Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Nutty Pear and Craisin Dip


This is a quick and simple party dip that I threw together for my family's get together on Christmas Eve. It was a big hit! I love that it's sort of unexpected as far as party dips go. Usually, you'd expected an herbed cheese or something savory, but this one is a little bit sweet and has a very light and fresh flavor. And when you serve it on regular Triscuits or Wheat Thins, you get a little salty hit that makes everything balance. So good! I also love that you can really taste each one of the ingredients, but everything comes together perfectly. Cool, huh? Hope you like it!

2 (8oz) pkgs cream cheese
2 ripe pears, any kind, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 cup craisins
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Salt and pepper to taste

Simply place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until nicely blended but still chunky. Serve with Triscuits or Wheat thins.

Tips:
The key to this recipe's success is that none of the ingredients overpowers the others. Everything blends perfectly. But you're the cook! So if you'd like to add a few more craisins, or an extra handful of pecans, be my guest. Like my Mom always said, "do you like a lot? add a lot!"
If you want to use canned pears, don't put them in the food processor to mix them because they'll become too mushy. You really want them to be chunky just like the other ingredients. So just chop them up separately, then fold them into the mixture after you've pulsed everything else.
If the mixture if too thick, add a few drops of water to bring it to spreadable or dippable consistency. (Is dippable a word?? ) If you're using canned pears, you can add a little of the juice from the can.
For a little variation and a stronger flavor punch, try substituting half of the cream cheese with goat cheese or even bleu cheese.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Sweet Chicken Bacon Wraps

 Having a party? Not sure what to make??  If you're looking for a hot appetizer, then you simply MUST try this recipe. Easy to make, only a few ingredients, and you can assemble them in advance and then pop them in the oven just before your guests are due to arrive. It's the ideal party food because (as my sister Cathy would say) it's a "picky-uppy" thing. Mingling guests can pick one up with one hand while holding a drink in the other. Perfect, right? And let's be honest, is there ANYTHING that isn't better when it's wrapped in bacon????? Seriously. Miss Paula definitely got this one right when she was coming up with the recipe.
You should probably make extra because your guests will devour them!

1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts 
1 (1 lb) package sliced bacon 
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar 
2 tablespoons chili powder 


 Preheat oven to 350°F. 
Cut chicken breasts into 1-inch cubes. Cut each bacon slice into thirds. Wrap each chicken cube with bacon and secure with a wooden pick inserted on the diagonal starting where bacon seam overlaps. Stir together brown sugar and chili powder. Dredge wrapped chicken in mixture. Coat a rack and broiler pan with non-stick cooking spray. Place chicken on rack in broiler pan. Bake at 350°F for 30 to 35 minutes, or until bacon is crisp.


Tips:
If you want to add a little extra heat, try adding a creole spice blend. The blend of hot and sweet and smokey is just heaven!
Btw, I used thick-cut bacon just because I like it, but feel free to use any kind of bacon you like.
 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Crock Pot Cinnamon Roll Casserole



Ok, so, Santa has just finished placing all of the Christmas gifts under the tree, it's now 3:00 am, the kids are gonna be awake in about 3 hours, and Mom and Dad are just going to bed. Sound familiar? Does anyone feel like getting up and baking cinnamon rolls? Probably not.
Fortunately, I have the answer for you! Why not make them in a crock pot?!!??
You just throw everything in, turn it on low, and about 3 hours later, you have delicious hot cinnamon rolls for everyone. How awesome is that????? And can I just tell you how HEAVENLY it smells while it's cooking?? Almost as heavenly as it tastes!!!!! No, this is not my own recipe. My friend John posted it on Facebook from a website called recipesthatcrock.com that shared a recipe from a cookbook called Slow Cooker Christmas Favorites by Gooseberry Patch. (did you get all that???)
 Even if you decide not to make this for Christmas morning, this one is definitely a keeper. It's REALLY delicious and comforting and warm and cozy. LOVE it.


2 12oz tubes of cinnamon rolls cut into quarters- divided
4 eggs
1/2 cup whipping cream
3 tbs maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg


Spray your crock with cooking spray.
Place a layer of cinnamon roll pieces to cover the bottom of a 6 qt slow cooker. (Reserve icing packets). Beat eggs, cream, maple syrup, vanilla and spices until blended well. Pour evenly over the rolls in the slow cooker. Place remaining roll pieces on top and spoon one packet of icing evenly over rolls. Cover and cook on low for 2½ to 3 hours or until sides are golden and rolls are set. Drizzle remaining icing over top and serve warm.

Tips:
Be sure to spray the crock pot before you make it. You'll be glad you did!
It's delicious as written, but I think it needs to be just a tad sweeter. So I would add a little extra maple syrup and I definitely wanted MORE of the icing on top. The next time I make it, I think I might whip up some sort of cream cheese glaze to pour over the top. If you have a cream cheese glaze recipe, please share it with me!  Thanx!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles


 I first saw this recipe on Trisha Yearwood's cooking show. Frankly, I don't know anyone who doesn't like cookie dough, so I knew I would have to try it. Then when I went to look up the recipe, I found several different cookie dough truffle variations from several different websites. Hmm... do I stick with TY's recipe or try one of the others??? They all look pretty similar. I wonder what the difference is. I noticed that all the recipes had all the basic cookie ingredients but they all had something else instead of adding a raw egg (which is the reason everyone says not to eat regular cookie dough). So I decided to try a recipe that adds sweetened condensed milk instead of the egg. It was good, but you could definitely taste the creamy flavor of the milk. As much as I love sweetened condensed milk, it was not what I was hoping for in a cookie dough. So I went back to TY's recipe, which uses applesauce instead of the egg. THIS was the one. See? I should have just stayed with my original plan and made this one in the first place! The applesauce gives you the moisture and texture of regular cookie dough, but it doesn't change the flavor. Delicious!! I loved them so much, I had to make another batch! They're the perfect treat for gift giving or entertaining around the holidays. I'm sure your family and friends will love them too! 

2/3 cup (1 1/3 sticks) butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
Semisweet dipping chocolate wafers

In an electric mixer, beat the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, applesauce and vanilla together until smooth. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together, and with the mixer running, slowly add to the butter mixture. Mix in the chocolate chips. Scoop out the batter using a teaspoon or mini ice cream scoop and roll it into balls. Place the dough balls about an inch apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper and transfer them to the freezer for 30 minutes to let the dough set up.
While the dough is chilling, melt the chocolate wafers in a double boiler or a metal bowl over a pan of simmering but not boiling water. Remove the chilled dough balls from the freezer. Using two spoons, dip the balls one at a time in the melted chocolate, rolling them to coat fully. Returned the dough balls to the paper-lined baking sheet and refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Tips:
As you're making these, keep in mind that you really want to make them very small. Basically you want to make them small enough to be able to just pop one in your mouth. I've found that most times, especially at a holiday party, people just want a taste, not a big honkin' CHUNK of cookie dough that requires several bites. If they want more, they can just have another one! Or three!
TY's recipe uses dipping chocolate mixed with almond bark for the dipping, but I just used the dipping chocolate, as I've listed above.
For a little variation, try dipping the truffles in white chocolate or milk chocolate instead of the semisweet. 
For a little extra touch, drizzle each dipped truffle with another kind of chocolate in a contrasting color. Drizzle a semisweet dipped truffle with a little white chocolate over the top. Or vice versa!


Monday, December 15, 2014

Egg Nog and Cherry Trifle



 So you've been invited to a holiday party, and you want to bring a dessert. Surely there will be other desserts, such a cookie trays, etc, but you're hoping to bring something with a bit of a WOW factor, right? THIS, my friends, is definitely the recipe you should make. It screams holiday party, it's simple to make, it's absolutely decadent, and you'll be showered with OOOs and AAAHHHHs as soon as you enter the room! I made this for my family pollyanna Christmas party and everyone loved it! I think your family and friends will love it too!


3/4 cup cold milk 
1 package (3.4 ounces) instant vanilla pudding mix 
2 cups eggnog 
1/2 teaspoon almond or brandy or rum extract
1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped
1 loaf butter pound cake such as Etenmann's or your own (can also use angel food cake)
1 cup cherry preserves, thinned with 2 tbs water
fresh cherries, pitted and cut in half


  In a bowl, whisk milk and pudding mix until blended. Gradually add eggnog; mix well. Fold in extract and whipped cream; set aside.
 Cut cake into 1/2-in. slices; place about a 1/3 of the cake in a trifle bowl or a high sided glass serving bowl. Top with 1/3 of the jam and a handful of cherries. Spoon 1 cup of eggnog mixture over all. Repeat twice. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours. Garnish with whole cherries and sweetened whipped cream. Chill until ready to serve.

Tips:
Before you make this dish or any other dish using fresh cherries, you MUST do yourself a favor a purchase a cherry pitter. It's a simple little gadget that kind of reminds you of an ear piercer, and it's absolutely essential! It makes life SO much easier and they're not expensive at all.
Not a fan of cherries? Try raspberries or strawberries instead! It'll still look beautifully festive!
Whenever I make a trifle, it's all about the presentation. You really want to see perfectly perfect layers. The best way to achieve this is to do each layer from the outside in. As you layer each ingredient, go around the perimeter first, and then fill in the center. It's so much prettier to be able to see each layer of cake, preserves, fruit,  and cream.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Brown Butter Brown Sugar Cookies



 Here's a recipe that I got from my niece, Kim, about a million years ago when she made them for a family get together. Like I always say, I have no idea where she got the recipe, and since she the one who gave it to me, then she's the one who gets the credit for it. To be honest, I can't even remember what the occasion was, but I do remember that everyone couldn't stop eating them!  Eh, what can I say, it was quite a while ago. Don't judge me. But omg wait'll you taste them! They're chewy and delicious and they're everything you'd want a brown sugar cookie to be. And the brown butter gives it a nutty flavor that is just HEAVEN.
 Definitely add them to your cookie repertoire! They're the perfect addition to any holiday cookie tray. But you don't have to wait until the holidays! Make 'em any time!
Thanx Kim!!


1 3/4 sticks (14 tbs) unsalted butter
1 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 1/2 tbsp vanilla

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350ºF and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Allow to simmer until it starts to turn an amber color and smell nutty and fragrant. Remove from the heat to a separate bowl. Allow to cool for 15 minutes. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the browned butter and brown sugar until well-blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Add the egg and egg yolk to the butter/sugar mixture one at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition. Mix in the vanilla. Mix the flour mix into the cookie dough, stirring until just combined. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and brown sugar. Scoop the cookie dough into balls using a 1 1/2 tbsp cookie scoop (or just scoop it into rounded tbs). Roll in the sugar mix and place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining cookie dough, leaving 2 inches between each dough ball on the baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until starting to set around the edges. Allow to cool before serving.

Tips:
Definitely be sure to use the parchment paper whenever you bake cookies. When the cookies come out of the oven, you can just slide the whole sheet off the try and onto the counter for the cookies to cool, and you can have another one ready to slide right onto the tray and back into the oven it goes. It really makes things move right along, especially if you have lots of cookies to bake!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Almond Shortbread


 Here's a quick and easy dessert that is extremely easy to make and is HUGE on flavor. I made thiese for a family event a while ago and everyone LOVED them! The recipe is actually Trisha Yearwood's Skillet Almond Shortbread, but I decided change the amounts in order to make them in a 9x13 pan and cut them into squares, instead of doing them in a skillet and slicing it like a pie. Worked perfectly! They're soft and chewy, and just the thing for a party or just to have with a cup of tea. Add these to your dessert tray for your next holiday gathering, and I bet you there won't be any left before long! And one other thing, I know I always say how great each recipe is, but seriously, this is one of the BEST recipes I've tried in quite a long time and will now be the standard against which all other shortbreads will be compared. It's just that good. DEFINITELY give it a try!

Parchment paper
nonstick cooking spray

2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/4 sticks butter, melted (1 cup plus 3 tbs)
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
3/4 cup sliced almonds with skins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
Spray a 9x13 pan with nonstick cooking spray. 
Line the pan with parchment paper with enough extra to hang over the sides.
Spray the parchment paper with cooking spray.
Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, stir 2 1/4 cups of the sugar into the melted butter. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Sift the flour and salt onto the batter. Add the almond extract and stir well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Top with sliced almonds and the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake until slightly brown on top, about 35 minutes. Cool completely. Use the parchment paper as a sling to lift the shortbread from the pan in one piece. Cut into squares.

Tips:
I always use this parchment paper method any time I ever make any kind of bars or squares in a 9x13 pan. It makes it easier to remove from the pan, it saves your pan from damage caused by your knives, and it also allows you to make nice even perfect cuts instead of trying to hack away at it inside the pan.
Normally when I use a 9x13 pan, I would cut it into 24 squares. but I wanted them to be more like little cookies, so I decided to cut it into 32.


Monday, November 24, 2014

White Chocolate and Craisin Sweet Potato Squares


 Looking for a quick and easy dessert? How about a rich and chewy square that isn't too sweet and has just a touch of spice? If this sounds like a good idea, then this is the perfect dessert for you. To be honest, I was originally looking for something along the lines of a brownie, well, more of a blondie, but I think this has more of a sweet potato pie vibe. And that's exactly what makes it perfect for your next holiday get together! Give them a try and your guests will love them. I'm sure you will too!

3/4 c mashed sweet potato
1/2 c vegetable oil
2/3 c granulated sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c milk
2 tsps pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsps pumpkin pie spice
1/2 c white chocolate chips
1/2 c craisins

Heat oven to 350F.
 In a large bowl, mix together the mashed sweet potato, oil, both sugars, the milk and the vanilla extract. Sift in the flour along with the baking powder and the pumpkin pie spice. Mix the batter just until the dry ingredients are moist, then fold in the chips and craisins. Pour the batter into a well-greased or buttered 8x8 baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool completely or chill before removing from pan and cutting into squares.

Tips:
To make this is a 9x13 pan, just double it and bake it for a little longer. It's not exactly the same, but the math is close enough that it will work.
To insure that the squares won't stick to the pan, spray your pan with cooking spray, line it with parchment paper, then spray it again. Then after it's baked and chilled, lift the entire batch out of the pan at once, and use a big knife to make perfectly clean cuts. SO much easier and it saves your pan from being scratched!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Joey's Guide To Thanksgiving



 Many people ask me for ideas and hints and tips and suggestions when it comes to planning and cooking for Thanksgiving. Just as I do every year, I've added some new recipes to my Thanksgiving page. I must say, this is becoming quite a list! In addition to all the fabulous recipes, there are helpful tips about menu planning and methods of cooking your turkey, as well as what to do if something goes wrong. It's probably not a bad idea to bookmark the page! This way you'll have it handy and ready to refer to whenever you need it as you plan your holiday menu. Yes, I know I have a several recipes for the same items (potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc). But don't you think it's nice to have a few different options? Feel free to browse through them! Hopefully they'll help you plan your Thanksgiving menu and maybe they'll inspire you to try something that you've never attempted. Of course, I'm always here for culinary tech support. Just email me! Oh, and don't forget to let me know how it goes! Have Fun!

Thanksgiving Week Planning

Thanksgiving Rescue 911

Lets talk Turkey!

Turkey London Broil

Jeanie's Turkey and Stuffing Casserole

Joey's Ginger Ale Glazed Ham

Savory Pumpkin Soup

Mom's Cranberries

Spirited Orange Cranberry Sauce

Chrissy's Baked Ginger Cranberries

Bourbon Cranberry Compote

Mare's Stuffing

Joey's Sausage and Cornbread Stuffing 

Caramelized Onion and Cornbread Stuffing

Italian Sundried Tomato Bread Stuffing

Joey's Butternut Apple Gratin 

Baked Acorn Squash with Brown Sugar and Butter

Sweet Potato, Apple, and Leek Casserole

Sweet Potato Casserole

Joey's Candied Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potato Gratin

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallow Brulee  

Rich and Creamy Mashed Potatoes

Smashed Potatoes

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Potato and Fennel Gratin 

Joey's Favorite Cole Slaw

Butternut Squash Slaw

Dottie's Corn Casserole

Grandma's Corn Pudding 

Parmesan Corn Pudding

Creamy Fried Confetti Corn 

Savory Corn Cobbler

That Carrots and Parsnips Thing That Denny Makes For Thanksgiving

Mashed Parsnips

Joey's Carrot Souffle

Bacon 'n' Onion Carrots 

Sue's Cider Carrots

Honey Glazed Baby Carrots

Balsamic Root Vegetables

Roasted Asparagus

Jeanie's Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Joey's Bangin' Brussels with Sundried Tomatoes

Roasted Cauliflower

Loaded Cauliflower Casserole 

Creamed Onions

Green Bean Bake

The Best Green Beans Ever

Green Beans with Garlic Butter and Cashews

Irish Soda Bread

Homemade Biscuits

Paula's Sweet Potato Biscuits

White Chocolate and Craisin Sweet Potato Squares

Pumpkin Cupcakes

Impossible Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

Libby's Famous Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie Cake

Joey's Easy Pumpkin Tart  

Pumpkin Creme Brulee 

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake 

Chocolate-Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars 

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Swirl Bars

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies

Gingersnap Pumpkin Squares

Pumpkin Swirl Brownies

Pumpkies

Pumpkin Crumb Bars

Heavenly Pumpkin Squares

Praline Pumpkin Dessert 

Frozen Pumpkin Creams

Pumpkin Ice Cream

Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle

Pumpkin Roll

Pumpkin Crunch Torte

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce and Cream Cheese Glaze

2-Ingedient Pumpkin Cake  

Cranberry Tart 

Dutch Apple Pumpkin Crisp

Joey's Favorite Apple Pie

Joey's Salted Caramel Apple Pie

Apple Tart Tatin

Trisha's Apple Dumplings

Caramel Apple Trifle

"Top Secret" Dessert Topping

Apple Cake

Sweet Potato Pie

Cherry Sweet Potato Bread

Cherry Cheese Pie

Cherry Cheese Tarts

Rice Pudding

Stove Top Rice Pudding

Pecan Squares

Pecan Pie

Mom's Mince Pie 

Buttered Rum Raisin Pie

Lemon Meringue Pie



Monday, November 17, 2014

Baked Acorn Squash with Brown Sugar and Butter



 I was looking for Thanksgiving side dish recipes and I found several recipes for acorn squash. I had never cooked an acorn squash, so I went with it. Some were pureed or diced, some were glazed or stuffed. Then I found Paula Deen's recipe where they are roasted with maple syrup, butter, and brown sugar. Clearly, this was the recipe to try, don't you think??? I mean, seriously, doesn't that sound AMAZING??? It's super easy to make, can be done in advance, and OMG just wait until you taste it! It sort of has a glazed sweet potato sort of a vibe. And how convenient is it that each person gets his own little portion? I love that.
 If you're looking for something that looks elegant and impressive, but is absurdly easy to make, then this is the perfect Thanksgiving side dish for you. It's also really economical because one little acorn squash is good for four servings. Perfect! So good. You should definitely try it.


1 acorn squash, cut into quarters
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 400°F.
 Scoop the seeds and stringy pulp out of the squash cavities and discard. In a small mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, butter, syrup and salt and pepper, to taste. Brush the squash cavities and the cut sides of the squash with the butter mixture and place them on a baking sheet, cut side up. Bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork. Brush with a little more of the brown sugar maple glaze. Serve one quarter per person.


Tip:
Don't forget the salt and pepper! It gives it sort of a salted caramel kind of vibe. Just one taste of the glaze, and you'll want to put it on everything! Not even kidding!
When I baked the squash, I was worried that the brown sugar would drip down onto the tray and burn. So I poured a little water onto the tray to keep that from happening. Worked very well, I must say!
The original recipe said to serve one HALF per person instead of one quarter, I think an entire half of a squash is far too large to put on your dinner plate. So I decided to cut them into quarters instead.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Pecan Squares




 If you like a gooey sweet classic Pecan Pie, you'll love these little squares of awesomeness. They have a very similar buttery rich flavor as the pie, but sometimes it's more convenient to have something that doesn't need plates and forks in order to serve it. As my sister Cathy would say "We need some sort of picky-uppy dessert", and that's exactly what this is. And if you're making them for a holiday meal, you might already have several other kinds of pie, and this will add a little variety to your dessert table.
 I made them so long ago, I can't even remember where I got the recipe. I know I tried several different versions, probably stemming from Ina's. (Her recipe makes a TON, so I remember wanting to scale it down a bit). This is such a simple basic recipe, anyone can do it! While the crust is baking, you just stir the filling ingredients together and you're good to go. Easy!
 So, even if you're not making them for a holiday meal, keep these squares in mind the next time you need a picky-uppy dessert. Your family will love you for it!

Crust:
2 1/4 cups flour
1 cup 10x sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup butter

Filling:
 3 eggs
1 cup Karo dark corn syrup
1 cup sugar
2 tbs melted butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 cups pecans
pinch salt

Place all crust ingredients in a food processor and pulse until it comes together into a dough. Press into 9x13 pan lined with parchment paper. Prick all over with a fork (to keep the crust from puffing up) and chill for 15 minutes. Place in a 350ºF oven for 15 minutes. While it's baking, make the filling.
Stir together all filling ingredients. Pour over hot crust. Bake for another 20-25 minutes. Let cool completely or chill before cutting into squares.


 Tips:
 For an extra decorative touch, after cutting them into squares, dip just one edge of each square into melted chocolate chips. You could also drizzle each one with a little melted white and/or milk chocolate chips. Just place them on a tray until the chocolate is set before serving.
 Be sure to leave a little excess parchment paper hanging over the sides of the pan. Then when it's finished baking and cooling, you can use the paper as a sling to lift the entire batch out of the pan in one piece. Now you can use a big knife to make perfect cuts without ruining your pan!


Monday, November 3, 2014

Bourbon Cranberry Compote


  Ok here's one for the cooking novice. This recipe requires absolutely no cooking skills at all. If you can boil water, you can make this recipe! You just throw everything into a pot and let it simmer. Couldn't be any easier! Now I have to tell you, when I first saw the recipe (on a website called Realsimple.com) I was a little unsure of how it would taste. Bourbon? With cranberries? But then I figured, Why not? So I gave it a try. It's absolutely delish! And actually, it's not as bourbon-y as I was expecting. To be quite honest, I'm not even sure if you would know that there's any bourbon in it unless you knew that there's any bourbon in it. Know what I mean? It's really subtle. The bourbon adds just a very slight note under the tartness of the cranberries. It's really quite nice, but I don't want you to go into it thinking it tastes like you just did a shot. Savvy?
 Whenever I try a new recipe, I always ask myself "would you make this again?" to help me decide if I like it or not. And this time the answer is an absolute YES. It's absurdly simple to make, it's delicious, it's quick, and it's SO much better than anything you can get out of a can.
I highly recommend it! 


1 12-ounce bag cranberries, fresh or frozen (3 1⁄2 cups)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup apple juice
1/4 cup bourbon

Place all ingredients in a saucepan over low/medium heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries begin to burst and the sauce thickens, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool before serving.


Tips:
If your cranberries are frozen, there's no need to thaw. Just go right from the freezer to the pot!
The recipe is listed as I found it, but I think I'll add a little more sugar and a little more bourbon the next time I make it. Maybe I'll up the sugar to 1 Cup, and up the bourbon to 1/3 Cup.
This will definitely thicken as it cools. There is so much natural pectin in the cranberries that you don't need to add anything else. If you'd like it to be a little more soupy, just cook it for about 15 minutes instead of 20-25.
Don't just make this recipe on Thanksgiving. Make it any time you serve roasted chicken or pork!
 Buy several bags of cranberries while they're available and then keep them in the freezer for months!
If you're not a drinker and you don't want to buy a big bottle of bourbon, just buy one of the little small bottles, (you know, like they serve on an airplane?). Each one is exactly 1/4 cup!
It makes a very small batch, which is perfect for a small party. If you're cooking for a big gang, just double it or triple it!


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Caramel Apple Dip




Here's a quick and easy recipe that is an absolute MUST for your next Halloween party. I've seen it bouncing around social media for some time now, and I figured I should give it a try. Actually, I already knew it would be delicious because I have yet to meet anything caramel that I don't absolutely LOVE.
 OMG I can't even tell you how delicious it is! I'm not even gonna lie, I was eating it out of the bowl with a spoon. Definitely a huge hit with my gang of friends. It was a good thing I made a double batch because we quickly needed to refill the serving bowl! And then we discovered that this dip is AMAZINGLY good on pretzels! It's that whole salted caramel thing, which I can never resist. Your guests won't be able to resist it either. Enjoy!

16 individual Kraft caramels, unwrapped
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 8oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Sliced apples

 In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt caramels with milk, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Stir in salt and set aside to cool. In a medium bowl, cream together cream cheese, sugar and vanilla. Fold in caramel mixture into the cream cheese mixture.
Serve with apple slices or pretzels.

Tips:
Obviously, if you add the hot caramel to the cream cheese mixture, it will melt the cream cheese and you'll wind up with a sauce, rather than a dip. But just let it chill in the fridge for a while. It will set up.
If you don't feel like unwrapping caramels, you can purchase caramel morsels instead. That's what I did! It's SO much easier!
To keep your sliced apples from turning brown, place them in a big bowl of water into which you've added some freshly squeezed lemon juice. You can also toss the apple slices with a little splash of orange juice. The citric acid will keep the apples from turning brown.
I bet this recipe would work equally as well with peanut butter as it does with caramel. I'm definitely gonna have to give that a try!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Pumpkin Swirl Brownies


Are you as pumpkin-obsessed as I am? Do you like pumpkin EVERYTHING? If so, then you seriously need to try this recipe! Honestly, I have yet to find a pumpkin ANYTHING that I don't love. From pies to breads to cupcakes, to cookies, you name it, I love it. So, of course, I needed to find exactly the right pumpkin variation for brownies. And this is it!
 It's actually a combination of recipes, to be quite honest. I used my go-to recipe for brownies and then added the pumpkin swirl recipe from another. DELICIOUS! I made them for Sean and Maggie and Joe, and everyone loved them! And aren't they gorgeous?? They're just the thing to make your Halloween party dessert table look more festive.
 So if you're a pumpkin lover, you should definitely add this recipe to your repertoire. They're quick and easy and I guarantee you'll love them as much as I do!


Pumpkin mixture:
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbs pumpkin pie spice
tiny pinch salt

 Brownie mixture:
1 1/3 cups flour  
1 tsp baking powder 
1/2 tsp salt 
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted 
1 cup cocoa 
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tbs pure vanilla extract




Heat oven to 350°F.
Grease bottom only of 13x9 pan with shortening or baking spray. In small bowl, beat all pumpkin mixture ingredients with electric mixer on low speed until smooth. Set aside. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt. In another separate bowl, stir cocoa into melted butter. Blend in sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients to chocolate mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan. Top with dollops of pumpkin mixture. Swirl with a knife. Bake for about 30 minutes or until set. Cool completely or chill before cutting into squares.



 Tips:
To save a little time and money, you can just use a box brownie mix along with the pumpkin swirl. Just prepare the brownie batter according to package directions, and then swirl with the pumpkin mixture. Easy!
 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies


 Here's a cookie recipe that I got from my sister, Cathy. She absolutely LOVES them and it's not out of the realm of possibility for her to make at least a batch of them a week during the fall/holiday season. She told me "Every time I make them, which is often this time of year, everyone raves!" But here's the mystery: Her recipe card says "From Joey" on it. Uh, really? Seriously? How do I not remember this? Apparently I gave her this recipe years and years ago, and tbh, I have absolutely no recollection of it. Crazy, huh? I'm thinking I may have gotten it from the label of a can of Libby's pumpkin. (You know how there are recipes on the underside of the label?) Well, anyway, regardless of where we got it, this recipe screams fall, and should definitely be added to your cookie repertoire. But be careful, though. They are QUITE addictive! You may find yourself making at least a batch a week! Oh, and one other thing. The photo is from Cathy too! Thanx, Sister!


2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 c (1 stick) butter 
1 1/2 c sugar
1 c pumpkin
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 c mini semi sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350F.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, powder, soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add pumpkin. Beat until light and creamy. Add dry ingredients. Mix well. Fold in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets. Smooth out the tops of the cookies. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly brown.

Tips:
Not a fan of chocolate chips? Simply omit them! The cookies are still absolutely delicious! Actually, Cathy says she likes them better without them. Up to you! On the flip side, if you LOVE chocolate, try adding different kinds! White chocolate chips anyone? You could even add chopped pecans. Yum!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sharon's Award-Winning Sausage Pumpkin Chili


  I love when friends share recipes with me. I especially love when those recipes are ones that are new and different with combinations of flavors that maybe you haven't considered. This recipe falls squarely into that category!
 My friend Sharon entered a chili contest with this recipe, and guess what! She won! Among the judges was a professional chef who commended her on taking such a risk with something so different. It definitely paid off! As soon as she emailed me the recipe, I thought, I think I'll make this right now! I already had just about all the ingredients on hand and I had the afternoon off, so I figured, Why not?
 Now, I know you may be thinking PUMPKIN? IN CHILI???? Yes, just go with me on this one! No, it doesn't taste like a pumpkin pie. It's just a delicious bowl of chili with a different vibe, that's all. My sister Cathy (who is always a willing taste tester) said it reminded her of a Cincinnati Chili which also has warm spices in it, such as cinnamon, allspice, and cloves. Absolutely delicious!
 So if you're one who usually likes to think outside the box, give this one a try. Actually, even if you're one to play it safe, TRUST me! You'll be amazed at how well pumpkin and sausage go together! It's the perfect thing to warm you up on a brisk autumn night.
Thanx Sharon!

2 tsp olive oil
1 yellow onion (diced)
1 each green, orange, yellow, and red bell pepper (diced)
1lb of Sweet Italian Bulk Sausage
1lb of Mild Italian Bulk Sausage
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 bottle of lager beer
2 cans (14.5oz can size) of diced tomatoes
1/2 a jar of tomato sauce
1 can (15.5oz) of kidney beans (drained)
1 can (15.5oz) of black beans (drained)
1 can (15oz) of pumpkin puree
1/4 tsp curry
1 tsp cumin
Dash of salt/dash of pepper
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Instructions
In a large skillet sauté onion and peppers, in olive oil, until tender.
Add sausage, breaking it up as you brown it.
Add garlic, cook another minute.
Transfer into a large pot.
Add beer, tomatoes, sauce, beans, pumpkin puree, and spices.
Bring to a boil and then simmer (stirring often) for an hour.
Taste periodically and adjust spices as needed.
Garnish with Maple Syrup Sour Cream.
Serve with Pumpkin Corn Bread.

Tips:
For the maple sour cream, simply stir 1 tbs of pure maple syrup into 1/2 cup of sour cream.  Not a fan of maple syrup? Just use plain sour cream!
Use whatever kind of sausage you like. Do you like it spicy? Use hot instead of mild!
I didn't start with a large skillet. I just sauteed the vegetables in a heavy Dutch oven and added everything to it. Easier cleanup!
I didn't have a jar of tomato sauce, so I added some tomato paste with a little water, since that's what I had on hand.
I also added a little extra pumpkin pie spice, just because I wanted to pump it up just a little more.
Instead of pumpkin corn bread, this would also be wonderful served as you would any other kind of chili, with cheddar cheese melted on top and a big hunk of regular cornbread. SO GOOD!

Pumpkin Cornbread



 Here's an easy and quick recipe I found on a website called Bakepedia.com. I was looking for a pumpkin cornbread recipe that was a little more than just adding a half cup of pumpkin to some Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix. Not that there's anything wrong with that. You absolutely can! But I was looking for a scratch recipe. I wanted it to be sweet enough, but not too sweet as with a cake or pumpkin bread. When I read the description on this recipe, I knew I had the right one.
 Here's how it is described: "A nice, warm hunk of this orange-hued pumpkin cornbread goes as well with a bowl of chili as it does slathered with butter and honey for breakfast. You can also try it alongside a plate of huevos rancheros, or with some peanut butter or cranberry preserves."
 I think that about says it all, don't you??? And it's SERIOUSLY easy to make. You don't even need a mixer. You basically just stir everything together! Simple! And OMG wait'll you taste it. Its just EXACTLY as it was described. It's the perfect balance of sweet and savory. Also, there are no spices so the flavors of corn and pumpkin really come through.
This one is DEFINITELY a keeper.


1 cup all-purpose flour 
1 cup yellow cornmeal 
1⁄2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup pumpkin purée 
1⁄4 cup oil
2 large eggs


Preheat oven to 400°F. 
Coat an 8-inch square pan with nonstick spray; set aside. Whisk together all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in the center; set aside. Whisk together the pumpkin, oil, and eggs in a small bowl until combined, then pour into the well of the dry mixture. Whisk together until just combined and scrape into prepared pan. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick just tests clean. Cool on rack. Can be served warm or at room temperature. 


Tips:
I was about to write something in this section as I always do, and then I realized that this recipe is perfect just as it is! I have no extra tips! 
The only thing I can say about it is that it says it serves 16. Seriously? That's about 2 bites per person! I'd say it's more like 9-12. 
Oh, by the way, I betcha this would go INSANELY well with a huge bowl of Sharon's Award-Winning Sausage Pumpkin Chili. Just sayin!

 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Impossible Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes




 Have you ever heard of an impossible pie? It's basically a pie that doesn't need a pastry crust because it makes its own crust as it bakes. Cool, huh? They were really big in the 70s, with coconut being the favorite and most popular flavor (also known as Amazing Coconut Pie). This recipe is sort of like that. I know they're called cupcakes but I'd say they're more like little mini pumpkin tarts.  But hey, who am I to question the name? The bottom line is that they're simple and delicious, which is all that really matters! They're perfect for any fall party, definitely for Halloween or Thanksgiving. If you like pumpkin, then you simply must try 'em!


1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup evaporated milk
2/3 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda


Preheat oven to 350F.
Line a 12 muffin pan with foil liners, then spray the liners with cooking spray (or just spray the muffin pan with cooking spray).
 Mix the pumpkin, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and milk.  Add the flour, pumpkin spice, salt, baking powder and baking soda to the mixture. Fill each muffin cup with 1/3 cup of the mixture. Bake for twenty minutes and let cool for twenty minutes.  Remove cupcakes from pan and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Top with whipped cream and sprinkle more pumpkin pie spice on top and serve. Makes 12 cupcakes.

Tips:
 Be sure to use foil cups and spray them well with cooking spray. You can also use a nonstick silicone muffin pan. Paper liners don't work well because it's difficult to remove the paper from the cupcakes.
 Don't worry about measuring exactly 1/3 cup of batter into each cup. Just divide the batter evenly between the 12 cups and you'll be fine!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Peanut Butter Crispy Bars





I first saw these crispy little pieces of peanut butter heaven on a TV show called Unique Sweets. The show highlights different dessert items from all over the country. This was from a place in NY called Baked. They're sort of like an amped up version of a rice krispie treat. SO good, and really simple to make too!
 My friend, Sean, was hanging out with me one afternoon as I was making them and so I asked him if he would mind being a taste tester for me. Of course, he did and he loved them! Actually, I think "obscenely delicious" was the phrase he used. I must say I have to agree with him! They're really THAT good! They're more crunchy than the usual rice krispie treat, and then they have this SINFUL layer of creamy rich peanut butter, almost like fudge. Then, as if that's not enough, there's a layer of chocolate icing, sort of like a ganache on the top. It all definitely falls into the category of "how can this not be good?"  REALLY rich and decadent, but SO addictive at the same time.
 I didn't make them exactly as the original recipe directed. I just fiddled a little bit with the amounts of each ingredient, but the technique was all the same. The original recipe was for an 8x8 square pan and I wanted to use a 9x13 pan, so I just changed a few things. I think it worked pretty well!!! 
Make these for your next party! I betcha everyone will devour them!


CRISPY LAYER:

4 cups crisped rice cereal
Nonstick cooking spray
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
6 tablespoons light corn syrup
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

MILK CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER LAYER: 

12 oz bag milk chocolate chips
16 oz jar creamy peanut butter

 CHOCOLATE ICING: 

12 oz bag semi sweet chocolate chips 
1 stick (8 tbs) butter
1 tsp corn syrup


For the crispy layer:
Put the cereal in a large bowl and set aside. Lightly spray a paper towel with nonstick cooking spray and use it to rub the bottom and sides of an 9x13 baking pan.
Into a small saucepan, pour 1/2 cup water. Gently add the sugar and corn syrup (do not let any sugar or syrup get on the sides of the pan) and use a small wooden spoon to stir the mixture until just combined. Put a candy thermometer in the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Cook until the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage, 235F. Remove from the heat, stir in the butter and pour the mixture over the cereal. Working quickly, stir until the cereal is thoroughly coated, and then pour it into the prepared pan. Using your hands, press the mixture into the bottom of the pan (do not press up the sides). Let it cool to room temperature while you make the next layer.


For the milk chocolate peanut butter layer:
In a large nonreactive metal bowl, stir together the chocolate and the peanut butter. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and heat, stirring with a rubber spatula until the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for about 30 seconds to cool slightly. Pour the mixture over the cooled crispy layer. Put the pan in the refrigerator until the top layer hardens, about an hour.

For the chocolate icing:
In a large nonreactive metal bowl, combine the chocolate, corn syrup and butter. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and heat, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is completely smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for 30 seconds to cool slightly. Pour the mixture over the chilled milk chocolate peanut butter layer and spread into an even layer. Put the pan in the refrigerator until the topping hardens, about an hour.

Cut into 24 even squares and serve. The bars can be stored in the refrigerator, covered tightly, for up to 4 days.


 Tips:
Instead of spraying a paper towel and greasing the pan, I sprayed the pan with nonstick spray, then lined it with parchment paper, letting some hang over the sides, then sprayed it again. Then after it was chilled it was easy to just lift the whole batch out of the pan in one piece, using the parchment paper as a sling. I always use this method whenever I make any kind of bars because it's easy to make perfect cuts with a big knife, and it doesn't ruin the pan. Simple, right?
I sliced them into 24 bars, just as I would do with brownies, but you could easily stretch them a little further by cutting them into smaller squares. They're rich enough that a smaller serving would still work.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Lemon Icebox Pie


 Here's an easy throw together dessert that only uses a few ingredients and is AMAZINGLY delicious. I recently had the gang over for dinner, and I decided to make this for my good friend, Lea, who loves anything and everything lemon. Not only was it a snap to make, but it was also convenient because it's a total do-ahead. I made it the night before the event, but I could have easily made it two or even three days in advance. If I were going to do that, I would just cover it, and then add the whipped cream and berries or any other garnish just before serving it. It's light and fluffy and sweet and tangy and fresh and rich, all at the same time.
 Now, I know it's called an icebox pie, which means there's supposed to be no baking involved. I like to bake the crust because it adds a sort of toasty flavor, but you really don't have to. You can make the crust as directed and then instead of baking it, just let it chill in the fridge for a while before you pour in the filling. Then it would TRULY be an icebox pie! Easy! So if you don't consider yourself to be a baker, then this is the dessert for you.
If you can mix up a few ingredients, you can make it!

Crust:
1 pkg golden Oreos
1 tbs sugar
4 tbs melted butter

Filling:
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 lemons, juiced
1 teaspoon lemon zest


Heat oven to 350F.
Place Oreos and sugar in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until the cookies are crushed to crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse until well combined. Press buttered crumbs evenly and firmly into a deep Pyrex pie plate. Bake crust for about 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven. 
Let it cool.
Meanwhile, combine all filling ingredients with a mixer until smooth. Pour into cooled crust and smooth out the top. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. Garnish with fresh lemon slices, berries, whipped cream, and/or fresh mint leaves.

Tips:
You can use any kind of cookies for the crust, graham crackers, anything you like. Or you can simply purchase a ready made graham cracker crust.
If you'd like an extra burst of lemony flavor, add some extra lemon zest! 
Another fabulous idea would be to do a lemon swirl:
Pour the filling into the crust as directed, then put a few dollops of purchased or home made lemon curd here and there on top of the filling. Then use a knife to swirl the curd through the filling and chill as usual. Easy!!
 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Joey's Pepperoni and Cheese Chicken Salad



 I was recently texting with my friend, Lea, about chicken salad. (Yes, many of our texts are about food!) Anyway, she mentioned that she loves my chicken salad. I told her that, come to think of it, I never really make it the same way. Sometimes I'll add lemon and basil, sometimes I'll add diced celery, diced pickles, and chopped scallions. This time, I decided to try something new, and I added a few extra flavors, just to see where it would go. I figured since I love pepperoni and cheese with mustard, why not throw it into a chicken salad? I LOVE how it turned out! The sharpness of the cheddar cheese, the spice of the pepperoni, and the sweet crunch of the red bell pepper all balance perfectly! And since I'm currently choosing to restrict carbs from my diet, this one is right up my alley. I rolled it up with a little shredded lettuce in a low carb wrap and boom, lunch was ready!
Hope you'll give this one a try!

rotisserie chicken
diced red bell pepper
sharp cheddar cheese
sliced pepperoni
brown mustard
mayonnaise
S&P

Pull all the meat from the chicken bones and dice or shred it into small pieces. Finely dice the bell pepper, pepperoni and cheddar cheese. Add about 3/4 cup mayonnaise and 3 or 4 tbs mustard (or to taste). Stir all together. Season with S&P. That's it!

Tips:
The amounts of the ingredients are all to taste. If you like a lot of something, add a lot!
This is a great way to use up leftover chicken. You could also use poached chicken breasts, if you like.
Be sure to add the bell pepper. You really need that crunch of freshness to cut through the heaviness of the cheese, mayo, and pepperoni.
You can use shredded cheddar, if you like, but I went with small dice instead, just as I would do when serving pepperoni and cheese.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

7 Up Biscuits


 Here's a quick and easy biscuit recipe which was posted on FB by my friend Lauren. I'm not even sure whose recipe it is, but like I always say, since she's the one who gave it to me, she's the one who gets the credit! They're super easy to make and all you need is just 4 simple ingredients. Perfect! And surprisingly, they don't taste sweet like the 7 Up. They just taste like delicious biscuits to serve with any country gravy or dinner you happen to be whipping up. Make 'em for your next country breakfast or dinner and watch everyone devour them. Betcha there won't be any left!


4 cups Bisquick
1 cup sour cream
1 cup 7-up
1/2 cup melted butter


Mix Bisquick, sour cream and 7 up. Dough will be very soft - don't worry. Knead and fold dough until coated with your baking mix. Pat dough out and cut biscuits using a round biscuit / cookie cutter. Melt butter in bottom of cookie sheet pan or 9x13 casserole dish. Place biscuits on top of melted butter and bake @ 425 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until brown.


Tips:
 Since they bake in a rectangular pan, I didn't see the point in using a round biscuit cutter. Then you'd have the scraps of biscuit dough that you'd have to reroll and cut, etc. I just figured I'd form the dough into a rectangle, cut it into squares and then fit them perfectly into the pan. Doesn't that make more sense??? Who's with me?? 


Monday, September 8, 2014

Classic Fried Chicken


 If you know me, you know that I love to cook for my friends. I love to assemble a big group at my apt, plan a menu according to whatever theme we've chosen, and then show everyone how I made each thing. I also love it when everyone gets in on the cooking. It's always a good time!
 Recently, we decided to have a Southern Food night. It was awesome! In addition to my famous Baked Beans, we had Fried Confetti Corn, Cheesy Tater Tot Casserole (without the beef), and of course, Classic Fried Chicken. We added some 7 Up Biscuits along with The Best Carrots and Green Beans Ever and there, Ladies and Gentlemen, was a pretty amazing home cooked southern chicken dinner.
 To be quite honest, I had never cooked regular classic fried chicken. I know, I know, crazy, right? One would think that I would have cooked something so classic at some point in my life, but nope, never did! I must say, I think it was pretty slammin'! I did some searching to see which recipe I'd try, and (as you can imagine), I found a million versions. I went with Ree Drummond's recipe because that seemed to be pretty close to what I had in mind for a Classic Fried Chicken recipe. It was crispy and tender and fabulous and comforting and flavorful all at the same time. I think it'll probably be my go-to recipe the next time I decide to have another fried chicken night.
 Yes, of course, it's not the best idea to eat fried anything all the time, but everyone once in a while, a little comfort is a good thing!


2 cut-up fryer chickens in 16 pieces
4 1/4 cups cups buttermilk
5 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons seasoned salt, such as Lawry's
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground dried thyme
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more for seasoning
1/4 cup milk
Canola or vegetable oil, for frying

 Thoroughly rinse the chicken, then cover all the pieces with 4 cups buttermilk and soak in the fridge overnight or up to 24 hours. When you're ready to fry the chicken, remove the bowl from the fridge and let it sit on the counter for 30 minutes, just to take off the chill.
 In the meantime, preheat the oven to 360 degrees F and mix up the breading. Place the flour, seasoned salt, paprika, pepper, thyme and cayenne (extra cayenne if you like heat) in a very large bowl. Stir together well.
 In a small bowl, combine the 1/4 cup buttermilk and the milk. Pour the milk mixture into the flour and, with a fork, gradually mix until there are little lumps throughout. This will adhere to the chicken and make for a crispier breading. If necessary, add a little more flour or milk to the bowl in order to make it slightly lumpy.
 Heat 1 1/2 to 2 inches of oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat until a thermometer reaches 365 degrees F. Lower the heat slightly, if necessary, to keep the oil from getting hotter.
Working in batches, thoroughly coat each chicken piece with the breading, pressing extra breading onto the chicken if necessary. Place the breaded pieces on a plate.
 Add the chicken to the oil 3 or 4 pieces at a time. Make sure they aren't sticking together, then cover the pan and fry for 5 to 7 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure the chicken isn't getting too brown. Turn the pieces over, cover again, and cook 3 to 5 minutes more. All the while, monitor the temperature of the oil to make sure the chicken doesn't burn.
 Place the chicken on a baking sheet and continue frying the rest of the chicken. When all the chicken has been fried, remove the wings and legs to a plate and keep covered. These should be cooked all the way through by now but always check, if any pink juice or meat is visible. If so, return to the hot oil for another minute or so until fully cooked. Leave the thighs and breasts on the baking sheet.
 Bake the thighs and breasts for 15 minutes to finish the cooking process. Sometimes I'll cut into the thicker part of one of the larger pieces, just to make sure the chicken is cooked through. If any pink juice or meat is visible, the chicken needs to continue cooking in the oven.

Tips:
 If you have no desire to cut up a whole chicken, by all means have your butcher do it, or just purchase chicken pieces. I like just the legs and thighs, so that's what I bought. Simple!
 I had originally planned to add hot sauce to the buttermilk (since I know that's also a classic thing to do when marinating the chicken), but I figured I didn't need to do that since the flour was already seasoned really well. But if you'd like to add the hot sauce, go for it!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Brookies


 Have you ever heard of a Brookie? Well, as you might guess, a Brookie is a cross between a brownie and a cookie. I discovered them when I was browsing the interwebs for a mini cupcake type of bite-sized treat. Yes, of course, you can make them in a regular 9x13 brownie pan, but I've been on a miniature food kick lately and I just love how easy and portion controlled these cute little bites of heaven are. They're a quick throw-together, and they're the perfect little after school snack or even a great little replacement for your usual TV time cookies and milk. They also go perfectly in a lunch box for school or work. Make LOTS of them, and then keep 'em in the freezer until you want them. Then take out as many as you need! Easy right??? Give 'em a try!

1 batch tollhouse cookie dough
1 batch brownies

You can can either make each batch from scratch, or just do a brownie mix and store bought cookie dough.

Simply mix up the brownie batter and cookie dough according to your recipe or package directions. Spray mini muffin pans with baking spray. Divide the brownie batter evenly between 48 mini muffins. (My mini muffin tins have 24 each, so it's perfect for two pans). Top each muffin with cookie dough. Place in a 350F oven and bake about 20-22 minutes or until set. Cool completely before removing them from the pans, otherwise they might break when you try to remove them. Patience! I promise they'll be worth the wait!

Tips:
Be sure to spray each cup with baking spray. You want to be able to get them out of the pan!
To make perfectly round little cookies sitting on top of the brownie, roll the cookie dough into balls and then place on top of each cup. Makes sense, right?
If you're using the store bought "break and bake" cookie dough, just cut each cube of cookie dough in half and roll it into a ball. You'll have exactly 48!
For a little extra decadence, top each cup with a few chocolate or other flavored chips before topping with the cookie dough. White chocolate? Peanut butter? Whatever you like! You could also put a little Rolo candy on top of each one before topping them with the cookie dough.
OH! Here's an idea...You could top each brownie cup with a mini Reese's cup or a few Reese's Pieces, and then use peanut butter cookie dough instead of chocolate chip cookie dough on top. I'm gonna have to try that!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Zucchini "Crab" Cakes



 Here's another fabulous zucchini recipe that thinks just slightly outside the box. Yes, you can saute zucchini with olive oil and garlic, you can make zucchini bread, and you can make zucchini pancakes. But did you ever think of using zucchini instead of crab?
 I first heard of this from my brother, Dennis. As soon as he mentioned it, I began looking for just the right recipe. Well, of course, there are a million versions, and every one of them claims to be THE BEST. Clearly, the only way to settle this would be to come up with my own version! So I looked at a few different recipes, kept what I liked, changed what I didn't like, combined a few things, omitted a few others, and this was the result! Now, I'd be lying if I said they taste JUST like lump crab Maryland Crab Cakes. But, ya know what? They tasted pretty darned good! I'd definitely say they're better than you're standard grocery brand of frozen crab cakes. They're just the right texture, and between the mayonnaise, the Dijon and the Old Bay, they really do taste like crab cakes. Plus, you get to adjust the seasoning to suit your own taste. and that's always a good thing.
 So give these a try. I betcha you'll love 'em, especially if you're usually not able to eat crab or other shellfish! They're awesome!


2 1/2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 egg beaten 
2 tbs soft butter
1/4 cup finely minced onion 
1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning (may add more) 
1 heaping tbs mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon mustard 
Salt and pepper

1 cup Panko bread crumbs (for dredging)
1/2 cup vegetable oil (for frying) 


 Sprinkle grated zucchini with a tsp of salt. Place in colander and allow to drain for at least 30 minutes. Place zucchini in the center of a clean kitchen towel. Gather the corners together and twist the bundle so that it tightens around the zucchini, squeezing out as much moisture as possible. You will absolutely be amazed at how much liquid comes out of the zucchini! Place the zucchini in a large bowl along with seasoned bread crumbs. Toss to combine. 
 In a separate small bowl, stir together the egg, butter, onion, Old Bay, mayonnaise, and mustard. Stir egg mixture into the zucchini. Season with salt and pepper and give it another good stir.
 Form into 6 patties. Place Panko bread crumbs in a shallow dish. Dredge each cake in the crumbs being sure it is coated on all sides. Heat oil in a large skillet. Fry the cakes in the oil (in batches if you need to) until golden, about 4-5 minutes on each side. Serve immediately!

Tips:
 These cakes go beautifully with tartar or cocktail sauce, just as with regular crab cakes. To make home made tartar sauce, simply mix a few tbs mayonnaise with a tbs or two of pickle relish. Easy!
Yes, I know I have two different kinds of bread crumbs listed. The seasoned bread crumbs add great flavor and bulk to the mixture and the Panko bread crumbs give you a crispy outside crust! Yes, you can clearly use one or the other for both parts of the recipe. No worries!




Monday, August 25, 2014

Zucchini Pancakes



 This is a quick throw-together recipe that is perfect for a midweek dinner, or a light lunch, or a Sunday brunch. It's an Ina Garten recipe, and as she says "It's a great way to use up all that extra zucchini." I was given a few very large zucchinis by my nephew, Daniel, who happens to have a HUGE garden, and I was only too happy to take them! This recipe immediately came to mind, and I made a batch that very night. They're perfect just as they are, but I served them with a little dipping sauce made from sour cream and fresh herbs. SO good! Come to think of it, I wonder what other kind of sauce would go well with them... Hmm... Let me know if you have any suggestions!!

2 medium zucchini (about 3/4 pound)
2 tablespoons grated red onion
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
6 to 8 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Unsalted butter and vegetable oil


Preheat the oven to 300F.

 Grate the zucchini into a bowl using the large grating side of a box grater. Immediately stir in the onion and eggs. Stir in 6 tablespoons of the flour, the baking powder, salt, and pepper. (If the batter gets too thin from the liquid in the zucchini, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour.)
 Heat a large (10 to 12-inch) saute pan over medium heat and melt 1/2 tablespoon butter and 1/2 tablespoon oil together in the pan. When the butter is hot but not smoking, lower the heat to medium-low and drop heaping soup spoons of batter into the pan. Cook the pancakes about 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Place the pancakes on a sheet pan and keep warm in the oven. Wipe out the pan with a dry paper towel, add more butter and oil to the pan, and continue to fry the pancakes until all the batter is used. The pancakes can stay warm in the oven for up to 30 minutes. Serve hot.

Tips:
I think the key to this recipe is the grated onion. I didn't have a red onion, so I just used a regular yellow onion and it worked perfectly fine. Just that little bit of onion flavor really gave the pancakes  HUGE flavor! Be sure to include it!!