Monday, January 27, 2014

Baked Sausage and Cheddar Dip

 Years ago, I was at a family event, and my nephew, Daniel, made an amazing sausage dip that was a HUGE hit. I asked him to send me the recipe, so he sent me a picture of a can of tomatoes with chilis, a bar of cream cheese, and a package of sausage. That was it. No recipe, no anything else. Just a note that said "Here it is." LOL Well, Daniel Boone, this is sort of like that dip you made, but with few little tweaks.
  It's a snap to throw together and it's the perfect thing if you're having a big gang over for your Super Bowl party, or any other fabulous party that you happen to be hosting. You could even make it the night before, and then bake it just before everyone gets there. Easy, right??? It also doubles easily, which is probably not a bad idea. Otherwise it'll be gone before halftime! Enjoy!

1 lb ground pork sausage, mild or hot
1 small onion, chopped
1 10oz can diced tomato with green chiles
1 8oz package cream cheese, softened
a few shakes of crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
Corn chips

 Remove casings from sausage (if using links). Place sausage and onions in a large skillet, stirring until meat is brown and onions are soft. Stir in the tomatoes and chiles, and cream cheese. Add a few shakes of crushed red pepper flakes to taste. Stir until well combined. Spoon into a lightly greased 1-quart baking dish; sprinkle with Cheddar cheese. Bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with corn chips.

 If you're not a fan of pork, choose a sausage that works for you! How about turkey or chicken sausage? Mild or spicy, it will all work!
 If you like a lot of heat, go for it! Add any kind of diced chilis, as much as you like!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Cold Oven Pound Cake

When I saw this recipe from Trisha Yearwood, the first thing I noticed is that it doesn't have very many ingredients. I also noticed that it doesn't have any baking soda or baking powder, so I wondered if it would have a very different texture. Only one way to find out, right??  So I gave it a try.
 Since I already had all of the ingredients on hand, it was a snap to throw together and it smelled HEAVENLY while it was baking. To be quite honest, I have no idea what the point of starting in a cold oven is, but my Mom always said "Follow the recipe!" So, I went with it.
 I'm sure some of you may be thinking "Pound cake. Yawn.", but seriously.. wait until you taste it. It has the most delicate crumb, and the texture is velvety and moist. My brother Chris decided that it should have icing on it, but a little dusting with powdered sugar was good enough for me. I think it would be FABULOUS with a nice cup of coffee. (I'm not even a coffee drinker, but that's honestly the first thing I thought when I took a bite.) Yes, yes, I know it has a lot of sugar and eggs and cream in it. Just don't eat the ENTIRE cake in one sitting and you'll be fine.

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Do not preheat the oven. Grease and flour the bottom, sides and tube of a 9-inch tube cake pan.

Cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition, but do not overbeat. Set the mixer on slow speed and stir in the flour and cream alternately, beginning and ending with the flour. Add the vanilla and stir well.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and put the cake in a cold oven. Set the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Begin timing now and bake the cake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Test of doneness by inserting a toothpick in the center of the cake. The toothpick should be clean when it is removed. Cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to continue cooling.

Be sure to cool it in the pan after you take it out of the oven. The cake sinks down which causes the top to buckle a little bit resulting in a FABULOUS sort of crumbly crunchy top. It's my favorite part!
 Btw, I doubled the vanilla because I always do. That's one of my cake secrets! SSHH don't tell anyone!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Joey's Sausage, Peppers, and Onions Casserole

 One of my most favorite food combinations is Sausage, Peppers, and Onions. No matter how its cooked, whether just sauteed together and served on crusty Italian rolls, or cooked in a Marsala sauce and served over pasta, I love it all. It's a classic combination! So when I recently found myself with a bunch of leftover Italian sausage, I thought ' can I put a different twist on the old stand about a casserole?' Awesome. And off to the store I went.
  At first I had planned to add a bunch of different things, veggies and such, but then decided that I really wanted it to be just the sausage, peppers, and onions. I didn't even add a lot of cheese, (which is very much the opposite of how I usually roll), just because I didn't want to overpower the main flavors. Still, I added some basic casseroley type ingredients, tossed it all together and baked it. It turned out great!!
 This one is definitely a keeper. It's hearty and comforting without being too heavy, and would perfect to serve with a light salad, and a nice glass of wine. Boom.

1 lb wide egg noodles
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 large onion, sliced
1 lb mild Italian sausage links, sauteed until cooked through
4 oz velveeta cheese, diced
1 can condensed cream of celery soup
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 soup can milk
3 tbs fresh basil, chopped
Salt and pepper
3 tbs butter, melted
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

Heat oven to 350ºF.
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the egg noodles until just underdone. Drain, set aside.
While the noodles are boiling, saute the peppers and onions with a little oil in a large skillet or wok until soft. Slice the cooked sausages in half longways, then slice them crossways into half moons. Add the diced sausages to the peppers and onions and give it a good stir. In a large bowl, stir together the soups, milk, velveeta and basil. Add the sausage, peppers and onions, and the noodles. Toss everything until well coated with the sauce. Spray a 9x13 casserole dish with nonstick spray, then pour the mixture into the dish, spreading evenly. In a small bowl, stir together the melted butter, bread crumbs, and grated Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle over the top of the casserole. Bake uncovered for for 30 minutes or until lightly golden on top.

This recipe is WIDE open to any number of variations. You can literally swap out ANY of the ingredients and it'll still work. Any kind of peppers, or sausage, or cream soups, or cheese. Yes, you'll get a slightly different product each time you tweak it, but that's the beauty of it, and it will ALL work! Also, if you want to add more of any ingredient, GO for it! More is more!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Fresh Cherry Preserves

Whenever it's snowy outside, I always feel the need to put a pot of something on the stove. That's what my Mom always did. It just makes the whole house warm and cozy and it always smells so good while it's cooking.
 Usually, I'll do a pot of soup or a stew, but this time I decided to make a pot of fresh preserves. Now, I know that may sound like a daunting task, but really, it's super easy! In this case, the only extra step is pitting the cherries, which really doesn't take very long at all. And the payoff is SO worth it when it's done! I made one batch, and loved it so much, I decided to make another batch the very next day. Absolutely delicious! I like to serve it with a compound butter or cream cheese, but serve it however you like! This is a tweaked version of Martha Stewart's recipe, and I think you should give it a try. It's REALLY delish!!

4 pounds red or yellow cherries, stemmed and pitted
2 cups plus 6 tablespoons sugar
2 or 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

 Place four small plates in the freezer.
 In a medium stockpot, combine the cherries, 1/4 cup sugar, and lemon juice; place over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar has dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in one-third of the remaining sugar, and cook, stirring, until it has dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the sugar in two more batches, stirring each batch until sugar has dissolved.
Bring the mixture to a full boil, and cook, stirring frequently, 10 minutes. Place a candy thermometer in mixture, and cook, stirring frequently, until temperature registers 220 degrees. 30 to 40 minutes. While cooking, skim any foam that floats to the surface.
With the temperature at 220 degrees, perform a gel test: Remove one of the plates from the freezer, and place a spoonful of the jam on it. Return the plate to freezer, and wait 1 minute. Remove plate from freezer, and gently nudge the edge of the jam with one finger. If the jam is ready, it will wrinkle slightly when pushed. If it is not ready, it will be too thin to wrinkle. If the jam does not wrinkle on the first attempt, cook 2 or 3 minutes more, and repeat the gel test.

 If there was ever a recipe that required a specific kitchen gadget, THIS is the one. I would not attempt to make any recipe with fresh cherries unless I had a cherry pitter. It is absolutely ESSENTIAL. You know how Martha is always saying "the right tool for the right job", well she is absolutely correct when it comes to using a cherry pitter. They're not expensive and worth every cent!
 This recipe actually called for fresh lemon juice instead of fresh lime juice, but I think limes and cherries are much better friends than lemons and cherries. You can use whichever you like!
If you plan to eat it right away, you don't have to worry about doing the whole mason jar thing. I promise it will be gone before you know it!