I'm always browsing web sites that have to do with recipes and cooking. Especially during the chilly Autumn months, I love to search for new recipes that have anything to do with apples and cinnamon. I recently found this little gem of a recipe and it's EXACTLY what I was looking for.
  I found it on a website called It was shared by Jessica Harrington (it's HER Grandma, not mine!) and it looked so delicious and simple that I knew I needed to try it. I'm so glad I did! These little squares of heaven are perfect for a brunch, with a cup of tea, or even for dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. They were a HUGE hit when I made them for my family. And they're so simple to make! And of course there's that "makes the whole house smell warm and cozy while they're baking" factor. Love it!
Thanx, Jessica, for sharing!

3 c all purpose flour
3 c apples
2 c sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 c orange juice
2 eggs
1 c vegetable oil
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 325F.
Grease and flour 9x13 pan. (or spray with baking spray. You know, the kind that has flour in it!)
Peel, core, and finely chop about 3 to 4 apples.
Mix all ingredients well in a large bowl.
Pour into pan.  Bake at 325 for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Cool and cut into squares.

You can use apple juice instead of orange juice. I figured as much as I was first reading the recipe (because the same is true of my Mom's Apple Cake recipe), and my suspicions were confirmed after reading several comments posted along with the recipe. You can also substitute an equal amount of applesauce for the oil. (Actually, you can do that in most baked items. Did you know that??)
 I also read that they freeze very well, so go ahead and make more extra and freeze them for whenever you'd like a sweet treat!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Joey's Carrot Soufflé

 I'm always searching for new and delicious recipes for Thanksgiving side dishes, and here's one you should DEFINITELY try. Frankly, I love all things carrot, whether it's steamed, roasted, mashed or even just raw. So I knew I'd love a carrot souffle too!
 The only problem was that I looked at several recipes and they all seem to be absolutely LADEN with butter and sugar. Now, if you know me, you know how much I love Miss Paula. But in this case, all that butter and sugar just seemed excessive to me. Plus, it seems to me that including cinnamon (as many carrot souffle recipes do) would just make the souffle taste like a pumpkin pie. Call me crazy, but if I'm gonna have a carrot souffle, I want it to taste like CARROTS, not a dessert. So this is my version of a recipe I found online. I scaled the butter WAY back (less than half of what the original called for) and omitted the sugar altogether, because the carrots are already sweet!! No need for added sugar! And I used just a tiny pinch of nutmeg instead of cinnamon. It was PLENTY sweet, it didn't need all the extra butter, and the nutmeg added just a hint of spice. Plus, as you can see from the photo, it puffed up beautifully as it baked. Perfect! So if you're looking for a new way to enjoy carrots, try this one!

2 pounds carrots, peeled, cut into chunks
1/4 cup butter
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
salt and pepper
pinch nutmeg (optional)

 Cook carrots in boiling water until tender, about 20 to 25 minutes; drain well. Place all ingredients in a food processor with a metal blade and process until well blended and pureed. Pour into a buttered casserole or soufflé dish. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° and bake for an additional 45 minutes.

If you REALLY feel the need to add sugar, just add maybe 1 or 2 tablespoons.
If you don't feel like peeling and cutting up the carrots, just buy baby carrots. No peeling necessary! Just throw them right into boiling water and follow the recipe. Simple!
This recipe probably makes about 6-8 servings but it can be doubled or tripled as needed to feed your crowd.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sweet Potato Pie

Instead of doing a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving this year, how about a sweet potato pie instead? They're both similar in many ways, but the sweet potato pie is a little bit richer and perhaps not as custardy. (Is that a word? Custardy?) When I make it, I don't completely mash the potatoes. I usually leave them a little lumpy so you can really taste the pieces of sweet potato. SO delicious! You can top it with meringue or marshmallows and then brulee the top, but I prefer it as is, with a dollop of fresh whipped cream. It's seriously one of life's simple pleasures!

1 pie crust, either store bought or Home made
3 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes*
2 tbs soft butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
2/3 c sugar
1/4 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbs bourbon (optional)
2 tbs orange marmalade (optional)

Heat oven to 400F.
Line a deep pyrex pie plate with the pie crust. Crimp to make a decorative edge. Set aside.
In a large bowl, stir all ingredients together with a wire whisk. Pour into prepared pie shell. Place pie on a baking tray, and bake for 15 minutes. reduce heat to 350F and bake for another 30-40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Remove from oven and let it cool to room temperature before chilling. Serve chilled or at room temperature with whipped cream.

*To cook sweet potatoes:
Place whole sweet potatoes in a pot of cold water. Bring to a boil. Boil for about 30-40 minutes or until tender. The potatoes are done when a fork can easily be inserted. Remove from pot. Run under cold water to cool. Remove skins with a paring knife, and mash with a potato masher or ricer.

My favorite thing about this pie is the orange marmalade. I always add some when I'm making candied sweet potatoes, so I figured, why not add it to the pie as well? It's not too orangey, it's just enough to make people say "mmm...what is that...."
Add as much cinnamon as you like! You know there's no such thing as too much, right???
Instead of adding bourbon to the pie, you can add it to the whipped cream instead! Just add a few splashes of bourbon to your bowl of chilled heavy cream and then whip it up. Delish!