Monday, November 25, 2013

Savory Corn Cobbler

A corn COBBLER???? I know, I know, crazy, right? But stay with me! I PROMISE you it's delicious!!  Have I ever lied to you before???
 I was browsing different Thanksgiving side dishes, and I was looking for something new and different and interesting and fun to do with corn. Don't get me wrong.. I absolutely love the favorite Corn Casserole and the Fried Confetti Corn, but everyone likes a little variety, right? So I did some searching and it wasn't long before I found this little gem of a corn dish from Real Simple. Right away, I thought "How can this not be good???" And honestly, it was so good, I needed to make it again the next day! Love love LOVE it. It's really great because the biscuit topping kind of has a stuffing vibe goin' on. You could ABSOLUTELY serve this with your turkey dinner and skip the stuffing altogether. Even if you don't make this one for Thanksgiving, you should definitely keep this one in your repertoire. It would be perfect with a grilled or rotisserie chicken, or a roast beast. You simply MUST try it!

1  jalapeno, minced
4  scallions, sliced
4  cups  fresh or frozen corn kernels
1  cup  low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2  cups  heavy cream
1 1/2  teaspoons  kosher salt
1/4  teaspoon  black pepper
2  cups  flour
1  tablespoon  baking powder
1  tablespoon  fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
1  cup  whole milk

 Heat oven to 375° F.
In a skillet, over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the jalapeño and scallions. Cook for 3 minutes. Add the corn and broth. Increase heat to medium-high and cook for 4 minutes. Turn off heat. Stir in the cream, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper. Pour into a buttered 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and the remaining salt. Using 2 knives or your fingertips, add the remaining butter, cut into small pieces. Mix until it resembles crumbs. Stir in the thyme and milk. Drop heaping spoonfuls of the batter on top of the corn mixture. Bake for about 50 minutes. Garnish with fresh thyme, if desired.

Be sure to add the minced jalapeno. It really doesn't add very much heat at all, just a nice gentle warmth throughout the whole dish and that's one of the things I loved about it. Not to mention, the little specs of green make for a more appetizing presentation. I didn't add the seeds, but if you like the heat, go for it!
As much as I loved it the first time I made it, I did tweak it a little the second time. (Somehow I just can't seem to leave a recipe alone. Have you noticed that??)
It used more corn, (a 40oz bag, to be specific), just so there was more corn to biscuit topping ratio. I also diced about a 1/2 cup each of celery and onions along with a little dried thyme leaves, and added them to the topping dough, just to drive home that stuffing vibe I was talking about. Absolutely delish!!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Roasted Sweet Potato and Apple Mash

 Here's a fabulous side dish that is as easy as can be to throw together. Frankly, I've never met a sweet potato I didn't like, so I knew I'd love this one as soon as I saw it on Anne Burrell's cooking show. (btw, I kind of tweaked her recipe a little). But I have to say, though, as much as I love Candied Sweet Potatoes and Sweet Potato Casserole, I find that I enjoy sweet potatoes the most when they are cooked in savory recipes, rather than being completely laden with butter and sugar.
 This recipe does just that. It has the apples to play up the sweetness of the potatoes, but then it has the rosemary and onions to balance everything out. It's a REALLY nice blend! It's the perfect simple side dish for any holiday dinner. Actually, come to think of it, it's perfect for ANY dinner, especially pork, since pork and rosemary and apples are all such good friends. I think I might make this the next time I do some chops! Doesn't that sound awesome???

4 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
a few glugs olive or vegetable oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 tbs butter
1 medium onion, finely minced
3 Honeycrisp or Granny Smith apples
splash of orange juice
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, picked and finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
In a large bowl, toss the sweet potatoes generously with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Lay them out on a sheet tray in a single layer, place them in the oven, and roast until they are very soft, 30 to 35 minutes.
 Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add chopped onions. While the onions gently saute over medium heat, peel/core the apples and cut into 1-inch dice. Toss the apples with the splash of orange juice, then add to the onions. Add salt, pepper, and the rosemary. Saute just until the apples are soft and cooked through while still holding their shape.
 Transfer the sweet potatoes to a large bowl and coarsely mash them with a potato masher. Stir in the cooked apples and onions. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Serve immediately or keep in a warm oven and serve hot.

Use any kind of apples or onions you like, or even a variety.
You can roast the apples along with the potatoes. Just toss them with a little oil, and add them to the roasting pan for the last 15 minutes of sweet potato roasting time.
If your oven is busy, you can boil the potatoes whole, then just slip the skins off and mash as directed.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Joey's Easy Pumpkin Tart

 This recipe is a combination of several recipes. As I often do, I took different ideas from a few different recipes, switched things around a little and came up with something new! I must say I'm pretty pleased with the way it turned out! Of course it's very similar to classic pumpkin pie, but it's a little smoother, and the crust adds a nice crunch. It's so delicious and flavorful, you might not go back to your regular pumpkin pie! And it's really simple too! Perfect for any holiday meal.
Try it!

2 cups crushed vanilla wafers
1 cup crushed pecans
1/4 cup brown sugar
5 tbs melted butter

1 15oz can pumpkin puree
1 14oz an sweetened condensed milk
2 large egg yolks
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar

 Heat oven to 350ºF.
Combine crust ingredients and press into a 9" tart pan with removable bottom. Use the bottom of a measuring cup or straight sided jar to press crumbs into tart pan. Place pan on a baking tray, and bake crust for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, make the filling.
 Stir together all filling ingredients except the sugar. Pour mixture into baked crust. (no need to cool). Sprinkle top with sugar. Let it sit for a few minutes until the sugar dissolves a bit. Bake in oven for 45 minutes or until set. Cool completely or chill before serving. Top with whipped cream or non-dairy whipped topping.

For the crust, I like to keep the pecans a little more coarse than the cookie crumbs. This gives it a little bit more of a crunchy texture.
For an easy variation, try a different kind of cookie, such as ginger snaps, Lorna Doones, Pecan Sandies, or graham crackers. 
If you're not a pecan fan, use any favorite nuts instead, or simply leave them out!
To make beautifully clean cuts, use a big sharp knife (Chrissy, bring me the big knife!) Then instead of pulling the knife through it, (which could break up the crust), place the point of the knife in the center with entire edge of the knife on the surface of the tart, then use the whole knife to make the cut in a downward chop sort of a motion. You'll get PERFECTLY clean cuts, even on the first piece!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Bacon 'n' Onion Carrots

Ok, seriously...I think this just may be your new favorite way to eat carrots. Frankly, is there ANYTHING on this planet that doesn't taste better when you add onions and bacon? Why have I never thought of this before??? So quick, so easy, and so DELICIOUS. They had me at bacon, but the brown sugar just pushes it over the top. If you know someone who isn't a fan of carrots, tell them to try this recipe. It's from Taste of Home and it's amazing. Sometimes the simplest things are the best!!
Try it!

1 lb baby carrots
4 strips bacon, cut into lardons
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tbs brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Place carrots in a small saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 7-9 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Add the onions and saute until bacon is slightly crispy and onions are slightly caramelized. Stir in brown sugar and pepper until brown sugar is melted. Drain carrots; toss with bacon/onion mixture.

If there is quite a bit of bacon fat, just drain some of it before you add the brown sugar.
I used baby carrots just to save time, but if you have regular carrots, just peel and slice them before boiling them.

Mashed Parsnips

Have you ever tasted a parsnip? No? Well, if you haven't, you simply must! It looks like a big white carrot, and has a sweet sort of nutty flavor. You can cook them any way you would cook carrots, such as boiling or roasting and they get nice and fluffy when you run them through a food processor. Serve them by themselves, or even add them to mashed potatoes for a little variation. Easy, right?
Give it a try!

2 pounds parsnips, peeled 
2 tsp kosher salt
3 tablespoons heavy cream 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter  
Pinch ground nutmeg (optional)

 Cut parsnips into 1-inch pieces, place in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Add half the salt, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer until very tender, about 12-15 minutes. Drain parsnips well and combine in a food processor with cream, butter, nutmeg and remaining teaspoon salt. Process until smooth.

 This can absolutely be made in advance and then reheated when you're ready to serve.
In addition to (or even instead of) the butter and cream, you can add a little dollop of sour cream to your mash. 
For a little extra something, top with chopped chives or other fresh herbs or crumbled bacon. YUM! 
Instead of mashing them, try That Carrots and Parsnips Thing That Denny Makes For Thanksgiving .

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Best Green Beans Ever

 When I first saw Ree Drummond making this dish on her show, I thought "wait, seriously? the BEST???" Everyone says their recipes are the best this and the best that... but to say something is the best EVER? That seemed like a pretty tall order.
And then I made them.
 You're not gonna believe this, but seriously, they really ARE they best green beans EVER! I literally made them 3 times in one week because I couldn't stop eating them. They're SO delicious! And let me just say, when I'm eating a vegetable I like it to be cooked. Not crunchy, not crisp, but COOKED through, and these beans definitely cook through. They're the perfect side dish for any dinner, whether it's chicken, turkey, roast beef, or pork. If you're tired of just plain steamed grean beans, or if you want something that isn't as heavy as the old stand by green bean casserole, give these a try.
I know you love 'em!

1 pound green beans
2 tablespoons bacon grease (can substitute 2 tablespoons butter)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup chicken broth, plus more if needed
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 to 1 teaspoon kosher salt (can substitute regular table salt, use 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon)
Ground black pepper

Snap the stem ends of the green beans, or cut them off in a big bunch with a knife if you'd prefer. Melt the bacon grease in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and onions and cook for a minute. Then add the green beans and cook until the beans turn bright green, about a minute. Add the chicken broth, chopped red pepper, salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat to low and cover the skillet with a lid, leaving the lid cracked to allow steam to escape. Cook until the liquid evaporates and the beans are fairly soft, yet still a bit crisp, 20 to 30 minutes. You can add more chicken broth during the cooking process, but don't be afraid to let it all cook away so the onions and peppers can start to caramelize.

Be sure to give them a little stir every so often just to make sure nothing is browning too much as the chicken broth evaporates.
I added a few little shakes of crushed red pepper, just to give 'em a little poke. Love it.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Potato and Fennel Gratin

Here's a neat new twist on an old favorite dish. Yes, of course, you can have your regular potatoes au gratin, and it would be delicious and rich and fabulous. But when you add fennel to the equation, suddenly it becomes new and different and elegant and impressive and perfect for a special occasion. Now, I must admit that I have limited experience when it comes to cooking with fennel, but I do love it, and I knew this would be a win as soon as I saw Ina Garten making it on her show. It's so good that I didn't even feel the need to tweak the recipe! If you know me, you KNOW that that's saying something! It's perfect as is! And it's really easy too! I think you should make it for your next holiday or special occasion dinner. Love it!

2 fennel bulbs
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 pounds russet potatoes (4 large potatoes)
2 cups half and half
2 1/2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350F.

Butter the inside of a 9x13 baking dish.

Remove the stalks from the fennel and cut the bulbs in half lengthwise. Remove the cores and thinly slice the bulbs crosswise, making approximately 4 cups of sliced fennel. Saute the fennel and onions in the olive oil and butter on medium-low heat for 15 minutes, until tender.

Peel the potatoes, then thinly slice them. Mix the sliced potatoes in a large bowl with the half and half, cheese, salt, and pepper. Add the sauteed fennel and onion and mix well.

Pour the potatoes into the baking dish. Press down to smooth the potatoes. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, uncovered, until the potatoes are very tender and the top is browned and bubbly. Allow to set for 10 minutes and serve.

At first I thought it would be good to slice the potatoes and fennel on a mandolin slicer, just to make really thin slices, but I quickly decided that I wanted the slices to be just a bit thicker. So I bagged the mandolin idea and just used a nice big sharp knife. I think the thicker slices provide better texture throughout the dish! Just sayin.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Brown Sugar Caramel Pound Cake

Here's an easy recipe that I first saw when my friend Roe posted it on Facebook. I have no idea where she got the recipe, but like I always say, since she's the one who brought it to me, she's the one who gets the credit! It's SO simple to make and it's REALLY delicious. I made it for a little family gathering recently, and it was a HUGE hit. Everyone immediately asked if the recipe was on my blog. Well now it is!! It's perfect for any occasion or holiday dinner, and it's really simple to make.
Give it a try! And thanx again, Roe!

1 ½ cups butter softened
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
5 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1 8oz bag toffee chips
1 cup pecans, chopped

Caramel Glaze:
1 – 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 spray a 12 cup Bundt pan with cooking spray with flour.

Beat butter until creamy. Add sugars beating until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. In medium bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mix to batter alternately with milk, beat until just combined. Stir in toffee buts and pecans. Spoon batter into pan and bake 85 minutes or until wooden pick comes out clean. To prevent excess browning, cover cake with foil while baking.

Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan, and let cool completely on a wire rack. Spoon Caramel Glaze over cooled cake.

Directions for Caramel Glaze:
In a medium saucepan, combine condensed milk and brown sugar; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking frequently. Reduce heat, and SIMMER for 8 minutes, whisking frequently. Remove from heat; whisk in butter and vanilla. Let cool for 5 minutes before using. NOTE: Make sure you drizzle the caramel while it’s still HOT. When cooled the caramel does somewhat harden.

 Substitute any kind of nuts or if you're not a fan, just omit them completely.
 Be sure to grease the pan extremely well. You can use butter or shortening and then dust it with flour if you don't have any floured baking spray. Just using regular nonstick baking spray probably won't work in this particular recipe because it's a very sticky cake.
 I always think it's a great idea to garnish with what is in the cake, so I decorated the top of the cake with pecans. Besides looking decorative, this lets everyone know that there are nuts in the cake, just in case anyone has an allergy.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Cranberry Jam

Have you ever made home made jam? Many people think it's difficult to do, but it's really simple. Of course, it becomes an all day project if you decide to make a metric ton of it, but to make a little batch of jam, just for your family to enjoy, is really a snap! Some jams are more involved than others, and some fruits might need a little extra pectin, but the bottom line is that you're just stewing some fruit with some sugar and flavorings, and boom, you have jam! Easy, huh?
 I like cranberries because there's so much natural pectin in them, you don't need to add any and it thickens up beautifully! Now, to be clear, this is Cranberry JAM...not the Cranberry Sauce that you have with your turkey or chicken dinner. Not that you couldn't serve one in place of the other, but in my humble opinion, the cranberry sauce should be just cranberries, sugar, and water, where the jam is open to adding other flavors, such as cinnamon, or nutmeg, or orange zest, apples, or other fruit juices.
 I like to serve this on a croissant with a little schmear of cream cheese or butter. It's also fabulous on a toasted slice of pound cake! MMM.. doesn't that sound delish? Try it!

2 (12oz) bags of fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked over
3 cups sugar
2 cups of cranberry juice
1 cup water

Combine all of the ingredients in a large, heavy pot. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes (jam will continue to thicken as it cools). Pulse jam in food processor or blender. If you have an immersion blender, even better! Jam should be pureed, but still a a little chunky. Be careful not to over process. Just a couple quick pulses will do it! If you don't have a blender, just mash the berries up as best as you can using a large fork or even a potato masher. Store in the fridge.

Instead of using water, you can use apple juice or orange juice. I had a little bit of apple cider left, so I used it up, and then added water to make a cup. Any combination will work, as long as you have a total of 3 cups of liquid.
 Add other flavorings, if you like, such as orange zest, cinnamon, nutmeg or ginger!
 If you're planning to enjoy the jam right away, there's no need for sterilized jars. You can simply store it in the fridge in a clean airtight container.
 If you're making large batches of jam, you can do the whole canning thing with mason jars. (Directions for canning and processing are included in the box of Ball mason jars.) One of these days, perhaps, I'll do a how-to video on canning and preserving!