Monday, July 27, 2015

Dirt Squares

  I asked my niece, Annie, what she'd like for her high school graduation party. She texted me back: "I do enjoy Dirt. You know, that chocolate pudding thing with crushed Oreos and gummy worms."
 I said "So.. out of ANYTHING in the world you could possibly have from renowned internet cooking sensation, Joey Quaile, you choose crushed Oreos, chocolate pudding, and gummy worms? LOL"  She said "Surprise me!"
 So, of course, you know I couldn't just make pudding and crushed Oreos! Well, for one thing, I knew it would be a big party, and regular Dirt requires spoons and cups or plates. Whenever I'm bringing something to a party, I always like it to be a "picky uppy" something that guests can just grab and nosh. (btw, picky uppy is a technical term, in case you didn't know). Then I thought, I wonder if there's a dirt recipe that you can cut into squares! So I did some searching, and I found this recipe from Women's Day. Perfect! No spoons or cups required, and T-Swizzle can have her Dirt. (yes, that's what we call each other. LOL)
 So there you go. Make this for your next big party when you want something different and easy and fun and yummy and picky uppy. I promise it'll be a big hit! Congrats T-Swizzle!

1 stick butter
1/2 c. packed light-brown sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
1 c. Kit Kat Bites (from a 10-oz bag)
1 c. Heath Almond Toffee Bits (from a 10-oz bag)
1/2 c. white-chocolate chips
25 OREO Cookies
gummy worms

 Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13 x 9 x 2-in. baking pan with parchment paper or nonstick foil,  extending above the ends of pan. Beat butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with mixer on medium speed until well mixed. Beat in yolks and vanilla until combined. On low speed gradually beat in flour just until blended and slightly crumbly. Press evenly on bottom of pan. Bake 8 minutes, or until lightly browned around edges. Remove from oven. Pour condensed milk over crust; spread evenly. Layer with Kit Kat Bites, toffee Bits and white-chocolate chips. Sprinkle evenly with 2 cups cookie crumbs; pat down gently. Bake 25 minutes, or until bubbles form around edges. Cool on a wire rack 5 minutes, then spread some remaining crumbs over bubbles to cover and spread the rest of the crumbs over the top. Cool completely or chill. Lift foil by ends onto cutting board. Cut into 48 squares. Serve with gummy worms.

-The recipe calls for 25 Oreos. I think you could probably go with much less. I used about 20, and it was still a bit too much. They didn't really adhere to to the top of the squares and there were cookie crumbs everywhere. Just do enough to cover the top and I'm sure it'll be fine. Btw, to make the crumbs, I just threw the cookies into the food processor and pulsed them until I had crumbs. You can also put them in a ziploc bag and bash them with a rolling pin or something heavy until you have crumbs.
- I didn't use Kit Kat Bites. I used chopped mini Milky Way bars. Use whatever candy bar you like! -One other thing... be sure to bring extra gummy worms. As you can see from my photo, I covered the whole tray with gummy worms. They were just as big of a hit as the squares! Who knew people liked gummy worms so much? Seriously, everyone who walked by, grabbed a gummy worm and they were gone in no time. I kept wishing I had brought the extras from home, just to keep the whole dirt thing going. Live and learn!

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Ultimate Onion Tart

 I recently had a few friends over for a French-themed dinner and this was one of the appetizers I made. It starts with lots of sweet onions cooked way way down until they're caramelized and golden. Add some bacon, a little cream, and some fresh herbs, and you have the makings for a fabulous first course or appetizer. Serve it with a crisp salad and you'll have a lovely and light summer lunch or brunch. Oh, and as much as I'd love to take the credit for it, this recipe isn't mine. I found it on a blog called Food Republic. As soon as I saw it, I knew this was the one I'd make. Frankly, they had me at bacon! It looks and sounds fancy, but it's really simple to make! Make it the next time you want to impress someone. I promise they'll love it!
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
5 strips bacon, diced 
2 pounds yellow onions, sliced into rings  
2 springs fresh thyme 
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs  
1/2 cup half and half 
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
Preheat oven to 375ºF.
Melt butter and oil together in a large skillet and add the diced bacon. Cook until the bacon is halfway cooked. Add the thyme, onions, and salt to the skillet. Cook on medium-low heat until the onions are completely translucent and caramelized. This will take around 30 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Combine eggs and half and half in a bowl. Add the caramelized onion mixture and the freshly ground black pepper. Roll out puff pastry and place in a pie plate or tart pan. Trim edges. Add the onion mixture to the pastry and bake for 35 minutes or until the crust and top are slightly browned. Allow to cool, then slice and serve.
Be sure to really take the time to let the onions caramelize, low and slow. You really don't want to rush this. The more you cook them down, the sweeter they will be, resulting in a much deeper flavor.  
The recipe calls for 2 tsp black pepper. That seemed like far too much, so I just added a 1/2 tsp. Add as much as you like!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Blueberry Sour Cream Pie

 I recently had my friends, Maggie and Joe, to my apt for dinner. It was going to be a weeknight get together, so I knew it had to be something quick and easy. For dinner I made Shrimp Maureen, just because it's super easy and it's ready in a snap. And for dessert, I made this fabulous pie! It's light and refreshing and is the perfect summer dessert!
 At first, I wasn't sure what sort of dessert I would make, so I did what I always do. I looked to see what ingredients I had on hand, just to see if there was anything I could just throw together. Blueberries, great.... sour cream, hmmm...... And then I remembered making a Sour Cream Rhubarb Pie once upon a time... I thought "I bet I could probably come up with a blueberry version of it!" So I did a little googling and came up with this recipe, which is a tweaked version of a recipe I found on The filling is so simple to make you don't even need a mixer, and it was a great do ahead dessert because it's best when you chill it for several hours or overnight. Perfect!! 
 Maggie and Joe absolutely LOVED it! And I must say, I was pretty impressed with myself too! So if you happen to have some fresh blueberries and you're looking for something fresh and yummy, look no further! Give this recipe a try and I'll bet you'll get rave reviews too.
It's just absolutely delicious!

1 unbaked pie crust: purchased, your own, or make half recipe for Easy Pie Crust

3/4 cup sugar
 2 tablespoons flour
1 cup sour cream
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)

3/4 flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
 8 Tbs. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 3/4" pieces
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt 

Heat oven to 400ºF.
Line your pie plate with crust. Flute to make a decorative edge. Set aside.
Mix sugar and flour together in bowl. Beat in sour cream, egg, vanilla, lemon juice, and salt together until smooth. Fold in blueberries. Pour into pie crust, and bake for 25 minutes. (May need to adjust temperature and time for frozen berries). Meanwhile, combine topping ingredients. Remove pie from oven after the 25 minutes, and sprinkle on topping. Return pie to oven and bake 10 minutes more. Chill before serving with whipped cream, or sweetened sour cream or crème fraîche.
If you use salted butter, you can omit the salt from the topping.
For a little extra crunch, add finely chopped pecans to the topping. 
Not a fan of blueberries? Use whatever kind of fruit you like! Or you a combination! I bet strawberries and kiwi would be fabulous. Or maybe peaches and mangoes. MMM!!


Monday, July 6, 2015

Shrimp and Asparagus Stir Fry with Lemon Sauce

  One of the best things about having a cooking blog is that people often text me or email me with a new recipe. Maybe it's something tried and true, or maybe it's something new. Either way, it's always exciting to hear that someone was so thrilled and pleased with a dish that he or she felt the need to share it! Isn't that awesome? Seriously, let's think about that for a second. Someone has just cooked something and thought "OMG this is SO good I need to tell someone about it!" Isn't that fun? And I'm happy to provide a platform with which to do just that!
 This recipe come from my niece, Katie. She found it on a blog called Home Cooking Memories, and texted it to me a couple months ago. I figured now would be the perfect time to share it. It's the perfect summer recipe that you can quickly throw together in no time and have a lovely dinner for two out on the deck with a nice glass of wine. Doesn't that sound like heaven? It's easy enough for the novice cook, and sophisticated enough to be impressive on a first date. Perfect! Thanx Kate!!
 So keep those recipes coming! And if you happen to think of it, take a picture and send it to me with the recipe! I'd love to share it!

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed and each stalk cut into 2-3" pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic

Lemon Sauce:
 2/3 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest

In a small bowl, whisk together all of the lemon sauce ingredients and set aside.
In a large frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add shrimp to pan in a single layer and cook for about 3 minutes, turning them over to cook both sides. Season shrimp with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Shrimp should be beginning to pink on both sides and be opaque, but just slightly undercooked. Remove from frying pan and place shrimp on a plate.
In same frying pan, heat another 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add asparagus and cook until asparagus is tender-crisp, bright green, and just barely beginning to brown. Season asparagus with 1/4 teaspoon salt (or more if needed). Add ginger and garlic and stir to combine with asparagus. Cook for another 30-45 seconds or so.
Pour in lemon sauce mixture into frying pan with asparagus. Add shrimp back into pan and combine sauce with asparagus and shrimp. Simmer for about a minute or until sauce is thickened. Remove from heat and serve over rice.

Katie said this dish reminded her of Chinese take out garlic chicken. She added a little pinch of crushed red pepper flakes "because she's a pepper monkey", and also said perhaps she'll pump up the lemon a little more next time, but it was delicious just as is.
 If you'd like to swap out the asparagus for any other veggies, go for it! I'm sure this would also work perfectly with chicken instead of shrimp. I would cut boneless chicken into small pieces, dredge it in seasoned flour to lightly coat, then saute it in the pan until partially cooked, and finish cooking it with the sauce as directed with the shrimp. YUM!